Top Ten Tuesday #21: Things We’re Thankful For

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.

November 21: Top Ten Things We’re Thankful For

Andrew’s Picks:

  1. Goodreads.com. This is definitely one of my favorite websites of all time—I love being able to keep track of all the books I read, set yearly goals for myself, see why my friends are reading, read reviews of books I want to read or may want to read. Overall, it’s just an amazing place.
  2. My Reading Nook. I’ve got an awesome reading nook in my room, which allows me to enjoyable spend hours and hours simply sitting and reading—something that I can’t do at, say, my computer desk. It’s a nice, comfortable chair, surrounded by bookshelves and under my loft bed, making it seem like an actual nook.
  3. WordPress.com. Thanks to WordPress, I’ve been able to meet a lot of awesome fellow book-lovers and writers. It’s awesome to be able to share my love for books with others that understand my love for them.
  4. Book Off. Book Off is an amazing store near my house that sells books for very cheaply ($1-5), almost all of which are in extremely good quality. It’s where I’ve gotten probably 90% of my books, and I’m not quite sure what I’d do without it.
  5. Books. May seem like an obvious choice (even “cheating”?), but books are truly some of the things I’m most thankful for—bookish or otherwise. Books are amazing and wonderful, and life would be so much more boring and less stimulating without them.

Caleb’s Picks:

  1. Words. Andrew already called books, so—no, seriously, this would have been my top choice anyway. Where would we be without words? The world would not be nearly so beautiful if we couldn’t put its beauty into words. Words are what make us more than mere animals. Words are just—beyond words!
  2. Writing. Maybe I’m not being very creative, or maybe I’m choosing not to ignore the obvious things we tend to take for granted. I am really, really grateful for the love of writing that I have, and for the skills and abilities that make me able to write the way I do. I can always improve, and I may not always have as much time to write as I would like, but I’m content with what I have and thankful for it. I love writing, and if I didn’t have it, I would simply go mad. More accurately, and far worse, I’d probably go sane.
  3. A family that supports my craft. Another standard worth appreciating. Very literally I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for my parents, but in so many ways I wouldn’t be what or who I am if it weren’t for them, and for my siblings. I’m so blessed and so thankful that I have parents who support my passion for writing, sisters who love reading, and a brother who’s willing to proofread my books.
  4. The Ambage. When I started a wee little club just for the fun of it a few years ago, I never dreamed it would grow into everything it’s become. The Ambage wouldn’t be what it is if it wasn’t for the help and support I’ve received along the way, and especially the leadership support from my fellow-hosts Andrew, other-Caleb, John, Will, and now Nate. It’s grown beyond anything I imagined, intended, or could have managed on my own, and we’re only getting started; and for that I am so thankful.
  5. Kindle free classics. Even when monetary restraints keep my hands from new leather-bound hardcovers and the latest releases, hundreds of thousands of classic novels are still at my fingertips whenever I want them. Thanks to Kindle and Amazon’s Whispernet and 1-click downloading process, getting my hands on some great (and so often lost or little-known) book to read is effortless. Deciding what to read next . . . not so much.

Sunday Editorial: Write Quick, Quality Blog Posts at the Last Minute

Making plans and keeping ahead of the game is always good, but face it, plans don’t always work out. Sometimes you run out of steam and fall behind. It happens to us all.

Especially if you’re just starting out as a blogger, you might be struggling as well as straggling. Here’s what works for me when I have distractions and time limitations wrapped around me like a boa constrictor, a creature who tends to make writing difficult.

Step 1. Headline. Always start here. The headline is your diving board; the way you jump off effects the way you hit the water. It’s your prompt, your promise to your reader, and it should be the capsulation of all the thought you’re about to put into your blog post.

Step 2. Outline. This helps so much. Don’t dive in with your eyes close. Pause, take a few moments to visualize. I know you’re impatient to jump in, I’m the same way, but you have to pause, take a deep breath, and make a plan. Spit your ideas out on paper like a politician spits out promises. Now gather those ideas, line them up neatly, and you have yourself an outline. This is your biggest time-saving technique.

