Top Ten Tuesday #4: Favorite Beginnings/Endings in Books

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish where book lovers post their top ten books for various themes that are given.

July 30: Top Ten Favorite Beginnings or Endings in Books

Caleb’s Picks:

I’ll try not to give anything away. Now, why not begin–with the endings?

Endings

  1. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee. What can I say? It was mind-blowing. There are simply no words. If you’ve read it, you can understand. If you haven’t–why haven’t you? But I will say this much: Lee proved herself an expert of the important literary device of taking the reader’s mind back over everything that had happened throughout the story. That’s a powerful technique.
  2. Tarzan of the Apes, by Edgar Rice Burroughs. I could not be put better than those words spoken by the friend who introduced me to it: “At the end Tarzan makes an amazing sacrifice for Jane. I can’t tell you any more, I don’t want to spoil anything, but it’s just beautiful.”
  3. The Phantom of the Opera, by Gaston Leroux. We’ve got drama, action, heroism, romance, redemption, death; and all the more moving for the way it was told.
  4. The Secret of Chimneys, by Dame Agatha Christie. I could put any Agatha Christie on this list, just because most mysteries, and of course hers, are bound to end well. In a mystery, perhaps more than in any other genre, the end is the most important, and the most dramatic, part of the story. But I include The Secret of Chimneys, not only for the brilliant resolution to the mystery, but because this particular ending was one of her more character-driven.
  5. The Secret Adversary, by Dame Agatha Christie. Another beautifully character-driven ending.
  6. The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett. (Hint: You’ll notice that if it starts “the secret,” it’s probably a good book.) I had to judge by various factors to put other endings above this one. But, no other book than To Kill a Mockingbird, gave me the feeling this did when I closed it on the last page. It was a tingling, magical contentment; I sat back, stroking the cover, and murmured to myself, “That was good.” And yes—yes it was.
  7. The Moonstone, by Wilkie Collins. Again, the mystery is solved, the loose ends are tied up; but still we end on an open-ended note with a mystical quality. The better to end on a quotation mark: “Who can tell?”
  8. Perelandra, by C.S. Lewis. Dramatic, beautiful; downright awe-inspiring. Lewis has a way with producing that effect.
  9. Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley. Shelley was a poet who wrote in wordy prose. Beautiful, wordy prose. The moving epistolary epilogue was no exception.
  10. This Side of Paradise, by F. Scott Fitzgerald. “I know myself—but that is all!”

Beginnings

  1. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee. Topping the chart again. In the first paragraph, Lee makes deft use of foreshadowing, laying a subtle string that pulls you along, a question that goes unanswered right up to the very end.
  2. The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha, by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra. We’re given a brief introduction to Quixada, or Quijana, or it may be Quijano (nobody will ever be quite sure), who’s interesting and amusing enough a character to make the first chapter enjoyable enough. And very soon, without further ado, “urged on to it by the thought of all the world was losing by his delay, seeing what wrongs he intended to right, grievances to redress, injustices to repair, abuses to remove, and duties to discharge,” our hero dives into the first sally—the outset of a quest that will, more than Quixote could have hoped, change the world.
  3. The Lost World, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. When you look at it, the first chapter could be omitted without much trouble; but that chapter makes the story.
  4. Endless Night, by Dame Agatha Christie. Another instance of one of her more character-driven novels, and of her best (and most—wait for it—character-driven) beginnings.
  5. And Then There Were None, by Dame Agatha Christie. I don’t want to give anything away. But if you know the ending, but forgot the beginning, read it again; you can see the subtle genius in one of the first few chapters.
  6. Postern of Fate, by Dame Agatha Christie. “Books!” said Tuppence. The first chapter is titled “Mainly Concerning Books”; what more is there to say?
  7. The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien. Who reads these words and doesn’t want, immediately, to know more about this hole in the ground, and the strange creature who lives inside?
  8. Free Air, by Sinclair Lewis. It’s a tense, dramatic scene, in an everyday way; capturing, as Lewis always did, honest life.
  9. The Moonstone, by Wilkie Collins. Betteredge, endearingly, has no idea how to start the tale; proving that Collins does. Betteredge is immediately a lovable narrator, probably more than any of the others. To be quite honest, if Miss Clack had introduced the story, she would have scared me off.
  10. Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley. The novel began the same way it ended, epistolary, poetic, and moving.

