30 June 2011

Book Banter -- Tiassa

Title: Tiassa (Vlad Taltos #13)
Author: Steven Brust
Length: 319 pages
Genre: fantasy
Where Word Nerd's Copy Came From: Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library
Plot Basics: Assassin Vlad Taltos returns in the latest volume from Brust, as does Khaavren, the hero of the Khaavren romances in a story about uncovering conspiracies and covering up things that would be embarrassing to the Empire. Central to the whole thing is a figurine of a silver tiassa that will either help bring Vlad back into society or could keep him as an outcast forever.

Banter Points: This was an interesting novel, spanning three different times in Vlad's life. I have to admit, I liked the first part of the book the best, when he was back in his days with the Jhereg Organization, thieving and doing work (code for assassinations) and feeling much more light-hearted and less philosophical. It's also interesting how Brust completely shifts voice in the book as Vlad in section 1 and Khaavren in section 3 could not sound more difficult. Brust also brought back a secondary character from one of the other earlier books (Ensign Timmer from the book where he joins the army... sheesh, why can't I remember which one that was?)

Bummer Points: I haven't read the Khaavren Romances, so I felt a little bit lost as to who this character was and what I was supposed to think about him. As with many of the later Vlad novels, I feel like I missed something that was really important and I need to read the book a second time. I also sort of feel like I got it, about the scheme that Vlad really put in motion years before it fully played out.

Word Nerd Recommendation: I would still highly recommend the whole series, but with the caveat that the books get stranger as the series goes on.

28 June 2011


One of the writing lists I subscribe to has had a plethora of postings asking for assistance with research help. Topics have ranged from cruise ships to tenure at colleges to potential careers for someone living in the 16th century.

It's a rather diverse set of topics. Some can be answered by simple Google searches. Others are answered with personal experience of others on the list.

Research is one of those black holes or detours that writers can fall into. It's tempting to check just "one more source" only to find that hours or days have disappeared. Using a writing list to point you in the right direction and target that research might be the way to go.

What's your favorite research method?

27 June 2011

May Bibliometer

I realize it's almost the end of June, but I never posted reading stats for May.

May Bibliometer 2011
8 books
1716 pages
avg 55 pages/day

37 books
11,048 pages total

24 June 2011

Fantasy Exam

Fellow Word Nerd Bethany and I are big fantasy readers. Hopefully you are too and will find the following a fun diversion to end the week on: The Fantasy Exam. The idea is that every fantasy novel is a rip-off of some earlier, better version. And new writers should immediately trash can any novel that has these tried and true plot devises.

Follow the link to get to the whole thing, then c'mon back to post your favorite in the comments.

Here's the first seven:

  1. Does nothing happen in the first fifty pages?
  2. Is your main character a young farmhand with mysterious parentage?
  3. Is your main character the heir to the throne but doesn't know it?
  4. Is your story about a young character who comes of age, gains great power, and defeats the supreme badguy?
  5. Is your story about a quest for a magical artifact that will save the world?
  6. How about one that will destroy it?
  7. Does your story revolve around an ancient prophecy about "The One" who will save the world and everybody and all the forces of good?
Hmm...time to clean out the WIP.

21 June 2011

Favorite Mystery Convention

What is your favorite mystery convention?

Is it red herrings? Stereotype detectives? Damsels in distress?

For me, it's the unreliable narrator. It doesn't matter who uses it, I fall for it every time. I love it.

And I just got took by it.

Even as the narrator was confronted and forced into honesty, I couldn't believe it. I was in complete denial until all of the facts were laid out, end to end, and I was forced to face the truth.

Even as it stared me in the face, I wondered, how in the heck did I get sucked in? It was subtle, with dribbles of hints that led me down a predetermined path.

It was a very enjoyable ride.

What is your favorite mystery convention? Or, if mysteries aren't your thing, leave a comment with the genre and convention.