Step 3. Write. Ready? Take one more breath, now jump. Now that you’re in the air, every second counts. Each movement has to be fluid as you go from form to form. Start writing and don’t stop. Don’t look back, but focus on each and every move as you make it, then move on to the next. Just remember you’re a writer, not a diver, and if you get stuck, you can move on and come back later.

Step 4. Revise. For me, this mostly means going over the draft for spelling mistakes, grammatical issues, awkward wording, etc. Sometimes I’ll find a better way to explain a thought, or new ideas will hit me and I’ll fold them in. I also try to trim down a bit on excess wordiness. But that’s about it, and revision should be a very short part of the process.

Step 5. Emphasize. When my blog post is ready, all I need to do now is go over and make a few highlights. I’ve written the post, read it over, and I am at the highest point of understanding what I just wrote. This is when my thoughts are best collected, and for me this is the best time to end on a high note. I add one more paragraph, usually just a short sentence, to the end, capturing the theme of the post in a compact, pithy capsulation that will stick with my reader.

And voila! Get that post on the internet then sit back, relax, take a breather. It is done.

Here are a few more tips that will help you along the way and speed up the process even more:

Tip 1. Quality over quantity. Always, always, always. Most bloggers will tell you to let yourself go wild in the first draft, but what if you’re a perfectionist like me, and you can’t bring yourself to do that? Then you don’t! You’re a writer, and no real writer lets anyone else tell them how to write. I find if I really focus myself, I can produce quality and quantity at the same time, and when revision comes around it’s just a fine-tuning.

Tip 2. Channel your emotion. You’re a writer, so you’ll probably understand that you are highly influenced by your emotions. Call it the artistic temperament, it’s the strength that gives power to our writing. Why should blogging be any different? If I’m stressed about getting a blog post written as fast as possible, it makes me tense. Some would say, Relax! I say, Are they crazy? This tension is your power. Don’t let it frustrate you, let it impassion you. It’ll lend you an extra boost of strength, and it will always show in your words.

Tip 3. Keep it simple. When it comes to blogging, less is more. Keep it short. If you’re really trying to squeeze out a blog post as fast as possible, make sure your topic isn’t too complex. When it’s a complicated topic, be concise. Outline, organize your thoughts, and focus on your topic. Above all else, focus.

You’ll do more than write a great blog post, you’ll write it quickly. Depending on the length and depth of your post, the whole process should take around half an hour, sometimes a little less, maybe a little more.

The important thing to remember is that you’re a writer. A blog is just another form of storytelling. Focus your thoughts, focus your emotions, focus: it’s what you always do.

Fun Flash Fiction Friday #10!

If something isn’t fun for you, do something more profitable! Be a petroleum engineer or a lawyer or something.

Creamy, by Caleb Peiffer:

A man walked into a bar. He sat down at the bar. He called to the bartender.

“I’ll have a coffee.”

“We don’t serve coffee.”

“Abominable!” the man shouted, and left.

Next he went to a café. He sat down at a table and ordered coffee and cream.

“I’m sorry, we’re all out of cream.”

“Abominable!” the man declared, and left.

Next he went to a barber shop. He sat down in a chair and shouted to the barber,

“I’ll have a coffee, and don’t hold back on the cream!”

“I only give haircuts, sir.”

“Abominable!” the man bellowed, and left in a tither.

Next he gave up and went to Starbucks. He ordered coffee with a cup of cream and, at last, was served.

“Ah, creamy!” he gasped. “Just the way I like it!”

Suddenly a car fell through the roof, landing on its nose, and falling on its back. Luckily it missed the man’s table, but then a waited walked past and accidentally knocked his coffee over.

The man groaned. “This is why I never go to Starbucks.

Mist, by Lin Graves:

Upon a hill sat a small village with no more than ten little huts. The people were merry and the children would often dance and play, singing songs and chasing each other around and around the hillside. Every morning the sun was greeted with I don’t know where I’m going with this.

The author of the story paused. He wasn’t quite sure how to continue with his thought. Sure, the idea came clear as day, however the actual plot of what he was writing was shrouded in a mist so thick he could almost cut it away… almost. What good is a story with no plot? What good is a chapter if it doesn’t make one ponder an aspect of their life?

Tap. Tap. Tap.

