30 November 2006

Book Banter -- The Guns of Avalon

Title: The Guns of Avalon
Author: Roger Zelazny
Length: 180 pages
Genre: fantasy
Plot Basics: Corwin of Amber continues his quest to take the throne of Amber. Currently, his brother Eric rules. Unbeknownst to Corwin, in the time from the end of the last book (Word Nerd doesn't want to give away too much) a new threat is rising up against Amber that has nothing to do with the on-going familial infighting for the crown. Corwin again makes an attempt for the seat of Amber and in doing so, leads the evil right to the magical kingdom.
Banter Points: Zelazny has more sharp, tight, fantastical prose. The fantasy elements are unique and intriguing. Zelazny creates a great fantasy world sans map and sans other language.
Bummer Points: Again, though the book ends, the story doesn't.
Word Nerd recommendation: Like with the first book (Nine Princes in Amber) if you are a fan of the fantasy genre and have never read these books, push them to the top of your required reading list.

29 November 2006

Author Answers with J.T. Ellison

File this author away in your memory -- J.T. Ellison's first book will hit shelves in Nov. 2007. Ellison is one of the founding members of The Killer Year, a group of debut mystery and thriller writers who banded together to help each other out.

For more about Ellison, check out her website and the Killer Year site. Also, stay tuned here with the Word Nerd -- many of Ellisons' Killer Year colleagues will be featured in future interviews.

WN: Since "All the Pretty Girls" comes out 12 months from now, what should readers know about this book so that they remember to pick it up next year?

ELLISON: ALL THE PRETTY GIRLS is the story of a reluctant serial killer, one who has the best intentions and motivations for his actions, and introduces Homicide Lieutenant Taylor Jackson and FBI profiler John Baldwin. I’ve just begun sending the book out for some preliminary blurbs, and I’ve gotten two doozies. Robert Fate, the author of my favorite book this year, BABY SHARK, says that I "wrap white knuckle moments in impeccable, seductive prose."
That’s the kind of endorsement that rocks a writer’s world. Add to that another from Tasha Alexander, author of AND ONLY TO DECEIVE, who writes, "ALL THE PRETTY GIRLS could well put Ellison and Taylor Jackson on the track to become to Nashville what Laura Lippman and Tess Monaghan are to Baltimore."
I hope this is the case, not simply because Lippman is such a talented author, but for the longevity of the series. The setting of the book, Nashville, Tennessee, is unique, and I hope Taylor Jackson resonates with readers. She is a tough young cop who is walking the edge of darkness, and doesn’t suffer fools gladly. Couple the characters and setting with a murderer who leads them on a heart pounding chase, and I hope I have created, as Mr. Fate so eloquently put it, "…mystery magic."

WN: What was the process like for you from having the idea for "All the Pretty Girls" to getting it picked up by a publisher?
ELLISON: I had a dream. No, I’m serious. I woke up from this convoluted dream about two characters in the book, identical twin sisters, and realized I should write it down. I wrote the entire plot synopsis at 3 in the morning, then went back to bed. When I woke up, it was still fresh in my mind. I wrote 50,000 words of the story in a month, then put it aside. I had another novel featuring these characters under submission by my agent, Scott Miller of Trident Media Group. Scott and I met on Publisher’s Marketplace, where I’d built a website and declared myself in search of an agent. He was shopping the first book, yet it didn’t sell. He told me to write him a new one, so I used the chunk of ALL THE PRETTY GIRLS that I’d started, gutted most of the story, and finished it. Scott gave some great editorial advice, I made the changes and he submitted it around New York. Mira Books showed excitement about ATPG immediately, and I was thrilled to accept their offer. The whole submission process took about a month.

WN: You're a part of the Killer Year - What is this group and how has it helped you as a writer?
ELLISON: Ah, Killer Year. We are 14 debut suspense novelists who’ve banded together to help promote each other’s work. At the beginning, it was simply that a few of us were coming out in paperback, and since it is sometimes difficult to get reviews for mass market, we wanted to find a way to get the word out on our books. Suddenly, there were 14 of us, all very exciting novelists. When it became apparent that the industry was interested in us, we ramped it up a notch. Through MJ Rose, International Thriller Writers kindly offered to "sponsor" us, setting us up with mentors including such authors as Lee Child, Jeffrey Deaver, Gayle Lynds, Tess Gerritsen, Duane Swierczynski and many more. Having the community behind us is immeasurably exciting.
It’s still shocking to me that no one has done this before, and in 2007 there are three such groups that I now know of – Killer Year, The Debutante Ball, led by Kristy Kiernan and featuring 6 women’s fiction authors, and a young adult group. It is so difficult to get on the radar when you’re a debut author. By working together, we all benefit.
For me personally, the camaraderie and support has been amazing. We’re all experiencing the same growing pains, learning the ropes, and feeling our way. Each of us has an area of expertise, and we work together to create media campaigns, our website and blog, promotional material – all the accoutrements that we would have each been doing individually.
And today, our efforts have come to fruition. We’ve sold an anthology of our short stories to St. Martin’s for publication in winter 2008. Lee Child will edit the anthology, and it will feature 14 original stories for the KY Members, stories by Ken Bruen, Duane Swierczynski, Allison Brennan, and introductions from MJ Rose and Laura Lippman. It’s very exciting news.

