26 February 2007

Check Your Shelves

Ever have a hard time tracking down a copy of an older title?

Well, you're not alone.

Washington Post's Book World yesterday printed a list of the top ten most sought-after out-of-print books in 2006.

It's a pretty eclectic list.

Maybe it's time to go check the boxes of books in the attic/garage/basement to see if there's winner in there.

23 February 2007

A new, er, trend

Check out this article by Slate.

According to this piece, the Internet and our penchant for chat/IM programs is actually helping resurrect the use of interjections because we have to type them out.

This is not, if you haven't read the piece yet, refering to IM slang like LOL or IMO, but words like "um," "er" and "awww."

Maybe you wouldn't spell* it this way but one interjection Word Nerd has used typed out is "eyhn" -- you know, for that nasally sort of sound of indecision.

Any interjections you type out?

*Speaking of spelling, Word Nerd will be taking part in the Winnebago County Literacy Council Corporate Spelling Bee on Saturday. This is her third year for this torturous event -- the nerves! The pressure! Spelling without red squiggly lines to let her know it's not right!
Ahem. (<-- see, an interjection.) If you are in the Oshkosh area and not snowed in come Saturday afternoon and need something to do, the bee is at 1 p.m. at the Oshkosh Public Library.

22 February 2007

Book Banter -- Defender

Title: Defender
Author: C.J. Cherryh
Length: 314 pages
Genre: sci-fi
Plot Basics: SPOILER ALERT -- being book five out of a nine-book/three-trilogy cycle, it's hard to do this and not give something away at this point.

Bren Cameron, translator and diplomat between the humans on the planet, the humans on the space station and the atevi is called back to the planet suddenly from the space station to attend a memorial service from the already-dead father of the current atevi ruler. The trip makes no sense to Bren, who's sent back to the station right after the ceremony. The trip, he discovers, soon enough, was perhaps nothing but a bit of political legerdemain to attract attention away from the station and the spaceship. The spaceship that's leaving, with Bren on it, to retrieve crew members left at another station... if he can smooth out political disputes between the ship crew, station crew and the planet.

Banter Points: This book was definitely better than the fourth book in the series. Book four (Precursor) spent a lot of time catching the reader up on the first three books and not enough on new plot. This book upped the stakes much higher much earlier on in the story.

Bummer Points: A little more action could be good. LOTS of talking to sort things out in this book. The major action seemed to get bogged down for a while in dialogue.

Word Nerd recommendation: So far, the first trilogy is better overall than the second trilogy. Sci-fi fans will like it, but if this isn't really your preferred genre, you might want to steer clear.

21 February 2007

Author Answers with Gregg Olsen

Author Answers this week is trying to get you excited for a new book release. Gregg Olsen's debut novel A Wicked Snow comes out soon. Olsen's written true crime books, but this is his first venture into making it all up.

WN: Your first novel comes out soon; why should readers pick the book up?
OLSEN: Kind of a tricky question. I hope people pick it up because they are curious about what a true crime writer can do with fiction. It is such a huge switch. I'd like to think that the story of Hannah Griffin's search for her mother, keeps them glued to the pages.

WN: What's the transition been like from switching from true crime to writing fiction?
OLSEN: I hate to say it, because it will make me sound silly, but it is so much easier to write fiction. Let me explain. With true crime writing, I have to be so mindful of every word on the page. All of it must be true or I could wind up in court. I?m also dealing with real people's lives and they are quite messy. With fiction I can sew up the edges in a nice neat package. No loose ends. That's kind of fun for a writer who had spent his whole life dealing with the loose ends of real crime cases.

WN: Is it harder than you thought it would be?
OLSEN: Easier in some ways. But to be fair, I?d have to say it is much harder to make the switch from a publishing perspective. Publishers never want a writer to change genres because they can never be sure that readers will follow. I hope they do with A WICKED SNOW.

WN: How do you pick the subjects for your true crime books?
OLSEN: The litmus test for me is: Am I willing to spend a couple of years with the people central to the crime? Is there a social issue worth tackling? With Mary Kay Letourneau, the whole idea of a teacher raping a student was such an unheard of story that I just had to do it. With Abandoned Prayers, I wanted to know more about how the Amish lived in today's world.

