Monday, December 20, 2010

INKBLOTS, Merry Christmas men's writing gathering

December 20, 2010
Ode to a Desert Eagle
This handy piece of heat is nifty,
A hulking, hand-held cannon .50… (okay, sorry, I’m done)
John Schrupp brought along his desert eagle to show off to the boys, impressive piece of work. But now onto our literary purposes. I’m sitting by the McComas’s Christmas tree, composed of polyurethane green spiny things, built-in lights, a wooden toy on skis with a Santa hat, warm fire on the grate, a French red John brought from his daughter and son-in-law’s home. John leads off with his contemporary novel, exploring the complexities of unwed pregnancy and pressures society places on young people to abort.

I’m feeling like the dialogue is a bit wooden. This is the value of reading aloud. It is so easy to overwrite with dialogue, but it is so essential to get it right. Ear training. I like the carrot cake fixation. Good example of how we put the essential next to the trivial. I think the dialogue about the football jock who got another girl pregnant, and the new girl learning of the jerk’s past escapades. This needs to be broken with thoughts in between the back-and-forth dialogue. As it reads right now, it seems to lack the inner realities we humans have going on when we are talking with other human beings.

Dave K makes a good point about chapter break after the mom makes the offer of the $10,000 to abort the baby, then break to the conversation between the guy and girl. Doug M said John left out all the body language. I commented that the dialogue needs to open up with the realities of inner struggles, uncertainties, do I trust him, is he a jerk who gets girls pregnant, must go inside, woven together with body language, what they would be doing with hands, eyes, mannerisms—the shimmying knee, or whatever. Chapter breaks are like punctuation, just on a larger scale. They are important to the pacing of the story, fall at natural episode transitions, but also serve to suspend the reader, and suspension holds the reader up in the air, like a suspension bridge.

I next read my carol effort. Doug M’s comment was that there was no change in temperature, not just cold and hot, but more atmospheric temperature. John S thought I should bring more body language, nuanced layers… Yeah right! One guy wondered why I didn’t bring in the desert eagle. Everybody’s a comedian. Is Christ ever actually called the Light, came up for discussion. They preferred an earlier version of stanza on resurrection, which was helpful.

Shane reading a poem (could be a hymn) reflections on the vast contrast between the persona and Christ. It is a poem declaration of faith, a rehearsal of the gospel coming to a sinner, the persona in the poem. He reaped the deadly harvest my life deserved. My soul he’s freed from all my chains. Does this poem which declares truth so clearly, doctrinally, does it lead to Psalm-like praise, adoration of God for all this credo? I’d encourage you to feel what all this means and express it in a final stanza.Next shane read a short satirical piece about a man named Josephus at the pool of Shiloam, recounting healing by Jesus, confronted by ecclesiastical elites who fined him for carrying his mat on the Sabbath. Good humor. People won’t give money though to a guy who has been healed and is now able to earn his way. Suing for loss of revenue. Jesus’s intrusion into the life of the lame man. Decided to sue Jesus for loss of wages, intrusive Rabbi, precedent set in suit Israel v. Moses (or is it God) for leading them out of Egypt when there were still graves in Egypt. Press release motif. Witty, ironic, shows how temporal, short-term concerns can crowd out eternal ones. Does biblical text that inspired this piece give hint of whether healed man was like the nine lepers or the one?

Dave K reads chapter about the militia blowing up the UN building. The dialogue seems stilted, over-stated. Socialist soldiers or goons, on our tale for the last three miles. Seems to over-explain things with the spoken words. Can you shorten the dialogue and imply and infer in character’s thoughts so we don’t have to hear too much dialogue, which begins to sound unrealistic. We speak to one another in fragments. “Unemployed in Greenland” is from Princess Bride; I’d avoid referring to a line from a popular movie. Shane (physics degree, ROTC UW Seattle) knows something about explosives and questioned Dave on hoe he described a bomb blast and glass fragments; if the blast was enough to knock men down, the glass fragments would be rendered, in the energy of the blast, lethal. I suggested he craft a careful synopsis of the whole tale.

Doug M. read a chapter from his new novel manuscript on a missionary family going back to Korea, their son worldly, critical of his parents, deeply uninterested in going to Korea or to any mission field for his last year of high school. In this chapter Dougie confronts the critics of WW II fire bombings of Japan and other realities of war. John commented on the use of Mr and Mrs Rand throughout, but wonders if maybe he could use Thomas’s mother or Thomas’s father, his father, his mother, varies the names. John says I can’t include any of this in the blog, but I’m doing it anyway. What he was really getting at was what Dorothy Sayers does, “The best attribution is no attribution at all.” Though I don’t actually agree with this in every case, less is more, and Horace’s “be brief” kick in, and it is good to be as tight as can be. Create authentic characters with real individual qualities, with genuine voices and mannerisms that we would recognize in the real world, that readers would recognize in the real world, and you will need attributions less. Big row about why Thomas doesn’t seem to hate the Japanese, and what Doug ought to do about it.      

