Time for Reading


The average person could read Game of Thrones in 484 days.
Click the image to find out if you could read it faster. (via BlinkBox Books).

I took this quiz and I told them I read 60 minutes a day. That’s maybe pushing it, but at that rate, it would take me only 35 days to read the entire Game of Thrones series. It would also only take me 11 days to read War and Peace, which suddenly makes that classic seem far less daunting.

Their chart says reading “The Silkworm” will take three days and “The Fault in Our Stars” will take one day, which is exactly how those books worked for me.

I think the chart is interesting, but I’m not sure about it’s accuracy because it doesn’t account for interest. I can get through a really long book quickly when I’m hooked. Sometimes, a short book can drag on for days (or what feels like days) because I’m just not into it. I probably read the short-ish Lord of the Flies over two or three days and I felt every minute of that reading time.

At 60 minutes a day (which I must not really do), the chart told me I’d read close to 200 books in a year. Not really. I’m on track for 100+ again this year, but I’m not sure how I’d nearly double that. The test is of reading comprehension speed over three or four paragraphs. That’s easy. Give a person a novel with a complicated plot and I’m not sure the speed stays the same.

Nevertheless, when breaking big books down into days, they do seem less daunting. Maybe getting another Russian masterpiece done isn’t so hard afterall.

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Banned Book Week

I’m rather fond of banned books.  I’ve always been a little contrary and if someone told me I shouldn’t do something, it only increased my interest in potentially doing whatever it was that was forbidden.

Huffington Post had a great infographic on the hows and whys of banned books.  The ALA has some great information at their site as well.  Both are worth spending some time on.

The best web information I found this year was the BuzzFeed quiz “How Scandalous is Your Reading?

I scored a 42 out of 93.  How about you?

Personally, I was pretty shocked at some of the books on that quiz.  Shel Silverstein’s A Light in the Attic.  Really?  James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl.  I don’t understand.

The Outsiders by S.E.Hinton.  Sure.  And it’s my favorite book to hand to the reluctant 7th or 8th grade reader.  It’s worked every time.

What’s your favorite banned book?  How did you score on the quiz?

 

Book Banter: The Farseer Trilogy

robin-hobb-farseer-trilogyTitle: Assassin’s Apprentice, Royal Assassin, Assassin’s Quest

Author: Robin Hobb

Genre: Fantasy

Length: long, longer, longest

Where Bethany’s copies came from: personal collection

Plot Basics: FitzChivalry Farseer is the illegimate son of Prince Chivalry, who abdicates his place in line for the throne because of his indiscretion. Fitz is raised to be the kingdom’s assassin. But, his destiny is woven into the fate of the whole Six Duchies. As the Duchies are under attack from the fearsome Red Ship Raiders and then torn apart from political maneuvering, Fitz finds himself repeatedly pulled back to the center of the action and called upon to fulfill his destiny to be sworn to uphold his king and catalyze changes in the kingdom.

Banter Points: Choosing to reread the Farseer Trilogy served a two-fold purpose for me. First, it was part of my Throwback Project for this year and second, it’s getting me refreshed on this world since Robin Hobb is writing a new trilogy with these characters.

I’m not a fantasy reader anymore, not the way I was when I first came across the Farseer books, but I think they still stand up as a good example of what fantasy should be. There isn’t a new language to learn. The magic system is so accessible to understand. You don’t have to have a fantasy background to get it. One of the things that I like the most about these books is that they are literary. The development of Fitz as a character is as good as anything in a literary fiction novel. These are books are proof, to me, that genre fiction should be considered on the same scale for characters as literary fiction. The relationship between Fitz and the Fool is one of the best friendships in fiction.

Bummer Points: The third book, Assassin’s Quest, is just so long. As much as I like Fitz, he’s awfully angsty in the third one and those pages are draggy to get through.

Word Nerd Recommendation: If you like books about people and loyalty to ideas, this series is for you. If you like sword-and-sorcery fantasy and haven’t read these, you’re missing out still on one of the best trilogies out there.