WN: Once you have a subject, what's the research/writing process like?
OLSEN: For me, it is all about the research. I interview every single person associated with the case, at least every one that will talk to me. I NEVER rely on the court testimony, except as a back up for my own research and questions. I start from the outside of a case, and work inside.

WN: What's the best part of being a writer to you?
OLSEN: As a true crime writer, the best part is that I have a passport into other people's lives, other words. My own life is pretty mundane, but the people I write about are extraordinary in some way.

WN: What's the most challenging part of writing for you?
OLSEN: It really isn't the writing. It is the knowing when to buck up and get it done. Stop the research. Stop the procrastination and start typing.
Knowing that I'll never have all the answers and living with that is the hardest part.

WN: How did you feel when you first saw your name on the cover of a book?
OLSEN: The truth is the publishing process is so long that by the time the book comes out, much of the thrill is gone. You are already on to another project. My biggest thrill came completely unexpected. In 2003, a reissue of my first book hit number 7 on the New York Times paperback list. It just happened. No warning. No one was trying. That was awesome.

WN: What is the best/most influential book you have ever read and why did it inspire you?
OLSEN: For my true crime, it was Small Sacrifices by Ann Rule and Son by Jack Olsen. I read those books and thought, hmmmm, I want to do that. And I did. Both Ann and Jack were mentors of mine. For fiction, as a writer, it was the early Patricia Cornwell books. I read those and thought, hmmm, I want to do that.

WN: What is your favorite word and why?
OLSEN: This one stumps me. I could say hope or faith, but that seems like I'm just trying too hard. My favorite word at this moment is chocolate. My wife made some homemade brownies tonight and I'm still thinking, chocolate.

WN: What piece of advice helped you out the most as a writer?
OLSEN: Write something every day. Even if you think you have nothing to say. I tell everyone starting out, that's the key.

20 February 2007

Is Twain rolling over?

Word Nerd has seen several news stories about this new book, "Finn," by Jon Clinch.

Clinch takes readers back to the time and setting of Mark Twain's "Huckleberry Finn," telling the story of Huck's dad, known only as Finn.

A show of hands here: Who had to read Huck Finn in school? (That's twice for Word Nerd.) Who liked the book? ("Liked" here can be broad as in "didn't want to throw it across the room.") (Word Nerd liked it better the second time, but that's a very qualified liked because at the same time on campus, the theatre department was doing "Big River" and that's the way to tell that story. Sing it, instead).

Back to "Finn." The story about this book has been in Newsweek, USAToday. And the reviews are good.

As much as she didn't really like Huck Finn, Word Nerd just may have to find a copy of "Finn."

19 February 2007

A Glimpse at the Pile*

*Pile here, means the TBR, to-be-read, pile.

  • Don't Ask, Donald Westlake
  • Big City, Bad Blood, Sean Chercover
  • The Well of Lost Plots, Jasper Fforde
  • Witches Abroad, Terry Pratchett
  • Morrigan's Cross, Nora Roberts
  • The Wounded Land, Stephen Donaldson

Just to be clear, this isn't the whole pile.

So many books. So many books.

16 February 2007

Book Banter -- The Blade Itself

Title: The Blade Itself
Author: Marcus Sakey
Length: 307 pages
Genre: literary/crime thriller
Plot Basics: Danny Carter used to be a thief. Used to before a pawnshop robbery went bad. He cleans up his life, gets a real job and a steady girlfriend. But now, seven years later, his friend and former partner Evan McGann is out of prison and comes looking for Danny. Evan wants pay back and to even an old score, one that could cost Danny everything.
Banter Points: Sakey writes beautiful sentences. Even when the scene is violent, the prose is lyrical and tight. The story moves right along in nice, sparse chapters that make it hard to put the book down (you know, the I'll-just-read-one-more-chapter-then-stop phenomenon). This book is definitely a thriller, but it's more of an emotional thriller than the what's-going-to-happen-next kind. Sakey captures the feeling that Danny's life is slipping out of his control.

Bummer Points: Det. Sean Nolan was an interesting character that readers don't get to see enough of. Since he comes from the same kind of background as Danny and Evan, it would have been nice to understand what made his life go differently. Also, Sakey has a habit of ending chapters with sentence fragments that begin with "And then.." or "Suddenly" or some variation. It works for building tension, but in chapter after chapter, sort of seemed like Sakey got stuck on how to end chapters.

