29 September 2006

Book Banter -- Bahamarama

Title: Bahamarama
Author: Bob Morris
Length: 298 pages
Genre: mystery
Plot Basics: Former football player Zack Chasteen gets let out of federal prison and all he wants is to be reunited with his special lady friend Barbara Pickering, a magazine editor, currently doing a shoot in the Bahamas. Zack goes to join her there. But when he gets to the Bahamas, Zack can't find her and instead, finds trouble.
Banter Points: The setting was definitely fun. A couple of the characters -- Zack's sidekick, Boggy, and the Bahamanian boy, Nixon, were really great.
Bummer Points: Chasteen is supposed to be an ex-football player, but Word Nerd didn't see much of how that impacted him now. She's glad the book didn't devolve into a litany of sports metaphors, but still, with that background, Word Nerd was expecting to see that past a little more.
Word Nerd recommendation: There should perhaps be a new category of books -- can we call it man-lit? This book is like chick-lit, minus the Manolo Blahniks and Prada, but has that same sort of sometimes-cynical, sometimes-comic tone. Book two is on Word Nerd's list of things to read eventually.

28 September 2006

Two more days and other tales

Voting remains open for another two days on Word Nerd's "What Classic to Read Next" poll. Word Nerd's going to be on another airplane soon and this will likely be one of the books she takes with her. Maybe that figures into your vote... High entertainment value is good.

As before, other suggestions for what book(s) to take on the plane are welcome.

Also --
The revision meter is slowly starting to creep upwards. Word Nerd is finding that it's hard to get in the swing of these changes. She's going to have to put in some effort this weekend to get through the changes on the next 15 pages to make the end of the month goal of being done with the first revisions to the first two chapters. Or maybe she needs to make her chapters shorter...

Also --
Word Nerd's staring at a a mostly blank calendar of Wednesdays for the rest of the year which means she needs authors to interview. A little teaser here -- Mitch Albom will be the featured author next week (Oct. 4) and Word Nerd's got interview requests out to Jim Butcher, Charles de Lint and Nick Bantock. With the number of authors out there, she'll find some to interview, but reader suggestions always take higher priority.

Also --
For the Oshkosh readers, mark your calendars. Author Tate Hallaway will be at Apple Blossom Books (513 N. Main St.) for a book signing of her new book, "Tall, Dark and Dead" from 10:30 a.m. - 12 p.m. on Oct. 7. Word Nerd featured Hallaway in an Author Answers column several weeks ago.

27 September 2006

Author Answers with Mindy Klasky

Mindy Klasky is this week's featured author. She's got a new book out in stores, Girl's Guide to Witchcraft.

WN: You’ve got a new book out…what’s it about and what kind of readers would really like it if they picked it up?
KLASKY: GIRL'S GUIDE TO WITCHCRAFT is a contemporary comedy with fantasy elements. It reads like the intersection of BRIDGET JONES'S DIARY and HARRY POTTER, telling the story of a librarian who discovers that she's a witch.

GIRL'S GUIDE appeals to readers who enjoy escaping the "real world" in their fiction - to readers who say, "I wish I had a magic wand to solve that problem at the office." While I hope that readers of my fantasy novels will join me in this new venture, I'm also hoping to find many new readers.

WN: What new challenges did you face writing “Girl’s Guide to Witchcraft” that were different from writing the Glasswright series or your stand-alone novel, “Seasons of Sacrifice?”
KLASKY: The Glasswright Series and SEASON OF SACRIFICE required extensive world-building, figuring out how things worked in a strange setting unlike our own world.

GIRL'S GUIDE required almost the opposite set of skills -- world-detailing, figuring out the telling details of our real-world existence, so that readers say, "I know *exactly* what she means! That is *precisely* what my life is like!" GIRL'S GUIDE is peppered with references to real world activities and places, which enrich the story and give it realistic depth.

WN: What’s your writing process like from when you first had an idea to getting the novel published?
KLASKY: Every novel that I've completed began with a character, a specific person whose voice entertained me well before I worked out the details of plot. GIRL'S GUIDE was no exception.

