31 July 2007

Book Banter -- Stardust

Title: Stardust
Author: Neil Gaiman
Length: 248 pages
Genre: fantasy/YA
Plot Basics: Tristran Thorn makes -- like young men who are in love do -- a rash promise to the girl of his dreams, the very beautiful Victoria Forester. To win a kiss, or may her hand in marriage or maybe his heart's desire, Tristran agrees to go retrieve a star that they saw fall. Tristran's journey takes him deep into the world of Faerie and he's not the only one looking for the star. Additionally, a witch-queen, a murderous heir-to-a-throne and his ghostly brothers seek, the star as well. And the star? Angry, hurt and insolent, she's not so thrilled about Tristran's plan either.
Banter Points: This was the first Gaiman book Word Nerd ever read (sometime after it came out in the late 90s) and loved it.
Bummer Points: Word Nerd thinks this book is too short. Seriously. Ther could have been plenty more story here about Tristran's adventures and it wouldn't have gotten old to Word Nerd.
Word Nerd recommendation: Since there's a movie coming out of this book, if you at all inclined to see the movie, read the book first. Gaiman has had quite the hand in working on the film, but it's just never quite the same, going from a book to a movie.

Book Banter -- Have Your Cake and Kill Him Too

Title: Have Your Cake and Kill Him Too (A Blackbird Sisters mystery)
Author: Nancy Martin
Length: 260 pages
Genre: mystery/chick-lit
Plot Basics: Nora Blackbird (again) is the one to happen across the latest dead member of Philadelphia's upper crust. This time, it's Zell Orcutt, owner of the new restaurant Cupcakes (think a Hooters-type establishment here) and all-around-dirty-old-man poised to inherit (read, rip off) an old-money family, the Fitches. Nora starts snooping and comes up with plenty of suspects. And plenty of cases of morning sickness as well, leaving readers with more than one mystery as Nora tracks down the case and deals with who is the baby's father?
Banter Points: This series is great. Nora and her sisters are riot, the old-money society is perfectly quirky, bordering on truly nuts, Nora's got great friends and her hunky mafia-connected on-again-off-again boyfriend Mick Abruzzo doesn't hurt either. The mystery hangs together well with a great twist at the end and the humor is laced throughout the book. And the best part? The characters in this series change. Nora and Mick's relationship changes, characters get older and try new things (like Nora's nephew Rawlins).
Bummer Points: Martin tends to leap some in time between titles and then fills in what the reader misses through backstories.
Word Nerd recommendation: If you liked the early Janet Evanovich stuff before every one of her titles became the same, these books are for you.

30 July 2007

Book Banter -- Deliverer

Title: Deliverer (Foreigner series bk. 9)
Author: C.J. Cherryh
Length: 357 pages
Genre: sci-fi

Bren Cameron, diplomat and human advisor to Tabini, the head of the atevi world, is back on the planet after several years in space and a mad-cap race back to the capital to put Tabini back in power after a coup and hoping for life to settle down. Tabini's young son, Cajeiri, who went with Bren to space, finds his new life in the capital exceptionally boring. But the political adversaries who want Tabini out of power make one last try, this time it's Cajeiri they target and Bren is again called upon to put the situation to rights.

Banter Points: Cherryh writes several chapters from Cajeiri's point of view which were excellent. It was a wonderful break from the long internal thinking sections from Bren's POV that had dominated the other eight books in this series.
Bummer Points: Book eight, in Word Nerd's opinion, would have been a much better place to end the whole series. The ending was tighter, more dramatic and resolved things almost as well as the ending of this book did.
Word Nerd recommendation: All in all, a good series. It's not the best series for a reader who wants non-stop action; there's a lot of introspection on Bren's part throughout the books. But, if you want a good series with a race of aliens that act alien and don't just have bumps on their foreheads, these books are great.

