Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Some Select Poems from the Secret Notebook

I write in a special Chinese notebook; it's not special because it is Chinese (that's the only brand of notebook we could find that had any decency), but because it houses some of my most precious literary creations.

That is, my poetry.

I'm mainly a novelist, but I must admit that I'm partial to a good poem.  Depending on my mood, there are times where I'd rather write poetry than prose.  (There are also times where I'd rather write theology than either.)

The poems have been accumulating lately, and I really don't know what I ought to do with them.  But writing is meant to be shared, and it cannot be shared unless it is read, and it cannot be read unless it is published.

So I'll park my poems here to ease my mind.  Take them or leave them; but if you do happen to read them, let me know what you think.

--

Don't Forget to Remember

I stood at the edge of an old mountain ledge
And the western wind tugged at my heart;
The sunset was red with dusky orange spread
And I wondered if I should depart.
But standing still there I felt in the air
A heaviness like saying goodbye;
I closed my eyes tight and around me the night
Drew the stars gently into the sky.

You'll find me there, you'll find me there,
Between reality, and memory
Trying to be what I could see
In everywhere, you'll find me there
In trying to meet what I had met
I remembered...that I forget.

I lay on the ground listening to the sound
Of the wind whispering in the trees;
There I was, at the brink, of a vast sea of ink
And from that sky came a chill midnight breeze.
I dug my hand in the dirt as cold clung to my shirt
It was that night in late December;
As I heard distant cars, I swore to the stars
I would never forget to remember.

You'll find me there, you'll find me there,
Between reality, and memory
Trying to be what I could see
In everywhere, you'll find me there
In trying to meet what I had met
I remembered...that I forget.

It was a night in late December;
As I heard distant cars, I swore to the stars
I would never forget to remember.

--

Pine Needles

I ran to the basement
And opened the door
And felt the pavement
Through linoleum floor
I fell to my knees
And crawled to the back
Behind Christmas trees
My reflection stared back.

The mirror was wide
And covered the wall
But as I looked inside
I saw something small
There was reflected
In the crook of the tree
Something unexpected—
You were waving at me.

I jumped to my feet
And stepped through the glass
And fell to a seat
Of knitted bluegrass
I blinked several times
And I looked around
The air smelled like limes
And wet earthy ground.

I stood and found you
In a huge Christmas tree
Ornaments around you
Far bigger than me
The wind swept you from
Your lofty green perch
And made my cheeks numb
The air white like a birch.

The wind came and brought
Me into the sky
The pine needles fought
Around me and I
Sailed above a wood
Of conifer and ash
And saw what I could
Through the pine needle mash.

I flew through a cloud
And the pine needles cleared
The wind whistled loud
Through a snowy white beard
And dropped me right through
The misty cloud floor
To a mountain all blue
With legend and lore.

You waited for me where
The water, cold and meek
Is tucked between the air
And craggy mountain peak
I saw my reflection
And looked from side to side
What greeted my inspection
Was home, and I sighed.

I'll move the mirror to
My room, and gaze inside
To stop and think of you
And me, side by side.
And sometimes in the night,
I'll hear the quiet sound
Of pine needles in flight
And dreams all around.  

--

Glassy Glory

The ocean is blue and clear as a bell
The waves are rising and crashing pell-mell
I look out for rocks, and since none can I find
I pick up from the sand a tiny sea-shell
It sinks through the waves and pays me no mind.

The white foam sparks on the surface of the sea
And floats and swirls on the waves around me
The high tide throws waves up over the shore
To empty in a lagoon the color of tea
And disturbs the crabs on the pond's sandy floor.

The underwater rocks are slick with slime
The submerged plants are covered in grime
I stand on the rock, look out at the banks
The sea's glassy glory as endless as time;
Life is too wonderful not to give thanks.

--  

Daydream Sails

When the music soars in your ears
And the lyrics rise in your heart
When you're tired and ready for sleeping
But your mind won't let you start;

When the sea breeze like fog surrounds you
And the moon's face is veiled by clouds
When the ocean's call gives you grounds to
Take leave of the world's empty crowds;

When your heavy thoughts disturb the night
And your gaze moves beyond this world
When your weary eyes close and sight
The white sails of daydream unfurled;

Sail the moon across the star-strewn sky
Find me there, in almost-waking
Let the clouds go wandering by
While the stars are magic-making;

For there is a half-asleep realm
Far-flung across the briny blue
There, in the shade of a silver elm
I will close my eyes and wait for you.

--

Homesick

Familiar dirt roads push me up on rocky arms
To touch the sky, to taste the wind with a taste like freedom
I spread my arms out like a cross—and open
My eyes to a rusty fan stirring the humid air
And the hanging white of my mosquito net. I sigh—
Look about me, at dust and dirty tile. I love
This place, dirt and all, but not like my home. My home
Stirs my heart like the Kansas wind in the pine needles
The arms of the bent old soldiers keeping vigil.
I love it. I miss it. My heart hurts for it.
The still small voice whispers, Was it worth this?
Yes, I say—if not in my heart, in my mind.
Would you do it again? Yes, with both heart and mind.
Will I follow still further? Yes, a million times yes,
Till my strength gives out, with my heart and soul and mind.
But I can't help but return, it still hurts. It was
Worth every illness and trial to follow—but it still aches.
The still small voice is quiet, and then I hear it like
The distant waves on a nearby shore, carried on the winds
Of my home; I know, my child. I hurt with you.
And I remain silent, and let the sea breeze carry me to
My bed, and my heart is satisfied. It is enough.

Friday, December 13, 2013

The Great Writer's Dilemma: What Route Shall I Take?

So maybe I could say that I'm busy, but the fact that nobody outside of Facebook knows that I finished NaNoWriMo is my fault. Sorry, folks. Have a screenshot:



And okay, I'll admit it: every year, I promise myself that I won't flag after NaNoWriMo, and every year, I succumb to post-NaNoWriMo laziness.

So as of right now, I still haven't finished The King of Three, although I'm five to ten thousand words away from completion. But victory is near, and with the last week of school coming up, my schedule will be freed to finally wrap up the novel. All going well, I should have it done before January at the latest.

With the completion of The King of Three also comes the completion of the series as a whole. And Tornado C is finished, too. Having those two novels off my back will allow me to start on new projects, which is a huge amount of fun.

But here's the problem...I don't know where to start.

Right now, I have somewhere between five and six incubating ideas ranging from sci-fi to time travel to epic fantasy. And since my self-imposed rule is to never do more than one major project at a time, this means that I have to choose. Choosing is awful.

