Top Ten Tuesday #28: Characters I’d NEVER Like to Trade Places With

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.

January 28: Top Ten Characters I’d NEVER Like to Trade Places With

Andrew’s Picks:

  1. Theon Greyjoy, from A Song of Ice and Fire, by George R.R. Martin. Anyone who’s read this series (or even seen the TV show) knows why.
  2. Peeta Mellark, from The Hunger Games (or Katniss Everdeen if I were female). I mean, it’s bad enough to have to go into the Games, but to have to go twice? I -really- would not want to. Or live in that world at all, really.
  3. Anyone in Jurassic Park, by Michael Crichton. I think this is fairly obvious. On one hand it’d be awesome to actually see dinosaurs, but…not after the first few minutes, when all heck breaks loose.
  4. Rick Grimes, from The Walking Dead, by Robert Kirkman. I mean, to be honest, being any character in any sort of horror novel wouldn’t be fun at all, but Rick is a character I like who I particularly would not want to trade places with.
  5. Camille Preaker, from Sharp Objects, by Gillian Flynn. Man, this novel was depressing, and this character particularly went through so much.

Caleb’s Picks:

It was actually difficult for me to pick characters that I wouldn’t want to switch places with for any reasons other than really generic ones . . . so I didn’t really bother trying too hard. ;D

  1. Any victim in any murder mystery. Pretty self-explanatory.
  2. Michael Rogers of Agatha Christie’s Endless Night. Anyone who has read the book will understand.
  3. Frankenstein’s monster. Frankenstein’s a monster, and I really wouldn’t want to be a monster created artificially by another monster, you know?
  4. Smaug. Sure, I’m a little surly . . . when you wake me up in the middle of a very pleasant dream just to tell me you’re trying to rob me. I mean, seriously, can’t you see I’m sleeping here? Ever heard of common courtesy? Does that mean I deserve to be speared to death? I wouldn’t think so, but then again I did eat a lot of dwarves and try to burn down a village. All in all . . . I blame Bilbo.
  5. Tarzan. I wouldn’t mind being a jungle god with superhuman strength . . . unless it meant I’d have to fall in love with a woman like Jane. Can’t I just get killed by one of those many unreasonably ornery lions that keep trying to eat her, and save myself all the trouble?
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Mash-Up Monday #19: Editing

“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–editing! Definitely an important thing.

Mash-Up Monday #19: Editing

  1. Six Easy Tips for Self-Editing your Fiction.
  2. How to Edit and Polish your Writing.
  3. 25 Steps to Edit the Unmerciful Suck out of your Story.
  4. Editing Tips for the Big Picture.
  5. Why Hire an Editor?

Sunday Editorial: The Problem with Procrasstination and Tips to Pervent It

You’re human. You put things off. You get distracted. You make mistakes.

And the biggest mistake you make , is procrastinating. Maybe it’s something you have to do for yourself, for school, for work, for a friend–usually it’s all of thes things, and all at once, and your plate is now so filled that things spill over and you make a mess. And so, seomtimes, Instead of taking the time to do things properly, you try to rush things out of the way, or worse–you procrastinate.

I hate it when people doo this. I can’t stand it when people comit themselves to something and then put it off, and it falls by the wayside until the last minute, and then they rush it and the result is always a sloppy, slipshod

What we tend to forget is that there are consequences when we procrastinate. It leads to accidents. It lead to mistakes. It We And in the end, we’re not taking the time to do our work properly and so quality suffers.Some things don’t get well, and even more things don’t get done well. Procrastination breds failure.

I’m as gilty as you. So what are we doing wrong?

What’s the Problem?

The quick answer: We’re rushing to do too much.

We’re bitting off more than we can chew, every day committing ourselves to more than we have the time to accomplish and making more promises than we can keep. And then, to make time for it all, we put other things on hold, we put other things off, we stretch each deadline to its limits; We’re constantly trying to do more than we have the time for!

No wonder we’re stressed. We’re constantly convincing ourselves that we need to do this and we need to do that, that such really needs to get done, that whatever needs to get taken care of, and we overwhlem ourselves with all the things we “need” to get done, but will never have the time for. And a media that’s drumming reminders and new ideas into our heads 24/7, urging us to act fast and take action and it doesn’t help but that it’s constantly distracting us and getting making life becomes chaos. And we end up trying to do too mucch at once.

