Crooked Ways: Now on Kindle!

Crooked_Ways_Cover_for_Kindle

Crooked Ways

an Ambage Halloween Collection

Just in time for Halloween, our latest collection–Crooked Ways: an Ambage Halloween Collection–is available on Kindle for only $0.99! Please consider purchasing it and giving it a read today. It’s also enrolled in Kindle Matchbook, meaning if you buy the paperback version from Amazon, you can get the Kindle version for free!

Buy it from:

Kindle
Createspace

Amazon.com

Thank you to everyone that purchases it! We really appreciate your generosity.

-Ambage Hosts

Top Ten Tuesday #17: Scariest Looking Book Covers

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.

October 29: Top Ten Scariest Looking Book Covers

Caleb’s Picks:

I don’t often read horror fiction, but I didn’t have much trouble naming ten of the book covers that scare me the most.

  1. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (Holt McDougal Publishing). I have never seen a cover that captures the Monster so vividly.
  2. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by a philistinist that should remain nameless. It’s not just the cover, but the society that has room for the novel itself. That’s terrifying.
  3. The Nine Tailors by Dorothy L. Sayers (Harcourt, Inc.)
  4. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness (Walker Books)
  5. The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux (Bantam Classics). I love the eerie atmosphere of this one. It’s an accurate and powerful depiction of the spirit of the book (pun not indended).
  6. Endless Night by Agatha Christie (HarperCollins). This novel disturbed me more deeply than any of her other work, at least out of as much of her work I have read.
  7. Night of the Living Dummy by R.L. Stine (Scholastic). A friend introduced me to this cover recently, just as a joke, and it fits this list well.
  8. That Hideous Strength by C.S. Lewis (Scribner Book Company)
  9. Behind My Mask by Kirn Hans (Notion Press)
  10. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie (St. Martin’s Press)

Mash-Up Monday #13: Halloween Special

“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. This week the links are all Halloween-related, for your reading pleasure this Thursday.

Mash-Up Monday #13: Halloween Special

  1. Free Scary Books for Halloween. GalleyCat strikes again, this time providing links to free e-books, ones that are especially great for Halloween.
  2. All Hallows’ Read. Thought up by the brilliant Neil Gaiman, here’s an awesome thing to do for Halloween.
  3. Crooked Ways. Of course this list wouldn’t be complete without a shout-out to our recently published collection of Halloween-themed stories. Consider purchasing the paperback and giving it a read this Halloween! ^^

Sunday Editorial: NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo—or National Novel Writing Month—soon approaches. It’s an event where writers commit to writing 50,000 words in the month of November; not an easy task, as that comes out to about 1667 words per day. Follow the link to learn more.

If you’re planning on writing a novel, I definitely highly suggest taking part in NaNo. It can be frustrating, you can go crazy (if you aren’t already) due to participating–but it’s really a great experience.

Last year was my first year participating (though I had wanted to previous years, but always dropped out beforehand), and even though I didn’t reach 50k (I ended at almost 30k, I believe), it was still one of the best writing experiences I’ve ever had. NaNo, more than anything else, really motivated me to write, and I had a lot of fun writing. Usually if I force myself to write, it’s just not a good feeling, but with NaNo and that clear goal in mind, there was something that truly just motivated me like nothing else.

Sure, a lot of what came out of NaNo was, to put simply, crap; sure it had various errors in it (due to just writing instead of doing any research/etc.), some parts felt unnatural, some parts were fluffed just to get more word count…but it still allowed me to make more progress than I ever had before. Instead of starting something and moving to another project, or getting tired of a project, or just writing a bunch of short stories instead of a novel, I forced myself to stick with this one.

50k words is an intimidating number. And while I didn’t make it last year–and I might not this year too–I’m really not all that upset. I still accomplished a lot (for me), and that’s what I take away from participating in NaNo.