So, with that in mind, I'm going to lay out some of my ideas and have you choose—or, rather, advise me on what to choose.

Route #1: Publish ALL the stories!

Well, not really. But this is the more publishing-heavy idea of the three that I'm outlining here.

If I chose this route, my schedule would look like this:

As soon as I finish the King of Three, I return to my long-neglected Will Vullerman stories, revise the three remaining ones, polish all five, get them some spiffy covers, and publish them on Kindle for $0.99 each, and $2.99 collectively.

Then, after I finish that, I'll write the sequel to The War Horn, tentatively titled “The King's Coffin”. I'll probably take a break after finishing to fiddle with some other stories, but after a while I'll revise it like crazy and send it to pre-readers to critique. After that, I'll format, get a cover, and publish it on Kindle for $2.99.

Since that work will take up quite a bit of the year, by the time The King's Coffin is published, I'll probably start working on my massive Tornado C overhaul and see what I can do to find it an actual name. (I STILL don't have the foggiest what I'm going to name it. Titles have never been my forte.)

The main idea behind this one is twofold: first, to get my work out there so that when I have a “big” novel, one that I'll try to get traditionally published, I'll already have a reader base and some published works. Second, I have this crazy idea that my novels will become runaway bestsellers and I'll raise enough money to go to the 2014 OYAN Workshop.

The big drawback of this route is that raising enough money for an international plane ticket is improbable at best and impossible at worst. And if I knew for sure that I wasn't going, I probably wouldn't invest my time in publishing.

But there is this little thing of mine called hope...

Route #2: Become a publishing hermit!

That is to say, take the absolute opposite of my previous idea and publish nothing at all.

Under this route, I would mostly ignore my Will Vullerman stories (again) and focus on new projects, rather than working with old ones. First up would be a new novel completed with the OYAN supplement “Other Worlds”. It would be a sort-of sequel to Tornado C, but with less emphasis on “epic and dramatic” and more on “small and structured”.

Depending on how long that project takes, I'll either work on The King's Coffin (putting the publication date somewhere between Fall 2014 and Spring 2015) or go straight to Tornado C to start my revisions. (As you can see, I'm serious about getting my Tornado C revisions done.)

The main issue with this route is that Will Vullerman has been ruminating in my head for awhile. It would be nice to get it to the point where I can be done with it.

Route #3: The Great Compromise

My final route will take a middle road in between these two options, giving me a foot in both trenches. I'd start out with publishing Will Vullerman and then go on to work with my “Other Worlds” novel. After all this, I'd work on Tornado C revisions. This would put the writing of “The King's Coffin” somewhere between Fall 2014 and Spring 2015.

The biggest issue with this one is that, if I was to give my foolish hope a chance, I would want to go all in, rather than just publish some short stories in hopes that I'll get thousands of downloads.

And Route #4 is to ditch school to write and publish all of the above. Needless to say, route four is not an option, as much as I'd like it to be.

So there you have it! It's a choice between lots of publication, some publication, and no publication; little chance for the Workshop, even less chance for the Workshop, and no chance for the Workshop.


What do you think? I admit that I'm a little tied up about it. Spare me some wisdom!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Why I Write

There is always something that fuels a person's writing. If I had no reason for writing, I would not be writing at all.

I've written a lot about a lot of things. There have been multiple times where I have set forth the reason why I write—the source of my writing, the point of my writing, and so on. Sometimes I feel that I have to rediscover the “why” of writing, and the resulting posts are similar in many ways and different in other ways, like different sides of the same cube.

And so I'd like to clarify what I mean by “why” I write. I'm expanding on what I've already written on this subject. The source of my writing is, as always, Christ and what he has done for me. The ultimate point of my writing is to portray the truth that God has revealed. Those are the several “sides” of this cube.

So let me make it clear, lest I am misunderstood, that in this post I am not replacing God in “why” I write, but giving a different take on it. I'm turning the cube over to look at a different side. This side is, seemingly, more “secular”. (Really, there is nothing in this world that is truly secular, since my faith affects everything I do—even the things that don't appear to be spiritual.)

With that disclaimer, let me begin.

In a nutshell, I write to let other people feel what I feel.

When I feel something, when I learn something, when I see something, when I believe something, I want to share it with other people so much that I feel like I could burst. When I am moved, I want to move other people; when my moods are deep and thoughtful, I want to write in such a way that makes other people feel introspective. I coined a term specifically for the sort of poetry I love—if it's a good piece of poetry, it gives me “deep feelings”, that sort of good ache in your chest that makes you let out a deep breath and think of stars and moonlight and the secrets of the universe.

I'm a very, very intellectual type of person. I tend to process everything through my sense of logic and order, analyzing and organizing my thoughts. Debate is my forte, geometry is the only kind of math I like, and a good argument is my brain candy.

That means that “feeling” is not usually something that happens to me. Maybe my brain overcompensates, then, because what I do feel, I feel in a way that is almost violent. When something affects me, it affects me so much that it has to have an overflow, some way that it can escape.

Except I don't talk. And I don't let many of my moods escape to my appearance—they stay hidden beneath a normal face.

That makes it so that my only overflow, then, is in what I write. I am not emotional; but when I have an emotion, it overflows. I write. My moods spawn poetry, my beliefs are born onto paper. Feelings become words, thoughts become poems, struggles become novels.

This isn't just restricted to the emotional side of things, however. This sort of thing happens to me intellectually too. When I learn something and it “clicks”, I want to share it with other people so that it can “click” for them too. When I understand something, I want to write so that other people understand it too. What I know, I want to articulate.

Obviously, the most common outlet for my “intellectual” side is nonfiction. This is why I enjoy debates, why I write articles, why I take notes. But this also makes it into my novels—The Voice of God is a good example. While my main themes were a mix of ideas, there was one theme in particular that was very intellectual. I wanted to show what the reality of hell looks like with people who had never heard of Christ. The dilemma revolved around how fair it was to condemn people for not believing in something they had never heard.

Of course, I didn't treat it like I would treat a debate, and I certainly didn't pause the novel to give a theological treatise. I did, however, embed it in the fabric of the story so that it came out organically. Faceless “people who had never heard” became actual characters who actually did die, leaving someone who thought he believed to struggle with the idea of them going to hell. What he chose to do and say was crucial with how the story would go and how it would resolve.

