As a Reader, What Captures Your Interest, What Bores You?

Reading is one of the simple pleasures in life. I consider it a blessing as well. I’ve loved reading since I can remember. When I was a child, I remember reading anything I could get my hands on, books, comic books, fliers, labels, signs, shampoo bottles … . When I was sick, my aunts would buy me coloring books and books, and I fondly remember a book that had colorful pictures of all kinds of animals, and a brief information about each animal. It was the first time I learned about an okapi, and an ornitorinc. Look them up, these are some of the most unusual animals on our planet. The memory of those pictures never left my mind.

When I read I don’t put a number on how many books a year I have to read. It becomes a chore and ruins the experience for me. Instead, I carefully select what I want to read, usually according to my mood. Also, I don’t hurry to read the latest best seller. I approach reading with ceremonial disposition. It is a special time, an enjoyable and pleasurable experience. To be able to transport myself to a world created by a writer’s imagination, and visualize it, almost being inside it, is something quite special and amazing, a miracle of the mind, a connection between writer/author and reader. Isn’t that wonderful?

A well written story captures my interest. One that flows effortlessly in my mind as I read, and also, one that paints vivid images, whether via description or character’s recounts. I enjoy a medium pace, not to fast, but also not so slow that I might lose interest. I have put down books and never pick them up again because I became bored reading an extremely long description in almost every other chapter or too many twists and turns that made the story “too made up” for my taste. Other readers might enjoy this, of course. I enjoy a story that has balance between description and dialog. Contrary to popular opinion, you can tell me from time to time, you don’t have to show me all the time. It becomes exhausting. As a reader, balance is the key for me. Stories that go into too much technical detail tend to bore me, unless the information is crucial for understanding the story. If the lingo is being thrown without a purpose or direct correlation, I start skipping pages. When I catch myself skipping chapters, I stop reading the book. Many years ago, I would force myself to finish a book that I was not enjoying only because I had started reading it. To reach the ending was a must, almost a sacrilege not to do it. It was pure torture. Through the years, I made peace with my reader-self and finally understood that it is fine to stop reading a book that I am not enjoying. There are many books I want to enjoy, and life is too short.

The Christmas Box Collection

This post should have been written in January, however, I think it is never too late to praise a good read. During the Christmas season I usually read a holiday related book. Last year I read a few. I enjoyed The Christmas Box Collection by Richard Paul Evans so much that I must talk about the experience. It has been sitting on my bookshelf for some time, and finally, I was able to enjoy it. Many of you might be familiar with it since it has been around for some time, but for those of you who are not, I think it will be an enjoyable experience to read it. Although it is by no means a cheerful set of stories, these all relate to one another, and are a bit different from your regular holiday read.

The Christmas Box Collection includes three stories: The Christmas Box, Timepiece, and The Letter. I loved all three stories. I loved that these are so well written that I could not put them down. In addition, I found myself being transported to the settings and seeing everything so clear in my mind, effortlessly, and this made the reading experience more enjoyable. I also found myself immersed, enjoying the writing style of this author. It is an author that I would read again. I am not going to include on this post a summary or what each story is about because that will ruin the reader’s experience; however, I can tell you that if you want to read something different and meaningful over the Christmas season The Christmas Box Collection will not disappoint you.

Future Projects

I should call them intentional endeavors because I would like to work on these as soon as possible, however, experience has taught me different. There is a small backlog of stories that are begging to be written and I am planning on tackling those, one by one (I am no James Patterson, and my mind can only handle one story at a time) and maybe some will end up as part of a compilation of short stories I am planning to publish. A book of poems (poetry book sounds pretentious) is another project I would like to handle in the near future. Although I have made a considerable dent on my reading backlog, I have yet to clear my shelves. A few book reviews  will be included as posts. I find that I have neglected that side. This takes me to my art, which I have neglected as well, but intend to resume, and share a bit of it on this blog. I find it so difficult to separate my interests because I see them as a whole, each fueling one another. I had purposely made this blog a writing blog, and eliminated many posts about the farmhouse restoration and other interests, and I am not sure if that was the best thing to do. I miss that part of it. If you have been with me for a while, you probably saw these disappear, and I regret not saving or printing them before deleting them for good. Oh well, those are gone.

On the home front, there are countless projects, many of which need to be finished and date back to when  I moved to Virginia. We still have work to do on this old farmhouse and its surroundings. The small potager is almost completed, but needs some more planning. The hard part is done. The garden is in what I consider the early stages, according to what I imagine it will become. Knowing the morass and wilderness it was, I should pat myself in the back (and my husband too) because we really have worked hard on it. This is obviously a long term and ongoing project. I think a place grows with you through the years, and one grows with it as well, complementing each other. A house whispers what it wants. We intend to live here for a long time so there is no rush.

