From all of us here at The Ambage, we’d like to wish you all a very happy and blessed Christmas!
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.
December 24: Top Ten Books I Wouldn’t Mind Santa Bringing Me
- Any B&N Collectible Edition. Well, any one I don’t already have. I love these books–very beautifully made.
- The Earthsea Series, by Ursula K. LeGuin. Been meaning to read these for a while, but I only have the third book currently–definitely wouldn’t mind the rest.
- The Fall of Arthur, by J.R.R. Tolkien. It’s by Tolkien–enough said. ^^
- Skin Game Pre-Order, by Jim Butcher. Butcher is definitely one of my favorite authors, and I cannot wait for his new book to come out.
- First Lord’s Fury, by Jim Butcher. I haven’t started reading the Codex Alera series yet, but this is the last book I need.
- The Chaos Walking Trilogy, by Patrick Ness. Currently only have the second book–would love the first and third.
- Fight Club, by Chuck Palahniuk. Or anything by Palahniuk, really. I have Lullaby and Survivor, but would love more of his–especially Fight Club.
- The Atlantis Complex/The Last Guardian, by Eoin Colfer. The last two Artemis Fowl books I need, and I haven’t read The Last Guardian at all yet, unfortunately.
- World War Z, by Max Brooks. Haven’t seen the movie, and before I do I want to give the book a read. And on that note, any of the Walking Dead books I wouldn’t mind, either.
- Watchmen or The Killing Joke, by Alan Moore. Been meaning to read both of these for the longest time.
- Bonus: Really, any book would be appreciated. =P Books are the best gifts.
Pulling the Rabbit out of the Hat by Caleb Peiffer:
“Caleb, Maggie’s stuck again!”
I groaned and trudged out into the hall and into my sister’s room.
“How did it happen this time?”
“Well, I hid her food in there so she couldn’t get at it, but when I wasn’t looking—”
I sighed. “I’ll go get the scissors.”
I galloped into the hall, through the living room, into the kitchen, and fumbled through a drawer. Scissors, scissors . . . why are the scissors always missing? I mean, seriously, is it so hard for someone to put the scissors back? Would it kill them? Is it against their religion? Would it go against everything they stand for, everything they are, and their very purpose in life? And how much time have I wasted moaning and complaining and cursing the names and auspices of whoever was ever guilty of misplacing a scissors, when I could have spent my time more constructively actually looking for the scissors? Is it so hard to hunt down a pair of scissors? Am I so lazy I just can’t look around a bit? It doesn’t take Sherlock Holmes to get into the head of a family member and try to figure out where they left the scissors, I mean seriously—
“Caleb! What’s taking you so long?
“I can’t find the darn scissors!”
“The scissors are in your room! Don’t you remember? You were using them this morning to cut something out of the newspaper.”
I galloped shamefacedly back to my room, snatched up the scissors, took them to my sister’s room and had her hold Maggie’s rear while I carefully cut through the fabric of the hat until the rabbit was free.
I sighed. “No problem.”
The voice of my other sister echoed through the house. “Caleb!”
“The cat’s out of the bag again!”
I’ll never get back to my desk to write.
Disgrace by E. R. Alwardby:
Darius slowly crawled backwards as he set the chips on end, one behind the other, barely even breathing for fear of knocking one down and setting off the chain reaction. He’d been at it all night, thankful that no one ever visited this part of town on the weekend. Who wanted anything to do with school at this time of year on a weekend? Darius had a little business to do, though. It had started as a community service sentence due to a bit of truancy on his part, but Darius had found a way to make it fun. He was a few blocks away from the school by now, the chips twisting and turning away in their patterns towards the school.
“Darius, what are you doing?” a voice said behind him. He froze, fighting the urge to jump and run. If he did he might knock one of the chips over and that would ruin the whole game.
“I—I finished my work and I’m setting these up for fun, sir.” He said to the principle, showing him the red and black chips.
“Finished?” The principle raised one of his severe, grey eyebrows. “All of it?”
“Every part of the building ready to be cleaned, sir. The janitor said I should get it ready today and clean it tomorrow.”