The problem is that we’ve made our lives about rush, rush, rush. Thep roblem is we don’t take pride in our work anymore.

What’s the Solution?

Magical watches that stop time? God Heavens, I wish.

But it’s not that simple.

Because it’s not just one problem with one solution. It’s the problem that you agreed to last week and need to get done tonight, it’s the problem you promised you’d fix tomorrow, it’s the problem you should have done already, it’s the problem you need to run and take care of now, it’s the problem you forgot and spent twenty minutes trying to remember while trying to fix all the other problems and–oh, telephone!

We’re filling our lives with problems! There’s no one way to solve them all at once–except killing yourself, but please don’t do that, you matter to much. That’s running away from the problem, not solving it. The only way to solve the problem is by solving each little problem as it comes. But how do we do that? We’re in over our heads. Our lives are in self-induced chaos. We’re trying to juggle but we never learned how and now we’re dropping things..

So what do we do?

You need to find your own solution.

But who has the time to do that?

You need to organize and prioritize.

But who has the time to do that?

Then what do I do?

Learn to say No.

It’s not selfish to say No. What’s selfish is taking on something you don’t have the time to do, or at least not the time to do well. Not only will your new promise suffer bcause you don’t have the time to do it, but eveyrthing else will suffer because you have less time to take care of the thousands of other things you promised to do.

Whether it’s to yourself or to someone else, you need to learn to say No.

The other The other biggest peice of advice I can give you is:

Start taking pride in your work.

The isn’t the selfish kind of pride that goes before the fall. This is the kind of pried that inspires you to do your best. This is the kind of pride that won’t accept anything less than perfection from itself. THis is the kind of pride that wants better, always better, and is willing to work for it.

Go out there, and whatever you do, do it with full attention and give it your best effort. Take pride in it. It’s important. If it’s not–then why are you doing it?

That’s the key. We need to pick and choose and concentrate on the important things that really matter to us.

Because when you overfill your plate, you get stressed. When you’re stressed, you procrstinate. And when you procrastinate–
You make a darn lot off

Top Ten Tuesday #27: Things On My Reading Wishlist

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.

January 21: Top Ten Things On My Reading Wishlist

(if you could make authors write about these things you would. Could be a specific type of character, an issue tackled, a time period, a certain plot, etc.)

Andrew’s Picks:

