My Crazy Library … What’s on Your Bookshelf?

When I started out today, I had no idea what I wanted to blog about!  So I hit my bookshelf in my office looking for ideas and WA-LA, I realized that my BOOKS were the blog!   Often times, I scrounge around the bookstore shelves looking for that one “bargain” book that I might use for a story.  I hit garage sales, when I have time, (not so often lately) and check out the used book section in my public library.  Often, friends give me books and I do appreciate their understanding that in order to write a good book, a writer needs to to spark their creative juices.  That’s a whole nuther blog folks.  Today, I’m sticking to the subject!7117yg506vl__bo2204203200_pisitb-dp-500-arrowtopright45-64_ou01_aa240_sh20_.jpg

The whole world is our writing oyster, to tweak a well-known phrase a little.  We never know when or where we’ll use the knowledge gained in those books we  keep on our shelves.  Sometimes, it’s hit or miss.  Sometimes, we use a book over and over and other times, we may use it once or not at all. 

So I perused my bookshelf and found some fun things I’ve purchased over the years. For instance, I have a book from the Whodunit series, called Deadly Doses – a writer’s guide to poisons.    Wonderful!  I remember finding a way a villain could knock off my hero in Chase Wheeler’s Woman, a Harlequin Historical from early in my career. The method was simple with ingredients that are easily accessable in today’s world. I thought and thought about this. Then I realized I couldn’t in all conscience, put that deathly method into my story!  I know, I know … but I just couldn’t spell it out in such specific terms.   It was too easy for someone to do … so I used vague terms and the end result was the same.  The hero drank the poisoned tea and almost died without me revealing the details.   But at least, MY conscience was clear!  I don’t know how mystery and thriller writers do it.  Maybe that’s why I write romance. 🙂

img_0001.JPGI continued perusing my shelves and came up with LOVE TYPES by  Dr. Alexader Avila.   He gave a very insightful lecture at my chapter meeting and of course, I bought his book.  This book claims that by using his LoveType tm, system,  you can instantly help identify your soulmate when you meet him or her.     It’s really quite fascinating and the first chapters delve into you first, Unmasking Yourself.  There’s even this nifty quiz that helps you decide who you are. Then in later chapters, the author describes how to identify your soulmate from the list that includes, The Meaning Seekers, The Knowledge Seekers, The Security Seekers and The Excitement Seekers.  Each of these are broken down some more into subcategories.  For instance, under The Excitement Seekers, you’d find, The Gentle Artist, The Craftsperson, The Performer and the Wheeler-Dealer.  There are 16 love types in all.   I thought that I’d really use this book, with hopes of helping with characterizations and internal conflicts.  But no.  I’ve had the book 5 years at least, and the cover appears untouched. It’s in excellent condition, because I MAY have referred to it once.  But that’s all.  That’s not to say that I WON’T at some time in my writing life. So the book stays.

img_0002.JPGMany years ago I picked up a book at the Used Book section of the library, called A Veterinary Guide for Animal Owners.  It sat and sat on my bookshelf and I knew that book would come in very handy one day.  That day didn’t come far into the future because, you see, I had always wanted to use that book, somehow.   And then it hit me … I’d write a romance about a female veterinarian in present day.   Like Lightning became my 3rd Desire about a female vet whose office burns down and she takes up residence at our hero’s ranch to continue her practice.   From there, it was a no-brainer.  I had this great book that spoke of rural animal ailments and how to cure them.  The research was built-in, pictures and all.   And since then, I’ve used the info  from that book many times in my westerns as well as my contemporaries.  It was a gold mine of a book and it cost me $0.00   That’s right.  The book was on the Free Shelf in the library.  Don’t you just love it!

isreading.jpgAnne Lamott’s book Bird by Bird is a keeper.  There’s nothing like it to boost up your creativy.  And then there’s Poker Champion Doyle Brunson’s  book  teaching me the fast strategies of Texas Hold Em.  More than one of my contemporary heroes has played the game, so I needed to brush up on my poker skills.  

 The Cowboy Dictionary is a book I refer to with every historical I write. Where else could I learn that “huggin rawhide” means sticking to the saddle while riding a bucking horse or that a “huckydummy ” is a cowboy’s term for a baking powder biscuit with raisins or a “door knob” is a cowboy’s term for a young boy who still has some growing to do.   The Best Name Baby Book I found at a used book sale and it’s my savior. Whenever I start a new story, I search through those names to find the perfect name for my hero and heroine, and sometimes, even my secondary characters. 