The writer hit each individual button with his index finger as he tried to imagine what happened next. The village was his setting, the villagers and their children were his characters… but where would the story go from there? Perhaps a giant would visit one day and nearly crush the village on his travels? Perhaps a dragon appears and devours them all whole? What if nothing extraordinary occurs and the village becomes a metaphor of life in its most basic forms?

Try as he might, the author had no leads, no other idea that seemed to fit what had come so naturally to him in the start. Would they all live? Would they all die? Perhaps their fates would meet somewhere in between? He just didn’t know.

Click. Click. Click.

The author was at a loss. All of his natural words already lay before him on a glowing box. He decided to save his work. When the glowing box asked for a title, he wracked his brain a bit and then entered “Potential.doc.” From that moment on, the village remained in limbo, and that Is where our true story begins.

—–

I really like the following story by Emissary.

Mist, by Emissary:

He was wearing a wrinkled black suit, his shirt was missing its top button and his tie had been tossed aside into the wet grass. He watched me with eyes that burned like miniature suns in their sockets, and a sharp grin cut along his features like a scar.

“So,” he said, kicking at the dewdrops in the field, “This is where it ends, huh?”

I was silent, standing as tall as my stooped frame would allow.

“Ah, am I getting the silent treatment?” he asked, his gaze flickering over to the night sky, which hung over us like an upturned bowl. “Or are you just too depressed about how bad your voice sounds?”

“Go to Hell.” My voice was thin and broken, but its tone was still firm.

“Give me a minute here,” he shot back, checking his watch. “Give me one more freaking minute…”

My face was a smirking mask; one that vanished once his smile returned.

“Minute’s up,” he purred, and spun on his heel to face the lightening horizon. A low chuckle emanated from his lips, and he lifted his arms, shouting, “AND GOD SAID, LET THERE BE LIGHT!”

The sun broke over the land, and I snorted.

“You’re not God.”

“Says who?” he said with one last grin, and snapped his fingers. The morning dew rose into the air, transforming into a mist, pale in shade and sickly in colour, and climbed up my body, engulfing me.

“And it was good…” were the last words I ever heard.

Top Ten Tuesday #20: Books I’d Recommend To X Person

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.

November 20: Top Ten Books I’d Recommend To X Person

Caleb’s Picks:

My problem with this one was having too many ideas for who “X Person” could be. In the end, I decided to make “X Person” my ideal reader, and split that into two categories.

For Jazz Age / Lost Generation Fans (Ernest Hemingway, Sinclair Lewis, etc.)

  1. The Efficiency Expert, Edgar Rice Burroughs. Though Burroughs is best known for his adventure and science fiction novels, he wrote other things too, and this simple, romantic picture of American life in the early 20th century is a good example of what Burroughs can do when action and adventure aren’t the focus—and what he can do to bring them in anyway.
  2. Free Air, by Sinclair Lewis. Want to take a pre-WWI cross-country road trip, but can’t afford the time machine? Stay home and read a beautifully written, socially investigative, and heart-warmingly romantic novel instead.
  3. This Side of Paradise, by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Sometimes F. Scott Fitzgerald is just “that guy who wrote The Great Gatsby,” (which I haven’t read yet, for the record) but in reality he’s a genius who wrote a lot of other great things.
  4. Flappers and Philosophers, by F. Scott Fitzgerald. There’s a lot of fun here, and a lot to learn about the times if that’s your goal.
  5. 100% – The Story of a Patriot, by Upton Sinclair. If you’re looking for entertainment . . . you and Sinclair will probably never find a way to get along. But if you’re looking for an insightful peek into the lives of Americans during the Great War and, in particular, the Red Scare, this is for you.

For Golden Age Mystery Fans (Agatha Christie, Raymond Chandler, etc.)