After spending a couple of weeks writing notes to myself in a journal, I decided that I knew enough about librarian Jane Madison to start figuring out her plot. I drew up a brief outline (approximately three pages, for a 400-page book), setting it up in a spreadsheet so that I could track page-length and word-count as I wrote.

While I completed some chapters of the novel by working in the mornings, before heading into the office and my "day-job", I wrote most of it on vacations from that "day-job". I took two Writing Marathon breaks for this book -- a week off from work (with weekends attached) so that I had two sets of nine consecutive days to write.

I revise each chapter a few times as I write. Once I've completed my first draft of the entire novel, I read through the manuscript once for substantive errors (e.g., characters' eyes changing color!) and then I read the completed manuscript once, out loud, to make sure that the words flow perfectly.

After that, the manuscript is beamed to my New York editor electronically. While I made a handful of changes in response to my editors' queries, I did not make substantial revisions on GIRL'S GUIDE.

WN: What is your favorite word and why?
KLASKY: My favorite *phrase* is "And then..." To me, this phrase conveys the essence of storytelling -- the hero went walking in his field. And then, adventures happened. And then, he returned home. "And then" is the essence of potential to a storyteller.

When you’re not writing, what do you do (hobbies, career, etc.)?

I work full time as the manager of a large law firm library. In my spare (!) time, I enjoy quilting, cooking, reading (both non-fiction and fiction, in the genres I write, and out of them.) I also relish "get-away" weekends with my husband, particularly to nearby towns rich in history and culture.

WN: What is the best/most influential book you have ever read and why did it inspire you?
KLASKY: For years, my answer to this question was THE LORD OF THE RINGS, because it opened up my mind to the wonder of a fully-realized fantasy world. Lately, though, I've realized that the Deryni novels of Katherine Kurtz, particularly her first trilogy (DERYNI RISING, DERYNI CHECKMATE, and HIGH DERYNI), had a greater influence on my career as a writer. Kurtz's novels are peopled with incredibly realistic characters, people who seem alive and breathing. Those characters first made me realize that *I* could write, that *I* could create stories and share them with friends.

WN: If you got stuck on a desert island with one of your characters, who would you want to be stranded with and why?
KLASKY: Melissa White, the best friend of the main character in GIRL'S GUIDE TO WITCHCRAFT. Not only is Melissa a sane, level-headed person who could provide wisdom and solace on a desert island, but she is a first-class baker who would find some way to create dessert miracles!

WN: What piece of advice helped you out the most as a writer?
KLASKY: "Writers write." I've seen this phrase attributed to many people; I believe that it was actually E.B. White who said it. Even when the story doesn't want to flow, even when the publishing establishment seems to teeter on the edge of solvency, even when the day job looms, writers write. Sitting down and putting words together builds the story. It's really that simple.

26 September 2006

Questions, anyone?

If you haven't heard, author Mitch Albom (Tuesdays with Morrie, The Five People you Meet in Heaven) is going to be in Oshkosh.

And since he's coming here, and since Word Nerd interviews authors, she's going to talk to him.

She's got questions she can ask, but for those who may not be able to go to the reading/signing event with him, if you are dying to ask him something, post it here and Word Nerd may be able to work it into her interview.

25 September 2006

Book Banter -- Dzur

Title: Dzur
Author: Steven Brust
Length: 285 pages
Genre: fantasy
Plot Basics: After being on the run, wise-cracking assassin Vlad Taltos comes back to Adrilankha with a price on his head and a chance to mend some of the relationships there.
Banter Points: This is the 10th book in the Vlad Taltos series and Word Nerd was very excited when she found out this one was being released. Vlad and his familiar Loiosh have such funny banter back and forth throughout the book.
One of the other things that Word Nerd has always liked about this series is that it's not all spelled out. For example, when Vlad has a plan that involves other characters, there'll be a line, like, "I told them my plan and they agreed." It's nice as the reader to not know what's coming until the scene unfolds when they carry out the plan.
Also, this book cleverly follows a meal, with each chapter getting introduced with each new course. Vlad's voice comes through even more clearly in these sections -- example: With cooking and murder, there really shouldne be a "good enough." You need to get as close to perfect as possible, otherwise find another line of work....Another similarity if you will between committing murder and indulging in supreme pleasure: Both take one's full concentration.
Bummer Points: It had been a while since Word Nerd read book 9, so she felt a little foggy during some of the reading about what exactly was happening. The real salient details emerged from her memory though. And... is book 11 on the horizon anywhere?
Word Nerd recommendation: If you are looking for good fantasy, these are a must read. Go back to the beginning of the series, read them in the order that Brust wrote them. (The story's chronological order is different).