Word Nerd recommendation: If you like thrillers or crime novels or just well-written books, read this one.

15 February 2007

Bridge to Terabithia

Tomorrow, a new movie adaptation of Katherine Patterson's, "Bridge to Terabithia" opens.

Word Nerd has seen the trailer and so far, is not sure about this.

Terabithia, if you've never read it, is a tragically beautiful book. One that Word Nerd doesn't recall having chapters of giants and tree people as the trailer would imply.

On the other hand, that's just the trailer. It could be that the parts of the story that Word Nerd remembers aren't in the trailer because those parts (the good parts, the parts that make this an award-winning book) don't involve giants and ergo, probably won't sell move tickets.

Word Nerd may see the movie, but with a bit of apprehension for the chance of an old, favorite story getting messed up.

Anybody else? Does the book-to-movie thing worry anyone? Any other favorite stories that just weren't captured quite right on film, or ones where you were blown away?

14 February 2007

Author Answers with Allison Brennan

Best-selling author Allison Brennan is this week's special guest. Brennan's newest book, "Speak No Evil" debuted at #14 on the NYT best-seller list. Her first trilogy also climbed the charts, making it into the USAToday's "Top 150" books list.

WN: The first book of your new trilogy came out at the end of January, what can readers expect in "Speak No Evil" and what's in store for the next two books?

BRENNAN: San Diego homicide detective Carina Kincaid is facing the most disturbing case of her career, the brutal rape-murder of a college student. Her prime suspect is Steve Thomas, the much-older ex-boyfriend of the dead girl. Steve's calls in his brother, Montana Sheriff Nick Thomas, to help him. Nick received faced down the Bozeman Butcher (THE HUNT) and almost died; he's facing personal and professional decisions that will change his life. But he puts all that aside to prove his brother had nothing to do with the murder. When he arrives, Nick realizes Steve isn't the brother he'd known growing up, and Nick convinces Carina to let him help find the truth.

SPEAK NO EVIL also touches upon online safety, whether one can truly be anonymous in cyberspace, and what might happen if we're not.

In SEE NO EVIL, deputy district attorney Julia Chandler and P.I. Connor Kincaid track down a group of teen thrill killers who met through an unorthodox online therapy group and decided to seek their own brand of twisted justice.

And in FEAR NO EVIL, forensic psychiatrist Dillon Kincaid must get into the mind of a smart and savvy killer in order to save his sister from being killed live on the Internet. He teams up with renegade FBI Agent Kate Donovan who once faced the killer--and lost.

I have excerpts and book trailers on my website that give a little more information about the books and a taste of my writing voice.

WN: Romantic suspense. How do those two genres combine?
BRENNAN: Romantic suspense is the best of both worlds. Suspense is often plot-heavy, full of thrills or mystery. Suspense brings in fear, worry, panic, a real physical reaction from the reader. Romance is usually character-heavy, human emotions and decisions, both right and wrong. The blending of romance to suspense is a natural, giving writers a broad canvas on which to work. You can have a romance-heavy "romantic suspense" or a suspense heavy "romantic suspense" and everything in between.

When two people care about each other, everything matters more. When there's a very real threat to their safety, when the villain may win, the stakes are raised. I've always believed that nothing achieved easily is truly appreciated. My heroes and heroines must battle not only their own internal conflicts and past, but a very real evil. They deserve a happily ever after.

My romantic suspense novels tend to fall more on the suspense side, but there is still a strong romantic plotline that is important to the overall story arc.

WN: You were a legislative consultant before being a novelist. Did that career prepare you for writing novels and how did you decide to switch from one to the other?

BRENNAN: To be honest, I've always wanted to be a writer. But it had always been a hobby, and in the back of my mind I'd think, "some day, I'll be published." But I never did anything about it. I took a job in the California State Legislature and that ended up becoming a career more than a job. Then I got married, had kids, and the more commitments I had, the further back I pushed my dreams.