20 June 2011

Book Banter -- The Scarecrow

Title: The Scarecrow
Author: Michael Connelly
Length: 419 pages
Genre: mystery
Where Word Nerd's Copy Came From: Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library
Plot Basics: LA Times reporter Jack McEvoy is on his way out from the profession he loves, cut in a staff reduction. With two weeks left in his career, he starts to pursue a story that will end his career with a blaze of glory -- proving a murder suspect innocent of the crime. But as Jack works to prove one young man's innocence, he finds himself investigating a far bigger crime, a serial killer who uses the power of the Internet to lure his victims. Jack teams up again with FBI agent Rachel Walling to find a killer, to save his career and hopefully prevent more killings.

Banter Points: It's been great to see Connelly evolve his plots as the times have moved forward. Thinking back to the early Bosch books, Bosch typed his reports up on a typewriter. The crime in The Scarecrow involves Internet security and websites and IP addresses. It's nice to see that Connelly has continued to learn and evolve with modern crimes instead of staying in a groove of mysteries set in the late 90s (which he could have done just as easily.)

Bummer Points: Normally, I'm pretty good at suspending disbelief -- especially around amateur sleuths -- who just happen to be there when the body drops, or the one who can figure out the crime. For some reason, I had a real hard time with this story feeling contrived that Jack was suddenly able to find a murderer, and a serial killer at that, just as his career was going down the tubes.

Word Nerd Recommendation: Even with the trouble hanging up my disbelief, it was still a great read from a mystery master.

17 June 2011

Five Things

Here's the five things I'm recommending you do this weekend:

Read a book (I'm re-reading the Dragonfly in Amber)
Enjoy the outdoors (A couple of runs and some boat time are in order)
Ignore something that you should do for something you want to do (You have my permission to goof off)
Relax with your favorite drink (I have a couple of favorites; it will be tough to pick)
Try a new food (Lots of summer fruits out there)

This is a surefire way to make next week great.

14 June 2011

Building a Reader

I have two boys who enjoy reading.

I can't say that they love it like I do. They have a few things that beat reading when it comes to picking an activity. Video games, playing outside and watching a movie are on the short list too.

Being readers though is important to me. Being able to get lost in a story keeps them coming back. The trick is to find stories that do this.

Here's the top five series that are sure to satisfy my 7 and 11 year old:
  • Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief (whole series)
  • Amulet
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid
  • Little Critter
  • Almost anything published by DK Publishing
There's a common theme here. Did you spot it?

All of the books let the boys understand the world through someone else. Simple really. They found a way to identify with the characters and are willing to suspend their disbelief so that they can experience the story.

Getting them to read something new is a challenge. They aren't confident that the next book will satisfy them so they keep reading favorites. And reading those builds their confidence.

What books have you found success with for your kids to read?

13 June 2011

Chapter 6

Ever since attending the Midwest Writers Workshop a few weeks ago, I've been hard at work, revising the work-in-progress, paying attention to issues that were raised there.

Things were clicking right along until chapter 6. Chapter 6 just wasn't working. Something was off about it.

Enter my writers' group yesterday. First comment out of the box: great tone, voice, etc that fits with the rest, but if you cut out this chapter from the book, what would you lose?

*Blink. Blink*

As soon as he said it, I knew that was the answer. Chapter 6 is getting cut. One smidgeon of the scene is important, but the rest is mostly just talking. Boring talking.

This is a good reminder of why I'm part of a writers' group. I was so close to my own story, that I couldn't see the very obvious solution. Take out what's not working. I was focused on on rewriting and had gotten so myopic about this chapter, I couldn't see the advantage of deleting it.

There are about three pages that I need to keep, tacking them on to the end of chapter 5 or the start of what once was chapter 7 and is now chapter 6. I think it's a great exercise and will make the book tighter in the end.

Delete key, get ready for a work out.

10 June 2011

Agatha Christie Update 2

I got the notice that the next Agatha Christie novel is waiting for me to download from the local library's electronic collection.

I'm kind of excited for a couple of reasons:

Others have made their first appearance, but only Poirot has been a repeat character. This is Christie's seventh novel. I can see why she becomes a famous author. She captures Poirot in all of his irritating mannerisms, but makes you laugh at him at the same time.

Some of the classic detective elements are used in her novels, such as Hastings playing Watson to Poirot's Holmes. Mistaken identities, clues that are clues, clues that are red herrings - it's all there. And while I shouldn't be surprised, I am. I thought that the writing would be dated, and not so clever.

