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.


Re-reading Redux

I learned this week that some people feel guilty about re-reading. Apparently, they feel they ought to be spending their reading time reading new things.

I suppose there’s some sense to that.  The problem for me is that the pleasure of re-reading is different than the pleasure of first-reading, and it’s a pleasure I’m not willing to forgo. Well, and there’s also the fact that I don’t read like a fiend because it’s good for me. I read because I love to read, or at least need to read.

Right now, I’m re-reading Meljean Brook’s Demon Moon, which is a prime candidate for re-reading. Brook trusts the reader to figure things out, which means you have to figure it all out, and that means it’s entirely possible I missed stuff the first time around. When you know the story, and there are layers and depths, prior knowledge adds richness. And that’s the kind of thing I re-read for.

January 6, 2009: Epiphany

No, not that kind of epiphany — today is the last day of Christmas, traditionally the day celebrating the visit of the magi to the infant Jesus.


Borders used to be my favorite bookstore, and I’ve been really sorry for how badly they’re doing. The thing is, I’m fairly sure they’re shooting themselves in the foot. Today I walked half a mile to the Barnes & Noble in the Prudential Center because they have my friend Jess’s new release, Dawnkeepers. There’s a Borders right across the street from work…but they’re not carrying Dawnkeepers in their stores. Which is just purely stupid, in my opinion. While I was there, I also bought Denise Eagan’s The Wild One, so Borders lost two sales, not just one.

They also eliminated one of my favorite services, one of the things that made me such a loyal customer. It used to be that you could order a book online and have it delivered to a particular store without having to pay for it in advance. I used the service a lot. I’m sure I could go into the store and do the same thing, but that means two trips to the store.

So, if Borders goes under, I’ll be really sad (really sad for the people losing their jobs), but I won’t be able stop thinking that the fatal wounds were self-inflicted.

December 17, 2008: Preparing for the Storm

Tomorrow night’s journey home is likely to be a lengthy one — there’s a big old winter storm bearing down on the Northeast, and I’ll have to slog my way out. Well, the bus driver will be doing the slogging; I’m just going along for (the probably really long) ride.

The one thing I really need is something to read. I’ll have my iPod with me, and that’s a good thing, but I’ll definitely need reading material. Right now, I’m reading Owen Matthews’ Stalin’s Children: Three Generations of Love, War, and Survival, but I’m almost finished with it. In fact, I expect I’ll finish it tonight.

I have plenty of books to choose from; here’s what I have out from the library alone:

  • Angel of Mercy by Toni Andrews
  • Beg for Mercy by Toni Andrews
  • The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry
  • Antediluvian Tales by Poppy Z. Brite
  • People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks
  • Desert Father : A Journey in the Desert with Saint Anthony by James Cowan
  • The Birth of Christianity : Discovering What Happened in the Years Immediately After the Execution of Jesus by John Dominic Crossan
  • His Excellency : George Washington by Joseph J. Ellis
  • Blood Ties : the Castings Trilogy, Book One by Pamela Freeman
  • The Religious History of America by Edwin S.  Gaustad
  • Human : The Science Behind What Makes Us Unique by Michael S. Gazzaniga
  • Ilario: The Lion’s Eye : A Story of the First History, Book One by Mary Gentle
  • Outliers : The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell
  • Catching Life by the Throat : How to Read Poetry and Why by Josephine Hart
  • The Black Death : A Personal History by John Hatcher
  • Sailing to Sarantium by Guy Gavriel. Kay
  • Ysabel by Guy Gavriel Kay
  • The World in Six Songs : How the Musical Brain Created Human Nature by Daniel J. Levitin
  • A Curious Courting by Laura Matthews
  • In My Lady’s Chamber by Laura Matthews
  • Doctor Olaf van Schuler’s Brain by Kirsten Menger-Anderson
  • Darkfever by Karen Marie Moning
  • Hands of Flame by C. E.  Murphy
  • The Slightest Provocation by Pam Rosenthal
  • As Good as it Got by Isabel Sharpe
  • Lincoln’s Dreams by Connie Willis

 I’m almost certainly bringing Lincoln’s Dreams with me. I might bring something else, just in case. I just don’t know what.

November 24, 2008: Happiness

One thing that makes me happy: That I work within a 7-minute walk of the main branch of the Boston Public Library (BPL); that anyone in the state can have a BPL library card — you just need a picture ID and proof of address; that the catalog is on-line, and you can reserve items over the internet.