It was after the birth of my third child that I analyzed my life and what I wanted from it and realized that if I wanted to be a writer, I needed to write. I couldn't oppress my dreams any longer. So I started seriously writing. It was a huge commitment--I stopped bringing work hope with me, instead writing every night. I effectively ended any chance of promotion, but that was okay--if I didn't TRY, I would always regret it, and I didn't want a life full of regrets. When I sold, I took a huge leap of faith and quit my day job, being frugal and investing in my dreams. It wasn't easy, but I've never regretted it.

My former career was invaluable in many ways. I learned to meet deadlines, to work with diverse people, to be professional. I also learned a lot about public safety and people in general, which I use in my books.

WN: What's the best part of being a writer to you? What's the most challenging part of writing for you?

BRENNAN: The best part? I have to pick just one? That's not fair . . . okay. The best part is the end. The last 100 pages of the book. That's the point where I know everything that's happening, where the story is flowing so fast I wish I could type 300 words a minute. It's gushing out, and I'm so excited because I know that I'm going to finish. I think this is because for the longest time, I never finished anything I started. I have over 100 incomplete manuscripts. It wasn't until I made the commitment to BE a writer that I finally finished something. So when I'm in the home stretch, I feel so good. It's better than any drugs--I think my endorphins triple.

The most challenging? Waiting. Waiting during negotiations. Waiting to hear about sales numbers. Waiting to find out which story idea my editor wants me to work on. Waiting to hear whether my editor loves my book or hates it. I am not a patient person. I think my love of storytelling and getting published is a cosmic joke.What's next for you as a writer?
Sleep. Just kidding.

I'm working on two short stories for crime/thriller anthologies (one edited by Lee Child, the other by Elizabeth George--I'm star struck!) I also have a paranormal romantic suspense novella Deliver Us From Evil in the Pocket anthology WHAT YOU CAN'T SEE in early 2008. I'm almost done with that and am having so much fun doing something a little different. And I'm working on another romantic suspense . . . two, actually. I don't know which one will be next up, so I'm working on both.

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

BRENNAN: THE STAND by Stephen King. I read it when I was 13 and it changed my entire perception of books and the world. It has everything a great book should have. Strong characterization. Twisty, forward-moving plot. Suspense. Tragedy and comedy. More than anything, though, the characters were real. Flawed, but in the end the good people did the right thing, and the bad people made the wrong choices. Everything in that book was about a choice. When confronted with tragedy, what do we do? What would we do? THE STAND opened the world for me.

I wrote him a glowing letter and told him I wanted to be a writer when I grow up. He wrote me back, encouraging me. That was the greatest inspiration.

WN: What is your favorite word and why?
BRENNAN: Faith. Faith in God, faith in yourself, faith in others. I believe in the inherent goodness of people. Lots of bad things happen, but in the end, I have faith that truth will win, that good will persevere, that people will do the right thing. It starts with faith in YOU, because only you can make your dreams come true.

WN: What piece of advice helped you out the most as a writer?
BRENNAN: "If you want to be a writer, write." Stephen King. "I can fix a bad page, I can't fix a blank one." Nora Roberts.

13 February 2007

Book Banter -- The Courts of Chaos

Title: The Courts of Chaos
Author: Roger Zelazny
Length: 208 pages (large print edition)
Genre: fantasy

King Oberon of Amber reappears, then leaves again, sending out orders to his kids -- Corwin included -- about how to save Amber. Corwin takes off on a journey after it seems Oberon has failed to do what needs to be done to save Amber. Corwin races time to recreate the Pattern, stop Chaos and save his family.
Banter Points: This book wraps up all the intrigue and plotting started in the first four books, answers some questions and again, is a great blend of swashbuckling and sorcery.
Bummer Points: This book is rather trippy. Corwin's journey to out run Chaos and make a new Pattern is a string of wild images and incomplete sentences. The setting is so wild that it's a bit hard to even imagine it and hard to follow the action through such strange locales.
Word Nerd recommendation: Word Nerd enjoyed the five book Corwin cycle... she may take some time off before delving back into Zelazny's world for the next five book cycle.

12 February 2007

Rubbing elbows

On Saturday, Word Nerd trekked to Madison for a book talk and signing with Marcus Sakey and Sean Chercover at the great mystery book store, Booked for Murder.

It was a small crowd for the event which was just fine because the event turned interactive then, with Sakey and Chercover answering audience questions, and asking us some too.

