Bookcases Filled To Bursting….And Snow

Well, we finally woke up to something to make the Catskills non-snow, mid-winter gray….a pleasant white:

[Photo by me, 2016.]
[Photo by me, 2016.]

It’s days like this – if you don’t have to be anywhere, or even go out at all – you can say I’m going to kick back for a while and have a read. Starting on Adele Archer’s International Relations the other day also reminded me about one of my growing concerns. Now that I am writing novels, I feel I don’t have as much time as I once did to read.

For example, I look at Goodreads. (That’s another social media site I know I need to use more.) I see every author seemingly reading loads. I admit I sometimes find myself a bit suspicious: how do they really have so much time to do so if they are actually writing, too?

I did read more when I was younger. Graduate school will demand that of you, so I still own hundreds of “old-fashioned” paperback and hardcover books. Mostly they’re shelved here in the house in the Catskills:

One of my bookshelves. [Photo by me, 2016.]
One of my bookshelves. [Photo by me, 2016.]

I miss having them around in Britain. Once, they were all over there (I shipped them there, and then shipped them back: I have a library that’s taken ocean voyages), but it’s easier to leave the bulky – often old – volumes stored here in the U.S. Space tends to be at a premium in British houses and flats.

From childhood, whenever I wasn’t doing something else, I was usually nose in a book. At about age 10, my first “mature” book was – seriously – Thucydides. Actually, it was my father’s – but I now still have that former paperback. (How do you give away, or worse, bin something like that?)

Unsurprisingly perhaps, my (now late) uncle was a voracious reader as well as being an author. Interestingly, though, his authoring was a lengthy process: he wasn’t churning out a new novel every six months. (That is something it appears some writers do now; and that makes me, again, a little suspicious.) The contents of his personal library in Newport weren’t all to my taste naturally, but I liked his approach and I’ve mimicked it with my own library to a degree:

Excerpt from "Distances," on the iPad app for Kindle. Click to expand.
Excerpt from “Distances,” on the iPad app for Kindle. Click to expand.

My main suggestion on how to write better is to read lots before taking up writing formally. Naturally we all arrive at “the writing desk” having had vastly different reading lives and life experiences, so I couldn’t suggest how much is “enough.” There’s no easy answer.

I’m a product, I suppose, of being immersed in years of “narrative history.” You may remember the Messenger exchange I’d shared with my uncle after I’d (nervously) told him about my novels, and he’d read some of my writing. He started urging me to read and write “cozy” crime novels. Privately, I groaned: cozies were not, and are not, my thing, and I told him so. He also knew I had not spent a lifetime reading “cozies,” but just thought my style well-suited that genre. I also knew he was biased: as a crime novelist, his advice skewed from what he knew best, of course: crime writing.

It’s no shock to me that I’ve drifted into converting what I’ve long read into historical, romance fiction. “Who we are” as an author emerges on the pages somehow as “our style.” In the end, it’s merely the sum total of so much that’s buried in the back of our minds due to a lifetime of reading, and, well, living.

Anyway, so much for sitting here theorizing about authoring. The sun’s coming out and it’s almost time to get out the snow shovel. The house is on quite a hill, so I make two sets of tire tracks down the worst of the slope and we take the (4 wheel drive) car out and weave – and sometimes, uh, slide a bit – down the drive, taking the bends like a roller coaster. 🙂


  1. I understand how you feel. I love reading other people’s books but have three other author’s works on the go, yet to complete (not to mention two of my own books to edit). I’ve also been loaned a book by a friend which I’ve had so long (unread), I’m going to have to give it back. But I can’t help but feel that is an insult to her taste in novels (not that there is anything wrong with the book, I’ve just been too busy to open it).On Goodreads, I have taken up their challenge to read 10 books this year, which doesn’t sound like much, but it is when you’re a writer. The compromise I have struck is to only read other people’s works just before I go to bed. I can’t write/edit my own books before bed anyway as it makes me too stressed to sleep. And let us not forget all the other blogs we have to keep up with along with writing our own. I would never say this on my own blog because half of my office reads it (I think), but my day-job is really cramping my style!!

    Have a lovely, snowy day!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Adele, I factor blogging and social media into my time. (And day jobs are a drag indeed!) But it gets really easy to “drown” in others’ writing. I remember my uncle once telling me about a friend of his – a surgeon, of all things – who’d written a crime novel and wanted him to read it and give him some feedback. He hated that sort of thing, he said to me; he had his own books to write, he ranted.

      I like your “10” books a year Goodreads pledge. That’s less than 1 a month. That’s pretty reasonable.

      And as for evenings, I’ve been reading your book mostly evenings so far. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Yay! Honestly, no pressure though – I won’t mind if you don’t end up finishing, there’s nothing worse than feeling obliged to. I’m a pretty slow reader myself and I find it hard to finish anything!

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