30 March 2007

Good News

In searching for a blog topic today, Word Nerd pulled up the NYT book review website.

And there found glorious news.

Former Spanish war correspondent turned novelist Arturo Perez-Reverte's latest Captain Alatriste book, "The Sun over Breda" will be out in April. Click here for the NYT story.

This is the third book in Perez-Reverte's series about swashbuckler/mercenary Captain Deigo Alatriste. The first two books in the series, "Captain Alatriste" and "Purity of Blood" have ranked highly in some of Word Nerd's past award lists for books in a series or best books of the year.

Now, it's just time for the wait for Word Nerd's hold on the book at the library to get filled.

29 March 2007

Fessing Up

If you were reading the blog around this time last year, you might recall that Word Nerd launched into writing a novel about this time last spring.

Throughout the summer there were Work-in-Progress updates, a word meter tracking word count. In August, the grand news that the first rough draft was done. It was all very exciting.

You may have also noticed that lately (as in the last three months) Word Nerd hasn't really talked about the WIP.

The cold truth is this: She got stuck in revisions in the middle. There are big, complicated plot problems that require several chapters to be yanked and shredded. The problem is, if Word Nerd yanks that section, she doesn't know what goes in there instead and how to then make the beginning match up with the end.

So the WIP is sitting in a binder, presently, collecting dust. And hopefully waiting for a flash of inspiration.

Meanwhile, there's another story in the works. A second WIP if you will.

While the first one's sitting, this one is still (knock on wood) going well.

28 March 2007

Author Answers with Lauren Myracle

Oshkosh readers, heads up. This week's featured author is Lauren Myracle, author of the Internet Girls series. Myracle will be at Apple Blossom Books tomorrow, Thursday, from 3-4 p.m. to do a book talk, reading and signing for her new book in the series, "L8r g8r."

Earlier this week, Word Nerd caught up with Myracle on the phone.

WN: "L8r g8r" is your third book told in IM format – how’d you get the idea to tell stories this way?
MYRACLE: The series – we didn’t dub it this, but the Internet Girls series is what the New York Times called it.
It’s their senior year. It's three dear friends are dealing with all the struggles that come with senior year. What to do next in their lives, how to maintain their friendship and what kind of people are they going to me.

My editor is about my same age, 37, and I’m proud of it. She and I were talking about how when we were in high school we would come home and get on the phone and rehash the day. It’s truly a different landscape today. It’s getting on the Internet and having these Internet exchanges.
You do say different things face to face than you do sending an email or a text message. And there are dangers to that as well as joys.

WN: Did you have to do a lot of research to learn the lingo?
MYRACLE: I’m a total dork. I was not hip or cool.
I was one of those creepy Internet stalkers, lurking in chat rooms. At first, the dialogue was one girl talking, then the next. Then I realized, that’s not how it works at all. The girls interrupt each other. I learned that it truly is a different space. I had girls send me copies of their own IM’s to get the lingo.

WN: You’re on book three … is it hard to write in this style?
MYRACLE: It’s definitely easier. I know my girls. I know these girls and what they are going through. I definitely understand the medium more, the instant messaging world. It’s really hard to tell a story all in instant message. You don’t have any of the conventional tools like telling a setting. I’ve got to find a way to make that dynamic through what they are talking about.

WN: Does your background in psychology help you out as a writer?
MYRACLE: They are so linked. People and books they mirror each other. How do the workings of a human brain show up and how do people relate and respond to each other. The degree in psychology pierces that mystery of how
All of us who are big readers have degrees in psychology because that’s why we read.

WN: You make it fairly easy for readers to contact you … email on your website and through appearances…. Do you like interacting with readers? Why?
MYRACLE: I welcome that. It can be overwhelming sometimes. I get about 75 emails a day from fans. It’s such an honor to get to be allowed access to their lives. It’s something I encourage. It’s good for these kids to know that authors are real people. I feel like I am giving them an actual human interaction.

