Saturday, December 17, 2011

My Son Cedric Featured in Challenger Films, The Winning Edge

Airing on Fox and other media outlets in cities across the US, is a feature film on my second eldest son (it aired in Seattle area at 8:30 Saturday morning). Cedric is an athlete, training for the Olympics. He is a flat-water sprint kayak racer who has been a multiple National Champion, has been on 3 US Junior Worlds teams (racing in Russia twice, Czech Republic, and training in Slovakia and Italy), and the US Senior team, racing in Hungary, August of 2011.

He was chosen for this feature because of overcoming challenges in his life as an athlete and student. The producers of the film are more concerned with helping young adults make right choices and with the practical implications of right living and sports than with any overt message of the gospel of grace, the forgiveness of sins in Christ (though Challenger Films, as I understand it, is a Christian film maker). I say this, because I was waiting to hear the source and enabling to overcome temptations and challenges. It never came. Cedric would have a great deal more to say about overcoming sin in his life that what is here. Nevertheless, here it is, and it does underscore the grace of God, that no one is exempt from sin, and that there is a way out. But if falls short of giving us the way out--Jesus, the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

Then there's the fact that the content of this film, and what Cedric candidly talks about, is sort of personal, which makes me wonder why I am writing a blog post on it and embedding the film. Watch and see. If you have fallen into the enslaving trap of measuring your spiritual health, your skill and worth as a parent, your faithfulness as a Christian, by your kids' successes, and then the realities of being a sinful parent, raising sinful kids in a sinful world have kicked in (and I do mean 'kicked' here), then give this a watch. It reinforces the axiom that God makes us parents to keep us humble. Still more, if you have turned from grace and think that God owes you blessings because of your faithfulness in raising your kids, get ready for a shocker. And then turn and cling to Jesus and his grace; he alone is the Author and Perfecter of faith--in us and in our kids. Praise be to God!

TRWE ’11 -’12 Broadcast Station List
Fox stations:
New York - WNYW/WWOR (Fox O&O)
Los Angeles - KTTV/KCOP (Fox O&O)
Chicago - WFLD/WPWR (Fox O&O)
Philadelphia - WTXF (Fox O&O)
San Francisco - KTVU/KICU (FOX/Independent)
Dallas - KDFW/KDFI (Fox O&O)
Washington, DC - WTTG/WDCA (Fox O&O)
Houston - KRIV/KTXH (Fox O&O)
Phoenix - KSAZ/KUTP (Fox O&O)
Minneapolis - KMSP/WFTC (Fox O&O)
Orlando - WOFL/WRBW (Fox O&O)
Tucson - KMSB (FOX)
Portland, ME - WPFO (FOX)
Gainesville - WOGX (Fox O&O)

To see Cedric on other media outlets and cities, click here:

Friday, December 16, 2011

INKBLOTS had a rousing evening of reading, critiquing, chatting, and all

INKBLOTS, December 15, 2011
Four men and a crackling fire, Chateau Saint-Michel Merlot. 

Doug McComas leads off with a chapter from our new adult biography on Savonarola. He broke off a few times to express his frustration at the challenges of the new genre, adult non-fiction. Reading aloud is like sweeping a dusty room on a dry hot day—dust flying everywhere. “Wow, I’m starting to break into a sweat here.” Was this Lorenzo or Girolamo who said this? Oh, it was McComas. Some very good specific description of Lorenzo’s banking and lavish lifestyle. Remember to keep the Savonarola thread as you establish the Florentine context. Especially with a 30,000 word count, which goes so fast.

I read the introduction to our Savonarola biography. McComas suggested that I tighten up the part about the Duomo. Ken observed that whatever the genre we need to be telling a story. Avoid great information and facts but not conveyed in story. Story is what everyone loves.Good point always.

