30 June 2006

June Bibliometer

Since today is the last day of June, that means bibliometer day since Word Nerd isn't likely to finish reading anything in the next 16 hours.

The total for June is 8 books. That's a total of 3,474~ pages or an average of 115~ pages/day.

The books for June were:
Blue Blood, by Susan McBride
Everfree, by Nick Sagan
The Good Girl's Guide to Murder, by Susan McBride
The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas
Bitten, by Kelley Armstrong
If Andy Warhol Had a Girlfriend, by Alison Pace
I am the Messenger, by Markus Zusak
The Lone Star Lonely Hearts Club, by Susan McBride

Word Nerd is now with the Bibliometer postings, also going to give her "Best Bet" pick for the month.

June's best bet: I am the Messenger, by Markus Zusak.

29 June 2006

Harry Potter and Kicking the Bucket

The final chapter of Harry Potter VII could be the final chapter for Harry Potter himself.

News in the boy wizard's book world is that two characters aren't going to survive book 7 and that H.P. himself may be in deadly danger.

The full story about J.K. Rowling's admissions about dead characters can be found here.

So Word Nerd doesn't really want to open this up for discussion on should-or-shouldn't-Harry-be-killed-of, so how about a tangential topic.

What book characters were you glad or sad to see meet their ultimate demise?

Book Banter -- The Lone Star Lonely Hearts Club

Title: The Lone Star Lonely Hearts Club
Author: Susan McBride
Length: 350~ pages
Genre: mystery/chick lit
Plot Basics: Andy Kendricks' attempts to avoid high-society in Dallas are foiled again when her mother, Cissy, asks Andy to go with her to the funeral of one of her good friends who lived in a swanky Dallas retirement community. Barely is that funeral over when another dead body -- dead, widowed, rich body -- also one of Cissy's friends, is found at the same retirement community. Cissy claims neither of the women died of natural causes, but was murdered, and recruits Andy to help her find the killer.
Banter Points: If awards were given for best supporting actress in a novel, Cissy Kendricks would walk away with the Oscar. The wacky mother character was perfect. Cissy was worried about her friends' untimely deaths but her foray as a Miss-Marple-Sherlock-Holmes-Hercule-Poirot type was very funny.
Bummer Points: Two-thirds of this book was spent building up the plot and then the resolution all happened very quickly (and Word Nerd had figured out whodunit before our heroes).
Word Nerd recommendation: Word Nerd is looking forward to McBride writing another one of her Debutante Dropout mysteries. Apparently, she has to wait until January 2007, but those who haven't had the series have time to catch up.

28 June 2006

Word Count and the Chocolate Cake Club

If you haven't looked lately at the word meter charting the Work-in-Progress progress over there --> go look at it. Go Now. Go Look.

That's right. It's more than half filled in.

Last night, Word Nerd crossed the halfway mark of her target 85,000 words. Her cat was the only witness to the I've-written-half-of-a-novel happy dance and since it could be rather incriminating, he's promised not to tell. Needless to say, she was a bit pleased with hitting 43,000-odd words and having somewhere around 110 pages of a manuscript so far.

Word Nerd's writing goal for June was 42,500 words and since she's made that she gets to take part in the June Chocolate Cake Club. The CCC was established by a few of Word Nerd's writing friends as a system of rewards. The club members set an ambitious writing goal for the month and if they make it, they get to take part in an outing to restaurant that serves desserts.

Word Nerd will take on the Hercules' labors for chocolate cake or other desserts involving hot fudge or chocolate chips.

So onwards and upwards. July's goal is 55,000 words by the end of that month. That is only 12,000 words more than what she has now, but with Lifest and EAA AirVenture both happening in July, Word Nerd's day job takes precedence as she writes newspaper stories about music festival stuff and airplanes. She's only sure of 16 days in July when she'll be able to carve out time to write and the 12K words is do-able over that span. She's hoping she can push the July goal to 60,000 words, but will look on anything over 55K as purely a bonus.

Word Nerd can smell the hot fudge already...

27 June 2006

Author Answers with Lynn Viehl

Tomato, tomah-to, potato, potah-to, Lynn Viehl, S.L. Viehl... This week's author is Lynn Viehl (also known sometimes as S.L. Viehl) and has written 35 novels. Her latest release was Dark Need: A Novel of the Darkyn which was released just this month. In November, her alter ego (S.L. Viehl) has a new book coming out, Afterburn.