WN: When you're not writing, what else do you do?
ELLISON: I’m a big reader. I find my writing improves when I’m reading, so I try to get a few books a week in. During the warm months, I’m often found on the links. I began golfing when I was five and have been addicted ever since, though you’d never know it from my scores. I have a wonderful husband, and we try to sample Nashville – lots of great concerts and clubs here in town, good food and wine. I’m trying to build a wine cellar, and am always on the lookout for a good red wine.
Then there are the writing related activities, like Murderati.com, a blog of 7 mystery writers that I write for on Fridays, the Killer Year blog, and various other marketing and advertising "stuff" that I dabble in. I’ve gotten a little busy these past few months.

WN: If you got stranded on a desert island with one of your characters, who would it be and why?
ELLISON: Hmmm, that one is actually easy. Dr. John Baldwin, my FBI profiler, is quite the handsome man, has a brilliant mind, speaks several languages, is a student of human nature and a psychiatrist to boot, so he could deal with whatever lingering emotional issues would arise if one were stranded in the middle of nowhere. I know I should say my protagonist, Taylor Jackson, because she’s tough and feisty and a very down to earth woman. But she has a major drawback – she’s afraid of spiders. And since overly large arachnids populate most island getaways I’ve ever seen, she’d be useless. So Baldwin it is – he could keep me safe, and satisfied intellectually.

WN: What is the best/most influential book you have ever read and why did it inspire you?
ELLISON: I’m a big Ayn Rand fan, and a big Plato fan. I think my favorite must be Rand’s slim volume ANTHEM, which is a parable for Plato’s Allegory of the Cave – humanity is shackled in a dark room and only shown interpretations of what reality is. One man (Socrates) breaks out of the Cave and sees reality for the first time: the blue of the sky, a real chair, a real piece of grass, and returns to tell humanity that they are being lied to. Of course, they can’t handle that truth and murder him. ANTHEM takes this timeless story and creates love out of hate, beauty out of ugliness, and freedom out of horrendous captivity.
It’s beautifully written and inspiring.

WN: What is your favorite word and why?
ELLISON: All of them. But there’s a few that stand out – Defenestration, serendipity, onomatopoeia, callipygian, juxtapose, persnickety, balderdash and kerfuffle. I think kerfuffle tops the list because it’s easily used in every day conversation. And love. It just can’t be misinterpreted.

WN: What piece of advice helped you out the most as a writer?
ELLISON: I have a sign on the door to my office that reads: There are no rules except those you create, page by page.
Stuart Woods said that to me in an email, and it freed me as a writer.
I’d been so constrained by the "proper" usage of words and sentence construction that my writing was stilted. Once I quit following the rules, things improved dramatically. And John Connolly, author of THE BOOK OF LOST THINGS, once told me that all good books find a home. That kept me in the game to get published.

28 November 2006

Book Banter -- Mysteries of the Middle Ages

Title: Mysteries of the Middle Ages: The Rise of Feminism, Science and Art from the Cults of Catholic Europe
Author: Thomas Cahill
Length: 317 pages
Genre: non-fiction
Summary: Cahill, in the fifth volume of his Hinges of History series, takes on the early part of the Middle Ages. Far from being the dark times for culture as widely thought, Cahill shows how the early Middle Ages gave rise to art, science, politics and feminism through some notable personalities including Eleanor of Aquitaine, Thomas Aquinas, Dante Alighieri and St. Francis of Assissi, and how their contributions continue to influence Western thought.
Banter Points: This series that Cahill is doing is a great read because it provides a relevance to all the history. Rather than tracing series of dates, coronations and battles, Cahill traces the history of ideas. He's also a good story-teller, so the prose becomes more like a novel at times and less like a history book. The book is also liberally peppered with pictures of medieval art which helps break up the text.
Bummer Points: This book wasn't quite as good as the first four in the series. It leapt around more and at times seemed to lose focus as he delved into the life stories of some of the players (Eleanor and Dante, in particular.)
Word Nerd recommendation: Cahill is the only non-fiction author, really, who Word Nerd gets excited about when he has a new book hitting shelves. Though this one wasn't as good, she still enjoyed it. Since each volume in the series is only 250-300 pages, they are easily accessible books for someone who may not be a frequent reader of history.