Ken reads a play he and his wife collaborated on writing. Episcopalian priest, boys school, taught by Father Flye, St Andrews, Sewanee. WW II with letters, taken prisoner by Japanese officer who had studied at Cambridge and knew Latin, and so conversed with Alice’s father who had studied under Father Flye and had learned Latin. Saves Alice’s father’s life by getting medicine to him. The officer later died on Okinawa. Alice and Jun (guy) at 60’s nightclub. Romance scene between two very incompatible people, dog and monkey. Love triangle motif. Though it is a bit hard to follow—not the fault of the writing, but of the medias res entry (midway in drama)—it is engaging dialogue, authentic, fast-pace, true-to-life. Then Ken let it out that he originally wrote the dialogue in Japanese and translated it to what it is. A friend of his told him that no Japanese would have ever written this. I’m afraid of trying to write live theatre. But Ken told us all that we should try our hand at it. It seems to me that there is such a multi-faceted deal with drama, the drama text itself that the playwright pens is only one component. Ken promised to read us more (at our insistence). Fun material.

John S up. Re-wrote chapter after reading the blog from the last ‘Blots meeting. Emma, protagonist of John’s contemporary fiction, reflecting on her life in Lyons and her circumstances, now pregnant, the father a race her own father had no time for. Aaron drowns a fly in his soup. The kids had just heard that they were not natural born, but adopted. Would it be realistic for her to have forgotten the shocking news she just dropped on her family: that she was pregnant? Is this important to what you are trying to do here? This is much improved, I think, over the first reading of it. I feel like it is dragging when you bring in Confucius. I feel like it is stalled here, a bit. I think you need to keep the pace moving, shorter flashes to her inner thoughts (important to keep these) but tighten them. “Sigh of relief” is awfully overused; try an alternate description of this common phenomenon. Fun joke with dog and wife, though I think you have to be a husband to get it. Vary sentence and paragraph beginning; the first seven paragraphs began with “She.” Write with point of view integrity, so that you deduce that the parents were exhausted, rather than just saying that they were, which would be a shift to their point of view.

John S read a bit of Hemmingway, who he has made in no uncertain terms that he does not much like Mr. No-Adjective. Ken jumps back in with comments about the importance of not stating that someone was angry, but show them anger. Show, don’t tell. Back to Hemmingway, Big, Two-Hearted River. This title from the guy who says to use no adjectives! Lots about grasshoppers. Virtually no dialogue, all narrative. John finds him repetitive and redundant and says things over and over; did I mention that John thinks he repeats himself? Just goes on and on like that. Meanders along. Old Man in the Sea, D McComas liked. We talked about how old films seem too slow now, and that may not be a good thing, benumbed as we are by action films with clipped dialogue. Not necessarily a good thing, we all agreed. Though the reality is that some old novels would never be published today. There are some genuine improvements in standard of writing and story telling.    

Friday, December 9, 2011

Listen FREE! Ryle, Thoughts for Young Men, read by Douglas Bond

Merry Christmas! I have benefited so much from reading and rereading John Charles Ryle's incomparable little volume THOUGHTS FOR YOUNG MEN over the years that I finally decided to do it as an audio book. My friend Rich Young (former heavy-metal guitarist) plays his original classical guitar renditions of some of my favorite hymns in the background. I hope you and the young men in your family and life will benefit from listening. Access them by clicking on the link above or here: J. C. Ryle, Thoughts for Young Men, read by Douglas Bond.   

Here's how Ryle begins:

"When the Apostle Paul wrote his Epistle to Titus about his responsibility as a minister, he mentioned young men as a group requiring particular attention. After speaking of older men and older women, and young women, he adds this advice, "Encourage the young men to be self-controlled" (Titus 2:6). I am going to follow the Apostle's advice. I propose to offer a few words of friendly exhortation to young men.

I am growing old myself, but there are few things that I can remember so well as were the days of my youth. I have a most distinct recollection of the joys and the sorrows, the hopes and the fears, the temptations and the difficulties, the mistaken judgments and the misplaced affections, the errors and the aspirations, which surround and accompany a young man's life. If I can only say something to keep some young man walking in the right way, and preserve him from faults and sins, which may hurt his prospects both for time and eternity, I shall be very thankful. There are four things which I propose to do:
I. I will mention some general REASONS why young men need exhorting.
II. I will note some special DANGERS which young men need to be warned about.
III. I will give some general COUNSEL which I beg young men to receive.
IV. I will set down some special RULES OF CONDUCT which I strongly advise young men to follow. On each of these four points I have something to say, and I pray to God that what I say may do good to some soul."