Christie has a way of drawing a reader in. Her characters make a great primary source for anyone that wants to know what England was like during the 1940s. There are enough differences in the various lifestyles and habits that one really gets a sense of what life was like.

I'm enjoying the books so far and am anxious to see what it was about this book that propelled Christie into a writing career that spans decades.

09 June 2011

Book Banter -- The Ex-Boyfriend's Handbook

Title: The Ex-Boyfriend's Handbook
Author: Matt Dunn
Genre: romantic comedy
Length: 354 pages
Plot Basics: When Eddie's long-term girlfriend, Jane, leaves him, the reason is that it's really him, not her. Eddie's forced to asses his life and realize the ruts he's gotten stuck in -- from bad fashion, bad teeth, an old clunker car, a less-than-satisfying job and his overall poor physique. Determined not to lose Jane for good, Eddie starts in a on a major plan to revamp his life. With guidance (or maybe not) from his local TV-celebrity friend Dan, the local barmaid Wendy and his new personal trainer, Sam, Eddie takes control of his life back and learns great lessons about friendship, love and self-confidence.

Banter Points: I found this book by searching the stacks at the library. I was looking for something a little less weighty or violent than the barrage of crime novels I've been reading lately. I'd never heard of Matt Dunn, but I'm glad I stumbled on this author. It was great to see this story told from a guy's perspective. The book was fun and if I could option it into a movie, I absolutely would. It would translate really well. The story was funny and sweet at the same time.

Bummer Points: The ending was not what I expected it to be. It's a strange bummer because I'm glad that Dunn didn't pick the cliche he could have, but I guess what I didn't like was how abruptly the story suddenly stopped.

Word Nerd Recommendation: If you're looking for something light and sweet, this is a great pick for something different in the romantic comedy genre.

08 June 2011

Author Answers with Jennifer Wylie

Today's answers come to us from Jennifer Wylie. Jennifer writes short stories as part of Echelon Press' Shorts project. Jump in to find out more!

WN: What does a reader need to know about your series of short stories, Tales of Ever?
JW: Each story is between 13 and 15 thousand words, so as short stories go they are on the longer side. Part of Echelon Press' Electric Shorts project, they are geared toward 13-17yr olds. Each has been written to be fast paced and a fun read. The goal is to get more teens reading! Hopefully both the writing style and length will accomplish this and get at least a few more kids hooked. That said, Ever is certainly an interesting world, with a variety of characters even adults enjoy. For any lovers of paranormal or fantasy they will be a fun and exciting read!

WN: Let's dish: what character are you most like? Why?
Honestly none of the characters in my Tales of Ever series are very much like me. However Ever is a world where mostly evil people are banished LOL. If anyone I would say I'm closest to my main character Misha. Or maybe I was when I was sixteen. She deals with a lot of uncertainty and normal teenage feelings on top of everything else. Of course I'm not an orphan or a firestarter, though the later would certainly be cool!

WN: What's up next for you? More Tales of Ever?
JW:Yes! Tales of Ever will have six installments. One comes out each month, the 6th in August. I'll be busy writing and editing them up until then. This project has certainly kept me busy!
I also have my very first novel coming out in June, both in print and as an eBook. Sweet Light is an adult romantic fantasy and I'm super excited about its release.

WN: Short stories present a different challenge then novels. Tell us why you like the short story format.
JW:I've always loved short stories. When I was younger (back in public and high school) I wrote a few and then got sucked into novels. I actually didn't start writing short stories again until about a year ago. The main problem I have is ending them. I grew so used to writing and writing and writing it seems in no time at all I hit my word count for a short. I've had to teach myself to at least vaguely plan out a story line, or at least how the story will end, so I don't turn a short into a novel.
One of the main things I love about shorts is how quickly the whole process goes. It's very satisfying to complete a project and this happens much sooner with shorts, not only with the writing, but later the editing process as well.

WN: You are both author and acquisitions editor. What's it like playing the dual role?
JW:Very crazy, and hectic. I'll admit my writing time has been cut back a lot. I constantly wish for a clone, or a maid! As a stay at home on top of everything else I'm very rarely not busy with something or another.

