What I Read

I’ve been asked before what kinds of books do I read, and my answer always comes as a surprise. I describe my reading as being all over the place. I read everything that peaks my interest. In my library, you will find positive thinking books, self-help, fiction, physics, science, religion, classic works, reference books, financial education, and even fairy tales. I don’t think I have a favorite genre or category; I read what seems interesting. The fiction category is very wide, and I prefer mysteries but will also read inspirational stories, as well as light hearted ones. I stay away from romances unless they are more infused with mystery, adventure, or the supernatural. I don’t like overly romantic novels, and certainly dislike explicit ones or erotica.

Over the past couple of years I’ve read a lot, mostly with the intention of going through the backlog of books that have piled up over the years, although I am always reading something. I like to read hardcopy. I tried to get used to e-format but could not. I found myself losing interest in what I was reading, and even not wanting to go back to the ebooks I had started reading. I honestly don’t know why this is, and if I have not embraced e-reading by now, it is not going to happen. I find that I have a short attention span for e-reading but I can sit with a book in my hands for hours. In the meantime, I am not buying any more books until I force myself to make a dent on my library shelves. Instead, I will keep a list of new books I want to read. Some books I will keep, some I will read a second time, and other books I will give away. I will keep antique tomes because they represent a collection I’ve started and would like to keep growing. I will keep any new editions of the classics.

I am also not a fan of audio books, unless it is in the self-help/positive thinking category. When I used to drive everyday to work, I listened to those, but not so much these days. These days I’d rather sit with a book and enjoy the feel and scent of its pages, the scent of a story.

One of my oldies

My Best Friends are Not Human

They were there when I needed them.

They were by my bedside when I was sick.

They comforted me when I felt lonely.

They were with me during my childhood, and throughout my entire life.

They are here now, and offer comfort any time I go to them.

They offered guidance and knowledge.

They taught me how to dream, and sometimes, they made me laugh or cry.

It has been a lifetime friendship, one I will treasure forever.

Books are my friends.

 

*A true story

The Harvard Classics

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The Harvard Classics are also known as Dr. Eliot’s Five Foot Shelf.  Dr. Charles W. Eliot was the president of Harvard University. He insisted on taking the challenge of compiling classic works of literature that would fit into a five foot shelf, and provide the reader with a good liberal education.  According to him, by reading only 15 minutes a day this would be possible. That is how The Harvard Classics came to be. The anthology consists of 51 volumes of classic literature from around the world, known at that time.

If you didn’t have any other way of obtaining an education, this was a good and affordable way of achieving one. I think it was a great idea; still is. Many of these volumes can be found today at very reasonable prices. Websites such as eBay are a good way of finding them individually or as a collection, many times missing a few volumes, but you can always add the missing ones later on. This was one thing I set out to do many years ago, and I was lucky to obtain a complete collection, although it had four volumes that were added later on. These are the three red volumes and the blue volume you see in the picture. I got it for a song and dance, as the adage says.

One of the reasons I am writing this post is because many times people think that a good education can only be obtained by attending a college or university, and for many people, this is financially difficult or impossible, depending on the circumstances. Yes, a degree from college is needed to work on a chosen field, but we are talking here about a liberal education, something that is very valuable. For example, if a parent is unable to provide a good education for her/his children, this would still be a viable way of achieving it. I admit that times have changed, and many times, kids are not interested in classic works of literature. It is not valued as much today as it was then. Our society has become more technological, and sometimes, money is valued more than education. Video games, computers, smart TV’s and social media have taken priority in our society, but Dr. Eliot’s 15 minutes a day suggestion is still a great way to become educated. If you don’t have 15 minutes, 10 minutes of reading will be beneficial as well. Many of these works can be found online in electronic format, to be downloaded for free, if you prefer e-reading.

I hope that this post helps anyone who feels that education is far beyond reach. Whether you have a college degree or not, The Harvard Classics will enrich your life.

 

 

 

My Forever Books

I love books. I love to read. Since I can remember. I am an eclectic reader. I read different genres, pretty much anything that will hold my attention, from fiction to self-help, to finances, reference, anything and everything. After I read a book, it will either be put aside to be read again much later in the future, probably years, at least one more time. It will be donated or given away to someone, or kept for reference for some time. However, there are books that I loved so much the first time I read them, that I know for sure they will have a permanent place on my bookshelves. I will revisit them all my life. I call them my forever books. I would love to share some of these on this post.