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Author Interview: Another P&R author asked for interview--probing questions

With Sinclair Ferguson in Geneva, 2009
Brock Eastman, another P&R author contacted me a while ago and asked if he could interview me for his blog. He asked a number of good questions that got me thinking and then reflecting on how I began to write, why I keep writing, as well as questions about what I eat or drink when writing and if I listen to music when writing. Fun stuff. Here were his questions and my answers.

 Q: Everyone seems to have a "how I got published" story. What is yours?
It was back in the days before 9/11 when more publishers were accepting unsolicited manuscript submissions. I sent sample chapters and a synopsis of my Mr Pipes and the British Hymn Makers to seven publishers. Eight days later I had a phone call from one of them enthusiastic about the project. A couple of months later I had another publisher call and we chatted for a long time about future book ideas simmering in my imagination. Eleven years later, and somehow, unaccountably, without any childhood burning passion to be an author—I have managed to write a few books (signing my 20th book contract today, in fact).

 Q: When did you realize you wanted to become a writer?
I always tried to get out of writing when I was in high school. So in journalism class I was the photographer, shooting pictures and working in the darkroom. I tried to make myself indispensible as a photographer in large part so I wouldn’t have to write articles. It just seemed like too much work. Then in college something started to change. I got so I was secretly looking forward to writing those history essays. And then I submitted an article to the college newspaper and started writing more of those. But it would be years later when I was working on my master’s thesis that I began to realize I wanted to do more writing. Then I wrote a few more articles, this time ones that I was getting paid for writing. But there’s a big difference between a 1,500 word article and a 70,000 word book.

My older kids, to whom I regularly read aloud in the evening, began asking me to TELL a story, not just read one. I hemmed and hawed. Then started in on a story of frontier days (not very good, I’m sure, and made up on the fly); it lasted for a month or more. They wanted another, and another. I felt cornered, but there was to be no escaping.
Then one sleepless night in 1999, ideas started cascading about using contemporary fiction as a frame tale in which to explore the lives and poetry of the church’s hymn writers. I sat up in bed, furiously scribbling the ideas on notepaper. And off I went.

 Q: Tell me a little about your books.
I have written primarily fiction for young adult readers, most of which is historical fiction published with P & R Publishing. But I have also managed to write several non-fiction books, biographies with Reformation Trust and Evangelical Press. I call these my big-people books.

 Q: What are some of the strongest influences on your writing (and several other questions combined from the list below, if that’s okay)?
I would need to go back to my childhood to answer this one. My father was a mathematician and engineer, but more importantly, an earnest, godly Christian man, a man who, because of his dyslexia, had a difficult time reading aloud. Nevertheless, he daily read Scripture aloud with us at our family devotions, slow, methodical, one-word-at-a-time slogging it sometimes was. But I came to appreciate deeply his reading because I think it represented just how much attention he was determined to give to every word of that great Book, every jot, every tittle.

Meanwhile, my mother, a college English professor, loved great literature and read aloud to us from Shakespeare and many other classic authors, including Chaucer in Middle English! We loved it. My mom would take us to children’s theater and even adult plays. I’ll never forget, “A horse, a horse! My kingdom for a horse!”

In college I began reading serious theological books, works of the Reformers and Puritans. Honestly looking back on it, I was too often motivated to do this because I thought it made me a big shot, a heady, erudite dude. But, as is God’s kind way with me, he was mercifully feeding me, often in spite of my flawed motives, with important foundational understanding of the nature of justification by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. These truths are the most important influences on my writing, and if they ever cease to be so, may I give my energies to crocheting pot holders. They are also the most important truths that I want my writing to adorn and that I want to make attractive to my readers.

I have been influenced by many great authors, mostly dead ones, but not all dead. Writers of imaginative literature like Lewis, Rosemary Sutcliff, Chesterton, Arthur Ransome, and poets like Donne, Cowper, Rossetti. But always I come back to the great theologian preachers like Spurgeon. If I can borrow from two of my all time favorites (Augustine quoted by Calvin), “I count myself among those who learn as they write and write as they learn.” I regularly read and listen to the best of the not-dead proclaimers of the good news today: Sproul, Ferguson, Piper, Begg, Horton, Tullian T., Driscoll, and others.   

