31 January 2011

Book Banter -- Echo Park

Title: Echo Park
Author: Michael Connelly
Genre: mystery
Length: 405 pages
Where Bethany's Copy Came From: Indianapolis Marion County Public Library
Plot Basics: Det. Harry Bosch is still working with Open-Unsolved Unit of the LAPD. In his long career, he's had a few unsolved cases that haunt him -- especially the murder of Marie Gesto, a young woman who was brutally murdered and her killer never found. Bosch has continued to work the case over the years, but can never pull enough evidence together to be sure of the guilt of his prime suspect. Now, as part of a deal to avoid the death penalty, a killer claims that he's the one who committed the crime. Bosch and partner Kiz Rider work with the up-and-coming DA and other detectives to let the suspect lead them to the body. But when the trip goes awry, the suspected killer goes missing and now possibly two murderers are at large in LA.

Banter Points: Finishing off the Bosch series backlist is another of my reading goals for this year and so this is one step closer to accomplishing that. Echo Park was definitely one of the really good ones in the series. While all the Bosch books are good, a few have stood one (Angel's Flight comes to mind) as being closer to the exceptional end.

Echo Park stands out because it pits Bosch against a smart killer. A lot of police procedurals seem to just go through the motions of the investigation of an exceptionally violent bad guy. This one was good because the killer had the brains to pit against Bosch in addition to the violence. It's also amazing to see Bosch age through the series. There was a small line about Bosch wearing reading glasses now, and it's just neat to see an author progressing his character in such a way.

Bummer Points: The actual killer wasn't who I expected, but one of his accomplices I had pegged early on. Maybe it's not a bummer, exactly. I like the surprise of a revealed bad guy but was proud of myself that I figured out part of how the scheme worked.

Word Nerd Recommendation: Echo Park would be a good entry place to the series actually. While the story also brings back Rachel Walling and some of her history with Bosch, it's a good read that has a fast moving plot to engage a reader new to the series.

28 January 2011

Developing Character

Bethany's post yesterday got me thinking - how does stress change people? It was the last paragraph, not the whole thing.

In case you were wondering.

That is really the crux of most stories: Something changes, the characters are stressed and start acting in ways that were never anticipated.

I'm very much in the wannabe bucket for writing. My life took a bit of a detour and I landed in Business School instead of Writing School. It's been a detour that I have really appreciated, however. It has added different dimensions to my knowledge of people and their stress reactions. It has shown me how black and white some people view the world (hello, cost accounting) or how flexible it can be in others (what would you like the number to be?).

Yet, I'm okay with the road I'm on. I figure that all of this experience is swimming around in my brain and will lead to a good novel idea that I can turn into great.

But in the mean time, I'm developing the ability to think like others, instead of myself. So while my stress reaction is to jot notes, write lists and not deviate from The Plan, I've discovered that others react by ignoring the tasks, blowing off deadlines or blaming others for their failures.

Sounds simple, but it's an important piece of developing your characters.

And while it makes for a fun and interesting life, in the curse sort of way, it makes the writer in my gleefully tuck that tidbit away into a corner to brew and see what comes out.

How have you developed character today?

27 January 2011

Kittens and characters

I really promise, this isn't a cat blog.

Except today, it is again.

Mina's five months old, has more than doubled in size and become one furball of fiestiness in just two short months. Today she's off getting certain parts taken care of to ensure she doesn't become a kitten mama. Last time we were at the vet, the vet asked if there was a story behind her name.

Yes, I said, explaining about the whole I-name-my-pets-after-literary-characters thing. He then asked the tech if she knew where the name came from when she came back in the room. She didn't. "Dracula," he says and suddenly, there's that weird look of oh, you're one of those people who read vampire books. (Oddly enough, a woman in the waiting room said she used to have dog named Mina... didn't ask her if it was after the Dracula character or not...)

As for her role on the co-editing team... let's just say she's still new to this creative process. Have you tried to write cohesive fiction when Wrestle Mania is going on under your desk chair? Or your laptop cord is being vanquished? Or your shoelaces attacked? Or your fingers getting alternately chewed/groomed while you try to type?

Some mornings, it's just a good thing that she's cute. And later, when she purring like mad, it's easy to forget that she's such a terror. Gatsby's temperament has changed some too; he's amazingly tolerant most of the time, except when the tail-chewing really starts, he's vocal and angry and there's hissing and chasing until Mina listens to him that he's not having any fun.

Which is a good thing to remember while creating characters. Everybody has more than one side. Maybe the debonair businessman treats women like trash. Maybe the lunch lady dreams of being a hand model. Maybe the evil prince has a tender spot. Maybe the villain is so slippery that the evil is forgotten when he turns on the charm.

