Happy July 4th

From the Word Nerd, get out there and celebrate the freedoms that matter!  There’s been so many great things this year!

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June Reading Challenge report card

The challenge for June was to pick a book that’s been turned into a movie or a TV show.

Really, when this month’s challenge was planned, I (bethany) was thinking this would give folks a chance to read Game of Thrones, or Harry Potter or Orange is the New Black or something of that sort.

swamp thing1Bethany: I may have created this challenge, but when it came to picking the actual book to read, I didn’t want to read anything that felt very mainstream. In talking to a friend about it, he suggested Alan Moore’s “Saga of the Swamp Thing” which was the basis (sort of, I think) for the 2005 Wes Craven movie. After having slogged through “Midnight’s Children” for book club, a shorter read was in order so I took the recommendation and checked out Volume 1. And I found myself really liking it. I like comics/graphic novels, but any story line that’s willing to dive into the “what it means to be human” question gets my attention. The only reason I gave it a 4-star instead of 5-stars on Goodreads was the perpetual damsel-in-distress-ness of Abby Cable.

Gaiman_StardustStacie: I read “Stardust” by Neil Gaiman. I’m new to his books and often am outed with exclamations of “No, tell me it’s not so!” After reading Stardust, I am a fan. I loved the adventure and the story telling. It reminded me of on of my favorite movies – The Princess Bride. Translation to big screen was easy too. The story had some great elements within the adventure including interesting characters and settings that made me actually consider getting the movie, a seldom occurring thought for me when the story switches mediums.

Author Answers: Jamie Schultz

Today’s Author Answers are from Jamie Schultz, author of Premonitions.  Jamie is a Wisconsin native, relocated to Texas.  Take it away, Jamie!

WN: What should readers expect from your series?lizard (1)

JS:  Action, adventure, loyalty, betrayal, violence, profanity, grim magic, a seedy underworld, pirates, true love, and shrieking eels.

Okay, scratch those last three. But in general, the central characters are a crew of thieves in a sleazy Los Angeles underworld that combines both organized crime and a nasty sort of demon-fueled magic. Readers can expect desperate characters struggling to survive bizarre circumstances, as well as a lot of focus on the relationships between the members of the crew, particularly Karyn and her best friend Anna.

WN: The leader of the group, Karyn Ames, has a gift of seeing the future. Only it isn’t really a gift. How did you come up with Karyn Ames’ affliction, and the subsequent cure?

JS:  I wish I could tell you, but I don’t have a clue! Perhaps disturbingly, it wasn’t something I had to spend a lot of time thinking about—it seemed natural as breathing.

If I look back at what I’ve written in the past, the character with a gift that isn’t really a gift is a recurring theme, as well as characters making bad long-term decisions to satisfy short term needs. I guess this is where those themes have finally come together for me.

WN: Swearing and violence are prevalent in the story, and part of who the characters are. Tell us more about the development and decisions that went into this.

JS:  A lot of urban fantasy seems to have taken elements of crime fiction, particularly detective fiction, and incorporated into a fantasy framework. It’s heroic, at heart. I kind of came at it from an upside-down perspective, starting with crime fiction and fantasy-izing it. The result is something that maybe uses fewer of the typical urban fantasy staples and a lot more of the guts of crime fiction. My work tends to feature characters who are chronic screw-ups or otherwise in dire straits, often due to bad circumstances combined with desperate decisions, and tends to be more down in the gutter. So there’s a lot of profanity, largely as a way of reflecting the socioeconomic circumstances of the characters.

Also, in real life, I just swear a lot.

The violence comes from a similar place. There’s not a lot of what I’d call “heroic ass-kicking” going on here. A lot of the violence is reactive or desperate, and it often has unintended consequences. When I write violence, I want it to reflect the nasty criminal world these characters live in.

WN: What should readers expect next from you?

JS:  Well, the sequel to PREMONITIONS is called SPLINTERED, and it comes out July 7th! I’m also working on edits to the third book in the series right now, as well as drafting something a little different, an odd story about a couple of psychics in a town not too dissimilar from the little town in Wisconsin I grew up in.

WN: What is your writing process like? Any specific locations or must haves?

JS:  I typically get an idea, write ten thousand words in a frenzy, and realize I have no idea where it’s going. So then I write an outline for the rest of the story to keep from making a total hash of it. (I have, in the past, just written the rest of the story without an outline, but experience has shown me that I can never stick the landing that way.) Then I write the next fifty thousand words, realize the outline is hopelessly screwed-up, and pause to figure out how to fix it. After that, I sprint to the end. Then there is a giant amount of revision.