22 September 2006

Book Banter -- Dead Girls Don't Wear Diamonds

Title: Dead Girls Don't Wear Diamonds
Author: Nancy Martin
Length: ~250 pages
Genre: mystery/chick lit
Plot Basics: Nora Blackbird, part-time social columnist and impoverished socialite finds herself having to unravel another swanky murder. After she's at one of Philadelphia's glitzy parties, the wife of Nora's old college flame turns up dead in the swimming pool... and the emerald ring from her grandmother that Nora wears turns up missing. Are the two connected? And is Nora under suspicion for murder because of running in to the dead woman's husband at the party?
Banter Points: These Blackbird sister mysteries are a hoot. Nora -- and her sisters Emma and Libby -- are hilarious characters, particularly the very-pregnant Libby in this book. These books have the right mix of high fashion, mystery and romance as Nora tries to figure out her relationship with quasi-crime lord Michael "The Mick" Abruzzo.
Bummer Points: SPOILER: Are Nora and Michael ever going to get together?
Word Nerd recommendation: Do yourself a favor: While waiting for the hold to come in on the latest Evanovich novel, read these, because the time will be well spent.

21 September 2006

What I Learned Reading

Word Nerd spent part of Monday and last Friday on airplanes, but instead of using the time to devour some novels written by other people, she read the rough draft of her own.

She hopes this doesn't sound pretentious, but she learned first -- the rough draft does not completely suck. Not to say that there aren't sections that could use some major, major work, but at least Word Nerd wasn't tempted to chuck the thing out the airplane at 18,000 feet.

Second, she learned that there are some definitive spots that need some work, making some plot transitions, etc.

Third, Word Nerd realized that she didn't really introduce her characters as well as she could. This is one area where she's going to be spending some revising time for sure, helping round out on paper the folks that become the main characters. They are all in her head, but somehow what she knows about them didn't make it all on paper.

So -- the amended goal for the rest of September and writing: Word Nerd's going to work through the first two chapters. She hopes to get farther than that, but since there are only 10 days left in the month she didn't want to be overly ambitious.

20 September 2006

Author Answers with Bob Morris

For you Wisconsin-based readers, this week's featured author might put you in a warmer frame of mind; Bob Morris is the author of the Caribbean mystery series. He's the author of Bahamarama, Jamaica Me Dead and the forthcoming Bermuda Schwartz, which hits shelves in Feb. 2007.

For more about him, check out his website, or his blog.

WN: What’s your writing process like from when you first had an idea to getting the novel published?
MORRIS: I got the idea for my first novel, Bahamarama (and the ensuing Caribbean series) while walking down a beach on Harbour Island in the Bahamas. I went back to my cottage and wrote what became the first chapter. The next day, I flew home and quit my job as editor of Caribbean Travel & Life magazine. My wife, bless her heart, said: “Uh, do you realize we have two kids in college?” But it was one of those now-or-never things. Four months later, Bahamarama was finished. It took me another nine months, and 27 rejections, before I landed an agent, who within a week had three offers for the book, including a three-book deal from St. Martin’s Press. That’s the one I took.

Beyond that, I just go to places like Jamaica (Jamaica Me Dead) or Bermuda (Bermuda Schwartz) or Trinidad (Trinidaddy-O, the book I’m currently working on), soak up everything I possibly can and then figure out new and unusual ways to kill people.

WN: How did you come up with your main character, Zachary Chasteen?
MORRIS: He just started speaking to me while I was walking down that beach on Harbour Island. Maybe I needed to be on medication or something, eh? But I liked his voice and knew he was the guy.