“Hmm. Very well, I was just going to go retrieve something.”
“Re—really? Uh, could you wait just a few more minutes? The path is covered with these chips and I’d really hate for them to fall early. I’m almost done.”
“Finish up, I’m in a hurry.”
Darius knelt down and placed the last few rows of the chips. With a brief glance at the principle, he nudged the first one over and set off the chain. As they zoomed away, so did he, running far in the opposite direction.
Confused, the principle shrugged and walked off in his intended direction, trying not to step on the chips. The pattern they made was fairly intricate. Why would Mr. Smithson run off and not see how his handiwork turned out?
As he turned the corner to the school, the chips completed their run and tapped a small button which set off several black-powder charges that blew the little tin building Darius had been working in to shreds, and began a chain of explosions along the rows of chips that were filled with powder.
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.
December 17: Top Ten New-to-Me Authors of 2013
- Erin Morgenstern. This is definitely the most significant. I’ve discovered many great authors this year, but I have to put Morgenstern at the top of the list, for her amazingly brilliant and wonderful The Night Circus–while I’m not sure I can say it’s the greatest book ever, I don’t think I’ve ever been quite so captivated by any other book as I was with this. This was also quite possibly the most enjoyable read I have ever experienced, as every minute I felt like I was a part of the circus, which was just quite astonishing. Can’t praise her enough, and I eagerly await her next novel.
- Neil Gaiman. It’s sad that I was never introduced to him until this year, but better late than never. American Gods is well worth all the praise it gets, but I have to specifically mention The Ocean at the End of the Lane, which was an incredibly beautiful book. Besides those, I’ve only read Anansi Boys (and seen his two Doctor Who episodes, which were fantastic), but I definitely hope to read the rest of his work soon.
- Doug Dorst. I’m not sure he actually completely qualifies, because I’ve only read about forty pages of his latest book (conceived by J.J. Abrams), S. But so far, the read has been quite amazing, and I cannot wait to finish it as well as look into more of his work.
- Christopher Priest. After reading The Night Circus, I just had to find more books about magicians, and The Prestige was the first one I looked into (I had already seen the film and loved it). What I love about this is how I enjoy the book and film equally–something that does not happen much (or perhaps hasn’t ever happened). I will definitely be looking into more of his work.
- Seamus Heaney. Not a novelist but a poet, and a great one. For my poetry class last semester we had to find a poet and buy one of their books and read it over the course of the semester. I chose Human Chain, by Heaney.
- Norton Juster. Another author I’m surprised and saddened that I hadn’t read before, but The Phantom Tollbooth is without a doubt an amazing book.
- Louis Sachar. Same as above. I must be one of the only kids in America who hadn’t read Holes during his childhood. But I have now, and all is right with the world.
- Robert Kirkman. Read the first two Walking Dead comic books, as well as the novel Rise of the Governor–both were quite enjoyable.
- Maggie Stiefvater. Was basically forced (I say that jokingly) by a friend to read The Raven Boys. I’m not a huge fan of young adult novels, but this one was definitely enjoyable, and Stiefvater’s writing style is pleasant.
- James P. Blaylock. My first encounter with the Steampunk genre (for fiction), and it’s with one of the grandfathers of the genre. The Aylesford Skull was quite enjoyable, and I look forward to reading more.
- F. Scott Fitzgerald. I still haven’t gotten around to The Great Gatsby, but This Side of Paradise was very personally significant for me, probably (as I believe I’ve said before) more than any book I’ve ever read before.
- Kate DiCamillo. The Tale of Despereaux was the first and only book I’ve read by DiCamillo. I’ll tell you, I want to read more. I’m really grateful to my sister for introducing me to the book. You didn’t hear it from me, but there might be a couple more DiCamillo titles under the tree for her this Christmas.
- Frances Hodgson Burnett. The Secret Garden was beautiful, striking, uplifting . . . and yet so simple, so soothing. The kind of book you can really just curl up with and relax.
- Henry David Thoreau. Inspiring. What else can, or need, I say?
- Vicente Blasco Ibáñez. Luna Benamor . . . beautiful, sweet, heartbreaking.