And like Gatsby, stressful situations change people. New conditions bring out unexpected behavior. (At the moment, Gat is sitting on top of a box, watching her play with a kitten chew toy and looking haughty.)

Maybe this editing team still has something to offer, other than chewed up drafts and disdainful looks.

26 January 2011

Spooky Little Lines by Lynn Viehl

Lynn Viehl is the Word Nerds' guest today and first off, we just have to say, she's a great sport. She posted on her blog about this freaky thing that happened to her while writing and not only did she then agree to come blog over here, she agreed to tell that story. And, when we suggested a giveaway of one book, she said, "How about all three Kyndred novels?"

So -- read her great post about when a character said something unexpected and then enter the great contest to win all three of her Kyndred novels.

Spooky Little Lines, by Lynn Viehl
Most days writing novels is like any regular job. Like millions of other workers, I go to my office, turn on the
computer and get to work. I follow a work schedule and plan when I write. I even use the same methods to write, which is basically to review the plan, visualize the scene from start to finish and then type – nothing really magical there. Most days I can usually knock out at least two scenes; sometimes I manage an entire chapter. It’s all very ordinary.

Until the days when it isn’t, and my job gets a little spooky.

Like last spring, when I was finishing up my latest release, Frostfire. One morning I started writing a chapter where my two protagonists ended up alone in a motel room. According to plan they needed to resolve some issues, make love, and then get some rest. Not an especially tough scene to write.

I should mention one of my writing quirks: I don’t plan any dialogue ahead of time. I compose it spontaneously as I’m writing, and for some reason this approach works for me.

That morning I began writing with my characters ready to resolve their issues, and my protagonist Lilah talked about her mother. Mom was rich, powerful and admired, but she refused to love Lilah or anyone (even herself.) Lilah was determined not to end up like her mother, so she wasn’t afraid of loving Walker, my other protagonist. Even though Walker was angry, bitter and (at times) a little scary, he was the man she loved, and she wasn’t going to run away from him.

A life devoid of love is simply not worth living – Lilah knew this, I knew this; it was all good.

Once Lilah finished talking, Walker was to agree with her, declare his love (which he’d been fighting tooth and nail for ten chapters) and we would move on to the more interesting things they had to do in this motel room. Only when Walker opened his mouth he didn’t declare his love. He asked Lilah if she thought he was like her mother.

I frowned. I needed to get Mom out of the conversation (and the room) so it was time for Lilah to say no, because I know you love me, and kiss me you fool or something like that and then clothes would start coming off and they’d have a lovely romp. Only the line that appeared on the page was this:

“No,” she said simply. “But you do.”

It takes a lot to stop me when I’m writing, but that did. With a four-word line of dialogue, my character completely blew me away. She wasn’t talking about Mom because of herself, and how she felt, as I had wanted. She’d mentioned her mother because of Walker and how he felt -- which she recognized because of Mom.

Worse, she was absolutely right.

Why did that make me walk out of my office and wander around the house shaking and muttering? Well, for one thing, Walker’s name isn’t Walker. I won’t spoil the surprise and tell you who he really is, but I created his character many years ago. Frostfire is actually the third book I’ve written with his character in the story. I created him, built his personality, complicated back story and every other aspect of his entire life. I’ve always known everything about him . . . until Lilah told me that I didn’t.

I never knew that Walker believed he was incapable of love. It wasn’t in the plan, the character outline, either of the other two books he appeared in, or any corner of my skull. So how did my character know that? Let me rephrase: how did an imaginary construct made up of words on paper know that?

Eventually I settled down, accepted that spooky little line which I could not explain, and got back to work. I did mark the occasion by having Walker echo my own reaction in the story (and it was logical because he didn’t realize this about himself, either.) No doubt a shrink would say Walker’s problem was one I always knew on a subconscious level, and that it emerged via the spontaneity of my dialogue writing, and I’d probably agree.

Most days.

Lynn Viehl is a veteran multi-genre New York Times bestselling author who has published forty-seven novels in five genres over the past eleven years.  Her weblog, Paperback Writer, has been providing resources for writers and insight into the professional writing life since 2004.  She is not easily spooked. 

And now! The Contest. Here's what you can win and let me say, if I didn't run this blog, I would be entering like voters in Chicago...
Gift Basket of all three Kyndred novels -- signed -- plus some extra goodies

What's the spookiest moment you've ever had a reader/writer? What tale made you go turn on all the lights at home while reading? When did a character behave on the page so perfectly unexpectedly that you were stunned the moment came out of your jumbled up brain? Can't think of one? Throw your name in the hat anyway. All entries by Feb. 1 at 5 p.m. EST will be accepted even if you've won something from Word Nerd in the past.

