Being a writer, I have a passion for books. A new book (or, more honestly, several new books) is the one purchase I have a hard time resisting. A while ago my book buying habit got so severe I had to go cold-turkey. For an entire year I didn’t buy one- -not one- -book for myself. But every time I needed to buy a gift, to ease the pain I bought a- -well, you know.
I’ve been on a reading jag lately, mostly books borrowed from our splendid rural library system. This is goal-oriented reading, as I’m researching people, places and events of 1893 for a new novel. I’m also doing a lot of genre reading, specifically some recent Middle Grade and Young Adult titles. This is market research, and it’s been very helpful in deciding how to pitch my presently homeless western historical novel.
But what about the books on my desk? These are my true work horses, some of which I use every day. Numero Uno is The Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the Pocket Book edition published in 1974. The words “laptop” and “internet” do not appear amongst the entries, but that’s okay. My primary reason for thumbing through this handy-sized antique is finding synonyms, and it’s a good system, based on a great piece of advice I read somewhere. Instead of using the Thesaurus provided in my word processing program, I look up the word I’m trying to replace. By studying the meaning of the word, instead of just a substitute I get the nuance of the word, too, and can choose not only a synonym, but the best synonym.
Next is Woe Is I (The Grammarphobe’s Guide to Better English in Plain English) by Patricia T. O’Conner © 1996 (G. P. Putnam’s Sons). The last time I formally studied grammar was in 3rdgrade, when the subject was called “Language.” I have a pretty good grounding in the basics (thanks, Mrs. Mitton!), but every so often I get hung up on remembering the rules for using who/whom, and the more esoteric forms of punctuation can leave me scratching my head. Many times I’ve put this book back on the shelf, but I’ve finally surrendered. It now serves double duty as grammar resource and as a paperweight for the manuscript I’m revising.
The Writer’s Digest Character Naming Sourcebook (Sherrilyn Kenyon © 1994, Writer’s Digest Books) is a temporary visitor. I’m developing characters for the new novel, and sometimes a person I don’t know very well enters the story. In the beginning, I know their relationship to the main character and a few biographical details, but I don’t always know their name. This book has advice for crafting a name as well as an extensive list of names by national origin, and, within those categories, by gender. The meanings of the names are given as well. For example, my character Veronica (honest image) Zeta (born last) from the novel Small-g City (Wolfsinger Publications, sometime this year) is the “surprise” baby of Zeus and Hera. Though a generation younger than her siblings, she’s the only one with good business sense and sterling ethics. Who else could succeed Zeus as the head of the family business?
Books bring pleasure, books bring knowledge, books hold useful tools. No wonder my resistance to books is weak. I hope yours is, too.
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