Viehl can also be found over at Paperback Writer where she posts lots of lists of helpful things for writers and some other funny stuff (Note: DO NOT DRINK coffee/tea/soda while reading today's post. ... consider this your warning from Word Nerd).

WN: Place you do most of your writing:
VIEHL: I write at home in our spare bedroom.
WN: What’s your writing process like from when you get an idea to when it gets published?
VIEHL: My process is very methodical; I think through, research, plan out and outline the entire novel in detail before I write a single word. Once that's done, I write the novel quickly, and don't allow myself to backtrack or waffle. When the manuscript is finished, I give it one final in-depth edit, ship it off and move on to the next project.
WN: Why did you decide to become a writer?
VIEHL: I've been writing stories since I was a kid, and when I retired from working to be a stay-at-home mom, I thought that I'd try in my spare time to get something published.
WN: How long did you have to work to get published and what made you keep working at it until your name was on the cover of a book?
VIEHL: It took ten years before I received my first contract offer. All the people who told me that no one would publish books written by a housewife from Florida kept me working at it.
WN: You write under different names (Lynn Viehl, S.L. Viehl) why?
VIEHL: I'm a multi-genre writer, and I've been fortunate to sell many books in very different genres. My publishers decided that it would be best to put them out under different pseudonyms, mainly to avoid shelving and reader confusion.
WN: What is the best/most influential book you have ever read and why did it inspire you?
VIEHL: I'd have to say "The Night of Time" by Rene Barjavel (retitled "The Ice People" in English.) It changed the way I perceived humanity and my place in the world.
WN: What piece of advice helped you out the most as a writer?
VIEHL: A few years ago author Susan Elizabeth Phillips was kind enough to talk to me about the industry, and she impressed on me how important it is to protect the work, and not allow anything to get between you and the writing. That advice still helps me every day.
WN: If you had to live the life of one of your characters, who would you pick and why?
VIEHL: I think I'd pick Louise from my Grace Chapel Inn books. She's a classical pianist who runs a bed-n-breakfast with her two sisters and gives music lessons to children.

26 June 2006

Book Banter -- I am the Messenger

Title: I am the Messenger
Author: Markus Zusak
Length: 357 pages
Genre: YA
Plot Basics: Ed Kennedy is a 19-year-old cab driver with no prospects. His life revolves around driving the cab, playing cards with his mates, caring for his dog and wishing he could tell Audrey just how he feels about her. And then, he helps foil a bank robbery becoming somewhat of a local hero. After the robbery, Ed receives the Ace of Diamonds with three addresses written on it, setting off a string of things he has to do and messages he has to communicate to people, all from vague hints given on the playing cards.
Banter Points: Zusak does everything right. His main character's point of view is believable. His supporting character (especially the dog, The Doorman) are brilliant. Zusak wrote the book in present tense which gave the story the sense of immediacy that it needed. Moreover, Zusak's protagonist, Ed, has such crystal clear insights into life. (Also, Zusak got bonus points with the Word Nerd because one of her favorite authors, Graham Greene, gets a big mention in the book.)
This book won the Children's Book Council of Australia Book of the Year Award. (It was published in Austalia as "The Messenger."0
Bummer Points: At first Word Nerd didn't like the ending... it felt too deus ex machina for a plot that so far had been quirky, intense and wonderful. Word Nerd changed her mind after further consideration, but some readers may find the ending diasppointing.
Word Nerd recommendation: This book is shelved as YA, but it's YA for older young adults, like 10th-grade and up. It's pretty dark at parts and has an intense emotional grip on a reader. Adults should not pass this one by just because it's labeled YA.

23 June 2006

The best laid plans... yada yada


Jason over at Clarity of Night is having another one of his flash fiction contests where the story should be inspired by the eerie photo he's posted.

Word Nerd looks at this photo and thinks, Ah. This is perfect. Looks just like the upcoming scene in the WIP. I will write 250 words for the contest that I can use for real in the WIP because to make my June word count goal I don't have time or words to waste.

Right. Great plan.

Its execution was not so brilliant. Almost 1,000 words later, Word Nerd's done with the first draft of scene for the WIP. It's not condensable for the contest.