27 November 2006

Because November's not over yet

Word Nerd met her November goal for editing/revising part of the novel before the end of the month.

She thought about getting a jump on the December goals to help make sure it's done before the holidays. But, then she decided, rather than doing that, she was going to pull out an older, unfinished story and find out what happens next.

The revising part of working on the novel isn't anywhere near as much fun as writing it. Word Nerd is deciding that going back to a story where she can just plunk words down for a time was a really good move.

The story she's currently in has never had an outline, never an over-arching plot idea in Word Nerd's head, but somehow, things keep happening there. To fully understand, this story began as a class assignment in a fiction writing class Word Nerd was in. It was the last of the stories she had to write that semester and she was stuck for an idea so she took two disparate free writes from her journal, mashed them together and discovered what happened. The story has progressed in largely the same way.

It's fun to go back to characters that Word Nerd first thought up almost 4 years ago. Maybe it's because it's around the holidays, and in a literary way, it feels rather like going home. It's also enjoyable because she doesn't have to be so focused or analytical. She can just write and find out what happens, at least until Dec. 1.

24 November 2006

Book Banter -- Invader

Title: Invader
Author: C. J. Cherryh
Length: 422 pages
Genre: sci-fi
Plot Basics: Bren Cameron is barely home long enough for treatment of his injuries before he's recalled to continue his work as the translator for the atevi. The atevi world is in turmoil because of the reappearance of the human spaceship Phoenix and Bren's successor who was sent to fill in for him when he disappeared (see Foreigner for the back story). Bren's life is still in danger from those, but he gambles to keep peace by starting negotiations with the ship.
Banter Points: Like Foreigner, this is high-quality sci-fi. Aliens that behave in an alien way (not like the Star Treks where aliens were pretty much human but with bumps on their heads.) The plot continues to be a good mix of politics and action
Bummer Points: Also like Foreigner, the plot gets bogged down sometimes in the layers of Bren's thinking as he tries to wrestle with the atevi-human translations and the consequences of his actions.
Word Nerd recommendation: Word Nerd's still enjoying revisiting this first trilogy so that she can read the new books about Bren that Cherryh has written. If you're a sci-fi fan, you really should read them, but if you're looking for entry books to the genre, this series isn't it.

22 November 2006

Happy Thanksgiving

Word Nerd's putting down the books tomorrow in favor of turkey and all the rest of the traditional Thanksgiving foods.

Hope you all have a great holiday with friends and family.

Author Answer with Kit Frazier

Author Answers this week gets the scoop from Kit Frazier about her new book, "Scoop" and other insights to the writing life. Frazier is also a journalist and lives just outside of Austin, Texas, where "Scoop" is topping the local best-seller lists.

For more info on her, check out her website.

WN: Your novel, “Scoop”, came out this fall. What’s the scoop readers should know about “Scoop”?
FRAZIER: SCOOP is the first book of the series it turns out I was born to write. In the beginning, I wrote a romance--it won all kinds of contests and won me an interview with an agent at William Morris. She said she loved my characters, loved my voice, but could I get rid of the man and the baby? I said, "Well, no, but I could write you another book."

On the way home, sassy, sexy obituary writer Cauley MacKinnon came to me wholly formed and ready to tell me her story. I went home that night and hammered out 60 pages.

WN: You do research and training with the FBI and the Austin Police Department… does what you learn there provide material for books?
FRAZIER: Absolutely. The FBI particularly. I'm actually certified in Search and Rescue and have participated in missions and exercises with the APD and joint efforts with the FBI. Both branches of law enforcement have been crucial to writing the Cauley series, not only in the events and procedural stuff in the book, but also in the way cops walk, talk and think. Plus, it never hurts to hang around a bunch of hot guys and call it working...

WN: What’s the best part of being a writer to you? What’s the most challenging part of writing for you?
FRAZIER: The best part of being a writer is that when you're on, you're really on. You're totally present in that character and the words come gushing like water from a spring and there's no other feeling like it in the world.