 Q: How do you write? What’s a normal writing day like for you?
I write my fiction after a bike ride or a good walk to a quiet location where I’m not likely to be interrupted. Sometimes that is a dark corner in the library of the university not far from my home. Other times I write in the loafery, a room downstairs that used to be the bedroom of my oldest son. With caution, I also write in the summer in my classroom, especially when writing non-fiction biographies where I need to be near piles of books that don’t pack around real well on my bike. But this can be a problem, because well-meaning colleagues poke their head in for a chat. I’m a social sort of guy so I always like the interaction, however totally it derails my train of thought and sets me back sometimes hours.

 Q: What was your favorite book as a teen?
Maybe Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates and Great Expectations.

 Q: Describe your feelings when you opened the box and saw the first published copies of your very first book?
It was really thrilling to open the box and pull out my first book, that shiny new book called Mr Pipes and the British Hymn Makers—and then to see my name on the cover, but it also carried with it considerable anxiety: will this book only be the proof that I am an utter failure as an author, the badge of my literary ineptitude? We authors, many of us, are miserably insecure, but that’s when I am looking to myself and my skills (real, perceived, or longed-for) and efforts. It is so liberating to refocus my energy and purpose in writing. Stunk and White in the final chapter urge writers to write for an audience of one—themselves. But the Christian author wants to write for an audience of One, Jesus Christ, plus nobody. The best writing results when I disappear—I must decrease; Christ must increase; only then I’m starting to get things right.

 Q: What can you tell us about any future releases you have planned?
There are a few new books of mine scheduled to release in 2012. In May by new biography with Evangelical Press, AUGUSTUS TOPLADY, Debtor to Mercy Alone will be available. In June THE THUNDER, my adult novel on John Knox releases along with my 8th-century Anglo-Saxon tale, HAND OF VENGEANCE. And in September my biography with Ligonier’s Reformation Trust, THE DOXOLOGICAL GENIUS OF ISAAC WATTS will be available. Just signing a contract for a biography on Girolamo Savonarola, an amazingly passionate, fearless forerunner of the Reformation in decadent Florence, the birthplace of the Renaissance.   
I have several other things in the cooker, both fiction and non-fiction, including a childrens picture book in verse that explores themes from the book of Job

  Q: Coke or Pepsi?
Neither, thank you very much. They upset my stomach, as does—unforgivable as it is to admit this living as close to Seattle as I do—coffee, yuck!

 Q: Soft shell or Hard Shell tacos?

 Q: Favorite place to vacation?
We love sailing in the San Juan Islands north of us in Washington State. My wife’s favorite city on the planet is Strasbourg, France, and I think I agree with her on this one. Marvelous city with charming old-world sites and lots of church history connections—and good food and drink!

 Q: Favorite season?

 Q: Do you have a particular drink or food you consume when you write? Like coco, raspberry tea, animal crackers?
I sometimes munch on trail mix and often drink tea. My all-time favorite tea drink is a London Fog Latte, made with Earl Grey tea. For herb tea I love Licorice spice—yummy and fuels the imagination.

 Q: Do you have a favorite Bible verse?
Too many to narrow it down really, though Psalm 93 and 16 are two of favorite Psalms.

 Q: Favorite pasta dish?
Smoked salmon fettuccine

 Q: Do you listen to music while you write? If so what are some examples?
I am a lover of great music! Just recently listened through Bach’s St. Matthew’s Passion, following the libretto with my 8-year-old son. Though that may seem like a stretch to some (and like child abuse to others), he loved it and asked to listen some more after we’d finished it (we played chess some of the time while listening too). But I generally only listen to music in the editing and revision stages of writing and then I’m pretty selective. Then it would be Bach or Handel or maybe even Alison Kraus and some bluegrass to mix things up a bit.

I do, however, intentionally listen to music that is part of the story, as when my protagonist was in Paris with John Paul Jones in Guns of Providence and they heard Haydn’s latest symphony, or when writing about the Anglo-Saxon harp being played with Beowulf in the mead hall in Hand of Vengeance, or when writing about Toplady or Watts and their hymns, or bagpipe music when writing the Crown & Covenant Trilogy (which could be played live by either of my two eldest sons) that sort of thing.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Inkblots dude has a BOOK CONTRACT from UK publisher!