26 July 2007

Book Banter -- Prince of Chaos

Title: Prince of Chaos (Amber Chronicles, bk. 10)

Author: Roger Zelazny
Length: 225 pages
Genre: fantasy/sci-fi
Plot Basics: Family politics are on the move, but this time, it's not the royal family of Amber that's dogging Merlin's steps, but the other side of his family in the Courts of Chaos. Turns out, the last king of Chaos has kicked it and Merlin's surprisingly third in line for succession. But just who's pulling the political strings is tricky and Merlin doesn't want to be anyone's puppet.
Banter Points: The Courts of Chaos! Wow. What a strange place. Laid out on way lines with hidden rooms and places that fold over each other. It's an amazingly executed vision that Zelazny was able to get this very strange place across to his readers.
Bummer Points: The end. This is the final book of Zelazny's Amber Chronicles and for the amount of upheaval a reader goes through with both the Amber courts and the Courts of Chaos, the end kind of drops off after a very fast resolution.
Word Nerd recommendation: Word Nerd's said it nine more times before this for the rest of the books in the series, but she'll say it again. Fantasy fans: Zelazny is one of the masters. Read him.

25 July 2007

Author Answers with Dave Zeltserman

One more author to keep your eyes open for when prowling around the new books in the bookstore is this week's author, Dave Zeltserman. His latest novel, "Bad Thoughts" recently came out.

You can catch up more with Zeltserman on his blog.

WN: "Bad Thoughts" comes out this month... what's this story about and what kind of reader will it appeal to?
ZELTSERMAN: At one level “Bad Thoughts” is a thriller that’s a blend of horror and crime. Recent murders eerily similar to his own mother’s murder twenty years earlier has homicide detective Bill Shannon questioning his sanity as evidence piles up that points to him as the killer. On another level, the book is about survival—specifically surviving tremendous emotional and physical abuse as an adolescent without letting it destroy you. As far as what kind of reader the book will appeal to, I’ll quote from a few of the reviewers for Bad Thoughts so far. According to Midwest Book Review, Bad Thoughts is a must read for thriller fans. According to writer Bill Crider, it’s for anybody looking for a hardboiled anybody-can-die-at-anytime book that’s a change of pace from the usual. Booklist calls it “a compellingly clever wheels-within-wheel thriller... An ingenious plot, skillfully executed.” The book is an intense read, but it’s fast-paced with lots of twists and I think readers looking for something a little different as far as thrillers go will enjoy it.

WN: It sounds like you worked on "Bad Thoughts" for quite some time. What made you stick with it?
ZELTSERMAN: It wasn’t so much that I worked on the book for a long time as that I stuck it in a drawer and forgot about it for a long time. Back in ’97 I wrote Bad Thoughts and back then I was able to get an editor at Warner Books to look at it. He liked it and we ended up going through three informal rounds of editing before he submitted it to his editorial board where it got rejected. In January 2006 I took Bad Thoughts out of the drawer and sent it to Five Star who ended up buying it. If nothing else I’m persistent. In 2004 I sold my first novel, Fast Lane, which I had written 12 years earlier—first to an Italian publisher and then to Point Blank Press in the US.

WN: What's your writing process like?
ZELTSERMAN: I’ll write a detailed outline of a novel before I begin. 6-7 pages will usually translate to 75,000 words. Once I start writing I almost always make detours from the outline—subplots develop, new characters show up—sometimes major ones. The book becomes something organic, taking on a life of its own, but so far I’ve always navigated back to my outline no matter how far off track the detours might’ve taken me.

When I’m working on a novel I try to write each day—usually 1-2 hours each night, and 5-6 hours each weekend day or holiday. Sometimes it’s a struggle to get 300 words done for a day, sometimes the writing flies and I’ll get 3,000 words. After each 50 page chunk, I’ll spend some time editing that chunk before working on anything new.

The most important part of the process is when I’m done. My wife and a core group of readers will read the book and help with editing. That’s the phase where the book gets tightened up and becomes something I can send to my agent.

WN: Were you a reader as a kid... what turned you on to reading/writing books?
ZELTSERMAN: I was a voracious reader as a kid. I started off in 1st grade reading the Freddy the Pig Detective series, at some point moved onto comic books, Mad Magazine, then fantasy books, including HP Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard’s Conan series, and then sci-fi, Ian Fleming’s James Bond series (my dad had all of them), before discovering crime fiction. I was 12 when I first read “I, the Jury” by Mickey Spillane, and I was hooked. A friend later introduced me to Hammett and Chandler, which I quickly devoured, and then I discovered Rex Stout, which I loved. By college I had read most of the classic mystery/crime novels. By then I was reading close to a book a day, mostly classics. My school library had a complete collection of Edgar Allen Poe (which is massive), and within a month I had it read.

I started writing occassional stories back in high school, and had my first story published in my high school’s literary magazine, but it was mostly a lark. I was always more of a math guy, majored in computer science and math in college, and thought I had no right writing fiction. But it was something I always enjoyed and gravitated back to. The last four years I’ve been taking it very seriously.