25 January 2011

Learning Curve

Jumping into a set of novels is a commitment. Typically, there are a given set of cultural references, author nuances, and world rules to learn.

Yep, it's true even for the modern romance novel.

So when the Russian novels come up, I'm far behind the learning curve. I don't know much about the history for the country, other than some basics about a missing princess, their role in the World Wars, and the failure of central planning. I've never jumped into the pool to figure out what is going on.

I've done that with Victorian novels. At first, it was because of the courses offered at my college. Most of the professors taught either Shakespeare or Victorian literature (it was a fairly small college.) I've read enough Jane Austen, Wilke Collins, Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy, Bronte sisters, etc. to feel comfortable with the cultural norms of that day. I also think that the Real World happenings of that time were amazing. The innovations, the clothing, the changing roles of society, were caused or captured by these writers.

I haven't ever built any of that for the Russians. I've occasionally felt the urge, but I'm an all or nothing sort of girl.

But the steps on the learning curve start with a single book. My first Jane Austen book was Pride and Prejudice. I remember enjoying the wit and banter of Lizzie and Mr. Darcy, but skimming the rest of the story. The first time I read Great Expectations, I thought it was wordy and slow. I haven't really changed my mind about Dickens style, but reading David Copperfield years later was easier now that I understood the time frame better. It even put some of Great Expectations into the proper context.

While it appears Anna Karenina is the going to the title, I can't help but wonder how this will turn out. After all, Tolstoy wrote the novel in the late 1800s. He explored themes similar the Victorians. Perhaps I'm further into the learning curve than I thought.

It's never to late to plunge into a new realm of reading.

24 January 2011

Book Banter -- Lowlifes

Title: Lowlifes
Author: Simon Wood
Genre: mystery
Length: 139 pages
Where Word Nerd's Copy Came From: Online, http://www.lowlifes.tv/
Plot Basics: SFPD cop Larry Hayes wakes up in an alley in San Franscisco's seedy Tenderloin district, four hours of his life missing from a bad batch of the painkillers he's addicted to. One of his confidential informants, a homeless man named Jon, is found murdered. Jon called Hayes with important information before Hayes' missing time and Hayes know he's a prime suspect for Jon's murder. Complicating the investigation and his own decline is Larry's custody battle for his daughter and that if he is a junkie and a murderer, he'll never see her again...
Banter Points: This whole project is pretty nifty -- part of the story in a novella, part in webisodes and part as a blog. I only delved fully into the novella (I'm a Word Nerd, after all) but I love the whole idea. The novella is a great read. Hayes has all the vices and virtues of the any of great detective. The amazing part is that Wood manages to squash this terribly complicated character into less than 150 pages when other writers spend a whole series developing a character like that.
Bummer Points: The ending is the place where the three separately told stories intersect. It felt a bit deus ex machina to have the PI who's story is in the webisodes suddenly showing up in the novella and playing a crucial role in the ending. I guess maybe that's the hook that I wanted to know about the PI and so I started watching the webisodes. Still, I wish the convergence of all the characters hadn't felt so startling.
Word Nerd Recommendation: All in all, a fun new project that's worth checking out. Best part, it's all free over at www.lowlifes.tv.

21 January 2011

The Russians -- A Book Club?

There are nine more days to vote in the Russian masters poll over there -->

At this point, it's looking like Anna Karenina, so if you have a preference for one of the others, you should vote. Or vote again. I recently had a friend tell me she loved this book, but that I should keep a list of characters handy. My heart rose and sank all at the same time. I haven't kept notes on a book since college lit classes...

Turns out, co-nerd Stacie also isn't well versed in the Russians either, so I'm trying to convince her to read it with me.

And to that end, I'm going to throw out this idea -- What if reading a Russian Masterpiece was a Word Nerd book club-esque feature? You can read it with me (or us, cough, Stacie) if you want. We'll set a reasonable length of time for finishing it and periodically, we'll open up a post for discussion.

Any takers? Comment if you're in and don't forget to vote.

20 January 2011

Book Banter -- Out of the Silent Planet

Title: Out of the Silent Planet (Space Trilogy, bk. 1)
Author: C.S. Lewis
Genre: science fiction
Length: 139 pages
Where Word Nerd's Copy Came From: Personal collection
Plot Basics: Dr. Ransom, a philologist, is on a walking tour of England that takes him farther away from home than he would ever imagine. In trying to find a place to stay, he happens across a mysterious house and his old classmate, Devine and another man, Weston. Before long, Ransom is captured by Devine and Weston and awakes to find himself in a spaceship hurtling away from Earth. They land on Malacandra -- our Mars -- where Devine and Weston intend to hand Ransom over to a local species. Ransom, fearing for his life, flees into the Malacandrian wilderness and discovers the truths about that world and his own.

