Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Robert Jordan

Yesterday morning I got the news that Robert Jordan passed away. I don’t know if any of the few who check this blog read his epic The Wheel of Time, but it heavily marks my literary world. I was introduced to his series as a freshman in high school, back in 1995, and though I went through bouts of frustration at the lack of apparent motion through the middle books in the series, I continued to read them and continued to be delighted by the world, the characters, and the story Jordan was weaving.

And now the story will be left to the hands of another to complete. I know we will see the end of this grand tale, but will it feel the same? I doubt it.

But how wrong-headed is this? A man has died, leaving behind a family who loves him, and readers who love him not just for the sake of the world he created, yet my thoughts return to the story and how it will end. What a selfish life I lead. The story should be the furthest thing from my mind as I mourn the passing of a giant. For Jordan was a giant. His shadow fell across the entire genre and his works were, no doubt, the inspiration for many writers to try their hand at this beautiful craft—I know he inspired me.

To Harriett and Wilson, my heart goes out to you. I hope and pray that your dear friend and companion has found rest in the arms of his Creator, in whose presence is unending Light.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007


I don’t know if I have ever been as challenged and encouraged by the Word of God as I have been these past 2 weeks while reading the Psalms. They contain great wisdom and direction from the Lord on how to worship him as he deserves, how to mourn our sin deeply, and how to hope in His great love and mercy. What a blessed and treasured time it has been, though immensely difficult as well. It seems that every time I open the Word to the Psalms, the Holy Spirit is speaking directly to me, revealing truth about me and about himself. Many of the Psalms could have been ripped straight from my thoughts and transplanted to the page they described my thoughts and feelings so accurately.

How gracious is our God that he would deign to speak to us, let alone love us and minister to our needs. He is great indeed.

Humbled by his grace,

Monday, June 18, 2007


Just over three weeks ago now, I watched 300 and I left with my heart stirred within me. But what was it about the movie that caused my heart to say, "YES!"? Was it that the images on screen portrayed what true masculinity is? I don't think so. I'm not sure the movie accurately showed what God intends men to be. Sure, God created man to be the protector and provider, to be strong of arm and go to war, but I don’t know if what the movie portrays is what God’s image of a man is.

The movie glorifies men who butchered other men made in God's own image. Killed thousands and enjoyed it. While I do think that at times war is necessary, I don't think killing should ever be enjoyed. Clearly there is a perversion of true masculinity at work here. But that is the nature of life in a fallen world. We see glimpses of God's great glory in the men and women around us, but that glory is obscured by the grime of truth perverted. But that doesn't mean there is no truth in it, or that we can't see the truth in it.

There is much in that movie that is right and true, like:

• Men who beat their bodies into submission, disciplining it to do their will and not to falter and fall into the temptations of laziness and weakness.
• Unity, each man is responsible for his neighbor, to guard him and protect him as they fight as one body. The Spartan 300 is an image of the body of Christ, functioning as a unified whole, made up of different members.
• Submission to the authority placed above you. God has given some to be leaders and the rest to follow. The Spartans followed their king to the death.
• The men are strong and know what is valuable and important in their lives. They are not weak, cowardly, corrupt men, like the politician. They are bold and confident, recognizing that they are mortal yet willing to sacrifice their lives for a greater good.
• Universal freedom and liberty for all mankind. They acknowledge that a slave can never fight as well as a free man fighting in defense of his home and all that he loves. The slave, like a mercenary, is fighting for a lesser purpose, and is therefore a lesser soldier. The free man who chooses to fight to protect what he values, is a man who fights with his whole heart.
• Sacrifice. The men are willing to sacrifice all they are and all they have so that others might live to enjoy the fruits of their labors.
• No man is a god—all men bleed. Xerxes, who called himself a god, lord of lords, king of kings, tried to take upon himself the mantle that only God can wear, and was revealed for what he was—a man, nothing more, nothing less.

I think these men would have admired Jesus, even though he chose not to fight back. They would have seen in him the embodiment of some of their beliefs. He was willing to endure physical pain and understood the necessity of self-sacrifice. He taught about the value of unity and encouraged his disciples to live in it. The Spartan 300 may not have chosen to follow him, but I think they would have admired him. Their action was similar to his. They gave themselves that others might have life. Christ gave himself that we might have life, and have it abundantly.