WN: You’ve also worked as a journalist and a food critic and a travel writer, how have these careers influence you as a novelist?
MORRIS: I can’t imagine not having a background as a newspaper reporter, columnist and, later, a magazine editor and travel writer. It has taught me all the important stuff: Persistence, research and the importance of writing something every day.

WN: You write funny, mystery books set on islands not that far from Florida… do you worry about being compared to writers like Carl Hiaasen and is the comparison a bad thing?
MORRIS: Carl’s a friend and is the guy at the top of the heap. I would glorify in any comparison, but our stuff is totally different. There are so many really good mystery writers working Florida – Randy White, James Hall, Jon King, James Born, the list goes on and on and on – that it’s one reason why I decided to set my books in the Caribbean. The turf was getting kinda crowded.

WN: What is the best/most influential book you have ever read and why did it inspire you?
MORRIS: I can never answer this question. I mean, I have read gazillions of books and I always draw a blank when asked this. But like so many of my generation and, I would hope, many generations that follow, I was completely drawn to the voice of Holden Caufield in “Catcher in the Rye.” Sardonic, wry, wise and damaged – it worked on all levels for me.

WN: If you got stuck on a desert island with one of your characters, who would you want to be stranded with and why?
MORRIS: Well, that would definitely be Barbara Pickering, Zack’s lady love. My wife firmly believes that I created Barbara in her form, even though Barbara is brunette, British and a magazine publisher and my wife is none of those things. They are, however, both incredibly beautiful and sexy and constantly alluring so, please, go ahead and strand me.

WN: What piece of advice helped you out the most as a writer?
MORRIS: My mom, after I had flunked out of college and spent two years traveling around the world with no apparent focus to my life, said: “I love you, son, but please do something.”
That was all the fire I needed…

19 September 2006

Avast! It's time to celebrate, me hearties!

Today be Sept. 19th, which means that it's Talk Like A Pirate Day.

You can brush up on your pirate vocabulary and more, here.

There are also links on the site to quizzes and games, such as the pirate name generator.

Word Nerd discovered that were she a pirate, she would be:

Black Morgan Roberts

Like anyone confronted with the harshness of robbery on the high seas, you can be pessimistic at times. Two things complete your pirate persona: style and swagger. Maybe a little too much swagger sometimes -- but who really cares? Arr!

15 September 2006

Book Banter -- The Sorceress and the Cygnet

Title: The Sorceress and the Cygnet
Author: Patricia A. McKillip
Length: 231 pages
Genre: fantasy
Plot Basics: A young Wayfolk man, Corleu, has to become the apprentice of sorceress Nyx Ro in order to save his people and his true love. But in doing so, Corleu awakens characters out of children's rhymes and mythology -- the Gold King, the Blind Lady, the Dancer and more -- and their resurrection threatens the power of Nyx Ro's house and brings her into conflict with her cousin, Meguet.
Banter Points: McKillip's prose is lyrical and haunting.
Bummer Points: It's also confusing. Word Nerd suspects that the confusion is intentional for the plot, but sometimes she wondered if she was really getting what was going on.
Word Nerd recommendation: McKillip was recommended to Word Nerd as a being a fantasy author worth checking out. McKillip's got 10 years worth of back-list, so Word Nerd's going to read another one or two before making a decision.

14 September 2006

The stack on the floor

Word Nerd has an over-abundance of books (even for her) checked out of the library and stacked on her floor right now.

She thinks she'll get through them all. (That's if she doesn't trip over the stack, inflicting some kind of bodily harm before then.)

Here's the current pile:

Sleep Tight, Anne Frasier
Bahamarama, Bob Morris
The Book Thief, Markus Zusak
Dzur, Steven Brust
The Cygnet and the Firebird, Patricia McKillip
All the King's Men, Robert Penn Warren
Destiny, Alex Archer
Dead Girls Don't Wear Diamonds, Nancy Martin
Some Like it Lethal, Nancy Martin
Firestorm, Rachel Caine
The Cinderella Pact, Sarah Strohmeyer

If she tries to go to the library and check anything out again, somebody please stop her.

