30 August 2011


Today, I'm flying on a jet plane, heading to St. Louis.

It's work-related, and not for an early BCon recon mission. As Bethany posted earlier, BCon 2011 isn't in the cards for the Word Nerds.

It's a bittersweet trip. I went to St. Louis in 2008 for a business trip and loved the downtown area where my hotel was. Today's visit is a quick in and out. I'll spend most of my time at the airport, I'm guessing.

I'm hoping to get some time in with my notecards though. I use notecards to start organizing my thoughts for writing. I've had four or five book sections flutter through my head during runs lately. I'm hoping that an empty stack and loads of wait time will bring a few of them forward.

How are you spending your Tuesday?

26 August 2011

I thnk this says it best

At the Word Nerds, there's a lot brewing - most of it non-blog related. This recent xkcd.com comic pretty much sums up how I feel about everything.

Later: 'Why is there a book hovering over the trash can?'

23 August 2011

The Importance of Back-ups

Over the last two or three weeks, my Dell computer took a long and painful downhill slide. The inevitable was fast approaching and I needed a way to back-up the important things in my files.

A great way of doing this is through Dropbox. Once installed, Dropbox acts like any other folder on your harddrive, except an exact copy is kept online as well. Bonus -- you can edit any file on your PC, and changes are viewed instantly on another PC or mobile device, say on your iPad. Sort of like a network server, but up there in the cloud.

It's an easy way to share files too, but only the ones you select and with whom you choose to share.

Dropbox seriously saved my writing and other docs over the weekend until I found a new laptop. A quick visit to the website and a couple of hours later and I have access to everything in there again.

Dropbox is free, up to 2 gigabits of space. You can pay for more. Or you can click my Dropbox referral link and share some love my way. For each subscriber, I get a small bump in memory. Once you decide to go the Dropbox route, you can do the same.

Other than the extra memory, Dropbox isn't paying for this post. Take a second and check them out. You never know when that important stuff on your PC is at risk.

19 August 2011

100-day repetitive projects

I really like the idea of this project -- 100 Days.

The idea is really simple. For 100 days, pick a design operation and do it every day for 100 days.

The results are astonishing. For example, one woman took pictures, in different poses, with a wooden chair. Others are drawings, or sayings or even dances.

Does this sound like fun? I'm not sure. But some years, up to two dozen students start the assignment. And some years, more than half drop out before the end. Everyone starts with high hopes. But things get repetitive by day ten. By day twenty, no matter what you've decided to do, it feels like you've been doing it forever. And bridging the end-of-year break is always a big challenge. But the students who get past day thirty or forty tend to get in a groove that will take them through to the end.

Writing assignments like NaNoWriMo are like this. So are todo lists, word count goals and other tricks writers use to get their butts in the chair and writing, rather than talking about writing.

Could you write every day for 100 days?

via kottke.

18 August 2011

Bouchercon 2011

Let's just get this out quickly, kind of like ripping off a Band-aid.

The Word Nerds aren't going to Bouchercon in St. Louis.

OK, typing that was harder than I expected. I think it's safe to speak for Stacie here and say we're both bummed. We've been waiting for B-con since 2009 and we'd made preliminary plans for St. Louis, but something was keeping us from finalizing everything which has turned out to be a good thing.

Stacie's got family stuff. Family is important and when there are only a finite number of vacation days from a job, they have to be spent in the most important places. One could argue that hanging out with fellow writers and readers is one of those important things, but really, family should and must take precedence.

As for me? It's all about work. I will have been in a new position for a whole week before I would have had to ask off for vacation time for Bcon. That just didn't feel like a real great way to start in a new position. Thanks for the new office and the raise and oh, by the way, I'm taking days off right out of the chute. That's just not a good plan in any way.

So, we're not going. No free bags of books. No late nights chatting with writer friends. No brilliant moments of insights from panelists. No chance to get signed books for family for Christmas presents (Sorry Dad!)

Not this year.

But hey! 2012 is in Cleveland...

16 August 2011

The Kindle: Is it as sexy as the ad seems?

Have you seen the new ad for a Kindle? The one where two friends are talking about getting a new book from a favorite author, just released?

One of the is going to the book store; the other downloads it onto their Kindle.

