A Favorites List: My Top 20 Books

 

photo_39331_20150715 (1)
Image: Merelize (freerangestock.com)

I’m going to experiment with something new this week: a ranked list of some of my favorite books. We see these lists all the time whether in end-of-year issues of favorite magazines, bestseller lists, and so on.

I got the idea to share a list when I recalled a 2015 100 greatest novels list I saw in college. In my ‘The Victorian Novel’ class, my professor shared with us a list put together by the BBC titled, “The 100 greatest British novels.” In it, BBC Culture contributor Jane Ciabattari spoke with 82 book critics all over the world (except the UK) about the greatest British novels. The numbers were tallied based on which novel was considered the greatest by each critic. Looking at the list, I was intrigued to see a couple novels I had read made the list (Sense and Sensibility, Wide Sargasso SeaVilletteBleak House, Frankenstein, and Middlemarch to name a couple).

As I write this, I wonder if the list has changed for 2018. Some books may have changed ranks over the years while some have not. New books would take the place of others. I also came across a 2012 list from Publishers Weekly ranking the best books by the Brontë sisters (whom I discussed in a post earlier this month about writing influences). If you use a reading journal, you may have found some lists for book recommendations.

However, I do find lists tricky. Rankings may depend on interest, genre, and so on. Plus, we all have books that we love and some do not. I still think lists are interesting because of that variety because you may end up reading a book you’d never thought you’d like until you saw it on a list.

Below is my top 20 list of favorite books. I felt a top 10 list would be more limited and harder to narrow down choices. Feel free to check out any books that catch your interest! Also note that this list is not limited by genre, topic, or time period. I also love all these books equally, so don’t worry if you disagree with a rank.

###

20) One Evening in Paris by Nicholas Barreau (2014)

19) The Custom of the Country by Edith Wharton (1913)

18) Undeniably Yours by Becky Wade (2013)

17) Unlocked: A Love Story by Karen Kingsbury (2011)

16) Ocean Star: A Memoir by Christina DiMari (2006)

15) The Wedding Chapel by Rachel Hauck (2015)

14) Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom (1997)

13) The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1925)

12) Bathsheba by Jill Eileen Smith (2011)

11) Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks (2010)

10) Bleak House by Charles Dickens (1853)

9) The Little French Bistro by Nina George (2017)

8) Paper Hearts by Courtney Walsh (2015)

7) The Lucky One by Nicholas Sparks (2008)

6) Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy (1874)

5) Villette by Charlotte Brontë (1853)

4) Between Sundays by Karen Kingsbury (2008)

3) Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier (1938)

2) Chords of Strength: A Memoir of Soul, Song and the Power of Perseverance by David Archuleta (2010)

1) The Reason by William Sirls (2012)

 

###

What are your top 20 favorite books? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Happy writing!

Advertisements

My Absence: Update

photo_55747_20151127
Image: StuartMiles (freerangestock.com)

I am now 100% but with a minor cough and sleep patterns all over the place. I’m still working on getting back in my writing habit, but I’m happy to be reading books again!! My Book of the Month for March will go on as scheduled so keep an eye out for it next week. Post ideas will require another week of patience but I’m finding my way back.

As we near Spring and allergy season, too, please make sure to take care of yourselves.

Happy writing!

My Absence

photo_11548_20090528
Image: admiller (freerangestock.com)

Some of you have not heard from me for a few weeks now, and I can imagine with no new content on my blog, it’s concerning. I want to assure you all that I’m fine. I unfortunately caught the flu after attending two concerts last week and was stuck in bed for the duration. I’m just finally getting better after a lot of sleeping, fluids, cough medicine, and self-care.

But this week of being stuck in bed gave me some perspective. I couldn’t read my books because I would have to wipe them down once I was better. Writing wasn’t possible due to my mind being all over the place. My devices were my only comfort…and I hated it.

After charging my phone this morning, I decided to shut it off. I will have my tablet on for an audiobook I started listening to: Romeo and Juliet: A Novel by David Hewson and narrated by Richard Armitage. I will take time to read my books this weekend and the next couple of days.

