Out With The Books!

I’m delighted to join the Petticoats and Pistols team and have the opportunity to say howdy to fellow western lovers.   I started writing westerns at the beginning of my career and plan to return there. They’ve always been the love of my writing life, but I kinda got sidetracked with Scotland, early America and suspense.

Now it’s time to return to my roots.  A proposal for a five-book series is in the works, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

In the meantime, I’ve just finished a suspense novel, which means it’s time for a bit of housecleaning. Conveniently, it’s also time for my neighborhood’s giant garage sale which draws thousands of bargain hunters.  Since it usually occurs during deadline time, I’ve only participated three times during the twelve years I’ve lived in Memphis. But lately I’ve been receiving hints from my extended family. “If you ever move,” they claim, “your house will rise four feet.”   Comments are getting downright rude.This is in reference to the more than 4,000 books in my house. I have a lifetime of books. I do not believe in getting rid of a book. Any kind of book. But predictions that my house might collapse under their weight indicate a mild withdrawal might be in order. 

Too many books.  A notice of the giant garage sale. A sign?

I found a cardboard box and started the search for possible rejects in my office. I have eight floor-to- ceiling bookcases in my office alone. Those are my, ahem, research books. There’s one wall devoted to American western history; one to Scottish history and English history; one to murder, general mayhem, and various ways of tormenting people (for my suspense novels). The last area includes the general resource materials: costumes through the ages, guns through the ages, underclothes through the ages, ships through the ages, etc. Then there’s the one essential book for all writers: Baby Names. I have four of those, each one absolutely essential.

Okay, Pat, you can do this. You really can. After all, most of these books are no longer necessary because of the internet. Instead of using all that space, you need only a computer and mouse these days.

Yeah, and the heart isn’t essential for life.

Still, I start with the books under my desk. Surely I don’t need four Thesauruses. And four dictionaries.

I’ll start with the Dictionaries.   Dictionaries do well in garage sales.  (Well, since I never sold one, I don’t really know, but I suspect this is true).  Now this one has the dates of when each word came into common use. Can’t dump that. The second one has nice large print.  Invaluable for midnight hours. The third, well it’s a paperback and light. Easy to hold. The last, well . . . I never know when I’ll lose the other three under piles of books.

Maybe I’ll have better luck with the Thesauruses. No one needs four. Or maybe they do. This one is big. Lots of words. But the second is better organized. And then the third is the Synonym Finder. Paperback again. Bright red cover. Easier to find when reams of paper cover my desk as I finish my final draft. Can’t give up that one. The fourth? Well, I can’t find it right now. But I know it’s there. Somewhere.

On to the western shelves.

Do I really need “Diary of a Cattle Drive Cook.” Yep, absolutely necessary to my well-being.   Just listen to the call for breakfast:

“Wake up Jacob!

Day’s a-breaking

Beans in the pot,

An’ sourdoughs a’breakin’!”

Now where can you find that on the internet?

Then there’s “Apache Days and Tombstone Nights,” the autobiography of John Clum who was mayor of Tombstone during the Earp-Clanton battle at the OK Corral and founder of the “Tombstone Epitaph.” He was also an Indian fighter who took Geronimo prisoner. This is the real deal. Great stuff, especially since my dad grew up in the area and had met him (please don’t add up those years).

What about “Soiled Doves, Prostitution in the Early West,” and “Mollie,” the journal of a city woman who homesteads with her husband in the Nebraska Territory? Or the multitude of other diaries of participants in the building of the west? Miners, army wives, cowboys, gamblers, boatmen, and one of my very favorites: the journey by an English woman across the Rockies on horseback. Alone (“A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains.”)

Ah,  here’s “The Prairie Traveler,” the 1859  best selling handbook for American Pioneers.   A must for any wagon train tale.

Can’t give up any of the above. Each was carefully collected on trips west, usually at state and national historical sites, and my proposed western series would include all the characters above.

Oops. Don’t remember that one about the Apaches. I’ll just read a page or two . . .

How late is it? Can barely see. Where did the daylight go?

On to the Scottish shelves. Maybe I’ll have better luck there.

“The Laird’s Table?” Now how easy is it to find meals from the 15th Century in Scotland on the internet? Better keep that one. “The Steel Bonnets?” Nope, love that book. Fascinating history of the English/Scottish border in the 1500’s. Okay, do I really need twenty books on clan names and castles and Scottish ghosts?

Aye, I do. Never know when I’ll return to Scottish historicals, just as I now intend to turn back to my original love, westerns. There’s a lot in common between the two, particularly rugged individualism and strong women. I indulged my love for both when writing, “The Marshal and the Heiress,” when a western marshal goes to Scotland, and its successor, “The Scotsman Wore Spurs,” when a Scot goes west. 

But I digress.  I take my empty box downstairs. Lots of books there. Twelve more bookcases. And piles. Piles everywhere. Fiction and non-fiction of all kinds. Surely I can find a reject here and there.