INKBLOTS – November 29, 2011
Blustery, cold, wet night—rain pounding on the windows. Feels like we should be writing mysteries set in moldy old castles, with hounds slavering and wailing down below. We talked about why people pierce and tattoo themselves; John concluded, “I guess we all have done dumb things.” The youngest among us, Aaron asked a workmate, “So what’s that going to look like when you’re 70?” Dougie introduced us to his new computer and his challenge converting Works to Word. Pinot Noir… nice, for a pinot. And Dougie Mc has a book contract. Real deal, UK publisher (they like gun-toting hicks from South Kitsap).

John reading 2nd chapter from the end of his contemporary novel on abortion and sanctity of human life. Done lots of work on the chapter but left his flash drive at work… at work? What? John writing at taxpayer’s expense? Read solemn passage, revealing that the kids were adopted by an uncle. Andy as he felt his heart drop at the news: hmm. Is that the best way to convey this? Don’t over write about distrusting parents; maybe go deeper into the head and heart of Emma and her reaction. Good defense of adoption. I was asked to review Rescued, a feature film on adoption done by the Wintons, great folks in California, family bluegrass band, extraordinaire, and filmmakers too. Tilting her head, shaking her head, wiping hand across her forehead, giggles all around—can you deepen these motions? Aaron suggested more violent reaction, a glass knocked over and breaking. You’re right to want to show reaction and emotional response, but dig deeper. More pauses, silent unbelief, go inside head and describe her turmoil at the revelation. Group hug? What? No way? You didn’t really put that in there, did you? Small tear in his left eye, good effort at being specific, but can you show this without using the word tear? “Well, little lady,” he said, giving his best impersonation of John Wayne, then finish the quotation. Very large sum of money—give that scale: She offered me enough money to retire with your mother in Maui—place on the beach, with cash to spare. Try something more like that. 

Now is when we throw off the gloves and hit him. Good plan to connect adoption as a corrective to abortion, but I wonder if you need to show the connection a bit more clearly. Don’t be too overt, but I think the reader needs to see a dawning realization of the connection. If Emma was adopted, is it too much to have Emma’s birth mother to have been planning to abort her. And I didn’t get a real sense, and keep that sense, of place while all this is going: get up and walk to the window, looking out on what and thinking what about it? The cat tries to cuddle up with Emma, gets shoved off her lap, squeaking of the rails of a rocking chair, the sizzling of burning pitch in the wood stove—more of the context, heard, seen, felt. Fly circling overhead, jake brakes from a semi, grumbling along the highway out the window. Give me place and tension as the news settles in.

Dougie next. The bombing of Monte Casino. Getting to know Maria’s family better, after saving them from the lecherous Algerian soldiers. Meets French friend. Abbey south of Rome, bombed by Allies, February, 1944, strategic site, bombed to get Germans out, who weren’t there but moved in soon thereafter. Can you show homesick without saying it: I found myself thinking about my mom, and my dog Adolf, and the one-eyed rooster crowing out back, and the [favorite meal, details]. She’s not such a nice woman after all—does this mean Maria isn’t nice? I wasn’t clear here. I too have used the *** to indicate a break in episode, but I have begun to reassess using them more in recent writing projects. Most of the time when I have used these in the past it was because I wasn’t writing as cohesively as I ought to have been. I’m not saying there isn’t a place for them, but much less often than I used to think. Consider recasting to avoid too many of these. Turn, turn, turn. Why are the soldiers so eager to see the abbey bombed when they know it has no Germans in it? Residual frustration with anything Italian, since they just switched sides a month ago. I don’t see as clearly the actual devastation of the abbey by the bombing. Can you describe it with more structural specifics? How far away are they from the bombing? I had a hard time positioning them in relation to the abbey and the bombing. Can you give them place? And I also didn’t get a sense of the noise and the feel of bombs as they hit. Specific dislocations from the bombing, window breaking, roof tiles falling, or other specifics, including smells, smarting in the eyes, cries of onlookers, wails of women, beating of the breast. 