Whether you “win” or not, whether you abide by all the rules or not (I mean, they even have a “rebel” forum, having no problem with people bending the rules as long as the word count is met), the important thing–always, really–is to write. If NaNo helps with that, or even if you just think it will help with that–go for it. If you haven’t participated before, why not make this the year you do? Don’t let the word count deter you, just use NaNo as a tool to write.

And, to end, a couple great links about NaNo that I’ve found helpful:

  • 90 Writing Tips. GalleyCat is an awesome site (a news site about books, publishing, writing, etc.), and one thing especially that I love about them is how they give daily NaNoWriMo tips for the month of November. This is a list of three years’ worth of tips.
  • The NaNoWriMo Checklist. Roger Colby always makes a lot of amazing posts, and this one in particular is definitely very helpful as NaNo draws near. Also check out his Archives, which has a fair number of NaNo-related posts.

-Andrew

Forensic Flash Fiction Friday #8

I love the bizarrely brilliant stories that emerge sometimes. In flash fiction there’s no time for the writer to second guess themselves, they can just charge ahead recklessly.

Happy Hour
by Nate/GSR

The bartender drew the glass from the faucet and slid the mug across the hardwood top to Kay. “Here y’go, miss. Enjoy it.”

She took the glass wearily, took a sip, looked up, turned, spat, looked back, turned again, looked back again, looked down at the drink, looked up again. She cleared her throat nervously and leaned forward. “Um, excuse me.”

“Somethin’ the matter with your drink, miss?”

“Er, no. No, it’s just that, um, well…” she coughed. “You’re a skeleton now, and you weren’t fifteen seconds ago.”

He nodded. “That I am, miss. That I am.” His appropriately-bone-white hand plucked a rag off the back shelf and began to wipe down a spare mug with it, click-clack-click-clack-click-clack.

She tried again. “So, if I can ask… why are you a skeleton?”

“Don’t much know m’self, miss. Sometimes things just happen.” He tapped a fingerbone on the stark-white china pate that was his forehead. Was that what you would call it now? Maybe it was a forebone. Kay didn’t know. Kay really, really didn’t know.

Her eyes flicked down to the mug still in front of her. Oh no. “Oh my god, you- you put some kind of drug in here, didn’t you-“

“Miss, it’s water. You saw me fillin’ it with your own two eyes. Plus, ain’t those your friends or coworkers or what have you over at the pool table? ‘Twouldn’t be much use for me to try anything when they’d jump down my throat the minute anything went funny.” He tilted his head, raising an eyebrow that wasn’t there anymore. “Plus – I may be nothin’ but bones, but that just ain’t right.”

“Okay. Water then. Right.” She took a shuddering breath, closed her eyes, and counted to five. One, two, three, four, don’tbeaskeletondon’tbeaskeletondon’tbea-

Still a skeleton. A kind of faint whimpering noise escaped her mouth. The bartender shrugged. “I am sorry about this. It ain’t ever easy seein’ someone get turned into a stack a’ bones right in front of ya, I know. But ‘twasn’t a thing I could do about it. These things happen, y’know?”

“No, no, no, I don’t know,” she said, her voice turning more than a little desperate. “I don’t know that people turn into skeletons sometimes. Are you dead? Oh god, am I dead?”

“Probably and probably not,” he replied. He tilted his head again and clicked his teeth together in thought. “Well, actually, I’m probably not dead either. So probably not on both fronts.”

“If I scream, are people going to look over and see a normal bartender?”

“Wouldn’t surprise me. ‘S how these things work, don’t they? Trouble comes outta nowhere, lands right in your lap, and minute you try to offload it on someone else it slips out the back porch, and you wind up lookin’ like a crazy person. ‘What,’ they ask, ‘is possibly the matter? I don’t see the trouble.’”

She leaned forward. “Mister Skeleton, please don’t start giving me life advice right now, I think I might be about to pass out.”

“Drink some water then. No point in gettin’ all worked up about it. You gotta roll with the punches, right?”

