30 April 2010

Conference Time

Word Nerd's off to a writer's conference again this weekend.

This time, she's at Mo*Con V presented by the Indiana Horror Writers (the same folks she was hanging with two weeks ago for that Neil Gaiman thing...)

The primary organizer of the conference is in her writers group and after going to Mo*Con IV last year, there was no way Word Nerd was skipping it this year. Small group, great conversations, a chance really pick the brains of people in the writing biz.

If you're in Indianapolis, it's not too late to come.

And Word Nerd will let you know how it was next week.

27 April 2010

Book Banter -- Working for the Devil

Title: Working for the Devil (Dante Valentine bk. 1)
Author: Lilith Saintcrow
Genre: Urban fantasy
Length: ~300 pages
Where Word Nerd's Copy Came From: Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library
Plot Basics: Necromance Dante Valentine is willing to accept bounty hunter-type jobs on the side, but on one rainy Monday, it's the Prince of Hell himself who asks for her services. Lucifer needs Dante to track down the Egg and gives her a demon familiar to protect her during her search. But it's not a blind search, because Lucifer knows that the Egg has been taken by one Santino Vardimal -- who nearly killed Dante the last time she went up against him.
Banter Points: Word Nerd hadn't read much great urban fantasy (or even mediocre urban fantasy) in a long time, so this was a welcome treat. Dante's inner monologue (that often comes out) is fun. Plus, Saintcrow has created a future world that she throws readers into full force and just runs with. Slicboards, the legislation protecting people with psi powers.... it's all great stuff and never fully explained, but the reader feels so immersed in the world, it doesn't matter.
Bummer Points: Word Nerd can't say what bummed her out about this book without giving away a major plot piece at the end. Other than that she was SURPRISED and gives much respect to Saintcrow for doing that, because very rarely does that happen in this sort of book.
Word Nerd Recommendation: If you like kick-butt heroines, cool future worlds, slick dialogue and authors who don't pull punches, Working for the Devil is definitley for you.

23 April 2010

Book Banter -- Wild Hunt

Word Nerd reviewed Margaret Ronald's Wild Hunt for Popsyndicate.com and LOVED this book. Probably one of the kick-butt-est urban fantasy books she's read in a long time. Definitely will be looking for more from this author.

Here's the review of Wild Hunt.

22 April 2010

Book Banter -- The Bone Chamber

Word Nerd's reviewing over at PopSyndicate again.

Check out her take on Robin Burcell's "The Bone Chamber."

In which Word Nerd becomes a horror writer

Last week, Neil Gaiman was in town to deliver a big lecture through an Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library program.

Not one to pass up such an opportunity to hear a famous writer speak, Word Nerd contacted one of her writers group members to see about a group outing. At which point, he tells her, the Indiana Horror Writers are sitting down with Neil Gaiman for about 30 minutes before the event.

"Can I be a horror writer today?" Word Nerd asks.

To be fair, Word Nerd did attend their conference last year and is attending their conference again this year. She's even written things in the past involving zombies.

In short, Word Nerd got to hang with the horror writers.

Oh, and Neil Gaiman too.

16 April 2010

Book Banter -- Dawn on a Distant Shore

Title: Dawn on a Distant Shore (Wilderness, bk 2.)
Author: Sara Donati
Length: 461 pages
Genre: historical fiction
Where Word Nerd's Copy Came From: Indianapolis Marion County Public Library
Plot Basics: (Can't help the spoilers here, given how closely this book picks up after the first one...)

Soon after becoming the mother of twins, Elizabeth Bonner must once again go to her husband's aid. Nathaniel, along with his father and outdoorsman Robbie MacLachlan, are being held in a Montreal jail. Elizabeth, along with her step-daughter Hannah and Curiosity Freeman, set out with the babies to Montreal to get them out of jail. But their captivity is part of a giant ruse to get the Bonner family back to Scotland to determine if they are they can be heirs to an earl. They cross the Atlantic, plagued by pirates, homesickness and fear of what lies ahead for them in Scotland.

Banter Points: A good second entry in this sweeping historical epic. Donati takes her readers -- who love Nathaniel and Elizabeth -- and puts them in an entirely new setting. Also, it's a great hook because this plot doesn't wrap up some of the loose ends from Into the Wilderness meaning a third book has to happen to resolve those things.

Bummer Points: Maybe it's because Word Nerd read this one too close to the first one, but it felt long. The sea voyage got cumbersome (pages and pages of crossing the Atlantic) when much of the action happened right at the beginning and right at the end. Yes, there were pirates, but not memorable ones and the plot sort of dragged for a time.