The main point of that example is how a concept can become easier to understand in the context of a story. Stories are how I show other people what I feel and see and learn. An actual character is easier to picture than a vague description of “those people”. It is one of the many tools I use to have the reader feel how I felt—by feeling how the character felt.

That is why I write: I use what I write to help people understand what I understand, and to feel what I feel.

Articulating the inarticulate is the job of the writer, and it's not an exact science. “Inarticulate”, by definition, means that you can't put it into words. But that doesn't stop us from trying. The test of good writing is how close you get to saying what you wanted to say—how close the reader gets to feeling what you wanted them to feel.

And that's why I keep writing, and perhaps why all writers keep writing.


We have felt the indescribable...and we want to describe it.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

How to Storyboard in Four Easy Steps

(The title of this post may or may not be mildly sarcastic.)

At one time or another, we've all faced the same question: do I outline my novel, or do I wing it?

For years I was a staunch SOP writer—seat of the pants.  I wrote four of my novels in that way. I prided myself in keeping myself from being "saddled" with a "constrictive" outline.

As it turns out, my first four novels were junk, mainly because they were my first four novels.  My seat-of-the-pants writing style changed, however, when I was require to outline with OYAN.  The result was The War Horn.  It had a generic plot, but pacing was good, and I figured that outlining wasn't so bad after all.

Fast forward.  I got to the point where I couldn't function without an rough outline.  As much as I hated to admit it, SOP writing wasn't working out for me.  I reluctantly laid down my arms and surrendered to the devil—er, outlining.

Now, before you throw up your hands in horror, let me say that I'm not insulting SOP writing.  It can work, but it's not the most efficient way to write.

In the last year, however, I discovered a marvelous compromise—it gave me the open-ended freedom to do what I want with the tightly plotted structure of an outline.  

It's called the Storyboard.

It goes by other names, too.  Timeline is a popular word for it.  You can do it on a computer or on paper—personally, I prefer the delicious inkiness of my Pilot G-2 Extra Bold. 

But how do you do it, and how do you do it in a way that is the most effective?

Glad you asked.  I'll show you.  I plotted out a storyboard just for you guys, my illustrious blog-followers, with me and my Pilot G-2.  (Pardon the blurriness of the scanned papers.  This IS Africa, you know.)

I present to you: How to Storyboard in Four Easy Steps!

STEP ONE.  Draw a line on paper, with two endpoints in the form of vertical lines.  Also, title it, if you feel so inclined.

This is the easiest part of the Storyboard.  (Although it seems that even a straight line was too much for me to ask.  My line looks more drunk than sober.)

This is also a good place to find out how much your storyboard is going to cover.  Point A is the first vertical line, and Point B is the second one.  These represent separate events.  All of the content in your storyboard should take place between these two events.

Sometimes I brainstorm two or three chapters in one storyboard; sometimes I brainstorm an entire novel.  This year I wrote three storyboards for my NaNoWriMo novel, one for each POV.

STEP TWO.  List the main plot points between Point A and Point B, indicated by smaller vertical marks spaced throughout the line.

As you can see, that's exactly what I did below.  The main plot points of the story are summarized.  If you're doing a storyboard for an entire novel, then you should take careful note.  

There are four crucial moments that your novel storyboard should include.  The first one is the event that sets the novel in motion ("Turkey's brother is brutally eaten").  The second is the moment of decision where the main plot of the novel starts ("Turkey turns to the dark side").  The third is the black moment, the point at which everything goes wrong just before the climax ("Saves his sister by sending her to another dimension").  The last one is the climax of the novel ("Has a change of heart and sacrifices himself").  If any of you have done OYAN, you should be familiar with these concepts already.

If you're simply mapping out a scene or group of scenes, then just summarize the main developments in the story.  None of this is set in stone, which is the beauty of the Storyboard.  Random ideas are welcome.

The point of this part is to map everything out so that you know the general direction of your story.  Having the end in sight helps in two ways: first, it'll give you the opportunity to foreshadow and have the beginning make sense in light of the end; second, it'll help you know what you're going to write next.

STEP THREE. Expand your plot points, giving them more detail and direction.  Specifically, focus on visualizing where the story is going.

This is probably the hardest part of the Storyboard.  There are two objectives here. 

First, give detail to the summaries that you wrote in Step Two.  In the "Turkey's brother is brutally eaten" section, for instance, I gave a number of details: the turkey sobs, buries him in corn, and when the turkey priest stands up to give a few words, he talks about non-violence.  All of these are a consequence of the plot point and expand it. This part of the Storyboard will require some brainstorming.

Second, visualize the summaries.  Visualizing where the story is going to go is a huge advantage when you sit down to write it.  If you can follow the "movie" of your story in your mind, you're going to be able to follow it with your keyboard.

Sobbing is a great visual; burying him in corn is a poignant and unexpected detail.  (Apparently I had neglected to remember that since the turkey was eaten, there wouldn't be a body to bury.)

Another thing that this step does is to flesh out the practical consequences of your plot points.  As a result of Turkey's sister being a target for someone's Thanksgiving dinner, Turkey has a pretty awful decision to make.  Does he save his sister and kill the humans, or does he stand by while his sister dies?  Luckily, there was a wise buzzard priest walking by at the time and informed him of the concept of inter-dimensional travel.

Where would we be without random priests?

This is also the point where I had an epiphany about the ending of the novel.  You may find that the same sort of thing happens to you.  If you're poring over your story details, new ideas are bound to come.

There's another great side-effect of seeing all of your ideas in one place: it becomes possible to connect them together in a way that you hadn't thought of before.  You'll find a prime example of this in the "Saves his sister" column where I wrote Circularity in big underlined letters.

STEP FOUR.  Finish expanding your columns and jot down any ideas that may come to you, whether or not you will actually use them.

This one is pretty straightforward, although it may take a little bit to brainstorm.


Ideas are often seen with a question mark, and sometimes they get crossed out.  My killing spree idea, for instance, got nixed about five seconds later.  However, this establishes the fact that Turkey is struggling with nonviolence and his need for revenge, so it was still an integral part of brainstorming.

The nice thing about blank space is that it motivates you to brainstorm something to fill it, and as a result I got a few ideas that I wouldn't have otherwise thought of.

Once your blank page is filled with notes and scribbles, lean back and give yourself a high-five, if no one's watching.   You've written a Storyboard, and a page full of inky ideas isn't a bad day's work.

And this way, you won't forget everything you brainstormed when you wake up tomorrow morning.  I've had it happen, and it's not pretty.

 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Just so you know, I exist, and I am also preparing for NaNoWriMo.