I get a lot of people asking me how in the world I get time to write, what with a day job and friends and family and all that. The answer is that I wedge it in wherever I can. Wake up a little early, stay up a little late. Take the laptop with me and knock out a few hundred words over lunch when I can. The key, for me, is being flexible about it, so the fewer specific locations or must haves that I saddle myself with, the easier it is for me to make progress.

It does help to have a routine, though, so when I’m in serious drafting mode, I try to make an hour or two before bedtime every day.

WN: What question did the Word Nerds not ask, but should have?

JS:  Hmm. How about, “What’s some other good stuff to read?”

Great question! :) Man, I love books. Here are some of my favorites:

  • Charlie Huston (crime fiction) – The Shotgun Rule, and The Mystic Art of Erasing All Signs of Death
  • Caitlin Kiernan (super weird, awesomely well-written, and sort of beyond genre) – The Drowning Girl
  • Nick Harkaway (um, contemporay fantasy? Ish?) – The Gone-Away World, and Angelmaker
  • David Wong (seriously deranged, humorous horror) – John Dies At the End, and This Book is Full of Spiders

And I should probably stop there, or I’ll just keep on going forever.

Thanks so much for having me!

Thanks, Jamie!  This is a series that the Word Nerds are following in our quest for great reading.  Check out our review of Premonitions too.

 

Book Banter: Some Girls Bite by Chloe Neill

Title: Some Girls Bite6663839
Author: Chloe Neill
Genre: Urban fantasy
Length: 341 pages
Where Stacie’s Copy Came From:  Oshkosh Public Library
Plot Basics: Merit is turned to vampire without her consent. Along with the new look, power, and fangs, she also is dealing with the hows and whys of her initiation into the vampire world. Unlike her roomie Mallory, Merit isn’t a fan of the newly announced subculture. She just wants to finish her thesis.

Banter Points: I really like how urban fantasy is building into the worlds the idea that supernaturals can no longer hide and they must come out of hiding and figure out there place in the world, coexisting with humans. Merit adjusts surprisingly well to the new world she finds herself in. The coming out of the vamps helps, but she is very practical and open minded too. She thinks logically, not emotionally through most things. This trait is something that I’m interested in seeing more of as she learns about the world of vamps.

More interesting to me was the roommate, Mallory. She is part of the subculture too, as a witch. Her acceptance and go with the flow attitude made me wonder what’s really going on there. Is she really that okay with everything? Or is she covering up some knowledge that will come out later on?

Bummer Points: I found the book and the characters engaging, however, I also found several scenes that didn’t move the story forward. The book was published in 2009, with title #13 expected in 2016. I’m guessing that the slow start is due in part to the industry at the time as there was more tolerance for building scenes then, and in part to early writing skills.

Even though I didn’t find the scenes to benefit the story, they were well-written, and are potentially good set-up for future story lines. I liked reading them, but was left wondering what is going to be used. At 341 pages, I’m guessing she could have trimmed about about 40 or 50 pages, and stopped with 300-ish pages without altering the story.

Stacie’s Recommendation: I liked the characters and series well enough that I’ve got books two and three on reserve at the library.  There’s enough here that I’m curious how the next couple of books will be.

July Reading Challenge help

#1If you’re reading along with our 2015 challenge at home, or if you’re just curious, we found this helpful link.

The July Reading Challenge is to read a best-seller from the year you were born. If you want to get even more specific, this site will drill down to the week you were born. Granted, there are other lists than NYT Best sellers, but that’s a pretty reputable one.

You don’t have to pick the #1 best-seller, just something on the list.

Today’s Plan

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Have a great weekend, my fellow nerds.

Book Banter: The Devil’s Game

devil's gameTitle: The Devil’s Game

Author: Sean Chercover

Genre: mystery/thriller

Length: 333 pages

Where Bethany’s Copy Came From: review ARC from Thomas & Mercer

Plot Basics: Daniel Byrne’s life as a Vatican investigator debunking miracle claims is over. He’s becoming a field operative for a shadowy para-governmental organization. But Daniel’s work with them turns up a new strain of plague… plague that could give others the skills his uncle, con-man preacher Tim Trinity had, to predict the future without knowing. Daniel teams with Dr. Kara Singh, a disgraced doctor with visions, and his mercenary friend Pat Dahlquist, to try to bring the organization behind the bioweapon down. But with every step they make, it seems a pandemic is more and more likely.

