Author Archives: Bethany K. Warner

Reading recipes

I’ve been reading a ton of recipes lately, so much so that I wonder if I can add the recipe-boxAmerica’s Test Kitchen Slow Cooker Revolution book to my book list.

I got a delayed start on it, but I did want for the new year to make more real food for our lunches and pack fewer frozen dinners.

So far, I’ve made it three weeks, though I’m finding that one crockpot of soup is only lasting for about three days for both of us.

Yesterday, I made three things: 1) Curried chickpea soup; 2) Chicken enchilada soup; and 3) ground turkey ragout.

Two out of three were winners, but I think the ragout recipe will end up in the recycle bin. It’s two primary ingredients were tomatoes and white wine, and that’s pretty much all I can taste.

I’ve got more new recipes on deck for the next weekend. Here’s hoping that reading is better!

Book Banter: His Majesty’s Dragon

dragonTitle: His Majesty’s Dragon

Author: Naomi Novik

Genre: Historical fantasy

Length: 342 pages

Where Bethany’s Copy Came From: personal collection

Plot Basics: Will Laurence is happy as a British naval captain, but when his ship captures a French ship carrying a dragon egg about to hatch, Laurence ends up as a dragon aviator with his unusual dragon, Temeraire. They rush through training to be ready to head to the front lines of Britain’s offensives against Napoleon.

Banter Points: I picked up the first four books in this series at my library’s used book sale (yes, please just take my money) because I’d heard good things about this series and the premise of dragons in the Napoleonic War is just too good to pass up.

Temeraire and Laurence are a delightful pair of characters, so much so that I might like the dragon more than the people.

Novik does a great job of world-building — and there’s a lot of it — without it overly bogging down the story. Also, she does major scale aerial combat with dragons in a believable, readable way. I could see the battle and the dragons and it was a really fun read.

Bummer Points: I don’t know much about Napoleon’s conquest (other than he ultimately lost…) so I sometimes felt a little lost in how Laurence and Temeraire fit into the actual history. Also, there are a lot of characters and sometimes they got confusing too.

Word Nerd Recommendation: There are eight more books in this series and you can bet I’ll be reading more.

Happy Valentine’s Day

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Hope you get to read all the books you love with the people you love today.

A portrait of Dory in gray

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h/t to whomever first posted this on Facebook

Indiana Authors Award Nominations

Writer friends, it’s that time of year again when nominations for the Eugene & Marilyn Glick Indiana Authors Award are open. IAA logo

Eligible nominees must either have been 1) born in Indiana or 2) lived here for at least five consecutive years.

Full details and the nomination form are available online.

January 2017 Reading Challenge Report Card

The challenge for January was to read a book to change the year. Here’s how we did with the challenge.

beatenotcover_copyBethany: I read Walter Wangerin Jr.’s “Beate Not the Poore Desk.” Wangerin, a National Book Award winner, finally has penned a book about writing. I’m currently not writing and I was hoping that his advice would get things going again.

Wangerin’s book was lovely. It starts with big picture advice about writing — how art is communication and his take on the ethical and moral obligations writers have to tell the truth — and then it turns to the more practical advice. Write, revise, share, etc.

It was a nice little tome. However, it’s unlikely it’s going to change my year. I’m still not writing. Does that mean this challenge is a success or a failure?

Stacie:  The Broken Way by Ann Voskampbroken-way

I selected this book based on a couple of friends who read it and loved the long, deeply reflective thoughts of what it is like to be broken, and how it changes a person. It d
oes have it’s basis in Christianity, Scripture and spiritual life, which is an area of my life that I’ve decided to develop with conscious effort this year.

I purchased this book as it was on sale in either November or December via Kindle. I wish I had gotten a hard copy. I’m enjoying the deep thought provoking nature of this book, but personally, reading on paper versus a device affects the experience. I read way too fast on a device, and have a 85% comprehension level. With paper, I’d likely be jotting notes, underlining and highlighting, making this book a joint effort after all of my personalization.

I’m about half way through, and am considering starting over with a papercopy so I can do just that.

I strongly recommend this book if you are looking for something that will provide insight into how events that could break someone turn into the events that transform them. It’s a very personal story Voskamp is telling, and one that I’m glad to be part of.