Please ignore the fact that the vast majority of my recent posts have sentences instead of titles.  Titles are supposed to summarize the posts, anyway.

We're a week away from NaNoWriMo now, and as usual I haven't planned an iota of my novel.  Not even in my head.  Haven't thought about it, at all.  Preparing so far has consisted of reading the previous books in my series (I'm working on Book #4 of The Prophecies this year) and procrastinating on writing the last two chapters of tVoG (which is Book #3 and didn't get finished last year).

Also, because one of my great vices is forgetfulness, I neglected to inform you guys of a huge development in my writing career as of a couple weeks ago.

The picture will pretty much tell the tale, minus the convulsions.


In case you were wondering, the name of this particular document was Tornado C.  And as of October 12th, I passed 90,000 words and wrote THE END on this epic that has taken me the last twenty-one months to brainstorm and write.

All I'm saying is that revision's going to be a trip.  I don't even want to think about it right now.

In the meantime, I'm basking in the glory of actually finishing something and trying not to think about the novel I have to be ready to write in a week.  (And, y'know, actually finishing the book that came before it.)

How's it going for you lot?

Sunday, October 6, 2013

I'm actually pretty good at foreshadowing.

(And apparently not so good at titles.)

Unfortunately, in this particular instance, being pretty good at foreshadowing is not a good thing.  I mean, it's a "good" thing, but not a good "thing".

The principle for foreshadowing is this: foreshadow something, and if it is bad, make it awful; if it is good, make it incredible.  The actual event that is being foreshadowed must be even more monumental than we thought.

I did a really good foreshadowing the ending of my novel (Tornado C).  In this case, however, I'm struggling actually writing something so epic as to measure up to the expectations that I built up in my readers for the last eighty thousand words.

I love the foreshadowing.

But not so much the actual fulfillment.  Or at least writing the actual fulfillment.

But as they say, all good writing is rewriting.  I'd better write it and set to making it epic afterward.

POST SCRIPTUM: (In case you haven't noticed, this means that I am again working on Tornado C and crawling by inches towards the ending.  All going well, I should have the novel finished by the twentieth.  All not going well, I'll be finishing this novel and another one the night of the thirty-first.  Oops.  Whose idea was it to do NaNoWriMo again this year?  Oh, yeah.  Mine.)

POST SCRIPTUM THE SECOND: (In case you didn't look at the time at which this post was posted, it's well after midnight.  I'll use that as my excuse, although to be honest, I think I really am this mentally twisted.)

POST SCRIPTUM THE THIRD: (Have an epic Owl City song.  You're welcome.)

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Favorite Quotes from Cyrano de Bergerac

As promised, here's a post containing some of my favorite quotes from Cyrano de Bergerac. Many of them are too long to post, however, and I took out the ones that have spoilers. (As a disclaimer, I used a translation by Gladys Thomas and Mary. F. Guillemard. I hear that the Hooker translation is the best, but this was the one free on Kindle.)


CYRANO:
Oh! [My nose] disgusts you!

THE BORE:
Sir!

CYRANO:
Its hue
Unwholesome seems to you?

THE BORE:
Sir!

CYRANO:
Or its shape?

THE BORE:
No, on the contrary!...

CYRANO:
Why then that air
Disparaging?—perchance you think it large?

THE BORE (stammering)
No, small, quite small—minute!

CYRANO:
Minute! What now?
Accuse me of a thing ridiculous!
Small—my nose!...
'Tis enormous!
Old Flathead, empty-headed meddler, know
That I am proud possessing such appendice.
'Tis well known, a big nose is indicative
Of a soul affable, and kind, and courteous,
Liberal, brave, just like myself, and such
As you can never dare to dream yourself
Rascal contemptible!


THE VISCOUNT:
Sir, your nose is...hmm...it is...very big!

CYRANO (gravely):
Very!

THE VISCOUNT (laughing):
Ha!

CYRANO (imperturbably):
Is that all?...

THE VISCOUNT:
What do you mean?

CYRANO:
Ah no! Young blade! That was a trifle short!
You might have said at least a hundred things
By varying the tone...like this, suppose...
Aggressive: Sir, if I had such a nose
I'd amputate it! Friendly: When you sup
It must annoy you, dipping in your cup;
You'd need a drinking-bowl of special shape!
Descriptive: 'Tis a rock!...a peak!...a cape!
—A cape, forsooth! 'Tis a peninsular!
Curious: How serves that oblong capsular?
For scissor-sheath? Or pot to hold your ink?
Gracious: You love the little birds, I think?
I see you've managed with a fond research
To find their tiny claws a roomy perch!
Truculent: When you smoke your pipe, suppose
That the tobbaco-smoke spouts from your nose—
Do not the neighbors, as the fumes rise higher,
Cry terror struck: “The chimney is afire”?
Considerate: Take care...your head bowed low
By such a weight...lest head o'er heels you go!
Tender: Pray get a small umbrella made,
Lest its bright color in the sun should fade!
Pedantic: That beast Aristophanes
Names Hippocamelelephantoles
Must have possessed such a solid lump
Of flesh and bone, beneath his forehead's bump!
Cavalier: The latest fashion, friend, that hook?
To hang your hat on? 'Tis a useful crook!
Emphatic: No wind, O majestic nose,
Can give THEE cold!—save when the mistral blows!
Dramatic: When it bleeds, what a Red Sea!
Admiring: Sign for a perfumery!
Lyric: Is this a conch!...a Triton you?
Simple: When is the monument on view?
Rustic: That thing a nose! Marry-come-up!
'Tis a dwarf pumpkin, or a prize turnip!
Military: Point against cavalry!
Practical: Put it in a lottery!
Assuredly 'twould be the biggest prize!
Or...parodying Pyramus' sighs...
Behold the nose that mars the harmony
Of it's master's phiz! blushing its treachery!
—Such, my dear sir, is what you might have said,
Had you of wit or letters the least jot:
But, O most lamentable man!—of wit
You never had an atom.


THE VISCOUNT:
Hear his arrogance!
A country lout who...who...has got no gloves!
Who goes out without sleeve-knots, ribbons, lace!

CYRANO:
True; all my elegances are within
I show no bravery of shining gems.
Truth, Independence, are my fluttering plumes.
'Tis not my form I lace to make me slim,
But brace my soul with efforts as with stays
Covered with exploits, not with ribbon-knots,
My spirit bristling high like your mustaches,
I, traversing the crowds and chattering groups
Make Truth ring bravely out like clash of spurs!