“Look, my boss reassigned my account this morning. My deadbeat brother took my car and didn’t say when he’d be back. My girlfriend’s not answering her texts, my dog’s vet bill is three times more than I thought it would be, and now my bartender’s turned into a skeleton. I think I’m allowed to stop rolling by now.”

He shrugged, his collarbones swinging up and down like a see-saw. “Alright, alright, I follow ya. But this is what I’m sayin’, y’see? Can’t just let it all get ya down. Ya gotta take it head on. Skull on, in my case.”

Kay grabbed the glass of water off the bar and began to chug it. Don’t think about the skeleton don’t think about the skeleton don’t think about it just finish the water, get up, go play pool, give Jen another text, go home, call the vet, send Jim an e-mail, get Mom to call Ted just don’t think about the skeleton.

She gasped and slammed the mug back onto the bar. The bartender took it. “Y’want another round?”

Primly, she stood, grabbed her purse, turned 180 degrees on her heel, and walked off towards the pool table. Behind the bar, the skeleton clacked his teeth together a few times.

Sometimes you just got those customers you had to turn into a skeleton to help out.

“Her Property”, by Will

The wiccern lives at the heart of the orchard: a grove of twisted, living trees. One does not eat the fruit of those trees, not even animals. They are Her Property, and she is always jealous…

So when I came upon the man in gray sitting beneath the shade of the orchard tree with a thoughtful look on his face and an apple core in his hand, my first thought was that he must be mad.

“Are you mad?” I asked, shifting my books from one hand to the other. The man glanced up with eyes like jet and drew his feet together beneath him. He laughed.

“Mad? Maybe. What do you mean?”

“This is the wiccern’s orchard. Don’t you know? You don’t eat from her trees. She’ll get you for it.”

“Is there a sign?” he asked, and his mouth twisted up in a smile. His chin was covered in stubble, and his gray clothing looked much weather-worn. I could see rips and tears in the hem, and he wore no shoes.

“You must not be from around here.” I sneered a little.

“Very perceptive of you, boy,” he replied. “I’ve come from away to the west. You see this?” He thrust out a fist, and something dangled, glinting, from the chain that was clenched between his fingers. It was metal–a medallion. I stepped forward hesitantly. Best not get too close to this mad stranger.

“What is it?” The shape of a leaping fish was engraved upon the metal, and an odd symbol. It was a sailor’s charm, I thought. We’d learned about them in schoolhouse last season.

“This is something I’ve had for a long time, boy. But it failed me five days ago. Did the storm come this far inland?”

“Storm…what are you talking about?” The weather had been overcast for the past few days, but that was nothing new.

“Ah, well maybe I am mad then. Too much time at sea has made me more fish than man…”

So he was a sailor.

“You came from the coast?” I asked, “That’s a long way, I think.”

“I’m a fast walker, boy, when I put my mind to it.”

“Well, anyway, you shouldn’t eat from the orchard trees. It’ll be bad luck for you.”

“Bad luck…” He fingered the medallion again, lids half-closed over his jet-black eyes. “Bad luck’s all I’ve ever had, I think. They say when I siren calls you from the rocks, the call stays with you all your life, if you manage to resist it. Like a fish in her net, trapped…”

“Sirens?” We’d learned about those in schoolhouse too, but they were only myths. Fish-women who led sailors to their deaths on hidden shoals.

“Aye,” he shrugged and turned away from me, staring into the darkness under the orchard leaves.

“Well, I don’t know about all that, but you’d best not stay around here,” I said, stepping back toward the country road. The school bells were ringing down in the town by now. I’d be late if I didn’t get going, and I didn’t much want to exchange more words with this strange man. His words made me shiver.

“Mm, you’d best get along to school then, boy,” the man said.

He turned back toward me for a moment, eyes wide, face smiling.