- Tolkien. I finally gave The Hobbit a chance. After that I felt like an idiot for giving it up after only the first chapter a few years ago.
- Kirn Hans. Andrew picks on me for so often falling back on the same books for different lists, such as To Kill a Mockingbird and Hans’s Behind My Mask, but when I really like a book, I really like a book, and my favorites tend to qualify for a lot of different top tens, and I have to be honest, right? I was initially hesitant to give Kirn Hans’s “teenaged fiction” novel a try, but I decided not to judge it by its cover—you could say I looked behind the mask, and like the characters in the book I was rewarded for it.
- Basil King. I want to read his fiction too, but so far I’ve only read The Conquest of Fear, which is the most encouraging book I have ever read on the subject. Like King I believe that fear is a central and inherent aspect of our lives and minds, and his views have not only inspired by enlightened me.
- Hermann Hesse. Siddhartha was entertaining and infinitely thought-provoking. As you can see, I’ve read a lot of deeply inspiring books this year.
- Johann Von Goethe. Epic poems or lyrical plays or whatever this technically qualifies as are not usually my thing, but I really enjoyed the story of Faust—I thought it was, get this, inspirational (see what I did there? I got creative and changed the suffix).
There are three elements that are fundamental to a story: a protagonist, a supporting character, and an antagonist. Of course, there are exceptions, but as a general rule this holds true.
In the same way, every story has three real-world parallels: the writer, the supporting character, and the antagonist. I think every story needs these elements. Of course, no story would be any good without a writer; and I believe that more often than not, two vital things a writer needs are the supporting character and the antagonist.
The Supporting Character
If it wasn’t for friends like Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley, who inspired her by writing ghost stories with her, and encouraged her to take her idea to the next level, Mary Godwin, later to be Mary Shelley, probably would never have written Frankenstein.
Every writer needs someone to boost their confidence, someone to tell them they’re a great writer, someone for them to prove right.
Agatha Christie’s sister, Madge, didn’t believe that Agatha could write a good mystery. Agatha set out to prove her sister wrong.
Every writer needs someone to deflate their ego, someone to treat them with a dose of harsh reality, someone for them to prove wrong.
Every writer needs two things: someone to tell them their writing is rubbish, and someone to tell them it isn’t.
If you know a writer, you might be one of those two people. If you are a writer, I encourage you to realize who these people are, and appreciate them all the more.
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.
December 10: Top Ten Books On Our Winter TBR
- S. by J.J. Abrams and Doug Dorst. Oh man, I’m so excited to read this book. I finally got it a few days ago, but I’ve been forcing myself to hold off on reading it until Finals are over. The concept of the book is incredibly brilliant—an old library book, The Ship of Theseus, picked up by two readers who then have a conversation with each other on the margins of the book as they come to know each other better and try to discover the mystery behind the book and the book’s author, including putting various inserts between the pages. I can’t put into words how interesting this book sounds (I seriously cannot wait), and the book itself is just incredibly beautiful.
- More Than This, by Patrick Ness. A Monster Calls, also by Ness, is one of my all-time favorite books, so I can’t wait to read this one, either. The premise is very intriguing.
- A Dance With Dragons, by George R.R. Martin. This is another book that I’ve been forcing myself to put off. I pre-ordered to paperback back in August, so it came the day it was released (October 29th), but I didn’t want to start it until Winter break because that way I can enjoy it more and read it more quickly.
- The Gods of Guilt, by Michael Connelly. I was able to pre-order a signed edition from Barnes and Noble, and I love the cover of this book. More than that, though, Connelly is one of my favorite authors, and I particularly love his Mickey Haller books, so I’m excited to read this.
- The Cuckoo’s Calling, by J.K. Rowling (Robert Galbraith) and everything else I didn’t get to. Which includes the Furies of Calderon, by Jim Butcher; Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, by Susanna Clarke; The Second Death, by Caleb Peiffer; The Mysterious Affair at Styles, by Agatha Christie; The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle; Ender’s Game & Hart’s Hope, by Orson Scott Card; and Without Remorse, by Tom Clancy. I only ended up reading three books on my Fall TBR list, but that’s because I ended up reading a few other books (some required for school), and I decided to start re-reading the Dresden Files, by Jim Butcher (read the first 5 books). I definitely still plan to get to these books soon, though.