13 September 2006

Author Answers with Shanna Swendson

Shanna Swendson is this week's featured author.

She's the author of Enchanted, Inc., and Once Upon Stilettos. Her third book in the Enchanted series is due on shelves in April 2007. She's also written some essays in anthologies about topics from Battlestar Galactica to Pride and Prejudice. For more about her, check out her website.

WN: What's your writing process like from when you first had an idea to getting the novel published?
SWENDSON: It sometimes takes a long time for me to go from having an idea to actually writing a book. Usually, there's some spark of "what if" that goes off in my brain, but there's not enough to it to get an entire book out of it. That idea may later bump into another idea fragment in my head, and then if that happens enough times, eventually I've got something I can work with.
In the case of Enchanted, Inc., the initial spark of idea was that I wanted to read something that did for adult life and the corporate world what the Harry Potter series did for school and teen life. I couldn't find anything much like that, so I realized I'd have to write it. Meanwhile, I had this really old idea fragment in my head that had been searching for a story for years. Ever since my first visit to New York, I'd wanted to write a book that was an outsider's perspective -- a Southern belle from a small town taking on the city. Usually stories like that involve the small-town girl being overwhelmed by the city and how tough and mean it is, but my experience had been the opposite. The merest hint of a drawl and I could get anything I wanted there. The book ended up not quite going in that direction, but it did merge the idea of someone working in magic with my old small-town girl in New York story.
Once I have the basics of the idea, I do more focused brainstorming about what will happen in the plot, what kind of characters there might be, what problems the main character will have, what ideas and themes I want to deal with. I do some research into any specific subject matter I want to address (for these books, I read books on the business world, office politics and dealing with difficult co-workers) and visit the locations. After I have all that, I outline the plot and start writing.
With that first book, I wrote a full manuscript before I started looking for an agent. Now that I have an agent and publisher, I generally write three chapters and a synopsis, then when the publisher makes an offer and we go to contract on it, I write the rest of the book. I go through two major drafts, with some minor revisions in in-between drafts along the way. Usually I write the whole book, tinker with it a while, and then my agent tells me what's wrong with it, so I then go and rewrite a lot of it, then tinker some more before turning it in.

WN: Your Enchanted, Inc., novels are largely fairy tales - what's appealing about fairy tales to grown-up readers?
SWENDSON: I think a lot of adults -- particularly those who enjoy reading fiction -- have never really lost that child-like sense of wonder that makes them want to believe in extraordinary things. Meanwhile, as adults we know how tough the world really is, so it's nice to escape for a little while to a place where you can get what you want with the wave of a hand. I do have a little fun spoofing some fairy-tale conventions (in the third book in the series, I take on fairy godmothers), so I'm putting my own twist on fairy tales. I like playing with the idea of how some of these fairy tale things I sometimes catch myself wishing for would really work in real life.

WN: You've also written some essays on topics from Battlestar Galactica to Desperate Housewives... what are you discovering about pop culture from looking at these shows with a critical eye?
SWENDSON: The sad thing is that I've always looked at pop culture with a critical eye. I spend way too much time on Internet message boards dissecting TV series, analyzing their plot elements and themes, figuring out which archetypes the characters fit, and stuff like that (I really need a life). I do all kinds of literary analysis on TV and movies, just for fun. I somehow managed to luck into a situation where people are willing to pay me to do that. It's kind of cool to be able to start considering your hobbies -- the things you'd be doing anyway -- as a valid part of the workday. When I started working on the Battlestar Galactica essay, I'd jokingly moan, "I have to go to work now," as an episode came on, although I was actually eagerly anticipating it.

WN: What is your favorite word and why?
SWENDSON: I can't think of any particular word that sends me into raptures. If you ask the copy editors who work on my books, they'd probably say my favorite word is "just." I do a global search for "just" in every manuscript and eliminate it except where absolutely necessary, and the copy editor can still usually find it four times in a single paragraph.