Mash-Up Monday #4

(I realize it’s Tuesday now–sorry for being late on this, my internet was having problems last night)

“Mash-Up Monday” is a weekly post here at The Ambage where we post a mash-up of writing- or reading-related links that hopefully are helpful and inspiring. No theme this week, but some good articles nonetheless.

Mash-Up Monday #4: Classic Mash-Up

  1. Plotters Vs. Pansters. This seems to be a common theme for blog posts recently (and often is around NaNo, as that seems to be the “big question”–will you plan or just be insane?). Both Joel Goodman and Melissa Snark have had blog posts recently about this subject. It’s really an interesting question, and definitely a good one as well: as a writer, you need to find what works for you. Some people outline and outline and outline, plotting for hours upon hours. Others don’t. Some do a little of both (me). It doesn’t really matter which category you fall into–the important thing is that you find what does, in fact, work best for you.
  2. Tolkien’s 10 Tips for Writers. In this article, Roger Colby delivers yet another amazing post. Tolkien is without a doubt one of the greatest writers of all time. He is also insanely intelligent, and when you put those two together, I don’t know about you but I for one am definitely interested in his advice. It’s still like every other piece of advice, though–it’s not set it stone, and it doesn’t mean you’re a horrible writer if you don’t follow every one to the letter–but considering who it’s from, taking those tips to heart couldn’t hurt.
  3. Top 100 Science Fiction & Fantasy Books.  Speaking of Tolkien, he’s #1 on this list, and rightly so, in my opinion. Anyway, I thought this was a good list, especially for when I’m looking for new fantasy and SF things to read. Wouldn’t say I agree with all the choices, but it’s still an interesting list.
  4. Smashswords Adds Pre-Order FeatureIf you’re an Indie author, this might interest you. It’s pretty cool, I think–that is one thing that I wish CreateSpace would offer for its paperback books, but oh well.
  5. Five Reasons You Should Finish Your NaNoWriMo NovelCamp NaNo for July is coming to a close tomorrow. While I didn’t partake this time, I did participate last November, when I originally found that article. I think it’s some really great advice there, and very true. Oftentimes people will say that NaNo is all about finishing, even if it may suck, and sometimes that’s true. NaNo’s goal is to get the word count done, and it pays off to keep at it. You may have a lot of editing to do, but you’ll have so much written that you’ll feel good anyway. Of course, like everything else, NaNo isn’t for everyone–it’s hard to ignore the inner editor–but if it is for you, or even if it might be, remember to keep pressing on when the going gets tough.

-Andrew

Sunday Editorial: Why Does Man Create?

Why do writers write? That’s impossible to say. We all have our different reasons. But why do I write? That’s difficult to say.

I have my own many different reasons. I do it to express myself, yes; to bring form to my many thoughts and thus preserve them; to discover meaning in myself and the universe about me. I write to fathom secrets, to teach and to learn, to lead my readers on a journey that will leave us all wiser and happier. I write to satiate that cruelty and that lust for power that lies within us all. I write to be a villain. I write to be a hero. I write to do great things, terrible things, chivalrous things. I write to do the impossible. I write to expose folly, vice, and evil. I write to better myself.

I don’t write to entertain. Above all I write with the hope that someday, in some small way, I can improve the world. If my words can bring one more star to the night sky, its light will bring us that much closer to extinguish the darkness.

And it’s something to do when I’m bored, to boot.

Man or woman, friend of any age, author of any genre—why do you write?

Flippant Flash Fiction Friday #3

I would never advise anyone to only write flash fiction, as writing under time pressure may not be you at your best, and certainly is not the best way to serve all stories.  It’s like playing speed chess; you just lack the time to plan ahead as far as you should. it’s fun, beneficial and produces meritorious work, but it should not be your only mode.