Word Nerd Recommendation: She's going to take a short break from this series and then come back to it. She really likes the characters, but spreading out the immersion into 1794 New York will help keep the story fresher.

15 April 2010

March 2010 Bibliometer

Word Nerd's a little late posting her reading stats for last month. She's not been reading as much especially now that it's spring and she has a lawn and flowerbeds to maintain. Nevertheless, she's still squeaking in books here and there.

March 2010 Bibliometer reading:
5 books
2163 pages
70 pages/day average

19 books
6616 pages

Year over year
Last year, Word Nerd had read 23 books total by the end of March.

12 April 2010

NaNoWriMo Revisted

In the past week, Word Nerd has re-read the 50,000 words she wrote during November and the madness that is National Novel Writing Month.

A bunch of life stuff happened in between NaNo and now (like, say, buying and moving into her first house). She putzed around back in December with some of the early chapters. Yet honestly, she didn't really even remember what happened in her whole story. And, Word Nerd is not one who likes leaving projects unfinished.

The plan is to get back into the book -- move some scenes around, spruce up the first 50K words and finish telling this story. Word Nerd doesn't exactly remember all the things she thought she might do in the second half of the book (oh, the dangers of no outline and writing at NaNo speeds), but she's given herself bread crumbs all over the place to pick up and run with. (Like the thing with still, as-yet-unnamed Pegasus. Or the miniature knight. Who also needs a name.)

Now that's she's done with the reread, the next step is an outline. For the whole thing. Word Nerd actually likes a lot of what she wrote during NaNo, but not the placement. The flow feels a little disjointed. So, a full out map of the story is in order. She's also got one minor character who needs sorted out (what's her role in the story? Does she even belong there?). But it's all good problems to solve.

09 April 2010

Book Banter -- Into the Wildnerness

Title: Into the Wildnerness
Author: Sara Donati
Genre: historical fiction
Length: 876 pages
Where Word Nerd's Copy Came From: Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library

Plot Basics: Elizabeth Middleton has come to the small village in upstate New-York where her father serves as judge. Her plan is start a school and remain unmarried. But that's before she meets Nathaniel Bonner -- a rugged trapper and outdoorsman who moves between both the village and the local Mohawk Indian tribe. Nathaniel interests Elizabeth in ways she's not expecting and she becomes caught up in his cause to save the land for the Mohawk people. The fight takes them across the wilderness of 1793 New York, trying to outrun and outwit those who would see the Mohawk forever gone from the land. And as they run, Elizabeth and Nathaniel realize they are stronger together as a team.

Banter Points: Word Nerd won a copy of the sixth book of Donati's series in a contest, but she hadn't read any of the rest of the series. So, she went back to the beginning and has thoroughly enjoyed getting immersed in this world.

Historical fiction isn't usuall Word Nerd's thing, but this one is so compelling because the characters are so real. It's easy to get swept up in the lives of this village and the conflicts of the time. Donati gives flesh to all her characters, even the minor ones. Nobody is a throw-away character and they all have roles to play in this epic story she's woven.

The amount of research she must have done for these books is astounding. Word Nerd vaguely remembers studying what happened after the Revolutionary War in her American History class in high school, but it's all sort of fuzzy. Donati's created a vibrant world with believable details for how life must have been like then.

Bummer Points: This first one is long and feels in the second half a little bit like Donati didn't quite know where to end the story. Luckily, book 2 (Dawn on a Distant Shore) picks up really soon after where she ended book 1.

Word Nerd Recommendation: If you are looking for a series to really sink into, this might be the answer. Action, adventure, some romance, political intrigue -- it's got it all.

08 April 2010

Author Answers with CJ West

Say hello to CJ West this week. His latest book, Gretchen Greene, released at the end of March and he's got a terrific summer tour lined up with it. It's a little non-traditional and he's giving us the scoop on what he's got planned, what's got his attention in the book world and when we can see his books on the big screen. (The photo is CJ and yours truly, Word Nerd, at Bouchercon in Oct. 09.)