WN: What is the best/most influential book you have ever read and why did it inspire you?
SWENDSON: That's another impossible question! When you read as much as I do, it's hard for any one book to have that much impact. It's more of a cumulative thing.
I'm also terribly fickle. Something may really set me off for a while, until I find the next thing.
If I absolutely have to choose something, it would probably be The Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis (or if I can't choose the whole series, The Silver Chair, since that's the first one I read). That series really sparked something in my imagination and made me want to tell stories like that. I read those when I was in sixth grade, and it was like someone flipped a switch in my head that turned me into an aspiring novelist. The books themselves weren't necessarily inspiring or life-changing in and of themselves, but the experience of reading them really did something to me, so I guess you could say they were life-changing.

WN: If you got stuck on a desert island with one of your characters, who would you want to be stranded with and why?
SWENDSON: Owen Palmer, from my Enchanted series. He's a super-powerful wizard, so he'd be very handy to have around. Plus, he's very cute and quite nice, so he'd be pleasant company. With a lot of uninterrupted time together, I might even be able to eventually figure out exactly what makes him tick.

WN: What piece of advice helped you out the most as a writer?
SWENDSON: I know I should probably say something inspirational about never giving up or writing from the heart, or something like that, but the most helpful advice I've ever had as a writer was to make a list of twenty things when you're brainstorming a book, a chapter, a scene, or whatever. There's something about pushing yourself to go all the way to twenty that forces you to be creative. I've found that the first five things I come up with are the things that have to happen to keep the story moving, and the last five are the things that really make the scene come to life. That's become an essential part of my writing process, and it's a sure cure for writer's block.

12 September 2006

Book Banter -- Looking for Rachel Wallace

Title: Looking for Rachel Wallace
Author: Robert B. Parker
Length: 219 pages
Genre: mystery
Plot Basics: Spenser is hired by a publishing house to be a bodyguard for Rachel Wallace, a radical feminist author. Spenser's machismo doesn't sit well with Rachel and after just a few days on the job, she fires him. But when Rachel is kidnapped, Spenser takes it upon himself to find her.
Banter Points: This one was interesting -- the interplay between Spenser and Rachel was well-written at the beginning. Spenser has been described as the "thinking man's detective" and that fits well with what we saw of him in this book.
Bummer Points: Spenser again, solves the crime partly with violence. This is the key difference Word Nerd is seeing between mystery series with male detectives and female detectives -- the women throw fewer punches.

Word Nerd recommendation: Word Nerd enjoyed this one better than Judas Goat, the last Spenser novel she read. She's going to keep chipping away at the series in the future, but this 30-year backlist will take awhile to get through.

11 September 2006

A new OED

No... not that OED (Oxford English Dictionary)

Try the Omnificent English Dictionary in Limerick Form.

So far, this new tome only goes up through words beginning with Cd, but it's growing. It's probably not the best tool if you're trying to prep for the SAT vocabulary section. It is, however, quite humorous.

A few example, just for kicks.
The buckeye's a tree, but oh my, oh,
The word's also used (don't know why, oh)
For the folks who ain't roamin'
But makin' their home in
The beautiful state of Ohio.

Like the Captain and Toni Tennille,
Kept together by love that they feel,
An accompanist plays
So the vocalist stays
With the music, in phase and on keel.
(--Chris Doyle)

08 September 2006

Book Banter -- Enchanted, Inc.

Title: Enchanted, Inc.
Author: Shanna Swendson
Length: 308 pages
Genre: paranormal chick-lit
Plot Basics: Katie Chandler has always seen strange things in New York City -- like the girl with fairy wings on the subway -- ever since moving there from her small hometown in Texas. She's chalked it all up to it being in the big city. But when Katie pursues a new job to get out of the miserable office she currently works in, she learns that there's a good reason for why she's seeing the strange things. It's all real, fairies, magic and the like and Katie has talents the magical business world desperately needs.

Banter Points: If you've never read a paranormal chick lit book this may be the best entry-level book ever. Though it's premise is largely the same as Harry Potter -- there's a magical world going on right under the noses of the non-magical community -- the plot is so different from the boy wizard's. Katie is a great protagonist and Swendson peppers her paranormal New York with great little details. For a newbie reader though, the magical elements aren't jarring. It's, in essence, a fairy tale about a girl discovering a magical world and hoping for a handsome prince.
Bummer Points: SPOILER ALERT......

