31 January 2008

Book Banter -- If Angels Burn

Title: If Angels Burn (Darkyn, bk. 1)
Author: Lynn Viehl
Genre: Paranormal
Length: 298 pages
Plot Basics: Dr. Alexandra Keller is one of the top plastic surgeons in the country and she keeps getting requests for her medical service from a reclusive man in New Orleans. Finally she accepts the job. What she discovers in New Orleans in a man with a completely disfigured face and an uncanny ability to heal, almost instantaneously. Alex agrees to take the case and finds herself drawn in my this man and the group he belongs to nearly immortal beings who call themselves the Darkyn.
Banter Points: This was the book that got lost in the IMCPL hold system for a while that Word Nerd whined about a week ago or so. Turns out, the wait was pretty much worth it. Viehl's series is another entrant into the crowded market of vampire novels and it's not bad. The Kyn (short for Dark Kin) have the basic run down of vamp powers -- mind control, super strength, etc. -- but they may also be suffering more from a disease than a curse. Word Nerd's seen vampirism done as an infection before where it didn't work, but Viehl pulls it off.
Bummer Points: A group of French-speaking vampires in New Orleans? The acknowledgement page lauded Anne Rice, but honestly...on the heels of Rice and Hamilton, is there a bigger vampire cliche than that?
Word Nerd Recommendation: If you like the genre, it's worth reading. Word Nerd's trying to get book two through Inner Library Loan since IMCPL is missing that one. She promises no more whining about the time it takes to find the books in this series.

30 January 2008

Author Answers with Marcus Sakey. Take two.

Word Nerd first interviewed Marcus Sakey last year around the time of the release of his debut novel, "The Blade Itself." Sakey is back with a second book "At the City's Edge" and was gracious enough to subject himself to a second round of questions.

WN: "At the City's Edge" just released. What's this story about?
SAKEY: It's the story of a discharged soldier who returns from Iraq to find a similar war raging in his South Side Chicago neighborhood. It features corruption and politics and gang warfare and love and redemption and car chases and gunfights and Roman history, all the good stuff.

WN: What kind of research did you do for this novel?
SAKEY: Doing research is one of the joys of writing thrillers. You get to see a whole side of life most people never experience. For this novel, I spent a couple of days in a bulletproof vest, riding with the Chicago Gang Intelligence Unit, the "CIA of the CPD." I also interviewed gang experts in DC, New York, and Los Angeles.

What I learned was staggering. The gang problem in American cities is out of control. I mean literally out of control, as in the police don't even try to get rid of gangs. They just try to channel them, guide them, and to limit violence. But when you've got ten-year-olds being recruited at recess, it's like fighting the tide. If we don't make some changes, and quick, things are going to get out of hand.

WN: Both of your books contain violence - is violence hard to write? Why or why not?
SAKEY: I should probably be careful making statements like this, but I love writing violence. It's gratifying to take your id out for a walk. And because violence is all about speed and intensity, those scenes tend to go fairly quickly, too. When I have an action sequence coming up, I usually get bombed out of my skull on caffeine and write great wacks at a go. There's a section in the new book I wrote all in one sitting--well, not counting bathroom breaks--that's over 5,000 words long. Since my daily goal is 1,000 words, you can see why I like those scenes.This is your second novel. Was it easier or harder to write book #2 than book #1?Harder. Much. The pressure that comes from expectations is pretty significant--every good thing that happens on the first cranks the dial on the second. Plus, if you have any balls, you're trying to do something a little different, and that's always scary.

WN: Were you a reader as a kid? What turned you on to the idea of being a writer?
SAKEY: God, yeah. I was the kid in the back of the room holding a paperback fantasy novel beneath the lip of the desk. Don't know how I would have gotten through school without that trick.When you grow up as desperately in love with words and story as I did, the idea of becoming a writer gets seeded pretty early. It's something I always wanted to do. Though I never expected it to work out the way it has.

WN: You've got book tour dates lined up for the new book. Wat are the good and bad things about book tour?
SAKEY: Book tours are great fun, because basically you're hanging out with readers, fans, and booksellers. These are my people, so I love touring.

It is tiring, though, and it's time that I'm not writing. Since I'm on a deadline now, that part is frustrating.

WN: What book are you currently reading? What do you like about it?
SAKEY: I'm 165 pages into Denis Johnson's TREE OF SMOKE. It's pretty terrific thus far, though I'm curious to see where he's going to take it.