A bit more turmoil of mind over Maria; she’s a Catholic; he’s a Presbyterian; she’s Italian; he’s American, far from home, lonely, longing for life, progeny, is this real love or just infatuation with a beautiful, dark-eyed woman, smiling down on me, far from home? Have him recollect the ridiculous liaisons that soldiers entered into under the intoxication of war, the putting together of lonely man and attractive woman.

I’m up and reading from recent rapid-fire biography on Augustus Toplady, written for Evangelical Press in UK. Dougie wondered what the purpose of the intro was and if I had not explained clearly that Toplady has been largely misrepresented by history. He also suggested that I bring in a few other cross-references to history beyond British history, more on American colonies, continental Europe, creating a wider appeal to broader cross-section of potential readers. We talked a bit more about the Savonarola book contract with EP, John having been to a number of places related to his life in Florence.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

They won't play with the box! Author-signed books make great gifts

This offer is going fast! Gillian and I hauled armloads of book orders to the post office the other day. We have eleven more Knox books to give away FREE when you buy 3 at
Free shipping on any size book order!
Free study guides with any purchase!
& BUY ANY 3 BOOKS AND GET KNOX FREE! while they last

I'm deeply grateful for how well THE MIGHTY WEAKNESS OF JOHN KNOX has been received by many readers. George Grant who endorsed the book told me in an email that he liked the book so much he reread it after the book was released. He wrote this about it, In the compass of this small volume, Douglas Bond somehow manages to corral all the mysterious paradoxes of John Knox: the thunderous pulpit and the closet intercessions, the soaring intellect and the humble home life, the boldness and the meekness, the might and the weakness. In other words, Bond has captured the very essence of this remarkable model for reformational ministry.”

And for a very limited time only you can get a FREE copy of my Knox biography (Reformation Trust, Ligonier) when you order at least 3 books (free shipping and study guides with a book order of any size). No pressure, but if you want a free copy of Knox (retail $16.40) I would suggest you hurry.

Listen to an audio excerpt or read a sample chapter here. You can also learn more about my forthcoming adult novel on John Knox, THE THUNDER, here.

May you have a blessed Christmas celebration as you honor the King of kings, Jesus the Christ!
Douglas Bond