WN: What's the best part of being a writer to you? What's the most challenging part of writing for you?
ZELTSERMAN: The best part is when I’m writing. When I get completely immersed in what I’m writing it’s the best feeling in the world—probably when I feel most alive. I love the creative part of it. The most challenging (worst) part of it is the waiting. As a writer you’re always waiting. Waiting to hear back from an agent. Then when you get an agent, waiting for your book to sell. The worst is when you hear an editor wants your book and then you have to wait to see if she can get it through her editorial board (the first 10 or so times with me, the editors struck out getting my books through). Then once you get the offer, waiting for the contract, then waiting for the book to be published, then for the reviews. You’re always waiting, and as a writer it can tear you up. What works best for me is to dive into another project. When I’m working on something the waiting doesn’t bother me.

WN: What's next for you as a writer?
ZELTSERMAN: Serpent’s Tail is going to be publishing a trilogy of noir books of mine—Small Crimes, Pariah and Killer—that are based loosely on a “man just out of prison” theme. The first of these will be out next March, and I’m very excited about this.

WN: What is the best/most influential book you have ever read and why did it inspire you?
ZELTSERMAN: Hell of a Woman by Jim Thompson. The book completely changed my view of writing. This was probably the first unreliable narrator that I came across-in this case what appears to be a down-on-his-luck decent guy who turns out to be out of his mind. The way Thompson suckered you into this guy’s private hell was remarkable, but more than that I never saw a book before that took the kind of chances that this book did. It opened my eyes to the fact that there are no set rules if you can make it work. The ending was mind blowing—the train of thoughts coming from both sides of a schizophrenic personality as they intersect. Of course, it didn’t hurt that Thompson was one of the great pure writers of the last 50 years. Reading that book changed my whole outlook on writing, and really freed me to write the way I wanted to.

24 July 2007

Word Nerd gets her book

One of Word Nerd's newspaper colleagues snapped this photo of her Friday night (or make that Saturday morning) around 12:20 a.m. right after she got her copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

This is Word Nerd in costume (yes, she was a Slytherin on Friday with that green striped shirt under her robe) with book, book pass, souvenir Marauder's Map, photos from the Wizards' Feast and librarian pal Sandy Joseph from the Oshkosh Public Library.

Yep. Excitement over a book.

Book Banter -- The Hunt

Title: The Hunt
Author: Allison Brennan
Length: 391 pages
Genre: romantic suspense

Plot Basics: Twelve years ago, Miranda Moore was the lucky one. After she and her friend were kidnapped by a serial killer that the press dubbed The Butcher, Miranda managed to escape. With the help of Special Agent Quincy (Quinn) Peterson, Miranda helped the FBI piece together a lot of the evidence on the Butcher, but never enough to find him. Now, working in Search and Rescue, Miranda has dedicated her life to finding the killer. He's struck again, and Quinn Peterson also comes back to work the case. But being back around Quinn also does a number on Miranda's heart

Banter Points: This book was definitely better than Brennan's first (The Prey). The plot was tighter, the romance more believable, etc. Word Nerd could really get into the characters of Miranda and Quinn and see how this one case had affected them so much.

Bummer Points: Brennan still is repetitious. She repeated facts over and over from the backstory. Maybe it's just Word Nerd, but the repetition was a tad insulting as a reader, like Brennan didn't trust her readers to get it the first time.

Word Nerd recommendation: A good beach book.

21 July 2007

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Again, wow.

Word Nerd spent the day reading and with the emotional roller coaster of the book, was tired, tired, when she finished.

So as not to ruin things, she won't go into the plot and who lived and died and all.

But she's got to say this one thing: Snape. Amazing.

20 July 2007

HP Minus 14 hrs and 40 minutes

Yeah, Word Nerd is just the teensiest* bit excited about the release of the final Harry Potter book at midnight tonight.

*Teensiest here means: can hardly contain the excitement and anticipation.

Oshkosh, where Word Nerd is, is decking out the downtown for a huge event today. Forget Main Street. Today it's Diagon Alley.

Word Nerd is on the Harry Potter beat all day and you can join her in a special forum chatting about the boy wizard and the downtown event throughout the day. We'll hash out predictions for the book, best-loved moments, most favorite characters, and more as we anticipate midnight and finding out all about the Deathly Hallows.