But the language is wonderful, and he has this habit of sneaking in zingers that just broadside you:
Sure: war, intrigue, the fates--certainly he'd face them. Just please, not Mom. Not her laundry flapping in the sorrows of springtime. Not Clements, Kansas, with it's historical license to be tiny, low, and
I love graceful prose; if it's well enough written, I can be content with the side of a cereal box

28 January 2008


Word Nerd accomplished her goal this weekend of finishing the rough draft of the novel.

The novel, though partly contained still in handwritten notebooks, now has a beginning, middle and end. The page count so far is over 200 with more than 66K words. Word Nerd's next task is to finish typing in everything so the whole novel is is one place. She's pretty sure she can accomplish that by the end of February.

Anyway, the story's done and Word Nerd's excited.

26 January 2008

WIP final push update

So. Since yesterday afternoon, Word Nerd's written more than 5,000 words and she's got one more definite scene to go.

This next scene is a big resolution of the plot. Some months ago, Word Nerd hadn't decided what was going to happen in this scene, but she knows now.

Writing the end of this book is a big emotional roller coaster. This is a strange story -- more character driven fiction set in an epic fantasy setting than anything else. The ending (it'll get happy, promise) is not happy at the moment. Word Nerd is feeling a bit drained from all this.

Word Count = 62,016.

Final word count is still up in the air. Word Nerd's got plenty of the original hand-written material to type in yet, but she'll cross 100K most likely

24 January 2008

The End Comes. Again.

In August 2006, Word Nerd announced she was hibernating for a weekend and was going to finish her first WIP. In that post, she was pretty darn certain that weekend and about 10K more words to go was it.

Word Nerd's making a similar, albeit slightly less certain, declaration about this weekend. Things in the current WIP have hit a fevered pitch where Word Nerd just needs to sit and pound out the rest of the book. And with not much on her calendar for this weekend and a fairly well-stocked refrigerator, she thinks this is it.

To be clear, Word Nerd still has MUCH typing left to go to transfer all the stuff from the handwritten notebooks into the document. That's not what she's looking at this weekend. This weekend could be the end of writing new stuff. Or at least almost the end. She's got to at least get through the story's climax. Depending on how it's going, the final resolution/denouement may get written this weekend or it might be next week.

This is all coming about because last night Word Nerd hit a critical scene. Critical. As in, all the plot threads and conspiracies and double-crosses were laying themselves open. The protagonist is caught in this whole web. Her choices are bleak. The novel, Word Nerd thinks, is working.

It's time to wrap this one up.

23 January 2008

Author Answers with Jennifer Donnelly

This week's guest is historical and YA fiction author Jennifer Donnelly. Her first novel, "The Tea Rose" garnered lots of praise from places like Booklist and the Washington Post. The sequel, "The Winter Rose" recently hit shelves.

For more about Donnelly and her books, check out her website.

WN: What is "The Winter Rose" about?
DONNELLY: It's about the hard and simple things of life -- love, courage, forgiveness, redemption. It's the second book in my Rose trilogy, and it reunites readers with the Finnegan family, whom they met in The Tea Rose. Many characters from The Tea Rose return in The Winter Rose, but the book's story centers on Sid Malone, an East London crime lord, and a new character: India Selwyn Jones, a young doctor. The book opens in 1900, on the dangerous streets of Whitechapel. East London is no place for a well-bred woman, but India Selwyn Jones is not one to observe conventions. She's brilliant, dedicated, talented, and headstrong. She's trained as one of a new breed, a woman doctor, and is determined to practice where the need is greatest. It is on these grim streets where India meets – and saves the life of – Sid Malone. Hard, violent, devastatingly attractive, Malone is the opposite of India’s cool, aristocratic fiancĂ©, a rising star in the House of Commons. Though Malone represents all she despises, India finds herself unwillingly drawn ever closer to him – enticed by his charm, intrigued by his hidden, mysterious past.India and Sid fall in love, even as they fight against their feelings. Theirs is a volatile, passionate and bittersweet affair, and it causes destruction they could never have imagined. A big, old-fashioned epic, very much in the tradition of A Woman of Substance or The Thornbirds, The Winter Rose brings the early twentieth century vividly to life, sweeping from London's wretched slums and privileged society, to the plains of Kenya, to California's dramatic seacoast.

WN: It's a sequel to "The Tea Rose." When you wrote that book, were you expecting to write a series?
DONNELLY: I wasn’t. In fact, after I finished it, I wrote something completely different -- A Northern Light, a young adult novel. But after awhile, I missed the Finnegans and wanted to find out what was happening with them. As there are three siblings, I hit upon the genius idea of using a trilogy to tell their stories!

WN: You write historical novels. What kind and how much research do you have to do for a book to get the time period accurate?
DONNELLY: I do an absolute ton of research. Years' worth. It's crucial to getting the history right, of course, but it also feeds the action of the book, determines some of the plot and helps define the characters. History is very much a character in its own right in my books.