Banter Points: This is the start of one of my reading goals for this year, to reread the Space Trilogy. It was a decade ago that I read it all the way through the first time and probably two decades ago that I first read "Silent Planet" (elementary school book report...) Lewis is likely most well-known for Narnia or his brilliant Christian apologetic writings, but I particularly love the Space Trilogy. The story while this fantastic interstellar journey really gets at the heart of humanity and what's wrong with us.

Bummer Points: I noticed this time just how much of the science of space travel Lewis skips. He includes a lot, but particularly at the end when things look fairly bleak for getting back to earth, the explanations of how it's all working are skipped. It makes sense since science has come so much farther since Lewis' time, but I wish so much wasn't glossed over.

Word Nerd Recommendation: The trilogy is definitely worth a read. It's pretty easily accessible science fiction for non-sci-fi readers because it's not very technical. A good look at what makes us human.

19 January 2011

Author Answers with Simon Wood

Welcome back Simon Wood to Word Nerd. The Nerds met Simon at Bouchercon 2009 and he's just put out a really interesting transmedia story, Lowlifes, and he's here today to talk about that project.

Word Nerd: Where did the idea for Lowlifes come from?

Simon: The concept came from my collaborator, Robert Pratten. Robert approached me about a year ago with the idea for multimedia story set in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district. He gave me brief character profiles for the principle characters and the initial scenario of a cop investigating himself and his possible involvement in the death of a homeless man. I liked the challenge of trying tell a story using different formats and jumped at the chance.

WN: Lowlifes is told across multiple platforms -- novella, video episodes and Facebook posts -- how you coordinate all the parts of the story?
Simon: I am one of those people who tries to do everything at once, but I wrote the book first, the movie script second and the blog third. However, I did outline all three storylines before I wrote anything so that I knew how all three stories would intersect. As I completed each part, I handed them off to Robert for comment and edit. So there were a few changes made and gave Robert free reign to interpret my movie script any way he wanted when it came to imagery and filming locations.

Our primary aim was to avoid filming scenes directly lifted from the book or blog and vice versa. This approach made it somewhat easier for me to write. I could focus on writing the book, get that out of the way, then turn to the movie script, write that in isolation and so on. At times, coordinating the various aspects to make three seamless stories did make my head hurt. To make all the individual pieces work took a lot of planning.

WN: Was it hard when writing to limit yourself to only Hayes' POV knowing that there was other intersecting story happening elsewhere?
Simon: No, it wasn’t hard. It actually made writing Hayes easier, because I know I’d have the movie or the blog to tell the story from a different character’s POV. Actually, Robert’s main instruction helped. He wanted each individual piece could be read as a standalone piece, but when read/watched in conjunction, the combined pieces would give a much fuller telling of the story.

WN: How do you think multi-platform storytelling is going to impact the writing world?
Simon: I’m not sure how transmedia (as it’s called) is going to shake up storytelling and the writing world, but hopefully in a good way. With the advances smart phones and handheld devices, there's the ability to play with the concept of storytelling. Combine that with the ever-increasing sophisticated demands of the consumer, I can the reader latching on multi-dimensional storytelling.

WN: What's captured your attention lately as a reader?
Simon: A few things actually, Stephen J Cannell’s ON THE GRIND was probably the best crime thriller I read last year. It had my pulse racing from start to finish. A great piece of work. And I just finished Debbi Mack’s second book, LEAST WANTED. It’s a mystery featuring a small-time lawyer and it was just a really well written and developed mystery. Finally, I got to read an advanced copy of John Vorhaus’ The Albuquerque Turkey, which is about a con man trying to go straight. It’s a lot of fun, definitely something for Donald Westlake fans.

WN: What's next for you as a writer?
Simon: Quite a bit. In the fall, I have the first in a series of mysteries set in the motor racing world. The first book is called, DID NOT FINISH. I’m switching genres with the first in a series supernatural novels with each one focusing on the four elements, earth, wind, fire and water. The first of those will be out at Christmas. Finally, I’ll be completing the final two books in THE SCRUBS trilogy. Those will be out in 2012. So 2011 is going to be a busy year at the keyboard.

Ready to dive into Lowlifes? You can find the story, video episodes and links to the online blogs at http://www.lowlifes.tv/.