Although the Bible, some of the classics, and (important for me) reference books will be permanently on my bookshelves, I am referring to the books that on that first reading, enchanted me somehow. Here are a few.

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

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I wish I had kept the early copy when I read this one as a child.

 

Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach

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The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo

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The Grievers by Marc Schuster

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The Last Hunt by Cliff Burns

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The Old Man and The Sea by Ernest Hemingway

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How to Stop Worrying and Start Living by Dale Carnegie

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The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch

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Love the book, but much more because it is a gift from my sister.

 

These are just a few that will be forever on my bookshelf. I enjoyed them immensely. As you can see, they range in topic, genre, and time written. To me, reading is almost a religious experience, and I understand that every reader experiences and interprets a book in a very personal way, and therefore, a book can touch lives and entertain in countless ways. This is why reviews are not as important as we think they are. The same books that I love so much, another reader might dislike. I may love a book, but that doesn’t mean that I will like or enjoy other books from the same author in the same way. I might read them, and enjoy them very much, however, not necessarily give them a permanent spot, reserved only for those enchanting tomes.

As an author, I am in a different state of mind and “being” every time I write, so I think it would be unusual that I would write in the same way or with the same degree of inspiration all the time. To expect the same degree of inspirational awe from an author every time he/she publishes a book is like expecting coffee to taste the same all the time (I love coffee), and maybe that is why I’ve never understood traditional publishing. On the same note, as a reader, I approach a book with different intent at different stages in my life. It seems so as I mature. Life takes on another color, another flavor, and things evolve in importance. Although a story remains as it was written, another story lives and breathes in between the lines, waiting for the reader to find it and give it the meaning that is so unique and special to each person. That is why I am so careful with my opinion of a book, and any reviews are only my experience with, my view, my take, on a book that I enjoyed reading. My interpretation, that is ultimately influenced by the stage I am in life, and my surroundings, as well as all the thoughts, feelings, and emotions that accompany it. A good example is The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. I read it when I was around 10 years old, maybe earlier, and at that time I thought it was the most exciting adventure I had encounter in the pages of a book. I lived it, and I loved it. I read it again as an adult, and I got so much more out of the same story. The story in between the lines emerged.

I hope I have inspired you to give these books a try, if you haven’t done so already. On a future post, I will share some of my dearest collections that I treasure and will also keep on my bookshelves forever.

What I’m Reading Now

1999 – Jeff Herman – You can make it big writing books

That is the book I’m reading now. I bought it many years ago, and never got into it. I bought it when my thoughts were around the idea of publishing a book going the traditional route. Although it is an older book, and I am not interested in pursuing traditional publishing, I find it is a good read and interesting. If you are considering traditional publishing this book gives you a glimpse of the work, publishing experiences of many top writers in the industry. If you are contemplating a writing career or are interested in learning more about the traditional publishing experience from many traditionally published authors, this book is good for that. It is brief and set up as a series of short pieces of advice from 60 bestselling authors who have been in the industry for years. They talk about their writing experience, beginnings, as well as offering advice to the reader.

Most likely, by now there are more/better books on traditional publishing but I had that one sitting on the shelf for a while, and decided to give it a try. So far, I am enjoying it. I have a goal of reading everything in my bookshelves that still calls on my curiosity. I have gotten rid of everything else that does not. I will continue to share any other interesting books that I get to read.

Book Reviews Revisited

When I started this blog, I included many book reviews of what I had read and enjoyed. Somehow, I stopped along the way and I think it is time to bring back book reviews on this blog. I think of myself as an eclectic reader – I read many genres and various topics; my reading is all over the place. Over the past year I read many books, mostly for education and my own benefit. I read books that were piled up over time as well, including authors such as Suze Orman, Tony Robbins, Donald Trump, Robert Kiyosaki, and many other non-fiction authors. I read fiction as well, one of which was The Mermaid Chair by Sue Monk. I immensely enjoyed that one, and loved her writing style. Her use of description in that story is just perfect. Other fiction books included authors such as Paulo Coelho, Richard Bach, and many others. Various topics included real estate, finances, religion, inspirational, writing, and more. I read a lot. I needed it.