CYRANO:
I in a labyrinth
Was lost—too many different paths to choose;
I took...

LE BRET:
Which?

CYRANO:
Oh! by far the simplest path...
Decided to be admirable in all!


CYRANO:
A hundred men? You'll sleep in your own bed!

CUIGY:
A hundred!....

CYRANO:
Less, to-night—would be too few!


CYRANO:
If I lay but my soul by my letter-sheet, 'tis naught to do but to copy from it.


CYRANO (shouting to the Gascons):
Gascons! Ho, Gascons! Never turn your backs!
(to Carbon, whom he is supporting):
Have no fear! I have two deaths to avenge:
My friend who's slain;—and my dead happiness!
Float there! laced kerchief broidered with her name!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

In Which I Do the Jake Equivalent of Fangirling, Over a Nineteenth Century Play

Yes, there are times where I (for lack of a better word) “fangirl”, although the objects of said fangirling tend to be old and the authors tend to be dead. (For some reason the word “fanboy” which certain friends of mine have tried to convince me to use, sounds simply odd and faintly creepy.)

The edition of the movie that I own.
In this case, I recently re-experienced the play “Cyrano de Bergerac” by Edmond Rostand. I've read it several times before, but I reread it last week. Then, yesterday, I acquired (huzzah!) and watched the 1950 movie, which was almost as stunning.

You may be familiar with the play. If not, go read it now.

Because after rereading it, it placed Number Four on my list of greatest stories in the history of ever.

Let me explain. (The following and rather lengthy dissertation does contain some spoilers for the play. I'll try not to spoil major plot points, but for those who have not read the play, read on at your own risk.)

The reason why the play is so incredible is mostly because of the development of the main character, Cyrano de Bergerac, who has the curse of a proverbially large nose.

While the play starts out very slowly—the entire first scene is basically random actors running about in a theater and has little to nothing to do with the rest of the play except to introduce the setting and some of the characters—it gets interesting once the main character happens upon the theater.

The first time we're introduced to him, we get the feel for his character right away: first, that he's extremely brash and somewhat arrogant, and second, that he's extremely witty.

As the play goes on, however, we see more and more that this arrogance is an expression, not of conceit, but of his fierce independence. And if that independence makes others angry, then so much the better. As he says in the play,

“I pass, still unsaluted, joyfully,
And cry,—What, ho! another enemy?”

And, in reference to another publishing his play with the condition that it must be changed,

“Impossible! My blood congeals to think
That other hand should change a comma's dot.”

The other expression of his character is when he speaks to the woman he loves, Roxane. She confides in him that she loves another, which is a blow to him. Furthermore, she asks him to protect the man that he loves, to take the fellow under his wing, so to speak.

This is one of the strongest parts of the play: because he accepts. The nature of his love is unselfish, to where he puts her happiness above his. And when Roxane comments on a recent battle Cyrano fought, he replies that he had “fought better since” - the battle within himself to uphold her happiness at the cost of his.

This theme is reiterated again and again throughout the play, until the bitter end. But I won't spoil anything for you. It's hard and beautiful and moving. The poetry is brilliant and vivid and passionate.

Read it yourself and find out, people. The beginning is slow, but it's worth it.

(Return in a couple days for part two of this post. The combination of these two posts was too long for me to post all at once, so I put all of my favorite quotes in the second one rather than have one massive post for you to deal with.)

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Fifteen Greatest Stories of All Time

I think it was last week when I had the insane idea to find out what my favorite stories of all time were. On top of that, once I had the list written out, I had the doubly insane idea to actually choose between them.

Needless to say, it was torture, but at the end of it all, I came up with fifteen stories that I considered to be the best of the best, the cream off the top of the bucket.

There are two things I have to tell you before I actually start the list, however.

First, this is my opinion, and there are a lot of stories I've never read or watched. Don't be too outraged if your favorites aren't on there or if you don't particularly like the ones I picked.

Second, when I say “stories”, I mean stories of any medium. This list includes movies, TV shows, books, and plays, with any number of installments. There are a number of stories on the list in which I consider both the book or series along with their motion picture adaptions.

And so, without further ado...I present to you, the fifteen greatest stories of all time! (In reverse order. Y'know, to build things up.)

15. REDWALL by Brian Jacques


(Referring to the Redwall series as whole.)

The Redwall series has had a place on my shelf for a long time. At first it barely missed making the list, but because of some of the classics such as The Long Patrol, The Bellmaker, and Martin the Warrior I decided to include it.

The main reason I included this was because of the colorful cast that generally comes with a Redwall book and the often bittersweet endings. The Legend of Luke is particularly depressing in a heartbreaking way. And, of course, they're just good stories well told.

14. THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND by Jules Verne


This is one that is included for nostalgia, if anything else. It's a good tale, to be sure, and one I've loved for a long, long time. Something about shipwrecked Americans just appeals to me—and the fact that the main characters build a civilization out of nothing is just fantastic.

Plus, it's got a little bit of a creepy feel to it, in addition to the return of Captain Nemo from Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. It's a solid story.

13. CRY, THE BELOVED COUNTRY by Alan Paton


Cry, the Beloved Country muscled its way up to 13 through sheer emotional punch. It's a story set in South Africa during apartheid, and there are few novels that have prose more poetic. It's articulate and vivid and wonderful. Bittersweet, emotional; and the themes of the novel are unmistakably Christian and just swimming in symbolism.

12. THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO by Alexandre Dumas



(This placement refers to both the book and the movie adaption.)

The Count of the Monte Cristo is an epic of a book about a man, Edmond Dantes, who was in prison for years. Escaping from prison and stumbling upon untold riches, he set off on a quest to exact revenge on those who made him suffer. It's a fantastic story, and although it drags in the middle, the progression of Dantes' character is so well done.

I must say, though, I actually like the movie adaption better, and that's a good part of the reason that it's on my list. Both the book and the movie are amazing, however, especially in sheer scope.

11. THE WINGFEATHER SAGA by Andrew Peterson



The first “modern” Christian fiction choice of the list! I love this series so much, both for the whimsical and wry humor, and for the wonderful characters and themes. The reason that it's not higher up on my list is partially because the series isn't finished, and partially because there were just so many good choices.

10. THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA by C. S. Lewis


Narnia hardly needs an explanation. It's magical and firmly entrenched in my childhood, and the sheer allegorical depth is just incredible. And the last paragraph of The Last Battle—oh, yes. This is definitely one of those stories that leave you with that divine depression. The really awful thing is that there aren't more Narnia books.

