Friday Fun

Not only is this Friday, but it is also the start of a long weekend!  Motivation can be tough to come by today, so here’s a few websites that will keep you looking busy:

Piccasso Head: Create your own cubist view of coworkers!  For the daring, replace org chart pictures with your creations.

UnWrong – Fractal Explorations:  Fractals are based on math.  Math is important for budgets.  Ergo, fractals are related to the budget review you are prepping for the next quarter (It’s practically a new fiscal month, right?)

Endless Interestingness:  You’ve got a powerpoint you need to work on right?  This is perfect for finding the right image, completely randomly.

Secrets of Nicotine:  Okay, I can’t figure out how this one relates to work.  But it is fun.  Maybe stress relief?

The Onion:  How can you resist this site?  4 Copy Editors Killed In Ongoing AP Style, Chicago Manual Gang Violence

Best wishes in finding an interesting diversion.  Send us yours in the comments.

Book Banter: The Silkworm

thesilkwormTitle: The Silkworm (Cormoran Strike #2)

Author: Robert Galbraith

Genre: Mystery

Length: 455 pages

Plots Basics: Private detective Cormoran Strike is hired by a woman to find her missing husband, novelist Owen Quine. Quine has disappeared before, when working, or practicing infidelity. But as Strike tries to retrace Quine’s last known steps, he realizes that plenty of suspects exist who might have wanted to do the writer harms. Quine has completed a nasty novel, thinly disguising the literary world and exposing their dark secrets. When Strike finds a body, he knows their is a truly ruthless killer on the loose and he and his assistant Robin are the only ones who can prove it. 

Banter Points: Move over Harry Potter. For those of you who may have forgotten, Galbraith is the pseudonym for J.K. Rowling and with The Silkworm, she’s proved again that she can write more than just the boy wizard. The Silkworm is better than her first Galbraith book, partly because we know Strike now and his bluntness and his limping and partly because the plot is that good. Cormoran and Robin are great characters and seeing their working relationship evolve over the course of this story was great. 

I loved that that book was set in the literary milieu as well. I’ve been lucky that the communities of writers I’ve been around have been friendly and welcoming, but this line still rang really true: 

Writers are a savage breed, Mr. Strike. If you want lifelong friendship and selfless camaraderie, join the army and learn to kill. If you want a lifetime of temporary alliances with peers who will glory in your every failure, write novels.

Bummer Points: The book is very British, though less so than Cuckoo’s Calling. Still, I did have to look up a couple bits of British slang to make sure I hadn’t missed anything important. A biro is a pen, for those who wonder, after László Bíró, the inventor of the modern ballpoint pen. 

Word Nerd Recommendation: If you were one of the (many) people who couldn’t get through Rowling’s “The Casual Vacancy,” you might want to give her Galbraith books a try. They aren’t as crass but they are for adults with some language and content, but they have plots that are top-notch and entertaining. 

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Author Answers with Jaime Lee Moyer