WN: You also have a series of middle-grade books – what’s different about writing for this age group than the older teenage audience of the IM books?
MYRACLE: In terms of emotional complexity and emotional depth, nothing. [Grown-ups] think that childhood is a waiting period. In terms of being true to character, nothing is different at all. In terms of writing, my middle grade series, they are safe and clean and there’s no chance that parents are going to get mad. I think of Winnie being the little sister to the girls in ttyl. She’s just in junior high instead of high school.

WN: What’s the best part and the hardest part of being a writer to you?
MYRACLE: I’m in a good place. My best part is I’m doing what I love and what I feel authentic about. I’m incredible lucky to get my kids off to school take my computer to the coffee house, get a cinnamon dolce latte and enter into the world of these girls.
The hardest part right now is that I’m a mom and writer. Both of those are extremely important to me. It’s not like an office job where I march off. I’m squeezing in my writing time all over. It doesn’t leave a lot of lazy time for sitting on the couch reading a book

WN: What’s next for you as a writer?
MYRACLE: I’m working on a book with two other authors that come out next spring called “How to be Bad” and it’s a road trip story. I’m starting a new junior high instant messaging system. It’s the tweens that are reading these books. We’re going to do a book that’s geared toward the junior high groups, called “Luv ya bunches.”

27 March 2007

Back to book 1?

So, if you haven't heard, the new Harry Potter book comes out in July, just under four months from now.

Word Nerd figures she'll reread some of the previous HP books to refresh her memory between now and then.

But this raises a bit of a dilemma. Does she reread just the last couple books? When book 6 came out, she reread books 4 and 5. When 5 came out, she reread 3 and 4.

On the other hand, this is the last book, the last new HP book. Does that merit rereading the entire series? And if so, isn't it about time to start into that venture? Those later HP books get long, even though they read fairly quickly.

Anybody else? What are your pre-HP book 7 rereading plans? Word Nerd needs some advice.

26 March 2007

Book Banter -- Witches Abroad

Title: Witches Abroad (Discworld bk. 11)
Author: Terry Pratchett
Length: 320 pages
Genre: fantasy
Plot Basics: When fairy godmother Desiderata dies, she leaves her magic wand -- that only turns things into pumpkins -- to witch Magrat Garlick. Magrat, along with two other witches, Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg take off on a journey to stop Princess Emberella from marrying the prince.
Banter Points: Witches is a Terry Pratchett book which means satire and puns that sometimes border on irreverent. This one takes on the notion of fariy tales and how stories tend to work out.
Bummer Points: Of all of Pratchett's sets of characters in the Discworld, the witches are not Word Nerd's favorite. While he pokes fun at xenophobic ways through the witches, Word Nerd finds some of the humor (like the murdering of foreign phrases) tiresome because it's used overmuch.
Word Nerd recommendation: Discworld books are generally hilarious, as a rule. This one wasn't as funny, but Word Nerd says read it to get from book 10 to book 12.

23 March 2007

Book Banter -- Morrigan's Cross

Title: Morrigan's Cross
Author: Nora Roberts
Length: ~ 330 pages
Genre: paranormal romance
Plot Basics: Hoyt, an Irish sorcerer, is chosen by the goddess Morrigan to lead a circle of six people to fight against the vampire queen Lilith. Along the way, he's transported into modern times, where he's reunited with his now-vampire twin brother Cian and Glenna, a witch, who in addition to helping the group unify, captures Hoyt's heart.
Banter Points: Easy, fairly mindless reading with a blend between action sequences and the romance between Hoyt and Glenna.
Bummer Points: This book seemed choppy and in Word Nerd's opinion, had POV problems. There were sections of dialogue that were untagged that with six characters, Word Nerd had trouble following who was talking. Chapters jumped between limited third person POV, making the narrative feel disconnected because it was harder to follow an arc with one perspective. Also, though the characters are supposed to be involved in a battle that could save the world, Word Nerd never felt like anyone was ever in danger or that there's a risk that the group won't or can't succeed.