Word Nerd could try again. Writing a flash fiction is not really a waste of time or words. As Anne at static said flash fiction is like the writer's cocaine... Ok. So Word Nerd's going to try again. She can't not enter.

But the June word count! Ack. The pressure. Where to devote the time, the energy, the words?

Somebody help.

22 June 2006

Book Banter -- If Andy Warhol Had a Girlfriend

Title: If Andy Warhol Had a Girlfriend
Author: Alison Pace
Length: 385 pages
Genre: chick lit
Plot Basics: Jane Laine works for a big-name art gallery in New York City for a psychopathic boss and with coworkers to whom she gives nicknames to like the Velociraptor. The gallery represents Ian Rhys-Fitzsimmons, the best living sculptor. Suddenly, Jane finds herself on a five-month art tour with Ian, a man she thinks has far outlived his 15 minutes of fame. Once out of New York City, Jane discovers this trip might not be so bad after all.
Banter Points: Word Nerd doesn't really know anything about how the international art scene works, but the book seems believable. Also, the author bio says Pace worked at Sotheby's in the past so that makes Word Nerd suspect that she got the art world right (though perhaps overblown a little for the sake of good fiction.)
Bummer Points: The ending was a little disappointing, though it was still kind of cute.
Word Nerd recommendation: Word Nerd is a tad astonished that she read this book, being the straight-up chick lit that it is, without a twist of mystery or paranormal or thriller or whatever. That said, if you really like this genre, Word Nerd has a hunch that this one is a good one.

21 June 2006

Book Banter -- Bitten

Title: Bitten (Women of the Otherworld, Bk. I)
Author: Kelley Armstrong
Length: 379 pages
Genre: sci-fi/paranormal
Plot Basics: Elena Michaels is an oddity: she's the only female werewolf. Elena deals with being a werewolf, but she doesn't like her double life. When the Pack calls for her help, she ends up back in a lifestyle she tried to leave and wrestles with her loyalty to helping the Pack solve its current problem.
Banter Points: This is not your typical werewolf novel. It's not a string of fight scenes. There's no magic to being a werewolf, as Armstrong sticks to the classic idea that lycanthrophy is passed on either genetically or through biting. Bitten is smart and poignant as Elena has to figure out who she is and how to accept that identity.

Bummer Points: Apparently, in the future books in the series, Elena is not the only narrator.
Word Nerd recommendation: This was Word Nerd's second time reading this novel. When she read it first in 2002 when it was a new book, she didn't know it was going to be part of a series. Now that she discovered that, she needed a refresher before going on to book 2. But obviously, she remembered it was good enough the first time around to warrant a second visit. It's also a great book for readers who like the paranormal stuff but are looking for good plot and good characters to go with that element.

20 June 2006

Author Answers with Nancy Martin

Say hello to Nancy Martin, this week's author.

Martin is the author of the Blackbird Sisters mystery series. Her most recent release was the fifth book in that series, Have Your Cake and Kill Him Too. (The series in order is: How to Murder a Millionaire, Dead Girls Don't Wear Diamonds, Some Like it Lethal and Cross Your Heart and Hope to Die). Martin was a romance writer before switching to murder mysteries.

For more about her, check out Nancy Martin Mysteries or read her thoughts as one of the self-styled Book Tarts posting at The Lipstick Chronicles.

And don't forget, you can catch the Author Answers column now in newsprint in the Saturday editions of the Oshkosh Northwestern.

WN: Place you do most of your writing:
NANCY MARTIN: I do most of my drafting on my laptop, which I carry to various comfy chairs and sofas around my house. And sometimes to coffee shops. But I do all my real work -- the endless revising -- at my desk in my office, which is the former law library of the judge who owned this house before we bought it. But the library is in the basement -- not much sunlight -- so I prefer to be upstairs as much as possible.

WN: While you write, do you do anything else (munch on carrots or drink tea or listen to heavy metal, for example?)
MARTIN: I used to pop M&Ms. Now I slug water like mad. It's better for my waistline!

WN: Why did you decide to be a writer?
MARTIN: After four years of teaching, I came to the conclusion I wasn't cut out to work in a classroom with my day was dictated by clanging bells. I knew I could write -- I started in the 8th grade -- but I just needed a nudge to get started. The desperate desire to stop teaching was just the nudge I needed. That was 26 years ago.