The worst thing for me is my natural resistance to writing. On some days, I would rather cover myself in honey and roll around in a fire ant pile than look at that blank page. Even though I love writing, it's hard. Every time I come to the work it's like being at sixth grade summer camp for the first time. Standing on the high dive, cold and nearly naked in front of a screaming crowd. I creep up to the edge of the wobbling board, everyone watching and waiting from the gray, cement safety deck. You know the water below is bone-chilling cold, and part of you resists the jump. But once you've made that leap, it's the most exhilarating experience in the whole world.

WN: How did you feel when you saw your name on the cover of a book?

FRAZIER: It was better than a lifetime supply of Ben & Jerry's Chocolate New York Chunk and almost as good as a hug from my dog.

WN: What is the best/most influential book you have ever read and why did it inspire you?

FRAZIER: I adore To Kill a Mockingbird. The honesty and earnestness of that book still breaks my heart. I read it at least once a year, and have read it to all my nieces and nephews, even when they are babies. I keep a copy of it under my pillow hoping some of Harper Lee's genius will seep into my sleeping brain by osmosis.

WN: What is your favorite word and why?

FRAZIER: Faith. I think faith is just hope with wings and direction. I think faith in yourself is more important than even talent, and it fuels persistence.

WN: What piece of advice helped you out the most as a writer?
FRAZIER: Ah, other than just keep writing, it was "Always write with your clothes on." The author who told me that meant that I should treat this like a business. She is right, but I often compromise and go for a bathrobe...

21 November 2006

Word Nerd has the power

Word Nerd and her cohorts in the Oshkosh Area Writers Club have been working on the club's first anthology.

We developed submissions guidelines. Set deadlines (which have been liberally broken by all parties involved, including Word Nerd). We're coming to the end of this process and on Saturday, Word Nerd was given Power.

Let's back up, for a moment.

Word Nerd was not at the meeting when the club decided to put together an anthology. Like all good decisions, Word Nerd was nominated to the committee in charge of this project because she wasn't there to protest said appointment. Turns out, she was appointed to the post of editor.

She's going to get help though. We're having an entire club meeting to edit the stories for the anthology.

This past Saturday, though while discussing the anthology's progress Word Nerd's fellow committee member who is in charge of layout and format, says, "While we're editing, Word Nerd will have final say on any disputes."

She will?


Word Nerd likes good grammar and is pretty good at catching mistakes -- good enough that it earned her the moniker of "Grammaticus" once at another Writers Club meeting -- but good enough to have final say on any disputes? She's not that good.

She's already making some decisions; there will be no use of serial commas, unless, of course, it's an "eats shoots and leaves" thing. Em-dashes should only be used in specific situations. She's making a list of books that the group will need on hand while editing: Strunk and White; Chicago Manual of Style; a dictionary; the AP Style Guide for its punctuation section; Eats Shoots & Leaves because it's helpful and funny; and possibly Lapsing into a Comma because it makes Word Nerd feel good, even if it's not a real practical book for this kind of editing.

If anybody has a Roman helmet Word Nerd can borrow -- or an extra box of red pens -- Word Nerd has a hunch she may need those, too.

(Thanks to poynteronline.org for the copy-edit graphic).

20 November 2006

500 words.... gone*

*also known as, the Revisions to Chapter 8.

Word Nerd continues to plug away at the revisions on the novel.
This weekend's project was supposed to be chapters 8 and 9. That was until she realized how much work needed to be done to chapter 8. It wasn't even the whole chapter that needed fixed, just one small scene in the chapter.

Sometimes revising is just tweaking -- a word here, a word there -- and fixing some grammar and sentence structure mistakes. Other times, revising was like this weekend. Cut the whole scene, rewrite.

This scene in particular had bugged Word Nerd from the get-go. It was a flashback, but she didn't use long flashback scenes anywhere else in the novel. This scene felt out of place stylistically. The problem was, how else to convey this information to the reader without the scene being an info-dump. (Info-dump = several paragraphs or more that an author uses to kerplunk information into the story that the reader needs to know).

A few paragraphs from the original version survived. The flashback got reduced to three short dialogue lines -- specific things the protagonist remembers her father telling her. The rest was reworked into her thoughts and dialogue with the other character in the scene.

Word Nerd feels better about the changes. Hopefully, the next time she gets back to these chapter in the second go-'round for revisions, she'll feel the same way.

17 November 2006

To Do List

Yesterday, Word Nerd got tagged by Raspberry Latte to continue this post.