One interesting practice that I have always championed is writing flash fiction sequels to flash fiction stories. It’s a different way to write and can be very entertaining.

I’m having trouble finding sequel stories, partly because no one likes to write them and partly it hasn’t been done in quite some time. So I hope you will forgive my selections.

Commitment by John Matz

“I made a promise.” the old man said flatly.

I looked him over. He was dressed in cheap old clothes, the shirt too big and the pants too short. He struck me as a flaky old geezer, more prone to lying for a buck than to keeping decades old promises. He might have kept that shirt for that long though. The beard must have been older.

He pulled a small bundle from his coat pocket, and carefully unwrapped the object within. It could have been anything, but somehow I suddenly knew what it was. My grandmother’s box.

I never knew what was in it, no one did, I think. It made a chinking sound, and was very heavy for it’s small size, most people assumed the mundane explanation of gold, or even silver. Perhaps it was because I was young at the time, but I always felt it was something more. My grandmother kept it on the highest shelf, and I once caught her looking into it when I came quietly into the room. She snapped it shut, and all I saw was a glimmer of light. I wasn’t able to make it to her funeral; too many miles and too few dollars. They said they never found her will, though I never quite believed that she would be so careless as to not write one. Apparently she had other plans.

The old man looked at the box with love, no, perhaps honor in his old, red eyes. I felt that this was his last scrap of integrity, the last wall within which his conscience still reigned. Now that his task was completed he could look back and know, that of all the mistakes of his long life, and the cold, the hunger of a seemingly useless man, he had done one thing and done it well.

I didn’t know what to say to him. It seemed a shame to give him five bucks and never see him again.

“Would you like to see inside it?”

The old man raised a bushy eyebrow. “No, I don’t think so. After all these years, there’s no way it can live up to my expectations, I suppose.”

He raised one wrinkled hand in an arthritic salute, and shuffled down the street.

But now, looking back, I think he may have opened that box. For only one who knew what was inside it would never want to see it again. His burden was heavy, but mine is the heavier.

—-

Classic flash fiction. Introduces a massive question but focuses on characters and plot instead of telling you what the answer is. No doubt you will never find out what is in the box. Perhaps it is for the best. But wait! In the wild world of sequels anything is possible!

Commitment, Epilogue #1 By John Matz

She was a rather queer old woman, my grandmother, though it wasn’t obvious at first glance. She did all the normal old lady things; gardening, knitting, cooking a bit, complaining about her back. Not much reminiscing over old times, perhaps that’s what made her seem a little off. That and the fact that no one quite knew how old she was. Little things like those add up.

Alone in my study, the oak paneling gleaming in the firelight, I returned my attention to the box. It wasn’t locked, it never had been, but it was a puzzle box of an old variety. I have a wide range of knowledge, most of it outdated and much of it useless; nearly all of it interesting. I know how to open such boxes as this, a few seconds pushing and peering did the job.

She used to tell me old stories of far off lands. Not quite your average fairy tales of princes and princesses, trolls and witches, but all of those featured throughout. The quests were different, grimmer, the princes fought harder, and died as often as they lived. The trolls and witches were old beyond old, and wise in wicked ways. The princesses were beautiful in different ways. There was a strange air about those tales, my grandmother was quite the storyteller.

The box lid was a little stiff, or perhaps my hands were clumsy with anticipation, but when I slid off the lid I did it with a jerk, and one of the two small round things inside rolled out onto my desk. They were apparently perfect spheres; one a bronze-gold, and one a kind of platinum. I slowly moved to replace the gold ball in the box, but when I touched it I drew back my hand with almost a gasp. It was hot as fire.

I took my coat off the back of my chair, and lifted the ball off my desk using it as a kind of glove. As I replaced it, I noticed for the first time a slip of paper tucked in the corner.

To the boy who so enjoyed my stories. Perhaps these will bring you one more of which my lips can never tell.

Lo and behold! Not only do you find out what is in the box (though not of course what those object are exactly) but you are treated to a quick origin story as well. Also, looking back at this, I suspect my writing has gotten worse. My fault probably.

And here is another story which also has a sequel.