Ahhhh, there’s my Elswyth Thane Williamsburg series. You would have to pry those from my cold dead hands. Along with Celeste De Blasis’s “The Proud Breed, ” my all-time favorite western. If you haven’t read it, find it. It’s long, very long, but every page is a treasure. “Lonesome Dove” rests next to it as my second favorite.

That box is kinda light. I look inside. An “AAA Tour Book” about Texas. Well, I have an updated one. But I smile. Progress.

Enough for now. It’s two in the morning.

As for my getting-rid-of -books project, well, tomorrow is another day.

In the meantime, I would appreciate any suggestions on how to tear away a few of the volumes clutched tightly against my heart.

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14 thoughts on “Out With The Books!”

  1. Oh Pat! Great post. Any writer or avid reader can relate! I have trouble tossing books too. To me, they’re like photographs. If I toss one away, I feel like I’m tossing away the person! So I Keep them. I have shelves of books in the garage, books in my office and my husband recently scooped out the wall in my closet to insert true built-in shelves against the two-by-fours, just so I had more places for my books. My nightstand TBR pile is always 5 to 10 high. And I have a box of books in the trunk of my car!
    Okay, ’nuff said.
    Charlene Sands

  2. Great husband and great idea about the closet. I don’t even want to think about my TBR pile. It’s like Topsy. It just grows and grows and grows. But what’s so fun about going through the the piles is finding that treasure you forgot you had.

  3. Timely post, Pat. I’ve been looking at my overcrowded shelves and the books stacked on the floor thinking it’s high time I sent these books to a new home because it’s getting harder and harder to find a book when I need it. I imagine, though, that I’ll have as much luck as you.

  4. Wonderful post…you sound just like me. Only my room and shelves are crowded with mostly romance books rather than research material. I have been warned and teased that my floor will collapse if I add just one more book to the stacks near the door…however, that first warning came 100 books ago and the floor is still there…LOL.

    I no longer have a TBR stack…I have a TBR mountain range with stacks of books everywhere and each divided by genre or publisher (at least they were until Mount Contemporary, Mount Harlequin, and Mount Western decided to have simultaneous avalanches and reformed into Mount Mixed Genres…LOL). I am convinced these mountains breed during the night making more books…the stacks just seem to keep growing no matter how many I read…hmmm…the contemporaries and historicals must get together and that is how we get time travels. I need to purge, I know, but it is so hard to get rid of books. They are my friends. And I know the moment I get rid of a book, I will start looking for it to read. I have managed to get rid of some, but I was in mourning for a while. :o)

    So I probably can’t offer you too many useful hints….hmmm….you could always send books to me…a few more to the stack won’t hurt…LOL.

  5. Jennifer. . . You didn’t ramble. It was a terrific comment. What a great description!
    From now on, I’ll look at my piles in an entirely different way. Thanks for posting!

  6. I am no help to you either. I have thousands of books. I did attempt to purge them once – all I managed were books without covers (horrors I know but those were from back in the day when all I could afford were flea market books) and I think I sold one book so back they came lol.

  7. I am still chuckling at your post. I am right there with you! When we moved three years ago I somehow whittled my office bookshelves down to an astonishing six. Then, later, when I realized my curio wasn’t going to fit anywhere else, I whittled yet another bookcase away. I have only FIVE bookcases in my office.

    I do confess, however, that there are now paper boxes filled with books hidden under the desk areas. I don’t need that much foot room.

  8. Well, I consider myself a pack-rat in refernece to my books. They’re everywhere! And I’m in absolutely no hurry in thinning them out. Just don’t tell my hubby! LOL

  9. Pat, this seems to be a “growing” problem with us writers. If you find out a solution I’d sure like to hear it. And the sooner, the better. I’m going to have to move from my nearly 2K square foot home to a small apartment. Spare me the thought. I’m already cringing at the thinning that’s absolutely going to have to come or else I’ll have no place for stick of furniture. Oh well, who needs a place to sit? And I guess books’ll make a good bed. Maybe some of the information will filter through to my brain in some sort of osmosis way while I sleep. Excellent post!

  10. LOL at Linda’s comment about books making a bed…hmmmm…a chair or bed made out of books sounds doable…if you stack them just right…just make sure to replace what you take so the “furniture” doesn’t collapse…nice excuse to get more books.

  11. It is a lot of fun to go through my piles of books and discover what books I forgot I had and which ones I still need to read!! 🙂 It is like Christmas each time I go through it!

  12. I am so keeping my fingers crossed to for those Westerns. I have all of your Westerns (and every other book too) even the old Harlequin Historicals and I adore each and every one of them. My favourite of all though is (I think) Lawless – the one with Lobo anyway.
    I also have a huge collection of books – my solution was to build my own library – in the basement bedroom which in no longer a bedroom but my own little slice of heaven!

  13. Kristie. . . I love you. Thanks so much for your comments on my westerns. Lobo is probably my favorite hero.

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