  1. More Novels with Good Morals. This is something I’ve been noticing a lot lately–so few novels, TV shows, films, etc. have any many good messages or themes to them. It was actually while writing my own novel during NaNo when things started to become really apparent, because I hadn’t had much in my own novel–it was really just a run-of-the-mill espionage thriller, and I began feeling disheartened by that, especially when I noticed I wasn’t alone in writing that way. I had had an underlying theme of Hope toward the beginning of the novel, and so started weaving that in more to the whole plot, and bringing it out more toward the surface. It didn’t distract from the story at all, and actually improved the characterization. Anyway, I was discussing this with my brother a few weeks later as well, and just how there’s such a sad lack of morals or (morally) positive themes in media. It makes me wish we could have more Tolkiens in the world–and I’m not even talking about the religious undertones, but just the good messages in general.
  2. More Novels with Pictures. A Monster Calls, by Patrick Ness, is one of my favorite novels. The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster, is an amazingly brilliant and fantastic novel. I recently just finished reading The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman, which is also now one of my favorite novels. All three of these have one thing in common: they have illustrations accompanying the words. They’re not on every page (like baby picture books), and they’re novels that can easily be read and enjoyed by adults, but they do have illustrations, which I think are just awesome additions to the already fantastic novels.
  3. More Stand-Alone Novels. Particularly in Fantasy, and Mysteries&Thrillers. I love A Song of Ice and Fire, and The Dresden Files, and the Mitch Rapp series by Vince Flynn, and the Jack Ryan series by Tom Clancy, etc. But I also wish there were more amazing stand-alone novels, like The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern, or The Prestige, by Christopher Priest, or Term Limits, by Vince Flynn.
  4. Less Romance and More Platonic Relationships. I guess it’s just a little pet peeve that almost every single novel ever needs to have some sort of romance, even if it has no bearing on the plot whatsoever. If it makes sense and goes toward the plot, I have no problem with it, but it seems like often romance is thrown in there simply for the sake of having romance. And, I wish there were more platonic relationships, instead of almost every relationship being sexual–if a guy and girl meet? I just know the relationship’s turning sexual 99% of the time, which is really lame and overdone. Ender’s Game is a great book that doesn’t do this–Ender has absolutely no love interest during the novel, yet has some amazing relationships with both guys and girls throughout. More novels like this, please.
  5. Less Sexual Content or Gratuitous Violence and Language in Novels. 99.9% of the time, sexual content in novels (and other media) is completely gratuitous. Violence and language often are as well, though not as often (sometimes, expletives are the only natural reaction to something, for example, yet it’s never really necessary to actually explicitly show/write sexual content; if the reader knows what’s happening, that’s all that’s necessary–none of the details are needed). Really, this could also just be said as: More Clean Novels. So many novels just have such unnecessary garbage in them, that it really takes away from the beauty that the novel could be otherwise. Yeah, this stuff is realistic a lot of the times (both YA and otherwise), but that doesn’t make it good, or something that should be portrayed as normal (and therefore, “okay”). I point out YA specifically because it’s sad that stuff like this are in books for teens. Books for all ages are often the most amazing books. Harry Potter, A Monster Calls, The Graveyard Book, Holes, Artemis Fowl, The Hobbit, The Chronicles of Narnia, and on and on–and they’re all clean books, able to be read for all ages (and there’s amazing clean adult-specific books, too, like LotR, The Night Circus, etc.).  The Hunger Games is a great example of a good YA series–and a clean one. There’s cheesy romance at times, sure, but there’s nothing wrong with that, and there’s nothing that’s really not clean. More authors should follow suit!

Caleb’s Picks:

“If you could make authors write about these things” . . . so it’s really a list of things I want to write. Well, that should be easy . . . so I said to myself. As it turned out, coming up with generic answer quickly became . . . whimsical. Nevertheless, these are things I want to write.

  1. Mystery novels that aren’t teeming with superfluous sex, violence, and language. Where better to start, than with what I’m actively writing? This is a complicated topic, but to keep it as short as possible, I want to see more mystery novels that tell a good detective story, somewhere between the hard-boiled thrillers that glorify vice, and the fluffy cozies about cats or cooking or knitting. It doesn’t have to be one or the other. We don’t live in an age darker or more degenerate than Collins’s, or Doyle’s, or Christie’s; but we do live in an age where authors choose to glorify darkness and vice, unless they avoid both altogether and flee to a warm-and-fuzzy world of felines. I think both alternatives are petty. There’s another option. Look at the examples I gave before, Collins and Doyle and Christie; the stories are real, the stories are exciting, but they’re about more than just crime and small-minded everyday people. They’re about higher things; they glorify greater things. That’s what I wish to see more of. And call me a braggart, but that’s what I write.
  2. A teen vampire romance done right. I think I’d be afraid to try. But it would still be something worth seeing.
  3. A novel about bugs. Fantasies starring cats, dogs, birds, or other talking forest animals are a dime a dozen, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a real novel starring a bug of any sort. There’s a world of potential here that’s practically untouched.
  4. A novel exposing the Flamingos’ plot for world domination. This is a serious threat that deserves more recognition. As a writer, I hold the power to raise awareness, and bring about lasting social change; I feel like it’s my responsibility, then, to tell the world about the Flamingos.
  5. Lord of the Plush. On threat of death, I promised someone I would write an epic fantasy starring stuffed animals, someday. Armies of teddy bears, beating the fluff out of one another. “It’s a pillow, it’s a pet . . . and it’s the Lord of Darkness!” Can’t you just see Winnie-the-Pooh taking the One String to Mount Loom?

Mash-Up Monday #18: Flash Fiction

“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. To go along with yesterday’s Sunday Editorial, today I wanted to showcase 5 links concerning flash fiction–tips for writing it, what it is, why you should write it, and more. Enjoy!