Tunnel By Andrew Page

“What are you doing?”

“Quiet,” I hissed. He’s always asking questions and bugging me, I thought to myself as my little brother watched me curiously.

“It’s past midnight.”

“I know,” I growled back as I continued opening the window. It stuck at one point, but I pushed up with all my strength and it finally gave way.

“Are you going back to the tunnel? I want to go with you,” my brother pleaded.

I rolled my eyes. “Shut up and go back to bed.”

“I’ll tell mom if you don’t let me,” he said as he put on his snow boots.

“Fine,” I whispered back. “Grab a jacket and hurry up.”

He stumbled his way to the closet and picked out a large, warm winter coat.

“Now shut up and follow me. If you can’t keep up I’m not waiting for you.”

“Oh-kay.

It was hard keeping the excitement alive in me with my little brother now following me, but I tried to ignore him, remembering the day before. We had been playing in the wood when we came upon an old shed, at least a couple miles away from our house. Our interest piqued, we quickly figured out a way in, finding it only boring at first with a variety of random tools and other things. But then we noticed the latch in the floor.

It was a square wooden door with a brass ring as a handle. We had to use some of the tools we found in the shed, but finally we had gotten the trap door open. Wooden stairs led down to a dark room, the light only barely touching the ground at some points from the door in the ceiling.

We climbed down into the dank room, filled with little but dust and hay. But at the far end was another wooden door. Neither of us had dared to speak, scared that our voices would anger some dӕmon that lived down there. But slowly we made our way to the door, only to discover that it had an old rusted padlock securing it shut.

“What do you think’s down there?” my brother asked suddenly, knocking my thoughts from their reverie. There had been a set of bolt cutters in the shed, but we feared that our parents would grow suspicious of our long absence, so never saw what was past the door.

“I don’t know,” I whispered, still unwilling to raise my voice even though we were deep in the forest now, our house long behind.

As we walked along, large flashlights bouncing in my coat pockets, I saw my brother skipping along happily beside me and a smile crept on my face. Although I’d never admit it, I was glad he was here with me to discover the secrets behind the door.

Finally, after what seemed like hours, we reached the cabin again. I had handed one of the flashlights to my brother about a mile back and we had used them since then, believing we were far enough away from our house to not be seen with the light.

As the light hit the shed, it looked far more daunting than before. But we continued on, our curiosity out-weighing our fear. Once we were in the hidden room again, my brother shone his flashlight on the lock while I broke it with the bolt cutters from the shed.

The lock came off easily, and we shared a look – a smile on both our faces – before slowly opening the door to see only a tunnel of shadow before us. We shone our flashlights down the passageway and walked in.

A classic story in a rather homey vein. But the sequel plunges through the scary door and lands between the depths of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge.

Tunnel Sequel By John Matz

How much we would regret those steps and that journey I will never be able to express. A child’s love of adventure can be a dangerous thing, though a beautiful one. Beyond that dark door, its broken padlock in my pocket, heavy and cold against my leg. Some doors are best left closed.

My brother and I were not disappointed by the apparent featurelessness of the tunnel, to us it was important merely as a passageway to an unknown place. Images flashed through my head of glistening treasure troves, a magician’s sanctum, perhaps mummies. The nature of darkness is that it obscures, and to me all questions had happy answers, all mysteries glad solutions. I was young.

We left the door yawning open behind us, and my brother yawned a yawn of his own. It was very late now. Too late, though we didn’t know it.

I heard a creaking sound and spun my flashlight back to the door. It shut with a quiet click, and our route of escape was gone. My brother didn’t cry, and nor did I. A midnight’s romp, that was all this was supposed to be.

There was a crackle, and a voice boomed, wordless at first, but gaining clarity with each moment.

“Curiosity,” it boomed.

My poor brother clutched at my arm. I am glad I did not ask him on this journey. If only he had not come.

“Curiosity,” it repeated, more quietly.

“A gift of the One not granted to any others in such abundance. The humans of Earth overflow with it, and it will lay a stain across the universe not seen in many Revolutions.”