WN: What's the "Who Wants to Be a Hero" tour all about? How did you think of it?
WEST: The tour promises to teach readers how to be like Randy Black. Randy is an expert driver, marksman, and poker player. He comes from a family of winemakers and his girlfriend works as a crime reporter for a local paper. I thought that all of these things are interesting in fiction, why not do them in person, so when I began planning my tour this year, I decided to focus on these skills and make the tour fun. My work is written to entertain people and I wanted my events to do the same. By partnering with local vendors, I'm offering some one-of-a-kind events. The kickoff is a high performance driving class by a well-respected driving and security firm that teaches professional drivers. They are going to give us a three-hour course and allow us to get out on the track and drive. It's going to be great and it gives readers a chance to "hang around" with me for hours as opposed to shaking my hand and asking a few questions in a book store.

WN: What's the response been so far to this kind of tour instead of the traditional sit-behind-a-table-and-sign-books approach?
WEST: The response has been tremendous. I know all authors have had book signings where very few people show up. It's a hazard of the job and a sign that there are more fun things for people to do with their time. Readers are signing up for my Texas Hold 'em lessons two and three months in advance to make sure they get a seat. I never expected that. I will be all over New England this year. Anyone who wants to come and see me can find an event at www.22wb.com/events.htm

WN: Your newest book, "Gretchen Greene" recently released -- what's it about?
WEST: Gretchen Greene is the 3rd book in my Randy Black series and it offers a major transition in the storyline. The first two books, Sin & Vengeance and A Demon Awaits, define Randy as a troubled anti-hero. Gretchen Greene is Randy's first adventure as he travels the country trying to redeem himself by saving others. Gretchen is an ecoterrorist turned alternative energy researcher who has stolen a breakthrough solar technology. Her entire team is gunned down and only Randy can save her. The fun part about writing this book for me is the relationship between Randy and Gretchen. She's a bit prickly and goes about preaching environmentalism to anyone within earshot. She and Randy disagree on so many things that it made their relationship fun to write.

WN: You've got a four books out now, what's changed in how you approach writing in that time? WEST: My beta readers tell me that my writing improves with every book. It's also clear that I'm writing significantly faster. My second book took about sixteen months to complete. My most recent was completed in less than six months. I do think that particular book was something of an anomaly because the ideas came so fast, but I see myself finishing a book each year going forward where this was really difficult for me prior to 2008.

WN: In addition to writing and touring, what books have captured your attention lately?
WEST: I had the pleasure of meeting Meg Gardiner last year and interviewed her on my Blog Talk Radio show (22wb.com/btrshows.htm). Her book The Dirty Secrets Club really impressed me both in terms of writing and story. Meg is also a very nice woman and it has been a delight getting to know her.

WN: What's happening with the movie?
WEST: Beantown Productions has optioned the film rights to Sin & Vengeance and they are working to finance the production of a feature film. I hope to have more information soon about the fundraising and a production schedule.

WN: Where can readers find you?
WEST: I spend most days on Facebook while I write. Find me at www.facebook.com/cjwestfans.

07 April 2010

Book Banter -- Roadkill

Title: Roadkill (Cal Leandros bk. 5)

Author: Rob Thurman

Length: 388 page

Genre: urban fantasy

Where Word Nerd's Copy Came From: Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library

Plot Basics: Cal Leandros is finally feeling free from his monstrous relatives. His older, watchful brother, Niko, is letting Cal take responsibility for himself. But, when a gypsy crone shows up looking for their help -- after nearly getting Niko killed -- Cal drives a hard bargain to agree to go after an anti-healer The Plague of the World, responsible for the Black Plague. The brothers -- along with Robin G,oodfellow -- start on a road trip racing against time to catch up with him, hoping their healer friend Rafferty has enough good mojo to save them all. But the Plague of the World won't let Cal get away without showing him what he truly is.

Banter Points: Rob Thurman is one of the best urban fantasy writers out there right now -- why? Because the monsters in her books are SCARY. Unlike lots of urban fantasy where things that should be monstrous tend to be the romantic entanglements, Thurman's monsters really are creepy. And she put that creepiness right in the reader's face with her protagonist, since Cal is half-monster. And you can't help but root for him. Even when he's having a creepy moment. (Of which he has a couple in this book...Word Nerd will refrain from saying anymore to avoid spoilers.)

Also, this book was a great turn in the series. She could have ended the story in book 4, but this one took the big plot in a great new direction. While there's still external baddies to deal with, Thurman opened up a whole new perspective on the characters' internal monsters. Makes for some great reading.

Bummer Points: So, without giving away too much, you might want to have a box of kleenex handy if you're a cry-er at books. Yep, even in urban fantasy. Word Nerd was warned, so she's didn't blubber too much, but it's very possible.

Word Nerd Recommendation: If you haven't read Rob Thurman, what are you waiting for?