- The Woman in White, by Wilkie Collins. I’ve read The Moonstone and I’ve always wanted to read more Collins, so when one of my Shelfari groups invited me to join them in reading this, how could I refuse? I’ve already started, and though it’s a long read and taking longer than I would like thanks to time constraints, I’m enjoying it so far. I love everything about Collins’s style of storytelling, from his friendly narrative voice, to his carefully machinated plots (yes, there’s a lot of contrivance, which can sometimes be a negative, but there are cases, like this one, when I consider it a positive, because it’s done so well). And though the magniloquence—a mark of the times—puts some readers off, I’m personally one of those who appreciates and enjoys it.
- A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens. This will be my second Dickens, the first being The Lazy Tour of Two Idle Apprentices, a collaboration with Collins that was (I think) chiefly written by Dickens. Assuming that true, I was left eager to read more; and ’tis the season, after all, making this the perfect book to read this winter (or possibly very very late fall).
- Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained, by John Milton. This has been on my TBR list for a long time, and now that I have a beautiful copy that includes both epic poems, I plan to finally get around to it.
- The History of Caliph Vathek, by William Beckford. I forget quite how this found its way onto my list, but it’s here now, and I’m looking forward to it.
- The Hunchback of Notre-Dame and Les Miserables, by Victor Hugo. You can see I’m feeling ambitious. I want to read both, but I haven’t absolutely decided which to read first; I’m thinking Notre-Dame, but I haven’t decided for sure. Either way, I do think they’re both right down my alley.
“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 I have a few links about publishing. Unfortunately, as finals are this week, all I have time for are the links themselves without any commentary.
Mash-Up Monday #16: Publishing
For a lot of people (including myself), November’s highlight was NaNoWriMo, which just ended a few days ago. For some people it ended a week or two early, so you’ve already had a good amount of time to relax. Or, if you’re that one guy who finished in the first 24 hours, you’re probably hibernating for the rest of your life.
But wherever you fall, hopefully November was a good month for you writing-wise, whether you participated in NaNo or not.
For me personally, NaNo taught me many things, and that’s mainly what I want to talk about today. Nate spoke about realizing things you might not have realized if you didn’t participate, and I can definitely second that—being forced to write so quickly definitely does show you your strong (and not-so-strong) suits.
But there definitely is one thing that NaNo taught me that really stands out. And that is: Just write.
Two seemingly very simple words, perhaps even laughable because of how simple they are. “Just write? Gee, thanks, great advice.” Except it’s true. It’s one of those things that doesn’t necessarily seem to be possible—or good advice at all—yet it truly is.
It’s the thing that so many authors have said time and again, often as their “#1 rule for writing” (though of course, I’ve also always liked “There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.” ~W. Somerset Maugham). Take Neil Gaiman for example: “Write. Put one word after another.”
If you’re having a particularly dry spell, or you just don’t feel like writing, or whatever the excuse/reason for not writing is, that may not seem like good advice. It may just seem like one of those cheap clichés that sound good but really actually don’t help.
Well, let me just say that Neil Gaiman definitely knows what he’s talking about when it comes to writing. It’s something I came to realize very early this November, because the time always comes when you don’t want to or feel like writing, and during NaNo that can be the difference between finishing or not.
Even when I felt like crap, when I felt like writing was the thing I wanted to do least, all I had to do was begin writing. I would always struggle for the first couple hundred words, fighting a constant battle inside myself between continuing or just giving up and trying to catch up the next day, but after finishing those couple hundred words, the rest came easily—and fairly quickly.
The hard part is always just getting started. But push yourself, and it will come. Yeah, your writing won’t be perfect if you force yourself, but it will be writing—it will be progress—and after a while, the good stuff will start flowing too.
