BTT: Anything You Can Do…

Booking Through Thursday is a blog that asks a bookish question each week. This week, BTT wrote:

A while ago, I interviewed my readers for a change, and my final question was, “What question have I NOT asked at BTT that you’d love me to ask?” I got some great responses and will be picking out some of the questions from time to time to ask the rest of you. Like now.

Patricia asks a particularly insightful question:

Ever read a book you thought you could have written better yourself?

I don’t have titles falling of the tip of my tongue, but I know that there have been books where half-way through (or sooner) the dialogue has been so stilted or otherwise unrealistic, or the awareness of space and objects so bad, that I’ve entertained thoughts of writing it better. Ultimately, however, I end up either finishing the book and grumbling about it, or not finishing the book, and grumbling about it.

As much as I love the wide variety of free ebooks that are out there, I have to say that while many are very, very good, there are an equal number that were published by people who should never again be allowed near a keyboard without supervision.

When I interviewed Marsha Mason for ATG a couple of years ago, we talked about her memoir, and she said she believes everyone should write.

I agree. Everyone should write, whether it’s fiction, letters, or a diary.

But not everyone should publish, even on Amazon.

I should add, however, that sometimes a poorly written story still has an amazing or interesting concept, and when I do think, “Oh, I could do that better,” it’s generally the concept I’m responding to.

Booking through Thursday: History


On Thursday, August 25th, Booking through Thursday asked:

Sometimes I feel like the only person I know who finds reading history fascinating. It’s so full of amazing-yet-true stories of people driven to the edge and how they reacted to it. I keep telling friends that a good history book (as opposed to some of those textbooks in school that are all lists and dates) does everything a good novel does–it grips you with real characters doing amazing things.

Am I REALLY the only person who feels this way? When is the last time you read a history book? Historical biography? You know, something that took place in the past but was REAL.

When I was fourteen, I read Nicholas and Alexandra several times, and loved it every time. Some of my go-to books are biographies, published journals, etc. Madeleine L’Engle’s Crosswicks quartet are a series of her jounals turned into books, that were contemporary (more or less) when originally published, though have become historical now.

I love biographies, but the most recent I’ve read, those of Hilary Clinton and Queen Noor, are more contemporary than not. I love memoirs, but most of those I’ve read recently, like Carlos Eire’s Waiting for Snow in Havana, and my birthday-book from my aunt this year, Under the Big Top: A Season with the Circus have also been fairly contemporary as they both take place in the 20th and 21st centuries.

I know I’ve read things that are truly historical, but nothing of that ilk is speaking to me just now.

Booking Through Thursday: National Book Week

Kiss My Tiara, by Susan Jane Gilman

On Thursday, August 11th, Booking through Thursday asked:

It’s National Book Week. The rules: Grab the closest book to you. Go to page 56. Copy the 5th sentence as your status

My sentence is from Kiss My Tiara by Susan Jane Gilman:

I’d been reading a lot of Rimbaud and I guess something about the situation struck me as daring and fantastically romantic and sophisticated.

Kiss My Tiara
Susan Jane Gilman
224 pages
Grand Central Publishing, February 2001
Buy this book from>>

Booking Through Thursday: Character


On Thursday, December 16th, Booking through Thursday asked:

If you could be a character from any book, who would you be? And why?

I must not be taking my multivitamins because I swear there was no Booking Through Thursday prompt when I wrote my piece on the 17th. I guess I must have missed it.

In any case, the truth is that there are many characters I’d love to hang out with, but there isn’t one single one I’d like to be. One type maybe – feisty literary heroines like Jo March and Anne Shirley really appeal to me, but I really don’t want to live in either of their time periods, and while I really enjoyed reading Tania Aebi’s account of sailing around the world in a wooden ship as an eighteen-year-old, I know myself well enough to know that I am not happy without access to hot bubblebaths, espresso, bookstores, my dogs, and high-speed internet access.

Lame answer, I know, but the truth nevertheless.

Booking Through Thursday: First


On Thursday, December 2nd, Booking through Thursday asked:

How about First Editions? Are they something special? Or “just another book” to you?

Since the nice folks at BTT didn’t share a prompt this week, I’m answering one that I skipped.

