Reporting for Duty

The Word Nerds must report today that General Grammar has been called into new duties and is currently in a undisclosedGENERAL GRAMMAR icon location.

We tried to convince the General to continue blogging and that we would, in fact, accept the text for future posts delivered by unmanned drone, but the General has declined such an option.

We salute you, General, for the grammar lessons you provided. Best of luck in your current mission.

Sleeping Problems

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What sort of sleeping problems have you had recently?

Personally, I’m juggling a couple of great characters: Harry Dresden, Harry Bosch and Mickey Haller. If the stories aren’t keeping me awake, the dreams are. Nothing specific, just odd dreams with loads of running and chasing.

What’s keeping you up at night?

Book Banter Double Edition: Play Dead & Stay Dead

play deadTitles: Play Dead & Stay Dead

Author: Anne Frasier

Genre: Supernatural mystery

Length: ~300 pages each

Where Bethany’s copies came from: Play Dead — Indianapolis Public Library; Stay Dead — ARC from Anne Frasier

stay deadPlot Basics: Elise Sandburg is a detective in Savannah and the daughter of legendary root doctor Jackson Sweet. But when she was abandoned as a child, she turned away from her hoodoo heritage. Now, in two separate cases, Elise’s past is threatening to engulf her, forcing her to look at who she is and what she thinks she owes the city of Savannah and how to save herself and her mysterious partner, David Gould.

Banter Points: I tore through these two books, back to back, in about four days. For about 30 seconds after finishing “Play Dead” I considered reading something in between them and then dismissed that for the silly idea it was.

It’s hard to define what makes a book “unput-down-able,” but the more I’m a reader, the more I’m convinced that it’s about the reader. These two books pushed all the right buttons for me. Both of the main characters, Elise and David, are haunted by their pasts and have baggage that absolutely affects how they look at the world and their work. Elise’s heritage in Savannah’s mystical legends of root doctors and spells fuels her skepticism. David’s tragic family losses make him vulnerable for belief in those things. Their character flaws were essential to the plots as well. They were poised as characters to be able to deal with the plot, but at personal cost.

Also, in addition to having good characters, the plots moved along well. Both were built around people who should be dead not being dead, tapping into Elise’s family history of hoodoo. The books had a bit of that X-Files quality to them of good police work on top of cases that didn’t make any sense. I loved the blend of the mystery with the supernatural.

Bummer Points: Play Dead included the (for me) loathed killer-POV chapters, but Stay Dead did not (yay!) Some of the minor characters read a little flat to me (like the police major and the crime scene investigators) but they served their functions in the story.

Word Nerd Recommendation: Stay Dead releases on April 22 (according to Amazon) which should give you enough time to read Play Dead while you wait for it.

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Reading Stats: Quarter 1

The final calculations have been run and the analysis is complete.  Here’s my reading so far in 2014:

  • Books Read:  33
  • Page Count:  13,753
  • Projected Books Read:  135
  • Projected Page Count:  58,364

I didn’t cross the 500,000 mark, but man, am I close:  497,830 pages.  I’ll cross it in  April for sure!tumblr_mra5whabLU1rsjsbbo1_500

April is traditionally a light reading month for me.  I average seven books during April with the other months at an eight to nine book average.  February is the lowest month, with a six book average.

I fully realize that topping 100 books in a year is a great accomplishment but I really feel like I should be able to top 200 books at some point.  And then all sorts of anxiety kicks in.   Just like it does when I think about my TBR.

 

Audiobooks aren’t ear movies

Earlier this week, I ended up in an online discussion about audiobooks and the following comment was made:

i’m trying to accept that it’s a totally different thing, but it’s hard because it does go against what i think of as the reading experience. readers do make the story their own. but audio books are, i guess, more like a movie where the reader is presented a specific interpretation of the story. i think just straight reading leaves the story open to reader involvement, but that style is def not popular.

In the past couple years, I have become an audiobook fan. I’ve blogged about my journey into this form before, but in this discussion, I found myself seemingly having the singular position that audiobooks don’t cheapen the writer’s work. (The discussion was mostly with authors and/or aspiring authors).

The discussion was on the difference of “straight reading” versus voice-acting by the narrators.

audiobooksI will come out in favor of voice-acting 95% of the time, mostly because it helps me keep track of who’s speaking. When I read, I realize I take in a whole line at a time, often absorbing the dialogue tag with the dialogue almost at the same time.

On an audiobook, it’s slower and the different voices help me keep track, especially while driving  (since I listen in my car.) Voice acting isn’t a movie, it’s just the way of telling the story since the visual cues aren’t there.