  1. The Bat, by Avery Hopwood and Mary Roberts Rinehart. I’m not particularly fond of Rinehart as a novelist, but as a playwright, thumbs-up. And the titular character inspired Batman! What more could you ask for?
  2. Before Midnight, by Rex Stout. Stout is sometimes overlooked, but if you’re looking for a clever, entertaining, “soft-boiled” detective novel, Stout delivers every time.
  3. The Red House Mystery, by A.A. Milne. Most famous for writing Winnie-the-Pooh, Milne’s detective fiction work is all but forgotten. Which is a shame, because he wasn’t a bad detective writer. Before he started about yellow bears in red shirts, he wrote about violent murders in red houses. Who knew?
  4. The Oakdale Affair, by Edgar Rice Burroughs. As I mentioned above, Burroughs is capable of more than literary pulp adventure novels. He can also write literary pulp mystery novels.
  5. The Floating Admiral, by The Detection Club. Once upon a time, Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, G. K. Chesterton, and several other British crime novelists were in a club together. As we all know, these are brilliantly imaginative writers here, so they went out on a limb and called themselves The Detection Club.

Sunday Editorial: You Should Do NaNoWriMo

(Sorry for the slight delay in this; technical difficulties ensued. But today we have our first editorial from our newest host, Nate Deisinger! -Andrew)

You should do NaNoWriMo.

I can say that pretty confidently, because you’re reading this blog in the first place, and if you’re doing that you’re either a writer or one of our friends and/or family members (and there’s pretty decent overlap between the two.)  So if you’re about to tab away to something more interesting, let that be the takeaway: you should do NaNoWriMo.

Still with me? Cool.  Now we can move onto the fun stuff: the what and the why.

The what: NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month, an event held every November in which the goal is to write 50,000 words of a novel.  (In a perfect world, this is a new, original novel start to finish, but that’s really not the point.)

The why: because it’s not until you sit down and slam out 50,000 words in the space of a month do actually find out how to write and how you write.

Let’s start with how you write.  See, when you’re aiming to get 1,667 words of original prose out of you every day for a month, you don’t have time to hem and haw and revise and procrastinate.  You’re going to write.  And if you’re not used to that pace, what comes out of your doing that is going to be some of the ugliest, crappiest, most honest writing you’ve ever done.

Ordinarily, when you or I write something, we’re probably going to take our time with it.  We can go back, re-read, add funny quips, strike out paragraphs that don’t work, and polish those few lines until they shine before we move onto the next scene.

It turns out this is a really good way to never actually notice what’s wrong with your writing, because if you do this sort of on-line revision style, you’re not going to see the ugly bumps and patterns in your style as you go.  Sure, a few of them will rear their heads when you go back and revise the whole thing, but you’re going to miss the really insidious ones, the ones that you type out and cross out a hundred times without ever noticing.

Let me give you an example – it was not until I started NaNoing this month that I realized that I didn’t actually know how to deal with character body language.  Here’s a pretty comprehensive list of facial expressions I’ve used in about 40,000 dialogue-heavy words so far: smiled, grinned, smirked, scowled, grimaced, frowned.  Sometimes I plunk adverbs on the end because I haven’t tortured the poor sentence enough as it is.

If this wasn’t NaNo – if I was re-writing and taking my time as I went – these words would get hidden away under revisions and silly turns of phrase.  But they’d still be there, lurking, waiting for me to write that next sentence and go on about how Alice smirked at Bob, who scowled in response before launching into a dialogue tag.  I would re-use them and then hide them away again, never even noticing they’d been there.

With NaNo, they’re right there in the open.  When you’re writing pages a day, you start to get mighty familiar with the stuff in your personal writer’s toolbox.  “Hold on,” you start to say to yourself, “I’ve been using that word (or that sentence pattern, or that turn of phrase, or that kind of character) a lot lately, haven’t I?” You go and search the Word doc.  You have.  About twenty times, actually.  You’re probably going to use it half a dozen more by the time you’re through.  When it comes time to revise (and you will have to revise), you’ll be ready to go after that word with an editor’s chainsaw.  It’s been hiding in your style all along, but it wasn’t until you slammed it out onto the page multiple times a day that you realized it was there in front of you sticking out its tongue and making rude hand gestures.

But let’s put aside the fact you’re going to see what utter crap you’re slamming onto the page each and every day.  What else is NaNo good for? Well, put simply: it’s good for getting you to write, and getting you used to it.  When you start the month, you’re going to have about a day or two of excitement, the words will come flying out, and then on, say, Thursday, you’re going to look at your computer, sigh, and tell yourself you have too much else to do, or that you’re just not in the mood.  Screw that.  You want to be a writer? Get back there and write.  When you’ve put out two best-sellers you can give yourself a vacation; right now you need to go write.