So, First Editions. To be honest, I’m not a used book fan. I think used books are much akin to used gym equipment in that they serve a very important market, but it’s not a market I’m in. For me, there is nothing better than cracking the cover on a brand new book, with no one else’s cigarette smoke or mothball scents trapped in the pages. On the other hand, I do recognize that first editions are potentially valuable, and I do have a small collection, including one Arthur Conan Doyle volume that a friend gave me. It was an incredibly generous gift.

Booking Through Thursday: Crappy


On Thursday, December 9th, Booking through Thursday asked:

Do you ever crave reading crappy books?

On the surface this seems like an easy question, akin to, “Hey do you want to wake up with cerebral palsy tomorrow morning?” You’d think the answer would be a resounding “No.” You’d think anyone would have to be nuts to want to read a crappy book.

And yet…

It all depends on how we define crappy, doesn’t it?

I mean, there are times when I get great enjoyment from reading those really bad bodice ripper romances (generally because I’m reading them aloud, in the car – smut becomes comedy when you read it aloud in the car) and there are all these painful euphemisms for body parts. “Quivering members” and “Soft folds” and all that. I think my favorite referred to a woman’s “hot center” as of she was some kind of walking, talking, chocolate lava cake.

Not that the authors of those books are writing drivel. And even if they are, does it matter? If it gets people reading, it’s not really a bad thing…and hey, they’re getting paid to write, and the fact that I find most smut to be incredibly comical says more about me than the books, doesn’t it?

Doesn’t it?

But then, I also have this thing for Star Trek books, and while some of the writers of those have written their own original-universe stuff, I know a lot of people treat their work with derision. I don’t. I like most of their ideas, and I think it takes MORE talent and skill to write someone else’s familiar characters in a way that is true to the franchise AND true to your own voice, not less.

But I can’t deny that some would consider them crappy.

As for me, I find that there are a lot of free Kindle books that are free not because the author’s are being generous, but because they really are, if not crappy, than at least, not good in any definition of the word that equals “saleable.”

Booking Through Thursday: Thankful

Sailboat Race

Sailboat Race | Source: | Click to embiggen


On Thursday, November 25th, Booking through Thursday asked:

It’s Thanksgiving here in the U.S. of A. so …
What authors and books are you most thankful for?

I was born within the sound of the ocean if not the sight, and one of the first sounds I remember is that of foghorns. Now, living hundreds of miles from the sea, I’m thankful for authors like Susan Casey who write about some of my favorite things (sharks, rogue waves) and make me feel like I’m tucked into a tiny bunk on a rocking sailboat, and not in a suburban home, where I’m more likely to hear karaoke songs than the songs of humpback whales.

I’m thankful for other tellers of sea stories from Hemingway to Tania Aebi, whose memoir of circumnavigating the world in a wooden sailboat when she was just eighteen is a longtime favorite of mine, and has been since I first read it, when I was not much older than eighteen.

I’m thankful for Cleo Coyle in all her guises, because no one does cozy so well, and I’m thankful for all the authors who have asked me to review their work.

Mostly, I’m thankful that my brain is wired the right way to let me find joy in the printed word, and to let me completely immerse myself in a good book.

Booking Through Thursday: Borrowing

Shakespeare & Co

Shakespeare & Co | Artist: Ray Hartl


On Thursday, November 18th, Booking through Thursday asked:

Who would you rather borrow from? Your library? Or a Friend?

(Or don’t your friends trust you to return their books?)

And, DO you return books you borrow?

I could not begin to tell you what diet pills really work but I can tell you that my friends and I share books all the time. What I like about this is that we’re generally lending or borrowing books that we like – they come with the Friend Seal of Approval. What I don’t like is that I have a dog who sometimes steals books and gnaws on them, and I live in terror that he’ll do this with someone else’s books.
Most of my friends are good about returning the books I want back, and passing on to others the books I enjoyed, but have no need to re-read.

As to libraries…as a child, the public library was one of my favorite places on earth. In one town, the librarian often had several of us kids over to play at his house, with his girlfriend’s son (it was the 70’s…hanging with the librarian or your preschool teacher wasn’t alarming, then). As a young adult, I also frequented the library, often with my mother, later with my husband, but he’s so bad about returning books that it’s expensive and embarrassing.