Mash-Up Monday #18: Flash Fiction

  1. 8 Tips for Writing Flash Fiction.
  2. Why Write Flash Fiction? and because there’s another article by the same name: Why Write Flash Fiction?
  3. Flash What? A Quick Look at Flash Fiction. This article also contains many helpful links about flash fiction.
  4. What Matters Most in Flash Fiction.
  5. Stories in Your Pocket: How to Write Flash Fiction.

Sunday Editorial: Writing Flash Fiction

I’m a big fan of flash fiction (or “speed writing” or “vignettes”). For a variety of reasons, because flash fiction can be used in so many different ways. As a writer, there’s many possibilities for using flash fiction, and each one never has to interfere with any large project. Plus, you’re able to get the satisfactory feeling of finishing a story, yet with less ripping-your-hair-out during the editing phase, as there’s less to edit. As a reader, too, they’re really fun to read, as it only takes a few minutes (or less) to read a piece of flash fiction.

As the name suggests, they’re quick pieces. And more importantly than time-wise, they’re short in word count. Which means that each word counts for a lot more than they might in a longer piece. In a way, flash fiction is related to poetry as there, too, each and every word counts. This forces the writer to condense the story and use only what’s absolutely necessary in order to tell it, which is easily transferable to the writing of longer pieces as well. Not that novels and short stories need to be completely fast paced or anything–not at all (and flash fiction doesn’t even denote quickly-paced; it could be a thousand words describing one building)–but it does allow you to see what may or may not be necessary. Even if you have long, drawn-out descriptions, flash fiction can help hone those descriptions into more beautiful passages, so that they don’t sound ramble-y and rant-y.

Tolkien is a really great example of this. I have no idea what he feels about flash fiction, or if he ever wrote it, but he’s often considered to have very “dense” writing. At the same time, though, his descriptions are beautifully written, and don’t sound as if he’s just trying to fluff his word count, but rather, that every word actually matters.

In a way, flash fiction can force you to write “better” (not the best word; just go with me here) as you have much less time to tell a story, and again, every word must count. It’s why people sometimes suggest writing poetry as a way to help with fiction writing–because it really can. And in that vein, flash fiction is very similar, as I was talking about that before. Not only can it help with your longer writing, but they’re just great exercises that can be done quickly. There was a time when for at least a few weeks I was writing a piece of flash fiction nearly every day, and doing so greatly increased my productivity with other writing projects–simply being able to “get going” with a warm-up piece of flash fiction (that usually took about 15 minutes) helped motivate me to write more.

But more than just ways to increase productivity, improve writing, or do random exercises…flash fiction can also be incredibly helpful when done along with longer projects. Spending a half hour or less to write a short scene about one of your characters, for example, whether s/he be a main or secondary character. It doesn’t take long, and it allows you to get even more inside that character’s head for a few minutes.

Flash fiction can flesh out an “off-screen” scene, or perhaps the way something works, or a further description of a scene–anything that doesn’t necessarily need to be in the longer work itself, but might be good to write down for the writer’s sake. Your reader might not need to know what happened at the moment your character proposed to his wife, or the moment s/he graduated college, or what it was like the first time s/he fired a gun, but those short scenes can help you as the writer better understand and know your character.

Finally, in regards to longer works, flash fiction can also be used effectively as a short break. Sometimes you may want to just put aside your novel/short story/etc. for a while, but not necessarily start another whole project or anything. This is a great way to take a break from the longer stuff.

In closing, flash fiction is a great exercise for spur-of-the-moment writing, and can be incredibly helpful (and even invaluable) to writing longer pieces. Give it a try!

Sunday Editorial: Carrying the Descriptive Momentum

Dear writers,

I have a little tip for you today. Nothing profound; just something I was thinking about recently.

Look at that title. What do you see? I see, besides the definite article, three verbs; one is a verb turned noun turned adjective, the other a noun developed from a verb, but at their hearts, each word in the title is a verb.

Sometimes, I think we underestimate verbs, or even depreciate them. And yet, they are possibly the most important part of speech in the English language. Nouns are vital, but without verbs they would be idle; without verbs, nothing could actually do anything. You can’t even describe an unmoving noun without a verb, because every noun does something; it’s the foundation of the English language, and though I’m not philologist, probably it’s the foundation of all languages. Without a subject and an action, there could be no sentences.

