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: http://acmusicians.org/2010churchmusicsymposium.php). 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 http://acmusicians.org/2010churchmusicsymposium.php 

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 http://acmusicians.org/2010churchmusicsymposium.php 

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