After the official event part was over, Sakey and Chercover hung around to sign books and talk with folks more one-on-one. This was the cool part. In talking to both of them, Word Nerd admitted that she was working on a book and that currently, it was in the Let's-shred-the-whole-thing-and-then-shred-the-shreds phase. They understood that. There was empathy.

Word Nerd's still stuck on how to fix the problems she's having in the middle of the novel, but she's encouraged at least to hear again from real authors that this can be a normal sort of dilemma.

09 February 2007

Book Banter -- Lost in a Good Book

Title: Lost in a Good Book
Author: Jasper Fforde
Length: 399 pages
Genre: literary comedy
Plot Basics: Spec-Ops Agent Thursday Next is stuck doing the press junket after her heroic rescue of Jane Eyre. But not everyone, notably the corrupt Goliath Corp., is pleased with her. Goliath Corp wants her to retrieve their operative and as leverage, they eradicate Thursday's new husband, Landen Parke-Laine. To help him, stop Goliath and keep the world from end (literally) Thursday turns to the office of Jurisfiction, the in-book police (whose agents include Miss Havisham and the Cheshire Cat) and begins her training as an agent there.
Banter Points: "Lost in a Good Book" doesn't suffer at all from second book syndrome (a condition where the sequel in no way measures up to the first book). In fact, it's possible this one is better. Fforde's subtle puns just keep coming (ex. the pair of agents following Thursday around? Agents Lamme and Slorter...)
Bummer Points: Don't be fooled by the comedy tag. Not everything turns out OK... which at first seems disconcerting because it's a funny book, but actually Word Nerd thinks it's nice that an author can be serious too.
Word Nerd recommendation: She'll dive into "The Well of Lost Plots" soon.

08 February 2007

HP is #1

If you haven't heard already, the seventh and final Harry Potter book comes out on July 21.

The last book about the boy wizard "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" won't hit shelves for almost five more months, but it's already the #1 best-seller at both Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com because of pre-order sales.

Word Nerd gets the pre-ordering thing, the insurance, if you will, that on July 21 there will be a copy of HP 7 just for you. It's likely that she too will give in eventually and reserve a copy. But honestly, in February?

07 February 2007

Author Answers with Kate Mosse

This week's author hails from the other side of the pond, author and BBC4 broadcaster Kate Mosse. Mosse is most recently the author of Labyrinth, an NYT bestseller.

You can find out more about Mosse at her website.

WN: On your website, you have a quote, “I want the women to have the swords.” Where did this perspective come from and how did it influence the book?
MOSSE: I love traditional adventure stories, so I wanted to write something in that vein, but where the lead characters – the ones doing all the rushing about and saving people – were women as well as men. On a more serious note, I wanted my leading characters to be active, not passive. That went for the women and the men. Because that’s what makes, for me, a good story – the clash of active characters with conflicting motivations and desires. The ‘good’ ones – the ones we feel sympathy for – will try and achieve their goals with compromise and understanding. The ‘bad’ ones will attempt to force and tyrannize. There are, of course, ‘goodie’ women and ‘baddies’!

Then, of course, the fact that they fight with swords – not guns that can be used so impersonally – makes for a genuine physical struggle. In turn, that helps to create real human involvement in the story from the reader. That physical aspect was also mirrored in the snowy treks in the incredible Pyrenean mountains and the baking summer heat of the drought-struck plains.

WN: There are lots of stories involving legends about the Grail, from King Arthur to Indiana Jones. How did you approach using such an icon in your story?
MOSSE: Most important of all, my Grail isn’t a Christian grail. As part of my research for Labyrinth – which occupied my spare time for maybe 6 or 7 years – I discovered that there were several stories competing for ownership of the grail legend – and by no means all were to do with Christ. So I decided to take the idea back in time to Ancient Egypt. The interesting thing about that was that it then became fairly easy to explain why knowledge of the Grail was lost – because for over 1,500 years the ability to read hieroglyphs, the ancient writing of the pharaohs, was also lost.

I think that can be a really good way of working for a writer – take something you know and twist it, reinterpreted it. Maybe even your home town. What would it be like if Oshkosh experienced, say, a gold rush! Then take the story from there. How would it impact on the lives of the people who live around you? I think a massive story like that would bring out the drama that lurks beneath the surface.