Monday, May 21, 2007


Funny story . . . over a year ago, when Apple released their new macbooks, I prayed that the Lord would provide one for me for free, or at least very close to free. I prayed faithfully for a few months, and then kind of forgot about it. Well about 2 months ago I heard about one of those websites that gives away gifts for trying sponsored offers and decided to check it out. The site, as you can certainly tell from the title of this post, is Shopfreepay.com and it is different from the other sites of its kind in that you don't need to refer your friends; you just need to complete the sponsored offers. That's it.

I decided to give it a go, and lo and behold, two weeks ago a shiny new macbook arrived at my office, practically free. I say practically free because the offers I completed cost a grand total of $120, more or less. Not too shabby, but throw into that the gift cards I received from a couple of the offers and the total cost of my wonderful new laptop was only $50. If that's not a bargain, I don't know what is.

So the Lord answered my prayer, and I am immensely grateful.

Go check out the site, no referrals necessary. Just pick your gift, complete the specified number of offers and enjoy.

Monday, April 30, 2007

A decent writer? Try amazing . . .

A.E. Sacco, an avid reader, 04/16/2007 Customer Rating for this product is 2 out of 5
O.M.G.!!!! I believed the hype and picked this book up and it was the worst piece of crap I have read in a long time. 'Boring' does not do justice to how slow and uneventful this novel is. I sped-read most of it to see if the character would get the hell out of the 'university' and fight some monsters 'yeh, he eventually fights a dragon...yawn....'. Instead, the poor reader is subjected to the most minute happennings. I will admit the author is a decent writer, and has a great story on his hands....but PLEASE! Over 600 pages of mostly 'nothing'....I'm sorry...if this is 'the best fantasy novel of the past ten years', then I'll read other genres.

I found the above review of Patrick Rothfuss's The Name of the Wind on Barnes and Noble. I must admit that my first response was a scathing rebuttal of the blather spouted above, but then I stopped to think . . . while I completely disagree with the reviewer's assessment of the novel, as should be obvious if you read my previous post, I can remember a time when all I wanted out of a fantasy novel was for the main character to "fight some monsters." That was what drew me to R.A. Salvatore's novels, which I mentioned in an earlier post. But my tastes have evolved since junior high. The Name of the Wind is a character driven story, not a plot driven story. That's not to say that the plot is in any way lacking because it's not, but meeting Kvothe and coming to know him is what propels the story forward--it is first person narrative after all.

So instead of the scathing response I was planning I'll simply acknowledge that this book will not appeal to everyone. For people who want monsters and action filling every other page, you'd better grab a different book. But for those who want to truly know the characters who fill the pages of the books they read, you're not going to find a better novel than this one.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The Name of the Wind

I finished reading Patrick Rothfuss’s The Name of the Wind yesterday, and after a mere 2 hours or so picked it up and started reading it again. Now why in the world would I do this? I asked myself that question a few times and my answer is:

It’s damn good writing.
But it’s also a riveting story.
And the characters are absolutely believable.

I guess that’s three answers.

In his most recent blog entry, Patrick Rothfuss writes,

True, all authors use words, but not all authors focus on making them beautiful. Shakespeare loved words, so did Roger Zelazny and Angela Carter. Ray Bradbury also has what I consider a poetical turn of phrase, by which I mean that the language itself is beautiful, regardless of content, character, or cleverness.

Some authors just don't play that word game. They care more about story, or plot, or character, or... I dunno, unicorns or making money. I'm not being critical here. Those things are important. Those authors can still write good stories, there's no denying that.

But my favorite authors love words AND character AND story... and sometimes unicorns, I guess.

If Rothfuss could somehow read his story for the first time, it would be exactly the type of novel he loves. Which shouldn’t be surprising since we all strive to write the kind of books we would love to read. The language Rothfuss uses is beautiful, absolutely beautiful. I found myself rereading sections simply because they were so delightfully and beautifully written. He has a poetical turn of phrase, and there are passages that simply sing. If my novel is half as beautifully written as this, I’ll be overjoyed.

As for the characters: Kvothe is a living and breathing character who practically leaps off the page—unruly red hair, eyes bright green like new growth grass, and all. He is absolutely believable, especially to anyone who remembers being a boy and the awkwardness that comes with growing up. And the story . . . well, the story pulled me in, immersing me in Kvothe’s world so much that I half expected to see the scrael scuttling through my backyard (a truly terrifying thought for anyone who hates spiders as passionately as I do).

I hate reading teasers and spoilers because I always find the story slightly less surprising, slightly less magical when I have an idea of the shape of things going in, so I won’t give you a synopsis or anything here. I’ll just tell you to run out and grab this book. Grab two. It’s that good.