WN: What author(s) inspire you?
MARTIN: I love the work of Anne Tyler, Michael Chabon, Richard Russo and -- of course -- Jane Austen. Also Nancy Mitford and Mary Stewart. How's that for a range?

WN: How long did you have to work on writing before your first book was accepted for publication?
MARTIN: It took me a year and a half to write my first book. I sent it to the first agent who had been recommended to me, and she accepted it within a week. It took her about three months to sell it to a publisher. I was very lucky, but I also worked on that book until I knew it was as perfect as I could make it.

WN: What made you keep working until it was done?
MARTIN: Hahaha! Halfway through the first draft, I got all depressed and wanted to sleep all the time. I thought the book was terrible, and it was a very disheartening thought. But then I realized I wasn't depressed at all -- I was pregnant! And I figured that I had better finish the book before the baby was born because I already had an infant in the house and I knew I'd never write the book if I had two babies to take care of. So I worked like mad and finished the manuscript one week before the birth of my second child. Whew! That was actually one of my first career epiphanies: A firm deadline makes all the difference.

WN: How did you feel when you first saw your name on the cover of a book?
MARTIN: It was nice. But actually, I found myself taking the book to the nearest chair, pulling out my red pen and opening to the first page to start revising -- AGAIN! Just goes to prove what a nut about re-writing I am!

WN: If you had to actually live the life of one of the characters in your book(s) who would you want to be and why?
MARTIN: Well, when I started writing the Blackbird Sisters mysteries, I decided that if I was going to write a series of books I had better make the characters all people I would enjoy spending the next several years with. So Nora is everything I wish I could be -- thin, smart, well-dressed. Her lover is perfect. He's great in bed, he's a wonderful cook ---- and then he leaves the house! The ideal man!

Author Answer Archives

Here's the list of authors Word Nerd has already talked to:

JA Konrath

Anne Frasier

Rachel Caine

Sarah Strohmeyer

Clyde Edgerton

Nick Sagan

Harley Jane Kozak

Megan McCafferty

Cara Black

Jacquelyn Mitchard

Tate Hallaway

Nancy Martin

Lynn Viehl

Anne McAllister

Margaret Weis

John Scalzi

Brendan Halpin

Susan McBride

Elaine Viets

Dave Case

Alison Pace

Janet Evanovich

Diana Peterfreund

Shanna Swendson

Bob Morris

Mindy Klasky

Mitch Albom

Charles de Lint

Michael Perry

L.A. Banks

Deirdre Knight

Lauren Baratz-Logsted

Kit Frazier

J.T. Ellison

Tanya Lee Stone

19 June 2006

Who are you?

(Now that we all have that song by The Who that was commandeered to be the theme song for CSI...)

Word Nerd is currently being pestered by a couple characters who are NOT in her current work-in-progress. She realizes how much for non-writers this must sound like she's hearing voices. It's not like that. (Or maybe it is... Word Nerd could be wrong.)

Writers though know what this is like. There are these characters, in Word Nerd's head, who are clamoring for some kind of attention.

She's got names for these people, but that's about it. She doesn't know what they want, how they are in conflict, etc. The one might be somebody who pops up in the WIP; the other definitely not. The problem is because to deal with these characters, Word Nerd will have to put down the WIP for a day or two or three to tinker with these others. And the WIP has a 7K more words that have to be written by the end of June. (well, maybe not have to, but it'd sure be swell to get that far.)

Any suggestions for how to at least, temporarily, ignore these other characters? Anybody? Does Word Nerd let herself go for a day or two down these rabbit trails? Or is this the time for the literary equivalent of sticking her fingers in her ears and saying "lalalalala" until the next 7K words of the WIP are done?

16 June 2006

Word Nerd Goes to Print

Were that this the announcement that the WIP was done and picked up by a publisher. Alas.

But, it's still cool news!

Word Nerd's Author Answer column will now be printed in the Saturday lifestyle page of the Oshkosh Northwestern. It's not Washington Post Book World yet, but Word Nerd is excited nonetheless.

The author that's featured here on Tuesdays will be the featured author in the paper on Saturday along with a teaser of who's on deck for next week.

Giving that teaser means that Word Nerd has to work ahead and make sure authors are lined up in the future. And while there's no shortage of authors, she'd like to know who you, the reader, would be interested in hearing from. word Nerd can't promise that every author suggested will reply, but it's worth a shot.

Who do you want to hear from about their writing?