The movies are also included under this placement, although it was mostly the books that caused Narnia to make my list.

9. AND THEN THERE WERE NONE by Agatha Christie


If Cry, the Beloved Country made the list through sheer emotional punch, And Then There Were None made the list through sheer adrenaline. 

 This, in my opinion, is Agatha Christie's finest work. Although the characters do have some level of depth, the main reason this book made the list was the brilliance of the “impossible” ending. And also because the book freaks me out. I read most of it after midnight...it was deliciously scary.

8. RUNT THE BRAVE by Daniel Schwabauer



Surprised? This may seem like an unlikely contender, especially this high up on the list, but I stand by my choice. Runt the Brave has a lot of good things going for it (not the title, perhaps), but I think the main reason it made it this high was the character-theme combination. You can read my review for more of a rant about how awesome this book is, but I think it'll suffice to say that the book is deeply moving.

7. THE TROPHY CHASE TRILOGY by George Bryan Polivka

Because these books don't get around much, there's not a single banner for these books, so a picture of my own copies will have to suffice.


This includes the trilogy and the prequel, Blaggard's Moon. There are two reasons I love this series: one, it has a more old-school writing style; two, it has one of the strongest and unashamedly Christian themes of any book I've read. Besides that, there's the character of Delaney (one of the most awesome characters there ever was) and the fact that the series is like a pirate-fantasy with some deep thoughts on pacifism.

One of the most awful things about this series is that very few people have heard of it.  It's out of print and not very well marketed.

6. THE WHITE LION CHRONICLES by Christopher Hopper



Okay, the first book drags for awhile and the prose is a little rough and sometimes the dialogue is stilted—so why is this number six on my list?

One word: theme. This has, perhaps, the strongest theme of any of the other Christian fiction books I've ever read. For that reason alone, this series is one of the epitomes, for me, of great Christian fiction. If I ever wrote a novel half as meaningful, I would consider my writing life fulfilled.

It's got an intriguing premise and some great characters besides. And when Hopper hits you with a plot twist, it really hits.

5. THE DARK KNIGHT TRILOGY




So why did I choose the Dark Knight Trilogy for Number Five?

BECAUSE I'M BATMAN.

In all seriousness, though, Batman is my favorite of the myriad of superheroes. The Trilogy is gritty and violent at times, but they go places where other superhero movies never go. Especially The Dark Knight. They plumb the depths of human nature and aren't afraid to push the limits of theme. In addition to that, the character of Bruce Wayne (Batman) is simply fantastic. He's constantly changing through the trilogy. (And, of course, there's the Joker. If I ever made one of these lists for villains, he'd be on it.)

And then, can I just say, the ending of the Dark Knight Rises is incredible? So, so good.

4. CYRANO DE BERGERAC by Edmond Rostand


Cyrano de Bergerac is the bittersweet story of a passionate poet-swordsman with a proverbially large nose. I have some posts coming up soon on the play, so I'll keep this brief and just say that this story deserves the number four placement.  It's incredible.

3. SHERLOCK HOLMES by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle



(Refers to both the books and the BBC adaption.)

And here we come to one of the greats: Sherlock Holmes. Besides having some completely fantastic stories, he's also one of the most unique characters to ever grace the page—or screen. And his character is far from flat—from A Study in Scarlet to His Last Bow, he's constantly changing. But he's iconic, too, one of those immortal characters that far outlast the author. I think that's the power of Sherlock Holmes.

As for his screen adaptions, BBC Sherlock is by far my favorite and captures the characters and plots of the original stories more closely than any other adaptions I've seen—ironic, considering BBC Sherlock is meant to be a “modernized” version of the old stories.

2. DOCTOR WHO



This year Doctor Who is fifty years old. There's a reason it's survived so long. More so than the stories that came before it on this list, Doctor Who has some really fantastic storytelling.


Today I rewatched an episode called Asylum of the Daleks, and I think it demonstrates many of the reasons why Doctor Who made it to Number Two on my list of greatest stories of all time. Stellar plot, theme layered on thick (touching on love and hatred and divorce), and a fantastic, brilliant plot twist that slammed the incredible ending to a close.

And the most immortal part of Doctor Who is, of course, the Doctor. He has the brilliance of Sherlock Holmes, except in space, fighting aliens with a bow-tie and a screwdriver. There's a certain appeal to this “madman in a blue box” that runs about having adventures and saving the universe—a “legend woven throughout history”. His struggles, both physical and moral, resonate with us.

But despite all this, it is not number one.

Number One is...

1. THE LORD OF THE RINGS by J. R. R. Tolkien


(Includes The Hobbit, The Silmarillion, and the movie adaptions.)

I mentioned quite a few extraordinary characters in this list. But I think the most extraordinary thing about The Lord of the Rings is how ordinary it is. Frodo Baggins is not a Sherlock Holmes or a Doctor or a Batman. His greatest power is his goodness, his ability to resist evil...his ordinariness.

I think that the Lord of the Rings, more than any other, has united the different facets of good story. It has the immortality of Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Who, in that it feels like a myth as old as the bones of the earth; it has the wonderful word-smithing of Cyrano de Bergerac and Cry, the Beloved Country; it has the scope of the Count of Monte Cristo; it has the themes of Runt the Brave and the magic of Narnia.


It's an epic struggle of good versus evil. And no other story really comes close to touching it.

So there you have it.  My opinion on the fifteen greatest stories of all time.

What stories would YOU consider to be the greatest?  Why?  Shoot me a comment.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Is it possible to overthink your ending?

My life is complicated, but sometimes I wonder if there's anything more complicated than the ending of my novel.

I keep telling myself that I'm "marinating it" - which means that I'm procrastinating and pretending I'm brainstorming at the same time.  And in some ways, that's good.  After rushing to finish my key chapters before the OYAN Workshop, a bit of a break is a good thing.

But a couple days ago I completely overhauled my outline's ending for the third time, and I'm wondering just how long is too long.

What freaks me out about this novel is that the ending has to be perfect, and I know I can't write it perfectly.
Stories have to be born ugly, but after writing over eighty thousand words building up to this climactic ending, I don't want it born ugly.  Ehhhhhh.

The picture in my head is so sad and so beautiful and hard, and if it doesn't come out that way then I'll be plunged into a dark pit of writer's purgatory for at least a week.  So apparently I think that revising the outline 293 times will help prevent this disturbing end.  Maybe it will, maybe it won't.  But I think in the end I'm just going to have to tighten my belt, straighten my fedora, and write it.