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Author Answers with HP Mallory

Today, the Word Nerds are pleased to have HP Mallory for Author Answers.  HP has several series out, including The Jolie Wilkins Series (personally, I found it to be a fun and delightful romp in the Urban Fantasy realm.)  She has some great thoughts on a writing career; check out the answers below:

WN:  Tell us more about The Bryn and Sinjin Series books. What can readers expect?Sinjin

HM:  This series basically picks up right where the last Jolie book, Something Witchy This Way Comes, left off. As the title suggests, the two main characters are Bryn (Jolie’s sister who also happens to be her enemy) and Sinjin. Without giving away too much, Sinjin is up to his same antics and you’re never really sure where his loyalties lie. The first book is really more about Bryn’s relationship with Jolie and with Sinjin…

WN:  What is your favorite writing advice?

HM:  Never give up. When I started, I had many doors shut in my face but rather than giving up, I just happened to find another way forward, through self publishing. I’m really a great example of following your dreams, whatever they may be and forging the path to your own destiny. Now is the best time to become an author because you really can make your own way…

WN:  When you aren’t writing, where are you most likely to be found?

HM:  With my son and my enormous dog! She’s a swissy saint–half st. bernard and half swiss moutain dog.

WN:  The Nerds are very fond of series. What’s it like from your side, to be the creator of the world and creators? Especially as you have several series going!

HM:  I love writing series because as an author, I get very attached to my characters and the idea of only writing one book about them is a bummer. Series are so great because you can really expand upon the story and you have hte ability to venture into different subplots. And writing paranormal series is even greater for me because my only limitation is my imagination.

WN:  Your writing career began as a independent publisher. What was it like to switch to traditional publishing?

HM:  Traditional publishing is easier in that I don’t have to worry about marketing myself, editing, the book cover, etc. On the flipside though, I also enjoy having this creative control which is why I will always keep a foot in the indie camp as well as the traditional camp. I think it’s best to be both.

Thanks, HP!

 

A New Batman: Gotham

Occasionally, the husband surprises me (Stacie). Tonight’s surprise was watching the pilot of Gotham, a version of Batman.Gotham

In the pilot episode, it begins as Batman should – with the death of Bruce Wayne’s parents. In this version, however, the audience is focused on newly made detective, James Gordon.  Gordon promises the young Bruce Wayne that he will find the killer. In the first episode, we are introduced to characters that I can only assume will become the villains that are as much as part of the story as Batman is.

  • Harvey is Gordon’s partner. He is the corruption that lives in Gotham.
  • A homeless girl (Selina) that finds the cats and pops in and out of alleys
  • Ivy, that daughter of a con, learns to hate the police at a young age when the GCPD falls for a set-up that kills her father.
  • Oswald, the unfortunately nicknamed Penguin, works for Fish

The episode has some depth and great story line setups. Gordon’s girlfriend, Barbara, has a past that might not be as wholesome as she has led Gordon to believe.

The casting is superb as well. Jada Pickett Smith is cast as Fish. It’s such a deviation from the type of character she typically plays.  Ben McKenzie from the O.C. has been a favorite since, well, the O.C. was on.

By the end of the episode, Gordon’s integrity is compromised and he has promised the young Bruce Wayne that he will clean-up the corruption in the GCPD.  Bruce states he is glad that Gordon didn’t get his parents killer.

Batman is, by far, my favorite comic book / story line / movie.  Ever since Jack Nicholson uttered the words “Have you ever danced with the devil in the pale moonlight?” I have been a fan.  Now, I have a new reason to tune in and watch.  This promises to be good.

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Guest Blog: Living Las Vegas

The Word Nerds turned the blog over today to Deborah Coonts, the author of WANNA GET LUCKY? (A NY Times Notable Crime Novel for 2010 and double RITATM Finalist), LUCKY STIFF, SO DAMN LUCKY (a national bestseller), LUCKY BASTARD and four digital novellas, LUCKY IN LOVE, LUCKY BANG and LUCKY NOW AND THEN, Parts One and Two. The fifth novel in the series, LUCKY CATCH, is coming in July. She can usually be found at the bar, but also at http://www.deborahcoonts.com.