Here's the list of authors Word Nerd has already talked to:
JA Konrath
Anne Frasier
Rachel Caine
Sarah Strohmeyer
Clyde Edgerton
Nick Sagan
Harley Jane Kozak
Megan McCafferty
Cara Black
Jacquelyn Mitchard
Tate Hallaway

15 June 2006

Book Banter -- The Count of Monte Cristo

Title: The Count of Monte Cristo
Author: Alexandre Dumas
Length: 689 pages
Genre: classic
Plot Basics: Edmond Dantes, a sailor from Marseilles, is hauled off during his engagement party to the famous Chateau d'If prisoner for allegedly conspiring with the Bonapartists. While in the Chateau d'If, he meets Abbe Faria, who teaches him about everything and leaves him a hidden fortune. Edmond escapes after 14 years in prison, he digs up the treasure and reenters fashionable society as the enigmatic Count of Monte Cristo to exact his revenge on those that put him in prison.
Banter Points: Well, Word Nerd read a classic.
Bummer Points: The book was good for the first half. In fact, at the beginning, Word Nerd was actually enjoying it. Then, in the middle, the minor characters staged a literary coup and took over the plot for awhile, leaving Monte Cristo out of the story for pages and pages. Monte Cristo's revenge-taking at the end was not as dramatic as Word Nerd hoped.

Word Nerd recommendation: Eat the sandwich. Or watch the movie. Or if you're really ambitious, read the book. Word Nerd can commiserate.

So -- any body else read this book? Did Word Nerd miss something or is she not alone in well, not enjoying it very much?

14 June 2006

Poof and other stories

Yesterday, Word Nerd had a million blog ideas; today, every last one of them is gone.
This is a true story and perhaps a glimpse into why writers make notes on napkins, towels, their arms, whatever. If it's not written down, the idea can vanish.
She thinks maybe she was going to talk, maybe, about the thrill of getting to work on the WIP on a new and cooperative computer, but that idea now sounds lame and not at all witty in her head.
Sometimes the little idea shreds on paper are just a word. sometimes a sentences. Sometimes, they turn into a whole scene, often scribbled out, in Word Nerd's case, in her journal in cursive no less.

Sigh. Write things down, Word Nerd. Write them down.

In other news, Word Nerd is down to 68 more pages of The Count of Monte Cristo to read. The book ends different than the most recent movie version with Guy Pearce and Jim Cavezial. Word Nerd hates to say it, but she thinks (*gasp*) she likes the movie better. She will finish the book to talk about it here tomorrow. Even if it kills her. She'll be here. And she'll be reading something else ... most likely on deck, Bitten by Kelley Armstrong. That's subject to change.

Also, Word Nerd seems to be the only one contributing to the One Sentence Game over ----> in the sidebar. Please play. One sentence, once a day. It's like eating veggies. It's good for you. In a literary and non-vitamin-delivering way.

13 June 2006

The Count.

The Count.
Word Nerd has another 150 pages to go on the Count and now, two days to do it in.
This is going to be a down-to-the-wire finish if Word Nerd makes it by June 15.
Things have been getting in the way of reading. Like taking walks with friends, which is not a bad thing. Or working on the WIP, also not a bad thing.
Oh, and there's combating that sense of dread every time Word Nerd picks up the book. Can we just have some revenge, please?
Word Nerd enjoyed the movie, but now that she's into the book, she's deciding that this will be the only kind of Monte Cristo that she likely deals with in the future.

For all of you who have been cheering, much thanks.

Author Answers with Tate Hallaway

This week's author under the spotlight hails from one state to the west of Word Nerd, St. Paul Minnesota's Tate Hallaway.

Hallaway is the author of "Tall, Dark and Dead." For more about her, check out www.tatehallaway.com.

1. Place you do most of your writing:
I'm lucky that I have enough room in my house that I can have a room that I dedicate as my "office," although, ironically, I do most of my business there (e-mailing, etc.) and most of my fiction writing happens in my bedroom on my laptop. I'm the mother of a 3-year-old, so I write after he goes to sleep.

2. While you write, do you do anything else (munch on carrots or drink tea or listen to heavy metal, for example?)
The sound of my own fingers clacking on the keyboard is all I listen too. I will sometimes sip a frappicino (the pre-packaged bottles) because I'm inspired by caffeine (and need to stay up past my own bedtime to get books written).