Don’t get me wrong, the auxiliaries like adverbs and adjectives are infinitely useful, but sometimes I think maybe they’re valued a little too highly. The right noun can speak louder than the adjective used to descrie it; and the right verb can speak even louder. Verbs carry a lot more descriptive power than we seem to appreciate.

I think we could learn a lot of we tried writing with just the necessities every now and then, and focusing on their strength and their importance; their vitality.

It’s nothing profound. But I hope it makes you think.

Top Ten Tuesday #26: Goals/Resolutions for 2014

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.

January 7: Top Ten Goals/Resolutions for 2014

Andrew’s Picks:

  1. Read over 60 books. I read 60 books last year, so I’d like to beat that. I certainly have enough on my to-read list to do this many times over. 
  2. Finish the first draft of the novel I started for NaNoWriMo. And after letting some time pass, do second and third revisions, and then figure out what I want to do with it afterwards. 
  3. Continue to branch out more reading-wise. This year has definitely been the most varied for me genre-wise, and I want to continue that. Including branching out to more authors, since I tend to stay with authors I love (for good reason, and it’s good to read a lot of authors I like, but I’d like to experience new authors as well). Including more standalone books, so I don’t get caught up in even more series…and on the flip side, finally start some series that I’ve been meaning to but haven’t (Wheel of Time, for example). And last but not least of things that falls under branching out more…I need to read more classics—I have so many books to read that have come out in recent years that I keep forgetting about all the great classics I haven’t gotten to yet.
  4. Start and hopefully make a good amount of progress on at least one other novel, not including what I do for NaNoWriMo next November. And write more in general. 
  5. Try to give short reviews for more books. If I try to do super long, in-depth reviews for every book, I know I won’t. But I should try to do at least short reviews on Goodreads or something.

Caleb’s Picks:

  1. Enjoy myself reading some of the biggest books on my TBR list.
  2. Collaborating with the Ambage on another anthology over the next month, several more over the year, and maybe even a novel or two.
  3. Complete revisions and publish the third novel in my Leo Westmacott series by the end of January.
  4. Complete research for my upcoming project by the end of January.
  5. Write most, if not all, of aforesaid project by the end of the year.

Nate’s Picks:

  1. Read more.  In working on that last blog post I realized just how much I didn’t read last year.  Considering I’ve always been of the opinion that good writing starts with good reading, I’ve been doing double the harm passing it up.  (Slight clarification: I did plenty of reading last year, just almost all of it was textbooks and papers.)
  2. Write on more days of the week than not.  It doesn’t have to be a big project, doesn’t have to be something that anyone else’ll ever see, but it’s exercise.  I wrote a big to-do about why you should do NaNo, which was really at the end of the day “why you should write and not stop writing” – I should probably follow my own advice.
  3. Plot out something big and original.  Novel-length, if possible.  Come up with the characters, the overarching plot, the motivations, the settings, all of it, and write it down.  No writing by the seat of the pants, no relying on old or existing ideas.  The important part isn’t necessarily even writing the thing (though that would be a wonderful plus) – it’s about forcing yourself to plan ahead for once.
  4. Make a conscious effort to try different styles and genres.  Go for the comedy one time, the wonder the next.  Most likely it’ll wind up awful nine times out of ten, but better to try and find out than to get stuck in a rut.
  5. Finish up my existing projects.  I wrote this much for a reason; it’d be a terrible shame to throw it out without at least giving it the honor of being finished.

Mash-Up Monday #17: Author Advice

After a holiday break, we’re back! “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. What better way to kick off the new year than to read some advice from great authors?

Mash-Up Monday #17: Author Advice

  1. Neil Gaiman’s 8 Rules of Writing.
  2. “Game of Thrones” Editor Reveals Her Top Three Writing Tips.
  3. 21 Harsh But Eye-Opening Writing Tips From Great Authors.
  4. The Writing Tools of 20 Famous Authors.
  5. Tolkien’s 10 Tips for Writers.