So I ask you … if a stranger walked into my office and took note of these books, would he know I write romances?  I think not.  Our sources for information are as varied as the books we write!   And my next question is – like the Capital One commercial, what’s in your wallet, I’m asking “What’s on your bookshelf?”  Share with us the weirdest book you have on your shelf and how it came to be there.  


Available today on Eharlequin and bookstores in March.

Happy Trails and Happy Reading!

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18 thoughts on “My Crazy Library … What’s on Your Bookshelf?”

  1. hi Charlene, I’m up late so am the first to write! I love the poison book! I don’t have any books nearly as interesting as the ones you list, but I guess the weirdest is the American Lit textbook from the days I taught that subject. With American history and literature so entwined, I have used stuff from it. Thanks for the interesting post.

  2. I do almost all my research online. My book shelves are loaded with romance novels of all kinds that I love. I’ve got a great thesaurus I never use…online again…I’ve got this massive book called Strongs Concordance that is a Bible verse finder. If I know one word of a Bible verse, I can look that word up and there will be very reference to it in the Bible.
    Not so bad with Adam, or Jonah, but heaven help you if you only remember ‘love’ or ‘faith’ because there are ONE ZILLION possibilities.
    Only trouble with this? It’s a Revised Standard Bible verse finder. Writing historicals…I have to use the King James Bible. amazing how different the verses sometimes read from one version to the other.
    So there Strongs sits. Lovely book, though. 🙂
    What I do like is…books with fight scenes, fire scenes, plane crash scenes, spooky walk in the forest scenes.
    If I’m trying to write a scene with someone fighting their way out of a burning building, I’ll re-read a fire scene, study how the author used panic and noise and sound, what words did she use for fire, how did she make this work.
    I’ve got a great plane crash scene in one book but now I can’t remember what it’s called. Of course now I’m writing historicals. Not a lot of call for plane crashes

  3. Good morning Mary – I do a lot of research online now too. It’s so readily available and makes for quicker research. Like you, I don’t think I’ve opened my book-form Thesaurus in years either. So much easier online. In fact, my husband and I talked about selling our set of World Book encyclopedias that takes up a ton of closet space, but I can’t bring myself to do that.
    I love learning from these blogs. I never knew how varied the verses read from one Bible to another. I don’t think I would have thought of that. Thanks for your post today!

  4. I have a variety of things on my reference shelves. One shelf is full of polic procedure, forensics, and court procedure books. Since I am a police officer I already know a lot of it but it’s nice to have a more “general” info book so I can see what other departments in other parts of the country might calls things since not all terminology is the same. On that shelf I also have some fire fighting books and arson investigation-books I’ve used for writing fan fiction. Actually the arson book was from when I tried to get one of the arson investigator slots but they chose someone else.

    I also have quite a few books on history, poetry, reference guides for Shakespeare (and the large brick of a book of the complete works of Shakespeare from college that I broke my toe on once), folklore, and a shelf on Wicca and Druidism. Add to the mix a stack of True West magazines on another shelf and you can get the idea of eclectic my shelves are!

  5. Lynn/Elsandra,
    Wow! What a great array of books. I didn’t know you were a police officer! You must actually UNDERSTAND all that forensic info. I love folklore but wondered what Wicca and Druidism is exactly? Thanks for posting!

  6. I have a set of encyclopedias, very old, I know Ronald Reagan didn’t make the book. I’ve considered throwing it out but it really is a great source for old standard stuff, I mean c’mon, the facts of the Civil War haven’t changed, right? George Washington’s bio is the same…unless they took out the Chopping Down the Cherry Tree scandal to whitewash his name and career. Ax-Gate?
    The Civil War is a factor in Petticoat Ranch, only in that Clay had fought in it and he refers to it a just a bit…passing references.
    “No, I never got to the east. I got hung up in the seige of Vicksburg.”
    I got most of that, big over-view info, from our encyclopedia.

  7. Hi Charlene, I’m away from home and can’t see my bookshelf but I have a really strange book of faces. Can’t remember the title right now. It’s a book that shows the shapes of faces and what it means when eyes are set too close together or too far apart. And how the shape of your face determines your personality. It’s a neat book and I’ve used it several times when I’m creating my characters.

    I’m in Amarillo this week, kicking off Give Me a Texan release. Things are hectic but I’m trying to check in and see what my Filly sisters are doing. Hope you’re all behaving yourselves. 🙂

    Great blog subject, Charlene! It’s strange when what we can come up with when our minds are blank.

  8. Hi Linda – Good luck with the kick off of your book!! How fun. Thanks for taking the time to respond even while you are away. That face book is certainly a strange one!