“I’ll be just fine,” he said, and winked, tossing the apple core over his shoulder into the dark. Suddenly there was a noise in the air, like a voice, but without words. It was a song. Someone singing from a great distance. The man stood up all at once, and I backed away, shivering. The sun must have gone behind a cloud, because it had grown very dark, as dark as the shade under the trees. The song rose and fell, and man turned his back to me. I thought to warn him again…but then I found that I didn’t want to, because I wanted to follow him. It was a terrible feeling, and my heart began to pound.

The song was a call. It was calling him, and me. Like a web being drawn tight. I saw the medallion flash in the dimness where it hung from the man’s hand, and suddenly he was not alone beneath the trees. Another figure stood there with one hand resting against the tree. Her mouth was open, and the melody came dancing from her throat.

The man’s voice rang out again, breaking through the song for a moment as I stood quivering by the road.

“I’ve been too long on the iron sea,” he said. “Too long running away across the waves.”

The wiccern inclined her head, and her long hair fell over one shoulder. I had never seen her before, and she was not one to be described. Her eyes were very piercing though…that much I know. She looked at the apple core that lay in the grass. Her Property. He should not have come here–

“You called me, all those years ago,” the man continued abruptly. “I know it was you, even through the mist and the rain. I’d lashed myself to the mast, you see, and the rudder carried me to safety, but I was always pulled back. Like a fish on a hook…”

His head whipped around, and jet-black eyes fixed me.

“Go, boy,” his arm went back, and he tossed something at me. I caught it out of instinct, almost dropping my books. It was the medallion, chain and all. It flashed in the sunlight as I looked at it…

Sunlight.

The song faded, and I looked up to see an empty orchard. Just a grove of twisted, living trees. Yes…one does not eat the fruit of those trees, I remembered the saying, not even animals. They are Her Property, and she is always jealous…

I continued on down the road, the medallion clenched in my fist. A slight wind whispered in the tree-leaves behind me, and for a moment I thought I heard the sound of a voice.

I didn’t look back.

“Socialize”, by Legolover-361

There’s something so enthralling about being caught in a corner and pummeled till you feel blood dripping down your nose, your head is throbbing like a dubstep bass drop, and your extremities quiver in pain and fear.

Just kidding.

Not something to joke about, you say? Right. I’d agree with you, but how the heck else am I supposed to deal with it?

His name is Leon, he’s a linebacker, and he has it out for nerds who refuse to help him with homework because of his drug problems and because certain female friends of those nerds have not been regarded with much respect on his part. Sound corny? That’s because it is. Sound painful? No? Well, that’s the difference between you and me, then: You’re reading this narrative, and I’m living it.

Picture now, if you will, a typical Friday mealtime. Five-foot-two Sarah — auburn hair, freckles, good-looking but just a friend mind you — is sitting across from five-foot-seven me — buzzcut, a bit of unshaven facial hair, a few pimples and contacts. We’re eating lunch. (An aside: There isn’t any “mystery meat” or “mystery vegetables”, but everyone calls them that anyway because we rarely know ahead of time what’s being served.)

The cafeteria’s tables are plastic, circular, and kind of grimy. A rite of passage among our school’s students is that the new kid will be dared to place his hand underneath the table and press hard, and once he’s freed from the table and has washed all the chewing gum off his palm, we say he’s baptized. It’s a public school, but a slew of us belong to a few nearby Christian churches. Not that going to church on Sundays makes half the kids any better. The other half were probably decent to begin with.

I’m getting off-tack.

So Sarah and I are sitting at our own table, eating lunch, and Leon comes over and asks her quite bluntly why he doesn’t have her phone number yet because he would call her, and you can tell from his emphasis on call that he means he’s going to do it.

Sarah smiles and says no thanks, she doesn’t date blockheads.

I fist-pump under the table. Maybe Leon caught my look of exultation, because he smiles, too, and says he has girls lining up at his house.

“To slap you?” I ask.