Friday, December 17, 2010

MERRY CHRISTMAS! New Carol Hymn, Douglas Bond

Looking for something else on my computer two nights ago, I came across fragments of a Christmas carol effort I had begun last year but never completed. I completed it yesterday, December 16, 2010, and thought I would share it with anyone who cares to take a look at it. Needs a Long Meter (LM) tune.

What wonder filled the starry night
          When Jesus came, who is the Light!
I marvel at His lowly birth,    
          That God for sinners stooped to earth.
His splendor laid aside for me,
          While angels hail His Deity,
And shepherds on their knees in fright
          Fall down in wonder at the sight.

He ever took delight in truth,
And pleased His Father in His youth;
The Law He perfectly obeyed,          
          Its just demands for sinners paid.

What bloody sorrow drenched the site
          Where Jesus wrestled through the night,
Then for transgressions not His own,
He bore my cross and curse alone.

What Light and glory on the day
          When Jesus took death’s sting away!
His loved ones raised to Life and Light,
          Made new by grace to serve in might.

One day the angel hosts will sing,  
          “Triumphant Jesus, King of kings!” 
Eternal praise we’ll shout to Him
When Christ in splendor comes again!

                             Douglas Bond (December 16, 2010)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

INKBLOTS Men's writing gathering, November

INKBLOTS – November, 2010
Wind is blowing hard, rain, dark evening, fire crackling in the sitting room at the McComas’ home, and while I was reading chapter five of The Thundering, a novel on John Knox, branches, good-sized ones, fell on the roof and everything suddenly went black--power outages all over the region, including chunks of Tacoma, especially northend where we live. Crossing the Narrows Bridge in it was reminiscent of November 7, 1940 when Galloping Gertie galloped into the deeps of the channel. I'm happy to report that the new bridge held out as we drove home. All of which made for a mysterious and memorable evening. John brought along a fine bottle of Canoe Ridge, 1999 merlot.
Dougie Mac led off with his new tale of 1950 era, Korean missionary kid, comes home, gets married, finds himself in Marine Corps in Korean War, desperate to find his lost missionary parents. That’s the summary. Dougie read chapter one. Opening with protagonist tinkering with his beloved car, sniffing engine oil—good opening scene, giving us insight into what makes his protagonist tick. Thomas, protagonist and interaction with his dad; father and son at seventeen, curious observation from a guy who has all girls! But it brings up a good point about how important being a keen observer of people, especially ones whose lives are different from our own. Some favorite lines that made us laugh: Just me and the guys, Dad (after asking if he could go to the drive in). (Dad’s laconic reply) Exactly. Doug has a good grasp of the nuanced interplay between different players, cars, even Baptists and Presbyterians (written by a guy who’s been both, either, or, and). This is boy/girl candidly romantic story from the point of view of Christian-raised church guys feeling the pull of the world’s view of sex and romance. A bit over written, in a place or two, though after I had you reread it, it sounded pretty good, so be careful as you edit and revise here. Stands out to me that Thomas’s thoughts about his friends baiting him, and going too far in conversation about girls, and wishing he didn’t always go along with them. Dave pointed out that Lester and Frankie seemed like the same character, different name, a good observation. John kept saying, I liked it. You do a really good job.

Dave read a rewrite of part of his futuristic thriller magnum opus. Cory sitting by himself reading his Bible. Josh asked his uncle how he can know that God loves us. Mom, Mommy, and tears. This seems to be a bit out of the blue, but that may be that I have not kept the big picture together. A witnessing scene is difficult to pull off with authenticity—hard to write what is true and good without trivializing the very thing the well-intentioned author so wants to convey. The danger is actually doing the opposite of what one intends to do: the grand and glorious becomes the sentimental and banal. I’ve had to confront this many times in my writing, it seems. May I suggest going inside Josh’s head (the unbeliever) and make him scoff internally, show him being two faced, being nice and polite to his uncle but in his mind hating him, thinking he’s an ignorant simpleton, thinking he knows better than his uncle and all Christians. Work toward helping your reader see through the fallacies of the critic of the gospel. By showing his unfair scorn, his irrational rejection, his mocking of the witness his uncle, you the writer, thereby, help the reader shift to a more serious consideration of the truth of the gospel. John was pretty blunt about not liking the non-chalance of the killing scene, killing three guys after some effort at evangelism, then drinking a milk shake together. Be careful not to tack on evangelism and Christianity to legitimize your tale. Look for a key phrase that epitomizes the protagonist’s problem: Enemy of God… Weave it throughout, developing it as you go.

John reads new first chapter. “Think we’ll have any trouble tonight?” Dougie when he heard this said, “He’s dead.” Careful of being too predictable. This is a police bust of a gang deal going down in a warehouse in Detroit inner-city. Music softly playing… kids and music softly playing. Softly? Andy’s left eye began to twitch. Shooting, getting shot, being confronted by vengeful gang banger. Good work with the cop talking to the gang member, buying time. Make the officer who’s down, go inside his pain, what does that feel like, so your reader feels the downed officer’s agony from gunshot wound. And more family reflection of his wife, personal things, his kids, his horror that the gang banger is threatening to kill his wife and children. Have the partners earlier chatting about kid’s birthday party next day or that evening. Have his partner down be able to fire, save Andy’s life from the execution style shooting about to happen. Chapter one ends with gun shot, Andy thinks it was for him, all fades to black. Chapter two begins: it was his partner that he thought was dead who shot the gang banger. 

