Best of 2018 – Novels and novellas

It’s so hard to pick my favorite books. 

I mean, you read so many, right? Or, well, I read so many. If there were a monster that could only fill the deep gullet of its belly with words, then I would be that monster. I read a LOT. It’s like breathing.

So every year I try to keep a list of the books that make me smile or laugh out loud or weep uncontrollably and every year I doubtless fail. I know there are things that I will miss, books I really loved but that I can’t quite bring myself to put on my best of list and books that touched me despite not being my favorite and really, who am I kidding? I love all the books, unless I don’t. I’m not really a halfway kind of person when it comes to the written word, and so when I read a book I either love it or, more rarely, hate it. If it makes me feel sort of meh, I don’t finish.

Anyway, the point is that these books are happy, good, glowing things that are worth your time. There’s probably something on this list for everyone and if there is something you’ve read and liked and you want to know about stories like it, I can probably point you in the right direction. It’s a talent of mine.

Without further ado, my 2018 list for novels and novellas: 

In Other Lands

Urban Fantasy, Portal Story, Coming of Age, LGBTQ. This book has a lot going on. The pacing is good for the scope of the time that is taken up in this novel. It’s also a standalone, so don’t worry about getting into this and having to commit to some long series. Everything you need is contained within its cover from the beginning. 

I read this book early in the year and it read, for me, like a balm. It’s the story of a boy who is used to not being loved, and all the problems that he makes for himself because of that habit. And it’s the story of his friends, who stand by him despite his best efforts, and of the magical world they call home.  I hope you read it and love it and feel comfort.

The City of Lost Fortunes

I’ve mentioned this book before, but since it technically came out this year I need to mention it again. I met Bryan Camp at WFC in November of 2017, devoured his book, can’t wait for more. Also he’s a cool guy. This book is set in New Orleans, but unlike most of the similar books mining such a rich setting, The City of Lost Fortunes feels real and lived in. That’s probably because Bryan is a native, and a native with good attention to detail and a love for the city he calls home in all of its chaotic glory. Urban Fantasy.

The Stone in the Skull

Epic Fantasy. This book takes place in the same secondary world that Bear previously created for The Range of Ghosts. Because of that, it is easy to see just how far she has come as a writer. Range of Ghosts and the ensuing novels are solid, well-written, and inventive. The prose in The Stone in the Skull, however, practically leaps of the page. It nonetheless loses none of the excellent elements of the original world, expanding on them in ways that feel natural.

Some of my favorite books in secondary world fantasy have been written by this author. Her skill in research in writing is something I aspire towards. Also she’s a gem and she liked my dress at Futurescapes. It is one of the highlights of my life. So I hope you will read this book and enjoy it as much as I did.

Iron and Magic

You may remember a few years back when I discovered Ilona Andrews. This husband and wife team write the most excellent romance and magical action. This year I have read several of their works, since I’ve been in the mood for romance recently, but since I do love the world of Magic Shifts I decided to recommend this one. It is the start of a trilogy that can be read alone, but I wouldn’t waste the chance to read the recently completed Kate Daniels series, of which this story-line is a spin off. Romance, Urban Fantasy, Post-Apocalyptic.

Glory’s Teeth

This is the only novella that made my list this year. I did read a few, mind, and there were some exceptional ones. But there is only so much space on this list and I’m kind of pushing it as it is with seven titles instead of my usual five or so. Luckily, you can read Glory’s Teeth as a standalone, though the author has other works in this world if you can’t get enough.

This book was an unexpected find. I actually saw the author post about it through someone else I follow on Twitter, proving that, occasionally, social media does sell books. The story made me absolutely sob. It’s about a girl who also happens to be a wolf destined to consume the world, the torment of feeling empty and alone, and the hunger to be alive. And it is so very, very delicious.  Urban Fantasy, Norse Mythology.

Trail of Lightning

Gritty, inventive, excellent – these are all words one might use to describe Rebecca Roanhorse’s debut release. And it is definitely gritty. The gore in this book is not to be underestimated. Nor is the refreshing approach to the world. Roanhorse uses her own Native heritage as inspiration in creating a dynamic, grungy world where myths come alive, and not always for the better. While it’s not necessarily a hopeful book, it is a solidly vengeful one, and it sets up nicely for future sequels. Action, Urban Fantasy, Post-Apocalyptic.