Because, frankly, I’m sick of the devices and need a breather. I may sound like a broken record with topics about slowing down and not overdoing it, but in today’s world, we really need to take the time to do that.

I will write again this week, and maybe being sick just gave me clarity on why my writing hasn’t been going anywhere for a while now.

I ask for patience as I recover and get back into my routine of posting, writing, and so on. I hope you are all safe after our recent Nor’Easters, taking it easy after illnesses, and finding comfort in great literature.

Happy writing!

A Soundtrack to Your Work: Writing to Music

photo_1749_20060630
Image: Chance Agrella (freerangestock.com)

I write this just as I hear the news that Icelandic composer, Jóhann Jóhannsson, has died. He composed music for films including Sicario, Prisoners, Arrival, and The Theory of Everything. I had the chance to watch The Theory of Everything in college and was mystified by the beautiful soundtrack. So hearing this news today shocked and saddened as I’m sure it has for many of his colleagues and fans. In tribute to a man gone too soon from this world and to focus on the idea of writing, I want to dedicate this post to music.

As a writer, I always found myself looking up music from movie soundtracks, particular composers, and more to help me get a feel for a scene I was writing. My creativity would be motivated by the music and sometimes even create ideas I never considered before! If I wrote in silence, I always found it harder to come up with anything even though I could hear my own thoughts better. Music took away those distracting thoughts and allowed me to focus on my work a lot better, too.

Music while writing first entered my life my first year of college during a Creative Writing for the Theatre course. My professor always started off our class by taking five minutes to free write. He had instrumental music play during the duration so we could focus on our writing. Some days we were given a specific prompt, others were up to us. I always found these free writes stimulating and our class discussions interesting because we all had our different styles of creativity. We also came up with some ideas we never considered and sometimes kept them for later use. As the semester went on, using music to write helped me produce scenes for my monologues and short plays, pieces I still hold on to to this day. Since that class, music while writing is a part of my process.

If you need ideas for composers to listen to, here’s a list of my favorites:

  • Hans Zimmer (he also has a MasterClass on Film Scoring)
  • Alan Menken
  • James Horner (RIP to him as well, he passed away in 2015 :'()
  • James Newton Howard
  • Craig Armstrong
  • A.R. Rahman
  • Two Steps from Hell (you might have heard many of their pieces in your favorite movie trailers)

To make your search easier, consider looking up playlists of the artist in question or looking up your favorite movie. Sometimes you have to play around with the music you hear until you find ones that fit your scene, or entire story, well. I know not everyone listens to music while writing, but if you’re someone who does, I hope the habit has been productive for you as it has for me!

Do you listen to music while writing? Who are some of your favorite composers? Feel free to share! Also, in honor of Jóhann Jóhannsson, please consider looking up his music online.

Happy writing!

What Would You Like to See Here?: Open to Suggestions for the Blog!!

photo_40378_20150829
Image: Jack Moreh (freerangestock.com)

For those of you who have followed the blog from its inception, I have focused on the writing process, shared some prompts, gave writing tips, and reviewed numerous books. At times, I have considered what my readers would love to learn more about: self- publishing v. traditional, specific genres and word counts, thoughts on writing contests, and so on. When I wrote about Hallmark Publishing last week, I was intrigued by the views for the post! I will definitely consider spotlighting more publishers in the future as best I can. I know some ideas have been more interesting than others, but I would love to hear from you, my readers!

Here are some goals I want to do or look into:

  • Have a book reviewed every single month.
  • Start a newsletter.
  • Share a little more about my past writing adventures, including writing showcases.
  • Maybe some author interviews?
  • Guest blog posts?

So what would you like to see on this blog for 2018? Let me know in the comments, tweet me, message me on LinkedIn!

Writing for Hallmark: Consider Hallmark Publishing for Your Next Story!

 

hallmark
Image: commons.wikimedia.org

After writing my first Book of the Month post for 2018, I feel compelled to share with you all a little more information about Hallmark Publishing, a branch of Hallmark Channel.

Hallmark Publishing is another way for Hallmark fans to enjoy their favorite stories, in e-book form! Besides Moonlight in Vermont (my Book of the Month for January), other stories available include Christmas in Homestead, Journey Back to Christmas, A Heavenly Christmas, and Love You Like Christmas. Another e-book, A Dash of Love, is forthcoming.