I just reserved four books on Lincoln, three of them dealing with Lincoln as a writer. (Lincoln: The Biography of a Writer, by Fred Kaplan; Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words That Remade America by Garry Wills; and Lincoln’s Sword: The Presidency and the Power of Words by Douglas L. Wilson.)

I now have 20+ books on hold (and 26 out, but four are going back next time I go). I love that I can renew books online, too: unless someone else has reserved the book, you can renew it twice, for three weeks each time. So you can have a book out for 9 weeks.

Sadly, that isn’t always long enough for me, but still…

This might seem like a small thing, but it makes me very happy, and it makes me feel wealthy.

November 9, 2008: Short Attention Span

I’m not entirely sure where I am in The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn — I know that I’m past the halfway point, but I don’t know if I’m just past it, or closer to the 3/4 mark. Wherever I am, I’m starting to resist reading it. Other books are looking awfully seductive, as if one of them might entice me away from Anne.

I’m not sure why I’m resisting. It might be that I’m kind of tired of Anne, that I have a short attention span, and my skittery attention is wandering away. It might also be that I don’t want to read about Anne’s fall and death.

Actually, that’s probably what it is. I think Anne’s fall is total crap, and 572 years after the fact, it still annoys me. A lot. One of the things I most loved about writing Prince of Hearts was that I got to “fix” all that. I gave Katherine of Aragon sons, and I kept Mary and Anne Boleyn from the difficulties they suffered.

I’ll finish Life and Death because I do want to know Ives’s take on what happened. But I don’t think it’ll be comfortable or happy reading.

November 8, 2008: Quiet Saturday

I didn’t do anything on the writing front today, which is typical for a Saturday.

On the reading front, my sister and I went to Barnes & Noble in Saugus, MA. We went so I could show her the Moleskine Large Ruled Notebook that’s going on my Christmas list. While we were there, of course I had to go wandering around and looking at books. I considered buying Write: 10 Days to Overcome Writer’s Block, but I decided there wasn’t anything in it that I need to read right now. Instead, I bought Emily Gee’s The Thief With No Shadow.

Which I probably won’t read until 2009. Because that’s what I do.

November 5, 2008: Silence

Sometimes silence swallows me, and I don’t want to talk. I don’t want to think in the kind of words that can be written or spoken. The conversation I’m having with myself is more wordless than not; the words I have won’t make sense without context; and what’s going on inside isn’t interesting enough to go through all the effort of explaining it.

The big thing driving this is that I’m tired — not enough sleep again last night, partly due to the election and partly due to my desire to finish The 19th Wife (which was excellent and a satisfying read). No writing today and, if I’m smart, little or no reading tonight. If I don’t get enough sleep, i won’t be able to do anything I want to do and everything I want to accomplish will take a day longer.

We’ll see.

November 2, 2008: Universality

At the very end of The Language Instinct — which is one long, plausible argument that we are born hardwired for grammar — Pinker talks about a study that indicates there might also be a universal structure for human society. Basically, according to this study, there are elements all human societies have in common. This is an intriguing idea that I need to explore further, as someone who is building societies in her creative life.


I’m not sure what I’m going to read next. I got R. L. LaFevers’ latest Theodosia Throckmorton book, Theodosia and the Staff of Osiris the other night as an early birthday present. The next day, my copy of Patricia McKillip’s The Bell at Sealey Head arrived from Borders.com. And I have 27 unread library books.

So it’s not like I have a shortage of options. Instead, I’m playing out a recent discovery: the more choices one has, the harder it is to make a choice.

Scary Monsters: October 31, 2008

I don’t generally read scary books, but I have occasionally read things that completely creeped me out. As it happens, two of my most vivid memories involve novels I read while alone in Salem, MA.

The first one was Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot — it scared me so much I had to stop reading it. I was living in a residential hotel with my sister and her best friend, and the two of them had gone to visit a friend at college. So there I was, freaking out about vampires in Maine while in the middle of the city of Salem.

The second was a reading of Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House, one of the most deeply creepy books I’ve ever read, especially when you consider that nothing overt happens. I was once again all alone, only this time in an apartment in a building that was close to 100 years old, the kind of building that pops and creaks as it settles for the millionth time. Very scary when you’re essentially reading about a house that’s insane…

It’s been years and years since I read either of those books, but I can still remember how scared I was.

Happy Halloween.

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