19 July 2007

Reaching the end

Unless you're living off the grid, there's probably no way you haven't heard that the final Harry Potter installment comes out at midnight tomorrow.

The midnight release will undoubtedly launch of a flurry of all-night (or all-the-next-day, for those who are a bit older) readers who will devour the ending of the popular series about the boy wizard.

Word Nerd is obviously going to be one of those one-day readers for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. But reaching the end of the series brings a twinge of ambivalence. It's the end. After this, no more wondering what will happen to Harry at school in his next year. No more Quidditch matches. No more dreaded Potions lessons. This is it.

And Word Nerd's not only facing this with Harry, but with two other series as well.

Her current book, "Prince of Chaos" is the last of Roger Zelazny's Amber Chronicles. Next on deck, C.J. Cherryh's "Deliverer," the ninth and final book in her Foreigner series.

Word Nerd didn't plan the timing to come out this way. She started reading Cherryh's series back in October and Zelazny in November.

But now, she's going to be saying a goodbye of sorts to not just Harry, but also the royal family of Amber and Bren Cameron (Cherryh's human protagonist.)

Granted, being done with some series opens the door for picking up a new series and finding other enchanting characters to spend months with.

Meanwhile, there is this sort of impending sense of loss. Obviously, for some people, this will be foreign idea... they are book characters, for crying out loud. But as a reader, when you've spent months (or in Harry's case, years) with these characters, watched them learn and grow and change, it's hard to let go.

Does anybody else relate to this feeling? Are there characters you were sad to leave when a series ended?

18 July 2007

Author Answers with Jon Armstrong

Jon Armstrong, this week's featured author, didn't start as a writer. He was a travel agent for a while, worked for Pan Am for a while and then became a graphic designer. "Grey" is his debut novel.

For more on Armstrong or to read the first chapter of the book, check out his website.

WN: What kind of a story is "Grey?" Where did the idea for this story come from?
ARMSTRONG: "Grey" is a Romeo and Juliet love story set in a future where everything has become entertainment, where pop culture has gone completely to seed (yes, I'm sorry to say I don't think we're there yet), and corporations have completely co-oped celebrity for their own needs. We follow Michael Rivers, a wealthy, handsome former child star who, when the story begins, has rebelled from the bright, gaudy, narcissistic world in which he lives, only to be dragged back by a crisis with his family's business when he meets Nora and falls in love.

The idea came slowly over many years and rewrites. Originally the idea was a reversal of teenage rebellion. Instead of the kids being into loud rock and roll and counter culture, I wondered, what if in the future the world became so loud and neon the only way to rebel was to become quiet, subdued, and grey?

WN: How did working in a travel agency and in graphic design contribute to writing a novel?
ARMSTRONG: It paid the bills and helped keep me sane. Which is to say that nowadays, as I both work and write at home, I sometimes miss the water cooler camaraderie of work in an office.
Grey was not the only novel I have written. I have a metaphorical drawer full (of course that's really a hard disc full). But I kept going back to Grey, looking it over, liking the language, but feeling it needed something more, until last year, that is.

WN: You've done some promo videos for the book, a new trend lots of authors are trying. Is it working for generating buzz or interest?
ARMSTRONG: It is. I was thinking of doing many more movies when I began, but I found my ideas soon outmatched my video abilities and I got bored with the idea of me sitting before an unblinking camera and just talking. Also, I have mixed feelings about the videos as it was just about impossible to find or make images that I thought fit, and I am also aware that my vision of the book may differ from that of the readers and, since I don't consider myself a video artist (I don't actually consider myself an artist at all—but a craftsman—however that's another interview!), I decided to stop after just a few.

WN: Were you a reader as a kid… what turned you on to reading/writing books?
ARMSTRONG: I read a strange assortment of things: lots of Buckminster Fuller, Jack London, O. Henry, and James Michener to name a few. However, in junior high and into the beginning of high school I wanted to be a painter and saturated myself in Matisse, Picasso, and later other abstract painters. But when I felt like I was finally developing my own style of painting, my interest was diverted by a wonderful drama teacher and I turned to improv, comedy, and writing. But I think that painting, and later work in the graphic arts, informed and nourished the visuals in my writing.

WN: What's the best part of being a writer to you? What's the most challenging part of writing for you?
ARMSTRONG: The best part of being a writer is the writing. It's the worst part too. When things are going well at the computer, it's fun, thrilling, funny (I admit to making myself laugh at times), and an adventure. When things aren't going well it's painful and depressing. Many writers would probably say the same.