I actually use audiobooks as a way to “reread”  a lot of books. What I’m finding is that the audiobook version doesn’t detract from my initial love of a book. It enhances it. I’ve reread the Jasper Fforde Thursday Next books and laughed aloud, alone, in my car. I’ve reread all of Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files and ended up shouting at Harry, alone, in my car, at the same places that I did when I read them in print at home. I find plot threads more vivid than I did the first time through.

They are not, however, ear movies.

The audiobooks that have annoyed me the most have included sound effects. Sound effects. No, there’s no need. The text says “the door opened with a squeak”, or that “blaster fire erupted down the hallway.” I don’t need the noise.

Audiobooks also don’t lock me into a character image the way a movie version does (maybe this mean I believe what I see more than what I hear?). For example, as much as I love the Lord of the Rings/Hobbit movies, I can’t approach the books now without seeing those actors. Gandalf is Ian McKellan now (or maybe I mean that the other way around.)

But on audiobooks, James Marsters isn’t Harry Dresden and Scott Brick isn’t Jason Bourne or Paul Atreides or Captain Alatriste and Simon Vance isn’t Paul Atreides or Captain Alatriste either (interesting switch in readers that). They are giving voice to characters who are deep and rich and because of the order that the author put the words on the page in the first place. I don’t truck with abridged audiobooks; that is too much like a movie. The author meant all those words to be read, so whether on the page or a CD, I want to have them all.

The online discussion implied that audiobooks took things away from the reader.  An audiobook reader decides where to put the inflection on a word or in a sentence. So do people who read the paper copies, the only difference being the author doesn’t hear it. Maybe the author didn’t mean it that way and maybe the print reader wouldn’t have done it that way. But not having it, having just a flat voice? I’d tune it out with Charlie Brown teacher effects.

I’m sure it’s a surreal experience to be an author and have an audiobook version of your work.

But, to me, listening to audiobooks taps into something cherished, the telling of stories to each other. It’s the adult version of being read to by a parent or a teacher. It’s a voice that we trust to lead us through a world and all the emotions with it. I find that sentences resonate sometimes in an audiobook in ways they do not in the print version.

For me, audiobooks enhance the print version.

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Author Answers with Alex Segura

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The Word Nerds met Alex Segura at Murder and Mayhem in Muskego and we’re glad to have him as our guest this week with a great Q&A. His first book, SILENT CITY, released late in 2013 and he’s here today to talk writing.

WN: Where did the idea for SILENT CITY originate?

SEGURA: It started out as more of a desire for a kind of book that then merged with my own belief that I could write a book. I’d always written stories – poems, short stories, comics, you name it. But I was bad at finishing my work, easily distracted and also trying to pursue a career that, while related to writing, took up a lot of time. When I moved to NY I rediscovered crime fiction and realized it really spoke to me. I read the classics – Chandler, Jim Thompson, MacDonald and more. I loved them. But it wasn’t until I got my hands on George Pelecanos’ A Firing Offense that it all kind of fell into place. The protagonist of Pelecanos’ first three novels, Nick Stefanos, wasn’t a polished detective that drank bourbon and had an office in a swank part of LA. He was a screw-up working in an electronics store that got high with his coworkers, drank too much and had no idea what he was doing. It inspired me and showed me that crime fiction was not only more than what I’d read, but it could be pretty much anything. Crime as a genre is almost unlimited. You can do social commentary, historical fiction, more light-hearted stuff – it’s wonderful. So, along with that realization, I also got it into my head that I could write my own novel. So I asked myself, what kind of book would I want to read? Is there a kind of book that I don’t see out there that I’d enjoy? And I instantly gravitated to writing about Miami, my hometown, and about this character that had shown up sporadically in my early attempts at fiction. The names were different, but he was around my age, a bit of a failure, definitely a drunk and while smart, not really at his best. This guys eventually became Pete. So once I merged my desire to write a crime novel – after some fits and starts, including an ill-advised Cuban mafia family saga – with the character that would eventually become Pete, I had the ingredients for Silent City. The first scene I ever wrote, which stayed pretty much the same until it was published, was the first chapter where we meet Pete, hungover and regretting something he did the night before. That was the best way, I thought, to bring readers into Pete’s world. By showing what his day-to-day had really become.

WN:  How is Pete Fernandez like you and how is he different?