So, being a good sport, she's obliging. This isn't really about books, or writing, very much. Apologies.

Five Things Word Nerd wants to do, someday, in no order of importance.

1. Visit the Great Pyramids in Egypt. Egypt stuff is fascinating to Word Nerd -- all the mummies and whatnot. Plus, the Pyramids are the last surviving of the 7 Wonders of the World. She thinks it'd be worth seeing them for real and not just on the cover of National Geographic.

2. Cover a presidential election. Word Nerd has heard this is a grueling thing to do, but she wants to be one of the reporters in the press pool that follows a presidential candidate around for the campaign, files stories from all over the country and doesn't get to sleep much/well for that election cycle.

3. Learn how to fence. Fence, as in fencing, as in the Olympic sport, not the shady sales of stolen goods, just to be clear. Word Nerd likes to write stories involving sword fights and she thinks that knowing how to do that might help make those scenes better. Plus, it always looks nifty in the movies.

4. Speak a foreign language fluently. Word Nerd took many years of French class, but never became fully proficient. Now, she's just got bits of vocabulary tucked away in the back corners of her brain after all those classes. Whether it's that language or another one, Word Nerd would like to reach the point where she could think in that language instead of constantly trying to translate in her head.

5. Be guest star on the Muppet Show. Yes, Word Nerd is well-aware that the Muppet show isn't on TV anymore and that Kermit no longer sounds right, like he did when she was a little kid. Some dreams die hard, folks, and Word Nerd's not giving up on the idea of getting to do the show and have Kermit wave his puppet arms and throw back his head and do his froggy "yay" as part of the introduction of her first number.

Word Nerd is going to try and keep this post idea going by tagging a few more people:
Mandy at Serving of Life
Krista at Conversation with Myself
The Fox Valley Geeks guys
Worderella (cuz Word Nerd just discovered the link to her blog there... THANKS!)
Jay, aka, Histrion.

16 November 2006

Book Banter -- Twelve Sharp

Title: Twelve Sharp
Author: Janet Evanovich
Length: 310 pages
Genre: mystery/chick lit
Plot Basics: Ranger, Stephanie Plum's uber-cool and suave bounty hunter friend, is suspected of kidnapping. Stephanie is sure he didn't do it and undertakes another series of hapless bounty hunting adventures to prove he's innocent.
Banter Points: As usual, more fun Stephanie-Ranger-Morelli banter. Evanovich still knows how to write a page-turner.
Bummer Points: After twelve books, it's time for something to happen to move these characters along. Stephanie is stuck in this love triangle with Ranger and Morelli and nothing's happening. Moreover, she's stuck going through the same series of bounty-hunting mishaps (again).
Word Nerd recommendation: It's a dozen books now in this series. Word Nerd has a hunch she's going to spend some quality time with some other sleuths (maybe not so hapless... Lord Peter Wimsey? Inspector Maigret? Spenser? Anyone?) before going back to Evanovich.

15 November 2006

Author Answers with Lauren Baratz-Logsted

This week's author is Lauren Baratz-Logsted, hereafter referred to as LBL, because her last name is long to type. She also says on her website that however you are trying to pronounce her last name, it's probably wrong. She is the author of Vertigo and How Nancy Drew Saved my Life, among other titles, and also recently was the editor for the This is Chick-Lit anthology.

For more about LBL, you can check out her website.

WN: You have four books scheduled to hit shelves within a few months of each other, how did you juggle that many projects as a writer and meeting deadlines for them all?
LBL: By being an insane person? Seriously, I belong to what I consider to be the Stephen King/Nora Roberts school of writing. This to me means treating my career like any other fulltime job. I guarantee you, if you park your backside in a seat in front of the computer for forty hours a week - or more! - the pages will pile up, the books will get written, the deadlines will be met. In my case, it's helped that the four books are so wildly different from one another: a contemporary comic-gothic, a Victorian suspense story, a serious Young Adult, and an anthology. The differences keep me fresh. I suspect if I had to write four books of the same kind in one year I'd go truly insane and the work would suffer.

WN: Angel's Choice hits shelves in December... what should readers know about this book or why should they read it?
LBL: It's an earnest novel about teen pregnancy featuring a high school senior on the fast track for Yale who getpregnantnt and about all the decisions she makes afterwards. I've been told by my Simon & Schuster editor that she considers it to be an "important book" - words I guarantee you I never dreamed I'd hear in my writing career - and early readers have said it's an appropriate read for adults and teens. I would like readers to know I don't intend the book to be a cautionary tale scaring teens away from sex nor do I intend it as a prescription for behavior - none of my books are that; it's merely an exploration of how everything we do is a choice and it all matters.