He looks like he’s going to slap me, but then he calms down. “I have a party this Saturday,” he says instead, handing a slip of paper to each of us. It says, in fourteen-point Times New Roman, PARTY AT LEONS 1:00-MIDNITE — ALL INVITED — 147 ORIENT ST. — TIME OF YOUR LIFE #YOLO. I’m not impressed; Times New Roman is really generic.

“Everyone’s going,” he says — and, as if to prove his point, calls out to the cafeteria, “Who’s comin’ to my place one o’clock sharp tomorrow?”

A lot of voices cheer. I don’t know how Leon got so popular. Maybe rebels attract large crowds; there are surely historical precedents for that, kind of like the American and French revolutions.

“Guess which squares say they aren’t?” he continues.

“I’ll go,” says Sarah.

I turn to face her with a what-the-heck-are-you-thinking look, but she responds with her shut-up-I-know-what-I’m-doing-I’m-old-enough-to-make-my-own-decisions look. Specific, I know, but we’ve known each other since Kindergarten.

“Excellent,” says Leon, returning to wherever his friends are sitting.

I look at Sarah when Leon’s out of earshot. She shrugs. “We’re seventeen. We oughta socialize at some point in our school lives, right?”

“With him?” I ask.

“Who else is there?” she responds.

I’m still thinking of an answer to that question.

Top Ten Tuesday #16: Character Names I Love

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.

October 22: Top Ten Character Names I Love

Caleb’s Picks:

I decided to be original (big surprise!), and give my own twist to the theme: Top Ten Character Names I’ve Used For My Own Characters.

  1. Rachel Verinder, The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins. This young lady, coupled with Jacob’s wife, inspired the name of Rachel Slaytor, co-star of my Leo Westmacott series.
  2. Divine Wanderer, Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. You’ve read Constellations, right? My Celestial trilogy, published in that anthology, stars “Divine Wanderer,” a character so-named in reference to a phrase Mary Shelley used to describe Frankenstein.
  3. Sadie Todd, 100% – The Story of a Patriot by Upton Sinclair. Sadie was a very serious, independent young woman. My charater is based a little more on the younger sister, Jennie Todd, but even her personality wasn’t as far from her sister’s as my Sadie is. Very flighty, very energetic, very impetuous.
  4. Calvin, Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson. I once named a character Calvin Watterson. Better yet, at one point in the story he uses the alias “Dick Hobbes.”
  5. Adam Goodman, Cat Among the Pigeons by Agatha Christie. In Red and Lowering, a character goes undercover as Adam Pigeon, a tip of the hat to Adam Goodman, a spy in Christie’s novel.
  6. MacArthur, And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie. There’s a character in an upcoming novel named for, and lightly based on, the late General MacArthur.
  7. Hubbard, Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie. The aforementioned upcoming novel, includes a character named for and not far different from the somewhat flighty American widow
  8. Alice, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Alice Darwin of The Second Death; I wanted a name reminiscent of a sort of childhood magic, and Alice was an obvious choice.
  9. Madge, Agatha Christie’s sister. I know she doesn’t technically qualify as a character, but she inspired the name for an important character, and she deserves that recognition.
  10. Detective Anderson, The Bat by Mary Roberts Rinehart and Avery Hopwood. Anderson was part of the inspiration for Andrew Bradley’s name in The Second Death.

Andrew’s Top Ten Picks:

  1. Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden, from The Dresden Files, by Jim Butcher.
  2.  Le Cirque des Rêvesfrom The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern. Not technically a character, as it’s a circus, but the way it’s portrayed is as practically a character. I also love Celia Martin.
  3. Sherlock Holmes, from many stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
  4. Aragorn, Gandalf, Gollum, Bilbo Baggins, Smaug, Sauron, and many others, from LOTR & The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien. Seriously, all of Tolkien’s names are so cool.
  5. Rupert Angier and Alfred Borden, from The Prestige, by Christopher Priest.
  6. Arya Stark and many others from A Song of Ice and Fire, by George R.R. Martin.
  7. Mitch Rapp, by Vince Flynn
  8. Hercule Poirot, by Agatha Christie.
  9. Hieronymus Bosch, by Michael Connelly.
  10. Calvin, from Calvin and Hobbes, by Bill Watterson. It’s such a simple name. No last, no middle . . . just Calvin. Yet it’s still such a perfect and awesome name.