I'm a fan of my iPad. I love the portability and the ability to carry as many books as I want with me anywhere.

Yet, I'm also very interested in the industry and what appears to be the inevitable demise of the paper book. I love curling up with a book and fear that my kids won't ever have that pleasure.

The Chicago Tribute ran an opinion piece about the sexiness of the Kindle and the marketing. Take a peek: Time for book publishers to fight dirty.

Another issue the commercial raises is one so obvious that I am shocked I haven't heard it before: Why hasn't America's publishing industry launched an ad campaign as seductive and aggressive as the Kindle's? Not to market front-list titles or authors, but to market the paper book form itself? In other words, sell consumers on the exclusive pleasures and qualities traditional books offer that e-books cannot. That's exactly what Kindle's TV commercials have been doing, saying here's what we can do that regular books can't.
Before you run off to read the full article, take a second to leave a comment. What do you think about the new Kindle ads?

15 August 2011

Book Banter -- Nine Dragons

Title: Nine Dragons (Harry Bosch #15)
Author: Michael Connelly
Genre: mystery
Length: 374 pages
Where Word Nerd's Copy Came From: Indianapolis Marion County Public Library
Plot Basics: Det. Harry Bosch is called out a liquor store robbery that leaves the Chinese-American proprietor dead. Feeling somehow connected to the dead proprietor because of a brief encounter during the LA riots in the 1990s, Bosch vows he will find the man's killer. As his investigation points to the shadowy world of Chinese triads, Bosch also receives disturbing information that his daughter in Hong Kong is in danger because of his investigation. He goes to Hong Kong to find her and puts the lives of those he loves -- and his case -- in jeopardy.

Banter Points: I finally feel like I've "arrived" in this series. Two years ago at Bouchercon 2009, "Nine Dragons" was brand new I was back around book 5 or 6 in the series and this was the title I needed to get to. Nevermind that Connelly has a couple more beyond this one now, I feel like I've made it through the backlist.

And, more to the point, it's been a worthwhile trip. I've been reading the Bosch series (and all of Connelly's backlist) since winter 2009 and I've decided I really like this series. Nine Dragons continues in this grand series of Bosch's life and work unfolding with  problems with his kid and problems with his new partner. This story wouldn't hold very well as a stand-alone, but it's a great addition to the series.

Bosch is/will be one of the iconic detectives of the late 20th/early 21st century. The way we've got continuing TV movies, etc of Holmes, Poirot and Miss Marple, look for Bosch to take his place among the great detective ranks in the future.

Bummer Points: As the series progressed, Harry was a slow adopter of technology, but this book has him mostly proficient with cell phones and doing all sort of videos and things with it. While an old dog can learn new tricks, it felt out of character for Bosch and could have been a more crucial plot point to still have him fumbling.

Word Nerd Recommendation: Do I really have to say that you need to read this series at this point?

11 August 2011

Robot Wars

I'm swiping this from Pbackwriter who got it from somebody else, etc., so the string continues.

Robohash creates a picture of a robot unique from your IP address, or you can paste in some text and it will generate a different one.

Here's the robot created from my IP address (at the office, actually). Friendly, non-threatening sort of robot, I think. Has that Jetsons' housekeeper feel to her.

Then, I tried inputting my name and I got this one:
My instant reaction was something like "YES!" which then had me wondering what in the world this says about me that I prefer that robot with the spiked helmet and the more sinister appearance. I also feel like this robot clearly belongs in a Steve Jackson "Munchkins" game -- maybe it's like the "Duck on your head" card... (Don't know about Munchkins?... oh my friends, go Google it. Right now.)

Then, I put in the name I'm kicking around for a possible nom de plume. And I got this.
This one to me is also awesome. The library hold system recently told me I was "Seven of Nine" for a book and clearly this robot just confirms this identity.

Lastly, I made a robot based on my protagonist.

What I think is interesting is how all these robots have some variation of each other, as if to say they really all are a part of me. My work, me personally, a perhaps alter-ego, and a character. I'm sure it's really just because of the way the generation program works, but I'm going to draw meaning from it anyhow.

09 August 2011

Reading Stats -- May through July

Readings stats must be on a quarterly rotation here.

