Monday, January 24, 2011

Best Novels Of 2010

A recent perusal over my fiction shelves reminded me that I had not yet completed a "Best Novels Of The Year" list (a necessary deed once a year)! There's no time like the present. Unfortunately, I had shockingly little time to read this year, but in the time that I did have, I found some jewels. In no particular order...

Enemy Brothers by Constance Savery. Possibly the best book of the year. A beautiful YA story of a young Nazi taken in by an English country family during WWII, the novel filled my heart. The writing is marvelous, brief prose that evokes an amazing range of emotions, and the characters are fantastic. This will become a regular read.

The Empty Crown by Rosemary Edgehill. Actually three novels in one, The Empty Crown combines a snarky (and secretly lonely) New York librarian with an elf king on a mission who becomes stranded in New York. High fantasy with an active sense of humor. Anyone who loves books, history, or random facts will love this.

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card. This is technically a re-read, but I got so much out of it on the second go that it deserves to be listed. For anyone who (gasp) hasn't read it, it's... impossible to describe. Read it. Card's ability to tell stories of chilling despair, soaring hope, and unflinching truth through the eyes of children boggles my mind.

The Dark Is Rising by Susan Cooper. I enjoyed all the books in this series, but this one stands alone. It takes the basic premise of any fantasy (an unwilling young hero on a quest) and turns in into a modern, dark, frightening story of good and evil, written by a master wordsmith. This is one of those YA novels that defies age limits.

Gaudy Night by Dorothy Sayers. Another re-read, by my reaction to reading this was so dramatically different the second time that it needs to be listed. Sayers is a literary genius, and I believe this is one of her best. Here plot and character entwine perfectly. Although the mystery is central, the heart of the novel is the relationship between Harriet Vane and Lord Peter, and the surprises they discover inside themselves as they challenge evil. I discovered a few surprises inside myself while reading this one.


I also discovered Agatha Christie and her brilliant, timeless studies of human character, all wrapped up in witty entertainment, and as usual, read Chesterton, both fiction and nonfiction. Reading Chesterton, I know, will be a part of every literary year for me. :)

Another novel I loved this year was Day Of Ashes by Kelsey Kline. It didn't make the list simply because it's author stubbornly refuses to complete and share it. She should be warned... dreadful things happen to such persons.

What are the best novels you read this year?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

In Search of a Dream

Is the presence of longing inside a writer’s heart essential to writing fiction? Is the faint melancholia created by things we wish for, dream of, what puts the magic into make-believe?

Those questions have been prodding at my subconscious for some time now. The prod turned into a painful jolt when, after a summer of not writing fiction, I attempted my third NaNo in a row – and did not complete the required 50,000 words.

To tell the truth, I completed barely 5,000 words. I still don’t know quite what was wrong. I sat at the keyboard for hours. I allowed myself to leap between plots. I allowed myself to write endings before I wrote beginnings! But nothing worked. Words appeared on the screen, crafted strings of emotionless sentences, crisp-edged two-dimensional characters without character.

The spark wasn’t there.

At the time I attributed it to lack of time, to the stress of everyday life, to pregnancy hormones. Yet none of that ever affected my writing before… (okay, I haven’t been PREGNANT before, but you know)

Now I’m wondering if my life has become a little too full. Instead of a rather uneventful life that I spiced up by constantly spinning tales of adventure and romance, I started to live all those things I dreamed about. Now, I have a husband (who I’m very much in love with), a baby on the way (who is wanted very very much), multiple jobs, college, travel… I don’t have time to dream!

And is that the problem?

I pose the question to you all reading this. Has this happened to you? Do you think writers’ best work is influenced by what’s happening (or what’s not happening) in their lives? Or (as many great writers believe) should good fiction be utterly unconnected to circumstances in writers’ lives?

Share your thoughts, please! I’m eager to read them!

(oh yes, and if anyone has suggestions for how to overcome a fiction dry spell…please do not refrain from suggesting!)