WN: Were you a reader as a kid? What turned you on to the idea of being a writer?
DONNELLY: I was a non-stop reader. My idea of a really good time was a Saturday trip to the library. And it still is. I can't remember a distinct moment when I thought, "Aha! This is it! I want to be a writer." Words and stories and books were just always there. My mom's a great storyteller and read to me as a kid, and told me her own stories. My dad's side of the family, all Irish, were also great storytellers. So reading and writing were always as natural to me as breathing.

WN: What's the most influential book you've read and why?
DONNELLY: It's so hard to pick just one, but if pressed, I would say Ulysses by James Joyce. I read it as a college sophomore and it opened my eyes to the people and the world and truth and the astonishing power of art.

WN: What's the best advice you received as a writer?
DONNELLY: I learned some very valuable lessons at my first writing job -- which was as a general assignment reporter at the Watertown Daily Times, a daily paperin Watertown, NY. I learned that you don't wait for the muse -- you sit down and get busy. Writing is not airy-fairy daydreamy stuff, it's hard work and you have approach it with discipline and drive. On hard days, when inspiration has deserted you, and you're struggling to keep the thread of the story going, and struggling with self-doubt and all that horribly writerly angst, discipline is the one thing that will keep you going. And you have to keep going, no matter how hard the struggle. You have to.

WN: What's next for you as a writer?
DONNELLY: I'm currently working on a new young adult novel, and I'm mapping out the plot for the third book in the Rose trilogy, The Wild Rose.

18 January 2008

An Open Letter to the IMCPL Hold System

Dear Librarians who do the holds at IMCPL,
The expression better late than never must mean something to you folks.

Back in November (November!) Word Nerd put a book on hold. Around the beginning of December, it was listed as "in transit" to her. Today, she is finally going to the library to pick it up.

Somehow, apparently, in the reopening of the new Central Library and Word Nerd switching her home library to Central from the College Ave. branch, this book got lost in the shuffle. Finally, a week or so ago, she decided that without some intervention, it was likely never going to get to her. Since reporting the problem, somebody found it somewhere and now Word Nerd can read it. And so can the other 7 people who have the book on hold after her.

But with the number of other holds on it, Word Nerd's got to reshuffle the order she was going to read the stack she's got in because this one won't be renewable.

And here's to hoping it's darn good, given the wait.

Oh, and people who do the holds -- please try to avoid this happening to some of the books Word Nerd's got holds on in the future. If she has to wait six-plus weeks for Marcus Sakey's new book or Chip Kidd's new one, she's not going to be a very happy camper.

Word Nerd

17 January 2008

Book Banter -- Star Risk, Ltd.

Title: Star Risk, Ltd.
Author: Chris Bunch
Genre: sci-fi
Length: 344 pages
Plot Basics: Former Alliance Marine M'Chel Riss has turned to a life of crime. After getting pinched on a job, she joins up with the newly-formed Star Risk, Ltd., company. Their first assignment, ingratiate themselves with Reg Goodnight, the leader of an asteroid mining company that needs protection against raiders that keep hiting their system. Star Risk lands the contract, but finding the raiders is going to the take the entire company's cunning.
Banter Points: Fairly easy read, aside from some technobabble every so often.
Bummer Points: Word Nerd was looking for a space opera series to read. This is not that series. The character fall flat, the plot is choppy with too many leaps and jumps, the aliens are too much like Ewoks. Word Nerd struggled to finish this book becuase she was bored and not at all swept up in the vision of the universe Bunch was creating.
Word Nerd Recommendation: Skip it. For space opera, Word Nerd knows that she should stick to some of the more recognized masters like Peter Hamilton and C.J. Cherryh.

16 January 2008

Author Answers with Tina Ferraro

After a long hiatus, the Author Answers column is back this week (and hopefully for weeks to come.)

Re-kicking things off is YA author Tina Ferraro. Ferraro's latest book just came out. For more on her, you can check out her website or find her at YA Fresh where she is a regular blog contributor.

WN: "How to Hook a Hottie" just hit shelves. If someone's looking for a how-to book, is this the title for them?
Ferraro: No, this is fiction. In fact, when I handed the proposal into my editor, I called it Hook a Hottie (Or Your Money Back). She changed it to How To, which prompted me to alter the scope of the book a bit, to include some tips. There are some does-he-like-me tests in the book that have had successful results for people in real life, and I did turn to friends and the Internet for some other ideas. But for a nonfiction guide to picking up cute guys, you’ll want to look elsewhere.