Word Nerd recommendation: This is the first book in a trilogy and Word Nerd's going to have to be hard up for entertainment to pick up the next two books in the series.

22 March 2007

Have you ever read ... the meme

Word Nerd found this meme thanks to Kelly Parra over at Words of a Writer. It looked like an interesting thing to try, so...

Instructions: In the list of books below:
Bold the ones you’ve read
Italicize the ones you want to read
Mark in RED the ones you won’t touch with a ten-foot pole (this is kind of drastic, but there are books I probably won't read)
Put a cross (+) in front of the ones on your book shelf
Mark an asterisk (*) beside the ones you’ve never heard of
Seen the movie (#)

1. The Da Vinci Code (Dan Brown)
2. Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)
3. # To Kill A Mockingbird (Harper Lee)
4. #Gone With The Wind (Margaret Mitchell)
5. #The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (Tolkien)
6. #The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (Tolkien)
7. #The Lord of the Rings: Two Towers (Tolkien)
8. #Anne of Green Gables (L.M. Montgomery)
9. Outlander (Diana Gabaldon)
10. *A Fine Balance (Rohinton Mistry)
11. + #Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Rowling)
12. + Angels and Demons (Dan Brown)
13. + Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Rowling)
14. A Prayer for Owen Meany (John Irving)
15. Memoirs of a Geisha (Arthur Golden)
16. + # Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (Rowling)
17.*Fall on Your Knees (Ann-Marie MacDonald)
18. The Stand (Stephen King)
19. #+ Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Rowling)
20. #Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte)
21. The Hobbit (Tolkien)
22. The Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger)
23. #Little Women (Louisa May Alcott)
24. *The Lovely Bones (Alice Sebold)
25. Life of Pi (Yann Martel)
26. #The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams)
27. Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte)
28. #+The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (C. S. Lewis)
29. East of Eden (John Steinbeck)
30. # Tuesdays with Morrie (Mitch Albom)
31. #Dune (Frank Herbert)
32. The Notebook (Nicholas Sparks)
33. Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand)
34. 1984 (Orwell)
35. #The Mists of Avalon (Marion Zimmer Bradley)
36. *The Pillars of the Earth (Ken Follett)
37. The Power of One (Bryce Courtenay)
38. *I Know This Much is True (Wally Lamb)
39. The Red Tent (Anita Diamant)
40. The Alchemist (Paulo Coelho)
41. The Clan of the Cave Bear (Jean M. Auel)
42. The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini)
43. Confessions of a Shopaholic (Sophie Kinsella)
44. The Five People You Meet In Heaven (Mitch Albom)
45. +Bible
46. Anna Karenina (Tolstoy)
47. The Count of Monte Cristo (Alexandre Dumas)
48. Angela’s Ashes (Frank McCourt)
49. The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck)
50. She’s Come Undone (Wally Lamb)
51. The Poisonwood Bible (Barbara Kingsolver)
52. # A Tale of Two Cities (Dickens)
53. Ender's Game (Orson Scott Card)
54. Great Expectations (Dickens)
55. + #The Great Gatsby (Fitzgerald)
56. * The Stone Angel (Margaret Laurence)
57. #+Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Rowling)
58. The Thorn Birds (Colleen McCullough)
59. The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood)
60. The Time Traveller’s Wife (Audrey Niffenegger)
61. Crime and Punishment (Fyodor Dostoyevsky)
62. The Fountainhead (Ayn Rand)
63. War and Peace (Tolstoy)
64. #Interview With The Vampire (Anne Rice)
65. *Fifth Business (Robertson Davis)
66. *One Hundred Years Of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)
67. #The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants (Ann Brashares)
68. Catch-22 (Joseph Heller)
69. #+ Les Miserables (Hugo)
70. The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint-Exupery)
71. #Bridget Jones’ Diary (Fielding)
72. *Love in the Time of Cholera (Marquez)
73. Shogun (James Clavell)
74. #The English Patient (Michael Ondaatje)
75. #+ The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett)
76. The Summer Tree (Guy Gavriel Kay)
77. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith)
78. # The World According To Garp (John Irving)
79. * The Diviners (Margaret Laurence)
80. + Charlotte’s Web (E.B. White)
81. * Not Wanted On The Voyage (Timothy Findley)
82. Of Mice And Men (Steinbeck)
83. Rebecca (Daphne DuMaurier)
84. Wizard’s First Rule (Terry Goodkind)
85. # Emma (Jane Austen)
86. #+ Watership Down (Richard Adams)
87. Brave New World (Aldous Huxley)
88. *The Stone Diaries (Carol Shields)
89. *Blindness (Jose Saramago)
90. * Kane and Abel (Jeffrey Archer)
91. *In The Skin Of A Lion (Ondaatje)
92. Lord of the Flies (Golding)
93. The Good Earth (Pearl S. Buck)
94. The Secret Life of Bees (Sue Monk Kidd)
95. #The Bourne Identity (Robert Ludlum)
96. + #The Outsiders (S.E. Hinton)
97. White Oleander (Janet Fitch)
98. A Woman of Substance (Barbara Taylor Bradford)
99. *The Celestine Prophecy (James Redfield)
100. Ulysses (James Joyce)