What can a child say or think to such a statement, past midnight, in a dark tunnel too far from home? I thought perhaps it was a joke, with one layer of my mind. The rest rebelled; I knew this was serious, deadly serious.

“I do not understand curiosity as well as would be beneficial to myself and my people. That is why I have waited here, for a far shorter period than I anticipated, for someone to break the lock and peer beyond the door to nowhere. You have come.”

I shuddered, not for any particular reason. I could hardly breathe. Yet I spoke.

“Who are you, and what will you do with us?”

Perhaps it needs another sequel.

Top Ten Tuesday #3: Words/Topics That Will Make You NOT Pick Up a Book

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish where book lovers post their top ten books for various themes that are given.

July 23: Top Ten Words/Topics That Will Make You NOT Pick Up a Book

Caleb’s Picks:

There are a lot of factors I take into consideration when judging a book, and believe it or not, the cover’s not usually one of them. I believe in the time-honored proverb. I look beyond covers and titles, but sometimes they make it painfully clear that I’m not going to enjoy the book. Here are some of the subjects that will turn me away:

  1. Political. I’m not exactly an anarchist, but I read to think deep thoughts, not petty ones.
  2. Romance. Unless it’s a Christian romance, it’s pretty safe to say I won’t be reading it.
  3. Teen Romance. It deserves a place on this list in its own right.
  4. Vampires, Zombies, Werewolves. Dracula excepted.
  5. Horror. Why would I want to watch people dying gruesome deaths? I mean, why?
  6. Psychic, Paranormal. I can’t stand psychic detectives (unless they’re faking it); but I don’t care for anything paranormal in general.
  7. Thriller. I’m a mystery lover, but I don’t personally consider most thrillers mysteries.
  8. Dystopia. We already live in a dystopia, I don’t need exaggerated fiction to make me feel better about it.
  9. Cancer and Other Diseases. I don’t mind a sad story; there’s always something worth finding in that.
  10. Dogs. Sorry. Cat person. Apologetic smile.

Mash-Up Monday #3

“Mash-Up Monday” is a weekly post here at The Ambage where we post a mash-up of writing- or reading-related links that hopefully are helpful and inspiring.

Mash-Up Monday #3: Getting Started

In this post I’ll share several links that will hopefully be helpful in getting started on a story. Often times, that can be one of the hardest things–perhaps you have a vague idea but it’s not exactly story-shaped yet, or perhaps you’re having a bit of a dry spell. Either way, it’s always nice when you can look at various things to help you get started.

  1. Muses. This site has some various cool links to different muses that may help, including a few plot generators. Using one of them, the first thing that came up for me was “The story starts when your protagonist goes to the hospital for help. Another character is a taxi driver who is sensitive to others’ auras.” I have to say, I think these generators are pretty cool, and definitely helpful for coming up with ideas.
  2. The 90-Day Novel: 5 Simple Steps to a First Draft. First drafts can be tough. This article has some nice tips for working on a first draft. It’s definitely very important to be realistic when writing–to realize that you need to write every day, you need to force yourself to do something, or it won’t get done. You also need to have realistic expectations, as first drafts often won’t be perfect, and if that’s what you’re expecting, it’ll only discourage you. But if you know things like those, hopefully you can push forward and finish a novel.
  3. Beginning a Short Story. A great article with a lot to think about. Writing isn’t always a process set in stone–you won’t be following everything in that article to the letter with each story, but it’s still got a lot of great things to keep in mind, and helpful if your creative juices are drying up or if something’s not working exactly the way you want.
  4. 30 Writing Tips from Famous Authors. Everyone likes a good tip, why not take one from a famous author? Not every tip will work for you, but reading tips from some of your favorite authors can definitely be motivating.
  5. George R.R. Martin’s Reading Recommendations. If you want to write, you need to read. GRRM is arguably one of the better authors out there (certainly one of the most well-known)–ever curious as to what someone like him would recommend? Need something to tie you over until he finishes the next book? Need to read something to get inspiration? Well here’s your chance to satisfy your curiosity, impatience, and need for inspiration. But even if you don’t read anything on his list there, it’s still a good idea to read consistently, regardless of who recommends the book. If you’re struggling with a story, put it aside for a little while and do some good reading, it can help.