Author Answers with Erin Wasinger

erin-author-photoThe Word Nerds are happy to welcome Erin Wasinger to the blog today. This is a weird convergence of life as Erin was Bethany’s editor back in Wisconsin, editing the Author Answers column for publication when other authors were answering similar questions. Life has taken them both away from newspaper journalism, but the Word Nerds are thrilled to have her back as an author, talking about the book she co-wrote with Sarah Arthur, “The Year of Small Things.”

WN: Tell us what “The Year of Small Things” is about and what kind of reader will find it appealing?

ERIN: “The Year of Small Things: Radical Faith for the Rest of Us” is the story of two families, one church, in one city (Lansing, Mich.), who commit to 12 small but radical changes in the hopes of growing in love for God, their neighbors, and their church. Our families tackle topics influenced by a movement called “new monasticism” (in short, people who live in downwardly mobile, church-centered communities for the sake of sharing life with the poor). One month it’s hospitality (not the Martha Stewart kind), another it’s finances or caring for the earth. A few months we talk about conversations we feel are missing from new monastics’ conversations: self-care and time, for instance. Committing to these practices are Sarah Arthur (my co-author) and her husband and two boys; and my family: my husband and three girls. In the book, we invite the reader to imagine what their small things might look like, and how they can find community around others who share some of the same values.

Who might like it: Anyone who’s felt like there has to be more to faith but who finds “radical” voices or messages too far out there. Anyone who’s done the radical thing (living in an intentional community, volunteering, Peace Corps-ing it, living in a yurt for Jesus’ sake, etc.) but now feels burnt out, or feels the experience was a lifetime ago. People who love to ask “why” when they see problems in their communities. People who want to “do something to help” but don’t know where to start or have debt, children, jobs, etc. to take care of.

Recovering American dreamers and idealists. Christian thinkers and those who think Shane Claiborne, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, and John Perkins are spot-on, but don’t see any speck of those prophetic messages in their own lives. People who love God but are bored, antsy. In short, do-gooders and do-gooder wannabes.

WN: What was it like to work with a co-author?

ERIN: It was awful and I’d never do it again.

No. Maybe I felt that way maybe once through the whole process (I think it was the 17th time we changed the introduction).

Otherwise, writing in community was amazing. Talking content, this book wouldn’t be what it is without two writers. Our perspectives balanced each other: she came from Duke Divinity, where she lived in an intentional community. I was a Toledo grad who only lives in community if you count small children. That was important for the theological weight and the “this is how you do it in your everyday life” angle. Practically speaking, Sarah was so generous with her experience and gracious in her guidance and suggestions. Having someone reading every revision you write makes you a stronger writer. And having someone there reminding you that chapter 3 is not your Waterloo moment is always a good thing.

In addition, Sarah has way more experience in book publishing than I do, so she was mentoring me all along. Since marketing is part of an author’s gig now, that meant she was introducing me to folks in the industry before we’d even started writing anything. Now that we’re in publicity mode, we get to share the social media burden/ love. It’s fun having someone who also loves the project as much as I do. I’d truly do it again tomorrow with the right person or topic.

WN: How did you background as a newspaper editor prepare you (or not) for the nuts and bolts of working on a book?

ERIN: Oh, good question. Sometimes it was a help, sometimes it was a hindrance. Mostly, working at a newspaper taught me to ask questions — that was the most helpful. I don’t think you can write a book about something as out-there as new monasticism if you’re not someone who likes to ask why things are and how systems work. Newspapers taught me to write clearly and succinctly, to tell stories, and to look for the humanity and gray areas in any situation. And that editors are always, always your friend.

Annoyingly, the most frustrating difference between a book and newspapers is timing. As you know, when you’re assigned a story at a newspaper, you research, interview, and report — mostly in one day. By contrast, a book that reflects on an entire year often takes so much revision that at one point my eye would twitch when Sarah would casually suggest, “I think we need to revisit the introduction.” I really, really like tight deadlines, and two years to write and edit a book is the antithesis.

One more thing I’m just realizing: in newspapers, we can follow stories the next day (or later) when we have more information. In writing a memoir, readers only get a snapshot of (for us) one year of our lives. And I finished that story a year ago already! I have to remember we wrote it to start a conversation, not to be a definitive guide on anything.

WN: Your children have been part of your “years.” How have they influenced this process?

ERIN: Oh man. I can’t think about any part of this “Year of Small Things” experiment without thinking about the kids. They’re an ever-present part of the equation; maybe they’re even something deeper than some outside influence on any process. Every decision considered their growing faith, their physical care, their education, their relationship with our church.