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Join us for a SCOTTISH REFORMATION evening, November 27, 2010

In that after Thanksgiving lull, come out and commemorate the 450th of the Scottish Reformation, 1560-2010!

Where? Gig Harbor Library, Peninsula Room (same location as Calvin last year)
When? Saturday evening, November 27, 2010 -- 6:30 pm
Who? EVERYONE! Free and open to the public.

What's going to happen?
      1. Authentic Scottish Shortbread
      2. BAGPIPER: My son Rhodri Douglas Bond playing favorite bagpipe tunes 
      3. Talks, discussion, and Q & A:
             Does the Reformation Matter Today?
             (Rev. Leldon Partain, Rosedale Reformed Church)
Did John Knox Hate Women? His Life & Legacy                                                               (Author/Teacher Douglas Bond, gleanings from research and writing for my forthcoming book, THE MIGHTY WEAKNESS OF JOHN KNOX, Reformation Trust, to release April, 2011)

During the talks, we'll be sharing recent images from Scotland, taken last April on the Royal Mile, Edinburgh, St. Andrews and beyond.

AND I'll be giving away three books (DUNCAN'S WAR, KING'S ARROW, REBEL'S KEEP) to participants in the Q & A time.

Come yourself! Bring the family (coloring for children)! Invite your friends and neighbors!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Bringing the Gospel to Covenant Children

I was asked to read Joel Beeke's excellent little book, BRINGING THE GOSPEL TO COVENANT CHILDREN, and endorse. I thought I'd share a few excerpts and my endorsement here. I wrote of the book (before editor revisions):
“In language every parent can understand, Joel Beeke demonstrates how presumptive regeneration and hyper covenantalism can bar our children from Christ and the gospel and tragically produce Pharisees. Parents who love Christ and their children will not want to miss this clear, practical, confessional, and imminently biblical work on how Christ and his gospel alone transform our covenant children.”
Douglas Bond, author of The Fathers & Sons series: STAND FAST and HOLD FAST, and THE BETRAYAL, a novel on John Calvin 

“Parents confused by neo-Calvinism’s implication that covenant children are justified by parental faithfulness will find refreshing biblical clarity in Bringing the Gospel to Our Covenant Children. In it parents will find confidence to open the Bible and show their children Christ and his gospel on every page. There may not be a more important resource for every Christian parent to read and reread as they evangelize and nurture covenant children in Christ.”  
Douglas Bond, author of The Fathers & Sons series: STAND FAST and HOLD FAST, and THE BETRAYAL, a novel on John Calvin

Here's excerpts from Joel Beeke:

"The fruits of presumptive regeneration are often tragic. Parents who presume that their children are regenerate by virtue of the covenant see no need to tell their children that they must be born again and come to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. William Young calls this view “hyper-covenantism,” because the relation of children to the covenant is exaggerated to the point that the covenant relation replaces the need for personal conversion. As Young points out, “Doctrinal knowledge and ethical conduct according to the Word of God are sufficient for the Christian life without any specific religious experience of conviction of sin and conversion, or any need for self-examination as to the possession of distinguishing marks of saving grace.” Consequently, what our Reformed forefathers called experimental religion is deemed largely superfluous. Ultimately, though Kuyperian neo-Calvinists may not like to admit it, religious life becomes grounded in external church institutions and activities rather than in the soul’s communion with God. “A system for breeding Pharisees, whose cry is ‘We are Abraham’s children,’could hardly be better calculated,” Young concludes."

And here's Beeke on a biblical, confessional view of paedo-baptism:

"Some Reformed churches depreciate the covenant relation of children, not by rejecting infant baptism and the covenant relation altogether, but by reducing the sacrament to mere form and custom without insisting on what it should mean for the lives both of the parents and their baptized children. In such circles, the church has no eye for the promises of God in baptism, no heart for pleading those promises in prayer, and no clear understanding of how God earnestly calls covenant children to a lifestyle consecrated to Himself and separated from the world….

"Baptism affirms that the baptized child is placed under covenant privileges and responsibilities, but does not make the child a partaker of the saving, internal essence of the covenant. The external covenant relationship can be broken when a child grows to adulthood and abandons God’s Word and the corporate worship of His people. Baptized children must be linked to the internal, unbreakable essence of the covenant through the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit ( John 3:3-7). Only then shall they be given persevering grace for the rest of their lives….

"Baptized children must be directed to Jesus Christ and His sacrifice as the only way of salvation. Christ’s cleansing blood, symbolized by the cleansing water of baptism, is the only way by which our children may be saved…

"Baptism teaches that God, in and through the Second Adam, Jesus Christ, is able and willing to be the Redeemer and Father of our children….

"Knowing such things should encourage us more to evangelize our children and to plead for their salvation, never giving God rest until they are all brought safely into His fold. Then, too, we must teach our covenant children and young people to plead with our covenant God on the basis of His promises to baptize them with the Spirit of grace and to grant them regeneration, repentance, and faith."