That’s the thing about writing: if you want to get good at it, you have to do a lot of it, and you have to do it without stopping.  Writing is exercise.  I mean that in the most basic way possible.  Writing is something that is difficult, and there is simply no way it’s going to get easier unless you sit down and just do it every day.  You don’t have to do it alone, and you can get all sorts of tricks and strategies to help you along, but at the end of the day it’s something you have to do and keep doing.  It has to be part of your routine, just as much as a morning jog would be.  Your short stories are your sprints, your novels your marathons.

NaNo is that first crappy month of the exercise routine where you tie up your new running shoes, step outside, take off down the path, and wind up wheezing next to a tree half an hour later wondering how it is you’ve barely gone a mile as that jogger you’ve seen going around the block every day for the past three years whizzes past you without a backwards glance.  It’s going to teach you what you can’t do, it’s going to teach you that other people can do it much easier, and it’s going to teach you that you have to get out there and do it anyway.  (And to step away from this extended metaphor and go literal for a moment: it’s going to teach you how long it takes for you to write 1,667 words, which is a surprisingly nice thing to know.)

I’ll say that NaNo doesn’t come with any guarantees.  Last year I tried and sputtered out around 13,000 words, rationalizing that I was too busy with schoolwork and not particularly fond of my novel.  Since then I’ve averaged maybe a short story every other month, and frankly, they weren’t that great.  I wrote them in bursts of inspiration, but inspiration only gets you so far.

But let’s go back to that exercise metaphor (which, in the spirit of no-revision NaNo, I’m leaving awkwardly present only in the latter half of this blog post rather than going back and trying to thread it through the thing from the beginning after the fact): it’s up to you to keep the routine going once you start.  But NaNo’s a damn good way to get those first few dozen miles down.

Put on your running shoes.

(PS: NaNo is also great for rubbing your word count in your friends’ faces, or alternatively, staring open-mouthed at that one guy who hits 50k in a week.  Just saying, it’s a unique experience, and I highly recommend it.)

-Nate

Top Ten Tuesday #19: Book Covers We Wish We Could Redesign

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.

November 12: Top Ten Book Covers We Wish We Could Redesign

Andrew’s Picks:

This one was hard for me, because I don’t often remember covers that I’m not really a fan of. Plus, since I own most of the books I read, I always try to get a cover that I like. So while I may not like some editions, I have one that I love, and therefore I haven’t included it here. Every book on this list, besides the last one, is a book that I own with a cover I don’t like.

  1. Naked Heat, by Richard Castle. And all of the Nikki Heat books, really. I just don’t want a silhouette like that on a book I’m reading.
  2. The Cuckoo’s Calling, by Robert Galbraith/J.K. Rowling. The British version is awesome, but I’m not a huge fan of the American version. For me, it just makes it look like it’s another contemporary novel, rather than detective fiction. It does kind of make sense, because of the victim, but still—I’d like something a little more crime-y for a crime novel (though I do have to say that I really love the layout and the texture of the dust cover).
  3. The Stars My Destination, by Alfred Bester. There are some great covers for this book, but I’m not a fan of the one I have. It just makes the book look like something it’s not.
  4. The Moonstone, by Wilkie Collins. Actually, this cover I don’t really mind all that much, but similar to The Stars My Destination, it makes it seem as if the book is a Jane Austen novel. Not that it’s a bad thing if it was an Austen novel—my point is, it doesn’t look like a detective novel. The cover itself is really nice.
  5. Many Romance and Paranormal Fantasy books. For example, looking at the Goodreads Choice Awards for 2013, there’s only a couple covers that look good for the romance or paranormal fantasy section. One of which is Cold Days, by Jim Butcher, which makes me sad it’s considered paranormal fantasy, simply because it has such amazing covers compared to the rest. Not only am I not a fan of the whole half-naked guy and girl kissing motif, but I also just don’t like the designs/layouts in general—most of them just look poorly designed to me (I’m sure there’s many romance books that do have good covers, and I know of some, but I’m going off of the Goodreads Choice Awards mostly).