Simon Wood is an ex-racecar driver, a licensed pilot and an occasional private investigator. Simon has had over 150 stories and articles published. His short fiction has appeared in a variety of magazines and anthologies and has garnered him an Anthony Award and a CWA Dagger Award nomination, as well as several readers’ choice awards. He’s a frequent contributor to Writer’s Digest. He’s the author of WORKING STIFFS, ACCIDENTS WAITING TO HAPPEN, PAYING THE PIPER, WE ALL FALL DOWN, TERMINATED and ASKING FOR TROUBLE. As Simon Janus, he’s the author of THE SCRUBS and ROAD RASH. Curious people can learn more about LOWLIFES at www.lowlifes.tv

18 January 2011

Starting Over

I have thoroughly enjoyed my winter break from school. I took advantage of the time by finishing two books that I've been reading all year, plus 16 others in December and so far in January. In all, 18 books for a total of 8,310 pages.

I must say, that two of the titles are competing for best new series in 2011: the Percy Jackson series or the Elemental Assassins series. Both are excellent so far.

I also discovered a new author that specializes in time travel novels: Connie Willis. I really like the idea of time travel and the potential ramifications. Willis sets her time travelers in Oxford, England, 2060, but visiting various points in England during World War II. She does a fabulous job of capturing the day-to-day aspect of people living in England during the Blitz as well as those who fled to the country.

It's been delightful reading and I will miss it now that I'm back to school reading.

What have you read lately that's been worth sharing?

17 January 2011


From last week's contest for Sean Beaudoin's book, "Going Nowhere Faster" the Nerds are proud to announce our winner.

Dana -- who said, "I don't think I was in one particular clique either, but on the fringe of several" has won the book.

Dana, if you email me (bkwarner at gmail dot com) with your shipping address, I'll get the book on its way to you.

Tune in next week for another great contest.

Birthday Books

Ever wonder what people were reading when you were born?

Crazy idea huh, the best-seller that was capturing the rest of the world's attention while you were becoming the apple of your parents' eye.

Biblioz.com has a new searchable feature that finds the top 15 fiction and non-fiction sellers for the week you were born.

I had no idea what my birthday fiction list would reveal, but I was pleasantly surprised to find it was a book I'd a) heard of and b) actually read and enjoyed.

The top-selling fiction book for the week of June 2, 1980? Robert Ludlum's The Bourne Identity.

What book topped the charts when you were born?

14 January 2011


When Amazon first introduced the Kindle, I had loads of people asking me if I was purchasing one. At the time, I declined, for a couple of reasons.

First, it was the cost. I borrow most of my books from the public library. The cost of the reader plus the cost of books would have added to my budget, instead of helping it.

Second, was it even feasible to curl up with a Kindle the way you could with the book? The few times I tested the Kindle in the store gave me a bad feeling about it.

Fast forward to early 2010. Apple introduces the iPad (midst many jokes and laughter over the name.)

It seems to me to be just a big iPod touch, which is cool. And I start toying with the idea of an e-reader again. My main objective again is the cost, except the publishing world is doing some interesting things in the electronic space, including pricing adjustments that make it seem possible.

And my local library offers software that I can use to read their books for free. Granted, the digital collection has some limits but there is still is a good selection.

However, as the hubby and I were discussing the potential of an iPad purchase (since I've been secretly lusting for one and desperately trying to justify the cost), I pull out the trump card: "Ya know, if it's good to read on, I could buy as many books as I like without you ever knowing how many books I really have."

Mission accomplished.

What are your thoughts on the e-readers?

13 January 2011

Words of the Year

We may be on the 13th day of 2011, but we're not so far into the new year that looking back on 2010's "Word(s) of the Year" is out of date.

The Word of the Year changes with who you ask, but I think the choices are interesting and revealing about society.

The American Dialect Society picked the word "app" for their word of the year. This term for a smart phone application apparently beat out "nom nom."

Merriam Webster picked "austerity," given the financial crises in Europe and many austerity plans developed to keep EU member countries on track.

The Oxford American Dictionary picked the word "refudiate," thanks in large part to one maverick ex-governor of Alaska and her verbal mash-up.

And, last, but not to be outdone is Urban Dictionary's pick of "gate rape" for the travel-scandal inducing TSA pat downs.

I'm suprised the word "leak" isn't in the list what with BP and Wikileaks.

Any words you would have put as a top pick for 2010?

12 January 2011

Author Answers with Sean Beaudoin

Welcome back to the re-invigorated Author Answers feature of Word Nerd. We're putting together a great line-up and kicking things back off is Sean Beaudoin to talk about his new YA-pulp-noir novel, You Killed Wesley Payne. And, stay tuned to the end of this post for a great giveaway from Sean

WN: How did you come up with the idea for "You Killed Wesley Payne" and what was it like to take it from idea to finished book?

Sean Beaudoin BEAUDOIN: I’ve pretty much been writing Wesley Payne in my head since I was fourteen. I didn’t realize it until two years ago, when I sat down and the first chapter just sort of appeared on the page. Stewarding a novel from that first exciting idea, to the point that it’s ready to be on anyone’s bedside table, is pretty much like the 9-volume Adventures in Early Dentistry series. In other words, excruciating.

