Why Excerpt?

Assuming I sell the mess in progress, I will put excerpts up, either here or somewhere else. Why? Because I think they help sell books. I can’t tell you how many books I’ve bought because I read an excerpt, loved the writing and had to have the book. I own 1,300 books, some of which I haven’t read; I have 18 books checked out of the library. I’m nowhere near a shortage of reading material.

Yet I keep buying new books, because I see a review, or I hear buzz. I want to know more, so I hunt for the author’s website, and I hope there’ll be an excerpt there, one that’ll tell me this is a book I want to read, this is a book I’ll love reading. I make a note of it in the book I keep in my purse, and I plan to head for the bookstore.

I could do all that if I went to the bookstore and found the book and opened it, sure. But I rarely go to the bookstore just to browse any more. I go with a mission, with something in mind. Half the time, I’m there as a detour between Point A and Point B, and I don’t have time to wander. So I don’t browse, and I don’t go looking for that book that sounded good in that review I read last week.

In the interests of candor, sometimes an excerpt will make me decide a book isn’t for me, after all. I don’t think that matters, in the end. The author isn’t losing a sale she would have otherwise had. If the excerpt doesn’t work for me, the same text, read in a bookstore, isn’t going to work for me either. However I make the decision, it’s the same decision: I’m not buying the book.

Given all that, given that I’m writing for readers like me, you can be sure I will be putting up an excerpt as soon as there’s a good reason for it.

Bitses

Where is time going? Why are the days flying past so quickly? It seems impossible and ridiculous that two and a half weeks should have passed since the last time I posted. And it’s not like I have anything to say–I just felt the need to say whatever. So I’m just going to write a bunch of bits.

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Last night my sister and I watched the 2nd and 3rd episodes of Caprica. So far, so good. As far as I can tell, a lot of stuff is being set into motion, and I’m starting to be very curious to see how it all plays out. And not even interested to see how it plays out in a way that leads to the world of Battlestar Galactica–just interested to see how it plays out on its own terms. That being said, there is something connecting both series that I’m curious about. In BSG, Joseph Adama, Bill’s father, is known as a great jurist. (Or at least that’s my recollection.) In Caprica, he’s Joe Adama and he’s a corrupt mob lawyer. I want to know how one man becomes the other. I hope I’ll see it.

Whatever happens, the ads for this week’s episode make me want to see it now. My sister and I talked about watching two episodes every other week; I’m not sure I can wait that long.

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After finishing Deborah Crombie’s Necessary As Blood a couple of weeks ago, I was absolutely compelled to start the series at the beginning again. I flew through the first seven books–A Share in Death; All Shall Be Well; Leave the Grave Green; Mourn Not Your Dead; Dreaming of the Bones; Kissed a Sad Goodbye; and A Finer End–but now I’m slowing down. I think it’s partly because I remember the more recent books more clearly than the older ones; I’m having a “Oh, yeah, this one…” reaction.

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I’ve also been writing: scribbling the first draft of the mess-in-progress, and averaging over 500 words a day, which is a smoking pace for me; and writing posts for The Moody Muses.

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I’m unlikely to watch the Super Bowl tonight–it’s not how I want to spend that time–but I hope the New Orleans Saints win. They’re underdogs and that city has been through enough. It’s not even that I don’t want the Colts to lose. It’s really all about the Saints.

Deborah Crombie’s Necessary As Blood

I finished Deborah Crombie’s Necessary As Blood on the bus today–it was a fabulous read, that kept me up too late for a couple of nights–and as I was finishing it, I realized one of the things I like about the series, in addition to the ones I’d discovered originally: I like the relationships between the characters. Not just Gemma and Duncan, and their children, but the ones they have with their coworkers and friends, and the relationships those people have with each other. I also read the books to see how those relationships develop, to see what happens next.

Realizing that tonight made me realize that I love the same thing in my two guilty-pleasure TV shows, NCIS and Bones, and it’s one of the many things I loved about Battlestar Galactica. I’m not sure this has any meaning for my writing, but I suspect it does. I know that I’m interested in the connections my characters have with each other. There’s a line in U2’s great song, One: “We get to carry each other.” I think that’s true; I think we carry each other through our friendships. Maybe that’s something I need to hold in mind as I keep scribbling away.

This Says It All

Kristine Kathryn Rusch says something here that describes my reading habits perfectly:

I read fiction for entertainment, relaxation, and enjoyment. If I want to work, I read the history, literary essays, biography, science, and legal books that grace my shelves.

I’ve never been able to put into words why I prefer genre fiction when reading fiction, why, if I’ll read dense histories, I won’t read dense fiction. The above explains it brilliantly.

I am a happy woman.

Excited!

I don’t have much to say, except that I’m beyond jazzed that the NHL’s Winter Classic is being played at Fenway this year and it’s about to start.

These days I’m more of a baseball and football fan than a hockey fan, but in my early 20s, I dated a guy who started skating when he was four years old, so I learned to love the game. My father tried to teach me what icing and offsides were, but it took my boyfriend and never-ending Bruins games on TV.

When we broke up, I lost touch with the Bruins, but I still remember enough that I’m sure I’ll enjoy the game.

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Currently reading: A.S. Byatt’s The Children’s Book. It’s diffuse and I’m not entirely sure where it’s going, but I’m finding it compelling nontheless.

Books and Other Happy Things

I went to the library today, fully intending to pick up the items I had on hold and then leave, leave without borrowing anything else, because I already have plenty of books to read.

You know what they say about best-laid plans? Yeah, that applies here.