WN: You edited the "This is Chick Lit" book in response to the "This is Not Chick Lit" book. Why has this chick lit designation created such a hubbub in the literary world?
LBL: I'm afraid it's like any form of prejudice: people seem to always have the need to hate something. My guess is that the people who heap denigration on Chick-Lit haven't read any of the books or have only read a few, which is about as silly as forming an opinion of all mysteries based on having read a few cozies or discounting all literary fiction because Ulysses bored you bonkers. One of the reasons I put together This Is Chick-Lit was to dispell the Manolos & Cosmos myth, showcasing instead the wide variety of storytelling styles - mystery, futuristic, satire, romantic comedy, even metafiction and magic realism - that fall under the umbrella heading of Chick-Lit.

WN: How did your time as a book reviewer and book seller help you as a writer?
LBL: I've always been a huge reader and those jobs only served to underscore that. Reading with a critical eye - learning what works for you or doesn't in others' writing, what you admire and what you despise - is a great education for a writer.

WN: If you got stranded on a desert island with one of your characters, who would it be and why?
LBL: This may be the best question an interviewer has ever asked me...and a very tricky one for this particular author to answer! You see, many of my lead characters are sociopaths or odd, at best. For example, fun as she'd make things, it wouldn't do to pick Jane Taylor from The Thin Pink Line/Crossing the Line, because if food got lean she'd eat me. So I guess I'll pick Emma from Vertigo. As Chance Wood says in that story, she's not ever boring, plus she's resourceful: I have the feeling she'd find a way to keep us alive.

WN: What is the best/most influential book you have ever read and why did it inspire you?
LBL: This is harder than the last question! But if I can pick my favorite book it goes to Gabriel Garcia Marquez's Love in the Time of Cholera. I love the giddy sense of romance and it's an example of everything good that language can do in service to story. If I have to pick the book that most makes me want to be a writer, it's F. Scott Fitzgerals's The Great Gatsby.

WN: What is your favorite word and why?
LBL: Jackie - it's my daughter's name and you never said it couldn't be a proper noun.

WN: What piece of advice helped you out the most as a writer?
LBL: We're entering the season where we're told it's better to give than to receive, so if it's all right, I'd rather give the best advice I can give to would-be authors here: Stay alive, keep putting one writing foot in front of the other and always remember, the only person who can ever take you out of the game is you.

14 November 2006

Help for Reading Classics

Word Nerd, as many of you know, doesn't really like reading classics. She looks at as the literary equivalent of eating salad -- not something she really loves, but feels she has to do for her health. She has whined in the past about slogging through Count of Monte Cristo and feeling a bit disappointed by Picture of Dorian Gray.

She's trying to read the next classic in a new way and it might work.


Word Nerd signed up last week with DailyLit and chose to read Rafael Sabatini's Scaramouche. It was one of the classics that was on her list of I-really-should-read-this-someday books. Over the next 153 business days, one chunk of the novel will be delivered to her email. By April, or so, she should be done with it.

The selection is growing at DailyLit, but their early offerings aren't too bad. Want to read more of the Bard's plays? They have those. Want to tackle War and Peace? It'll take two years, but that's an option too. Want something short? You can get through all of Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass in 41 installments. Want to read a classic Word Nerd truly liked? Sign up for The Scarlet Pimpernel.

The only problem, as Word Nerd sees it, is the lack of a tangible book. Word Nerd has always held that part of the joy of reading is holding the book. Still, she'll keep at it and see how this format goes for reading the classics.

13 November 2006

Book Banter -- Nine Princes in Amber

Title: Nine Princes in Amber
Author: Roger Zelazny
Length: 188 pages
Genre: fantasy/sci-fi
Plot Basics: Corwin of Amber wakes up in a hospital with no recollection of who he is, only that the accident that put him there likely wasn't so accidental. He makes his way to one of his sister's houses and then starts a fantastical journey to find his memory and his way back to the land of Amber where he challenges his brother, Eric, for the throne.
Banter Points: This book reminded Word Nerd of reading Nick Sagan or Steven Brust. It's likely, though Word Nerd has no proof, that both of those newer authors were influenced by Zelazny since he was writing earlier than that. The book is fast-paced, descriptive and fun. Zelazny does what good sci-fi fantasy authors do best -- he creates a world that's just slightly different than ours so it's not hard for a reader to understand. There's something like magic, and lots like politics and a main character with a great POV.
Bummer Points: The first book doesn't really end, and so now Word Nerd must go find book two to find out what happens to Corwin.
Word Nerd recommendation: Obviously, foundational books in the whole fantasy/sci-fi genre that Word Nerd hadn't read until now. These should be required reading for anybody who says they are a fan of sci-fi or fantasy.