21 March 2007

Author Answers with Melanie Lynne Hauser

Author Answers returns this week with a Q&A with author Melanie Lynne Hauser, whose second "SuperMom" book recently hit shelves. You can learn more about her on her website and her blog.

WN: How did you come up with the idea for the SuperMom book?
HAUSER: I had two previous novels that made the rounds of publishers; both came close to selling, but didn't make it out of the marketing committee. They were good books, but in retrospect I see now that there wasn't really anything innovative or fresh about them. This experience taught me that publishing is a tough, tough business, and novelists really do have to bring something new to the table these days. So I thought about what I was trying to say - basically, I wanted to address women's issues, particularly those of mothers of a certain age - and I spent some time in trying to come up with a new way to say them. And then one day - Eureka! I decided to write women's fiction from a superhero's perspective. And that's how it started. But I have to say the superhero concept really evolved from being just a device into becoming a powerful metaphor for the journey all mothers take.

WN: Explain how the sequel came about.
HAUSER: Um, because it had to? Seriously - I had written what I thought was a stand alone book. When it sold, though, the deal was for a sequel, too. Well, I panicked about that. I didn't read very many series books so I didn't have a clue how to write them. And I was concerned about having to write another book with the same cast of characters; I have a short attention span! But soon enough I was excited about the possibility of exploring these characters' relationships on a deeper level, taking them to new places. And that's what I did - I looked at where they were at the end of the first book, and took them further down the paths of their lives. And then I had to come up with an evil villain - someone or something that was threatening the children. Unfortunately, there are so many things out there to choose from! I decided that this time it would be organized sports, and the ridiculous extremes some adults will go to in their desire to have their children live out their own fantasies in this area.

So basically in the sequel - Super Mom falls further in love, finds that blending families isn't like the Brady Bunch, deals with further teenage traumas, and is up against a town gone crazy with Little League fever, with potentially explosive results. Plus, she starts to have lustful thoughts about Mr. Clean!

WN: You’re a mom of boys… was it fun to give Birdie a teenage daughter? How did you capture the character of teenage girl?
HAUSER: It was interesting to explore that relationship, since it's not one I have in real life. But you know - I WAS a teenage daughter myself. And I have friends who have girls. I think the drama of the mother/daughter relationship is one that's so perfect for novels; there are so many things to explore. Especially when it's a situation where there's a divorce, and you have Daddy's little girl living with Mommy now. It's so hard, and so real - and a lot of fun, as a writer, to explore.

