Nothing New Under the Sun

Shadow of doubtThe more I read the more I realize that every idea – every idea at all – has already been taken. “There is nothing new under the sun”, the famous quote from King Solomon goes. And while I suspect this is a woefully misquoted verse, it seems to have veracity under most interpretations. And, gosh darn-it, he was saying that long before Christ!

As authors (or artists looking to bring something unique into the world), where does that leave us? Perhaps some of the greatest writers in history felt this inner demon attack on creativity, so maybe we’re not in bad company, but that doesn’t change the nagging suspicion.

A writer’s doubts cling to him or her like a shadow. Glance over your shoulder or into a mirror and you’ll find it. If you don’t, you haven’t done anything risky or creative or vulnerable enough to earn doubt. But perhaps this particular doubt should be cut down a little to a more manageable and realistic scale.  Continue reading

A Second Walk Through the Wheel Of Time

The Eye of the WorldThis is my second time reading Robert Jordan’s Wheel Of Time series. The first time it held me entranced through most of high school, but I only read the first nine before I got side tracked. (Not to mention, Jordan passed away around then, just before I had caught up to him). Not familiar with Brandon Sanderson’s capable and strangely similar style and talents then, I decided to delve further into fantasy with different authors.

Years and countless writing lessons later the Wheel of Time has turned, and I’ve come back to this classic series to discover it’s just as entertaining as it was before. Yes, I’ve read stronger authors including mega-series-world-creator Steven Erikson, but a broader perspective has given me the chance to view Jordan’s storytelling with a different sort of fascination.  Continue reading

Truth Magic: Philosophy in Fantasy

Screen shot 2014-06-17 at 11.17.51 AMDaniel Abraham is defining himself among fantasy authors as a brilliantly creative designer of magical frameworks that rival the creativity of Brandon Sanderson. While a system of magic is generally the root of all disasters in his novels, he manages to play with new and curious ideas in a genre that’s overstocked with gouts of magical flame and various elemental wizardry. And he manages to entirely avoid the young-mage-in-training trope that made titles like The Name Of the Wind fall flat in my opinion.

In The Dagger and Coin series, Abraham gives readers a unique play on many old things. Apart from the fact that the storyline is centered heavily on the point of view of bankers in this fantasy world – an occupation in fantasy almost entirely neglected aside from a few goblins in Harry Potter – the magic itself is unique enough to carry the story by itself. Continue reading

Story Graphs: Plotting a Plot

The other day I came across a picture of Kurt Vonnegut’s story graphs, which started me thinking…how many stories could I graph myself? Well I had some fun with it over a few days, and here’s what I came up with. Most of these do a little harmless damage to the truth, but if you’re looking for a humorous oversimplification of some classic stories then look no further!

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My favorite one of Kurt’s is his rendition of Kafka’s Metamorphosis. Absolutely nailed it.

Here are my attempts:

This is obviously the entire series up to now. I figured the fortune of the plot could sort of be generalized down to 'horrible.'

This is obviously the entire series up to now. I figured the fortune of the overall plot could sort of be generalized down to ‘horrible.’

Continue reading

10 Fantasy Books I’d Like To Read This Summer

I’m not sure how I’ll get to all of these this summer, but I can always hope, right? On this list are mostly newer fantasy novels primarily because I want to know what’s happening in the industry right now. What’s big? What are we talking about? What am I writing that’s being done right now? Hopefully that’s not a conclusion I close a book to. Hopefully I just enjoy the heck out of these.

18404312Alias Hook: This might be the newest book on the list, but I haven’t taken the time to verify that. I read the synopsis and that was all I needed. I don’t usually go in for the retelling of old stories gig, but there’s that to a degree in every book, and I’ve always thought Hook needed a second chance.

Words of Radiance: The only book on this list (and one of the only books period) that I’m reading for 11543195the soul purpose of finding out what happens next. There will be speed-reading if I want to get to any other summer goals, and I don’t feel too bad about that since Sanderson’s other novels have offered little more to me than enjoyable escapism. As great a storyteller as he is, there’s not much edifying here, so I won’t linger.

13569581Blood Song: I really have no idea about this book. The synopsis is curious, but enigmatic, and I’m prepared to drop it if the faith aspect gets too weird. The main character seems interesting, but this doesn’t look like anything new, which is part of why it drew me, oddly enough. I want to read a story that’s not tripping over itself to point out all the tropes it’s avoiding (ahem, Rothfuss). I just want to read a good epic fantasy with startling characters, and I hope this book provides. Continue reading

The Poetics Of Uncertainty

ffw-logo-shadowAttending the Festival of Faith and Writing has given me more thoughts than I can possibly handle in a lifetime. This may seem like hyperbole, but as poet Geoffrey Nutter, one of the Festival speakers, pointed out using the words of T. S. Eliot: “Human beings can not bare that much reality.”

And that’s what I got today. A lot of reality.

But I think more than that too, because it wasn’t so obvious or so conclusive. As Nutter talked about the “radical uncertainty” of his poetry, I began to get glimpses of images that will probably tumble around in my head for a very long time. The reader (and writer for that matter) are meant to grapple with the words. Most of us know this. It’s an old idea.

But spawning from this wrestling springs a “joyful spontaneity” for those involved. This is another term for faith, I’d argue. “It takes faith to suspend our need for resolution,” says Nutter. Just as it takes strength to suspend our desire to wrestle the text into submission, which, if comprised of true images rather than mere deductions, shouldn’t be possible at the point of the final period. Continue reading

- – / – – / – – – –

Pocket WatchWhen I was a student I used to scoff at putting the date on papers.

It was a few extra seconds of my time that I needed for stressing about the first line of the assignment. It was a line of markings on a document otherwise unblemished by numerical figures – a compliance with the rules of academic paper form, making it uglier than it already was. And, I confess, I didn’t always know what the date was, and I didn’t bother to check.

Writing the date on academic papers had a logical, up front purpose. Now – not having academic papers anymore – I’ve found myself marking my writing journal with the date. (It’s not a daily journal, just an idea vat). I’ve begun scribbling six ugly numbers and breaking them up into pairs with sharp dashes at the top of pages. And I don’t know why I never did this before.

It’s a beautiful thing, really. It’s an acceptance that I am a speck in history, and all I get right now is six (or eight if I’m feeling long-winded) numbers and two dashes for 24 hours before they change.

Now that I’m on this train of thought, I think it goes further than that… Continue reading