WN: What was the writing process like from when you first had the idea for “Labyrinth” to finishing the story?
MOSSE: Really long! I had the idea, a clear sense of my lead character, ten years ago! Like many writers, I was not in a position to start writing straight away, so I read and researched and generally prepared the ground. I sat down at my computer in 2001 and between then and when the novel first published in the UK (July 2005), I wrote the book three times. I put down all my ideas in a first draft in more or less the right order. In the second draft I got a better balance between the different parts of the story and made the two plotlines – one set in the 13th century and one in the present day – weave in and out more effectively. I also did a lot of work with characterisation, making sure I was bringing my imagined people to life for the reader. After all, I had lived with them in my head for at least six years! In the final draft, I made about a million final judgments on things as varied as the colour of a character’s eyes to where to switch the action between the historical periods.

WN: What’s the best part of being a writer to you? What’s the most challenging part of writing for you?
MOSSE: The best part of writing is living in the imaginative world that you have created first and foremost for your own interest and pleasure. I love the feeling, in the middle of writing a book (as opposed to researching), of going to my computer when it’s still dark outside and my family is still sleeping, and stepping into a different place and time. It’s all about problem solving, about working things out, about celebrating when a good idea works out, but being prepared to let other things go when they turn out not to fit with the story.

Then the second great joy is finding that other people are willing to step inside and enjoy it too. That is a wonderful commitment of goodwill and generosity on the part of the reader – the willingness to say: ‘Okay, I believe you. Now tell me what happened.’ The number of letters and emails I’ve had since the book published – especially from America, where readers are so generous with their time and often put their thoughts to paper/email – is an unexpected bonus. The hardest part of being a writer is waiting to see if any of those good things will happen.

WN: What’s next for you as a writer?
MOSSE: I’m writing a new novel called Sepulchre. It’s set in southwest France in the shadow of the Pyrenees once more, but much later, towards the end of the 19th century. I’ve got a phenomenal amount of research for that too, much of it circling around the mystical Tarot pack of cards and the music of Debussy. It’s quite a chilling story. As I’ve been writing, it has turned into a ghost story, which has surprised me. I’m a great fan of traditional ghost stories – from the English Edwardian author M R James to Henry James’ masterpiece, The Turn of the Screw, but I’ve been surprised to find myself heading into these uncharted waters as a writer. I’m really enjoying myself, though.

WN: What is the best/most influential book you have ever read and why did it inspire you?
MOSSE: Apart from Shakespeare and the Bible, too many books to list! I read English at university, which was a great experience. Here are just a handful. Alice Walker’s The Color Purple, Milton’s epic poem poem Paradise Lost, Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings, Margaret Atwood’s The Edible Woman, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mocking Bird, T S Eliot’s The Four Quartets, Willa Cather’s My Antonia, S Rider Haggard’s 1880s novel She, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, I think we all have different books that we value at different times. On a day to day level, I’m a big fan adventure and crime fiction and I have probably read my favourites two or three times each – I love the work of Steve Berry, Kathy Reichs, Michael Connolly, Sue Grafton, as well as the traditional English crime writers such as Agatha Christie and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I work for the BBC in England one of the most amazing experiences of my life was interviewing Maya Angelou at a literary festival. A woman asked a question about a song or a lullaby and Ms Angelou started singing it along with the lady in the audience. She was incredible.

WN: What is your favorite word and why?
MOSSE: An interesting question! On a personal level, it’s home, because that’s where my husband and our two children are. Professionally, perhaps the word ‘then’. I teach creative writing with my husband, Greg, and he is always asking the students not to justify what they have said so far but what will happen next. If what you’ve already written doesn’t lead anywhere – if you’ve gone down a dead end – there’s no ‘then’. The only thing to do is go back and take another road. The word I most overuse is ‘odd’ ….

WN: What piece of advice helped you out the most as a writer?
MOSSE: To never give up! There’s a great saying, attributed to Picasso, when at the very end of his life, when he was the undisputed greatest living artists, he was asked why he still went to his studio everyday to work. His response (in Spanish, of course!) was this: ‘When inspiration arrives, I want it to find me working.’ As a writer, I’ve tried to live by that.