3. Why did you decide to be a writer?
I'm not sure I really decided BE a writer. I'm a victim of an over-active imagination. I almost always made up stories. When I was little, I coerced neighborhood kids into playing "Star Wars" with me. Eventually, that became somewhat awkward and inappropriate, so I had to find another outlet. So, I started writing things down on paper.

I'm not sure when I wrote my first piece of original fiction. But, I'm certain did it out of boredom.

You see, I have this tendency to take on really, really boring day-jobs that only require about a tenth of my actual brain power to do. I know that I started writing my "trunk" novel (a practice novel that never sold) when I was working as a temporary, full-time employee. I didn't even have a computer terminal. Just a desk and a typewriter and the occasional file that needed filing. At first, I typed a lot of letters to my friends who had moved away. Then, I started making up weird limericks and crazy children short stories with titles like "Alfred the Slug." Then, suddenly, I was eighty pages into a really weird fantasy novel.

At this point, someone probably should have discouraged me. Or, I should have gotten a better job.

Instead, someone that I showed this novel to though I should, you know, like publish the thing, only I didn't know how to do it. I took a community education class about writing and I got the bug. That's when I started seriously considering writing for a living.

4. What author(s) inspire you?
Anyone who can make me laugh (or think -- or even more strangely, both at the same time.) I'm actually quite fond of Sandra Hill, a romance writer, who wrote LAST VIKING and other delightfully silly romances. I also read a lot of science fiction and fantasy as a kid (see "Star Wars" reference above) and some of my favorite authors include, Katherine Kurtz, Anne McCaffery, Ray Bradbury, and Karin Lowachee.

5. How long did you have to work on writing before your first book was accepted for publication?
Several years. It took me about four years to finish the book, which is essentially my practice novel. Then, a year and a half to finish the next book, which is the first book I sold.

6. What made you keep working until it was done?
My writers group. The class that I took about writing led me to form a writers' critique group called "The Wyrdsmiths." We meet, in person, every two weeks and critique each others manuscripts. When we started none of us had published, now, twelve years later, over half of us have published novels coming out from major New York publishers.

Writing is a solitary business. It's also one fraught with disappointments, set-backs, and rejection. The best way I've found to cope with that is to share my misery.

7. How did you feel when you first saw your name on the cover of a book?
First? Even after several books (some published under a different name) I still can't get over how cool seeing my name in print, much less on the spine of a book. It's AWESOME. In fact, I always feel a bit like my three year old.... I have this insane tendency to grab the book and run up to the first person I see and say, "I wrote this!"

8. If you had to actually live the life of one of the characters in your book(s) who would you want to be and why?
Garnet Lacey, the heroine of Tall, Dark & Dead. Why? For one, in her world magic is real. Secondly, I think she has a lot of fun when I'm not looking.

12 June 2006

Double Edition Book Banter -- Blue Blood & The Good Girl's Guide to Murder

Title: Blue Blood
Author: Susan McBride
Length: 350~
Genre: mystery/chick lit
Plot Basics: Dropout Dallas debutante Andrea (Andy) Blevins Kendricks' best friend from school, Molly, is suddenly convicted of murdering her boss at Jugs restaurant. Molly turns to Andy, a website designer, for help and the only way Andy can think of to clear Molly's name is to take her job, don the Jugs uniform and find out what really happened. All while trying to avoid her socialite mother's latest attempt to set her up ... and figure out if Molly's lawyer, Brian Malone, is actually a guy worth being interested in.
Banter Points: Fun stuff. Word Nerd especially liked Andy's reactions to the uppity-social life that her mother leads.
Bummer Points: Andy's character is well-rounded out... Brian Malone's could have been stronger.

(Word Nerd was going to put the cover in of the next book, but Blogger won't cooperate...)

Title: The Good Girl's Guide to Murder
Author: Susan McBride
Length: 373 pages
Genre: mystery/chick lit
Plot Basics: As payback for her mother's help in "Blue Blood," Andy Kendricks takes a website design job for Marilee Mabry, the rising star of the Martha-Stewart-esque show, "The Sweet Life with Marilee." At the premiere party, Marilee's daughter almost dies and Andy is convinced it was no accident. As Andy starts to investigate, she finds out that Marilee Mabry isn't so sweet and that more than one person is willing to serve up murder.
Banter Points: Better than the first one. Often, second books aren't, but this one seemed far more plausible than Andy suddenly taking a waitressing job.
Bummer Points: Cissy, Andy's mom, seems a bit like a Grandma Mazur-type character (a la Evanovich).