10 November 2006

Book Banter -- Once Upon Stilettos

Title: Once Upon Stilettos
Author: Shanna Swendson
Genre: chick lit/fantasy
Length: ~300 pages
Plot Basics: Katie Chandler is getting content in her new job at MSI, Inc. as a non-magical and vital part of the company. She's trying to be happy with lawyer-boyfriend Ethan and not let herself think too longingly about the chief wizard in R&D, Owen Palmer. But things go wrong and Katie starts to lose her magical immunity.
Banter Points: This book was cute, like the first one.
Bummer Points: Word Nerd just didn't like it as well as the first one. Maybe it was the plot hinging on shoes, or maybe she just wasn't as enchanted. Moreover, the ending seemed too easy.
Word Nerd Recommendation: Neutral. Read it. Or not. Word Nerd can't really make a good call on this one.

09 November 2006

Book Banter -- Which Brings Me to You

Title: Which Brings Me to You
Author: Steve Almond and Julianna Baggott
Length: 300 pages
Genre: literary fiction
Plot Basics: John and Jane meet and nearly hook-up at a wedding. They decide not to get together and instead, agree to write each other a series of confessions about their failed relationships as a way to figure out if they belong together.
Banter Points: Word Nerd picked this book up because it was epistolary fiction. She's always loved this format for a book, starting first with Dear Mr. Henshaw in third grade (followed by her one first break-out story about traveling to outerspace) and continuing most notably through Griffin and Sabine. The letters have distinct styles between the two writers.
Bummer Points: Word Nerd was kind of bummed that the letters between these two characters were only about their past relationships. Their voices were so distinct and clear, she would have liked to hear more from them about other topics. The letter format also sort of broke down for the beginning and ending of the book.
Word Nerd recommendation: Pretty good, overall. The letter format kept things conversational. Word Nerd may go looking for more books by both authors.

08 November 2006

Author Answers is Absent

... if you're looking for Author Answers, well, check back next week.

Word Nerd feels bad about the lack of writing wisdom here today, but covering the local elections took precedence.

But, Word Nerd will take this space to again plead for suggestions of authors.

She's got the start of a list from her great writers club friends, but will always always take other suggestions from readers.

07 November 2006

Not Dead

In case you were wondering, Word Nerd isn't dead. Just covering elections.

Also, she's digging out from the dearth of comments that she got back on the first few chapters of her novel that were critiqued by Writers Club on Saturday.

The major rewrites started today. Major ones.

First one -- a minor character is now not dead. In the original, he was dead. Dead from page 2 where he met his untimely demise. Now, not dead. Hurt yes, mortally wounded, in fact. Dead? Nope. His non-death resulted in rolling changes, and Word Nerd doing a "find" command in the file to locate every instance where he or his demise was mentioned and figuring out what needs to change on a variety of pages.

Being not dead, Word Nerd thinks, will be a major step up for this character and an improvement to the plot overall.

Because the revisions are now not going in a very linear manner, Word Nerd is taking down the revision meter. It's realy not a good device for tracking progress. Expect more little reports like this instead.

03 November 2006

Book Banter -- Home to Harmony

Title: Home to Harmony
Author: Philip Gulley
Length: 215 pages
Genre: inspirational fiction
Plot Basics: Sam Gardner is a Quaker pastor who moves back to his hometown, Harmony, Ind., to take over the pastorate of the Harmony Friends Meeting. What follows is a series of heart-warming and humorous vignettes about small-town church life, from the near-disaster of the Friendly Women's Circle annual Chicken Noodle Dinner to the ill-conceived ideas of conspiracy theorist and church elder Dale Hinshaw.
Banter Points: Gulley does for small town Indiana what Garrison Keillor has done for Lake Woebegon, Clyde Edgerton for Listre, North Carolina and Jon Hastert for life in Minnesota. Harmony is an endearing little place and Gulley's insights are fantastic salt-of-the-earth prose, offering nuggets of wisdom about how people in churches behave and treat each other while keeping readers turning pages for the next funny anecdote.