    Mary – Yes, history is history and it doesn’t change. I also love how the encycopedia shows clear maps of the US states. I just can’t part with them, no matter how much room they take up.

  9. Good morning!

    I think most people don’t realize how hard it is to write a book, especially a historical. Which is why we need to arm ourselves with an arsenal of resources to help us be accurate.

    Two of my favorites are Panati’s Extraordinary Origins of Everyday Things–and the 1908 Sears Roebuck Catalog. The stuff in there is amazing!

  10. Hi Pam – Panati’s Extraordinary Origins of Everyday Things? That sounds like a great book!! Where did you get that one? And I know some people with the Sears Roebuck catalog who love it. A definite keeper!

  11. Last summer I wrote my first historical- set around the turn of the century 1790’s/1820’s on the Virginia coast. I bought a book about Norfolk, Va, but it was a picture book with captions more than anything. I also got The Reshaping of Everyday Life 1790’s to 1840’s which covers a little about all the coastal states and such. That one was very helpful, even though I still haven’t finished reading it since I finished the first draft of my novel.

    I actually have one small 3 shelf bookcase in the living room filled with all my TBR books and my writing books, such as No Plot, No Problem(the NaNo handbook which I haven’t even read yet! LOL), Writing and Selling Your Novel, Discovering the Writer Within and so forth. One is a textbook my dad got in a box of books at an auction. Its called Twenty Questions for the Writer. I may have read some of these once, if at all.

    I also have Writer’s Little Book of Wisdom, which has wonderful quotes, some Writer’s Digest books, but then there’s also my beautiful handcrafted bookcase that my dad built in the bedroom.

    It’s filled with romance novels, V.C. Andrews out the wazoo, D.H. Lawrence, Jane Austen, Bobbie Ann Mason, Tanith Lee, but it also has my home school English and American Literature textbooks, a couple of Dr. John Gray’s books, an Edgar Cayce Guide to Reincarnation, Sex Signs(a book of psycho-astrology) and a book that actually belongs to my dad, but I somehow managed to hang onto it- Dr. Bruce Goldberg’s Past Lives, Future Lives. Somewhere around here I have a book for the novice astrology chartmaker too.

    Oh and two of the oldest I found was a 1959 copy of Dennis the Menace Rides Again! and a 1965 copy of Kathleen Winsor’s Wanderers Eastward, Wanderers West. I’ve never read Winsor’s book but it’s a hardback, no dustjacket and the spine is ragged, but the reason I have it is because it holds sentimental value. In June or July 1978, my aunt outlined our handprints and footprints in front and back. I was 3 years old at the time. Now my 5 year old daughter’s hand and foot fit in MINE and my hand and foot match my aunt’s.

  12. What a fun blog, Charlene. On my shelves I have lots of Native American books. One of my favorites is “A Treasury of American Indian herbs.” Can’t tell you how many times I’ve used that one to find a remedy for a wounded or ailing character in a story. I also have books on swearing, underwear, whales, gypsies, etc. etc. etc.– I must have hundreds of books! Love each and every one of them!

  13. Hi Elizabeth,
    Oh I love learning about herbs and how the NA would use those natural resources to cure ailments. That trickled down to our cowboys and they’d often know the secrets too – well some of them at least!

  14. Our books allow us to reside with them – they have
    taken possession of the house! Most are part of
    collections: music, cookbook, romance novels,
    presidential biographies. Among the more unusual
    are “Life of Mother Mary Teresa” (circa 1899),
    “Charles Dickens’s Christmas Stories” (circa 1901), “Art of Egypt”(a souvenir from the King
    Tut Exhibit), and an “Illustrated Medical Dictionary” (from a medical assistant course I once took). I try not to add to my collections, but it’s like they have developed a life of
    their own!

    Pat Cochran

  15. Hi Pat – You do have a wonderful and extensive library! If we don’t watch out, our books will take over the house. I can’t part with too many and that’s why I’m having major space issues, so much so, that my husband built in shelving within my closet walls, but even that’s not enough!

  16. The weirdest book on my nearby office shelf is MUMMIES by Georgess McHargue. I bought it at a used book sale. It’s fascinating stuff with PICTURES that I weirdly thought I would use someday…LOL Not a lot of mummies have shown up in my books — yet — but someday…

  17. Just looking for other’s point of view concerning their bookcase and books…Developing my own life story about the same…I have a three shelf book case..with some books stacked beside…I donate a book to the hospital to make room for a new friend (book) this helps me control the friends I visit in the quiet of my own home…books show up while I am digging in the neighborhood thrift store…and come alive in my hands when I need what they have to offer…thanks, Lana

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