  • May
    • Books -- 13
    • Pages -- 4,095
  • June
    • Books -- 7
    • Pages -- 5,406
  • July
    • Books -- 5
    • Pages -- 3,605
  • Year to Date
    • Books -- 51
    • Pages -- 22,643
I'm on track to break 100 books this year, a feat not accomplished since 2009. Sometime, I believe I'll set a goal of 200 books a year. I've come close, twice, in 2001 clocking in at 164, and 2007 with 168.

Do you keep a reading list? If so, leave a comment about your greatest accomplishment.

08 August 2011

Book Banter -- Basilisk

Title: Basilisk (Chimera Series #2)
Author: Rob Thurman
Genre: crime/sci-fi
Length: ~250 pages
Where Word Nerd's Copy Came From: Barnes and Noble Nook copy
Plot Basics: Several years have passed since Russian mobster Stefan Korsak rescued his brother Misha from the controlling clutches of the Institute and they've managed to settle into a comfortable life in a small Oregon town. Yet they know the Institute won't give up on getting Misha back and will use whatever they can to accomplish that. When an altercation with a tourist turns sour, Misha and Stefan (and Godzilla the ferret) hit the road to try to dissolve the Institute forever. But to make a stand against the rest of the Institute's Chimera kids, Misha will have to face down the scariest of them all.

Banter Points: This was one series where a POV switch between books really worked. Where "Chimera" was told from Stefan's perspective, "Basilisk" was told from Misha's and his was really the best voice for the story. On the whole, the book was a great action sequence with touching, brotherly moments and a superb ending and/or launching point for another book (if there ever gets to be one).

Bummer Points: Though I saw the book on shelves before its official release day, I waited to buy it after release day and ended up getting hte e-book version. Thanks to Rob's Twitter feed, I knew that there were some problems with the e-book version (no cover image!) and the epilogue out of order... which was a big bummer. As for the book itself, got no complaints.

Word Nerd Recommendation: It's hard to decide which pair of brothers from Thurman I like more -- Cal and Niko or Stefan and Misha. The best solution is just to read both series and see for yourself why it's hard to pick.

05 August 2011

Time Out

I'd like to take a break from the regularly scheduled program of books, words and other nerd-ish writerly things and boast about my 11 year old for a bit.

I try to keep my running accomplishments to my Twitter feed or on Facebook. My own running has lead to my 11 year old wanting to run in a 5k with me. He's my stepson, and as such, he is over at my house on a part-time basis.

He was pretty insistent so I found one that was during the same time we would have him -- last Wednesday.

At this point, he has had minimal training, other than 1 or 1 1/2 mile runs with me. He's done well on those, so his dad and I are not too worried about the 5k (that's 3.1 miles for you.)

He was stoked to be going. Thrilled almost out of his skin. Standing at the front of the line with all of the fast runners.

Me? I'm in the middle of the pack. I'm good with that.

Pretty soon the runners weed out and I spot him. And watch him fall to a walk. About a quarter of a mile in.

At the half mile mark he is ready to give up, but I won't let him. He can see the water station and that keeps him going.

The next mark that keeps him going is the half way point where we loop back by the crowd that's there to cheer us on - including Dad, Grandma and little brother. Can't quit here either.

For the last half of the race, sheer determination and fortitude kept him going; until he caught sight of the finish line about a quarter of a mile away.

He wanted to quit. He sat down and declared himself to be done.

This is the toughest thing that the guy has ever done. And he sees no reason to keep going. After all, the finish line is an impossible distance away and he almost got there. How big of a deal is it to quit now?

However, he had some determined fans who cheered him through. He sprinted to the end and claimed his reward -- a Dilly Bar.

As we drove home, I had to ask, was it worth it?

Totally, was the one word answer.

I hope you can also see the parallel to writing, and have goals, people supporting the journey. Writing has a clear cut finish line too. For most, it is publication. But how many of us collapse, just a quarter of a mile away from the finish line?

04 August 2011


I've got a book and I'm on a jet plane today, so I'm leaving you with some great tweets from Wednesday.

Twitter had a hashtag going on Wednesday for #bookswithalettermissing. The basic premise, take a letter out of the title of a book and re-explain the plot (sometimes, not necessary).