But notice I didn’t say decisions “revolved around” them, though. We’re trying to be clear about growing closer to Jesus. Sometimes the decisions we make really bum out our kids (how we spend our time and money, for one). But they also make sure decisions don’t revolve around me or my husband Dave. I’d love to do certain things that aren’t congruous for us as a family right now. We discern what God’s up to in our lives with that whole picture, the kids, us, our church, our city. That’s the goal anyway. We mess up, too: builds more character, therapy for the kids, fuel for their own memoirs someday, etc.

WN: What books are you loving right now?

ERIN: So many. The most recent ones I’ve been recommending: “A Man Called Ove,” by Fredrik Backman; “Little Women” by Louisa May Alcott (of course); and — oh, this one’s tied with Ove for my favorite book as of late — “Dorothy Day: The World Will Be Saved by Beauty,” by her granddaughter Kate Hennessy. I jokingly call Day (the co-founder of the Catholic Worker) “the patron saint of ‘The Year of Small Things’” (she’s actually being vetted for canonization in the Catholic Church now); but Hennessy uses family documents to show us Dorothy’s human side, too.

Each of these books, I’m noticing, is about strong characters who find themselves  begrudgingly creating community. “Begrudgingly” is a very big draw for me. So is community.

WN: What’s up next for you as a writer?

ERIN: That is a big question. I’m impatient to see myself what’s next. I’m not sure which amalgamous idea will solidify into a book or a project. In the meantime, I’ll just keep reading, freelancing, and asking “I wonder why …” questions about stuff in my world. In short, I’m pre-reporting, doing the work before the work.

Book Banter: Death and Relaxation

relazTitle: Death and Relaxation (Ordinary Magic #1)

Author: Devon Monk

Length: 320 pages

Genre: Urban fantasy

Where Bethany’s Copy Came From: IndyPL

Plot Basics: Delaney Reed is the police chief of Ordinary, Oregon, which is anything but. The quaint town is really home to vampires, werewolves and the like and serves as the vacation hub for the gods, who in return for some R&R, give up their powers while they are there. Delaney and her police officer sisters (it’s a family biz) are among the only ones who know. But when things start getting blown up right before the town’s Rhubarb Festival AND Norse-god Heimdall seems to have been murdered, Delaney’s got more weird on her hands than she might be able to handle.

Banter Points: This book was a lot of fun. I’ve read a bit of Devon Monk in the past and I just happened on this one in the Wowbrary list and I’m glad I read it.

I really liked how she balanced the supernatural elements. I could see how she was using the characters and their interactions to convey information, but it never felt heavy-handed or like an info-dump.

Bummer Points: The end felt a tad disjointed from the rest. I will keep reading the series because I’m curious what she does in books 2 and 3 with what she seemed to be trying to set up.

Word Nerd Recommendation: Fun start to a series; worth reading if you like lighter-hearted urban fantasy.

Introverted Questions

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The hubz and I are both introverted and this is verbatim our conversations some evening. The answers are usually, “no” and “yes” (if reading left to right). We’re just quiet.

Book Banter: Different Class

diffferent-classTitle: Different Class

Author: Joanne Harris

Length: 403 pages

Genre: literary/mystery

Where Bethany’s Copy Came From: IndyPL

Plot Basics: Latin Master Roy Straitley of St. Oswald’s boys school is back for yet another year. The school has a new headmaster who is determined to drag the school — and Straitley — into the 21st century. The headmaster used to be Straitley’s pupil and a man with past secrets. Straitley isn’t willing to go down and does all he can to keep the school from going down to, dragged under by past ghosts.

Banter Points: When I learned that Joanne Harris’ new book was a sequel (sort of) to “Gentlemen & Players,” I was thrilled. I love that book and the twisted mystery tied up in it. Straitley is so curmudgeonly loveable in his adherence to the past. Just like in “Gentlemen & Players,” the story weaves between Straitley and a mysterious second narrator, the reveal of whom it truly is, is one of the pivotal plot points. Harris is sneaky good at misdirection.

She also, a decade later, manages to catch the zeitgeist of 2005. A good chunk of the plot revolves around homosexuality and the fear of being found out. As I thought back to my education reporter career in the same time period, that was all spot on. Ditto with the focus on how technology could change everything.

Bummer Points: While Different Class is good, it’s just not quite as sharp as “Gentlemen & Players.”

Word Nerd Recommendation: Read Harris’ “Gentlemen & Players” and then follow it up with this second one in a welcome return to that world.