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Thoughts on Job and Christ

I've been meditating on Job again (finalizing a childrens book in verse on Job), and as I was reading Sinclair F with my son Desmond tonight, it struck me. Maybe I'm wrong, but there's heaps more going on in Job than what appears at early readings (for me anyway--I've been known to be sort of slow on the uptake). Is it valid to say that Job is a prototype and foreshadowing of the humiliation and suffering God the Father would afflict on his own Son when he sent him to earth to offer up himself in our place? 

Job was upright, righteous, fearing God, turning away from evil, wealthy even. Of course no human being is these things perfectly--by a long shot; we all fall short of the glory of God. They are, however, perfect attributes of Christ. And remember that God initiates the humiliation and suffering of Job, offering Job up, as it were, to Satan. Furthermore, the set-up is all about cursing: will Job curse God when he is afflicted or will he bless God? Though Job curses the day of his birth, and is deeply perplexed, Satan was wrong: Job never curses God; nor did Christ, though he became a curse for us, our vicarious curse-bearer. Rather Job worships in suffering (chapter 2, and especially in chapter 19). Yet he does feel very much forsaken by God, who seems far off, doesn't seem to hear or care, so Job thinks, and he feels God is not being just with him, making him suffer consequences more in keeping with others offenses than any he had committed. Whereas with Christ, his Father actually does forsake his Son, who experiences Job's anguish and heaps more, bearing his people's sin and the wrath of God for us, that is, suffering for others crimes. 

Finally, God raises Job up from the ashes, restores him, lavishes wealth on him again, and commands the sorry friends to have Job be their prayer advocate, their go-between to God himself. All things that are not ordinary in a fallen world for most of us, yet all things that God did for his Son whom he highly exalted and gave a name above every name. 

If this is the sense of the big picture of Job, I'm sure others have worked this out far better, and these are rough notes, but I wonder. Job sees God, actually talks with him, repents (Jesus of course never needed to repent of or pay for sins, though he as our sin-bearer suffered under the weight of our load on our behalf. If this fits Clowney's box, then Job would be a type and foreshadowing of Christ, though I've never heard or read him being understood as such. Maybe I need to read more. Am I all wet here?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

INKBLOTS, Crispin's Day Meeting 10/25/2010

INKBLOTS 10/25/2010 (my dearest wife’s birthday—what am I doing hanging out with the guys at Inkblots, you ask? Why not out for a nice dinner with my beloved? She’s at Bible Study Fellowship tonight) 

I opened reading my friend John Ford’s intriguing poem The Cloak, an imaginative versified tale of Paul in prison longing for his scrolls and cloak. The men sat very still through a number of lines and stanzas of poetry, John having drawn us in, big time, with his pen. “Well, I liked it,” said the first Blot to break the silence. That broke the floodgate. At first one Blot was troubled by Paul’s wining (as he termed it), but as he listened he felt better and better about his method. Same Blot wished that the jailor’s father, original owner of the cloak after Christ, had been truly converted—a worthy longing, perhaps created by an author who understands the superior literary power of longing over satisfaction. Complete satisfaction in a plot most easily trivializes, or can. Another Blot commented on some of the rhyming seeming to be forced, and that the poem might be improved by tightening, making it a bit shorter (and unfortunately it is a post-poetry world so less ability to following). The key criticism was that they wished you had not revealed the origin of the cloak until a bit later.  I think I agree with this one. Clever take on it.

Dave Killian has a rewrite of an episode in his futuristic political thriller based on a Bond(age) criticism—he led off with a rather snide remark, I thought. My comment was that the doctor scene needed a point of view that connected us to the situation, a point of view that would keep this episode from being so abrupt, without relevant context to tie it to the rest of the story. I’m trying to remember just exactly what my criticism of this episode had been last time. Cliché intentional, bare white bulb, white lab coats—careful not to overdo the explicit cover of cliché description. John felt it was improved over the last time when the experiment with the rats was so abrupt, needed some history, context to avoid  a disconnect. The trouble as I see it too much point of view shifting, too many heads we’re going inside of. There are already two parallel plots, so a need to seriously avoid going into minor characters’ heads. This is a vast tale, and we may be not actually offering helpful criticism because we can’t see the big picture well enough, as well as you see it. We’re looking at the city map, and you’re looking at a world map, maybe a galactic map. Trouble is, he named this glue character, soon to be bumped off, he named the guy Stan Bond! Is this a death threat? Yikes. I suggested that Dave drap back and force himself to write a maximum of 3,000 words telling the entire story, maybe try 1,500 words, but keep it concise, rapid pace. I think this will force Dave to discover what is essential and what is not, where the critical moments in the plot lie, where he wants the climax of the story to be and what to do with it, accomplish with the whole story.

John offered me a solution to a problem on my Knox novel. How to get Knox in the bottle dungeon at St. Andrews Castle. He wouldn’t voluntarily hide in it to save his skin; that would be out of character with Knox at this point in his life (by grace alone). John is global. He figures out the big pictures and often comes up with some amazing solutions. I probably better not divulge his idea, but it was a good one, and I have every intention of working it in. He harangued away on why I didn’t listen to his advice on Hostage Lands.
John is going to read the first chapter of his novel. Retired Detroit police officer who moves to rural Oregon, somewhat of a bigot, loves peace and quiet. Son and daughter in high school… but he was 30 years on Detroit police department. Do these numbers work. Daughter pregnant, dating an African-American football star, can’t or won’t tell her dad because of his racial bigotry. Abortion dilemma ensues. Don’t need “Just to name a few.” You’ve already listed plenty. Make the description of Bee and the ducklings told from your protagonist’s observation of her; mostly you do but recast thinking specifically about sticking with Andy’s point of view. Has to be more of a reason for her to be so fascinated with baby ducks and other baby animals. How about having Andy’s two kids be his brother’s who died and Andy’s wife has never been able to have children, so the baby animal thing makes sense now.  Have Andy leave the force before retirement, partner killed, gang war, urban crime.  Every description must have work to do; it may be creating setting and atmosphere but it better have more to do than that. Strunk and White make their way from the grave into Inkblots—again. John’s comment after we ate him for after-supper snack. “I’m not discouraged. I’m just not going to write anything every again.” He was joking… I think—and hope. Barney Fife for the cop?

I read from my childrens book, versified Job I wrote in 2003 and its been sitting in my Word file. Reformation Heritage Books wrote me today saying they want to see Job’s Hard Job (working title) with a view to publishing it as picture book. Simonetta Carr asked me today if I’d read and endorse her forthcoming picture book with RHB. It took about 15 minutes to read and is about 30 pages as I see it with illustrations on each page. We’ll see what happens. It’s heavy themes, but full of supernatural encounters, a panoply of animals, all things that fascinate children--and the rest of us. We’ll see.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Bond speaking at ACM Symposium Friday--Homeschool enrichment opportunity

It's not too late to register for the ACM Symposium this Friday, October 15, 2010 in Tacoma, WA. This event is open to everyone and would be a great enrichment to homeschool curriculum for families in the area (students pay only $7.00 for this all-day and evening event: It is not exclusively for musicians!

I will be giving instruction on Church history (The Doxological Genius of Isaac Watts) and on understanding poetry and writing it, examining closely the poetic conventions, biblical allusions, and literary and theological mastery evident in several Psalm-like hymns. There will be addresses and a panel discussion on different worship "styles," how we got where we are, and where the church needs to go in its music and poetry to offer to God worthy sung worship in Spirit and in truth. The symposium is open to all Christians who care about these things.

Debuting at the the symposium will be several new hymns for the Modern Reformation, including three of my own. You will get to hear the music and sing the text under the skillful leadership of the regional Director of ACM, and composer, Ron Bechtel. And you will get to take these resources back to your home and church. To top it all off, there will be excellent live illustrations of worship music, both vocal and instrumental, for your edification and consideration. Register at 

Here are samples of seminar titles:
  • The Doxological Genius of Isaac Watts (Douglas Bond, Author and Teacher)
  • How to Hear a Hymn Tune (John Wykoff, Composer)
  • The Imaginative Watts (Douglas Bond)
  • How to Write a Hymn Tune (John Wykoff) 
Church Leaders Roundtable: “Let’s Talk about Worship Music”
  • Why Our Church Has Adopted Popular Music in Worship
  • Why Our Church Has Retained Classical Music in Worship
  • Moderated Discussion by Ron Bechtel and John Wykoff
REGISTER on-line at 

Join us!
Douglas Bond

Monday, October 11, 2010

THE BETRAYAL translated in Turkish

This is exciting to me. I received word today from Rev. Fikret Böcek that they are at work preparing a Turkish translation of THE BETRAYAL. They are in communication and negotiation with P&R Publishing. Here is the opening paragraph of chapter one:

Fransa’nın kuzeyinde, Noyon-le-Sainte’de, savaş cümbüşünün yaşandığı kasabada, yaşlı bir adam küçük bir erkek çocuğunun elini sıkıca tutmuş bütün savaşları sona erdirecek olan bu savaş üzerine derin derin düşünüyordu. Kazananın ya da kaybedenin olmadığı bu üç buçuk yıldır süren kanlı mücadele, savaşı bitirmeye yönelik bir savaştan ziyade hiç bitmeyecek bir savaş gibi gözüküyordu. Durmak bilmeyen yaylım ateşine, ilerleyen piyadelere ve siperlere rağmen izah edilemez bir şekilde katedral, şehir meydanı, Rönesans kütüphanesi ve çeşitli ortaçağ binaları savaşın bir başka devrini bekliyor gibi hala ayaktaydılar. Buna rağmen yaşlı adam için daha da mühim olan, evinin Grain Place ‘in hala ayakta durmasıydı. Tıpkı evi gibi müziği ve kitapları da hala onunlaydı.

AUTHOR INTERVIEW with questions from a reader

I was asked to do another blog interview with a reader. Here are his questions and my answers:

NA: What drew you to write Christian historical fiction?

My children began asking me not to just read them a book but to tell them a story that I made up out of my own imagination. I protested at first. “There’s plenty of perfectly good books and stories,” I attempted to argue. “Why do I need to make more of them up?” My protestations were vetoed and I started making up stories. Historical fiction came naturally to me because I love history, majored in it in college, and I have a high view of the value of Church history for keeping the Church from thinking too highly of itself today and reining in its tendency to be enamored with the latest thing.

NA: What is unique in The Betrayal compared to other Christian historical fiction?

I was sort of forced to write it by my publisher; my idea for a Calvin book was very different. They vetoed my idea and asked me to write a novel instead. I was terrified. Calvin is such a giant and I was afraid that I would make a disaster of his life if I didn’t get both the history right and the story telling right. I knew I couldn’t attempt to tell the story from inside Calvin’s head; I was sure that I could never do him justice with this point of view. So the story is unique in that I tell it from the point of view of a critic and rival who grew up with Calvin in Noyon, resented his intellect and privileges, and grew more determined to destroy him while in Paris. The story takes off from there.

NA: Were there any books that you read that became inspiration or interest
in the genre?

I was inspired by reading some historical fiction books that I didn’t feel like worked very well, that failed to create authentic characters with real problems in a real world. There seemed to be plenty of books like that, so I wanted to write books that went deep with complex characters attempting to figure out the perplexities of life in a deeply flawed and broken world. I found inspiration in just about everything I have read from C. S. Lewis (though he didn’t write historical fiction), Robert Louis Stevenson, Rosemary Sutcliff, Shakespeare, Milton, and many others.

NA: Where did the interest in John Calvin come from?

Of course the release of The Betrayal was timed with Calvin’s 500th birthday (1509-2009), but my interest in him goes much deeper than simply a timely publication strategy. I became more interested in Calvin and his influence in the Reformation and beyond while I was in college studying history. The more I have read Calvin and those who were influenced by him, the more I became convinced that he was one of the most important theologians and Christians since the closing of the biblical canon. There is a renewed interest in Calvin and his theology that is much-needed and bodes well for getting us out of the emotive rut the church has settled into in its theology, worship, and living. The Betrayal is my best-selling book and has been translated into Dutch (Het Varraad) and now into Turkish. I hope into many more languages to be read by many more Christians and unbelievers around the world.

NA: What is your favorite thing about being a teacher?

I get to hang out every day with great kids like Noah A. who have inquisitive minds, are supported by loving parents who want them to be nurtured in a gospel-of-grace centered school, where truth is understood to be first and foremost a person, Jesus Christ, not an elastic thing moderns play games with. I often think of what we are doing in the big picture: God graciously using flawed vessels to equip another generation for the work of the ministry, for living out the gospel in a troubled world that needs joyful Christians unafraid to sit down and listen and answer questions by pointing the way to free grace found in Christ alone.

NA: Which person was the hardest to write about?

In the Betrayal? I’d say Calvin himself. I created his voice from his writings, but especially from his letters where he is most accessible.

NA: Which person was the easiest to write about?

The villain. Always the villains. I guess they’re easiest to write about in part because they’re most like we are, like I am. Goodness is much more difficult to portray well in fiction. It so easily devolves into unrealistic sentimentalism (Elsie Dinsmore-ism). The Bible’s heroes always have flaws, always experience failure—except One!

NA: If you could be any person in your books, who would it be?

Good question. I get asked if I am Mr. Pipes or Sandy M’Kethe. No way. I wish I could be more like these men. Mr. Pipes is without question my closest to “perfect” character, but even he has weaknesses (failing health, creeping old age, occasional fears and longings). He is not who that series is about. It’s about deeply flawed kids who need to get the gospel right, need to meet the Savior. Mr. Pipes functions as my means to lead them to Christ through fictional episodes that intersect with the lives and stories of Christian hymnody and worship.

NA: If The Betrayal were made into a movie, would you have any preferred
actor, director, composer, etc?

John Williams writes amazing modern musical soundtracks for films. Jean-Louis ought to be someone pretty dastardly. Calvin would be a tough one. Who do you think? Help me here.

NA: Can you tell us three things about yourself we readers may not know?

I prefer duck eggs in my omelets. Usually when I begin a book, I’m very insecure, feel like I can’t ever write like I wrote in… whatever book, and wonder what on earth I’m doing trying to write another book.

NA: Do you have any other book plans or ideas?

I am under contract for two more books right now (18th and 19th contracts), one I’m writing (with the aforesaid emotional turmoil in rolling boil) that will be a companion to The Betrayal on John Knox, and another set in 7th century Anglo-Saxon Britain. I have recently completed two non-fiction biographies, one on Knox (to release with Reformation Trust, April, 2011) and another on Isaac Watts.

NA: Do you have any advice to those writing or planning to write historical fiction?