WN: You do calls-ins for book clubs… is this fun for you to talk to people who are reading the book? What do you enjoy about it?
HAUSER: I love book clubs! (And there's a special page on my website - http://www.melanielynnehauser.com/ - just for them, where they can get lots of free stuff and enter contests.) Of course, as an author, you're always humbled and a bit amazed that there are people who are not related to you who have actually read your book! The thing I enjoy most, though, are the questions. They make me think about the book in ways I never have before. For example, once I was asked why Birdie had suffered a Horrible Swiffer Accident in order to get her superpowers. Why hadn't I had her suffer a Horrible Baking Accident instead? And that made me realize that in the books, you never see her cooking. And my only answer was that I, personally, hate to cook. While cleaning soothes my soul (not to mention, takes up the most time). So that's why I have her so obsessed with cleaning and cleaning products. But until I was asked this question, I'd never stopped to think about it. That's why I love book clubs.

WN: What’s the best part of being a writer to you? What’s the most challenging part of writing for you?
HAUSER: Well, living in different worlds, becoming different people - that's what I love about writing. Having permission to sit and daydream all day. That's the best. Also, meeting other writers. The most challenging part is separating the publishing, business part from the writing part. The business of publishing is very tough on writers, and there is always rejection and disappointment, no matter where you are in your career. It's challenging to put that part out of your mind when you're writing, but it's something you have to learn how to do.

WN: What’s next for you as a writer?
HAUSER: I have another manuscript - not Super Mom related - that I'm excited about; right now it's a bit too early to tell what's going to happen with it. Meanwhile, I'm starting something else again. I have so many stories to tell; I hope to always be able to find an audience for them.

WN: What is the best/most influential book you have ever read and why did it inspire you?
HAUSER: This is so tough! I've read so many wonderful, wonderful books! I guess I'd have to say GONE WITH THE WIND. It was the first book I read, and then re-read, and then read again; I was swept away into this entirely different world and I wanted to stay there. That's what I want to do, as an author; invent wonderful, real worlds in which readers can escape.

20 March 2007

Book Banter -- Don't Ask

Title: Don't Ask
Author: Donald Westlake
Length: 336 pages
Genre: comedic crime
Plot Basics: Gloomy thief John Dortmunder is hired by a small eastern European country to steal a religious relic that will pave the way for the country's admission into the U.N. The job, Dortmunder thinks, should be a snap. But this is a Dortmunder caper meaning things go horribly wrong.
Banter Points: Again, Westlake manages to string together a series of unlikely events that somehow hang together without seeming unbelievable. The continuation of Dortmunder and his usual gang -- Andy Kelp, Stan Murch, Tiny Bulcher and May -- keeps providing rich characters.
Bummer Points: While Westlake strings together unbelievable plots, this one was a little farther afield.
Word Nerd recommendation: If you're a Dortmunder fan, read it. If you haven't ever heard of this series, go find one of the earlier ones to start with.

19 March 2007

Book Banter -- Well of Lost Plots

Title: The Well of Lost Plots
Author: Jasper Fforde
Length: ~350 pages
Genre: detective/sci-fi/comedy
Special Agent Thursday Next goes to hide out in the BookWorld as a seemingly safe place to spend her pregnancy. Once there, she continues her training as a Jurisfiction agent. But with the pending release of the new UltraWord book system, Thursday discovers that all is not well in BookWorld and someone could be out to get her.
Banter Points: Fforde continues with his well-versed literary puns and jokes. For well-versed readers, these books are a treat as he pulls in characters like Beatrice and Benedict, the Triffids, the Minotaur and others.
Bummer Points: The ending. Fforde seemed to run out of steam and instead of showing the ending, told the reader what happened.
Word Nerd recommendation: If you are looking for something smartly funny, this series is a winner.

15 March 2007


Word Nerd's been on hiatus here the past two weeks... she's hoping for a full return next week.

Stay tuned.