I have many personal goals I would like to see to fruition, and these are just that, personal. They range from personal development, education, wants, and other. My point is that all these things take a considerable amount of time, money, and effort. Some are implemented right away while others take years to materialize, and I must learn to recognize the difference. I used to make life maps from time to time. Months ago, I found an old map I had created many years ago (more than a decade). When I looked at it I was pleasantly surprised. Most of the things on that map had become reality, and according to it I was where I was supposed to be. I had forgotten about it. On this map things where scheduled to happen faster, but in reality they took much longer. However, the outcome was the same. This made me reflect on something very important. It is all about vision and faith, speed and time are relative, and these adjust accordingly. So many times we chastise ourselves (I am guilty of it) when life doesn’t go at the speed of our dreams and planning, and we end up feeling sad, frustrated, disappointed, disillusioned, and even as failures. Society tells us to achieve, multitask, perform like an octopus in fast wheels, and shapes our minds from an early age. When we fall short according to this timing and expectation, we blame ourselves, sometimes by being to harsh and even unkind. Many people keep going at that speed until the end, others crash along the way, while other souls learn to apply the brakes from time to time, and even take the scenic/panoramic way along with rest stops.

A day has 24 hours, one’s life has none defined. Longevity is a mystery and no one is guaranteed another day. If we happen to live it, it is a wonder in itself.

 

Have We Forgotten?

Fiction – A product of the imagination. The category of literature with imaginary characters and events, including novels, short stories, etc. (American Heritage Dictionary)

Secondary Themes

When I wrote The Five-dollar Miracle, I recognized the main theme as being faith, and much like the story I am currently writing – The Girl Who Could Not Love – the story developed as I wrote, with no preconceived ideas or outlines. However, as I wrote, the main theme became obvious. Usually, one expects a story to follow or develop around a main theme, and a few secondary themes appear throughout, but mostly, the main theme carries the story to the end. With The Five-dollar Miracle, I was a bit surprised at how many secondary themes I could identify once I finished writing it. It was never intended this way, but all these themes had a strong link with the main one (faith), and helped carry it, propelled it, which of course worked out well for the story. Some of these topics are:

Loss – different types, especially the loss of a loved one.

Financial ruin

Addiction

Righteousness – as a judgemental trait

The spirit of cooperation/generosity/kindness

Respect thy neighbor – accepting differences

Serendipity

I enjoyed writing The Five-dollar Miracle, and it was a welcomed change of pace, as well as refreshing. I am excited about my next novel, and can’t wait to finish it. From my point of view as a writer, it is presenting its challenges, something I welcome, while at the same time, I am hoping that the story flows well, and that by the end, I make peace with it.

Home Sweet Home

Today, I find myself wishing for spring, even summer, unusual for a winter lover. I yearn for the sounds and warmth of summer. It usually takes me about four to five years to acclimate well to a new place or new surroundings. It may seem a lot of time for many people, but for me to call a place home that seems to be right. Although I welcome change, I am a bit set on my ways and my memories. The concept of home has always been very important to me. I need my four walls, and I make sure they feel cozy and beautiful to me. My husband seems to adapt fairly fast, and I think it has to do with our upbringing. While I lived in the same house until I got married, he moved many times during his childhood.

I love the phrase Home Sweet Home, but I also admire people who travel and can feel at home in any place around the world. I can honestly say that I feel at home now, although I will always miss my beloved Jersey shore. This way of adaptation translates to other things in life for me, although at different time frames. When I start a new novel, there is a period of time in which I have not yet fully adapted to the story. The time varies with each novel. It takes me some time to acclimate/bond with the story. What I find is that I cannot rush this process; it happens naturally. Once I am in sync with it I feel at home. Then, I can “settle in” and “decorate” the place with my pen.

Home is where the heart is, the adage says, but I think the tic-toc of the heart determines when it becomes home.

New Novel Update

I am currently writing The Girl Who Could Not Love. I am only a few chapters in, and it already seems as if this story will present its challenges. Not so much about writing it, but instead, on the road it is taking me so far. It is one that is new to me, and one which I am not comfortable with as it deals with the main character’s state of mind/heart/soul from the get go. I had no intention to take that route but I will trust the process and be open to it. I have sensed a resistance to write it, and I am wondering why. At the same time, I feel a sense of discovery and excitement mixed with apprehension. For the sake of writing this story and of being faithful to the process, I have decided to put aside my reserves and continue on the journey, as far and deep as the pen wants to take me.

I wish I could tell you more about it but I am discovering it as I write. For the first time I find myself at the mercy of my pen, and I am willing to follow it in faith, if not blindly.