(as a quick aside, of course breaks are definitely needed from time to time, and constantly pushing yourself can be a bad thing; I’m mostly talking about combatting laziness/the “I don’t feel like writing” feeling)
So: just write. It may seem cheesy or cliché, it may seem like it’s not actually good advice, but just try it. Start writing, force those first couple hundred, and let the creative juices flow.
But that’s not the only thing NaNo taught me. In last week’s Mash-Up Monday, one of the articles I linked to spoke about writing an entire first draft before going back to the beginning. Of course, NaNo kind of forces you to do that, but that’s another thing I ended up really enjoying about NaNo.
This year I continued the novel I started for last year’s NaNo, because I hadn’t written any more since then. Nearly a whole year, but the 22k words just sat there. The reason was because I was partially unhappy with some decisions I had made early on, which then led me to keep debating if I should try to go back and fix it, or just move on to another project.
Well, NaNo made me decide: neither. Instead, I would just continue on—see how it goes. And it worked. I still have a lot of things I want to change about the beginning, but continuing as much of the story as I did this November, it really allowed me to gain perspective on the novel as a whole, and now I can really focus on what exactly I want to change, what works, what doesn’t work, etc.
Anyway, because this if Finals Week for me, and I don’t really have time to keep ranting as much as I’d like about what NaNo’s taught me and how great it is, I’ll end with a third thing that NaNo taught me:
Find the Right Music.
This proved to be almost just as invaluable as “just write.” Because the right music can make all the difference, or at least to me it can. I kind of had this daily routine where every time I’d sit down to write for NaNo, I’d start by playing the Canon in D on Glass Harp. That piece is just so incredibly beautiful and peaceful, it always got me in a great writing and creative mood, calming me down, removing stress, relaxing me, etc.
Then I’d just listen to ThePianoGuys Radio on Pandora, mostly sticking to more classical music. I’d occasionally play lyrical music, but I found that more often than not it was just distracting.
Point is, find the Writing Soundtrack that’s right for you. Find a song/artist/station/etc. that relaxes you, puts you in a good, creative mood, and use that to help you write.
All these things definitely transfer to non-NaNo writing, too. Worrying about perfection at the very beginning isn’t always a good thing. What’s important is just writing, and for me, these three things (just writing, pushing through to the end, and finding the right music) are definitely helping my writing outside of NaNoWriMo.
NaNoWriMo was really an amazing experience, and if you didn’t participate this year, consider doing so next year. I definitely echo Nate’s Editorial: You Should Do NaNoWriMo.
December 3: Top Ten 2014 Release I’m Dying To Read
- 11 Doctors, 11 Stories, by Neil Gaiman, Patrick Ness, and others. This is definitely the #1 book I’m looking forward to, in 2014 or otherwise. It includes three of my favorite authors (Gaiman, Ness, and Eoin Colfer), and it’s Doctor Who—what’s not to love?
- Skin Game, by Jim Butcher. I suppose there’s a chance this could come out this year, but since there’s been no release date yet, nor any option to preorder it, I’m assuming it’ll come out early 2014. Butcher is one of my favorite authors, and I’m definitely extremely excited for the next book of The Dresden Files.
- Erin Morgenstern’s next novel. Another favorite author of mine, who wrote The Night Circus. I’m not sure if this will be out in 2014 either, because as far as I know she hasn’t even finished it yet. However, she has said that she hopes to finish another novel soon, so I’m hoping that’s next year.
- The Crane Wife, by Patrick Ness. Again, Ness is one of my favorite authors, and I’m definitely looking forward to reading/getting this.
- The Winds of Winter, by George R.R. Martin. Once again, I’m not actually sure if this will be released in 2014, but there has been speculation to that effect. At this point, who knows, really, but this will definitely be one of the most-looked-forward-to books for me if it is released in 2014.
- Neil Gaiman’s next novel. Preferably, American Gods 2, if that comes out in 2014.
- Michael Connelly’s next novel. I love Michael Connelly, and I definitely look forward to his next book—hopefully/probably a Harry Bosch novel?
I plead guilty to reading more classics than contemporaries . . . a lot more . . . to the point that I hardly read contemporaries at all and rarely pay attention to upcoming book releases. But I did think of three I can look forward to!