It still gives me butterflies.  I don't want to get it wrong.

But I guess that's what revision is for.

And this, my dear reader, is your random Jake moment for the day.  I felt a little guilty about not blogging for a month, so you get a chaotic monologue instead of something deep and insightful.  Happy day.

Friday, August 2, 2013

[Five Star] Review: Runt the Brave

[Note: this review is of the original 2004 edition of the novel.]

Driven by its merciless leader, an army of rats has besieged Tira-Nor. The city's last hope lies with a mouse so small and so young that even his family calls him “Runt.”

But it is not just the rats who want JaRed son of ReDemec dead. A cold shadow stalks the war-darkened tunnels of the underground mouse city. A bodiless evil threatens to bring the myths of the Ancients suddenly comes to life.

Betrayed by a hatred as thick as blood, surrounded by enemies too terrifying to comprehend, JaRed is about to encounter a power beyond even that of the Great Owl...a power that will fling him into a destiny wilder than anything he's ever imagined! (From the inside flap.)

Talking mice, evil rats, cities and civilizations...you think you've seen it done before. Think again!

Daniel Schwabauer is a master storyteller – and you think you've heard that one before, too. Think again! Mr. Schwabauer has entered a well-established sub-genre of fantasy and created a totally original tale. Combining a hauntingly beautiful mythology with a tale set in a mouse city preparing for war, Runt the Brave is a wonderful tale of loss and jealousy and bravery.

Originality is not having a new story idea, but putting a new twist on an old story idea, and Mr. Schwabauer does this masterfully. Inevitably, stories like this get compared to Redwall or Watership Down, but I think Runt the Brave can stand on its own quite well, and of the three, Runt the Brave is probably my favorite.

The plot is fast and keeps the pages turning, and the world-building is excellent. Like I've already mentioned, Mr. Schwabauer has created a unique world and a “rodent” mythology that works very well for the storyline. And as for characters, I've rarely seen them better. Each character is layered and well-written. The two “main” characters, HaRed and JaRed, both have incredibly real character arcs, and the supporting characters are also very well-done.

The style of the prose is likewise unique. It took a little getting used to at first, since the style is heavily narrative and sometimes relies on “telling” in order to keep it narrative. However, after the first few chapters I stopped noticing it and let the story carry me away.

And finally, the theme. Let me pause for a moment here to say that this was a deeply moving and wonderful novel. I've said it again and again; I'm a sucker for a good theme, and Mr. Schwabauer has created a novel with themes straight from his heart. And those are the best kind, because those are the ones that will touch other people.

I'll say it in a sentence. Runt the Brave is a fantastic and moving novel that goes straight from the heart, to the heart. I love it.

Really and Truly.

I rate it 9.5 out of 10.

And here's a bit of advertising: Daniel Schwabauer is the creator of the fantastic One Year Adventure Novel (OYAN) curriculum. Runt the Brave has recently been republished with AMG Publishers, with the new cover to the right. Here's a link to it on Amazon.

Here's the best part: the royalties for this book go towards making a creative arts center, referred to by the OYANers as Hobbit Holes. I talked about this incredible vision in my blog post about the OYAN Workshop.


So whatever you do for this book contributes towards Hobbit Holes. So buy it, share it, tell other people about it. Daniel Schwabauer (always and affectionately “Mr. S” in the hearts of OYANers everywhere) has shared his vision with us, and we want to pass it on. Consider doing a small part.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Happy Endings

Fiction novels these days have mood swings.

As with a lot of other things in life (predestination and free will, for instance), people tend to swing one way or another on happy endings.  There are two mistakes novelists make when writing endings, and that's either to make it too happy or not happy enough.

This particular subject was brought to my attention by a person named Hana who commented on my post about fantasy cliches.  She wrote this:

" I, personally, adore writing teen fiction, so long as I never finish with the all too familiar 'happy ending.' Life has loose ends, odds that won't match up, people that end up alone, afraid, and without hope. You can't tie a story up with a pretty red bow and and call it a masterpiece. Often, things are left unfinished, words remain unsaid, and regret lingers in the air. If we are steering from cliche its not the subjects I stress to look out for, more-so the endings. "

I agree wholeheartedly that things aren't as easy as many books portray it to be. There needs to be grit. Too many novels make everything tie up in the end, easily and without cost. There needs to be cost, otherwise there won't be meaning. The world doesn't work like that.

But here is where I differ, very strongly.

I never have the excuse to write a completely realistic novel. As a writer, I have a vision of a sort of world that is different from our own, a better sort of world, the sort of world that is sanctified - even if we never get there.  But you cannot change the world unless you show what it could be, not what it already is.

Maybe fathers leaving their kids is realistic, but it's certainly something we want to change.  Maybe there's a story where the dad comes back - or never leaves at all.

Say somebody got lost in the wilderness. He's starving, he hasn't had water for hours. What good would it do to come up to him and describe to him his story, front-to-back, thirst and all? It would certainly be realistic. That is, after all, the way his life worked.

But say I sat down and told him a different story, one that was less realistic. Say I told him that if he had the strength to cross the wilderness, there was a lush oasis on the other side. Say that I told him that there was water there, and fruit he could eat, and a way to get back to civilization.

Realistic? Maybe not. But it gives him something a "sober realistic novel of to-day" (as Chesterton would say) never could. It gives him hope. It gives him vision. It gives him the motivation to change.

As a novelist, I'm not in the business of showing the world as it is. I'm in the business of changing the world into what it could be.

And, as a disclaimer, this involves showing the world as it is, but not stopping there.  The first three-quarters or Tornado C show the world as it is - the fantasy world, anyway.  But as things rise to a climax, that is where my story departs from our perception of what is "realistic".  My story has a happy ending.  Not one without pain or loss, but a happy ending.  Because even if unhappy endings are realistic, that's not what each of us wants in our own lives.

That doesn't mean I'm going to write perfect characters and completely happy endings and god-from-the-machine climaxes. But that does mean that I'll never write a book that is completely realistic - because realism is a portrait of depravity.

I'm not going to write a Brave New World. I'm going to write a Lord of the Rings.

What do you think?  Happy endings or not?  Do you agree with how I defined realism? Why?  I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Vision: OYAN Summer Workshop 2013

“All that we call spirit and art and ecstasy only means that for one awful instant we remember that we forget.” —G. K. Chesterton

On Monday, the seventeenth of June, at four-thirty, I arrived at MidAmerica Nazarene University for the OYAN Summer Workshop.

