27 February 2012

Book Banter -- The Enforcers

Title: The Enforcers (ARC)
Author: Joshua Grover David Patterson
Genre: urban fantasy
Length: ~300 pages (ebook ARC)
Where Word Nerd's Copy came from: @Groverdavid (AKA, the author)
Plot Basics: Spoiler Alerts...

Still newly-minted vampire Lucy Leary and her scooby gang (Emma, Wash, Charisma and Alex) are on the run from the Enforcers, the self-policing vampire hit squad. They've successful taken down two vampire baddies, but in this age of the Internet, their escapades are all over YouTube. Of course, the existence of vampires is a secret, and David, the head of the Enforcers, is determined to keep it that way. Lucy continues to wrestle with her new undead identity and how to protect her family. She's got a radical and dangerous idea, but if one domino in a chain of events falls wrong, it could spell her permanent death

Banter Points: This is the final book in Patterson's YA vampire trilogy (Blood Calling, The Misfits, The Enforcers) and it's a fairly satisfying conclusion to what he's set up throughout the books. The story arcs get bigger every time (personal problem, group problem, national problem) which provide nice rising action to make each book build in the series.

Bummer Points: The best book in the group is Blood Calling, but that doesn't mean it's not worth reading this one. The action is great in this one, but I was bummed to see that it didn't push the characters as far as they could have gone personally.

Word Nerd Recommendation: The trilogy is a nice and different entry into the vampire genre. Check out my review of Blood Calling to see why you should pick it up and why it's not the kind of vampire story you expect.

24 February 2012

Book Banter: Dreamfever

Title: Dream fever
Author: Karen Moning
Genre: Fantasty
Length: 512 pages
Where Stacie's Copy Came From: Oshkosh Public Library

Plot Basics: Mac has become what every sidhe-seer fears: pri-ya. Forced into sexual relations with Fae Princes should be enough to kill her. Only Mac survives, with help from Barrons.

Finding and containing the Book continues to be the focus and the obstacles and stakes are higher than ever.

Banter Points: I love how Moning puts her characters through the ringer. She really makes them work for every bit of what they do, what they earn, and what they achieve.

There's a side character in this installation in the series that I love. Dani is a feisty teen who is the sister that Mac wishes she had, that she wishes she could have had.

At the end, there's a massive cliff hanger. One that makes me thankful that the series is complete and I didn't have to wait the 18 or so months inbetween this title and the next!

Bummer Points: This is the second to the last story in the series. As great as it is to see the complexity, I know it's going to end with the next title. And this one went way too fast.

Stacie's Recommendation: Start with the first book, Dark Fever. Leave yourself plenty of time to devour the series quickly.

23 February 2012


Ever wonder what a character in a book really looks like?

Daisy Buchanan, The Great Gatsby
Artist Brian Joseph Davis is using art and criminal sketch software and coming up with "sketches" of famous characters in literature -- as if they were done by a police sketch artist. You can see growing collection of Composites online.

They are eerie, in a way, to see these characters brought to life in this medium.

They look like I think they do, sort of. Maybe it's the starkness of black and white pencil sketches. I think part of it is that none of them are smiling in the sketch and while I think physically, Daisy for example, looks the way she does in my head, I most often picture her grinning in her flighty, rich way.

The project is asking for people to submit other characters and their descriptions for future sketches as well.

If anybody puts one of these sketches in a "six-pack," it will hardly be the line-up of usual suspects at all.

22 February 2012

Author Answers with Stacey Jay

So thrilled to be back with an author interview this week and also super thrilled that our special guest is Stacey Jay.

If you missed it on Monday, I posted a review of her newest book -- Blood on the Bayou -- and I'm going back to catch the first book and get myself fully entrenched as a fan of this series.

Stacey Jay at the Voodoo Museum
But now, Stacey herself taking on some questions about writing, books and loving words.

Word Nerd:  Where did the idea for the Annabelle Lee series come from?

 Jay: When I first started brainstorming this concept three years ago, I was living in Arkansas where the mosquitoes are horrendous. You can barely go outside after sundown without getting swarmed. And, of course, being a horror-leaning writer, swatting bloodsuckers made my story-wheels start turning. The original premise was that mosquitoes were biting fairies and then biting people, therefore infecting people with magic and connecting the Fey and human worlds. I was going to call it the Catching Magic series, and it was going to be a young adult project.

But over time--as I continued to brainstorm character and plot--I decided it would be better if the fairies were the creatures doing the infecting. The story got progressively darker from there, and I decided it would be best for series to be written for adults. That gave me the freedom to explore themes I wasn't comfortable exploring in a young adult book. (At least not at that time.)