Sometimes the most challenging thing is staying focused. I get ideas for new things all the time. I saw some titles of songs the other day and wanted to start a new book with them as chapters. I overhead a couple talking on the subway and thought they would be great characters! My wife told me a story about her job and I wanted to write about that.

WN : What's next for you as a writer?
ARMSTRONG: I am working on a sequel to "Grey" called "Yarn". It actually starts about fifteen years before "Grey" and follows Mr. Cedar, one of the characters from "Grey".

I'm looking to continue to flesh out the world of "Grey" of the super rich and super poor, and delve farther into possible future fashion fads and their harrowing consequences.

WN: What is the best/most influential book you have ever read and why did it inspire you?
ARMSTRONG: This is difficult, as I have several books I love and reread often, but I'll go with Witold Gombrowicz's "Kosmos". The original translation, which, I understand isn’t quite as accurate as the new one, but unlike the adage, lost in translation, I found the language of the original better. Anyway, I've read it at least four times and now that I'm thinking about it again, feel like I'd like to reread it again soon. It inspired me in the way it mixed humor, the macabre, insanity, and banality.

17 July 2007

Book Banter -- Knight of Shadows

Title: Knight of Shadows (Chronicles of Amber, book 9)
Author: Roger Zelazny
Length: 251 pages
Genre: fantasy/sci-fi
Plot Basics: Merlin, a sorcerer is his own right and son of Corwin, one of the Amber Princes, is still trying to untangle the death attempts on him over the past few years. And in his seeking, he's been caught up in a plot between Amber and the Courts of Chaos. The magic -- the Pattern and the Logrus -- that controls both places wants to claim Merlin for their own, since he's descended from both. But Merlin has other ideas... ones that generally involve living when the Pattern and the Logrus might want him dead.
Banter Points: Zelazny's travel-and-then-fight plotline works again in this book as it has in the eight previous without seeming overly repetitive. Many of the familiar characters and magical items are back.
Bummer Points: Like one of the books in this first Amber cycle (books 1-5), this one gets into very hard to follow images as Merlin tries to navigate where he is. The images are jarring because they are so unlike anything a reader will have really seen.
Word Nerd recommendation: Still a must-read series for anyone who says they are a fantasy fan.

15 July 2007

Book Banter -- Solomon vs. Lord

Title: Solomon vs. Lord
Author: Paul Levine
Length: 576 pages
Genre: legal/comedy
Plot Basics: Victoria Lord is the newest prosecutor hoping to make it big by working in the D.A.'s office. That is, until a case about smuggling animals lands her across the aisle from defense lawyer Steve Solomon whom she despises... and in jail in contempt of court. After that case goes to the birds, Lord teams up with Solomon to defend a rich trophy wife accused of murdering her husband. Solomon is hoping the case will make him rich -- and appear stable -- so that he can win custody of his autistic nephew, Bobby. But as Solomon and Lord work on the case, their love-hate relationship may either get them disbarred or find them disrobed.

Banter Points: When the blurbs on a book promise it's going to be funny, Word Nerd's often a bit skeptical since one person's definition of humor is different from anothers, but this time, they got it right. Solomon vs. Lord actually had several laugh-out-loud moments, reminiscent of a Carl Hiaasen novel. As if the banter between Solomon and Lord isn't good enough on it's own, Levine works some heart into the novel as well with the relationship between Solomon and Bobby.
Bummer Points: ... er... A few times, the outbursts from 11-year-old Bobby were very adult and a bit jarring.
Word Nerd recommendation: This is perfect summer reading material. Pick it up before the season's over and be glad that Levine has turned this into a series. Perfect for fans of Carl Hiaasen, Janet Evanovich or Dave Barry.

11 July 2007

Author Answers with Jay MacLarty

This week's author is Jay MacLarty, author of the Simon Leonidovich series. His latest book in the series is "Choke Point," and he's also working on a stand-alone novel.

For more about MacLarty, check out his website.

WN: You've got four books out featuring Simon Leonidovich. Where did the idea for this character come from.
MACLARTY: I conceived the idea with a colleague. We intended to collaborate on a story, and were brainstorming ideas, trying to come up with an unusual profession that would thrust our protagonist into unexpected problems and perils. An international courier fit that criteria. Ultimately, we found working together to be impossible, and I ended up taking over the project.