Crooked Ways: Now Available!

It is our pleasure to announce that our latest collaboration–a collection of Halloween-themed stories–is now available for order!

Crooked_Ways_Cover_for_Kindle

(full image here)

Crooked Ways

an Ambage Halloween Collection

(amazing artwork by John Matz)

Buy it from:

Createspace

Amazon.com

Available for only $3.99, please consider purchasing it and telling your friends! The e-book will tentatively be released around October 31st.

Crooked Ways

. . . is a small collection of stories and poems centered around the theme of Halloween. It is the Ambage’s third foray into publication and features stories from seven authors, including Nate Deisinger and Caleb Peiffer (author of The Second Death). From the classical approach of horror and suspense, to the religious take of All Hallows’ Eve; from unusual job opportunities, to unknown evils; the stories here explore the many different interpretations of Halloween.

Contributing Authors: E.R. Alwardby, Nate Deisinger, Nicholas Foireann, John Matz, Nicole Michelle, Andrew Page, and Caleb Peiffer.

Top Ten Tuesday #15: Books I Was “Forced” To Read

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.

October 15: Top Ten Books I Was “Forced” To Read

Caleb’s Picks:

I rarely let anyone “force” me to read a book. I’m not usually very picky, but I can be at times, and I don’t let people talk me into reading a book I don’t think I will like. Most books I was forced to read for school aren’t quite up to this list unfortunately, so instead this a top eight of “books I was more or less talked into reading by exhortative endorsement from friends.”

  1. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee. Andrew told me I can’t top every list with Lee, so in part I’m just trying to mess with him. But what can I say? This is one of the best books I’ve ever read, and I was so grateful I let two of my alpha readers talk me into reading it. They said I’d like it, and a moment later somehow the book was in my hands and I found myself promising to read it. But I have a high respect for their opinions, and I was not disappointed.
  2. The Secret Garden, by Francis Hodgson Burnett. One of those same alpha readers spoke so highly of this one I was more or less forced by curiosity to read it, and it became further evidence of their fine taste.
  3. The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien. Have I mentioned that alpha reader friend of mine, the one with great taste?
  4. The Tale of Despereaux, by Kate DiCamillo. If you’ve been following these you might recognize this one from my Fall “to-read” list. Well, I read it, at my sister’s request, and I loved it. If the film turned you off the book, turn off the movie by all means and read the book instead.
  5. The Mouse and the Motorcycle, by Beverly Cleary. This really deserves a place here, because it was the first book I was forced to read, ever. It was the book that got me into readng. It was a gift from family friends, and between my parent’s encouragement and my own desire to please them, I read it; and I never looked back. A new age had begun.
  6. The Good Earth, by Pearl S. Buck. I was talked into reading it by my grandmother, and forced into an opportunity by a book club, and realized what I’d been missing. Buck’s style offers a very unique reading experience, quick and effortless and painless, if not for the harsh turns her story takes. It is a brilliantly crafted blend of depression and elation.
  7. Some Danger Involved, by Will Thomas. This was recommended to me by my granduncle, a thriller author whose taste in literature has not earned a lot of faith from me. Different waters float our boats. But occasionally some out-of-the-way tributary carries a common current; or in other words, sometimes he suggests a gem that I end up enjoying, like this one.
  8. The Warriors series, by Erin Hunter. This was years ago, and I can’t even remember the friend’s name exactly, but I remember these books, and how much I have enjoyed them ever since  started the series. It took time for that friend to talk me into reading it, but I eventually gave in, and I’m glad I did.