Word Nerd: What's different about writing for adults than writing for young adults (other than content?)

Jay: For me I'd say it's all about perspective. As adults we feel things deeply, but I think most of us have a sense of our life as journey, with road reaching out in front and back behind. We have good times and bad, but we know that the place where we are right now is only a small part of the journey, and I think that helps adults remain a bit more grounded. As teens, emotions are so immediate and all-consuming, and a dream deferred for a moment can feel like a lifetime. When I'm writing YA, I really try to connect to that part of being a teenager. The stakes are high, and the players are oftentimes not in control of their own destiny (because they are still legally children) and that can whip up some intense feelings.

But I think all of my characters are "coming of age," even the adults. They're just coming to different ages, growing and changing and learning about themselves as the stories progress. I don't ever want to stop growing and I don't want that for my characters, either.

Word Nerd: On your blog, you mention that you're getting back into ballet. How does a hobby like that inspire you as a writer?

Jay: I think art always feeds art. (Adventure feeds art too. I love adventures.) I can't paint or draw to save my life, but going to a museum always inspires me. It makes the words come easier and energizes my creativity. For me, ballet was my first love. I danced from age three until I became pregnant with my first son at twenty-four. Ballet is the first place where I experienced the way discipline and practice (building technique) can lead to increased freedom and creativity (being able to trust the technique and funnel your entire soul into a performance). Ballet was my drug of choice for a lot of years. The high I get from dancing definitely inspires me. My only problem is getting my butt in the chair when I'd rather be off taking another barre class!

Word Nerd: YA has exploded in the past few years. When you were a teen, what were your favorites?

Jay: I loved scary reads from Stephen King (and R.L. Stein when I was younger). I also loved romance and the classics and poetry and plays.

Word Nerd: What's your favorite word and why?

Jay: Maybe. (It leaves room for possibility and I like possibility.)

Word Nerd: What's next for you as a writer?

Jay: Well, after BLOOD ON THE BAYOU, my next young adult book, ROMEO REDEEMED, will be releasing from Delacorte Press in October of 2012. I'm really excited to get that in the hands of readers and see what they think.

Thank you so much for the interview!

You can find Stacey at her website with all kinds of other good stuff and a list of all her books.

21 February 2012

Book Banter: Shades of Milk and Honey

Title: Shades of Milk and Honey
Author: Mary Robinette Kowal
Genre: Fantasy
Length: 320
Where Stacie's Copy Came From: Oshkosh Public Library

Plot Basics: Jane and Melody are young ladies from a distinguished family without a fortune to attract a suitor. Instead they must rely on their best features; for Melody it is her looks, for Jane, her skills with magic.

Banter Points: The intro sounded like it could have been for a Jane Austen novel until the magic part. The charm of this story is how magic used as a household art. Like an Austen story, the characters are delightful in their own way. Jane is plain, and frets over her nose, but is determined that a suitor should be true and accept her for who she is. Melody is obessessed with looks, and reminds me of one of Austen's flighty characters.

The novel captures the world of Austen well.

Bummer Points: The novel captures the world of Austen well enough.

The characters are very reminiscent of several of Austen's, with minimal originality. The execution was good until the end of the novel when several story lines are dropped instead of answered.

I liked the idea of the novel very much. The closely modeled characters would have been delightful if the execution had carries through the second half of the novel as well as it did in the first.

Instead it felt hurried.

Stacie's Recommendation: Skip it. There's a sequel that I have trouble seeing how it fits in. Maybe start there? It could be a better book.

20 February 2012

Book Banter -- Blood on the Bayou

Title: Blood on the Bayou (Annabelle Lee, bk. 2) (ARC)
Author: Stacey Jay
Genre: Urban fantasy
Length: 413 pages
Where Word Nerd's Copy Came From: ARC from Simon and Schuster
Plot Basics: Hard-drinking Annabelle Lee is barely recovered from her first big encounter with faeries and is called once again with her immunity to their venom and her magic to pursue truths she'd rather leave alone. This time, it's an ex-boyfriend doing the asking. Annabelle knows helping could bring relationship disasters -- especially when the gorgeous and sometimes-invisible-man Tucker keeps popping in and out of her life -- but friends are hard to turn down. But lies, she learns, can run far deeper than the swampy water of the delta...

Banter Points: Work recently sent me to the City by the Bay  for a conference and with a long plane ride ahead of me, I settled in with this ARC. I normally don't like jumping into a sequel, but the characters and the setting was so vivid that it didn't matter. While I missed some references, sure, the story of this book was intriguing on its own to keep me turning pages. Annabelle was a great new entry in the heavily populated world of urban fantasy heroines, her hard-drinking tendencies were a new twist on the girl-not-having-her-life-together trope.