WN: And what kind of guy is Leonidovich?
MACLARTY: He is not one of those Teflon-skinned superheroes. Simon is an average guy with an abundance of street smarts, who struggles with his weight and feels insecure with women; which, of course, they find endearing. Women – who are not the typical thriller audience – love him, and love the books.

WN: You had a variety careers before turning to writing novels. What else have you done and how has that helped with the writing?
MACLARTY: I started in the hospitality business, putting together a nation-wide chain of restaurants and nightclubs. Burned out by the age of thirty, I created a computerized handicapping program, then “ran away to play the ponies.” That was too much fun, so I decided to do something more serious, and ended up working for a year on a presidential campaign. What can I say, the guy lost, and I had to find real work; so, turned my attention to the organizational business, and a chain of retail stores. Along the way I managed to start a small software company, and write The Courier. The rest, as they say, is history.

These work experiences have helped – especially the political and technological background – but more than anything, it is the wide range of “life experiences” that has given me the building blocks for storytelling.

WN: What's your writing process like?
MACLARTY: From a planning standpoint, I work within the framework of a loosely constructed plot chart. I know where I'm going, but don't define the story to such a degree that I stifle the creative process. From a physical standpoint, when I'm working on a book, I always work seven days a week – no exceptions. I get up around five in the morning, eat breakfast and try to invent some excuse not to work. This stall may last from thirty minutes to two hours, but eventually, and always, I'll force myself to face that ugly blank screen. Once I'm at it, I work nonstop until the creative juices dry up, usually around three in the afternoon, then I go to the gym. After that I may edit for an hour or two, but I'm never able to move forward creatively once I hit the wall.

WN: Were you a reader as a kid?

MACLARTY: Yes. I started with the Hardy Boys, and graduated to adult novels.

WN: What turned you on to reading/writing books?
MACLARTY: I don’t really remember, but I’m sure reading offered an escape – that, and not having a television.

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

MACLARTY: Just sitting down every day and doing it, which is, by far, the most difficult thing I’ve ever done. The best part is the satisfaction of touching reader’s lives – hopefully in a good way – and hearing about it.

WN: What's next for you as a writer?
MACLARTY: I’ve made the hard decision to step off the series juggernaut and move on to what I consider “bigger” stories, with more provocative underpinnings. I’ve just finished A Child of Fate: the story of a young woman searching for her place in the world, who suddenly finds herself trapped in the Canadian wilderness with five male colleagues, and facing the ultimate test of her leadership, and her womanhood. A small excerpt is now available on my website: jaymaclarty.com

WN: What is the best/most influential book you have ever read and why did it inspire you?
MACLARTY: That’s a tough one, there have been a few, but to pick one, I would have to say Trinity by Leon Uris; not because it was the best book I ever read, but because the story sparked an idea for a novel which led to my writing career – a novel I’ve been working on for nearly twenty years.

10 July 2007

Book Banter -- Damsel Under Stress

Title: Damsel Under Stress
Author: Shanna Swendson
Length: 306 pages
Genre: chick-lit/fantasy/urban fantasy
Plot Basics: The bad guys – rogue wizard Phelan Idris and bad fairy Ari – keep interfering with non-magical Katie Chandler’s dates with heartthrob wizard Owen Palmer. Or maybe it’s really Katie’s meddling fairy godmother, doing her magical best to help Katie and Owen’s relationship along. Either way, Katie and Owen are tasked with doing what they can to unravel what Idris is up to, all while going home to visit the parents at Christmas and finding costumes for New Year’s Eve.
Banter Points: Charming and enchanting, Swendson delivers another perfect literary potion of comedy, plot and romance. Any girl who’s ever thought she’s had a disastrous date can relate to Katie and Owen’s efforts that are routinely thwarted.
Bummer Points: If this is the last of these books, it would be a bummer.
Word Nerd Recommendation: If you need a great beach read/airplane book or just a one to make you smile, go get the first one “Enchanted Inc.” and the second one, “Once Upon Stilettos” and fall under the spell.

09 July 2007

Why procrastination is bad

So, it's been a whole week of July already before Word Nerd has figured out her July writing goal. And during that week, was she cranking out the pages?


The story was right where she left it at the end of June.