Coonts-airplane2When most folks are looking for a nice place to live and finish raising their children, Vegas doesn’t spring immediately to mind. I don’t know why Perhaps it’s all the…naughtiness.

And, to be honest, when we moved their it was a leap of faith. If it hadn’t been for my son’s passion for golf and Vegas being a teaching and playing mecca, it wouldn’t have hit our radar either.

But, when I let my then fifteen-year-old son choose where we were going to live, I should’ve known I was asking for it. Vegas or bust.

I thought at best we’d be there for a couple of years until my son graduated high school and then we’d both be off to other adventures back in the real world. Ha! Best laid plans.

We were there for fourteen.

And Vegas was good to us. My son found his life—his beautiful wife. And I found my story.

Before I hit Vegas, I was struggling with my identity as a writer. I thought I wanted to write romantic suspense and be Sandra Brown. Turns out all I really wanted was her wardrobe, not to mention I pretty much sucked at romantic suspense. I just don’t do dark. Good thing I lived in Vegas.

Frustrated and a bit disillusioned, one day not long after unpacking, I sat down at the computer and tossed a young woman out of a tour helicopter. She landed in the middle of the 8:30 pirate show at the Treasure Island Hotel, making a big splash. From there I was off and running.

You see, I’d fallen in love with the total silliness that is Las Vegas. Oh, it has its seedy underbelly like everywhere. But, outside of Disneyland can you think of a destination that is more about fun than Las Vegas? And oh the mischief people get into! I’m not talking about the life-altering kind, just the funny kind. And, in Sin City, they do it up in spades.

A word to the wise, though. You know that whole “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” thing? Not so much. All the shenanigans are wonderful grist for the story mill. The names have been changed to protect the guilty, of course There’s romance. There’s murder, Vegas-style. Some laugh-out-loud moments. If you’re looking for that perfect get-away-from-it-all end of summer read, I hope you check Lucky out…. Well, don’t check her out, she’s not that fond of being leered at. Check the stories out, though And let me know what you think.

Truly, sometimes setting is just a backdrop for the story. But, in my Lucky O’Toole books, Las Vegas became a character—not a tawdry one, but a bright shiny, silly one.

Do you like stories with a strong setting or would you rather the setting just be background?

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Writing Prompt or College Essay?

I’m a fan of Mental Floss, Random, Interesting and Amazing Facts.  It’s the kind of site that provide me with endless useless junk data and interesting facts that make it easy for me, as an INTJ, to make small talk with Extroverts.  Tossing a random fact about some obscure topic that is interesting, and the conversation takes on a life of its own.  Or, it will with a few well-placed questions.

Recently, they posted 27 Offbeat College Essay Topics.  Some of them made me wonder exactly what the college was trying to do.

  • How do you feel about Wednesday?  It follows Tuesday and if I make it that far, I usually know Friday is achievable.
  • Give us your top ten list.  Could you be a bit more specific?  Is there an area that I should think about?
  • You have 150 words. Take a risk.  Yes, I shall write 151 words.
  • How did you get caught? (Or not caught as the case may be.)  The best stories happen in college, not before college.

According to the College Board, “College admission officers look to the essay for evidence that a student can write well and support ideas with logical arguments. They also want to know something about the personality of the student.”

With that in mind, I can see why admissions offices would be tempted to have some quirky essay topics.  After all, it probably is more interesting to read about an 18 year old’s ideas about Wednesday then their dying passion for a school.

In the mean time, I think it is a good writing exercise to think about how I at my current age would answer the question, versus how the 18 year old version would answer.  Or just use the full list as a writing prompt set the next time I get stuck and need some assistance in getting unstuck.

Take a look at the questions.  Which is your favorite?

Think Before You Write

For the past two months (longer honestly), I haven’t been writing fiction.

I have just finished a giant project for my church that has been very rewarding work, but it pulled me out of fiction. That was about time really, not interest. I have about an hour in the mornings before work for writing and many of those mornings needed to be spent on this other project to make it good and put the good time to it.