And -- it was a new urban fantasy world! While others have done fairies (I'm thinking Laurell Hamilton's Merry Gentry series here) they were again, the objects of the romance, a human equivalent. But Jay's fairies are scary, swarming things that have had a real impact on the world since they appeared.

Bummer Points: At the beginning (or maybe from the first book), I missed character descriptions, so I spent a good deal of the book wondering what people looked like and then being surprised by the descriptions when they were finally referenced again.

Word Nerd Recommendation: I've gone back to find book 1 (Dead on the Delta) and I'm a fan of this urban fantasy series and pushing it on unsuspecting friends. You've been warned.

Bonus: Check back on Wednesday, when Stacey Jay will be "here" for a Q&A.

17 February 2012

What if Ghosts were Real? -- Guest Post

The Word Nerds are so pleased to introduce today's guest post from Sebastiene Elston about her book, Dead World. The Nerds read early chunks of the book and were enthused about it then and are delighted to showcase the finished product now.

This weekend, Dead World is free in the Amazon Kindle store. And to get you ready, we invited her to share some of how her thinking went to create this book.

What If Ghosts Were Real?
by Sebastiene Elston
Believe me. If someone could prove ghosts were real, it would change everything: how we view death, it would change religions, and it would change how we live each day. Immortality, in some form, would be proven. That knowledge would have a ripple effect that would eventually effect everyone and everything alive today.

Of course, it would be just our luck if it turned out the ghosts wanted to kill the living. Ever silver lining has a cloud, and every book needs a villain.

So, while other movie monsters like vampires and werewolves have had more movies made about them than anyone can count, I’ve never seen a ghost story that was... well, big. I have never seen a novel that dealt with the idea of ghosts on a national scale, which surprises me, because a "ghost" is a villain almost everyone understands.

So, I wrote that novel: Dead World. It’s the first book in the series of the same name. Just one book isn’t enough to contain this idea.

When people ask me what my book is about, I usually say, “It’s a really big ghost story.” They nod, but I know they don’t quite understand. It’s not a huge, doorstop of a book. (It’s a respectable 102,000 words, which is pretty standard.) What makes it big is that it’s about one family trying to survive while the entire country is slowly being killed by ghosts.

And just to be difficult, I didn’t make this novel an urban fantasy, either. The main character, Amber, isn’t gracing the cover wearing a cut-off shirt, carrying a sword/gun/knife/staff/ball of magic. She’s completely normal in every respect, except that she can clearly see the ghosts. That’s it. That’s the closest thing to a superpower she’s going to get.

The response I’ve been getting from readers is has been beyond anything I expected. I’ve had complete strangers writing 5-star reviews. How did that happen?

The good news is that you can get your own copy of Dead World free today at Amazon.com. Yes, the whole thing. Don’t have a Kindle? You can download the Kindle app onto your computer for free and read it there, if you’d like. But you might want to close your curtains, first. And take my sister’s advice. She won’t read it at night.

Apparently, if ghosts were real... it would be kind of scary.

And don't forget, this weekend, you can get your copy of Dead World for free through the Amazon Kindle Store.

16 February 2012

Blog cheating

I'm cheating on Word Nerd, taking up some blogging duties elsewhere.
Through my church, I'm co-curating content for a special blog project for writters and artists in the congregation to reflect on suffering and good things and growth through fiction, visual arts, essays. You name it.

I hope you'll check it out at http://www.injoythebleak.wordpress.com/. It's a project that's currently very important to me.

15 February 2012

Be Here Now

When I was in 7th grade, I had the amazing opportunity to attend a "girl empowerment" seminar with my junior high science teacher. I don't remember hardly anything about the day (it's been a while since 7th grade) but I remember two things.

1. My teacher picked me because she felt I was strong enough to make a difference in the world and she felt that this would help me. (What an amazing thing to hear! I still love that teacher for sharing this with me.)

2. Be here now. Don't wish away what you are doing, or worry about what needs to happen tomorrow. Focus on what you are doing, when you are doing it.

I'm not sure about number one. I don't know that I'm a good judge of what does or does not make a difference in the world. The verdict is out.

But number haunts me. In today's society, with the economy in the tank, it is SO EASY to wish way things:

  • I can't wait until Friday.
  • Isn't it the end of the day yet?
  • I can't wait for Spring/Summer/A Snow Day/Etc.

It's all too easy to fall into this sort of habit. And lately, I've done my fair share of it.