Chick lit has that element of a love story in it somewhere. For the whole book, Katie's crushing on Owen, a hot, albeit shy, wizard in Research and Development. And nothing remotely romantic happens between them.

Word Nerd recommendation: Word Nerd was definitely enchanted by Enchanted, Inc. The sequel, Once Upon Stilettos, is on her list of books to read.

BONUS: Tune in Tuesday when Word Nerd's next Author Answers interview is with Shanna Swendson!

07 September 2006

Breaking out the red pens*

*And the purple and the green ones too.

Word Nerd is gearing up for some editing. That's right. Her novel.

Word Nerd has a trip on an airplane coming up and she's planning to use the confined time to read, only this time, instead of reading somebody's else, she's going to read her own.

It's been a couple weeks now since she finished the rough draft. In the interim, it's been sitting in a 3-ring binder on a shelf. Word Nerd feels only slight twinges of guilt for this.

Revision has always been one of the steps in the writing process. Word Nerd thinks "waiting time" should be one too. Maybe weeks is on the side of "vacation" rather than "waiting time," but the purpose is the same -- to come back to the manuscript with fresh eyes.

Think about it. No matter what writing it is, you (as the writer) are engrossed in it while you're writing it. In Word Nerd's case, that was 6 months of spending lots of quality time with Ainsley Doran (her protagonist), Westin Mackay (Ainsley's new squeeze), Gilles Brossard (a French inspector), Ibsen Volkart (the bad guy) and others. Not "seeing" them for a few weeks will hopefully make problems in the story stand out more clearly. Word Nerd knows the problems are there, but not being steeped in the story every day should help new solutions present themselves.

Getting through the manuscript once is part of Word Nerd's writing goal for September. After that, a revised goal for the rest of the month will be figured out.

06 September 2006

Author Answers with Diana Peterfreund

This week's author is debut novelist Diana Peterfreund.

Peterfreund's got a background that ranges from geology to food criticism but became a full time novelist this year. Her first book, Secret Society Girl, was published in July. For more about her, check out her website or her blog.

WN: What's your writing process like from when you first got an idea to getting the novel published?
PETERFREUND: When I get an idea for a book, I let it marinate in my brain for a few weeks/months/years -- however long it takes. When I have a firm idea of my story, I write out a synopsis in loose paragraph form, outlining the major plot developments, character arcs, etc. Then I begin writing. I usually write several chapters before I tell anyone about the book, just to make sure that it doesn't fall apart once it's on the page.
In the case of Secret Society Girl, soon after I told my critique partner about the book, she pitched it to an editor at a writing conference. This editor requested it, as did a few agents. I sent out what I had (about three chapters) and secured an agent, who shopped it to publishers for me. We sold it a week and a half later at auction (which means that more than one publisher bid on the manuscript) to Bantam Dell. Four months later, I finished the manuscript, and then it went through the usual hoops: revision, editing, copyedits, proofreading, etc. It hit the shelves in July of 2006, about 18 months after I got the original idea.

WN: The young adult market has been really hot for a while now, what's the draw as a writer to that market?
PETERFREUND: Sadly, I think one of the major draws at the moment is exactly what you said: that it's really hot. This kind of trend jumping is really insidious and leads to some sub-par books being published. Personally, I think writing for children is harder than writing for adults. They've read fewer books so every book is going to be a significantly more seminal experience for them. Almost all of my favorite books are book I read when I was young. If I were to write for the young adult market (which I haven't yet), that would be the draw for me: to write the books that some other adolescent will years later remember as one of her favorites.

WN: What kind of research did you do for Secret Society Girl?
PETERFREUND: To start with, I went to Yale, where I learned most of it during four years of experiences I'd tell you about in detail, but then I'd probably have to kill you. And then, I filled in the blanks by reading history books, newspaper articles, etc. It's a little-known fact that most secsocietiesties just crib their traditions off of one another. I've had members of different societies come up to me and demand to know who told me such and such, only to get very embarrassed when they learn where I really derived that bit of info from (or worse yet, that I simply made it up!).