File Under: 13 Suspicious Incidents by Lemony Snicket. Whatever Snicket would have you think, there’s nothing depressing about a collection of mini-mysteries by the master of satirical crypticism. I’ve always wanted to know how Snicket would handle an actual whodunit, which would require him to provide a solution in the end; could he bring himself to do it? He actually has in the past, and I’ve been meaning to read his mysteries. Now I have thirteen more reasons to read a Snicket whodunit. Is that bad luck?
- Untitled Hercule Poirot Novel by Sophie Hannah. I’m sure there will be a lot of people who are disgusted by this, a lot of people who will be frustrated and disappointed with it, and a lot of fair people, like me, who will love it. Nobody can ever be another Agatha Christie, and we can’t and shouldn’t expect anyone to be; but that doesn’t mean that nobody can ever again do justice to her characters and her legacy. I look forward to seeing how Sophie Hannah handles Poirot, and how her mystery will stand in its own right.
- Untitled Ambage Anthology: Fantasy by Ambage authors. Everything I love about the Ambage comes out when we band together to produce a short story anthology. I’m always looking forward to the next one. You’ll be hearing more about this as we lead up to our early 2014 release.
“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 we’ll take a look at a few links that have to do with the process of writing.
Mash-Up Monday #15: The Writing Process
- 7 Reasons to Write the Entire First Draft Before Going Back to the Beginning. All of the reasons here are great reasons to always finish the first draft before trying to go back and fix things. With NaNo just ending, this is something I was basically forced to do, as you need to get 50k words, which means not necessarily worrying about stuff you may have gotten wrong in earlier chapters. However, after actually finishing the 50k, I am definitely extremely glad I did it that way. Because now I have a draft finished (aka, goal accomplished), and I can see everything all at once. Furthermore, this also allowed me to come up with new ideas that I may not have come up with otherwise. For example, I wrote a scene and a few chapters later I realized that the scene I had written was wrong (for what I had planned), and while it didn’t fit in that spot, I was able to move that scene to another place because I loved the idea itself so much. In fact, it inspired me to want to go back and place another theme throughout the entire novel. Anyway, before this becomes a Sunday Editorial, moving on:
- Writing an Ending First. This is an incredibly fun thing to do. And, obviously, what you prefer as a writer matters a lot here. Writing the ending first may not work for you, and there is, again obviously, nothing wrong with that. It is, though, a fun thing to try–especially because it could turn out to be something that really works. In a way this almost reminds me of the old 70s series Columbo with Peter Falk. In many crime TV shows, the whole episode is about finding out who the killer is or whatnot, but in Columbo, you know right off the bat who the killer is (in a way, you’re given the ending first, though of course chronologically it’s the beginning as the murder happens before the investigation), and the episode then becomes about how Columbo himself puts that all together. And it’s incredibly enjoyable. With writing, it’d obviously be more for yourself than your reader, as you are writing the ending first and then finding out yourself how you get there. Something to try, anyway, perhaps.
- 6 Secrets of Writing a Novel without an Outline. For me personally, I love writing outlines. Not necessarily completely in-depth, but at least a rough outline of where I’m going. That being said, this article has a lot of great points that I always try to keep in mind. Even if you do make outlines, for example, it’s completely okay (and possibly even a better thing) to go off the rails and in another direction from that outline. But whether you write an outline or not, a lot of these things are important to keep in mind–you never want your novel to feel dry or, really, to feel like an outline. Making discoveries as an author and keeping the process fluid is definitely important.
- Dan Harmon’s Story-Breaking Process. Again, something that may not work for everyone, but it’s always interesting to see the different processes of various authors and perhaps try for yourself to see if maybe it will work for you too.
- 5 Tips to Get More Creative. These are some great tips to keep in mind when you’re writing a novel and going through your process of story writing. Tension is always important, at the beginning and throughout the book (end of chapters, for example); characterization is extremely important. It doesn’t matter as much how you go about writing your story–use the process that works for you–but it does matter to keep some things in mind no matter which process you use.