Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Money and Writing: Can you make a living just writing books? INKBLOTS

Okay, Inkblots could not help talking about the debate. The what? Has it really come to this? These two individuals are our two options for president of this country? Finally liberals and conservatives can agree: If I were a liberal, I would be sick, disgusted, embarrassed; I am a conservative and I'm sick, disgusted, embarrassed. The debate showcased the violation of basic things about good communication, written or spoken; let's start with honesty, clarity, accuracy. Who won? Lester Holt, slam dunk. Who lost? America, slam dunk. M. W. Jacobs' perceptive observation seems apropos: "There are men (think man and woman) whose independence of principle consists in having no principle on which to depend, whose freethinking consists not in thinking freely but in being free from thinking, and whose common sense is nothing more than the sense that is most common."
Itchy face or was Hillary playing catcher-pitcher with Lester?

The Scriptorium is warm and cozy this mild autumn evening. Debate teeth-gnashing behind us, we launched in talking about writing, about monetary return therefrom, and related topics about marketing and actually selling books. No author makes a living writing books. Authors make money when books sell. Funny thing is, I just had to field this question on the phone today; a man inquiring about the Luther tour asked me about making a living writing books. I assured him no author has ever made a living writing them; it is in the selling of books that an author makes a living. Facts of writing and publishing life. We have a small group tonight, five of us, serious about writing, loving writing (okay, not always), wanting to write better (always). True for all of us.

John leads off with reading a rewrite of a chapter we critiqued last time. A good strategy. It is helpful to hear it rewritten. This was the chapter that needed more fight, emotion, passion. Grace is the daughter of a cop who tends toward being racist, and she is pregnant with the child of a football star, African American. It is a confrontation ready to explode. I think she would not be able to tell him it was the black football player. Have the dad figure it out, incrementally making the connections. The mom seems pretty acquiescent, maybe too much so. The reconciliation seems to come too early in the chapter. Dean, the dad, tells about the black cop partner who saved his life (his wife does; he could come back into the room and finish the story). The dad is having to confront his racism. But wouldn't the fact that he was saved by the sacrifice of his partner have begun the change? There's an opportunity for him to acknowledge that he had not fully dealt with his racism. The reader should not be preached to at this point, but should feel the sense of this being true for the reader too. It is the nature of sin, racism included. And racism is not just one color. It's human. Regardless of race. There is an important opportunity to peel back the dragon scales of this constant in human sin, and to make this book even more white-hot relevant to current events.

We talked about racism. Racism only matters if it comes from a vantage point of power, so says the popular narrative, hence, white people are prejudice (true, let's be honest here), and so are all the other races, on some level. Since the fall. White people (Inkblots is, sadly, mostly, more or less, white people; we eagerly welcome authors of other races, for the record) tend to feel off the hook on our own prejudice when we see the prejudice of other racial groups. The best fiction confronts this, exposes the far-reaching tentacles of racism. John brought up the reality of entitlement and how that mentality destroys segments of our society. "Write what you need" (Lewis). I think this is the key. We will write far more engaging fiction, fiction that matters, that changes hearts (starting with ours), when we are honest about what we need.

Suicide mission. Patrick reads his speculative fiction space station narrative. Space station, Hector One, the telescope through which he had seen the ... The protagonist suffers from claustrophobia. Not a good condition for someone confined in a space station, in a space suit, magnetic boots, mask over his face. Yuck, if you suffer from claustrophobia. Dogwood deactivates his magnetic boots. I wondered how Patrick created all the intricacies of the space station and space travel. Can you show mannerisms, emotions, as he communicates with his loved ones. There is emotion here but it feels flat. Does he have an emotional mannerism. Yes, his breathing and heart rate increase, but it is only from anticipation of meeting the Jade Zealot (comic book character who helps him deal with his claustrophobia), and the launch. John wants to see the protagonist have a more central problem. My thoughts? Good stories are good stories. Regardless of genre. What is his real problem? How does the story confront that problem? And change him, and bring about some degree of resolution? Put in other terms, how is the reader going to be confronted and forced to reevaluate and change? Patrick had good answers to these questions. One of the limitations of Inkblots is hearing only a snippet.

Bob's words of wisdom. His theory of fiction: plot, description, dialogue, character development. Patrick is going to post more of the story so we can see where it is going. This is a short story. I think that is a good idea, and I would like to see more of us in Inkblots do this.