WN: How did your experience in other careers help you as a writer?
PETERFREUND: Before I was a novelist, I was a journalist, I think journalism helps you write to deadline, stay on topic, write clearly, and write to length. Because the restrictions in newspaper columns leave little room for waxing poetic, you learn what part of your deathless prose can be killed off if necessary.

WN: What is the best/most influential book you have ever read and why did it inspire you?
PETERFREUND: I can't imagine picking just one, unless I could remember the first book I read, because it laid the groundwork for all the others. There are so many books that I adore and read over and over. One of my favorite novels is The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas. It's a wonderful, kitchen sink of a popular novel. Anything you could possibly want in a book: adventure, romance, intrigue, revenge, imprisonment, vampires, serial killers, pirates, hidden treasure, mystery, sex, drugs, masques... if you've only seen the movie or only read an abridged version, do yourself a favor and read the whole thing (The Robin Buss translation, published by Penguin Classics, is fantastic). I love it because it's a thousand pages long and a complete page turner every step of the way. Despite the complexity of the plot and the enormous character list, everything ties together at the end. I love the idea of this master storyteller that you can trust to take you on an amazing adventure.

WN: If you had to live the life of one of your characters, who would you pick and why?
PETERFREUND: Ooh, tough question. Probably whatever character ends up with Brandon, because I'm a little bit in love with him. He's such an incredible guy and I bet he'd be a great boyfriend/husband/father/etc. Plus he's smart, funny, cute, and dorky. I like that in my guys.

WN: What piece of advice helped you out the most as a writer?

PETERFREUND: "Writers write." That advice has to come before everything else. You can't be a writer without doing it, and you can't continue to be a writer unless you make a habit of doing it. Too many people say they want to be writers but don't actually write. If you really, really want to be a writer, you write. Period. Once you have that bit of advice down, you're 90% there. The other 10% is hard, don't get me wrong, but nothing to that first step. Once you are writing, the best piece of advice is from Elmore Leonard: "Leave out the parts people skip."

05 September 2006

I want my AAC*

*(Author Answers Column)

The Author Answers column will now be appearing on Wednesdays.

The change is due to Word Nerd's real job and wanting to make sure the Author Answers columns get the post time they deserve.

Also -- she is still (and always) looking for suggestions for authors to interview. Nominations are now open.

Double Edition Book Banter -- Dragons of Winter Night/Spring Dawning

Title(s): Dragons of Winter Night & Dragons of Spring Dawning
Authors: Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman
Genre: Fantasy
Length(s): 339/342 pages
Plot Basics: After one victory at Thorbardin, the companions find themselves separated and caught up in the war even more as they pursue the dragon orbs. In traveling to Silvanesti, home of a race of elves, they all share a frightening dream of the future. It's the frail wizard Raistlin who saves the others there by making a mysterious and powerful bargain.
The companions and the Dragon Highlords race against each other to find the Green Gemstone Man -- the one who is key to ending the war. The companions find that one of the Dragon Highlords seems awfully familiar...
Banter Points: High action, high fantasy... These books really do read a lot like a role-playing game session.
Bummer Points: The character development is a bit lacking. The stories are more about what happens to the characters and so things that could be more poignant in the characters' own development are a bit short-changed.
Word Nerd recommendation: If you like the genre, these are worth reading.

01 September 2006

August Bibliometer

For spending the first half of August finishing her novel, Word Nerd managed to get a hefty amount of reading in during the month as well.

Bibliometer reading:

9 books (YTD, 63)
2,949 pages (YTD, 20,754)
average of 95 pages/day

The books were:
The Judas Goat, Robert B. Parker
Pale Immortal, Anne Frasier
How to Murder a Millionaire, Nancy Martin
Charmed Thirds, Megan McCafferty
Eleven on Top, Janet Evanovich
The Princess Bride, William Goldman
Taliesin, Stephan R. Lawhead
Dragons of Autumn Twilight, Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman
Dragons of Winter Night, Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman