Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Belgariad by David Eddings

Today, I'm going to talk about my favorite book series of all time, and its subsequent sequels, prequels, and companion text. This was, of course, none other than the epic fantasy series "The Belgariad" by David Eddings. Though Brandon Sanderson is my favorite author, the Belgariad is undoubtedly my favorite series, mainly because of the nostalgia attached to it.

I grew up with these books. Right now, I'm on my sixth reread of the entire collection of books set in that world, about two-thirds of the way through it. I've read and reread these books over a period of ten or so years, and have loved them more and more with each return to their beautiful story.

The first line of the first chapter (barring the prologue, which is sort of like a history article that explains the creation mythos) is: "The first thing the boy Garion remembered was the kitchen at Faldor's farm." That line, for the past ten years, has been my entrance into a familiar world filled with characters, places, and scenes that I love dearly, almost as if I had experienced them myself.

Our main character is a farm boy named Garion, and we see the expanding world of each novel through his inexperienced yet determined-to-understand eyes. Yes, it's a cliche--a farm boy (oh, and did I mention he's an orphan too?), but this was back in the 1980's, when this was what fantasy was--the classic quest story with the orphaned boy destined for greatness. And this is still the best version of that classic story I have ever read and probably will ever read.

David Eddings is a master of dialogue. These books are so unbelievably's not even funny. No, I lie, it is. His dialogue is hilarious. He does banter better than almost anyone I've ever seen in fantasy, and I am consistently amazed at how well he can characterize people who are (to an extent), sort of cliches.

For a long time, I've tried to see if I could get some of my friends to read this series. At first, one of them was willing to try, though it is a long series (five books, and then a sequel series of five more, the Malloreon), and they seemed to be liking it. But it turned out that it just wasn't their thing, and I was discouraged. I kept wondering if these books weren't as good as my nostalgia was making them out to be, and the only reason I liked them so much was because I had grown up reading them. But then I remembered the Facebook group I'm a part of: "Got Belgariad?". There are hundreds of people in that group that love this series as much as I do, and that was good enough for me.

But then my brother started reading the books. And he loved them.

And then one of my best friends started reading them, and loved them too.

One of the greatest feelings in the world is sharing art that you love with someone close to you and them loving it as much as you do. I've so enjoyed talking to my brother and my best friend Miranda about this series and these characters. I also sort of envy them--they get to visit it for a first time, and I can only read it again. But it's okay, I can live vicariously through their experience.

So, in close, this series, the Belgariad by David Eddings, is incredible, and is filled with lovable characters, witty dialogue, beautiful use of language, amazing world-building, and a gripping story with an epic scope. Do yourself a favor and try them out.

And remember...never forget the cabbages!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Anywhere 2014

This year was a year of change.

I graduated high school, along with an amazing group of other teenagers that I believe will do great things in this world for the Lord. I struggled with mistakes, and I learned from them, pressing on against the things in this world that would hold me back. I watched as some of the people dearest to me began to move on with their lives, going forward towards their dreams. Some of those people moved away. Some stayed in little old Janesville. I try to stay in touch with all of them, but sometimes you just can't continue to have as close a friendship as you once did, because of the distance.

For the past three years, my friend group and I have had a short phrase that we used to categorize our year. In 2012, that was YOLO, which was sort of ironically chosen because of how much all of us thought that phrase was dumb. We ended up embracing its simpler meaning, and had all sorts of crazy adventures that year. That year was the year I began to develop the deepest friendships I'd ever had before, and continue to have.

Next, it was Younglife in 2013, referencing the Anberlin song of the same name. We continued to have crazy adventures, but this was the year that most of my dearest friends graduated and started to go in a different direction with their lives. The bridge of the song Younglife perfectly illustrated my hopes and fears at that point in my life: "All those days gone forever, wonder if we're gonna ever see all our Younglife friends that we made again. Have we all lost connection? Life blows in all directions. Memories bring us back to where we've been."

