Day 0: Murder & Mayhem, here we come!

The Murder & Mayhem in Muskeego Milwaukee is tomorrow!  The panels sound fabulous and I’m thrilled to be rubbing elbows with some of favorite authors.  If you are there, please introduce yourself!  You won’t be able to tell, but Bethany and I will be quietly geeking out on the inside.

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Book Banter: Horrorstör

horrostorTitle: Horrorstör

Author: Grady Hendrix

Length: 243 pages

Genre: Horror

Plot Basics: At the Cleveland, Ohio, ORSK story (an IKEA-esque furniture store), a group of employees works a special overnight shift to get to the bottom of weird happenings in the store. Furniture is messed up overnight, employees receive strange text messages and with sales down, the management is getting worried — and with good reason. If you’ve ever been startled by the way the shadows from a piece of furniture looks at night, you’ve got nothing on what happens at ORSK.

Banter Points: I have never been to IKEA and thanks to Grady Hendrix’s inventive Horrorstör, I see no need to correct that anytime soon (by soon here, I might mean “ever”). This book is  “House of Leaves” meets “Haunting of Hill House, stuffed into flat-pack furniture that is more like an Iron Maiden when assembled than a futon.

Horror is not my genre but I picked it up because of the format; the book is designed to look like the ORSK product catalog, complete with item descriptions and a mail order form. I’m a sucker for books that don’t appear like regular books.

For reading wildly outside of my preferred genre, I really enjoyed Horrorstör. It had the right amount of action, the right amount of supernatural weirdness and the right amount of characters having to make tough choices.

Also, I grew up not too far from where the fictional ORSK store was set and Hendrix managed to capture the vibe of NE Ohio rather well. There’s is something bleak about that locale that he managed to infuse into the book.

Bummer Points: My primary time for reading is during lunch. It’s horror, so it’s grisly and bloody and not very appetizing. Better at lunch than bedtime, I guess?

Also, I really didn’t like the characters of Trinity and Matt. Halfway through the book, it felt like Hendrix didn’t know what to do with them and so had appropriately horror-story things happen to them, but I think they could have had other interesting things to contribute.

Word Nerd Recommendation: If you like horror, this is a must read. If you want to pick up a spooky read (it is Halloween) that likely won’t give you nightmares (but might make you think twice about big box stores), it’s a good one.

Book Banter: Letters from Skye

Letters from SkyeTitle: Letters from Skye
Author: Jessica Brockmole
Genre: Historical Fiction
Length: 290 pages
Where Stacie’s Copy Came From:  Oshkosh Public Library
Plot Basics: An American pens a letter to a Scottish Poet and begins a tale in 1912 that will conclude in 1940.

Banter Points: This book griped me as soon as I read the first chapter. It had everything I adore: Strong, unusual characters determined to do what is right for them regardless of the conventions that are imposed upon them by time and place.

Fortunately for me, the recommendation to read this book came at a time when I was looking for something thoughtful to read slowly as bedtime reading. Something that would be chapter or two at night and safely put aside for sleeping once done. It was the right time for the right book.

The story is told in letters sent between David Graham and Elspeth Dunn during the first World War and Margaret to her mother, her finance and her uncle during the second World War. In today’s world, no story based on letters would work when emails are flying around the ether. It is part of the charm of the story and the characters that letters like these used to be the norm, rather than the exception. At first, it feel like a device to get the story going, but the feeling quickly dissipates as you realize that the letters are part of what allows the characters to live. It isn’t only the normal character development that you expect in a story, but also the fact that this time and place is essential to allow the story. David and Elspeth are separated by so much more than just an ocean.

Bummer Points: It would have been terribly easy to sit and read this in a couple of hours. At my typical reading speeds, it easily would have been a 90 minute read, if I had let myself. Instead, I forced myself to read slowly, to savor the story and draw out the 290 pages. In the end, I fell victim to the story and race through the last 60 or so pages.

Stacie’s Recommendation: Read it. This is a great one for fans of historical fiction.

Take Two Review: Dead Harvest

deadharvestChris F. Holm’s “Dead Harvest” sat in my Eight-Up list since November 2013 and it took cheating to get it read before Murder and Mayhem in Milwaukee this coming Saturday. (I asked Stacie to pick a number and she asked which number this one was… and picked it.)

Stacie read it back in June and said this about it.

While she liked the way Sam focused on actions, I liked reading his voice. I liked his perception and wry sound that crept in (when he wasn’t running, of course.) He had speech patterns that he used multiple times, but not so close together that it got annoying as a reader, but in a way that showed that no matter whose body Sam had, he was still Sam driving things.

The world-building was there, but never too much at a time. I even referred back to an early scene to see how Holm did things as I was struggling with an introductory scene in my own WIP.

Holm crafted a solid urban fantasy with a skillful mix of understated noir, believable fantasy, and a dash of Whedon-esque panache. There are two more in the series and I can’t wait.

And they say cheaters never win.