Caleb’s Picks:

We’re not supposed to judge books by their covers, but come on, that’s what covers are for. In this civilized age, we no longer bind a book in leather, engrave golden letters on the surface, and call it a day. Well, yes we do actually, but mostly only for special editions of classics printed with a more classical look. As much as I sometimes wish we did still live in an age where a book falls or stands by the words within and not the cover without, a good book needs a good cover. That’s just the way it is now.

    1. Words to Live By: A Guide for the Merely Christian, by C.S. Lewis. I love the concept behind the book, and I get the symbolism, and it would be a fine cover . . . if it hadn’t come a few years after Twilight. I am forced to quote Watterson: “Face it, provoking a reaction isn’t the same thing as saying something significant.”
    2. Breaking Dawn, by Stephenie Meyer. Meyer fancies herself worthy of the noble game of chess. Foolish mortal. (In all seriousness, yes, I am against Twilight and all that it stands for, and I consider this cover too beautiful for the words behind it.)
    3. The Great Gospel Deception,  is a wise man, who writes wise books, with beautiful covers, but like all of God’s children he makes choices that are . . . not so wise. This cover was one of them.
    4. The Mysterious Affair at Styles, by Agatha Christie. Not my favorite of her novels, but come on, it’s Agatha Christie. Everything she ever wrote in her life, even if it was a check, was worth more than this cover. This isn’t the exact edition I own, mine is Dover, but barely any better, and I expect more from Dover. It was the first edition I had of the book, but rest assured, it was a gift. Apparently my mother’s usual good taste is in short supply when it comes to book covers.
    5. War in Heaven, by Charles Williams. I don’t actually dislike this one, but I feel like the concept could be better executed. The simplicity of the cover design doesn’t suit the dramatic aesthetic of tension and power the central image is going for.

Veterans Day

Here at The Ambage we wanted to take a day to remember and thank all of those who give their service to the military of their country–whether that be in the past, present, or future. Serving one’s country in the military is one of the most honorable, selfless, and respectable thing one can do, and today is a day to remember that.

 

“One of the founders of The Ambage, in fact (Caleb Carraway), is currently serving in the United States Air Force, and I’d to thank him especially for his continued service as well as for all he’s done for The Ambage.

“Politics is a messy business, and war and the military are definitely included in that (i.e. strong and differing feelings). But that’s the great thing about today (and Memorial Day, etc.)–it’s not about the politics. It’s not about the political pressures or debates. Today it’s about the people–the men and women who have so selflessly given their service to the armed forces of their country. THAT is something everyone can–and should–respect. Save the debates, disagreements, and everything else for another time. Today is about the people and their sacrifices–and remembering those sacrifices.

“To all those have served or are serving, whether in the United States or elsewhere, thank you, and may God bless you.”

-Andrew

“Ninety-five years ago, Germany and the Allies of the first World War signed an armistice, putting an end to the conflict. The casualty was over 37,500,000. A year later, the world observed Armistice Day (also known as Remembrance Day and Poppy Day in other countries) in memory of the soldiers who had fought and died for their cause. This day has been a commemoration of war veterans, alive and dead, ever since.

“Only an approximate 100,000 of that 37 million were American. It’s estimated that in the course of U.S. history, the lives of over 1,300,000 men and women in service have been lost to war; more than 1,500,000 have been wounded. That’s nearly 3,000,000 human beings who suffered the cost of war so that we our country can continue to enjoy its freedom. You wouldn’t be sitting comfortably at your computer or thumbing your iPhone right now if it wasn’t for them.

“That doesn’t even come near to the unimaginable number of men and women who have served our country’s military in the last 236 years of our nationhood. But the definite knowledge that over three million people have sacrificed so much for our way of life is enough.

“Think about all the men and women who have given their lives for their country, whether it’s this country or another. Think about all the people who lost friends, parents, children, siblings, to war. Think about all those heroes.

“They’re the people who realize freedom is not free. It comes at a price. It costs something: it costs lives, and limbs. It costs war, work, courage, and so much more, so many things that every day our military is out there giving.

“That’s something worth remembering.”

– Caleb

Top Ten Tuesday #18: Sequels I Can’t Wait To Get My Hands On

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.