Sunday Editorial: 2013 End of Year Book Survey

The Perpetual Page-Turner has made a tradition of asking bookish bloggers to review their year in books, and because we’re just that original and iconoclastic and so totally nonconformistic, we’re going to jump on the bandwagon and conform.

1. Best Book You Read In 2013? (If you have to cheat you can break it down by genre if you want or 2013 release vs. backlist)

Andrew: Gehhhhh. I guess if I have to pick just one, I’d say The Lord of the Rings. Close second would be The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern.

Caleb: I’ll just break this into two genres; fiction and non-fiction. This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald for fiction; The Conquest of Fear by Basil King for non-fiction (but I have to mention Walking by Henry David Thoreau as runner-up).

Nate: It came out in 2001, but Haruki Murakami’s “Sputnik Sweetheart”, as translated by Philip Gabriel.  It’s succinct yet rambling, surreal and somehow stunningly beautiful and human, like all of Murakami’s works.  It’s certainly my favorite work of his I’ve read so far.

2. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didnt?

Andrew: S., by J.J. Abrams & Doug Dorst. S. as a whole was absolutely fantastic, though I was a little disappointed with the novel itself, Ship of Theseus.

Caleb: Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad.

Nate: I’d heard good things about Ernest Cline’s “Ready Player One”, and while I enjoyed it, on reflection it rings a bit hollow.  Cline packed the book full of references to 80s and 90s ‘geek culture’ – in fact, said references form a key part of the plot – but while it’s fun to recognize these things, they’re limited in how much they can actually add to the characters and world.  And maybe it’s suiting that in a book all about videogames, we see the protagonist get better and better and overcome challenge after challenge without much trouble, but it doesn’t make for a very real protagonist.  A fun, but ultimately kind of forgettable read.

3. Most surprising (in a good way!) book of 2013?

Andrew: Hmm. Probably Robopocalypse, by Daniel H. Wilson.

Caleb: The Big Four by Agatha Christie.

4. Book you read in 2013 that you recommended to people most in 2013?

Andrew: The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern.

Caleb: Probably The Conquest of Fear again.

Nate: This one’s a very strange case.  It’s a self-published book with a hell of a title, “Hi! My Name is Loco and I am a Racist.”  It’s the attempt of one man to unpack his experiences as a black man teaching in Japan and his own complicated relationship with racism.  It’s not a perfect book, by any means; there’s moments of sentimentality that don’t quite ring true (despite being a memoir), and I’m sure some will frown at the author’s discussion of his time in the pick-up game.  But it’s a fascinating look into the dynamics of race and culture from one man’s perspective, and a stark reminder that racism is not some boogeyman reserved for bigots, but a very real social evil we struggle with on a daily basis, even if we don’t care to admit it.

5. Best series you discovered in 2013?

Andrew: The Lord of the Rings, though technically one book.

Caleb: Probably The Lord of the Rings (I said with a shamed face), although I’ve only read The Hobbit so far (said I with an even more shamed face).

Nate: This one’s a bit “win-by-default” – I tend not to get into series all that often – but Ben H. Winters’ “The Last Policeman”, which kicks off a trilogy following a detective living a few months before an asteroid is set to wipe out humanity, does a fantastic job of mixing noir and the human side of apocalyptic fiction.  I’ve yet to read the second book (“Countdown City”, published this past summer), but I’m looking forward to it.

6. Favorite new author you discovered in 2013?

Andrew: Erin Morgenstern or Neil Gaiman.

Caleb: Mary Shelley.

Nate: Right, I’m going to cheat on this one – I didn’t start reading the book until a few days ago, but technically I ‘discovered’ Helene Wecker last year when I was looking into the (many) books I’d missed that year.  I’m only partway into her debut novel, “The Golem and the Jinni”, but it’s a truly wonderful story, blending historical fiction with cultural tradition and fantasy.

7. Best book that was out of your comfort zone or was a new genre for you?

Andrew: The Walking Dead, Vol. 1&2. I had never read a graphic novel before, and this didn’t disappoint.

Caleb: Behind My Mask by Kirn Hans.

Nate: I’ll give this one to “Loco” again, not only because of its direct addressing of modern racism but also because it’s fairly rare for me to read a memoir.