No Coffee for Me

Bad news, fellow Introverts.  Horrible, life altering news:  Coffee is bad for us.coffee-heart

According to a new book by psychologist Brian R. Little, entitled ME, MYSELF, AND US:  The Science of Personality and the Art of Well-Being, introverts, like yours truly, are negatively impacted by the effects of caffeine:

After ingesting about two cups of coffee, extroverts carry out tasks more efficiently, whereas introverts perform less well. This deficit is magnified if the task they are engaging in is quantitative and if it is done under time pressure.

For an introvert, an innocent couple cups of coffee before a meeting may prove challenging, particularly if the purpose of the meeting is a rapid-fire discussion of budget projections, data analysis, or similar quantitative concerns. In the same meeting, an extroverted colleague is likely to benefit from a caffeine kick.

It’s bad enough that society and work favors Extroverts as do schools.  Now my coffee addiction is bad for me?  Say it ain’t so!

dataPersonally, I do my best thinking work in the morning.  I’m the type of person that needs lots and lots of data before making a decision.  If I don’t have enough information to build connections that make sense to me, I’m most likely going to keep thinking and not answer.  I gather lots of data and then the answer sort of magically appears.  Coffee is part of my mornings.  Coffee is part of my process.  I need coffee to get to the answers, people!

I have to now think about if my brain is different than those in the study or if I could do a better job without coffee.  And how much causation and correlation I want to apply.

National Friends of the Library week

The Word Nerds are unabashed library lovers.

I became a Friend of the Library here in Indianapolis in 2011 because I used their services heavily and had ever since I moved here. For a time, the Library was my access to the internet and source of entertainment.

I’m still a Friend of the Library even as I work for the Library Foundation. We have hundreds of people across the community who are also Friends and to them I say a giant THANK YOU.

We’re not the only library/library foundation with Friends and so to everyone who is a Friend of the Library in whatever library system you claim as yours, thanks. You really make a difference for your library.

If you, like the Word Nerds, benefit from the services your library offers, I’d encourage you to become a Friend of your library system.

Counting down to Murder and Mayhem

murder

Not that the Word Nerds are excited or anything.

If you’re a mystery fan and are anywhere within reasonable driving distance of Milwaukee, you should come check out Murder and Mayhem in Milwaukee.

The day is full of panels from great authors to inspire readers and aspiring writers. The Word Nerds also look forward to this weekend because it’s our annual get-together since we blog from different states.

Registrations are still accepted; will we see you there?

Make it Happen

Make it HappenThe most important thing a writer — any writer — has to do is writing.  It sounds simple and underrated, but is probably the easiest to be distracted from.  Life gets in the way.  So does the day job.  Kids, family, commitments.  The wrong pen.  The wrong computer / tablet / gadget.  The file is missing.  The file doesn’t work.  The formatting is wrong.

What ever the excuse, recognize it for what it is:  It is an excuse.

Instead, get back to it.  Write.

Story Shots has twenty-two tips listed based on experience from writing for Pixar.  I skimmed it down to the five that I most needed to hear:

#1: You admire a character for trying more than for their successes.
#6: What is your character good at, comfortable with? Throw the polar opposite at them. Challenge them. How do they deal?
#7: Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Seriously. Endings are hard, get yours working up front.
#13: Give your characters opinions. Passive/malleable might seem likable to you as you write, but it’s poison to the audience.
#19: Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it are cheating.

What is keeping you from writing?  How are you going to stop it from winning?

Book Banter: The Rook

TheRook-coverTitle: The Rook

Author: Daniel O’Malley

Genre: fiction

Length: 482 pages

Where Bethany’s Copy Came From: The Indianapolis Public Library

Plot Basics: Myfanwy Thomas is a bureaucrat in a top-secret, supernaturally-laden government agency, only she doesn’t remember anything about it — or herself — after she’s suddenly in the rain surrounded by dead men. She can’t walk away from her past, even though she can’t recall it, and finds herself unraveling treason and conspiracies even as she tries to figure out her own personality. As the book cover says, it’s part “Bourne Identity” meets “X-Men.”

Banter Points: A librarian friend recommended this one to me multiple times and I finally got to it on my TBR list. I will say now that I wish I’d listened to her sooner. This is ANOTHER top ten book contender for this year; ok, who am I kidding, it will be in the top 10 list.

This book is surprisingly comic, even as it really is about a bureaucrat. Myfanwy is has a great voice as a character and the past and present intertwine in fun ways to build the plot.

Myfanwy has a huge supporting cast of characters, and, one of the things that I thought was interesting was that O’Malley chose her as the main character. There are plenty of others who other writers might have made the featured character (which of course would have changed the whole book) but she is likely the most readable character. I’m excited that this is the first book in a series too.

Bummer Points: There is a lot of exposition in this book. It makes sense, but there are occasionally sections where it gets a bit much.

Word Nerd Recommendation: This is a new “pusher” book for me. I’ve got one friend reading it and I’m trying to interest others as well.

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