Monday, November 21, 2011

Pre-Release readings and audio of my forthcoming book on AUGUSTUS TOPLADY

I was so blessed in writing this concise biography of Augustus Toplady. Thank you David Woolin (EP's wear-many-hats dude in the UK) for asking me to do it! Big thanks to the Spear clan for beating up another manuscript for me. Visit my new web page featuring just posted material on my forthcoming book on AUGUSTUS TOPLADY, Debtor to Mercy Alone, to release with Evangelical Press sometime in 2012. After you read the Introduction, listen to an audio excerpt from chapter 4. If you would like to get more of the book, read on below from the chapter that picks up right after the audio.
A Praying Life
 “My God, I want the inwrought prayer,” cried Toplady, “the prayer of the heart, wrought in the soul by the Holy Ghost.” So much of the recorded praying of Toplady reflects just that, praying from the lips of a man who is filled with the Holy Spirit, whose prayers are being sanctified by the immediate presence of the God to whom he is praying. Thankfully for us, Toplady developed the habit of copying down his prayers probably as he prayed them. But there is nothing of the pompous Pharisee strutting in prayer to be seen or heard by men. His prayers are the kind of Psalm-like communing with God every Christian desires.
But let’s face it, communing with God, the activity that occupied so much of Toplady’s days and hours, is profoundly foreign to most of us. When we do get around to quieting our hearts and falling to our knees in prayer, one distraction after another begins its assault on our receiving consciousness. A text message warbles in our pocket. The telephone rings, and we strain to recognize the voice leaving a message. The computer intones the audio signal that a new email has just arrived. We wonder who it’s from. An aid vehicle roars by, siren blaring. A sleepy child crawls onto our back for a cuddle. The hotpot clicks off and we begin hastily rifling out our petitions so as to get the tea steeping while the water is at its hottest. Tea is always better when the water is at its hottest.
If me manage to negotiate the minefield of information technology and toddlers, and we actually get around to praying for real needs, we may find ourselves—often long minutes later—musing on how those parents could have let their son or daughter get involved with the wrong crowd in the first place. Clearly they messed up. If only they had raised their children the way we have raised ours. And when we finally shake our self free of those thoughts, and return shamefaced again to confession and asking for still more forgiveness, there’s the particular problem men have with praying. We men think we can take care of things, solve the problem. We don’t like stopping and asking for help. We can handle this. We’re men. It’s what we do.
When we attempt to get down to the serious business of praying, at best we are too hasty, and at worst we may actually be taking the Lord’s name in vain and compounding our sinning. It is for these reasons that Toplady’s praying is so valuable for distracted moderns. Though many of our 21st century distractions would have been completely foreign to Toplady, we should not fool ourselves. He was a man subject to many of the same challenges we face with prayer. “Was afflicted with wandering in private prayer. Lord, melt down my icy heart, and grant me to wait upon thee.” How often would Toplady’s confession not be an accurate description of our praying life? And like you and me, this would not be the last time he would have reason to long for greater constancy in prayer. In a diary entry dated Monday, December 14, 1767, he reminds us that neglecting prayer has direct consequences:   
Before I came out of my chamber today, I was too hasty and short in private prayer. My conscience told me so at the time; and yet, such was my ingratitude and my folly, that I nevertheless restrained prayer before God. In the course of the day, I had great reason to repent of my first sin, by being permitted to fall into another.
It is just, O Lord, that thou shouldest withdraw thy presence from one who waited so carelessly on thee. May I never more, on any pretext whatever, rob thee (or rather, deprive my own soul) of thy due worship; but make all things else give way to communion with thee!
In a culture destroying itself with the cult of self-esteem, Toplady often prayed in a way that sounds foreign to our ears:
Who am I, O Lord? The weakest and vilest of all thy called ones: not only the least of saints, but the chiefest of sinners. But though a sinner, yet sanctified, in part, by the Holy Ghost given unto me. I should wrong the work of His grace upon my heart, were I to deny my regeneration: but, Lord, I wish for a nearer conformity to thy image.
So unaccustomed are we to hearing someone speak of himself as “the weakest and vilest of all thy called ones,” we might be tempted to dismiss Toplady’s self-deprecation as false humility, an elaborate charade.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

SPECIAL INKBLOTS with Marketing Director, Ian Thompson

Not Ian--his classmate, Robert Browning
Inkblots –November 19, 2011
Special evening with Marketing Director of P&R Publishing, Ian Thompson. Only 3 years living in the USA. Formerly with Christian Focus in Scotland. Delighted to have him with us tonight. A good gang of folks this evening; good food, good wine (CA old vine Zin, and a nice port).

[thanks Doug McComas for doing the bulk of the blogging tonight] Started with an introduction to inkblots for our guest. Schrupp got here late—sheesh! Ian’s degree is in geophysics from London University—where Robert Browning and Olivier Goldsmith studied (slightly before Ian’s time). Ian first applied for a job with Inter-Varsity Press (IVP) who turned him down. Ran a Christian newspaper in London.  English-Churchman and Saint James Chronicle.  The oldest newspaper in the world, est. 1701.  The paper went into decline with the Church of England.

How did the Spirit bring you to a living faith in Christ? Through cross-country team coached by a Christian.  Through affiliation with John Stott and All Souls, London.   Attended a youth group ran by a Christian teacher at school.  Independent Baptist church. After awhile he found himself arguing for Christianity instead of against it.  A slow conversion, not a sudden event.
When Ian was a student in British schools he was daily subject to an act of Christian worship.  He began to wonder why the words of hymns were not given much attention.   Brought about a familiarity with hymnology for his generation that has since been lost. After refusal by IVP, most of his early career was spent doing HVAC and security system design.

Started in marketing by writing the British vocation standards on marketing.  Worked with Palmolive and Colgate as a marketing consultant. Family life: Did sales desk work across from his future sister in-law who introduced him to her “religious sister.” Married Heather 18 months later.  26 years ago. Now living in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania near Phillipsburg, New Jersey, P&R’s HQ. How did he get to marketing: Trans-world, penguin, Harper-Collins – he originally trained sales team form these organizations.