WN: At the core of Wesley Payne is the high school clique idea. What fascinates you about that social structure and which group were you in when you were a high school student?
BEAUDOIN: I think I was a lot like Dalton in the sense that I wasn’t really part of any clique, but knew the secret passwords to a number of them. I’m not sure if that’s because none of them really wanted me, or I was too busy affecting cool to allow myself to be aligned with any one attitude or fashion. While the clique routine is usually most pronounced during high school, most of us don’t realize it’s actually something that continues throughout life. In fact, if you go to your grandfather’s retirement home right now, you’ll notice the residents are broken up into groups around the pool or craft center, eyeballing one another warily over the Elmer’s and lemonade.

WN: How did you come up with all the slang in this book?
BEAUDOIN: One of my great regrets is studying film in college instead of linguistics. I love playing with words. Coming up with the slang was fun and easy. The hard part was toning it down and not overusing it. Actually, I had to throw away pages and pages of the stuff. Mostly because it was too funny and marketable. The publisher’s lawyers were worried we’d get sued if no one was buying any other books.

WN: Putting "you" in the title seems gutsy... how do you hope readers react to being the accused killer of Wesley Payne?
BEAUDOIN: Both my hope and secret intention was that they’d react exactly like this: “How dare that guy put YOU in his title! I’ve never even met Wesley Payne, let alone offing him! Just for that, I am going to immediately run down to my local independent bookseller and buy eleven copies! And then steal a twelfth one!”

WN: If you had to live the life of one of the characters in the book, who would you most want to be and why?
BEAUDOIN: Kurt Tarot. I’ve always wanted to be the lead singer in a band. Also, I’ve always wanted to have sharpened teeth and wear ankle-length leather.

WN: What have you been reading lately that's really captured your attention?
BEAUDOIN: I just finished M.T. Anderson’s The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing. It’s fantastic. Also, I’m halfway through Keith Richard’s memoir Life. A little Keef goes a long way, the purring engine within the ’71 Torino that was the Rolling Stones. Lydia Davis’ short story collection is wonderful. And anyone with a taste for symbolic absurdity and lyrical surrealism should read Jarret Midddleton’s An Dantomine Eerly.

WN: What's next for you as a writer?
BEAUDOIN: A well-deserved twelve hour break. And then we start ramping up for my next book, Wise Young Truck, which is currently in production. Although after the focus groups and marketing people get done with it, it may be called something else entirely. Like Cool Vampire Dragon Phat-Magic. Or Love Teen Rich Break-Up Shopping. Keep an eye out for it (them).

Giveaway: (This is part you've all been waiting for, right?)
You can win a signed copy of Sean Beaudoin's first book, Going Nowhere Faster. What do you have to do to claim this prize as yours? Leave a comment about what high school clique you were in or a piece of slang you remember from your high school days before Friday, 1/14 at 5 p.m. EST. Everyone is eligible to enter, even if you've won something from Word Nerd before

11 January 2011

Book Banter -- Spider's Bite

Title: Spider's Bite
Author: Jennifer Estep
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Length: 395 pages
Where Stacie's Copy Came From: Oshkosh Public Library

Plot Basics: In Ashland, if you need someone assassinated quickly, with minimum message, and have the money to pay for it, you hire the Spider. And if you want to make the Spider mad, you double cross her and threaten her family. She will track you down and make you pay.

Banter Points: The opening of the books should have been cheesy, but it wasn't. Gin Blanco, aka the Spider, has infiltrated Ashland Asylum in order to assassinate one of the doctors who had abused a former patient. Hired by the victim's parents, Gin is required to also tell the doctor why the assassination is occurring. Instead of being a rip-off on the opening scene of a Batman movie, Estep pulled me into the Ashland world and society. But don't take my word for it -- read Chapter One and see if you agree.

Gin's matter of fact approach to her life is consistent throughout the novel. She never apologizes for what she does. She never justifies it. It is the only way she knows how to be. But as you close the pages, you realize she does it for the right reasons. With a good publicist, she would be Robin Hood.

Good thing Gin can't read this.

Bummer Points: I can't think of any. Books Two and Three are on their way to me via the library's reservation system. Books Four and Five will be released in 2011. I can't wait.

Stacie's Recommendation: If you like bad girls and urban fantasy, this is a series for you.