-Andrew

Sunday Editorial: Writing & General Creativity

I’ve always been intensely interested in the effects of different creative skills upon each other. I am in some degree a writer, artist, graphic designer, animator, Lego sculpture dude, chess player and organizer. The way that these act upon one another can be amazing, and the interplay lends a power to tackle a problem from many angles. There’s also a quote (that I remember well but cannot find) which says that a man lying on his back looking at the sky and the clouds can learn much about the grass under him, just as one looking merely at the grass can learn about the sky behind him. Things are connected, and learning about one gives insights into the other.

If you’re stuck on a particular character or setting in a story, you can pop open Photoshop and draw a quick concept sketch. Even a quick sketch can provide both inspiration and clever details that would be extremely difficult to come up with when purely working with words. In another (perhaps less relevant) example, an artist can improve his ability to form a context for a work of art, and that story in his head can add great depth and interest to a piece. Tolkien would switch from prose to poetry when having difficulties. Studies have shown that switching from one creative pursuit to another significantly improves problem solving skills.

Combining these skills also gives you the ability to choose your medium that best fits an idea. A story with excellent visuals that are important to the story would probably be better as a comic book, movie or even computer game than being limited to the written word. Whereas a story with an emphasis on dialogue and psychology might function best in writing. Having this fundamental decision of how to best serve your story is an amazing strength and can give you confidence in your unique medium, rather than being forced into one particular method because you have no other powers. Just like an arbitrary length restriction on a story, this can result in pounding a square peg into a round hole.

This can also heighten your appreciation for things done right in other media. Suddenly when you watch a movie you appreciate the clever pacing and camera shots, or you appreciate an artist’s half-concealed storytelling powers. You can learn to appreciate the specific virtues of your medium in objective ways, as well as understanding its limitations and thus how to avoid its pitfalls.

So I would advise everyone who wants to tell great stories to try and learn some art skills. An eye for it helps, but (like almost everything) it all comes down to practice. Draw for an hour a day and your writing will improve, and the art you create will, from the very beginning, be infused with all your writing experience.

-John

Farcical Flash Fiction Friday #2

Yes, it is technically Saturday here. But still, the spirit of FFF remains unsullied.

Today we are going to delve into the deepest emotions of those who choose flash fiction themes. These individuals are always clad in a certain mystery, and it is time that they were shown for what they truly are.

The role of a theme is to making writing easier, not harder.  It is difficult to write about nothing, but simple to write about something. However, laziness, wild experimentation, panic and sadism easily creep into the theme choosing process. In a way these factors are good as they add much needed dimensions of variety to the otherwise predictable themes.

One great way to get a totally new theme is to force a newcomer to choose the theme. Theoretically this can also ease the new writer’s writing process, since they should certainly have a story to write for their own theme. This is a fun tradition anyway, particularly if you often get new people. You can also fish for themes among other clueless people, such as non-writerly friends and family.

A good rule when choosing a theme is that if you can think quickly think of three different stories for it then it’s good. If you can only think of one, or, still worse, zero ideas for it then the theme is likely to become more of a burden to the writers than a help. One easy way to assure a range of stories is to choose a word for the theme that has multiple totally different meanings. A couple good examples of this principle are the themes “Watch” and “Train” both of which were used in the early days of the write-offs with good results.

It is often a good idea to use a concrete noun for a theme, such as “Bridge,” “Water” or “The Tower.” All of which give you a solid requirement for an element of your story, sometimes even a locale. Another interesting trick is to use a definite article for a theme, as was done in one of the very first themes (taken from a writing site I believe) “The Forest.” This lends an air of mystery and a hint of the epic to an otherwise bland object.

A somewhat more difficult but sometimes more rewarding method is to introduce not a concrete object but a plot element, such as (one of my favorite themes of all time) “Superstition.” Sigh. If only all themes could be as glorious.