The library’s great because it allows me to take risks, to borrow things I’m not sure of. The downside is the due dates; they pressure me. The dates on the new things are particularly demanding; I know I’m not going to renew, say, Her Fearful Symmetry, and I don’t think I’ll be able to read it before it’s due. And that’s just one example. The pressure to get those books read feeds my reading itchies; I can’t settle down to read Book A because I know I need to get Book B read. Maybe I need to start thinking of the borrowed books as possibilties, not obligations, as things I borrowed because I wanted to read them, not as things I have to read. Maybe I’ll be able to read more.

I should be able to read a lot next week — I’m on vacation. I usually take the week before Christmas off so I can get some shopping done. This year, I finished early, so the week is all mine. I should be able to get a good bit of writing done, too, but I’m really looking forward to wallowing with books. Even the thought of it seems blissful.

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In other news, starting tomorrow, I’m posting on Wednesdays at the Moody Muses. I’ve been a fan of the Muses for ages, so I was hugely flattered to be asked to contribute. I’ll be posting reminders here, as time goes by; I hope you’ll visit (if you aren’t already).

The First World War

I read about a quarter of Sir Martin Gilbert’s The First World War before something very like boredom stopped me in my tracks. It’s certainly not Gilbert’s writing — he manages to wrangle a great deal of information into clarity without entirely sacrificing its complexity. The problem is the thing that made that particular war so awful: It was the same stuff, different day, for years. If insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result, WWI is insanity in action. But reading the same stuff done over and over again is…boring.

I also think I quit reading because the pointless, criminal waste of all that life makes me sad.

And now I don’t know what I’m going to read. I have a bad case of the reading itchies.

Okay, Now I Get It…

I”m not sure where I’ve been. I’ve been somewhere, but where is a mystery. I haven’t been writing very much — 300 words is an amazingly good day — and I haven’t been reading much, or at least so it seems.

I think the idea that I’m not reading is driven by the fact that I’m returning so many library books unfinished. I start them, read for an hour, think, “Inh,” and put it in the bag to go back. Some of these books I reserved weeks, or even months, ago. It’s disappointing and disheartening to return them unread, after all that waiting and patience.

And it’s not the books. They’re good books. They’re just not what I want.

I think I ought to want them, since many of them get such excellent reviews (which is what makes me reserve them in the first place). I wonder what’s wrong with me that I don’t want to read demanding fiction. I beat myself up for my lowbrow tastes. (I beat myself up about everything; I’ve come to the conclusion that part of my psyche goes looking for reasons to beat me up, and it doesn’t actually matter what it is. I’m working on ignoring it.)

Then, today, I understood. I don’t want to get involved. I don’t want to read something that’s going to draw on a particular kind of emotional and mental energy. New-to-me fiction pulls from that exact energy source, and that’s why I’ve been resisting it .

I use that energy for my own writing, so I don’t see an end to this resistance any time soon. I suspect there’s a lot of non-fiction, and a lot of re-reading in my future.

::Sigh::

Through one thing and another, the writing is going very slowly. I think one of the things is my desire to write more quickly. I think I’m afraid that if I don’t finish it really soon, it’ll become yet another abandoned project. That, or there’s a window of opportunity for it that will be open next May 14th, and if I don’t have the book finished by then, my only hope for it to find readers will vanish, poof!

Yes, I know that’s totally irrational. I’m an irrational person. I can be sensible and all that when I need to be, but at heart, I’m irrational. And I’m okay with that, unless my irrationality starts to wind me in a bunch. Like now.

::sigh::

This is the kind of thing that makes writing hard for me, more, I think, than struggling with the technical stuff.

Or at least that’s my story tonight.

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I’m reading Touching From a Distance: Ian Curtis and Joy Division, by Ian Curtis’s widow, Deborah Curtis. I’d say I’m about halfway through and right now, I’m disliking Ian Curtis enough that it might put me off his music. And it’s not that Deborah Curtis attempts to blacken him — the things he does and says that annoy me are presented in a matter-of-fact, “this is what happened,” way. She’s reporting, more or less.

The thing I probably need to remember is that in the story being told, he’s only in his late teens/early 20s. I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t admit they behaved stupidly, one way or another, when they were that young. Since Ian Curtis died before he got out of his early 20s, it’s impossible to say what he would have been like, whether or not he would have grown up and out of this particular kind of stupid behavior.

But still…

Drive-By

Earlier today, I watched Control, the movie about Ian Curtis of Joy Division. Excellent movie, with a rightfully praised performance by Sam Riley. The thing that impressed me most is the subtlety of his transformation into someone whose profound unhappiness led him to commit suicide at the age of 23.

Curtis killed himself before I became aware of Joy Division, but I was a fan of New Order, the name that band took as they continued in the wake of Curtis’s death. The thing is, I love, love, love, “Love Will Tear Us Apart”, Joy Division’s biggest single. I didn’t know, though, that it was Joy Division — or maybe that knowledge just never stuck.

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I have an author to add to New To Me: Emily Arsenault for her debut, The Broken Teaglass. Publisher’s Weekly put it better than I can: “In Emily Arsenault’s quirky, arresting debut, two young lexicographers find clues to an old murder case hidden in the files at their dictionary company…The result is an absorbing, offbeat mystery–meets–coming-of-age novel that’s as sweet as it is suspenseful.”

One of the things I particularly liked about the book is that it demonstrates the importance of context. Quotes that seem to mean one thing, to have one tone, have a different meaning, a different tone in a different context.

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Things have been difficult on the writing front. I came closer than I have before to quitting Dragonfly — I was convinced its problems were insurmountable, or at least would mean cutting roughly 25% of the existing work. That made me sad, made me feel as if the wretched thing will never be finished.

Fortunately, before I got out my machete, I got to the heart of the real problem…and figured out the real solution. Whew! So now it’s just a matter of implementing it…

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