I’ve been very lucky to have wonderful editors and outstanding agents (both in America and in the UK – they are brothers!). In each of the 40 countries Labyrinth has been published in, they have allowed me to take my time, have not put me under pressure to work faster than I can. That’s the biggest opportunity a writer can have – time to finish properly, to do the best they are capable of with their story, before letting it go, seeing if it can fly, and moving on to the next thing.

06 February 2007

No Holds Bard

The Bard is getting another update.

Author Matt Haig has a new book out, "The Father's Club," that's a modern update on "Hamlet." According to the story in USAToday, the story is no longer set in Denmark, involving a prince or in iambic pentameter. But after 11 year-old Philip is visited by his recently dead Dad's ghost, things start to line up with the general Hamlet plot line. The full story, review, and a link to an excerpt of the book is here.

If you want to test your general knowledge of Hamlet, click here, to link to Elsinore University, courtesy of Jasper Fforde. Don't forget to click on that page's other sponsors as well.

05 February 2007

Book Banter -- The Hand of Oberon

Title: The Hand of Oberon
Author: Roger Zelazny
Length: 181 pages
Genre: sci-fi
Plot Basics: Corwin of Amber has fallen deeper into the political machinations of his family that could threaten to destroy Amber. It’s clear there is a traitor among Corwin’s siblings, but who the traitor is and what his or her ultimate aims are remain unclear. Determined to save Amber, Corwin works to untangle the mesh of back-stabbing and sibling infighting to figure out who’s got it in for Amber and along the way, starts to reveal what happened to their father, Oberon, who mysteriously vanished.
Banter Points: More swashbuckling and psychological fun. It’s this combination that Word Nerd enjoys in these books. Zelazny keeps things moving with both sword fights and conversations.
While Word Nerd doesn’t normally like info-dumps in books, Zelazny expertly dropped a synopsis of the first three books into the second chapter. Even for a reader like Word Nerd who’s read the books in quick succession, rather than the years between their original release dates, it was still nice to have the quick refresher.
Bummer Points: In the other reviews of the Amber chronicles, has Word Nerd mentioned that Zelazny only writes cliff-hangers?
Word Nerd recommendation: Good stuff. And Word Nerd’ll be sorry when she’s read the entire Chronicles because good sci-fi is hard to come by.

02 February 2007

January Bibliometer

January was a slim month for reading.
Word Nerd could make excuses for why this is, but there's really only one: despite her best intentions to only play for an hour at a time, Word Nerd has sat in front of her computer conquering the world in Heroes of Might and Magic V for many, many hours during January.

The January Bibliometer readings are as follows --
5 books
1672 pages
54 pages/day

The books were:
The Buried Pyramid, Jane Lindskold
Precursor, C.H. Cherryh
Griffin and Sabine, Nick Bantock
The Eyre Affair, Jasper Fforde
WebMage, Kelly McCullough

Word Nerd also made her January writing goal of 31 new pages.

01 February 2007

Book Banter -- WebMage

Title: WebMage
Author: Kelly McCullough
Length: 310 pages
Genre: sci-fi/fantasy
Plot Basics: Prince Ravirn, grandson of one of the Fates, is quite the hacker and programmer. Good thing too, since magic has gone high tech. When his great aunt Atropos, one of the other Fates, launches an evil plot, Ravirn takes it upon himself to stop her and save humanity. Atropos isn't keen on that plan and Ravirn has to attempt wild and dangerous magic to keep himself alive and saving the world requires some help from unlikely allies.

Banter Points: Melchior, Ravirn's webgoblin sidekick, steals the show. His wisecracks were great. The book also wastes no time in throwing the reader directly into the plot and the explanations of how the Greek myth of the Fates has adapted into modern technology.

Bummer Points: The amount of techno-babble in the book gets a bit weighty at points. It's a cool idea that magic now works through modems, but Word Nerd did get a bit lost at points with the jargon.

Also, though Melchior was a great sidekick, Word Nerd couldn't help but wonder if McCullough was taking a line from Steven Brust. The webgoblin seemed a bit too much like Loiosh, the sidekick of Brust's main hero, Vlad Taltos.

Word Nerd recommendation: According to McCullough's website, he's got another book in this series coming out sometime this year. Word Nerd will likely check it out, though it's not at the top of the TBR list.