8. Most thrilling, unputdownable book in 2013?

Andrew: Not sure I’d use the word “thrilling”, but I could not put down The Night Circus.

Caleb: One of the mysteries of my reading life has always been that I have rarely found a book “unputdownable,” though I loved one ever so much; The Tale of Despereaux was 2013’s top exception.

Nate: It’s a (relatively) old one, but Stephen King and Peter Straub’s “Black House” was a great blend of murder mystery and horror.  These guys seem to be good at that sort of thing.

9. Book You Read In 2013 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year?

Andrew: The Night Circus, once again. And maybe LotR.

Caleb: I know of a certainty that I will read both Frankenstein and The Conquest of Fear next (this!) year.

Nate: Out of sheer necessity, George R. R. Martin’s “A Dance With Dragons” is probably going to get revisited whenever he puts out the next tome.  What can I say? The man writes dense.

10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2013?

Andrew: For the whole book itself, I’d have to say S. by J.J. Abrams, but for just the cover, I’d say The Aylesford Skull, by James P. Blaylock, or any of the Dresden Files (some of which I re-read this year).

Caleb: I don’t judge books by their covers. ButI was fond of this cover for Perelandra.

Nate: “The Last Policeman”‘s current edition, with its squared, stark photography works surprisingly well for me, proving once again I have absolutely no sense of design.

11. Most memorable character in 2013?

Andrew: I’d actually have to say Le Cirque des Rêves (the Circus of Dreams)—not exactly a character, but it becomes basically a character itself in The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern.

Caleb: Easily Amory Blaine, This Side of Paradise, apparently a previous incarnation of my soul.

Nate: Again, cheating a bit here, but George R. R. Martin proved once again he is absolutely brilliant at reframing and rebuilding characters the reader is prepared to hate with “Reek” in “A Dance With Dragons”.  I’ll avoid using the character’s full name so as not to spoil anyone who hasn’t caught up, but seeing this pitiful little man’s struggles and guilt made the reader feel almost compliant with how they came in hating him, and made his eventual, small triumphs that much sweeter.

12. Most beautifully written book read in 2013?

Andrew: The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern; LotR, by J.R.R. Tolkien; and The Ocean at the End of the Lane, by Neil Gaiman.

Caleb: You’re killing me. I’ll pick The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett.

Nate: I said it above, but “Sputnik Sweetheart”.  Murakami writes beauty in a very different way from most.

13. Book that had the greatest impact on you in 2013?

Andrew: Probably The Ocean at the End of the Lane, by Neil Gaiman. Or The Night Circus.

Caleb: In different ways, This Side of Paradise, The Conquest of Fear, and Frankenstein had the most dramatic impacts on me.

14. Book you cant believe you waited UNTIL 2013 to finally read?

Andrew: The Lord of the Rings, definitely. Also: Holes, by Louis Sachar; The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster; and The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini.

Caleb: The Hobbit.

Nate: “Persepolis”, by Marjane Satrapi.  It’s a wonderful graphic memoir that’s been recommended to me time and again over the years (and sitting on a shelf in the house to boot.)

15. Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2013?

Andrew: “And as if in answer there came from far away another note. Horns, horns, horns, in dark Mindolluin’s sides they dimly echoed. Great horns of the north wildly blowing. Rohan had come at last.”

The Return of the King, by J.R.R.
Tolkien. And actually, my answer to this question is the last few pages of the chapter “The Siege of Gondor”—this is the end of that, as I couldn’t copy/paste all of it.

Caleb: Have  mercy on me! This would take days to decide. I’ll go with two lines out of a poem in The Hobbit:

Follow, follow, stars that leap
Up the Heavens cold and steep

16.Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2013?

Andrew: Shortest: Human Chain, by Seamus Heaney (poetry)
Longest: A Storm of Swords, by George R.R. Martin.

Caleb: Without going into the technicalities of a novel versus a novella, Heart of Darkness (approx. 70 – 100 pp.) would be the shortest book of fiction I’ve read; The Good Earth (357 pp.) would be the longest.

Nate: If we’re counting short story collections, Murakami’s “after the quake” takes it, at a lean 147 pages.  And of course on the other end of the spectrum we’ve got Martin’s “A Dance With Dragons”, at a lovely little 958 pages.