This year, it was a few months before we ended up deciding on a phrase. Most of the people who had been such a vital part of my life before had begun to move away or just not be in touch as much, and so there was less of that "every Sunday afternoon we hang out" mentality, as we all began to grow up. Finally, in the driveway of one of my best friends', we came up with our theme for the year. Anywhere.

You see, my two best friends in all the world--Anna and Miranda--were moving to Moberly, Missouri, to go to a fantastic Bible college. And the clock kept ticking away the time we had left together. We decided there and then that ANYWHERE we were, we'd still be side by side. Things were going to change, but we would still keep in touch. We would still be the best of friends. And we would still support each other and love each other in everything the others did.

The months passed, my two best friends moved away. I had a really hard time without them. And I mean really hard. I was very depressed for a while, and though I probably didn't outwardly show it, the more time that passed not having seen them, the harder it got. Finally, they came back in October for a weekend, and I got to hug them and laugh with them again. It was wonderful. But it was also very obvious that things had changed, and they could never go back to being quite like they had been. And I had to deal.

I didn't deal very well at first. To be honest, I was sort of bitter. Though I desperately wished I could drop everything and go to Missouri, I knew that it made no sense. Everything that I did, everything that I was here in Janesville. The best plan...the thing that made the most sense for my life was to stay here. And so, I worried. I worried that my two best friends would move on with their lives completely, and little old me would be left behind, wondering where they had gone off to.

I was very bitter, with God, with everyone around me. I just couldn't understand why any of this had to happen. Why couldn't everyone just stay in Janesville and life could stay the same? But then the Lord started working on my heart. Things are going to change, Caleb, He said. There is nothing you can do about that. All you can do is continue as you always have. Being the person I created you to be.

I realized something. Who was I to think that I knew better than God in this master plan? Who was I to believe that I knew how to tell the story better? The only thing I could do was continue to love and support everyone around me, giving them encouragement. That's the thing I'm good for. God didn't want me to be bitter. He needed me to be supporting, encouraging. He needed me to be there for people. And I was too busy wallowing in my depression to see that. Until now.

I'm okay. Yes, things have changed, and yes, I still hope that when we're all adults, some of us can live nearby each other and continue to be the best of friends, and then our kids can be friends, and it'll be awesome...but I'm okay. I'm okay with what God has planned for my life, whatever kind of crazy ups and downs it holds. If there's one thing I know, it's that life is God's story, and the only thing I'm good for is being a part of that story the best way I know how.

So, as Anywhere 2014 comes to a close, I take a look back and realize how great my life was...and how great my life continues to be, despite the changes. My best friends are still my best friends, and we've changed...but no matter where we go from here, we'll still be side by side. Goodbye, Anywhere, and hello 2015, whatever you will be titled.

And thank you Lord, for this breath I'm breathing, this life I'm living, this song I'm singing, and this story we're telling.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

I Won #NaNoWriMo

Hey guys, guess what? I won National Novel Writing Month!

Yes, I wrote 50,000 words in the month of November. It was both easier and harder than I thought it would be, in different ways. It was easy to write that much, because I write pretty fast anyway, and had already outlined the story extensively, but it was hard to write that much without editing. I ended up getting to a point where I knew I would have to go back and change major plot things, but I had to keep going, because I was behind. 

I learned a lot about my process during the month--namely that I can't not edit while writing. I can't turn off my internal editor, and that's not a bad thing. It makes my prose pretty workable by the time I get done with a chapter, but it also makes writing a chapter take a little longer. When I was completely focused on writing during November, that wasn't that big of a deal, and I could more or less churn out a chapter every three to five days or so. But now that I have to work on other things, such as my music, college preparation, and other projects, I'm not going to be able to finish chapters as frequently. But that's okay. It works.

As people have been reading along online and critiquing To Look Skyward, I've caught a lot of things that I need to fix. Unfortunately, I need to keep this book plodding slowly forward, so I don't get stuck in an eternal rewrite. That means I'm going to have to ignore the glaring mistakes and focus on making the next parts of the book better. I can come back and fix everything in a second draft. So, off I go! Wish me luck. 50,000 words down, lots more to go. This is definitely going to be a thick book. But it is an epic fantasy... So there's that.