10 January 2011

Book Banter -- You Killed Wesley Payne

Title: You Killed Wesley Payne
Author: Sean Beaudoin
Genre: YA
Length: 319 pages
Where Bethany's Copy Came From: ARC from Blog Reach Solutions
Release Date: Feb. 1, 2010 from Little Brown Books

Plot Basics: Salt River High is dominated by cliques (what high school isn't?) and it's up to newcomer Dalton Rev to figure out which clique killed Wesley Payne and made off with the Principal's rackteering money (ok, maybe that part doesn't happen in every high school.) Dalton's got the Balls on one-side and the Pinker Caskets on the other and his client, Macy Payne who is all the wrong kind of distraction for a PI on a case. And as if the murder wasn't enough, Salt River's being terrorized by a shadowy Lee Harvies clique making the high school on the verge of an all-out clique war.

Banter Points: Not all YA fiction is rich, snotty girls and vampires and "You Killed Wesley Payne" is a welcome addition to the YA world with its noir feel and crazy slang. Beaudoin rockets through his prose, keeping the action moving and the reader guessing right up to the end. The story is littered with slang terms (some of which I got right away... like when a group is chanting Bolsheviks... and others I had to go to the handy glossary in the back). The slang carves out Beaudoin's off-beat world and definitely sets him apart for smart YA fiction.

Bummer Points: Maybe it's because I read enough mysteries, but I was pretty sure I figured out who killed Wesley Payne. I was kind of right, but that's always a bummer to me in mysteries.

Word Nerd Recommendation: If you want YA that's smart and hip and not so mean girls, this is a book for you. It's a hip read for teens of any age (those still in high school or those of us that are still teens deep down inside) and adults will appreciate the send-up for the great crime noir writers of the past.

Bonus: Tune in next Wednesday, 1/12, for an interview with Sean Beaudoin and a giveaway!

Double Bonus: There's an awesome book trailer for Wesley Payne. Take a watch.

07 January 2011

Book Banter -- The Study Series

Title: The Study Series Bundle (Poison Study, Magic Study and Fire Study)
Author: Maria Snyder
Genre: Fantasy
Length: approximately 1,200 pages (formerly published as three separate books)
Where Stacie's Copy Came From: Personal Library

Plot Basics: Given a choice between death or life as a food taster, Yelena decides to risk her life at every tasting as the Commander's food taster. In that role, she may be able to escape south to Sitia with her life. If not, her magic may pull too much power from the source, robbing every magician of their abilities. No matter which way Yelena turns, trouble is waiting for her.

Banter Points: Yelena is a headstrong heroine who simply doesn't know when to quit. She seldom learns from her mistakes, she assumes that her plan will work out, and she has incredible luck. The world Snyder has created between the two countries -- Ixia in the north, and Sitia in the South -- provide a nice contrast and back drop for Yelena's story. The Commander recently took over Ixia and has outlawed all magicians. Yelena has only recently come into her powers and needs to escape to Sitia to learn to control them. If she doesn't, the Master Magicians of the South with execute her to save themselves as well. Danger abounds in this series of books.

Bummer Points: Even when she is in her toughest spots, it seems like everything works out for Yelena. It's tough to believe that anything bad will happen. While this doesn't detract from the storyline, it does make one wonder how she feel into so much trouble in the first place. After all, the story opens with her choosing between certain death at the gallows or potential death as the food taster.

Stacie's Recommendation: Fun, easy reading. There is a second trilogy that builds in the same world, but with a secondary set of characters. Worth exploring.

06 January 2011

Take Two Review -- Side Jobs

Introducing a new feature here on Word Nerd, the Take Two Review. Stacie and I often read the same things, but our perspectives may be slightly different so we're not going to deprive you of a second viewpoint.

So, here we go. New thing.

Side Jobs by Jim Butcher, Take Two
First Reviewed on Word Nerd: Dec. 14, 2010 and the novella, Backup, Jan. 12, 2009.
Bethany's Take: I could likely go on and on about how much I love the Dresden Files. I could talk about the converts new fans I've encouraged for the series.

I'd read two of the stories in the collection before ("Backup" and "Last Call") but had no trouble reading them again. What struck me reading the collection was the way Harry's changed over time and the way he hasn't changed.

In the very first short story, Harry's protecting a kid. In multiple other stories, Harry's protecting kids or women or other people who are just generally innocent. That part of Harry's character doesn't change.

In the first story though, there's a sense that Harry doesn't really want to have to fight. He'd rather just avoid confrontation. While in later stories he's not looking for confrontation, he's willing and ready to fight and doesn't back down. The result is, he's getting in fights all the time. He even offers in "The Warrior" to kill a guy instead of letting Michael Carpenter do it. In the early stories, Harry would never even think of killing a guy outright. This is definitely a change in his character throughout the stories.

Because the stories range between the whole series, the changes in Harry are more readily apparent than the changes over time and the gradual development laid out over the course of a dozen books.