My faves:
Portrait of the Artist as a Young Ma - Stephanie Dedalus studies with the Jesuits, has a baby.
Marley and E Teaching a puppy to recognize vowels 
"Berenstain Ears" The story of a family of auditory organs that live down a sunny dirt road, deep in ear country
The Ale of Genji: Pub crawls in Heian Japan 
Ale of two cities. The history of Guinness and Boddingtons
Mein Kamp - Hitler's (somewhat selfish) account of camping holidays in his youth with his parents 
The Lion, The Itch, and the Wardrobe: An allegorical Jesus lion rubs his nose against a cabinet, all cute like.

The Da Vinci Cod - a novel which claims to uncover a centuries old conspiracy about fish 
The Holy Bile
Ride and Prejudice -- True life stories of minorities pulled over by police
'The Velveteen Rabbi': a religious leader you'll want to snuggle
No Country for Old Me 

There are more... Harry Otter, Caching Fire, Lord of the Rings: Return of the Kin

And my two contributions:
Lice in Wonderland The real reason TweedleDee and TweedleDum are so twitchy
All Quiet on the Western Font A german typesetter deals with emotional toll of his job

If you search the hastag on Twitter, you can read a lot more

02 August 2011

Back to School Shopping

The search for the perfect school supplies has started at my house. I have one in middle school for the first time and one continuing at the elementary level.

Searching for their school supplies makes me a bit nostalgic for getting new pens, paper and markers of my own.

What is it about new pens and loose leaf paper that inspires new words? Or a new stack of index cards that gets me itching to plot again?

My boys are excited about school, but I know it wears off quickly once they are at school, facing tests, teachers and kids who aren't quite as nice as they would like. The crayon smell starts to permeate everything in their desk or locker. The right color marker disappears.

And ubiquitous unsharpened pencils languish at the bottom of lockers.

What's your favorite part about back to school? I'm debating between red pens and a fun folder.

01 August 2011

Book Banter -- Ghost Story

Title: Ghost Story (Dresden Files bk. 13)
Author: Jim Butcher
Genre: urban fantasy
Length: 477 pages
Where Word Nerd's Copy Came From: Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library
Plot Basics: Chicago's only professional wizard, Harry Dresden, can't even die right. After a bullet sends him, dying, into the frigid waters of Lake Michigan, Chicago and the rest of the worlds start to experience a huge power vacuum after the destruction of the Red Court Vampires. Instead of finally getting to rest, Harry is sent back to solve his own murder. But being a ghost, Harry doesn't have access to his magic that he's used for so many years to protect those he cares about and defend his city. And Harry quickly learns that he's not the only ghost on the prowl in the Chicago, meaning that he's got to stay alive (so to speak) one last time to avert disaster for his friends.

Banter Points: I didn't love this book until page 444. Seriously. That's when I sat up, gasping aloud, scaring my cats who'd been snoozing as I read the second half of the book. And suddenly the whole book got oodles better. I didn't not like Ghost Story until then, but I think I'd set the bar impossibly high for Butcher to meet my expectations. And on page 444, he delivered, and then the next 30 pages kept me reading on the edge of my seat.

The whole novel felt a lot more like the early Dresden files, the constant barrage of fight scenes (or maybe that's because I've been working through the early stories again). But, of course, being book 13, it also tied into a lot of the early stories. (Which, to my chagrin, I couldn't remember all the details of....)

It was also nice to see the other characters react to Harry's death. They were drastically affected by the lack of his presence in good and bad ways.

Bummer Points: I think Butcher is close to the line of being self-indulgent with all the sci-fi and comic book references. Harry's a smart mouth -- somethings don't change when he's dead -- but this Ghost Story had too many, especially since the plot sort of hangs on one of them.

The lack of Thomas was also a big bummer. The little chapter with him felt like Butcher was forced to put that in there to satisfy an editor (or his fans), but it's didn't really do it for me. I think I would have rather left Thomas and seen another short Thomas novella like "Backup" about what he's been up to lately.

Word Nerd Recommendation: If you haven't read Dresden Files, what are you waiting for? Everyone I've recommended this series has liked it. You will too.