Bummer Points: There's not an overarching plot, per se, to this book. This seems a bit odd to Word Nerd since it's the start of a series.
Word Nerd recommendation: If you are looking for a cheerful book, this is it. Word Nerd often steers clear of inspirational fiction because it's either so poorly written or so contrived that it's painful to read. Gulley manages to capture heart without being cheesy. Word Nerd's not going to run straight out and check out book two, but will definitely go back to this series for a light-hearted break from crime novels and the like.

02 November 2006

October Bibliometer

Another month gone, another post of reading statistics.

October's total for books read is 8. Word Nerd has been tracking at 8 books a month since August and is starting to see a suspicious pattern here.

The 8 books breaks down into 2,535 pages or about 82 pages/day.

YTD, Word Nerd has read 78 books (which is tracking ahead of her normal books read in a year total). 78 books read equals 25,510 pages.

At present, the TBR (to be read) pile on her floor is nine books deep; six from the library, two on loan from Raspberry Latte and one that Word Nerd actually owns. (Thanks to the Monroe County, Ind., Red Cross chapter for having the book sale while Word Nerd was there and for having a copy of Steven Brust's "Cowboy Feng's Space Bar and Grill").

01 November 2006

Author Answers with Deirdre Knight

This week's featured author is actually a double-threat -- Deirdre Knight is a literary agent and a novelist.

She's the founder of the Knight Agency and is the author of two books -- Parallel Attraction and Parallel Heat (with a third forthcoming in April 2007). For more on her agency, click here and for more on the books, click here.

WN: You’ve worked for a long time as a literary agent before becoming a novelist yourself – how did that background help you as a writer?
KNIGHT: The most interesting aspect of agent and writing is that your skills improve simply as a result of the sheer volume of hours you spend reading submissions. It teaches you what works and what doesn’t, gives you a better appreciation for strong pacing and emotional scenes. It’s like the old saying about the tennis player who improved just by practicing tennis in his head. I took a few years off from writing, and when I came back to it in 2000, it was almost miraculous how much stronger my writing had become.

WN: How did you come up with the idea for the Parallel Series?
KNIGHT: I’ve always been a fan of big epic stories, particularly sci-fi ones like STAR WARS. For some time I had been growing a world in my mind, particularly about an alien hero who had two definitive forms, one of which was pure fire. For me, stories come together with bits and pieces from various corners of my mind, then it all finally gels. I know I got part of the idea for the book while watching PETER PAN with my daughters, hence how PARALLEL ATTRACTION begins. I thought of Jared as being Kelsey’s Peter Pan when I began conceiving the series.

WN: It seems like there’s a lot of gloom-and-doom talk about the publishing industry – how hard it is to break in as a writer, how fewer books are purchased now, etc – from your perspective as an agent and a writer, is the picture really so bleak for wannabe writers?

KNIGHT: Well, I can say this: I have two deals in the works right now for first-time authors. I did a four book deal for a first-timer earlier this year based solely on proposal—and, more than that, at least half of our clients are authors we discovered as unpublished writers. I think that publishers are always looking for fresh talent, and so are agents, but it’s a matter of making that manuscript shine and sparkle by going over it and over it. Too many writers submit work that really isn’t ready for an agent or publisher, and then that’s how the market gets blamed. I’m not saying it’s easy out there—it’s definitely tough—but I think new writers still have some strong chances to reach their dreams if they work hard enough.

WN: A lot of authors are turning to blogs, myspace pages, etc., to get the word out about themselves and their books – is it working? Has it helped you as an author?
KNIGHT: Absolutely. I think that the Net is the biggest shining light in the “tough market” we discussed just above. E-publishers, blogs, and so forth all put the writer and the reader in the driver seat without so many middle men. There’s an immediacy that fans enjoy and creates loyalty, but more than that, the readers can also get more of what they want. Amazon Shorts, for instance, are easy and short downloads often from bestselling authors. Before, the reader might have waited a year for a book from an author; now in that same year they can read a daily blog, get a short, visit a myspace page, receive an e-newsletter. There are more goodies for the reader, and there are more ways for the author to reach out to their audience.

WN: What is your favorite word and why?
KNIGHT: Great question, but a tough one. The word that came to mind is “ethereal.” I think because it’s beautiful and intricate sounding; makes me think of a spider web with early morning dew on it. In other words, the word itself has as much elegance and mystery to it as what it might describe.

WN: What piece of advice helped you out the most as a writer?
KNIGHT: To write every day, day in and day out. I think that’s the key—to persevere and try to be consistent.