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Archive for December 2006

Merry Christmas Everyone…

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…and a Happy New Year too.

See you in 2007!

Written by taj

December 24, 2006 at 8:13 pm

Posted in General

I am Time’s Person of the Year

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And so are you, apparently.

I recall a moment in book two of Douglas Adams’s Hitchhiker “Trilogy,” The Restaurant at the End of the Universe.

The deposed President of the Universe, a terribly self absorbed little man named Zaphod Beeblebrox, has been sentenced enter the Total Perspective Vortex. The Vortex shows you just how small and insignificant you are compared to the vastness of all creation, and once you see just how unimportant you are, it just kills you.

Zaphod, however, emerges from the Vortex unharmed. It simply confirmed, you see, that he really was the most important person in the universe.

And now, thanks to this, I can share the same gleeful satisfaction.

Somehow, I don’t think this is what the editorial board at Time had in mind. But thanks for thinking of me anyway, folks. I appreciate it.

Written by taj

December 20, 2006 at 1:16 pm

Posted in General

On Sale Now

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A certain mega furniture store here in Colorado just announced that their after Christmas year-end sale begins today.

And it’s one week before Christmas.

I don’t know, something about that struck me as odd.

Written by taj

December 18, 2006 at 8:01 am

Posted in General

Harry Potter Stays in School

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The most challenged books so far in the 21st century will stay on the shelf in Gwinnett County schools.  Color me pleased. 

I can’t wait to see the uproar when Christians catch wind of the His Dark Materials trilogy.  The first installment, The Golden Compass,  hits theaters next Christmas. 

The end of the world will follow soon after. 

Written by taj

December 14, 2006 at 5:00 pm

Posted in Books, Movies, Pop Culture

So how’s that novel coming?

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Glad you asked. The novel may have entered a prolonged period of hibernation, but it’s never been far from mind. I’ll still go in and write down ideas and even a few lines of prose every now and then. The challenge has been the changing nature of the plot, and I think its time to start discussing some of the particulars…

Back in high school, I came up with the idea of a group of college students who wrote for an underground publication that had eclipsed the popularity of their school’s newspaper. It would be an ensemble, coming-of-age yarn following the lives of four students and their mentor. The main character—a bright young man much akin to myself—would write a provocative piece for their little rag that would spark a certain amount of controversy, and thus drive the plot. I had some ideas about where to take the characters involving aspects of comedy, tragedy, and of course, an epic romance.

Looking at that little synopsis now, I can’t decide if I want to laugh or cry at its trifled banality. But I was seventeen when I came up with it, so give me a break. I think most aspiring authors start by “creating” stories very similar to the ones they’ve grown to love (something Stephen King wisely took to heart before sitting down to write The Gunslinger after he read The Lord of the Rings). My cookie-cutter plot felt great to me back in the day, though. I had grand ideas about love and the writer’s life at seventeen, most of which were later crushed to oblivion or reshaped by various other factors by the time I graduated college.

Therefore, the story changed over time as well. Having finally come of age myself, I can tell this story honestly. And without the cheap Hollywood B-movie design. So, the new synopsis, as rough as it is, has become the story of Connor McCall. Last year, I plugged away with fair consistency, and generated about 20,000 words of text. The story continued to change as the naïve ideas of the former synopsis gave way to more interesting ideas I felt more compelled to explore. Unfortunately, after so many words, I hit a wall.

Since shelving the project, I’ve earned a few paying freelance assignments, and have concentrated more on some shorter projects. The novel beckoned, however, gnawing away at me, and looking for another opportunity to come back to life. Then, a friend offered me a little competition: complete one novel before he loses fifty pounds.

Over the weekend I began thinking about the changing nature of the story I wanted to tell. The old idea always seemed like something that could merit 70 to 80,000 words. But the way the narrative began to take shape, it may fall somewhere between 50 or 60,000. With a third of this already written, that puts me 40,000 away from completion, give or take. Break that down over, say, two months, and that’s a mere 666 words a day.

And that’s a very attainable goal.

So I said yes. And despite that rather eerie daily goal, I’m going make a go at it. So, CalvinDude, you’re on.

Written by taj

December 11, 2006 at 7:12 pm

Posted in Writing

Eragon—the last 200 pages…

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Not a bad read. The quality of the writing improved a little, especially during the climax where, thankfully, nary a passive sentence appeared.

Paolini has created a vast, full world. His skill with prose will undoubtedly improve over time, but for now, his narrative provides a fun escape. That’s more than I can say for a few stories I’ve read.

I especially admired Paolini’s willingness to tackle the issue of destiny and free will, and I enjoy watching these worldviews spar. Christian denominations still struggle over doctrines of predestination, almost to a fault, and the fantasy genre facilitates a perfect realm to discuss the implications of both.

However, this book is more set up than whole—book one of three. Paolini includes enough pay offs to satisfy this act, but the questions of choice and fate still linger over his characters. I’m curious to see what he has to say.

Whenever you toss fate into the mix, implications about the architect of said fate at least deserve a mention. So far, this young author has kept his narrative clear of any such exposition. But there’s two more books to go. I made the decision to give Eldest (book two) a try around page 350. So, we’ll just have to see.

Written by taj

December 9, 2006 at 6:43 pm

Posted in Books, stories

Reading “Eragon”

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When I first learned that Christopher Paolini was only eighteen when he published this novel, I became intrigued. I figured, if you can score a book contract at eighteen, there’s got to be something special threaded into the pages. Right?

I did a little research, and learned that Paolini first published Eragon through his parents’ publishing arm, and then struck out across the country to promote the thing. He spoke at libraries and schools, usually appearing in period garb, and painted a large picture of the dragon featured in his story while delivering his pitch. He eventually earned the attention of Alfred A. Knopf, and the rest, well, you know.

The book rose to the number one spot on the NY Times bestseller list, and as you can imagine, the movie rights were picked up soon after (the film premieres this Christmas). I bought the book on impulse last week. I’m 300 pages in, and here are my thoughts so far…

The story follows the titular character Eragon, a fifteen year old orphan boy who stumbles upon a dragon egg in the wilderness. Destiny leads him to become the next Dragon Rider—part of an ancient group of protectors. The narrative paints the hero quest rather predictably, but moves along well enough. The writing could use a polish—Paolini relies on adverbs almost as much as Rowling, and far too many sentences fall into passive voice. Many times, his characters tend to sound alike. That’s a big no no when your three mains are a wise old warrior, a boy, and a dragon.

As far as plot, what more can I say than it’s held me thus far? I will finish the book and will probably see the movie. It was written for teens, and being unfamiliar with that market, I can’t really offer a take on its merits there. Compared to other works of fantasy, the book falls among the parade of other efforts that somehow seek to emulate the grand experience of The Lord of the Rings.

It seems somehow unfair to accuse Paolini of borrowing his favorite elements of classic fantasy tales and creating his own. Many writers have earned quite a lot of money doing this very thing. Besides, they all follow the same steps of the hero’s journey. I’ve written before that an author’s originality will not show in the structure of the plot, but the colors he / she uses to paint the journey. Paolini’s colors fall a little flat in this effort, but to the casual reader, this will probably go unnoticed. It’s an entertaining escape, though it lacks the fanfare and depth of other more mature efforts. I think the one thing hindering Paolini here may simply be his age. I’m curious to see what he creates in the coming years. If he keeps at it, he could establish himself quite well.

Once I put this on the shelf, I’m going to take a stab at the Dark Tower series (Andrew, this is for you).

Written by taj

December 5, 2006 at 10:16 pm

Posted in Books, stories, Writing