November 5: Top Ten Sequels I Can’t Wait To Get My Hands On

This week, we have another Tag Team Top Ten for you.

Andrew’s Picks:

  1. Skin Game, by Jim Butcher. This is definitely the sequel/next book in a series that I’m most excited about. I absolutely love The Dresden Files, and recently started re-reading the series—I can’t wait for the next installment, especially after how great Cold Days was.
  2. American Gods 2, by Neil Gaiman. Gaiman has said that he’s working on what is, essentially, a sequel to American Gods (Anansi Boys wasn’t a sequel, but simply related). I’m definitely super excited to read it once it comes out, as I loved American Gods.
  3. A Dance with Dragons, by George R.R. Martin. So, technically I already have my hands on this. I was waiting until the mass market paperback was released because that’s what every other book in the series is that I own, and the OCD in me wanted to have them all the same (I have no idea what I’m going to do when The Winds of Winter comes out . . . but I don’t think I’ll be able to wait for the mass market paperback so I’ll probably end up buying the hardback). So I preordered it a few months ago and it came last week on the day it was released. Still, though, I can’t wait to be able to read it, probably sometime over winter break.
  4. The Gods of Guilt, by Michael Connelly. I love Harry Bosch, but I’ve also extremely enjoyed Connelly’s Mickey Haller series, so I’m really looking forward to getting my hands on the next installment.
  5. Command Authority, by Tom Clancy. I’ve read all of Clancy’s recent novels (Dead or Alive and after) and enjoyed them. With the news of his passing, I’m definitely looking forward to getting my hands on this more than usual.

 

Caleb’s Picks:

  1. The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien. Step one: Find a nice edition of the series. Step two: Buy said nice dition. Step three: Find a nice, quiet week when I can read them all through. This will be the hardest one.
  2. The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey, by Trenton Lee Stewart. I’m a semi-fan of A Series of Unfortunate Events, and I admire Stewart for a similar style and simple magic of storytelling, coupled with a similar style of story, but all done without each and every word dripping with melancholy pessimism.
  3. The Poison Belt, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
  4. The Serpent’s Shadow, by Rick Riordan. You’ll notice most of the contemporary fiction I read are children’s books, or in this case, the      dreaded YA. With exceptions, case in point: my sister got me back into Riordan’s Kane Chronicles series, and after reading the second      installment, I’m looking forward to the conclusion.
  5. The Battle for the Castle, by Elizabeth Winthrop. Aforementioned sister is enjoying herself reviving my childhood, and reawakening dormant memories in me. The Castle in the Attic is one of those, and now that my sister is on the hunt, I will be more than glad to follow suit.

Mash-Up Monday #14: NaNoWriMo

“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. NaNoWriMo just started, and so this week I thought I’d share a few links that I’ve found helpful.

Mash-Up Monday #14: NaNoWriMo

  1. Pep Talk by Neil Gaiman. What better to use as encouragement for NaNo than a pep talk written specifically for NaNo? Although it’s from 2007, it’s still every bit as relevant. Gaiman is the master, and he has some great advice here.
  2. NaNoWriMo Roundup. This blog entry from WordPress’s Daily Post shares the advice from many different people.
  3. NaNoWriMo Tip #2: Create an Outline. In my Sunday Editorial: NaNoWriMo I linked to a post on GalleyCat that listed 90 NaNo tips in one post, and I must again comment on how I love that site and the fact that they do give tips every day during November. Yesterday’s tip was this, and it’s one I’m personally quite fond of. However, I’d also make the argument for even those who don’t like outlining their novels, if you’re ever stuck during NaNo, perhaps consider briefly outlining the next scene or chapter. Often I’ll jot down a few quick notes on what I plan to write, and that allows me to get the actual writing done faster. Of course, in the end, whatever works for you is exactly what you should do.
  4. NaNo Tips–Awesome Ways to Get it Done. Yet another great blog entry with some helpful tips for NaNoers.
  5. The NaNoWriMo Checklist. Always good things to keep in mind while participating in NaNo.

Well, that’s all for today. I’m going to go hit the hay so I can be well-rested for a full day of writing tomorrow. ^^ Good luck to all my fellow NaNoers!

-Andrew