Faith – A confident belief; trust. Loyalty; allegiance. (American Heritage Dictionary)

Medieval Social Times

Times have changed in the last few decades, or have they? With the advantages and perils that the internet brought to our society, what looks to me like an extreme righteous mentality seems to dominate social media. This strict social conscience – a righteous mob – seems eager to point a finger and to burn the victim/person right away. It seems to feed itself, and the power of the mob creates martyrs of social media when guilt is assumed without giving the person the benefit of the doubt, a chance to present truth or facts that will point to redemption/innocence. Sometimes it seems as it is not even about the cause, but of how I ( the me, me, me) fit into it and can also participate in the latest crucifixion.

Why am I bringing this up? Well, as writers we develop characters and we try to portray them as credible and real as the pen allows. This only means that we make use of language, imagery, certain types of words – historical and period appropriate, popular and unpopular views, and even cliches, which might be necessary to create the story’s “environment” in order to tell it as best we can. How does this forced mentality, this “medieval” social mob hysteria affects writers today? Are we faithful to our story without letting the pressure of the times bind the pen, or do we quietly censor it? Do we exercise its free will or are we cautious about being perceived as the personification of our words? How do we separate character from writer without giving in to the righteous mob inquisition? It seems to me that sometimes, people cannot separate one from theother, and this might present a challenge for writers.

Will these medieval social times have an influence on future writers, their minds, and by default the pen? Will stories become diluted? Diluted enough to be politically correct? Historical fiction writers are presented with a challenge. It has been said that books, whether fiction or not, speak of the times when these were written, of the social conditions and atmosphere of the time. It permeates throughout the pages of a book, and many times, it remains alive between the lines.

A New Page

New Year, new page. The arrival of a new year is an exciting time. It signifies a new beginning, a clean slate, a new page, a new opportunity to do the things we could not accomplish the past year; it is a chance to do better. We reflect on the past year and make new goals, new plans. Dream new dreams. Look into the future. A new year is full of new expectations and good wishes. Overall, we welcome a new year with a sense of hope and joy. There is something special about receiving the new year – a sense of renewal. I thought about it the other day, as I looked back at all this year brought into my life, and also, at what it took away. I realized that every single day offers this same opportunity of renewal. When we first open our eyes each day, it is a new slate, the chance of a new beginning, to do better than yesterday. Until next year.

Happy New Day! Happy New Year!

Inkspeare

Photo by M.A.D.

Your Way is My Way

Every soul has its journey, every person a purpose for living, but sometimes, it is not as clear as we would like it to be. The following words are according to my journey.

For many years, I worried about not knowing my true purpose in life. I read and studied countless books on finding your purpose or “true purpose,” and became a “positive thinking book junkie.” Although it helped me very much and I enjoyed reading those, it left me feeling the same – yearning to know and find my purpose in life. I worked/trained for every interest I had as far as jobs/careers, and although I enjoyed those very much, I felt that was not it. I was far from my purpose. Agonizing about it did not help. I admired the people who seemed to have found their meaning of life, their way in life. When I heard people say, “If you love what you do it never feels like a job,” I became more confused about purpose. Well, I had fulfilled many interests that I loved, however, I still ended up feeling without purpose and hungry for meaning. A very smart woman who had been a teacher all her life and was now retired told me once, “I hope you find what you are looking for.” She said this after I told her that I could not see myself doing only one thing for the rest of my life. What a sharp woman; she saw what I did not at that time. Part of my misunderstanding was to believe that a career path/earning income and purpose were one and the same. These are two different things, and although one can find purpose through a career, a career does not have to be one’s purpose. Once I understood that, I viewed purpose in a different light.

Writing has always been in my heart, although put aside for a long time, as a career path that is. I found the path again after a series of unfortunate events, and because I felt I had nothing to lose, I gave it a try. I feel at home when I write. Is it my purpose? I don’t know, nor am I waiting for it to become. It gives me purpose. Only God knows what my purpose is; He created me. Once I realized this, I stopped worrying about finding my purpose. It did not make sense anymore. I don’t have to feel incomplete, hurried, or worried about time running out and not finding my way in life. Instead I say, “God, your way is my way.” By knowing this I am open to do, be, and exist just as He wants of me. His way is my way, and that is purpose enough for me. The search was over once I understood that.

I see and hear many people who are worried and stressed out about finding their true purpose in life. They fear that they will grow old not knowing. I understand how they feel; I’ve been there. It is the reason why I decided to write this post. When I understood it wasn’t my burden to know, I was able to see beyond the limits of material and earthly fulfillment. A Jon Bon Jovi song comes to mind – “you are where you are supposed to be” – or something along those lines. My journey is/has purpose, but my purpose is in part my journey on this earth, and it is much more. It is how I have come to understand its meaning. It doesn’t mean that I will sit around waiting for enlightenment and clarity of mind; for me, the process is the journey, and the journey, the pathway to a different kind of purpose. My aimless search for purpose took me to the understanding that my Creator’s way is my pathway to complete fulfillment. When I become restless or unclear for whatever reason it may be, the most sincere prayer I can say is – Your way is my way.

Image by M.A.D.