Even though I enjoy reading a classic (Brontë sisters, Charles Dickens), a modern romance (Nicholas Sparks), latest bestsellers (Nina George), some mysteries (Mary Higgins Clark), and some Christian Fiction (Karen Kingsbury, Rachel Hauck, Becky Wade, to name a few), there’s a place in my heart reserved for Hallmark Channel and their movies. Wholesome stories centered on family, friendship, finding love in the unlikeliest of places, and great messages, never get old. I actually talked about a Hallmark Channel Original Movie, “A Novel Romance,” in a post last year.

So when I found out Hallmark Publishing was looking for bloggers to review their books, I couldn’t resist the opportunity. I want to again thank the publisher and Stacey Donovan for the chance to read some amazing books. Another thing I’ve appreciated is their Twitter account taking the time to answer questions about what they’re looking to publish and the submission process. If you want to see their complete guidelines and submit your own story, you can click here.

photo_40464_20150902
Image: StartupStockPhotos (freerangestock.com)

I feel we need to take time to support publishers no matter how big or small whether it’d be buying their books, reviewing your favorites, sending a message to one of your favorite authors, or simply promoting them on social media and your personal blog. I hope I did my best accomplishing this feat here.

If you want to follow this amazing publisher, check out their Twitter and Facebook. Fellow writers, if you have a wholesome romance or mystery to share, consider Hallmark Publishing!

Happy writing!

Back in the Habit: What’s a Good Word Count?

photo_50805_20151123
Image: StuartMiles (freerangestock.com)

Happy first week of 2018 everyone! I hope you all are well and had a quiet, safe, New Year’s. Back to business with the blog and everything else in my life!

There’s one thing I’m feeling positive about this week:  I’m writing again :). For the past few days, I have been writing at least 500 words a day, with the exception of yesterday. In a span of three days, 1,500 words were written. I’ve been working on a fiction piece for one of my writing opportunities and gave my piece a 1,500 word limit, feeling that was enough for a short story. The interesting part is that this piece has been giving me a hard time, and I walked away from it for a couple of months so I could focus on other projects. When I came back to the work on Tuesday, I felt the ideas come alive without any struggles! Now I’m giving it a day or two before I go edit and submit.

As I thought about my own word count, I’ve considered how many words other writers aim for with their own projects. How many words do they target in a week? How many a day? A month? For example, for those of us who’ve participated in NaNoWriMo, you have to write 1,667 words a day in order to reach the goal of 50,000.

photo_2164_20070217
Image: Chance Agrella (freerangestock.com)

If you do a simple Google search, you will find numerous articles advising you about how many words one should write every day. Except, the word counts vary! For example, Writers Write, a website dedicated to providing writers with resources, writing prompts, and courses for creative writing, blogging, and business writing has an article titled “The Daily Word Counts of 39 Famous Authors.” Here, we are given a list of 39 famous authors including Ernest Hemingway (500 words) and Stephen King (2,000 words) with their daily word counts and routines. Here are a couple others:

  • Nicholas Sparks: 2,000 words
  • Maya Angelou: 2,500 words
  • Ian McEwan: 600 words
  • Anne Rice: 3,000 words
  • Sophie Kinsella: 1,000 words
  • Michael Crichton: 10,000 words
  • Lisa See: 1,000 words

So how can you figure out what word counts best suit your writing style and schedule? Here are a few tips to consider:

  • Start small! Achieve little set word counts and then increase the number by 100 (or 50) until you find a comfortable amount to balance with your day.
  • Time yourself: use a timer to calculate how many words you can write in an hour. Use this as a starting point for developing a routine schedule.
  • Writing prompts: a writing prompt can help you jump-start your creativity. Some have a minimum word count while others do not. Try both ways and see which ones are more productive.
  • Make a list: Try writing every day and see how many words you reach each day. Choose from the list and try reaching that word count until you find the one that’s most comfortable for you. This gives you options to try out instead of sticking with one particular word count.

So what word count works for you? What strategies help you figure out what word count is best?

Happy writing!