Space Opera

Last but definitely not least, for those of you who haven’t heard of this wonderful book, we have Space Opera. Ambitious it may be, but this book sticks the landing, as Valente is wont to do. In a story reminiscent of Hitchhiker’s Guide but definitely it’s own, with aliens and absurdity and tongue-twisting prose, Valente takes us on a journey that seems to be about what makes good music but is actually about what makes someone human. Above all, this is a hopeful read. It’s the story you didn’t know you needed in 2018, the longest and shortest year on record, and I have it last so that you will remember it best. Science Fiction, Weird, Eurovision.

I hope you enjoy these reads, folks! Don’t forget to let me know if you’ve read one of these, I’d love to hear how you liked it.


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So you finished NaNoWriMo. Now what?

National Novel Writing Month is a cool idea, and I usually try to participate in some fashion every year. The first (and much different) draft of my first book was written in this time. I’ve never made 50,000 words, as I’ve mentioned elsewhere, but I usually do somewhere between 20-30,000, since I find it useful to set these personal targets.

You, however, could have made all sorts of words this month. Maybe you hit that 50,000 word mark, maybe you didn’t, maybe you went farther. It doesn’t really matter where you are in your writing process, the advice below will work for you.

  1. Finish the draft. This is not a foregone conclusion, even if you hit the 50k mark. For most genres, 50,000 words does not a book make. Some industry standards to keep in mind are 100,000 words for a fantasy or science fiction novel, and 75,000 words for a young adult novel. That’s a lot more words. Hopefully you still have more of your outline to write through, but maybe this is a matter of going back through and fleshing out your draft. Your writing process may be something you’re still figuring out, and that’s okay. Just keep in mind that your finished wordcount at the end of NaNoWriMo may not be what the industry is looking for.
  2. Revise. This is probably the most important step in any project. My favorite way to do this, honestly, is to trunk the book for a month or so. Put it somewhere dark and allow it to ferment. When you come back to it, come back with an editor’s eye, not a writer’s. Think about what works and what doesn’t, and start whittling it into shape.
  3. Proofread. Wait, I hear you saying, isn’t proofing part of the revision process? Yes, and no. I always treat my manuscripts to an extra proofing session or three. My revision process focuses on plot, setting, and overall structure of the book. My proofing process focuses at the sentence level. This is where you find your typos, your awkward sentences, your misused words. It’s a vital step, so don’t skip it.
  4. Research. If you’ve done all these things, and done them well, now you are ready to query (if you are going the traditional publishing route) or consider self-publishing. But you don’t want to just launch yourself at either option without considering the merits of both. Read a lot. Remember to read stories from people who have been successful as well as those who have failed. Decide what kind of work you are interested in taking on and assess your own skills critically during this process.
  5. Research some more. If you are going the traditional publishing route, there’s a second bit of research you need to do. You need to figure out who to query, and why they would want your book. I suggest making a spreadsheet to track your queries that’s particular to your manuscript, but you can manage your tracking however you want. Make a goal to submit a certain amount of queries per day or week or month. Structure things so that you can hold yourself accountable. Personalize your queries, but stay professional.
  6. Submit. This is the last step if you’re pursuing a traditional publishing process, and it’s the hardest part. Hitting that send button always feels, to me, as if I’m falling off a building. My heart is up in my throat, my stomach is trying to climb that way, and everything seems too sharp. This is normal. It’s okay to feel anxious about this process. Use the schedule you made and the list to keep the task feeling less personal. Treat yourself to chocolate or something every time you successfully submit. There are a number of tricks, but I suspect you will know what works best for you. 
  7. Forget. Once your queries are out there, forget about them. This is not to say you shouldn’t put an alarm in your calendar or something to remind you to follow up (depending on if that is something that the agent or editor you have queried allows). It means that you should not spend any conscious processing time on it. This is a self-protection skill, honestly, and one that’s hard-earned for me. Submit and forget. When you get good news in your inbox, you’ll be happier for it.

Congratulations on getting through NaNoWriMo, and good luck with your story!


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