So, getting back on track here, the new July meter is up. 20 pages is the goal. With the number of things happening in July and a week in to the month already, that's going to be an ambitious goal. But, hopefully, this will be a good motivator to make progress when there is time, to adapt to the days of the month where it will be hard to write.

Funny, that last July, the goal was something like 55,000 of 85,000 words and Word Nerd's not working much on that story anymore.

Nevertheless, it's important enough just to get words on paper. Or 20 pieces of paper, as the case is for July.

06 July 2007

Book Banter -- Pretender

Title: Pretender (book two of the third Foreigner series/book 8 of the total Foreigner series)
Author: C.J. Cherryh
Length: 327 pages
Genre: sci-fi
Plot Basics: Interpreter, diplomat and human Lord of the Heavens Bren Cameron is once again caught up in the machinations of atevi politics. Reunited with the atevi lord Tabini, Bren is anxious to give his report about what he found in the trip to the space station, but Tabini is more interested in reclaiming his political position, drawing a confused Bren into a race for the capital.
Banter Points: Cherryh has a meandering style that delves deep into Bren’s thoughts that sometimes bogs down the books in this series, but not this one. The race for the capital and the political back-and-forth is page-turning excitement. Again, Cherryh’s insights into what makes us human shine forth as the reader follows Bren through an entirely alien environment.
Bummer Points: To finish out this series, there’s one more book, but this one seemed to have a fairly definitive ending, leaving Word Nerd wondering what’s next that deserves a whole book. Word Nerd Recommendation: This series is truly a political space opera, deftly played out with only a few dips in quality along the way. When Cherryh isn’t at her peak though, she’s still writing well above others and this series is well worth the commitment to nine books.

05 July 2007

June Bibliometer

June was a bumper month for page count, given the two long Harry Potter books.

Here's the official bibliometer reading:

8 books

3,932 pages

131 pages/day


41 books

13,285 pages read

03 July 2007

Author Answers with James Grippando

With the holiday falling on a Wednesday, Word Nerd decided to move the weekly author Q&A up a day so it didn't get lost.

So, give a welcome to this week's author, James Grippando. Grippando writes the series of Jack Swyteck legal thrillers and recently wrote his a book departing from that series, "Lying with Strangers."

For more on Grippando, check out his website.

WN: Your latest book is a departure from your Jack Swyteck series. What's it about and why did you take a break from the series?
GRIPPANDO: Lying with Strangers is the story of Peyton Shields, a high-achieving young doctor who seems to have it all-until series of strange, increasingly dangerous events take their toll on Peyton, her career, and her marriage, moving her closer to a terrifying stalker who seems to know her every move.
It wasn't so much a break from the Jack Swyteck series as it was a story that evolved over a period of years. The seed for "Lying with Strangers" was planted in 1998, when my son spent the first eight days of his life in the hospital's neo-natal intensive care unit, and we had to monitor him closely after he came home. Luckily, I had a friend who had graduated at the top of his class from Harvard Medical School and who had just been named Chief Resident at Boston Children's Hospital. Dr. David Weinstein was in the most coveted position at the best pediatric hospital in the world, but he always found time to take my calls. During one of our conversations, I told him-only half-jokingly-that I ought to write a novel about a pediatrician. Later, he phoned and said, "Why don't you come up to Boston Children's and shadow me, see what hits you?" I couldn't get there fast enough.
During my stay at his house, David told me about another pediatric intern-a brilliant and beautiful young woman who had been stalked by a patient's relative. A light immediately went on, and Peyton Shields, the lead character in "Lying with Strangers," was born. I realized, however, that I was building quite a challenge for myself. My editor and I were about to
launch a series for HarperCollins featuring Jack Swyteck-a man who is a lawyer in Miami. The story in my head was about a woman who was a doctor in Boston. We went with the Swyteck series-the right decision-but Peyton Shields was never far behind in my heart and mind. I wrote it while writing the next five Jack Swyteck novels. So I never really took a clean break from Jack Swyteck-I just hung out wit Peyton every now and then.