Word Nerd recommendation: These are a fun read. No exploding cars like Evanovich, or funny side-kick characters like Evanovich, but then again, not al chick-lit mysteries should be like Evanovich. Word Nerd will keep reading this series.

09 June 2006

Counting the days

Consider this a literary SOS.
Word Nerd's got almost 300 more pages to go in "The Count of Monte Cristo" to finish the classic novel by June 15, as promised. At this point in the game, Word Nerd should have been around page 500.

What happened? Well, a few days off where Word Nerd was doing things like clambering through caves and gaping at Mt. Rushmore and two mystery novels by Susan McBride.

Oh. Right. And Everfree.

All, however, is not lost. Word Nerd isn't reading anything else until Monte Cristo is done, despite the stack of books to be read on her living room floor and the few that she just put on hold at the library.

But this is where you come in. Word Nerd's not having any fun getting to the end. The last chapter, kid you not, was about about selling stocks. Yep. Finances.

Word Nerd needs some cheerleaders. After all, y'all voted for this and it's taking an awful lot of will power (will power akin to not eating the whole pint of Ben and Jerry's) to not pick up Kelley Armstrong's "Bitten," or Neil Gaiman's "American Gods" or Alison Pace's, "If Andy Warhol Had a Girlfriend."

Word Nerd's got five days.


May Bibliometer

Word Nerd didn't read nearly as much in May as she did in April, but then she didn't get stuck in any airports in May or spend any time flying anywhere.

So, for May, here's the tally:
6 books
1785 pages
57.58 pages/day.

That brings total books read in 2006 so far to 37.

The six books in May were:
Sloppy Firsts, Megan McCafferty
How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild and Got a Life, Kaavya Viswanathan
A Feast for Crows, George R.R. Martin
The Stolen Child, Keith Donohue
Second Helpings, Megan McCafferty
All That Remains, Patricia Cornwell

07 June 2006

Book Banter -- Everfree

Title: Everfree
Author: Nick Sagan
Length: 240 pages
Genre: sci-fi

Plot spoilers follow. Sorry. It's hard to review the third book in a trilogy without giving something away.

Plot Basics: Halloween and five of the other post-humans have figured out how to cure the Black Ep plague that nearly wiped out humanity. Now, they are unthawing humans who were cryogenically frozen, curing them and trying to build a Camelot-like society. But those they awake remember the power and positions they used to hold...
Banter Points: The wait was worth it. Sagan interestingly writes with a lot of sentence fragments. Probably for punch. Or to convey characters. Like Halloween. Whatever his reason, it works well, giving the pacing a greater sense of immediacy.
There are some interesting twists along the way in this book too... twists that could possibly lead to another novel, but if not, just make it satisfyingly unfinished for the reader.
Bummer Points: Everfree lacks the same level of emotional punch that Idlewild had. Not that Everfree is devoid of feelings, quite the contrary, but it just doesn't toy with the reader as much.
Word Nerd recommendation: Word Nerd has gushed about "Idlewild" and "Edenborn," the first two of Sagan's books, so yes, here's more gushing for "Everfree." Read the whole series and for new readers, you now have the benefit of not having to wait for the next book.
While reading "Everfree" (which Word Nerd did in a single evening, BTW), she noticed how similar the series was to King Arthur stories. No, there are no knights or wizards like Merlin, but at the core, Sagan's whole story is about flawed people trying to create a better society as their personal flaws interfere with their goals. In short -- King Arthur and Camelot.
Perhaps it is one of Sagan's own character who best sums it up: "It takes a special kind of crazy to think you can change the world."

06 June 2006

Author Answers with Jacquelyn Mitchard

This week's author is one of Wisconsin's own, Jacquelyn Mitchard.

Mitchard has a new book out, Cage of Stars, but is well-known for her first novel, The Deep End of the Ocean. That book was an Oprah book club book and was later adapted into a movie.

As a bonus to the blog-readers who live here in Oshkosh or this general area, Mitchard will be at the Oshkosh Public Library for a book signing at 7 p.m. on June 14 in the lower level meeting room at the library, 106 Washington Ave., Oshkosh.