WN: What's it really about and how did you get the idea for it?
Ferraro: Whereas in my previous book, Top Ten Uses for an Unworn Prom Dress, I had an a-ha moment where the idea struck, How to Hook a Hottie happened through the course of several drafts. It wasn’t until a few pivotal characters started to breath life that the story took off. Here’s the plot: Kate DelVecchio plans to be a millionaire before she's 20. When she agrees to go to a sports banquet with a hotshot baseball player, she stumbles upon a possible cash cow. The rest of the school is amazed that the no-nonsense Kate could hook such a hottie, and one by one approach her for help hooking their own. She doesn't know anything about getting guys, but for $100.00 a pop, she's more than willing to try, including inventing a 6-step-plan on How to Hook a Hottie. And how could that possibly backfire?

WN: You write YA and it seems like there is a lot of worry these days about the messages being sent to teenage girls about how to act/dress/think/behave, etc. What messages are you trying to get across to teen girls that you think are really important?
Ferraro: I have a few basic messages that are threaded through all my books that reflect my own beliefs. Those are never to sell yourself short, to chase dreams, and to try/try again. I try not to hit readers over the head with those messages because I don’t think they are revolutionary or astonishing--just good common sense.

WN: Were you a reader as a kid? What turned you on to the idea of being a writer?
Ferraro: I was a voracious reader as a kid, often reading favorite books over and over again. As far as writing, I’ve been doing it since I could first hold a pencil. In second grade, the teacher called my mother in to say I showed usual talent in creative writing--which, when this was relayed to me, I found baffling. Writing stories was fun--like recess--so who was to say who was good and it and who wasn’t?

WN: What's the most influential book you've read and why?
Ferraro: Many books have moved me at different points in my life, but I often think back to Christy by Catherine Marshall as a book that mesmerized me as a reader and a writer. I read it several times as a teen, and then again in my twenties--and actually loved it the most that last time. It’s a coming-of-age story about an idealistic young woman in the early 1900’s who thinks she can make a difference in the lives of impoverished Appalachian families--and who ends up learning more than she teaches.

WN: What's the best advice you received as a writer?
Ferraro: Often I reflect on Nora Roberts’ statement that she can’t edit a blank screen. It’s encouraged me through some rough periods where the words won’t come, where I keep telling myself if I just get something on the screen that I can edit, I am moving forward.

WN: What's next for you as a writer?
Ferraro: In the spring of 2009, The ABC’s of Kissing Boys will be released. It’s about a 16 year-old girl who doesn’t get promoted to Varsity soccer with her teammates, and the crazy-but-just-might-work scheme that she concocts to get her coach’s attention, which includes kissing the prom king at the sports’ fair kissing booth. But first she needs to find out everything she can about kissing, and that help comes in the most unlikely of sources--the freshman guy across the street. But will maintaining this secret alliance with a froshie actually become more important than making Varsity?

11 January 2008

Book Banter -- An Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New England

Title: An Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New England
Author: Brock Clarke
Length: 303 pages
Genre: literary fiction/faux memoir
Plot Basics: Sam Pulsifer accidentally burnt down the Emily Dickinson Home and killed two people in the process. Now, out of prison, Sam is trying to live a normal life. But his past -- which he has worked hard to keep buried -- is inescapable, as is his fate of being known as the guy who burns down writers' homes. As fires are set at the Edward Bellamy house, Mark Twain house and the residences of other New England literary greats, Sam decides to play detective and learns more truths about his life and family than about how to set fires.
Banter Points: It's only January, true, but this book is bound to make Word Nerd's top ten best books list for 2008. Achingly wonderful and compelling with touches of bitter comedy, "Arsonist's Guide" is a masterpiece. The "faux memoir novel" may be an up-and-coming genre but Clarke is one of the early masters. This novel blazes with promise for his career.
Bummer Points: Clarke only has one other novel published. Too bad, because Word Nerd would love to read a very lengthy backlist from him.
Word Nerd Recommendation: Pay attention to this book and this writer. Both are phenomenal.

10 January 2008

Word Nerd Announcement

After a several month-long hiatus, Word Nerd is bringing back the Author Answers column.

Wednesday will still be Author Answers day, so tune in next week, Jan. 16, for the first of the new postings.

Word Nerd's busy recruiting others for interviews, but like always, suggestions for authors are welcome. If there's an author you've hoped to know more about, let Word Nerd know and she'll do her best to get them as a future columnist.

09 January 2008

Winter Books

Word Nerd has been browsing through USAToday's listing of new winter books coming out.

Her day has been made.

Here's why.