Once I read a book, I keep it, donate it, or give it away to family or friends. I donated a large box full of books to the local Goodwill and gave some away. I keep some for future reference, although very few. If a story touches my heart in a special way, I keep the book, revisit it, and eventually will give it to someone special in my life. Kate DiCamillo’s The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane is such a book. I love it, read it a couple of times, and kept it until it is time to pass it on to someone. I recommend this one. Another one I loved was Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist. I enjoyed this one so much. This one I gave to my niece. I keep few fiction books unless I want to read them again, or the story made such and impression on me that it becomes a keeper. I also keep the classics such as the works of Shakespeare, The Iliad of Homer, Aesop’s Fables, Huckleberry Finn, a few Ernest Hemingway works, and various more.

Although I read some books on electronic format, I prefer hardcopy. If I read an e-book that I want to keep, I will order the print. For the most part, I have remained a page flipper. Of the many books I read this past year, I decided to post a very short review of Becoming a Millionaire God’s Way by Dr. C. Thomas Anderson. This is not your ordinary money/finances book. Besides being written by a pastor, it takes on a different approach to money according to scripture; however, an almost opposed view to what traditional religious beliefs have taught (and still teach) about money (money as the root of all evil …). It is a very well-thought, smart-written, well-researched, and enlightening book, as well as inspirational. It challenges many traditional religious beliefs that share the point of view that the bible teaches poverty or that Jesus was poor. It will change a religious-poor mentality. It is a very interesting book. A must read in my opinion.

This concludes today’s post. I will continue to share more reviews of books that cross my path and hold my attention.

A Dreamer

I dream more books that I can write. I am a dreamer in every sense of the word. Today I wrote the last chapter of Sunrise Souls, the end of the trilogy – The Dinorah Chronicles. It took longer than anticipated, moving the December 2014 deadline to March 2015, and going past that deadline to the last week of April, today. This is the first draft, and now the hard work starts – rewriting, editing, and going through several drafts until it is ready for publication. I am very happy, and the last chapters have been written while I am going through excruciating lower back pain, taking breaks here and there, as the chair feels like a torture device, and my bed turned into a nail bed. Hey, it is all good.

The cover has been finalized, and I even ordered promo cards. Originally, I had a deadline of May 2015 for publication, pending for now, of course, due the amount of work that needs to be done. The experience of writing the last book in the trilogy was a bit different. I felt the pressure of the ending, as I became more critical of my writing. In addition, my health was challenged last year, my mood declined, and it added to the anxiety of meeting my expectations. Thinking of every roadblock I encountered, I don’t think that I performed too badly, as far as having the first draft ready today. I am grateful for that.

My next novel is waiting for me, and I think that I’ll put trilogies aside for a while. I have several novels waiting to be written, but I am letting the one that speaks louder to me become my next project. It is a process that I’ve learned to recognize as it filters to mind during my day, and captures my thoughts in the evening, sometimes making its way into my dreams. It demands to be written, thus muting the voice of the other possible novels.

I’ll share my progress here, and for now, here is a lovely picture of the first draft of Sunrise Souls.

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First draft – Sunrise Souls. Photo by M.A.D.

 

I Cannot Predict the Future – My Best is Yet to Come

I CANNOT PREDICT THE FUTURE – MY BEST IS YET TO COME.

This post is on attitude. If you can predict the future with one hundred percent accuracy, please do not keep reading.

I tend to ponder my future, and my future as a writer. Writing makes me happy. However, creativity needs nourishment, and many times, this nourishment comes in the form of results. If you are a writer, you know exactly what I mean. You also know that writing is not easy, and takes much work, effort, and faith. Sometimes, you might feel as if you are writing just for yourself, but results come in many forms – the comment of a reader, a good review, the praise of an unlikely reader, sales … you name it. That doesn’t necessarily translate into confidence and the assurance that one’s work is worthy of being in print. Again I tell you, if you are a writer, you know what I mean.