Place you do most of your writing:
1. I write in my bed on an 18th century lap desk or at my kitchen breakfast bar. If I'm beginning or ending a novel, I sometimes go to The Ragdale Foundation, a writer's residence in northern Illinois and write for 15 hours a day, for a period of five days.

While you write, do you do anything else (munch on carrots or drink tea or listen to heavy metal, for example?)
2. Every book has a "soundtrack." For example, when I was writing 'Cage of Stars,' I listened to Aaron Copeland and 'Clair de Lune' by Debussey. When I was writing 'The Most Wanted,' I listened to Emmylou Harris. When I was writing 'The Deep End of the Ocean,' I listened to Madama Butterfly. Years and years ago, I replaced smoking cigarettes with drinking water. I drink GALLONS of water and green tea while I'm writing -- feeling virtuous.

Why did you decide to be a writer?

3. I didn't decide. Just as with reading, it became a compulsion with me as soon as I could do it. I wrote terrible poems about dead dogs and virgins throwing themselves into volcanoes. I majored in biology, hoping to be a pathologist, but was defeated by math, and switched to American literature.

What author(s) inspire you?
4.Oh my goodness! Everyone from my writing icons -- such as Truman Capote and Wallace Stegner -- to Andrea Barrett, Peter Carey, Ruth Rendall, Scott Turow, Jane Hamilton, Alice Elliott Dark, Charlotte and Emily, so, so many...

What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve received? What made it so helpful?
5. Years ago, my agent said, "You don't have to tell everything you know. But keep your outtakes." That meant I didn't have to "kitchen-sink" every book -- in other words throwing in every subplot and good line I could muster. There would be world enough, and time.

Deep End of the Ocean” got a lot of notice since it was an Oprah Book Club selection and then a movie. How do you think that success has impacted you as a writer?
6. It was a double edge. It gave me the privilege of writing stories for a living. It set an extremely high gate, and for a while, it crippled me into thinking that EVERY book had to sell millions of copies. Every book cannot. But though two others have been optioned for movies and some have received more critical acclaim, no one knows any of them better than my first. And of course, it is incredibly dear to me. It saved me, emotionally, from the desperate pain of widowhood, and from financial straits that were alarming.

How did you feel when you first saw your name on the cover of a book?
7. It was very nice. But when I first got a phone call saying my book had made the bestseller list, I almost jumped out of the car!

If you had to actually live the life of one of the characters in your book(s) who would you want to be and why?
8.I would be True Dickinson, in 'Twelve Times Blessed." It was probably my least well-written book; but she had a really cute husband who could do the two-step and the nicest house in Chatham, Massachusetts. I also really like her name. If my baby son had been a girl, I'd have called him True. Since he was a boy, and our last, we called him Atticus -- after an old friend.

05 June 2006

It's not that I don't love you...

Dear Count of Monte Cristo and Andrea Blevins Kendricks (main character of a "The Good Girl's Guide to Murder) --

Word Nerd is leaving you.
But only for a while; promise.
It's not you. It's the Word Nerd. And it's all because of a certain orange-haired maverick-type character who goes by the name Hal, short for Halloween, short for Gabriel Hall.
In short, Word Nerd's hold (finally) came in on "Everfree," Nick Sagan's new book.
Word Nerd can wait no longer before starting this book.
So Count and Andrea, you're just going to have to wait.
See you again tomorrow. Or maybe Wednesday.
-Word Nerd

B is for Back. And Befuddled.

If you chose "D" for the answer to the quiz in the last post, you were right.

And now Word Nerd's back *insert sound of knuckles cracking as she limbers up her fingers to type again, here*.

So while Word Nerd was away, she happened to watch the finals of the Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee. Watching these fourth- through eighth-graders spell words made Word Nerd think that perhaps she should renounce her title as "Word Nerd" because not only could she not spell many of the words used in the finals, she hadn't ever heard them before.

Take, for example, the winning word on the championship list, "ursprache." (Ur-spa-what-a?) Or "icteritious," the word that knocked out the third place speller. Or "weltschmerz" the word that downed the second-place finisher.

Word Nerd didn't know a one of them.

She thinks the "Word Nerd" title is now up for grabs. Leading contender, spelling bee winner Kerry Close. Or any of the runners-up.

For more on the national bee and the winners, click here.