17. Book That Had A Scene In It That Had You Reeling And Dying To Talk To Somebody About It?

Andrew: Ooh, definitely A Storm of Swords. Red Wedding. ;-;

Caleb: Just like it’s rare that a book is “unputdownable” to me, it’s rare that I read a book I’m not dying to talk to somebody about. Prime example of the year? The Secret Garden, I guess (yes, again!).

Nate: The thing about Murakami books is you read them, and there’ll be a passage or a scene where you think, “that’s exactly right! I’d love to talk about that with someone.”  And then of course you never do, because where would you even begin?

18. Favorite Relationship From A Book You Read In 2013 (be it romantic, friendship, etc).

Caleb: Aguirre and Luna of Luna Benamor broke my heart; Mike and Ellie of Endless Night twisted it and rent it and kind of tore it up into shreds.

Nate: It’s not a romantic relationship, but the protagonist and his friend Sumire’s relationship forms the backbone of “Sputnik Sweetheart”.  Like so many of Murakami’s works, they’re two people who at times understand each other completely, yet there’s always that undercurrent of separation (quite literally in this case).

19. Favorite Book You Read in 2013 From An Author Youve Read Previously

Andrew: LotR, by Tolkien; and A Storm of Swords (I had read the first book and part of the second the year before).

Caleb: Perelandra, the best Lewis I’ve read to date (I really need to get around to That Hideous Strength!)

Nate: I’m sorry I keep putting “Sputnik Sweetheart” on here.  I really liked it!

20. Best Book You Read In 2013 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else:

Andrew: Human Chain, by Seamus Heaney. Fantastic.

Caleb: The Secret Garden . . . again. Recommended by a good friend (my respect for her opinions has gone up even more, if possible).

Nate: I tend to find books either through anonymous recommendations or just by scouting around on my own (though I’m sure I’ve just forgotten plenty of people recommending me works), but as mentioned above, I’d heard wonderful things about “Persepolis”, all of which turned out to be true.

21. Genre You Read The Most From in 2013?

Andrew: Fantasy.

Caleb: Easily mystery, mostly (if not solely) books from the Golden Age of Detective Fiction.

22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2013?

Caleb: I’m the only one brave enough to answer. Sallie McBridge of Dear Enemy by Jean Webster stole my heart.

23. Best 2013 debut you read?

Caleb: Behind My Mask by Kirn Hans (notwithstanding that it was the only debut I read).

Nate: Again, cheating, since I’m reading it now, but Helene Wecker’s “The Golem and the Jinni” has been marvelous so far.

24. Most vivid world/imagery in a book you read in 2013?

Andrew: The Night Circus.

Caleb: Perelandra again. The Hobbit, close second.

Nate: “Black House”, in a squirming, unpleasant way.  Like most of King’s novels, there’s more than a small link to the world of the Dark Tower, and as always King brings his A-game in giving the reader a taste of the horrors within.

25. Book That Was The Most Fun To Read in 2013?

Andrew: The Night Circus again. And S. by J.J. Abrams. Quite possibly the most fun I’ve ever had reading a novel, actually, though it obviously isn’t just a novel.

Caleb: The Lazy Tour of Two Idle Apprentices was pure, hilarious fun.

Nate: “Ready Player One”, for all its faults, was still very _fun_ to read as an established geek, and while its hero was a little too perfect, there’s still some thrill in seeing him go from nobody to top of the world.

26. Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2013?

Andrew: The Ocean at the End of the Lane and The Kite Runner.

Caleb: I don’t cry over books very often; but I’ll be honest, I had an emotional breakdown after finishing Endless Night.

Nate: Tears? None.  Melancholy? Pick a Murakami and just run with it.

27. Book You Read in 2013 That You Think Got Overlooked This Year Or When It Came Out?

Andrew: The Floating Admiral, by Agatha Christie and other members of the Detection Club. Not sure how it did when it came out, but I know that now, at least, it’s definitely overlooked.

Caleb: Walking by Henry David Thoreau. Thoreau had a beautiful way of looking at the world, but his thoughts and writings were sadly unappreciated during his lifetime.