At the seminar, they recommended writing "Be Here Now" on a note card and place it near where you are working. Whenever you get off task, look at the note card.

Be Here Now.

And remind yourself what you are doing, why you are doing it, and stop thinking and worrying about things that are best done later or will arrive when they arrive.

This weekend, I'm going to buy some markers and note cards, and make up "Be Here Now" cards. A couple for me. A few for friends.

But now? I'm off to the next task for today. Not the one for this weekend.

14 February 2012

Happy Valentine's Day!

It's no secret that the Word Nerds are lovers of many things that are not traditionally celebrated on Valentine's Day.

Why not? Let's challenge the system! Embark on a new meaning for Valentine's day! Who really needs three pounds of chocolate, a bottle of wine and bubble bath? (Okay, I'll take it if my husband gives it to me. I'm not too crazy, afterall.)

Instead, I challenge you to think of what you love and match that to the loved one in your life. It could be list of special words, books, authors, significant classics, whatever. The sky's the limit here, folks.

For me, I have two very wonderful boys. This Valentine's Day, I give them the following list of words:
  • Loquacious, for the wonderful stories you love to share.
  • The Gourmet and The Gourmand, for the picky eater and the bottomless pit.
  • Gregarious, for your fondness of people and friends.
  • Ubiquitous, for the state of your Lego creations, video games and movies.
  • Impish, for the way they make me laugh.
The hubby, however gets a list of books that remind me of our life together:
  • The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Universe by Douglas Adams
  • Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
  • Storm Front by Jim Butcher
  • Soulless by Gail Carriger

(okay, it's a little eclectic. but I think it represents. And all of the references will be lost on him. I love him anyway.)

13 February 2012

Can I get that "j" on a triple word?

I've succumbed.

You guessed it. Words with Friends.

I have no less than 7 games going right now with friends spanning both coasts and a nice cluster in the midwest.

The irony of ironies here is that it's my mom that got me started. This is the same mom who looked somewhat upset when she learned that the primary things I use my iPad (which she got me) for was books, games and streaming Netflix and not for work.

She was having some kind of software trouble and turned to an IT guy at her work for help. Said IT happens to mention the game since my mom's got a new iPhone. And then she's mentions it to me because we like playing word games when we get together.

So I downloaded the game too.

I knew a lot of my friends played, but I didn't really know how many. Turns out, most of them. Seriously.

I've been playing games with one of my journalism profs (the one who christened me as a "word nerd"), writer friends, nonprofit friends, pilot friends. I'm not winning all the games; maybe not even a majority of them.

My mom are probably the most competitve, taking tons of time to plot moves that will keep us within points of each other. Right now I've got an 11 point lead on her, but we've got no more letters to draw and by the time this posts, I'm sure we'll be on to another game.

So, wanna play? I'm BKWordNerd.

10 February 2012

Reading in 2011

Reading in 2011 was something that should have been reflected upon at the end of December (ahem...thanks, Bethany, for the lack of public flogging. :) )

Instead, I'll do a bit of it now instead because it was a fun conversation starter for my HRM class last Monday.

Just like Bethany's co-workers reaction to her reading habits, I tend to use the number of books I've read or pages or something like that for my ice breaker in groups. Only those that have been through that activity aren't surprised.

In the HRM class, we had to share one characteristic about ourselves and write in on our name plate. I drew a book and wrote "87; 35,294". Note the proper semicolon usage. We are, after all, Word Nerds with a passion for grammar.

(Any rules not followed were broken with cause. That should be a standard disclaimer here.)

Where was I? Oh, yes, numbers and books.

So one of my group members is suitable impressed while another says, "Oh, no, it gets crazier. Go on, show her."

What he meant was show her the Excel tracking spreadsheet that I use. It has loads of fun facts to those of us who like books. I track pages, titles, author, series name, and category. I've thought about tracking book format too, but haven't quite committed to it yet. What I'd really like to do is create an Access database so I can really get creative with my metrics.

And somewhere in the middle of that paragraph, non-readers stared to have glazed over eyes.

Same with my audience.

In truth, I'm passionate about reading. I like to collect things like number of pages, book titles, authors and series. I like to make up measurements so I can boast that I've read 1,139 titles in the last 11 years, and one month. I love finding people who feel the same way about books.

Or, at minimum, those that will tolerate my passion for it during ice breakers.

2011: 87 books; 35,294 titles, 61 books inside a series; 48 different authors; 409 pages per book (slightly longer than the average mass market paper back, the short one, not the one with the trade paper back height).

In all, a good reading year.