The Sentry by Caleb/Cederak:

As the European settlers traveled further west, in their meandering exploration of the realm that led to the Pacific, across the vastness of a land that was not theirs, there were encounters with the natives. Tribes of people who had lived off the land for centuries, undisturbed in their rituals and their beliefs, were now stumbling upon pale-faced people that resembled the tribes, only…not. The ancient dwellers of the realm underestimated the tenacity with which the pale-faced ones possessed. Their technology was refined and their ideals of a destiny that would take them to the edge of the continent were unwavering.

The tribes fought to defend their land, but ultimately, they were conquered and either pushed aside or destroyed. One such group, a warmongering tribe that had known the Black Hills for countless generations, would not be removed so easily. They resided among the claustrophobic landscapes of the Dakota’s seemingly infinite pines and the midnight black network of caverns carved out by time and nature alone.

In their final days, they called upon a black spirit to protect them from the pale-faced people, a lone entity that witnessed a genocide among the forests and waited…waited to serve the purpose it had been summoned for. Of the few travelers that passed through the remote area in those days, few survived an encounter with the creature. It is said to be a monstrous thing, with obsidian fur that appears to be aflame at all times and the features of an overgrown wolf roughly twice the size of a fully grown grizzly bear. It’s swiftness was that of lightning and when it chose a target, that was it. Those few that lived long enough to inform anyone vanished not long after.

As for the creature, there is no information regarding its fate. As far as anyone knows, it continues to roam the darkness of the Black Hills in search of those who dare to step foot in a land not theirs, with a tenacity that will not long ignore a trespasser.

—–

No true study of themes would be complete without some mention of the most infamous theme of all time… “Rambutan.” A certain amount of extra time was given so that participants could google the theme.

In All Seriousness… By Aimee/Aderia:

“The theme,” he said, to my chagrin,
“Is going to be ‘rambutan'”.

Regardless to say,
No one was thrilled
They skulked away
The chat had been killed

Bravely and truly, some of them fought
Against the looming writer’s block
Others like me, they were caught
And all they could do was was look at the clock

There’s not much to lose, not much to gain
Writing, simply, for writing’s sake
Except, one thing will drive you insane
And give you a massive, killer headache

Never before has a challenge been
So trying as that of ‘Rambutan’.

Top Ten Tuesday #2: Authors Who Deserve More Recognition

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish where book lovers post their top ten books for various themes that are given.

July 16: Top Ten Authors Who Deserve More Recognition

Caleb’s Picks:

I’m chiefly a reader of the classics, and unfortunately I don’t read enough of the works of novelists out there today to come up with many lesser-known authors who deserve more recognition than they have. But it’s a sad thing, that sometimes, those who deserve the recognition never get it; and those who aren’t worthy of it have more than they deserve. Sometimes it happens in this modern word. Maybe today, some of these lists across the internet will do a little–just  a little–to help.

  1. Will Thomas, author of Some Danger Involved, To Kingdom Come, and other novels in the Cyrus Barker series, writes detective stories that have everything you could ask for out of a classic, with all the flavors necessary to satisfy the modern reader’s palette.
  2. Kirn Hans, author of Behind My Mask. We have here a contemporary author who, more than any other I have read, knows dialogue, knows the aesthetic beauty of language, knows the charm of a fairy tale, and still knows how to balance it all with the dark realism of the world we live in today.
  3. Carolyn Hart, another detective novelist, has a devotion–perhaps an obsession–for the mystery genre apparent in her work that will endear her to any reader of detective fiction. And for the others, her downright adorable characters and her wit should be enough to satisfy.
  4. Eric Reinhold. Rick Riordan is famous for a reason; Eric Reinhold should be famous for the same reason. A C.S. Lewis for the modern reader, young or old, the fantastic journeys Reinhold conducts into the magical land of Aeliana are enjoyable reads.
  5. Now I begin stepping back and time, and I’ll begin with Vicente Blasco Ibáñez. I recently discovered his work, and fell immediately in love with his beautiful, poetic descriptions, and the heart in his characters. “Luna Benamor” is my favorite thus far of his works.
  6. A.A. Milne. We all know Winnie-the-Pooh. Nowadays, the bear is most commonly known as a Disney character, but it’s no little-known fact that Pooh Bear was born in the children’s stories of A.A. Milne. What most people don’t know, however, is that his pen was not otherwise silent; he wrote essays, poems, and novels, even dabbling in detective fiction, and not poorly. His The Red House Mystery, while no masterpiece, had the proper structure of the best mysteries, all the right trimmings, and an entertaining story, making it well worth reading.
  7. John Dos Passos, nearly unheard of in American nowadays, earns his place on this list for his keen insight and the simple, elegant truth of his almost quixotic wisdom. Rosinante to the Road is just one of his works, but a fine example of how beautiful and real his prose can be.