Favorite story in the bunch? "Love Hurts". It's finally a glimpse of what Harry and Karrin Murphy might be like together, but of course, we're denied that again at the end.

Second favorite, "Backup." Thomas is one scary-as-hell-and-still-sexy character. His internal struggle is amazing and Butcher manages to write him in a first person POV that sounds different than Harry.

I can't say it's my third favorite, exactly, but the "Aftermath" story told by Murphy that's set just at the end of Changes is also incredible. Harry's missing -- presumed dead -- but Murphy won't accept that till she sees the body. But, when trouble comes knocking, Murphy and the Alphas (Harry's werewolf pals) take up Harry's crusade against Bad Guys. Still, a world without Harry...

All told, Butcher keeps up his streak of spectacular books. There's more than one wizard named Harry and as legions of Potter-fans grow up, it's Chicago's wizard they should turn to for magic-slinging fun.

05 January 2011

Author Answers

Each Wednesday in 2011, Word Nerds will feature a guest spot from an author. These authors will delve into the wonderful and fascinating world of their characters, their writing and whatever other fancies the Word Nerds ask.

We've got our line-up started and in the next few weeks, you'll get to hear from YA author Sean Beaudoin (with a contest!), mystery/horror award-winner Simon Wood, Seamus winner Brad Parks, and paranormal romance writer Lynn Viehl (with a contest!) And that's just the beginning.
Who do you want to hear from? What author have you wanted know what's really going on behind the scenes? Let us know! (email, twitter or comment here.)

04 January 2011

Character Sketch: Christian Kane

One of my favorite shows to watch is Leverage, on TNT. Five ex-cons are now on the side of the little guys, fixing the wrong doings of whatever bad guys happens to come their way. One of the characters, Eliot Spencer played by Christian Kane, is the "hitter" of the group, known for his bone breaking, face pummeling, back ally brawls. In other words, he regularly kicks ass and looks HOT doing it.

But on Season 3, Episode 6: The Studio Job, Eliot takes the role of a singer-song writer who is about to hit it big - until his song is stolen by guest star John Schneider. Of course the Leverage team proves that Schneider is stealing the songs written by their client.

When I found out that Christian Kane was releasing a whole album, I was thrilled. I loved this episode and the two songs I had heard so far: "Thinking of you" and "House Rules."

Now that I've had the album for a little more than a month, I still enjoy it, but I can't quite shake my impression that it is Eliot Spencer - not Christian Kane - that is singing it.

The music is a typically mix of country ballads, fast-paced dance mixes and a remix of another great. Kane has a fabulous voice, but I can't quite leave Spencer and only hear Kane. If I could, I'm not sure I would like the album as much as I do.

Spencer's role is necessary for the Leverage team. They need him to beat up the guys who want to run away or want to cause damage to one of the team members. But then there is this soft side that is exploited during "Thinking of You," a tender ballad of parted lovers. It's the juxtaposition of Spencer's kick-ass attitude against unrequited love that made the song a hit for me.

As decent as the album is, I wonder how it would have done if Leverage hadn't been the platform to launch it against.

Sort of like when an author's offspring launches a decent, but not fabulous, book.

03 January 2011

2011 Reading Goals

Bethany's 2011 Reading Goals
  • Read a total of 85 books in 2011.
  • Read one book by a Russian master. I will gladly take recommendations.
  • Read the remaining 6 of Michael Connelly's back list (and the new one coming out in April) to be totally caught up with everything he's written.
  • Re-read either Lord of the Rings or C.S. Lewis' Space Trilogy. It was a decade ago that I last read them both. If I get through both, I'm awarding myself bonus points.
  • Read at least one book a month that comes from my bookshelf instead of the library to get caught up on things I've borrowed or purchased
  • Read at least 3 books considered to be "important" books that I've never read. Despite taking advanced or AP English through all of high school and two lit classes in college there's an alarming number of really famous books I've never read (for example, Catcher in the Rye.) I think it's high time that I tackle of a few of these classics. Just don't make me read Jane Austen unless it also involves zombies or sea monsters, OK?
 The point of goals is to stretch and I think these will do that. Included are some specific categories of books that I get to read which should expand my literary horizons.

The total number is a stretch too. I've really slowed down on my reading pace in the last year. I think there's a direct correlation between being a homeowner and how much time I have to read. Rather than spending evenings with a book, I'm outside 3/4ths of the year, mowing, planting, weeding, hacking, raking, shoveling, or otherwise gardening to maintain a level of curb appeal and neighborhood respectability. I really want to read more than 100 books some year, but I also don't like setting unreachable goals because that just gets frustrating to me so I picked a more moderate number.

Watch for polls about the classics and which Russian master I should tackle in the coming weeks. I need to get on this right away to have a successful start.