SEGURA: We’re both from Miami. We’re both of Cuban descent. I think we’re around the same age. Like Pete, I have a lot of friends I’ve known for a decade or more. That’s kind of where the similarities end. Oh, and he has great taste in music! I think he went down a darker path than I did, life-wise. He’s obviously experienced things I never hope to in terms of violence and loss. He’s much more daring than I am in real life. He’s also more prone to making rash (i.e. dumb) decisions than me. When piecing Pete together, I really wanted to create a character I could see myself hanging out with in college – someone I could see myself knowing. I hope I succeeded.

WN: You work in publicity for Archie Comics. How did that work help you become a novelist?

SEGURA: I’ve worked in comics for about a decade now, which is weird to say. First in the press as a reporter and editor, then as a publicist. I think journalism and publicity are wonderful training grounds for writing. It teaches you to be succinct, focused and thoughtful with your words. You meet a lot of creative people and I always find that energizing, and you’re writing all the time. So, the idea of cranking out thousands of words for a novel didn’t seem as ominous as I think it does to someone in another field. Comics are a visual medium, and that really helped me think of Silent City in terms of what the camera sees, and how it’d look on a screen, panel or in someone’s head. I tried to be mindful of being overly-descriptive, and a lot of that comes from comics – having written a few myself – where you have to leave some room for the artist to interpret your words. You can’t detail or explain everything because that takes some of the fun out of it.

The comic book industry is a vibrant place and I’m really grateful to be in it. I’ve made many great friends and it’s a constant source of inspiration for me.

WN: What’s your favorite word and why?

SEGURA: This is going to be extremely cheesy, but “Thanks” is probably my favorite word. When used properly! I feel like I have a lot to be thankful for, and I am constantly trying to remind myself of that. I also think if you take a minute to remember the good stuff, it makes whatever’s annoying you in the moment seem fairly trivial.

WN: What’s next for you as a writer?

SEGURA: Well, I’m revising the second Pete Fernandez book, DOWN THE DARKEST STREET. Hopeful that will see the light of day soon. I’m contributing to a science fiction short story anthology titled APOLLO’S DAUGHTERS with my co-writer and dear friend Justin Aclin. I’ve got a few irons in the fire in terms of comics. I’m also in a band, so we’re always trying to write new songs.

WN: What book(s) have captured your attention lately?

SEGURA: I absolutely loved Kelly Braffet’s Save Yourself. I read it in a few days. One of my favorite books of 2013. The characters were so well-defined, the themes really strong. I wanted to meet these people, even though they were mostly frightening and damaged. The best books make you jealous as a writer. Steve Weddle’s Country Hardball was also a recent favorite. It’s a “novel-in-stories” and paints a bleak picture of a town during the recession, with one main character as the thru-line for the whole thing. Reminded me of early Woodrell. I read Alissa Nutting’s Tampa a few months ago and thought it was a really daring and powerful read, and I really admired how unafraid as a writer she was to just go for the jugular with her story. While on vacation over the holidays I read most of Reed Farrel Coleman‘s Moe Prager books, which are really a master’s-level course in PI fiction. No one does it better than Reed.

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INTJ Might Win the Lottery!

There’s been some really big lottery winners lately, including the Georgia woman who won $648 million.  It is the basis for a favorite game of mine and the hubby:  What would you do if you won the lottery?

Pinky-and-the-BrainAs it turns out, I’m not the first INTJ to contemplate or plan out my life, should this event occur.  Reddit has a forum post where several INTJs weigh in.  My personal favorite is from comes_and_goes:  The same thing we do every night, Pinky. Try to take over the world!

In typical INTJ fashion, the Brain isn’t easily deterred from his plans to try and take over the world.  He has a plan for every night.  His persistence is part of what I love about the Brain.  (The other thing I love is that the theme song says that one is a genius and the other’s insane.  It doesn’t, however, specify who is which.)

The Mastermind is clearly where the INTJ thrives in life, planning and plotting ways to achieve their plans.  INTJs usually have several plans to achieve their goals, and are flexible enough to switch to another one, should circumstances cause for a deviation.

Some of the brilliance of an INTJ comes from the self-awareness that we possess.  According to a profile by David Keirsey:

INTJs are the most self-confident of all types, having “self-power” awareness. Found in about 1 percent of the general population, the INTJs live in an introspective reality, focusing on possibilities, using thinking in the form of empirical logic, and preferring that events and people serve some positive use. Decisions come naturally to INTJs’ once a decision is made, INTJs are at rest. INTJs look to the future rather than the past, and a word which captures the essence of INTJs is builder-a builder of systems and the applier of theoretical models.

If you think about it, the Brain shows this.  His goal is to “Try to take over the World” not “Take over the World.”  In my book, he achieves that.  Win!

The likelihood of my actually winning the lottery is pretty slim.  But I do have a plan that I would follow.  And the hubby is willing to let me plot even if he won’t let me actually call the financial planner.

