Monday, July 23, 2012

Top 10 books I love to read over and over again

Hey ho everyone! It's been a while since my  last post! I need to get back on the wagon for real! So I thought I'd start today with a list of my top 10 favorite books to re-read and why.

Re-reading is not for everyone, I hear. Some people devour a book the first time through, addicted to the rush of not knowing what will happen next (or at least to the illusion of not knowing what will happen next). I call this "plot-angst." When the plot is discovered and the characters all reach their destinations in life (literally and/or figuratively), the non-re-reader's angst dries up. That's all they need from those characters. It's like a one-night stand, really.

Not me! One of my favorite things about reading a book is re-reading. I hurry through the first time to get the "plot-angst" out of the way. Of course we're all drawn in by "what's going to happen" in a good story. But that's why I love to re-read. Without the distractions of "plot-angst", I can focus on the characters... I can really dig in and enjoy who they are. In a good re-read, the characters become like old friends I revisit again and again and again. I want characters I can build a relationship with that will stand the test of time.

Here are my top picks for re-reading (starting at the bottom):

10. The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkein - Here's a wonderfully told tale by the master of storytellers. Adventures, dragons, battles, treasure, what's not to love? Whenever I pick this book up I feel I'm going home.

9. The Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis - I could fill up my entire list with separate books from this series, but that wouldn't be fair. Though some I love more than others (The Last Battle, Voyage of the Dawn Treader) this entire series is a wonderful re-read, and the characters fill me up every time.

8. Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte - A tragic love story whose characters and plot always leave me puzzling over how their lives and loves could become so painfully desperate.

7. A Great and Terrible Beauty, Libba Bray - I just re-read this book (first in a three book series) the other day and I loved it even more than the first time! The setting and the plot are both so intricate and the characters really stand out to me. I'm hoping the rest of this series will hold up as well.

6. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen - God I love this book. Darcy and Elizabeth steal my heart every time I read and I love to mull over the burgeoning feminism that Austen laces her characters with... wit, intelligence, independence. Sigh...

5. The Crystal Cave, Mary Stewart - What an amazing story this is. Stewart made King Arthur and Merlin seem real to me... her use of history and mythology woven together to create a world like no other will have me going back to her novels (and England) again and again.

4. Ender's Game, Orson Scott Card - The Ender books will always have a special place for me. You'd think this is one series that would lose it's luster once you know the ending, but it's not so. Ender's tortured soul stole my heart from day one. I can't help myself.

3. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, J.K. Rowling - Epic. If you leave off the 17 years later tag at the end, this is a masterpiece of a work for me, and after following the characters all the way through their journey to defeating Voldemort, the pay-off is worth every bit of ink.

2. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, J.K. Rowling - This book really struck me deeply. Why? Not so much the main characters... Harry, Ron, Hermione all go through a lot of changes in this novel and that's great. But Neville steals my heart in this book... he grows up and becomes more multi-dimensional... and I love him for it.

1. The Book of Flying, Keith Miller - Sheer poetry and whimsy. I will always enjoy re-reading this modern fairy tale. I highly recommend you give it a try as well. Miller's writing is stunning and his story goes straight to the heart. It's something to aspire to.

What are your favorites and do you re-read often? What does it take to get you to crack a book for a second time?

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

My first guest post!

Look! I wrote a guest post here for Emily Suess's "Break Into Freelance Writing" program and I got paid to do it. Please go visit her blog and give me a little comment-luv!

Friday, July 6, 2012

World-Building ups and downs

I am a little ashamed to admit this, but I have a hard time with world-building... I know, what kind of a fantasy writer AM I? I get myself confused and turned around trying to figure where things are and how long it takes to get there, and what happens in the meantime... 

Although I love being able to break "Earth rules" in a truly fantasy world, I find it's easier to set my fantasy on good old planet Earth, in exotic locations. The distances and basics suddenly write themselves! Of course, I still can't decide which island and town my MCs hail from... and that will matter in the long run... but at least I have a starting point.

My current WIP is set in the Orkney Islands, Scotland. I visited last year... of course, I've been smitten with the islands for years now. I first read about them in Mary Stewart's Merlin novels... then in T.H. White's Once and Future King... and then when I looked them up, I stumbled on Orkneyjar, the most rich and fascinating website! I've spent hours falling down rabbit holes and following my nose... and the research that I've done has really helped me to see the settings I'm trying to write about.

The Orkneys really are thrilling, beautiful, and full of folklore. Who could ask for a better setting for a fantasy? And then! Something amazing like this happens. I could've made that up, but having it be REAL is so much more exhilarating! Don't you think?

What do you do about the details of world-building? Does it come easy to you?

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

IWSG: Turning things upside down

This post is for Insecure Writer's Support Group, hosted on the first Wednesday of every month by the fabulous Alex Cavanaugh. Anyone can join. Sign up here!

Ok, ok, I don't have a good excuse for posting today instead of tomorrow, except that a few others have and I had this post ready YESTERDAY, so... here you go!

Sometimes when I'm painting I get frustrated -- I visualize where things are going versus where I want them to go and I can't make up the difference. I hate that. But then, if I turn the canvas upside down, I get a whole new point of view... and it's inspiring! That doesn't mean I'll leave it that way... but new perspective can help me get my vision back in focus, to realign my aim... and sometimes new and great things come out of it!

I want to figure out how to do that more with my writing... because things are not going at all where I thought they were going with my WIP and I feel pretty deflated about that. So I'm wondering what I can do to regain some inspiration. How can I turn my WIP on its head? Maybe my MCs motivations are more nefarious than I give her credit for. Or maybe my main villain is really my MC...

The cygnets are here and they are
the most beautiful ugly
ducklings I have ever seen.
What do you do to turn things upside down?