Read, read, read. Get thoroughly immersed in the historical context. But observe real people around you today and make the story relevant to the universal human problem that transcends a particular time and place. Historical fiction, well-crafted, ought to draw readers into unconsciously saying things to themselves as they read like this: “Jean-Louis is so much like my envious neighbor.” Hmm, read on. “Jean-Louis is so much like I am. Why am I like this? Why do I want what others have been given, and why am I so ungrateful for what I have been given. Why am I so discontent with the role I have been given to play? Why do I tear down others to build myself up? Why do I think I’m so much more worthy of honor than Joe-blow or Suzy-que? What is my problem! Why am I so powerless to solve it? Moral improvement didn’t work for Jean-Louis, and it’s not working very well for me either. Where can I go for answers to my real problem? I must find the answers.”  

NA: Thank you! It was great to have you! May God bless your
(Noah Arsenault)

Saturday, October 9, 2010

My Writing Critique of Teen Writer

Dear Alec,
So good to meet you a couple of weeks ago while speaking down in California. Thanks for giving me samples of your writing to review. I can tell that you take it seriously and are applying yourself to writing in a focused way. I very much enjoyed reading your 100 word piece and especially thought it was effective the way you featured the writer's craft, writing people into existence. Great piece. You might consider working on the final line to make it flow out of the rest with more purpose. Perhaps you write yourself to sleep... or something along those lines.
Let me suggest a few things for you to consider on the two chapters you gave me. In the opening paragraph, I wanted you to show me, let me hear Brook tell about her friend who was almost captured by Russians in Paris. Try dialogue, with Draven's thoughts interwoven with her talking.
Which brings up another matter that I think will help your writing on this piece considerably. I don't get a clear enough sense of point of view, who the story is really about, who I'm supposed to identify with, care deeply about. You've chosen to write in 3rd person, but that does not mean that you can't and should create the story with a primary persona in view. Draven, in this case. But you do shift to parents, and to Brook(e) in your description. Readers need to see the world primarily from the point of view of one of the characters, the way each of us actually does experience the world. That means go closer on Draven's inner struggles (avoid cynicism, unless that's him, and for a reason that the plot of the story is going to work out; don't just make him cynical because teens can be that way; write with purpose).
You do some description on page one for example where you describe two things that don't go together in the real world. For example, when our smiling is growing larger we aren't ordinarily hardening in the eyes (7th paragraph, 1st page), and we don't stare and look from time to time; one type of looking excludes the other. Top of p 2, avoid too much logistics that stiffle the forward motion of the story: wave, wave back (try describing a more specific wave, type of hand gesture Brooke uses, and Draven gives meaning to it), walked back to sidewalk,, B closes door. You don't need this kind of logistical description here or in any other place. Save it for the deeper meaningful human conflict descripters. Your reader can make the assumptions about what it takes to get back onto to the sidewalk. When he's cooking eggs and bacon, this is your place for drawing the reader authentically into the talk; appeal to sounds and smells more throughout your manuscript. The real world is taken in by us with five senses, andyou should work at appealing to more of them in various ways and degrees.
In chapter two, for example, avoid describing the morning air as a stand alone description. Use it to develop Draven's character; show the effect of the brisk air on him: does he it make his eyes water, jolt him more fully awake at its cold, show the effect of him breathing it in, and thereby reveal more of what makes him tick. You introduce his love of art and drawing sort of out of the blue. Have hints earlier of him drawing or wanting to draw Brooke, or her commenting on something he had drawn.
Overall, my sense is that the story could be an exciting one, but it needs to reveal a more real protagonist. Draven does it all, disarms dastardly armed thugs with ease, draws, does archery, you name it. He can do no wrong, so it seems. And that, frankly, is not the way any of us are. Where are you going to take him? What changes does he need to make in his character; what problem does he need to overcome? How is he going to do it? And what changes in his understanding of who he is and who he ought to be will doing so force him to make? 
Though it is a futuristic tale, it will only work if it is like the real world, the world you and I live, struggle, stumble, flounder, and overcome in. When I write, I am always asking myself, what do I need to know and understand about my deeply flawed self in a broken world? And how can I create  an irrepressible longing for the solution--which is found alone in Christ and the gospel of grace. Don't preach, but give your reader deep longings for what and who alone can fix this troubled world.
Keep writing! And keep in touch!
Christ alone,

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Questions from reader and aspiring author (and my answers)

Just received this email from a reader, Daniel, who is a junior in high school, and thought answering the questions on my blog might benefit others too. He wrote:

I loved your Crown and Covenant Series! I was so glad to find a great series (just like Chronicles of Narnia) that I could enjoy reading while other teens are reading Harry Potter and the Twilight Series.

I want to be a christian author of teen books someday. I'm in the 11th grade and I'm taking a career preparation class at my homeschool academy. My homework assignment is to interview someone whose career is the same as what I am aiming towards.

Since you are internationally renownwed, I know there is very little chance that you will have any time to answer the following questions, however, I also know that with God all things are possible, so I'm going to ask anyway.

1. How did you become interested in being an author? My love of books made me curious about authors and how and why they wrote their books. The encouragement of my mother, colleagues, and my children who wanted me to stop reading to them and "tell us a story that you make up."

2. What is the best educational preparation for this field? Reading and learning to interpret the various genre of literature in the Bible. The Bible is the greatest book, like no other, God-breathed, without error, true from beginning to end, authentic, gritty, honest--and beautifully written. Master Elements of Style, and other good books on writing. Majoring in English in college might help (and might hurt), though I was a history major.