 

 

Shakespeare Star Wars

I’ve been reading “The Empire Striketh Back,” the sequel to “Verily, A New Hope” and thinking just how hilarious it would be to have these actually staged as plays.

I’m sure some high school kids or college students have done/are doing that. But I want to see it done with a real cast of people who know how to do Shakespeare.

I took this idea to a friend of mine, who is not only a Star Wars fan but an appreciator of Shakespeare, and together, we have assembled our dream cast. We set some rules about who was available for consideration:  the actor/actress must be alive, have legit Shakespeare experience and/or significant acting chops that would lead us to believe they could handle the part, and must not be part of the original movies, even if they are still alive and fit the other criteria.

Our dream cast for the Shakespeare Star Wars, to be directed by Kenneth Branaugh:

(in order of appearance, as best as I can do from memory):

C-3P0: David Tennantbw tennant

R2-D2: voiced by Martin Freeman

Darth Vader: Laurence Fishburne

Princess Leia: Natalie Dormer

Mof Tarkin: Alan Rickman

Uncle Owen: Hugh Bonnevillenatalie

Luke Skywalker: James McAvoy

Aunt Beru: Penelope Wilton

Obi-Wan Kenobi: Ben Kingsley

Han Solo: Richard Armitagemcavoy

Greedo: Brad Dourif

Chewbacca: Christopher Eccleston

Mon Mothma: Judi Dench

Biggs Darklighter: Rufus Sewell

Wedge Antilles: Tom Hiddlestonarmitage

General Rieekan: Peter Cayote

General Veers: Jeremy Irons

Admiral Piett: Jonathan Pryce

Yoda: Sir Patrick Stewart

Emperor Palpatine: Sir Ian McKellanhiddleston

Lando Calrissian: Denzel Washington

Boba Fett: Jonathan Rhys-Myers

Jabba the Hutt: Derek Jacobi

Admiral Ackbar: Brian Blessed

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Veronica Mars: The Movie

In March 2013, I posted that Kickstarter Saved the Day! because it provided the funding for concluding Veronica Mars, based on the crowd-sourced funding model.  A mere year later, the movie appeared in theaters, albeit not one close to me. Instead, hubby and I watched it after purchase.

Wow.

CaptureTime as passed, and the movie opens with Veronica applying for a serious job – as a lawyer. She has to justify some of her past behaviors and exploits (ahem, the sex tape) as part of the interview. It was a great way to show us that she is a grown-up and has moved beyond all of it.

Or has she?

During the opening scene, she gets a text from Wallace who is trying to tempt her back to Neptune for their 10 year high school reunion. And so it begins, Veronica is pulled back to Neptune and her former life. It was a great introduction – although it isn’t Wallace that gets her to agree to it.

LoganOne of the cool things about the grown-up version of Veronica Mars is that she is like someone that you grew up with. You know her, love her, and understand why she still makes THAT mistake. Of course, the mistake involves Logan Echols and, let’s be honest, there are several women willing to make a mistake for him. Ahem.

The movie isn’t so much a movie as it is a really long episode of Veronica Mars. Sort of like the BBC Sherlock’s aren’t a movie, but they really aren’t the length of a television show either. I liked the format, unlike this Wired contributor. And while it’s true several of the former cast members had some bit parts that may not have been imperative to the movie, I was delighted to see them in it. Speaking as a fan, I loved the movie. As a critic? Yeah, that’s not the point. The point was to delight fans.

This fan is delighted.

 

*photos from IMDB.com

2014 Q1 Reading Stats

March is over and with it Q1, so here are my reading stats for the year.

29 books (including 5 graphic novels and 4 audio books)

7149 pages read

I set my Goodreads goals at 85 books for the year, and it’s telling me I’m 9 books ahead of pace.

I signed up for #Read26Indy, a local initiative to try to get more people to read more books (one, every two weeks). According to that, I’m on book 24. I’m not counting audio books for that project (but I am graphic novels) and, I’ve left off a few brain candy books. Maybe that’s silly, but it’s my list.

In total, I’m 6 books ahead of where I was at this time last year. Last January, I was in the middle of changing jobs and there was not a massive snow/polar vortex that shut down the Midwest for two days, followed by an illness either. If this pace continues, I’ll finish the year with 110+ on my list.

Another stat milestone that I’m going to cross will be 250,000 total pages read. I started tracking pages in December 2005 when I started doing Word Nerd reviews. I’m currently at 243,628 pages; I should hit 250,000 in late May or early June.

Happy Reading!

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