deliacoverThe Word Nerds are pretty sure that Jaime Lee Moyer sounds like our kind of a person… a TBR pile close to toppling over and author of historical, ghost stories.  She’s the author of “Delia’s Shadow” and the recent, “A Barricade in Hell” and we’re happy to have her as our guest today!
WN:  What kind of reader is going to like “Delia’s Shadow” and “A Barricade in Hell?”
MOYER: I’m probably the worst person to answer this question. These books are my babies, and in a perfect world everyone would love them. My hope is that people who love spooky stories, ghosts doing ghostly things, women characters being front and center solving the mysteries, and  dealing with the danger, will love these books. Readers who like a touch of romance and adult love stories will like these books as well.The murder mysteries appeal to mystery readers,  although I have to caution that these are not nice, neat cozy mystery murders. My killers don’t play nice.
WN: What was your research process like to create a historical San Francisco for your books?
MOYER: I spent most of my adult life in the San Francisco Bay area. The history of the area surrounds you.
I still spent hours, months, reading contemporary accounts of the 1906 earthquake and fire, the history of San Francisco landmarks, and current events. Hours more were spent going through Library of Congress online picture archives. They have digitized tens of thousands of news photographs from the 1910s, and a huge number of those have links to the accompanying newspaper articles.
Those photos gave me insight into how real people dressed, how they lived, and what was important to people living between 1915-1919.  That news archive was an invaluable resource.
All that research gave me a backdrop for my characters to live their lives against. The characters were the story, not the history.
WN:  How was writing “A Barricade in Hell” harder or easier than writing “Delia’s Shadow?”
MOYER: I wrote Delia’s Shadow on a lark, not caring about anything but writing a book I wanted to write, having fun doing so, and spending time with characters I loved. There wasn’t any pressure or any expectations to meet.
That all changed when I got to the second book. I felt so, so much pressure, and a real responsibility, to make the second book better than the first. I didn’t want A Barricade In Hell to be my “sophomore slump” book.I have to admit that just about all of that pressure was self-inflicted, and it made writing Barricade much harder. It’s taken more than a year, and finishing the third book in the series, to realize that I tied myself in knots trying to write the “perfect” book.No book is ever perfect, but setting myself an impossible task didn’t stop me from trying. I am the poster child for overachievers.
WN: You also write poetry and have been a poetry editor. How does that help you in writing fiction?
MOYER: Poetry taught me so much. I learned to pay attention to how words play off each other, how one word flows into the next and builds an image, or builds emotion and expectation. All of that controls the flow and the rhythm of sentences, which in turn, control the pacing of the story you’re telling.
You’d never know it reading these answers, but poetry taught me economy of language; to say more with less. Sentence level writing is as important as plot.
WN: What books have captured your attention lately?
MOYER: Oh wow, what books haven’t gotten my attention lately? My TBR pile keeps growing and the list of books that look intriguing is probably ten times longer.
Beth Cato has a book coming out in September, The Clockwork Dagger, that looks amazing. The first book–which is pending a title change–in Fran Wilde’s Bone City trilogy is coming out next year. Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear, Jodi Meadow’s Orphan Queen, new books by Rae Carson, Amanda Downum, Kate Elliot, Kameron Hurley–I could go on. So many books and so little time.
WN: What’s next for you as a writer?
MOYER: The third Gabe and Delia book, Against A Brightening Sky, comes out in 2015. I don’t have a date for that yet, but it’s done, turned in, and in production. I’m working on a new book called A Parliament Of Queens, with new characters, set in an art  deco world full of magic, airships and alchemy. I haven’t sold it yet, but where there’s words, there’s hope.

Dictionaries from Yesterday

6638866I’m not the only one questioning dictionaries.  In fact, this author states that more interesting slang should be brought back into common usage:

I recently picked up a copy of the Dictionary of American Slang (1967), and I can’t put it down. Here are some of the words and phrases I’ll be awkwardly shoehorning into conversation.

If the next time you are ording breakfast and a zib at a near table disrupts your cluck and grunt, you’ll be able to continue the conversation about the butter and egg man that you ran into the night before.  With luck the zib isn’t the butter and egg man.  And neither of you will suffer from the zings. has a whole section on slang:

Keeping track of slang and colloquialisms can seem fruitless, but McGraw-Hill’s Dictionary of American Slang and Colloquial Expressions can practically do the work for you. Individual entries cover words from street culture and Internet expressions, as well as older terms. Browsing these colorful and varied terms is both useful and often surprising.

Just reading through the list is fun.  It makes me realize how our current language lacks creativity, especially our swearing.  It’s boiled down to the seven words you can’t say on television or Valley girl speak.

The more I dig into this subject, the more I believe that dictionaries have a place in our world.  They might not be the ones publishers are printing today, but the ones found in thrift shops or in the back of your grandparents’ bookcase.


Book Banter: Worth Dying For

worth dyingTitle: Worth Dying For (Reacher #15)

Author: Lee Child

Genre: Thriller

Length: 384 pages

Plot Basics: Jack Reacher is on the move again and finds himself at a crossroads in Nebraska. A local family company has the town under its thumb, keeping quiet about smuggling operation they’ve got going on and extorting silence from the residents through pain and violence. Reacher make enemies fast and when he digs up an old case, he decides that the ruling family has to pay for the wrong they’ve done.

Banter Points: In 15 books, I’m trying to figure out if this is the first Reacher book where he doesn’t sleep with someone. It’s so out of character for him.

Bummer Points: Reacher and I have hit a rocky patch. I didn’t like #14 (61 Hours) very well either, and Worth Dying For was worse. I know Reacher has this sense of justice and putting things right, but really, this scenario felt really contrived. I was with a friend for a weekend trip and we had about ten minutes to spend reading in our hotel room. I told her, “let me get through these pages. Reacher will beat someone up.” I was right but in a way, I think, it’s a signal that in the last two, Child has let Reacher become too formulaic. Reacher has always been somewhat formulaic. I know he’s going to mete out violence on people in dramatic ways at the end of the book. This one was a string of people getting beaten up and shot without anything compelling to hold it together.