1. The Painter of Battles, by Arturo Perez-Reverte. It's not the next book in his Captain Alatriste series, but his literary thrillers are so amazing that it doesn't matter.

2. The Learners, by Chip Kidd. Word Nerd loved (loved) Kidd's "The Cheese Monkeys," and all its wackiness. The Learners is the sequel and Word Nerd can't wait. (Oh, she's also the first person to put the book on hold at the Indianapolis library... just further proof her eagerness.)

The interactive book preview is here, for anyone who wants to check it out themselves. There are plenty of other titles on the list for all kinds of readers and in all sorts of genres.

07 January 2008

Book Banter -- Grave Peril

Title: Grave Peril (Dresden Files, book 3)
Author: Jim Butcher
Length: 378 pages
Genre: fantasy
Plot Basics: Chicago's only wizard-for-hire, Harry Dresden, is standing in for the ghost-busters in this third book of the Dresden Files. Something has got Chicago's ghosts all shook up and Harry's determined to find out why. With the help of his friend Michael, a Knight of the Cross, Harry goes up against evil wizards, fairy godmothers, vampires and more to bring peace to these restless souls. But Harry and his friends are changed by the whole encounter and Harry may set loose more than he ever intended.
Banter Points: Word Nerd found the first two Dresden Files books OK. They were fun reads, but she found herself not really investing in the characters. Not until this one. Grave Peril could well be the book that really launched this series. Word Nerd thinks what did it was the introduction of Michael in this book. Michael provides a good foil for Harry, makes him interact with other people who have special powers and serves as a moral compass. While Harry has always been about doing the right thing, Michael seems to hone that into an understanding of the big picture and the need for sacrifice. Also, not everything comes out OK for Harry in the end, which is always refreshing to see a hero who gains and loses by saving the day.
Bummer Points: While it's refreshing writing to see the hero not get everything at the end, Word Nerd was really pulling for a happier ending for Harry.
Recommendation: Read this series. Stick through the first two books to get to this one. It doesn't disappoint.

03 January 2008

Book Banter -- The Blighted Cliffs

Title: The Blighted Cliffs (The Reluctant Adventures of Lt. Martin Jerrold, Bk. 1)
Author: Edwin Thomas
Length: 298 pages
Genre: historical fiction/mystery/naval fiction
Plot Basics: Lt. Martin Jerrold is less interested in advancing his career in the British navy than he is in drinking and carousing. But on the morning of his first day of a new assignment in Dover, Jerrold stumbles over a dead body and its his new crewmates who discover them both. Thus starts a string of events largely characterized by Jerrold being in the wrong place and the wrong time and needing to clear his name for murder, all the while trying to help his crew combat the smugglers that are plaguing the Dover coast.
Banter Points: Word Nerd picked up this book because she saw the third one in the series and was intrigued by its cover art. (No kidding... she picked it up more than once for that.) Word Nerd is not a reader of naval fiction -- she's never made it through any Patrick O'Brien -- and she's not a reader of military historical fiction -- none of Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe books. But, she does like mysteries and stories with governmental conspiracies and hapless heroes, of which Martin Jerrold is a top-notch example. This is a good book because the history isn't over-handed and the descriptions of naval life flow smoothly with the plot. The plot has plenty of twists for any reader who likes mysteries.
Bummer Points: Be prepared to read some dialect and patois. Thomas doesn't do it for all his characters, but there are several where he drops his "haitches" and uses all sorts of odd spellings to get the local accent right. Word Nerd gets annoyed with reading dialect because most of the time she finds it distracting and slows down the pace of her reading since she has to translate.
Word Nerd Recommendation: If you like any of the genres this book falls into, pick it up. Also, if you want to read more historical fiction, this seems like a good title to break in with. When Word Nerd clears out her current TBR pile, she will be picking up the next books in this series.

02 January 2008

December writing goal and January attempt

The word meter for December did make it to full (YAY!) and just barely. Word Nerd admits, she finished off the monthly writing on New Year's Eve. This is definitely a better late than never type deal.

So, 30K words done for the month of December, which was only 20K new words. Word Nerd's being aggressive for January, with a 30K monthly goal.

30K in January will bring the total up to 60K. For fantasy epic type story (which this book is), 60K is a good half or maybe two-thirds of the whole thing. Word Nerd's hoping also that she will either write the end this month or be darn close. She's got 3.5 notebooks full of the handwritten beginning to the story, so with all those words, plus the new stuff she's added, it should be getting close to time to wrap this puppy up. The good news is the outline is getting worked through and there are fewer and fewer scenes that Word Nerd thinks she needs to write.

To clarify, the 30K goal for this month does include the continued typing in of some of the handwritten stuff.