The verdict: 10/10

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

A few thoughts

Over at Lost Genre, Daniel Weaver posted some questions for discussion regarding being a Christian and a writer that I addressed on their site, but I thought I'd post my thoughts over here too.

It seems to me that our goal as Christian writers is to tell excellent stories. We can't worry about what people will "gain" in reading what we write, because that's not up to us--that's up to the Holy Spirit. Jesus told stories to thousands of people, and some people didn’t "gain" anything from them. Others had their hearts quickened by the Spirit and came to follow Him. Our stories have the same potential since the same Spirit at work in Christ’s ministry is at work in us. The difference is, unlike Christ, we don’t know the hearts of every man. We don’t know who will accept our words with joy and who will ridicule them. And the beauty is that we don’t have to know. Our job is to be faithful, telling the stories the Spirit stirs within us and telling them to the best of our God-given ability. Our job is to saturate our hearts and minds with God's word, allowing it to change us. "For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart" (Hebrews 4:12). As we are changed, what we produce will be changed. As the Spirit conforms us to the image of Christ, what we create will be conformed as well. Our art will become a fragrance of Christ, and the Spirit will use it as he will.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The First Draft

I would love to say that the reason I haven't posted in such a long time is that I was feverishly working on my novel and the writing completely occupied my spare time. I would love to say it, but it wouldn't be true. However, I was able to put some solid time into it over the past couple months and have officially finished my first draft. I'll be picking up the printed draft tomorrow and will pull out the trusty red pen and write all over it! I've been looking forward to this part for a while. I'm excited to see how well the story flows (or how poorly--yikes!) and if the characters are well-developed (though I doubt they are). But hey! It's a first draft. I'm not sending this one out for publication, so it's allowed to have some bugs. I'll post again with an update on my progress and some general thoughts about the quality of the story--I'll try to be as objective as possible.

UPDATE 4.18.07: After reading about five chapters of my novel and spending some time reading the blogs of published authors like Patrick Rothfuss, I think I need to tell the whole story before I can even think about having the first volume published. That is going to require a lot more time and effort, but I really feel that it will make each volume of this story of infinitely higher quality. So . . . back to work.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Crown of Stars (concluded)

I finished Crown Of Stars last night after plowing through the last 220 pages in two evenings. Once again I felt the pain of parting as the story came to an end, but in some ways it was not as powerful as in some of the other stories I've read, but certainly not because I care less about the characters. Perhaps it is because the action of the novel closes and then the novel concludes 10 pages and 40 years later. We get a sense that all was for a purpose, that the struggles and battles waged were not for naught. There was purpose and there was meaning because we can look back on it as events in the past rather than a present that is forever closed to us. That is one of the most painful aspects to the close of a story, when the characters lives go on, but we no longer get to be a part of them.

When The Lord of the Rings ends, we are left with a new world but no knowledge of where it is going or where it will end, the story concludes and Frodo sails out from the Grey Havens. When The Chronicles of Narnia end, we see the Pevensie children going further up and further in and we see that their lives have culminated in something grand and beautiful--eternity with Aslan, the one who sang the world into existence. While Crown of Stars doesn't conclude with the grand scope of eternity as seen by the daimones of the upper spheres, it doesn't just drop us either. Elliott gives, and this is probably a poor analogy that hopefully wouldn't offend her, the prose version of a movie that runs the "What happened next" for each of the characters before the credits roll. She gives us a glimpse of life continuing in a wonderful world as we see that the characters we know and love accomplished something great and lasting, but the story continues, life continues in this world.

The beauty of the story is that there is more to it than what she tells. Who is Alain? Perhaps she doesn’t even know, and that is a beautiful thing, because that is where the true heart of myth lies. When a story can spring from beyond us and end with mystery remaining, it is evidence that we have tapped into something that we ourselves are not in control of even though we are the ones who write the stories. I e-mailed Ms. Elliott to ask her about that. We'll see what she has to say.

Another question I asked her is how much of the story she knew before she started. How much just developed and how much was clear from the beginning? Clearly the story grew in the telling because she had planned on a 6 volume series, only to have it turn into 7, which was much more fitting given the nature of the story.

This was perhaps the best fantasy series I've read, and I've read quite a few. Crown of Stars was a fitting end, I might also say inevitable considering everything that happens to the main characters, to a series that I will read again and again simply to be immersed once more in Elliott's living and breathable world.

The verdict: 10/10