Word Nerd Recommendation: I’m going to keep reading, mostly because I want him to get to Virginia and meet Susan and see what happens when he’s back in civilization.


Do you need a dictionary?

dictionary_0In today’s world, is a dictionary necessary?  It’s easy to look-up the definition of any word just by Googling for it.  If you are reading, ereaders have functionality to pull the definitions without even having to go to the web.

Can it be something more?

According to John McPhee, it should be.

Suppose you sense an opportunity beyond the word “intention.” You read the dictionary’s thesaurian list of synonyms: “intention, intent, purpose, design, aim, end, object, objective, goal.” But the dictionary doesn’t let it go at that. It goes on to tell you the differences all the way down the line — how each listed word differs from all the others. Some dictionaries keep themselves trim by just listing synonyms and not going on to make distinctions. You want the first kind, in which you are not just getting a list of words; you are being told the differences in their hues, as if you were looking at the stripes in an awning, each of a subtly different green.

I was told to avoid this in college.  That exchanging one word for another was not the way to write well.  But the way that McPhee takes a word like “sport” and ends up with “a diversion of field” and makes the prose better, well, this is a skill that I hadn’t heard of or seen before.

It got me thinking too.  What happens when you look up a word that you already know the meaning to?  Not necessarily the exotic words that I love to use when feeling like using $50.00 words,  but words that I know and use without thinking about it.  And can I find interesting substitutes like McPhee did?

So, let’s try substitute:

  1. to put or use (someone or something) in place of someone or something else
  2. to do the job of someone else or serve the function of something else
  3. to replace (one person or thing) with another

Even thinking about finding a word that does the job for another word, sounds better than finding a substitute for that word.  McPhee is on to something.  It’s not a one for one exchange, but rather a way of making something new and interesting.  A way to add and expand writing and add to the meaning of the words.

I’m not ready to buy a dictionary from a book store.  But I do wonder what I would find if I looked for one published a decade or more ago?  Would it be more interesting?  Better descriptions?  Improved writing?

How do you use dictionaries?  Do you use one?

Dear Kurt Wallander

I like mysteries, but you are just a bit much.wallander

The problem, Kurt, is that you are so dark. Even with the presence of Tom Hiddleston playing the role of the junior detective, Magnus Martinsson, and the lush scenery of southern Sweden, I can’t handle you emotionally.

After one episode of Season 2, I’m not surprised that you’ve handed in your badge. Frankly, you should have done so in season 1 and maybe saved yourself a lot of grief.

As a trope, I like the angsty detective. I like to see the hard-as-nails exterior of a cop character crack and have to deal with what he’s feeling. I like the forced introspection from changes of life (like when Harry Bosch discovers he’s a dad). But Kurt, you should seek professional counseling after all that you’ve seen, like self-immolation and then having to shoot a guy at point-blank range.

I wonder if I should give you a try in the books instead of the show. You are an international book sensation and sometimes, it’s easier for me to read violent and dark things than watch them. Maybe you are the right combination of tortured and compelling on the page.

The only good thing is finding this song from Emily Barker and The Red Clay Halos that was adapted for the opening credits.

But other than that, I’m giving up on you for now, Kurt Wallander.




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It’s about time

pumpkin everything

The only pumpkin thing not in my list? Pumpkin Spice Lattes from Starbucks. That’s 48 g of sugar in a grande cup that I don’t need.

On the other hand, it means Pumpkin Black Bean soup isn’t too far in the future either. It’s a weird color, I will admit, but if anyone wants the recipe, let me know. It’s one of my annual favorites.


Two Weekends to Go

It’s been a fabulous summer.  And I know I’m going to regret saying this, but I’m done.  Like, Stick a Fork in Me, I am done.

This is the first summer in eleven years where our kids are old enough to do things AND I’m not recovering from school (attending, not teaching.)  It’s the first summer where the Hubby and I have been able to do things together, as a family, due primarily to job changes we made last year.

It’s been glorious, but it also has been the Summer of the Guest.  Either we were the guest or we had the guest.  As a result, I’m counting done the weekends until school starts and things slow down again.

Until then, this is me:



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