A writer’s bookshelf…neglected tomes

Oh Thesaurus, how do I love thee? Let me count the words! (apologies to Elizabeth Barrett Browning)


These books that adorn the shelf next to the desk where I write, how often are they used? The ones I’ve had for many years, falling apart from old age and earlier constant usage…Roget’s Thesaurus, The Penguin Dictionary of Quotations, Fowlers Modern English Usage, The Concise Oxford Dictionary…mostly sit unopened on the shelf from one year to the next.

Looking up the reference for the sonnet misquoted above took all of a millisecond on Google. Finding it in the index at the back of the Quotations book took a lot longer.

So why do I keep these books, taking up space on a shelf? For the same reason I keep thousands of other books in the house. I love the feel, the smell, and the action of turning the pages, the thrill of discovery and re-discovery when I get around to reading some of them again.

And, opening the Thesaurus to a random page just now, I find Knowledge and Ignorance side by side. What fun! I think I should delve in here more often.


What’s in a word?

I received some useful feedback on my novel from two American readers. They said there were a few expressions and words that were unfamiliar to them. They were able to work out the meaning from the context of the story. Anyway, I thought I would share these ones that they made particular note of (apologies and warning of bad language):

1. ‘scraping away like buggery’ (Note – this isn’t something I would say myself, but it seemed to fit the character who said it – photo here shows me in the act)


2. ‘lay by’ – this may be something peculiar to British roads. It’s often a small area with just enough room for one or two cars to park off the road – possibly to look at the view (quaint euphemism for taking a toilet break). Some lay bys, on very narrow roads, are meant as passing places so you can pull in to let another vehicle past. I would be interested to know if there is an American equivalent.

3. ‘stop taking the piss and I might tell you’ – I guess they managed to work out that this meant stop making fun of me.

The word that always throws me when I read American books is ‘pissed’. Now I know that this means ‘angry’ or ‘upset’. To a British reader though, it means ‘drunk’.

If anyone would like to add to cross-cultural use of words and their perceived meanings, please leave a comment.

The Cover Question

I’ve seen some discussion threads recently about covers. Do you judge a book by its cover? Some people say they do, some don’t. Some say they read the blurb and the reviews to make their buying decision. But then it’s also pointed out that the reviews can’t be trusted. Others say the cover doesn’t matter because if you read an ebook, the cover isn’t seen, once you’ve purchased it and start reading.

So this is all very baffling for a newly published author. I’ve been told that Starting Over is a good story and most of those who have read it, enjoyed it. But perhaps the cover isn’t attracting people to it. The story is a lesbian romance, so shouldn’t it at least have two sexy looking women making out on the cover? With all the books available why would anyone choose this one?


For me, the cover works. I took the photo that is the background image and suggested it could be used as it was taken in the place where the main part of the story is set. And then the choice of the image of the woman on the motorbike, gazing over the scene – this represents an actual scene in the book. And it was an important turning point for this character. The imagery on the cover fits with both the story and the title.

The woman on the bike is Robin Fanshawe. Of all the characters in the book, she is the one most likely to be hated, at least at the beginning of the story. After all, she cheats on her lover, Ellie Winters. And as Ellie is portrayed as such a wonderful woman, why would she do that? Could I really expect readers to buy into Ellie being a doormat for so long?

But at the start of the story, this situation is set to change fairly rapidly. All the main players end up at the farm in the first two chapters and set in motion the events that follow. One reviewer described it as having elements of a French farce about it.

Throughout the story there is humour, there is heartache – it’s a romance after all – and in the end there is happiness. What more could you ask for?

Blogging it up


The start of the year seems like a good time to tidy out shelves and drawers. However, I thought my project for a wet Sunday should be to give my blog a refresh. So I’ve added a few more pages: Books / Guest appearances / Reviews. These are mainly for my benefit so I can find these links when I need them, but I hope they will be of interest to any visitors to the blog as well.

The bookshelf pictured above is in my local independent bookstore. I’m pleased to say they have sold four paperback copies of Starting Over in the last two months – and only one of those was to a friend – that I know of. More good news for a dreary January day.

Looking forward to a host of wonderful things this year. May sees the publication of my second novel ‘Arc Over Time’ by Affinity. I’m working towards completing a third novel – but too early to say anything more on that yet. July I will be in New Orleans at my first GCLS conference. The first conference of this kind for me. I’m excited to be meeting up face to face not only with my publishers but also the many ‘friends’ I’ve met via Facebook.

The year has only just started but it already seems to be rushing by.

Putting it out there

Having a novel published for the first time was both exhilarating and scary. While it was wonderful to see my book in print, this collection of words I had somehow managed to put down on paper—now other people would read them. Those who read lesbian fiction I wasn’t too worried about. They would either like it or not. And obviously my publisher and editor thought it was a good story. But there were friends and family now going to read it, and lesbian romance wasn’t a genre of choice for any of them. My mother and sister both said they enjoyed the story. Other friends and relatives have been surprised, I think, to find out what goes on in my head.

When the book came out in paperback I gave a copy to a friend, a former English teacher. Weeks passed and she didn’t mention it, and I was afraid to ask. Then just before Christmas my partner and I were enjoying a glass of mulled wine in a local café and my friend’s husband came in. After ordering their drinks he sat down at a table nearby. Looking over, he recognised me, and to my surprise said, “Oh, I’ve read your book. Really enjoyed it. But it was a bit steamy.”

Now there are some sexy scenes in the book, it’s a romance after all. Hardly in the erotic category, though. But then, to someone who doesn’t read lesfic, it would probably seem that way.

At that point his wife arrived. She said she was in the middle of reading ‘The Return of the Native’ which is why she hasn’t got around to reading my book yet. I didn’t think I could compete with real literature, so I let her off.


Close family members all got a paperback copy of ‘Starting Over’ for Christmas, even though I knew they’d downloaded the ebook as soon as it was released. The photo is one my sister sent me, taken on Christmas day, showing off her new slipper socks and the book.

I don’t know if it gets any easier…the process of releasing your words out into the ether. I’m sure I’ll go through the same ecstasy and agony with the release of my next book, which is due out in May. And if my friend’s husband thought ‘Starting Over’ was ‘steamy’, I better give her fair warning – ‘Arc Over Time’ might be too hot for him. That’s all I’m going to say about that for now.

Note: I would like to thank all those people I don’t know personally who have read ‘Starting Over’ and particularly those who have given me feedback and/or posted reviews. It is a tremendous boost to know it’s being read and enjoyed.

(‘Starting Over’, my debut novel is available from Affinity, Amazon, Bella Books and Smashwords.)