A church elder asked him one day if he could move to northern Scotland to work for Christian Focus.  After a 1-1/2 hour telcon he agreed to work there after a visit. Worked for Christian Focus for 13 years than came to America to work for P & R, three years ago. America sells 95% of their books in country so they don’t need foreign sales, whereas English religious publishers must have the American market to survive. P&R was founded in 1930 by the OPC (G Gresham Machen and Samuel Craig).

 Christian Focus was started by 4 brothers who were trying to find a good Christmas book for their children.  Published it after much research. Christian Focus is mainly Children’s books that don’t include pictures of Christ. How did Banner of Truth Trust come into play? Until the 1950’s there was a lull in Reformed books and when an interest came up, Martin Lloyd Jones and company filled the gap. Joke is Banner of Truth only publishes dead people until more recently.

Digital links in the new e-books is big.  Going to a map on line, etc. E-books are killing the hardbacks.  Many people don’t want hardbacks anymore so their prices are going up. Publishers want a paper book format, thanks to Gutenberg, but a publisher’s role is to distribute intellectual content to the reader.  The digital format lowers cost, but not all costs because many costs like overhead and marketing, etc remain the same.  It will lower it but not much.

Audio books (expensive to make due to hiring the voice- need a large audience) are a growing part of the market along with Christian books but they are still a small part of the market (Allison Krause is singing too loud so Doug gets up and turns her down). Costs can vary for publishing (Drinking a 2002 Grand-Cru). $25,000 minimum to market a Christian book. Talked prices for full print ads.  $3860 for Reformation Trust’s ad of Doug’s new Knox book inside front cover of World, Ian estimated. When you are writing you are writing for the potential writer not for your existing reader. Bond’s P&R titles have sold over 150,000; then he hesitated and said it may be more than that.
First print runs don’t make any money, generally.  The publisher makes money on the second print run. Selling through the retail trade ½ the price is gobbled up getting book to market. Christian publishing company must give constant thought to ministry in what they publish. A print run of as small as 2,500 can be done.  Small runs are the norm. Non-fiction usually has a more focused audience which is easier to market.  Fiction marketing must be more scattered. Tim Challies blog on marketing stuff?  If you can get on his blog that’s a good thing. How about marketing your own book: Named people endorsing your name.  Church history-endorsed by a church historian. Active in literary events.  Applicable to the work you do. Developing your own following. 

How active are you in sales.  How long is your reach?  Book signings can be humbling.  Signing session at your local bookstore.  50 is a success. Secular book stores are often better for book signings then Christian bookstores because of numbers coming in. Word of mouth is a big quality. Quality of the writing is key.  Storyline and grammar go hand-in-hand.

Literary agents are lepers.  Very useful for filtering.  1 per 600 for unsolicited manuscripts are taken.    Like a literary agent.  Can be some marketing challenges.  Can increase costs.  They are tolerated.  About 15%  of publications come through agents.  Usually results in big advances. Publishers first have workers filters out the crazies (real example: a book proposal on Calvin explained through the eyes of a goldfish) or very small audiences.  E-publishing may change this.  Worthy but dulls are filtered out next. 
Book title life spans:  statistics are looked on after 3 months (when an author gets the ominous phone call from the publisher asking if he would like to buy the remainder of the print run? means disaster). By 2015 E-books will eliminate warehousing.

Ian was asked about authors he liked reading: Douglas Adams a good read for improving your writing. He writes concepts that others could not do. Plays with negatives: hovers in precisely the same way that a brick doesn’t. Jan Karon is a good read for stylistic writing. Ian has not seen her bettered. Hunger Game books. Hasn’t read them. But everyone is recommending them at his church. First-person, and clean. Does P&R have holes in what it publishes? Always have holes. When you fill a hole in a series, it matters less that an individual writer is credentialed and well known, since the series is already established. P&R gets submissions for lots of doctrinal theological works because seminary professors need to “publish or perish.” Ian gets taken to lunch and schmoozed by theologians and professors all the time. So author is supposed to buy Ian lunch? Nobody told me? What gives? How illuminating! What they really are not looking for? No poetry please!  

Lots of good unpacking and chatting about all that Ian had to share with us about the publishing industry today. Super helpful and a blessing to get to know you. Thanks so much for your time tonight. What a treat!