And never have I had a week simultaneously so long and so short. It seems that so much had happened in so little time. There were so many people, so many people I knew already, so many people that I learned to know. It passed with the speed of Almost-Flash, and yet small instants here and there remain riveted in my memory like a vivid picture.

This is me, trying to articulate these chaotic memories and process them. I've done this before, and I'll probably do it again: I'm going to think on paper and let you in on what's going on in my mind. It's going to be confusing (especially all of the inside jokes), and it's going to be unorganized. But I sincerely hope that it interests those who didn't go to the Workshop and helps those who did.

If I could describe the Workshop in one word, it would be this: vision.

OYAN gave me a vision. Not just for my novel, but for OYAN itself, and especially for that brief glimpse that Mr. S gave us the last night, of hobbit holes, a Rivendell for writers, an impossible thing that he wanted to make possible. That's what vision is, like hope.

At the Workshop, I remembered that I had forgotten. I caught a glimpse, a vision, of what could be. That maybe we writers could actually make a difference telling stories. I knew this in my head, but at OYAN I saw it. I saw that vision, I saw the passion in others for storytelling, for Christ, for trying to change the world. We were an army of ordinary heroes.

I've never seen anything like it. Not even remotely. For the first time, I was among writers I actually knew, that actually did the things I did, liked the things I liked. The first time I went to a Workshop I only knew one person. This time I knew dozens before I went, and even more afterward.

One of my memories comes to mind from Monday, the very first day: I'm leaning far back in my seat and talking to all of the other people I'm sitting with in the lounge. Queen Jane is dozing and telling people she's “not asleep” every other word with her hilariously British accent, Eagles laughs even though half our jokes aren't funny, Sandy is sitting on the table because there aren't any chairs nearby, Gunstrav is grinning, my sisters laugh. I don't even remember what we were talking about, but it was after eleven o'clock and everything was funny.

And there was so much good about the Workshop. My critique group was wonderful and lively and so funny, and actually liked my novel. I got into a theological discussion with some friends (someone evidently playing telephone changed the word to “debate”) for several meals and had a great time of it—we talked on controversial topics from predestination to Mormonism to evolution and never got angry or heated at one another despite a wide range of opinions. Jill Williamson was fantastic (and knew my name!) and I had a wonderful mentoring session with her. Jeff Gerke was one of us—he even dressed in two different costumes! The fluffnark still lives and Jeff's new shirt is proof of it. Mrs. S was herself and that's all we could ever ask for.

It's hard to articulate to people how exactly the Workshop felt. Sure, people can understand having lots of fun and being geeky with other people, like what I just described above. That part is easy. But what a lot of people don't understand is the level of emotion and the depth of friendship that develops between people you spend all day with for four days in a row.

I've talked with a couple non-OYANers about the Workshop in the last few days. They asked how it went. I said it was incredible good and sad at the same time. Sad? How was it sad? That was what they asked. Really.

I'm not sure exactly how it could not be sad. I was sad since the second day. You see, the worst part about OYAN was that it had to end. As Mark Wilson said during one of his lectures, you can't stay in Rivendell forever. The Workshop was a wonderful place of teaching and people and laughing and singing, but it couldn't go on forever. In fact, it could only go on for four days: “a far too short a time to live among such excellent and admirable OYANers.”

The Workshop was our Rivendell. It was our place of rest and restoration on our long and hard journeys. It was a place of community, of love and grace and a lot of laughing. And we knew that once we left we had to go to Mordor.

But the Workshop wasn't just that. The Workshop wasn't the end: it was the end of the beginning. Rivendell was a place for rest, but it was also the launching pad for so many great things. And that's what the Workshop did: it launched us back into our lives to march on, through all of the dangers of life, to persevere and maybe even change the world. It gave us rest, spiritually: physically we stayed up way too late and got up way too early. But after you rest you have to work.

We had remembered that we had forgotten, but we couldn't forget again. We had seen a vision, I had seen a vision, and we couldn't just file that away.

So that was the Workshop, a terribly and terrifyingly wonderful gathering of men and Time Lords and elves and Ithilien Rangers and writers...ordinary heroes.

I want to pause for a moment to talk about something I mentioned earlier. It's about Mr. S's last lecture, the one where he talked about vision.

Mr. S had a vision. OYAN was a Rivendell for writers, but only for a few days out of the year. But what if it actually existed? What if we could create a real haven for writers, where we could come anytime for rest and healing and restoration? What if we could make...hobbit holes?

The extent of what Mr. S talked about is too large and scoping and wonderful for me to cover here, but I'll try to summarize.

He wanted to really and truly build a place here on Earth for writers, a permanent residence where smaller groups of people could come for workshops, or to simply stay and write. They would be hobbit holes, amplified ordinariness. They wouldn't just look like them, they would literally be hobbit holes, with real wood and round windows and doors and holes in the ground.

He wanted to really and truly build a library, and in his mind's eye it has a spiral staircase and a real growing and living tree, and a place entirely devoted to every book the OYANers have ever published.

He wanted to really and truly build a creative arts center, a place for graphic design and filmmaking and so many other things.

Mr. S showed us his vision. And there wasn't a person (that I know of) that wasn't deeply moved by it. (If you're an OYANer and you were there and you weren't deeply moved, then you're a Dalek.)

Now we're carrying that vision on with us, not only to change the world through our writing, but to help others to do so by creating a real, physical place where writers can go, a real Rivendell.

And really, it looks impossible. But Mr. S was undaunted. OYAN remains undaunted. Because God has done the impossible before. And you know what? You can't change the world unless you try. We can't say building hobbit holes is impossible until after we've done all we can.

And after the lecture, we met outside and we prayed with Mr. S, and we sang (I sang hardest when we sang “It Is Well With My Soul”), and we laughed, and we said goodbye, and it was hard. And people cried.

I cried.

I did. I really did.

Leaving people is hard. Especially when they're writers like you, and you've spent the last four days laughing and eating and talking and learning with them. Especially when you're going back to Africa and you don't know if you'll ever see any of these people again.

It was hard.

But it was worth it.

David Platt once said that all mission is separation. You can't be sent out unless you're leaving. It involves sacrifice. And each and every OYANer has been sent out, and we've been separated, but we're spreading our vision.

We have a vision to change the world for God, and we won't let it die out. It'll hurt, but it'll be worth it. We have a community utterly unique.  We're OYANers.


Ordinary heroes.