On Tuesday, it went to the printers and my mornings are for fiction writing again.

Right now, I’m scribbling notes and trying to get organized. While I was working on this other project, I kept having novel ideas, what if, kind of thoughts about characters and plots. I’m not sure any of these ideas are good ones, but exploring them is a way back into habit.

Stacie, the other half of Word Nerds, is a big help on some of this idea vetting. She got really excited about one potential idea, but I’m not quite at that level, which tells me it might be the wrong choice for me as the writer. Or that I need to think about it more.

Don’t worry that all this thinking is turning me into a plotter. That’s unlikely. The story exists. The basics aren’t changing now that I’ve pants-ed my way through a whole draft months ago. These thoughts are all to take it to the next level.

think pen

 

(This is the ad for the now-defunct DBA pen.)

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Author Answers with Andrew Mayne

Andrew Mayne ap1_Courtesy of the author

We are thrilled that we’ve got Andrew Mayne — author, illusionist and star of A&E’s “Don’t Trust Andrew Mayne” —  as our guest today. His novel, Angel Killer, hits shelves on Sept. 23 and he’s telling us some today about writing and magic. We think you’ll be entertained and while we think you’ll be safe from his magic antics through the medium of the internet, if you find a playing card unexpectedly in your coffee, don’t say we didn’t warn you.

WORD NERDS: Your main character has a background as an illusionist; how does that career help her solve crime?
MAYNE: I think every good detective has a particular way of looking at things based on their experiences. As a magician, Jessica has an understanding of how people are fooled and how we fool each other. A good magician caters their magic to their audience. They exploit their cognitive biases. With Jessica, I wanted to present someone who may not have encyclopedic knowledge or gut instincts about human behavior, but could look at the evidence and see what we’re supposed to believe, but then pick up on the inherent deception.

WN: Magic has such a visual component even in getting the audience to look at the wrong thing. How did that translate into writing fiction when all you’ve got is the words on the page?
MAYNE: While magic is a visual medium for the most part, the trick really takes place in your mind. That’s where magic lives. Something is “magical” because you have prior experiences that tell you what is and isn’t possible.

In Angel Killer, I made a decision to describe magic in the way that we think about it – not just the way we see it. I think this approach makes magic even more interesting from a literary perspective. The trick happens in the characters’ minds. We as the reader then get to see it as they understand it.

WN: You started as a self-published author. What’s the journey been like to move from that to having Angel Killer picked up by HarperCollins?
MAYNE: It’s been a fun trip with a lot of growth. My favorite part is that at each level I get to work with great people that have really helped me grow as a writer. From my agent, Erica Silverman to my editor Hannah Wood, I consider myself lucky to work with these people. My goal has always been to tell the best possible version of the story I can. Going from self-published to published has enabled me to get advice and input I just couldn’t do on my own.

WN: What was the best advice you received as a new author?
MAYNE: It all goes back to the first piece of advice we all get: Show, don’t tell. It’s easy to get caught up in plot twists and character descriptions and forget that good storytelling isn’t what happened; it’s the unfolding of events as they transpire. When I stumble, it’s usually because I’m more caught up in the twists and turns than letting the character live through them.

WN: What books have captured your attention lately?
MAYNE: I’ve been reading James Clavell’s Shogun, which is based partly on the life of William Adams, a European who became a samurai in the 1600s. I’m fascinated by the interaction of different cultures in that time period. We’re so used to a singular narrative when it comes to Europeans interacting with the rest of the world; it’s cool to read something that feels almost like a science fiction story where a traveler journeys to an equally advanced civilization.

WN: What’s next for you as a writer?
MAYNE: The next Jessica Blackwood book is being edited and I’m in the middle of writing the third. I also have some interesting film and television projects at various stages. All of it involves me sitting in front of a keyboard.

Message from the Universe

Occasionally, the Universe will send a message.  Today, this is yours.  Whatever it is, try it.  Don’t let anyone hold you back:

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