07 February 2012

Book Banter: Afterlight

Title: Afterlife
Author: Elle Jasper
Genre: Fantasy
Length: 336
Where Stacie's Copy Came From: Oshkosh Public Library

Plot Basics: Riley used to be part of the party scene in Savannah. Now she is a successful business owner (Inksomnia) and raising her 15 year old brother, saving him from the life she once lived.

So far she had been successful at that too. Until a prank unleashing an evil that had been entombed by the very people that helped save Riley from her destructive path.

Banter Points: Combining goth and vampires is nothing new. However adding in some Gullah magic and the tattoo world adds some new twists. Riley is the take charge heroine who refuses to be a victim and doesn't let much of anything stop her.

And while she should be a cliche overwritten character, she isn't. I can't quite put my finger on what keeps her from being a cliche. Maybe it is her sassy conversation. Maybe it's her determination to not let anything get to her. Whatever it is, I liked it.

Bummer Points: At what point should Riley have questioned the whole idea of using vampires to keep her brother from becoming a vampire? True, she was trying to wrap her head around the idea that vampires exist. True, she was pretty focused on rescuing her brother, no matter what. But really, what happens to her at the end wasn't really a surprise (no, she doesn't become a vamp. That would be a little too obvious.)

Stacie's Recommendation: Definitely worth the time spent reading it. Book Two is on hold.

06 February 2012

Book Banter -- Joe the Barbarian

Title: Joe the Barbarian
Author: Grant Morrison and Sean Murphy
Genre: graphic novel (deluxe edition)
Length: 246 pages
Where Word Nerd's Copy Came From: IMCPL
Plot Basics: Joe is a loner middle-school student, picked on at school, and always needing to keep a can of soda in reach to keep his hypoglycemia at bay. His father lost in the war, he and his mom are in danger of losing their house. One rainy afternoon, Joe's disease (or is it?) sends him on a wild quest in a magical land where he's lauded as the promised Dying Boy who will save them all.

Banter Points: I found this title through Wowbrary and it's one of the best finds I've had through that service. Combining amazing art and an equally amazing story, Joe the Barbarian is the kind of graphic novel for people who don't think they read "comic books." The idea that Joe's quest may really be low-blood-sugar hallucinations feels like an idea that could get old after a few pages, but Morrison and Murphy make it work for page after page, bringing the reader back to one "reality" and then sending them crashing back into another till it's unclear which is really true.

Bummer Points: The story actually smooths out after the first couple chapters, if you can hang on through some choppy character transitions at the beginning.

Word Nerd Recommendation: I had to quick read this before it was due at the library and then, as I was dropping it in the book drop, I thought Whoever gets this next is one lucky person. Read it.

03 February 2012

A different sort of Writing Contest

One of my favorite writing podcasters is Mur Laferty aka The Mighty Mur. Over on her blog -- I should be Writing -- is a new sort of writing challenge:

Thanks to the movements of Mary Robinette Kowal, February is deemed the Month of Letters. She challenges people to hand write letters every day this month, and has created a site (see above) where people can exchange addresses.

I love this idea. I'm spending a bit of my weekend looking into to it and seeing what sort of letter I can contribute.

In fact, I may take Mur up on her offer and let her know what her podcast means to me.

02 February 2012

Book Banter -- Saint City Sinners

Title: Saint City Sinners (Dante Valentine, bk. 4)
Author: Lilith Saintcrow
Genre: urban fantasy
Length: 362 pages
Where Word Nerd's Copy Came From: IMCPL e-book collection, Kindle version
Plot Basics: Dante Valentine is still on contract with Lucifer himself, but when her old Saint City friend Gabriele Spocarelli calls and is in trouble, Danny drops everything to help her. Only, she's too late, so sets herself on a course of investigation and vengeance for her lost friend. She pushes away Japhrimel -- her Fallen demon -- worried that he is not acting in the same interests she is regarding Lucifer's true plan. But what she finds in investigating for Gabe has the potential to change her whole world.

Banter Points: It's been a while since I read book 3 in this series, so it took me a while to get back into Dante's world. I love, love, love Saintcrow's world building, how Danny tosses around the new names for things and she never really stops to define them as a writer. It can be great fun as a reader to just have to learn the new lingo as you go and hang on and Saintcrow's pacing keeps the books moving like the slicboards Danny favors.

Bummer Points: Dante is rather whiny in this book. Several times (were she real and not infused with demon Power that could allow her to rip my arms off) I sort of wanted to slap her. Also, cliffhanger of the most serious kind.

Word Nerd Recommendation: It's a solid entry in the urban fantasy genre, but not a place where you can just enter into Saintcrow's world. Start at the beginning.