WN: Any tips you'd like to share for authors who submit to you or Echelon Press?
JW: Do your homework. This applies to all aspects. Submit the correct genre to the right person. Follow the guidelines. Do some research on how to write a great query letter and synopsis. Most of all, make sure your book is ready to be read! Edit edit edit. If you can have someone else read or edit as well. You don't have to hire someone, even a friend or writing group can help. Do research on this as well. There are many articles online about editing do's and don'ts, things to watch out for etc.

WN: What question should the Word Nerds have asked, but didn't?
JW: How to find out more about me and my work of course! I'm all over the web and love to 'talk' with readers and fellow writers.
All of my published work is available in eBook formats at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords and OmniLit.

My website: www.jenniferwylie.ca

My blog: http://jlwylie.wordpress.com/

twitter: @jen_wylie

goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4499919.Jen_Wylie

facebook fan page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Jennifer-Wylie/151266004895266

Bonus Author Bio:

Jennifer Wylie was born and raised in Ontario, Canada. In a cosmic twist of fate she dislikes the snow and cold.

Before settling down to raise a family, she attained a BA from Queens University and worked in retail and sales.

Thanks to her mother she acquired a love of books at an early age and began writing in public school. She constantly has stories floating around in her head, and finds it amazing most people don’t. Jennifer writes various forms of fantasy, both novels and short stories. Sweet light is her debut novel to be published in 2011.

Jennifer resides in rural Ontario, Canada with her husband, two boys, Australian shepherd a flock of birds and a disagreeable amount of wildlife.

07 June 2011


The final was handed in over the weekend. Let me just say that taking a twice a week class is crazy. But it saved me a semester, so in the long run good.

Things will be normal - as the get - until the end of August, when school starts up again. I'm looking forward to reading this summer, along with running and some family activities.

What does your summer look like?

06 June 2011

Contest Winners!

We've got three contest winners to announce! I love giving book away.

Going back a bit, we never announced the Laura Lippman contest winners.

@Keithr34 -- you've snagged a copy of "I'd Know You Anywhere."

RJ Hipling and @Lisa954 -- you've snagged copies of our mystery giveaway books. Won't you just be surprised when they show up in your mail.

All winners, please email me at bkwarner at gmail dot com with your names and postal addresses and we'll get the books out to you soon!

Thanks for playing!

03 June 2011

It's Friday!

Stacie's busy writing final papers and exams; Bethany's got several projects that need completed.

But guess what? It's Friday. Give it up.

02 June 2011

The Editing Team

It's been awhile since the editing team was featured here, so, I thought it time.

Co-editor Mina is now 9 months old and more than double the size she was when she first joined the team. She's now a full part of the editing/writing every morning. Most often, this means a few laps around the desk and then trying to chew on the pen I've got handy. Lately, she's also been batting at the moving cursor/mouse pointer on the screen which, while hilarious, makes it hard to see what I'm typing.

Ooooh, the camera...
Co-editor Gatsby is generally content to hang out and sit on whatever pages I've got nearby. He also gets annoyed with Mina, as any older brother should. They both regularly try to sit on the laptop (I get the confusion... lap, laptop... it all sounds the same to a cat, I'm sure.) Gat is still doing well for a cat of his age. That age is undetermined really, but he could be anywhere from about 12 to 15, most likely, and could be even older than that. Dubious past and all...

I'm just hoping that their "help" is really improving the book. Maybe all the teeth marks on my pens and chewed page corners will be a good reminder that an editor/agent could chew up the book the same way if I don't put the time and effort into first.

01 June 2011

Giveaway Wednesday!

That's right. We here at Word Nerd have two books to give away.

Here's the catch -- we're not telling what the titles are. But, you could claim one of these books to add to your summer reading list just by commenting on this question:

What are you reading this summer? What do you wish you had time to read? Not hard, right?

If you tweet the contest or re-tweet the contest (from @BKWordNerd) or link to it on your blog, put that in the comments too, and you'll get extra entries.

Winners will be selected on June 6! Happy reading!