A few months ago, I dared ask a question to someone who has read my books (and is not related to me or a close friend – hence why I asked). I asked,”From 1 to 5, what do you rate my work so far, me as a writer?” She thought about it, and I became nervous because there were other clients at ear-distance in her office. Silently, I cursed myself for asking; now I was not sure if I could take her answer, because I knew that she would answer truthfully. A few seconds went by, then she looked at me in the eye and said, “Four, I give you a 4.” Immediately, a weight lifted from my heart, and I exhale relief. I said, “Four, that is good, very good.” If she had rated a 5, then I would have been disappointed, and suspicious. I know that there is ample room for becoming the best writer I can be, and I have to grow much more, hence why I was hoping for any number under 5, but at the same time, nervous about anything under. Reviews of one’s books are one thing, and subjective to the taste of readers, but my question went above a specific novel, and this is why I hesitated after I asked. It was the first time I had ask anyone this, and probably the last.

The other day I was conversing with my nephew, a sage for his young age. We talked about life from one’s age perspective. It was a good conversation, and later on it made me ponder about my future, and my future as a writer, as well as some plans and goals, but overall, I thought about my image of a writer’s life, and how it compared to the image of writer-self, now and in the future. It was an interesting exercise that gave me deep insight and exposed me. In the end, it didn’t matter much to me, except knowing that I cannot predict the future, and my best is yet to come, but only if I keep giving my best NOW.

Writer’s Predicament – WWTT?

WWTT?What would they think?

At one point in our writing we will ask ourselves that question. It comes from the concern that readers will associate what is written with our personality and think that we are it. Some readers will, some will not. That is a chance that the writer will have to weigh, and decide. I think that the work speaks of the writer, however, it does not define him/her.

As writers we decide how far we want to go with our writing, and how true to it we want to be. As an example – If I am writing a murder scene, you bet that I am going to be as descriptive and gross as I can be with the pen to capture the scene and translate it into a visual picture to readers. If I am writing about the killer, I will want to get as deep into his/her psychological persona as I can, to give the character life. Does that make me a psycho or a murderer? I don’t think so. Then, why do we hesitate to write? Out of concern – WWTT?  It is the predicament that stops the pen, the mind, the Muse.

Fiction writers have the “peace of mind” (do they?) that readers will take their works as fiction, but sometimes interpretation goes beyond, and the lines become a bit blurred, not so much for the author but for the readers. A latest example of this is the book Fifty Shades of Grey by E L James. A fiction novel that stirred so much controversy and continues to do so with its movie incarnation. I have not read the book but you would have to live under a rock not to know what is going on with it, that is, if you are an active reader or movie lover. J K Rowling had to deal with the witchcraft criticism of her Harry Potter series, and I am sure that you can think of many other examples.

In the end, a writer decides how far to go with the pen, and how important WWTT is to him/her. To be or not to be, that is the question – Shakespeare.

 

Selecting a Genre

Photo by Maria Diaz

Photo by Maria Diaz

 

This is probably one of the battles of the heart for many writers. Mostly, because when we write, many ideas come to mind, and many of these cross the limits of the actual work in progress. My belief is that I do not want to chain myself to writing in a specific genre, but I recognize the need to focus on the one that speaks to me the most, at least in the beginning of my writing career. Doing this has its benefits. It will help you concentrate, grow, and polish your skills, as well as develop a name brand.

There is always one genre that attracts our interest in the early days of writing. Later on, we want to spread our wings and soar to other lands. If you are publishing in the traditional way or have a contract, this will present a challenge for obvious reasons. If you have built your brand long enough that a particular genre speaks of it, it also presents a challenge, as readers will tend to associate your brand with the genre, and this is the reason many authors use pen names when writing in other genres. For the independent author, the lines are less defined, as the pen is free to write without the need to follow protocol, except the one owed to readers. If readers expectations demand from you the work that they so much have loved, then a brand has been established, but it does not mean that an author will abandon the desire to explore other genres, and create, possibly at a different pace, works that will please other readers, and maybe, win the interest of faithful readers.

In the long run, write what you love, do it from the heart, and share it in a way that it is presented to readers in the best light, and worthy of their time and respect.