Mash-Up Monday #2

“Mash-Up Monday” is a weekly post here at The Ambage where we post a mash-up of writing- or reading-related links that hopefully are helpful and inspiring.

Mash-Up Monday #2: Characters

Looking around for various articles, I came across several that had to do with Character, and thought I could make it a theme. The first link here, however, is not specifically about characters, but still a great article.

  1. Top Ten Cool Things About Scrivener. Last week I linked to various novel templates for a writing program called Scrivener. Perhaps I should have linked to this article first, but nevertheless, this article by Roger Colby shows a few of the many great aspects about Scrivener. It is incredibly helpful for organization and offers many other cool features. You don’t even have to spend hours trying to master it, as there are some really great tutorials that Scrivener gives (and the few easy features are enough to make the program great)–but if you spend the time (such as discovering or creating new Templates that fit your specific novel), that too can definitely be worth it. I always hated scrolling through pages and pages of writing, where here you can easily move from one chapter or scene extremely easily. To tie it in to the character theme: it’s also incredibly helpful to be able to have separate documents for your character that you can easily view–even at the same time as your manuscript by using the double-screen feature. Overall, I would definitely recommend it over Word (even if I do still love Word and use it on occasion).
  2. 3 of Michael Connelly’s Favorite Bits of Writing Advice. Michael Connelly is probably one of my favorite authors, so when I saw this article I knew I had to mention it here. I especially love how the first two pieces of advice have to do with Character–I’ve always been a huge character fan. Often, it can be what makes or breaks a novel, because if I don’t like the character, I won’t be interested. One of a few examples that come to mind would be The Last Werewolf, by Glen Duncan. Not that it was a horrible novel or anything, but I personally just didn’t enjoy it that much because I never really cared that much about the character. Not because of his situation, but there was just something about him that I didn’t like. On the flip side, The Dresden Files, by Jim Butcher are a fantastic example of a great character–Harry Dresden is one of the greatest, most-lovable characters I have read, and it just makes Butcher’s books all that much more enjoyable.
  3. 8 Tips for Writing Flash Fiction. The Ambage is very involved with flash fiction–one of the main reasons it was able to start and become what it is today is because of flash fiction. Since then we’ve had bi-weekly flash fiction events, various contests, and even our first published anthology (X:15) was exclusively flash fiction. While I’m not a believer of having strict rules, and I don’t think that all of these need to always apply, I do think that there are some great tips here. The last one is a particular favorite of mine, as it’s something that I really enjoy doing. Even if it’s just for a minor character in a novel I think it’s a great exercise to write a flash fiction piece on them, to better understand (and write as) that character. It’s also great for those characters that you love but can’t do much with, for one reason or another (say, he was murdered at the beginning of your mystery novel–you had to create his character for your detective to investigate, but that character is dead. Well, hey, write a flash fiction story!).
  4. How to Make Ordinary Characters Compelling. I thought this was a great article about writing characters, giving them depth, and, above all, as the title suggests, making them compelling; Character is extremely important to me in any story–be it novel or short story–and if they aren’t compelling, they can ruin a perfectly good novel. I thought these were some great tips. Again, not that these are set in stone or need to be followed to the letter, but they’re good tips, and writing flash fiction about them with these tips in mind can help.
  5. More Flesh Please! I thought this was a really interesting (and slightly amusing) article on characterization. This is definitely another problem with many stories–the characters are flat, boring, uninteresting, and need to be given more flesh; more depth.

-Andrew