Andrew’s Picks

Opposite of Caleb, these are mostly books I had to read for school.

  1. The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern. Now one of my favorite, I had to read this for a Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror class my Freshman year of college. Definitely glad I was “forced” to read it.
  2. Murder on the Orient Express, by Agatha Christie. This is definitely my favorite book that I had to read during high school for my Sophomore British Literature class. This was the first book I had read by Christie, and instantly became hooked, reading many of her novels shortly after.
  3. The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Had to read this for American Literature my Junior year of high school, and really, really enjoyed it (not surprisingly).
  4. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee. Read this for my Freshman year of high school.
  5. Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger. I really enjoyed this book for American Literature.
  6. The Importance of Being Earnest, by Oscar Wilde. Extremely enjoyable short play I read for British Literature my Sophomore year of high school).
  7. Animal Farm, by George Orwell. Another book I had to read for British Literature, and I really enjoyed it. This class as a whole was incredibly enjoyable—often books were “beat” into us, but my teacher managed to make the class both enjoyable and in-depth.
  8. Robopocalypse, by Daniel H. Wilson; and The Walking Dead (Days Gone Bye), by Robert Kirkman & Tony Moore. I put these together as I read them for my Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror class in college and equally enjoyed them (considering it’s a genre class, though, that was to be expected).
  9. A Game of Thrones, by George R.R. Martin. This is the first one on this list that I wasn’t forced to read for school, but I was practically “forced” to read it by several friends. Definitely didn’t mind. =P Amazing book and subsequent series.
  10. A Monster Calls, by Patrick Ness. If I remember right, I was practically forced by an old friend to read this. Definitely glad I was.

Redefining “Promotion”

The Promotion of Fear

One of the hardest problems most writers face is the fear of self-promotion. It has been my greatest obstacle, and it’s one I’m still battling.

For me, like for so many other writers, it’s hard to stick my neck out and beg people to buy my books. Do I want to sell my books? Sure! But I don’t want to pester people with my sales pitches and selfish propaganda.

But you know, this fear of self-promotion is really an egotistical fear: we’re afraid to promote ourselves, because we don’t want people to think we’re selfish, because then they wouldn’t buy our books. It’s all a tangled mess of self-centered timidity and anxiety.

To cure ourselves of this fear, we’ll have to take a step back and re-examine the meaning of the word “promotion.”

True Promotion

Promote (v.) to further the progress of

The word comes from the Latin prefix pro, meaning forward, and the word movere, meaning to move. “Promote” literally means “to move forward.”

Now answer these questions:

What are you moving forward? What are your books promoting? What do you write about, and why? What is your purpose in writing what you write?
What do your readers get from you? Are you giving your readers information? Do you give them entertainment? Do you teach them? Do you encourage them to be better people, in their lives, in their work? What is it that you do to help them?
What are you doing with your money? You have to make a living somehow; you need money to support yourself. But are you spending it all on big houses and sleek sports cars and fancy dresses, or are you using it to help others, family, friends, charities?
Who are you helping more: yourself, or your readers? Let me answer that one for you.

You are helping every reader you touch. You are in countless hands, in countless homes, touching countless lives, because that’s where your books are, or soon will be. Your books are walking with people, speaking to them, people you will never meet. You are a friend to more people than you could ever have the time for.

Don’t measure your success by how many books you sell, but how many people you help.

You are a writer: Everything you write is a part of you. You are giving yourself to people, and if you just give them the best part of yourself, you’ll be giving them something truly worth while.

Promoting Truth

Okay, let’s be honest here: Not everyone will love what you write. There will be people who don’t like your work, and that can’t be helped; but if you help every nine out of ten readers, or even just every four out of five, it’s all worth it. Those you do touch, you will touch deeply.

And it’s encouraging to think that even the readers who don’t like my work will get some small something from it; even if it’s just an improved knowledge of how to prejudge the way they will enjoy a book.