Also, our local library is pretty awful. Oh, I mean, it’s pretty, and there’s free coffee and a bunch of comfy chairs, but the collection is appallingly bad in the branch near our neighborhood, and the main branch smells like old people, and not in a “I love you, Grandma, you smell like roses” way, but in a “this could be a really bad nursing home” sort of way, and it’s dark, and has miles of empty shelves, and it’s just too SAD to go there.

And, in truth, I get enough quiet working at home as a writer, so when I go out I don’t want to go to a place where anyone thinks they have a right to shush me. Bookstore-cafes, where there are lively discussions and froufrou espresso drinks are MUCH more my style.

Booking Through Thursday: Rewrite


On Thursday, October 14th, Booking through Thursday asked:

If you could rewrite the ending of any book, which book would it be? And how would you change it?

Even though I have a laptop and a netbook and an iPhone and a Kindle already, I spent a good part of last night surfing laptop deals lusting over the newer tech I don’t have. I say this because it’s the reason I’m answering “Booking through Thursday” on Friday morning at eleven.

As to rewriting the ends of novels: Sometimes I wish Jane had not returned to Rochester at the end of Jane Eyre, because I don’t think their relationship was terribly healthy. I maintain that J.K. Rowling’s final chapter of the Harry Potter saga, in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was a cop-out meant to appease fan-girl shippers. (I also maintain that Snape would have known how to avoid death by snakebite, and in MY world he’s alive, but that’s not the actual ending, just the precursor to it.) I don’t believe that most people marry their high school sweethearts, and I think Hermione would have quickly outgrown Ron – or, as often happens – Ron would have embraced adulthood and grown beyond Hermione – he’s the more well-rounded of the two.

It is Dracula, however, that has an ending which really irritates me, although it didn’t do so until I read Fred Saberhagen’s series of post-novel pastiche/sequels, beginning with The Dracula Tapes. Why does it it annoy me? Read the passage again:

As I looked, the eyes saw the sinking sun, and the look of hate in them turned to triumph.

But, on the instant, came the sweet and flash of Jonathan’s great knife. I shrieked as I saw it shear through the throat. Whilst at the same moment Mr. Morris’s bowie knife plunged into the heart.

It was like a miracle, but before our very eyes, almost in the drawing of a breath, the whole body crumbled into dust and passed from our sight.

If you read it carefully, you note three things:

1) Dracula’s throat was sliced, but he wasn’t beheaded.
2) His heart was pierced by another knife – NOT a wooden stake.
3) He crumbled into dust.

A casual reader would dismiss this as a death scene, except that earlier in the novel when listing Dracula’s powers, Stoker tells us that he can crumble into elemental dust. I maintain, therefore, that the ending of Dracula is flawed because Stoker did not follow the rules of his own world – rules he created. Either the scene needs to make it explicit that the Count’s head was separated from his body, OR, Stoker was leaving it open for a sequel, and I just can’t credit Stoker with that much forethought.

So, yes, I would rewrite Dracula.

Booking Through Thursday: Travel


On Thursday, October 7th, Booking through Thursday asked:

When you travel, how many books do you bring with you?
Has this changed since the arrival of ebooks?

There are three things that determine how many books I bring with me on a trip: why am I going, where I am going, and how long I will be gone. If I know I’m going to be spending ten days on one of those Royal Caribbean cruises, for example, I know that having books to read is essential so I’ll bring as many as I can. On the other hand, when I was in San Francisco for a novel-writing workshop I only brought a couple of books, because I knew I’d need to be either writing or sleeping in my down time. When I visit my mother in Mexico, I bring a mix of books I haven’t read, which I’ll read in the evenings or while sunning on the deck, and then leave, and books I’ve already read, because she lives in a town where finding English-language books is difficult and Amazon deliveries aren’t possible.

I’ve only had my Kindle for a month, but I’m already in love with it, so chances are I’ll choose it over real books in the future, unless there’s something that a) I want to bring to my mother or b) isn’t available. I will say that it’s the lighted leather cover that really MAKES the kindle for me. Without the cover, it’s nice; with the cover, it’s phenomenal.