Banter Points: Last November, at Murder and Mayhem in Milwaukee when Sean announced this book was coming in June, I was very excited. I loved the first book in the series, The Trinity Game and The Devil’s Game propels that story forward in fun ways.

As an aspiring writer, one of the things I look for especially in series writing is how writers increase the stakes. So far, Chercover’s done this really well. “The Trinity Game” was mostly about one guy. “The Devil’s Game” pulls the curtain back to show the global players involved it sets up book three with even higher stakes.

Devil’s Game also creepy because it points out how weak our systems are. If this were real, it would probably be just as bad (if not worse) than Chercover imagines. That’s usually another thing that keeps me turning pages and it totally worked in Devil’s Game.

Bummer Points: There were three years between Trinity Game and Devil’s Game. I’m really hoping it’s not 2018 for the conclusion of this series!

Word Nerd Recommendation: These are perfect summer reads. Captivating, fun reads that have smart plots and tight writing to go with them.

Truth

different

We have profound observations in our bookclub discussions. Seriously.

Book Banter — The Fatal Flame

It’s actually rare that Stacie and I manage to read the same book at roughly the same time, but that happened for us with Lyndsay Faye’s latest, so we’re sharing our thoughts together today.

books_flame2_18273130_ver1.0_640_480Title: The Fatal Flame (Timothy Wilde #3)

Author: Lyndsay Faye

Genre: historical mystery

Length: 463 pages

Where our copies came from: Indianapolis Public Library and the Oshkosh Public Library

Plot Basics: New York City copper star Timothy Wilde is assigned to a case of seamstress seemingly turned arsonist who’s threatening an alderman. When Timothy’s brother, Valentine, decides to run against that alderman, the case and the threats become personal. And, the love of Timothy’s life, Mercy Underhill, surprisingly returns to the city as well. As Tim has to face his personal fear of fire, the political fires around him might engulf everyone he loves.

Banter Points: We love the Timothy Wilde books because they do what few novels manage to pull off — a dynamic cast of intriguing characters, a vivid setting and a page-turning plot. At some points, we’re reading to find out who did it and at other moments, we’re reading to find out if Timothy and his friends and family are OK and if they can navigate the increasingly tangled web of relationships they have.

The twists and turns left me gasping and flipping pages — fast.  Reading the books is like falling into another timeline, another life.  They are alive between the pages in a way that few books are.  Finding a series that pulls us into the story, and care so much about all of the people and the world they inhabit is rare; for Stacie, this is one of three series that does that. (Ditto for me!)

Bummer Points: It seems, based on the end of the book, that this could be end of the series. If so, that is a terrible bummer.

Word Nerds Recommendation: Stacie and I are both pushing these books on other readers. For me, Bethany, Fatal Flame will be a top 10 book of 2015.

Book Banter: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

MissPeregrineCoverTitle: Miss Peregrin’s Home for Peculiar Children

Author: Ransom Riggs

Genre: YA

Length: 8 audio CDs

Plot Basics: Jacob Portman’s grandfather always told him bizarre stories, but he always thought they were made-up. When his grandfather dies in strange circumstances, Jacob takes a trip to a Welsh island to learn the truth and discovers his mundane life isn’t as boring as he thought.

Banter Points: Riggs managed to hit on an essential YA idea — that teens want to find a place where they feel accepted, no matter how weird they feel.

Bummer Points: I think if I’d read this book and not done it on audio, I would have liked it better. I didn’t like the reader’s voice. It wasn’t bad enough to give up, but I didn’t find it pleasant (he was no Scott Brick, that’s for sure). The book also took way too long to get going for me. Riggs also had an annoying writing habit (which I try to do a lot too) of backing into sentences with gerunds such as, “Sitting at my desk, I write all my blog posts.” I had a writing fellowship mentor ding me on this one and Riggs did it so much I couldn’t NOT notice it.

Also, there were weird moments when Jacob’s character got really crass and it wasn’t necessary.

I read faster than I listen. In print, I wouldn’t have noticed the things that bugged me as much because I would have glossed over them.

Word Nerd Recommendation: I know people who love these books and I’m trying to want to go on to book 2. I need some seriously strong recommendations to stick with the series at this point.

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