3. What kind of growth patterns are you seeing in godly literature for young people that I should consider? Stay away from formula fiction that oversimplifies life in a broken world.

4. From your experience, what personal attributes do you think are essential for success? Clear, focused goal; why do you want to write? Better, for whom do you want to write? Keep Christ at the absolute center of your goal in whatever your hand finds to do. Write for an audience of One.

5. Which professional journals and organizations should I know about in this field? Get familiar with publishers' reading services. You will need them in the future when it's time to prepare for publication. Read Writers' Market and find out where the holes are.

6. What skills are needed for fiction authors, and which ones should I be concentration on at this point in my education? Observe everything and everyone around you. Train yourself to do this and then write down what you see, hear, think is going on inside peoples heads, motives, etc.

7. What experiences have you had that have been invaluable to you in learning your job? Traveling to places that have inspired me to learn more about the people that lived there in other centuries, as with the Covenanters in Scotland or Newton and Cowper in Olney, England.

8. What is a typical workday like? I teach, and speak, and write--and have a wonderful wife and family, so a "typical" workday is pretty atypical, I suspect. I have often gotten up early in the morning to write while the house is quiet, and have stayed up late into the night to keep pulling the thread. I wrote all day Monday this week and had a productive day. Some days are hard work, and others--it just comes and I feel like I'm along for the ride. O for more of the latter! 

9.What are some of the difficulties for christian authors? Is there anything else that motivates you to continue writing, besides God? One difficulty is wanting legitimacy for writing as a Christian, wanting the world to recognize us. Forget this entirely. Paul embraced being a fool for Christ. The world will not think you're clever for being an author and a Christian. Don't write to impress the world.

10. What else should I know to make an informed decision about going into this field? It's hard work, and there are many more writers who want to be authors and published than actually get there. Be patient. Become your worst critic. If you can do anything else, do it (this is true for all callings).

11.Can you recommend someone else for me to contact in this field? You might try Church Black or LB Graham.

12. What type of career path would you recommend? Is it important to try to work as an intern for a christian publisher? How do young authors start getting published? An internship might be useful but is no guarantee of getting published, in fact, they may be harder on an insider. Writing is a lonely calling. For every book signing, speaking engagement, leading a book tour there are 100s of lonely hours in front of the computer screen (I sometimes long for goose quills, or hammer and chisel). Try writing articles for periodicals that publish teens, then move on from there. I was published in several magazines before my first books was accepted for publication. Expect rejections--lots of them. Don't get discouraged.

Thank you so much for your valuable time and for being a role model that I look up to.


Daniel Negi

Monday, October 4, 2010

Bond speaking at ACM Symposium October 15, 2010

Pacific Northwest Chapter
4th Annual Church Music Symposium

October 15, 2010 • 8:30 a.m.
Faith Presbyterian Church, Tacoma, Washington

Workshops • Fellowship • New Worship Music
>> Register Now

Schedule & Topics

Time Event
8:00 a.m. Registration
8:30 a.m. Convocation
  • New Hymns for Worship (Hymn Sing)
  • Opening Address: “What’s the Big Deal? It’s Just Music”
    (Ron Bechtel, Regional Director, Alliance of Christian Musicians)
9:30 a.m. Workshop Session #1
  • The Doxological Genius of Isaac Watts (Douglas Bond, Author and Teacher)
  • How to Hear a Hymn Tune (John Wykoff, Composer)
10:30 a.m. Refreshment Break
10:55 a.m. Recital
  • John Wykoff, piano and voice
  • Evangeline Wykoff, organ
11:45 a.m. Workshop Session #2
  • The Imaginative Watts (Douglas Bond)
  • How to Write a Hymn Tune (John Wykoff)
12:50 p.m. Lunch Break
(area restaurants within 5 minutes of the church)
2:00 p.m. Church Leaders Roundtable: “Let’s Talk about Worship Music”
  • Why Our Church Has Adopted Popular Music in Worship
  • Why Our Church Has Retained Classical Music in Worship
  • Moderated Discussion by Ron Bechtel and John Wykoff
3:30 p.m. Refreshment Break
3:45 p.m. Mini-Concert
  • Veronica Arnold, piano
  • Ron Bechtel, organ
  • Rebekah Bublat, piano
  • Bonnie Haidle, piano
  • Heather Hayes, piano
  • Rebekah Ho, piano
  • Hannah Matsuda, violin
  • Emily Shelden, piano
4:30 p.m. Supper Break
6:15 p.m. Festival Choir Rehearsal
7:15 p.m. Orchestral Prelude (South Kitsap Alliance Church Musicians)
7:30 p.m. Hymn Festival (free and open to the public)
  • ACM Festival Choir Concert,
    featuring selections from Haydn's The Creation
  • Congregational Hymn Singing
  • Christopher Rogers, piano
  • Hannah Matsuda, organ
  • A freewill offering will be received
  • Reception with refreshments
>> Download the Symposium Schedule (PDF, 100 KB)
>> Register Now