Posts tagged ‘Reading’

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.

SUNRISE SOULS

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.

 

How I Care for my Old Books

Many of us read from electronic devices but that does not mean that we do not enjoy a book in our hands from time to time. When I love a book so much I buy the hardcover edition or paperback. It goes on my collection of loved-to-death tomes, and I take good care of it. I enjoy buying older books to add to a very small and modest collection. These become my jewels. Whether antique or new, a much-loved book gets good treatment. Instead of writing a post on How to care for antiques books, I will leave that to the true-experts. You can find plenty of that information on the internet. However, I will write about how I care for my precious books under my real and down to earth circumstances.

Many elements are observed when caring for my precious books. I think of temperature, location, space, air flow, position on shelf, handling, and other issues that may affect the condition of the book over time. Because I do not live in a museum or a mansion, I must adapt my environment to the best conditions for my tomes, as well as my behavior or handling of these. Although my items are in storage now due to a pending move, I can tell you what I did. Here is what I always do.

  • The first rule I observe is to never leave a book unattended. I have six cats and some of them love to chew on paper, or play with it. Old books have a plethora of enticing scents and will become a favorite toy or prey.
  • The second rule is to treat my books as if they were vampires. I avoid exposing them to direct sunlight or leaving them where I know that the sun rays will hit for some time. Sunlight rays work fast on discoloration and even drying out a cover or spine.
  • Third rule – In my case, temperature and location go together. I try to select the best placement in my home – not too humid, not too dry or hot. For example, never leave a favorite in the bathroom or near a cooking stove or on top or near a heater or vent. I don’t have a basement but do have an attic, and neither those would be a good place to store a book.
  • Fourth rule – Air flow goes tied to location and placement on the shelf, so I will address those altogether. I try to select a location away from drafts, cold/hot air, sunlight, as well as having a nice airflow where the books will be stored. My shelving is made of wood and it is soft, not rough. Rough shelving might cause tears on your cover and pages, as well as damage on the spine. I don’t place the books too tight, even if I am tempted due to lack of space (wanting to fit another one). I allow a bit of space between, but also, I never lean a book against each other because this will damage its shape and pages eventually. If I have space, I use a felted book end. I’d rather it rests flat than leaning it, although if I lay it flat, another book on top should not be so heavy that the pressure will damage the cover, if it sticks together.
  • The fifth rule has to do with how I handle the book. I love when books have dust jackets because of the obvious. I place them upright, but if a book is a softcopy/paperback and it is tall, I’d rather store that one flat on its side because I know that it will bend eventually. I think I only have one or two that are that tall, if memory serves me well. One thing that I try not to do when selecting a book from the shelf is to pull on its spine because I did this once and the thing just came off a bit, so now I rather push the book out from the back and grab it firm with my hand when pulling it out. If there is a decent amount of space between books it should be retrieved easily. In the previous disaster, the book was stored too snug; sometimes you learn the hard way. Under handling, I should mention that I never have cream, lotion or oil in my hands when I am about to read a book that falls under the “precious” category, and by precious I mean “my precious” because I don’t own any valuable or expensive tomes, although I do have a few that are one or two centuries old, and those I have to be very careful when handling them.  The reason for this is that the old pages were made of a different material than today’s or more recent books, I think of wood pulp, back in the days when trees were murdered or sacrificed for knowledge. Anything oily or acidic will wreak havoc on the pages (old or new). I do have a pair of white gloves that I keep for the day that I encounter (or afford) that very special specimen. If you have opened an older book you may have noticed that the pages are dry, yellowed, and sometimes a page will crack/crumble when handled. Also, when returning my book to its nest, I try to be gentle, especially with the corners, and try not to touch the wood or the neighboring book. I also don’t dog-ear mark a page or leave a marker inside. Some papers are acidic and will damage it eventually. I bet you have seen the imprint of a marker on a page or its image, even when the marker has been removed.
  • The sixth rule has to do with cleaning, and that is simply being aware of using cleaners, oils, and sprays near books or the shelving, dusting gently and regularly so dust does not accumulate heavily. I use a soft duster, but honestly, I don’t even know what kind is better, although I would assume that feathers have oil compared to synthetic dusters; and of course, a separate duster would be better, not the one used around the house.

Other than that, I just try my best to love and care for my books, nothing fancy. Speaking about fancy, if you are into it and want to do it the professional way, there are many book care supplies available such as acid-free protective jackets, gloves, book furniture with glass doors, slip cases, special boxes … . If you own a very special and expensive book then you should consult a antique book specialist or expert that will educate you in the care and or restoration of older volumes. You may want to insure it of course, if it is very valuable. Overall, I just use common sense and TLC.

Ever wondered about the parts of a book? Here is a picture I put together sometime ago. If you notice, at one point, this book was handled with oily fingers because it has markings on the gold-leaf pages; just to give you an example of how something so simple and natural may affect a book later on.

book parts 1

book parts 2

I hope you enjoyed this post.

 

For Aspiring Writers

Today, I completed (finally) the Resources and Tips section on my website. This is an ongoing labor; however, it had been left as Coming Soon! for a while, and my goal was to have it ready for January. There are some good websites and recommended reading for aspiring writers. I hope it serves its purpose, and that it may be useful to someone.  Here is the link . I hope it helps a bit. I know that when I started, it took a lot of time and effort to find the best sites, as well as to separate the husk, so this is only a very small list but good for starters. I included a few websites at the end, good for exploration, inspiration, research, and learning. I will keep adding with time, as well as updating this section.