WN: Swyteck is a lawyer and you are a lawyer. How much of your real experiences have turned up in print as Jack Swyteck's experiences?
GRIPPANDO: A few things in my own life have reappeared in Jack's fictional world, but it's really the overall experience of being a trial lawyer that has benefited me most in my writing. As a trial lawyer, you see the best and worst of people. You see victims of crimes who have the courage to come into a public courtroom, look their attacker in the eye, and work through the emotional pain of telling a jury exactly what happened. Just as courageous, you see third parties with no personal stake in the case come forward-sometimes at the risk of their employment or personal safety-simply to make sure that justice is done. So, in some sense I see the world as filled with unlikely heroes. On the other hand, you deal with the snakes who can't give an honest answer to a simple question. You deal with some lawyers who think litigation is just a game and that the rules are for losers. That overall perspective that I've gained through personal experience is written into every chapter of the Jack Swyteck novels, and into "Lying with Strangers" as well.

WN: How hard was it to transition from legal writing to fiction writing?
GRIPPANDO: It took me six years to become and "overnight success," so what does that tell you? Becoming a writer was never a goal for me-it was a life-long dream. In 1988, I was five years into the practice of law and tired of the fact that no one-including judges-seemed to be interested in any of the legal stuff I was writing. I also noted that the hottest show on television was L.A. Law, and the hottest book in the country was Scott Turow's"Presumed Innocent." There seemed to be this insatiable public appetite for stories about lawyers written by lawyers. So I started writing, nights and weekends, still practicing law full time. Finally, after four years, I had a 250,000-word monster in the box that no publisher wanted. But my agent assured me that I had received-get this-the most encouraging rejection letters he had ever seen. With his encouragement, I wrote "The Pardon" over the next seven months, and it sold to HarperCollins in a weekend. It's now all over the world in 26 languages. Don't you love happy endings?

WN: Were you a reader as a kid... what turned you on to reading/writing books?
GRIPPANDO: The first book I remember buying was "Bambi," and I was hooked ever since.
I'm sure that my love of books was an important part of becoming a writer, but the way I grew up was also a huge influence. Loon Lake in Antioch, Illinois-my boyhood home-is a little lake at the end of a dirt road. It's where I spent hours playing ice hockey in the winter, swimming in the winter, and doing all those things that parents worry their children might be doing. I mean really - does anyone actually fish inside an ice fishing shed? I had a great deal of freedom as a child, and I think that freedom-or at least the desire to be free-is what nudged me toward creative writing.

WN: What's the best part of being a writer to you? What's the most challenging part of writing for you?
GRIPPANDO: The best part is the freedom to write whatever you want, wherever you want. I live in south Florida, so I write in my backyard. My outdoor office has these essentials: a patio table and chair, a big shade umbrella, a laptop computer, a hammock, a hot tub, and a swimming pool. The cell phone is optional. If I get tired of writing about Jack Swyteck, in Miami, I can
write about Peyton Shields in Boston and spend a summer in Martha's Vineyard. But mentioning Peyton does highlight the most challenging part for me: Writing from a woman's perspective. It helps to be married to an English Literature major. But even so, I can still see my wife looking up from the early drafts of "Lying with Strangers," rolling her eyes, and telling me "A woman would never say that!" Now, the feedback from women readers is glowing, so it was worth sweating the details.

WN: What's next for you as a writer?
GRIPPANDO: "Last Call" (Swyteck #7) will be released in January 2008. In 2002 "Beyond Suspicion" (Swyteck # 2) introduced readers to Jack's colorful sidekick, Theo Knight. Theo is Jack's investigator, bartender, best friend, and confidante, and of all the death row inmates Jack represented, only Theo was truly innocent. In "Last to Die" ("Swyteck #3) I mentioned that Theo's mother was murdered when Theo was a child. In "Last Call," Jack and Theo finally find the killer-and readers will see a side of Theo Knight they have never seen before. I'll be touring for "Last Call" in early 2008, while putting the finishing touches on my 2009 release (Hit and Run). As time permits, I'll continue to visit schools and libraries across the country to
promote my young adult novel, Leapholes.

WN: What is the best/most influential book you have ever read and why did it inspire you?
GRIPPANDO: It's not technically a book, but I read the Pulitzer Prize winning play "A Man for All Seasons" in high school, and it's unforgettable. It's the story of Sir Thomas Moore, who was tried for treason and beheaded after he refused on principle to sign an oath approving the marriage of King Henry VIII to Ann Boleyn. It stuck with me throughout my career as a lawyer, especially early-on, when I was young and naïve and appalled to discover how many witnesses lied under oath. People complain that lawyers are always trying to trip them up with their clever questions, but in my experience witnesses too often had to be tricked into telling the truth. In my most cynical moments as a trial lawyer, I'd go back to Sir Thomas Moore and the sanctity of an oath.