Give yourself to your readers, truthfully and honestly; they’ll thank you for it.

So stop asking yourself, “How can I sell more books?” and start asking “How many people can my books touch?” That’s the important question. Your books aren’t helping many people if you don’t get them out there.

What are you doing to help your future readers?

Top Ten Tuesday #14: Favorite Series Enders

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.

October 9: Top Ten Favorite Series Enders

Andrew’s Picks:

Unfortunately, I’ve only got six, all of which are a “best” with the exception of the sixth. A lot of great series I read are still on-going (such as the Dresden Files, by Jim Butcher; A Song of Ice and Fire, by GRRM; etc.) or I simply haven’t finished them yet (like Artemis Fowl). There’s also some series that I plan on reading but haven’t yet (Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera, for example).

  1. Lord of the Rings—The Return of the King, by J.R.R. Tolkien. Honestly, RotK is absolutely fantastic, especially the ending.
  2. Mitch Rapp Series—The Last Man, by Vince Flynn. Not technically a series ender, but the last of series, most likely, due to the unfortunate death of the author. Still, it is a great novel.
  3. Calvin and Hobbes—It’s a Magical World, by Bill Watterson. I may not have read quite all of this book, but I have read the last comic strip itself, and I’ve definitely read every Calvin and Hobbes strip besides possibly some from this book (this is the only book I do not own). So I’m counting it, because C&H is a fantastic series and the last comic itself is wonderful.
  4. Harry Potter—The Deathly Hallows, by J.K. Rowling. Good end to a great series.
  5. The Circle—Green, by Ted Dekker. These books weren’t amazing, but they were okayish overall, and I did enjoy the ending.
  6. Worst: Mockingjay, by Suzanne Collins. Not a horrible series, or a horrible book, but I did have some qualms with the ending. I do feel bad putting this here, as again, it’s not a horrible book, but as a series ending I was a little disappointed.

Caleb’s Picks:

Once again I only succeeded in thinking of a top five, but between Andrew and myself we came up with ten to satisfy you.

  1. The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha Part II by Miguel de Cervantes. Nowadays Don Quixote is usually considered as one novel, but in fact it was two, published ten years apart, making it a series, and easily one of the best I have ever read. I would say it was a short series, but–well, the word “short” has no place near these novels. And the conclusion, while I initially found it a little disappointing, I think that reaction was mostly due to a preconceived notion of Don Quixotes story which was in many ways refuted but not, essentially, defeated by the actual novels. Since reading I’ve given the conclusion to the series a lot of thought, and more and more I see a brilliance and a beauty in it I hadn’t seen before.
  2. The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. I enjoyed the series, but I was never particularly fond of it. I enjoyed the later books more, and they continued getting better book by book until the very end: honestly, the last chapter of The Last Battle was some of the most beautiful writing I have ever read, from Lewis or otherwise, making the whole series, first to last, ups and downs, worth while if only because it all led to this ending and gave it meaning.
  3. It’s a Magical World, by Bill Watterson. Calvin and Hobbes once more. There is, to state the obvious, a magic in the last of Watterson’s comics, a magic of course that prevailed throughout the whole Calvin and Hobbes series; but in this comic, more than ever, Watterson proved his effortless artistry.
  4. Free Air, by Sinclair Lewis. Now technically, this wasn’t a series . . . but that’s part of what makes it such a beautiful end to what could have been a series. But instead of going on, it concluded on a high note made it a sort of series that began and ended all in one book. In fact, when I compare it to some of Sinclair Lewis’s other writings, at least of those which I have read, I consider this a lonely gem that makes me all the happier he ended it where he did. I worry what might have happened to the characters if it had continued.
  5. The Warriors series, by Erin Hunter. A lot of people were upset with this ending, and though perhaps it was no literary masterwork, it was a dramatic and epic conclusion to a series I will always hold in my heart as one of my childhood favorites, right to the very end.