Bob reminds us of his guru from Soap Lake Healing Water Spa in Eastern Washington. Bob is clearly having a fun time with this yarn. Good details about a spa for sale near Spokane. Needs some TLC which may mean he could get if for a steal. So his protagonist Bill negotiates. Good details, smell of a truckload of hay on the highway. Lava lamp, year around iconic image, mostly enjoy all that Soap Lake has to offer... We get the deadpan irony of this. What were they smoking when they wrote that. Most of the buildings dated from the McKinley administration. Town smelled of rotten eggs. Bob is writing humor (Dah), in the spirit of O'Henry, to my ear. Personifying the building that couldn't remember when it had been painted last. Rocking chairs personified, couldn't remember when they had been rocked by someone last. Bob does a great job of putting us there, and he does it with specific details, blue cabinets the color of.  Slam on sophisticated Seattle-lites. We get that. Could Bill run his hand across the surface of the counter top or the mantle, or something, to appeal and awaken the reader's sense of touch? "Well, you're looking at her." Bill did look at her. This was a good segue, glue that kept your narrative and dialogue flowing together. I love the bargaining between prospective buyer (operator) and the seller. We talked about smells, and touch (running his hand across a door frame and getting a sliver, rat droppings behind a chair. And sound as Patrick suggested could come from turning a radio dial and not getting any stations only static and fragments of game shows or the farm report. John thought the seller should interject more in the bargaining.

I read from LUTHER IN LOVE. Bob though maybe that wheezing would make the face red not pale. Using his pet name for Katie, my rib, for the first time is confusing when Luther is having a fit of coughing; Patrick thought it sounded like he was having pain in his rib. Bob comments about the variety of details brought into the story, the sense of urgency, the elements that will come together as the story unfolds. I will post a draft of the first chapter to forthcoming LUTHER IN LOVE in another blog post shortly.  

We meet again Tuesday October 11. 

Monday, September 26, 2016

Modern Worship--Five Parts Short: The Seven Parts of True Worship (NRH 08)

NEW REFORMATION HYMNS album coming soon

Come Bless the Lord (Long Meter, LM,

What do most people mean when they say, "The worship was, like, really great today?" Are they referring to the confession of sin? The sacraments? Prayer? Public reading of Scripture, exhortation, preaching, the benediction? No, in the vast majority of people's minds, worship today is synonymous with music. That's it, music, and they usually mean a particular kind of music. So what then, in a majority of churches today, has become the measure of worship being great?  I fear that for many the quality of worship is measured by how closely the worship band managed to replicate the popular CCM radio sound and feel of the original band that created the music. If this is true, then worship in many churches, among other things, may be at least five parts short of biblical worship.

Observing many worship services today and one could easily conclude that there are essentially two (or maybe three) parts to worshiping God: singing and listening to some form of preaching. But that's an intensely new-fangled and wrong-headed (and wrong-hearted) way of looking at Christian worship. So much is left out. Herein, once again, Church history comes to the rescue. Based soundly on the Word of God, the Reformers of the 16th century rediscovered the seven biblical parts of worship, worship in Spirit and in truth.

Reflecting on this, and in the spirit of that great rediscovery, I attempted to build Come Bless the Lord (NRH 08) around Psalm 134 (the opening line) and Isaiah 6 when the prophet found himself in the presence of God and saw the Lord high and lifted up. Each stanza of the hymn follows the order of Reformed corporate worship in seven parts. Can you summarize the seven parts? Where does Jesus appear in those seven parts (hint: EVERYWHERE!)

Come, bless the Lord and trembling rise
Before the Sovereign of the skies;
Before his majesty now raise
Adoring hymns of grateful praise!

Bow humbly down, your sins confess;
Pour out your soul, on mercy rest.
Since Christ triumphant bears your woe,
Repent, his cleansing mercy know.

Rise joyful now and Jesus bless
For his imputed righteousness,
His sovereign kindness, lavished grace,
His freely dying in your place.

Pay all your vows and cheerful bring
The gifts he gave; give back to him.
His gifts, so vast, his life outpoured—
Ourselves we lay before you, Lord.

Come, Word of Life, yourself reveal;
Your truth make us to know and feel;
Inflame our minds to love your ways;
Make us a sacrifice of praise.

Come, Jesus Christ, sweet heav’nly Bread,
And with your life this table spread,
Then grateful we will solemn dine
On hallowed bread and sacred wine.

Now go into the world in peace,
And bear the burdens of the least,
And bathe your neighbors’ feet in love,
So Christ they’ll know and praise above.

Douglas Bond, Copyright, June 4, 2008

Monday, September 19, 2016

No Wiggle Room: The Five Unshakeable Solas NRH 07

Rome to Geneva Bond Tour 2015

Creator God, Our Sovereign Lord (

I originally collaborated on this hymn with Paul Jones, Music Director, organist, and composer at Tenth Presbyterian, Philadelphia, he providing the excellent musical composition, and I the poetry. It's based on the five "solas" of the Reformation, sola Scriptura, sola fide, sola gratia, solus Christus, soli Deo gloria, with a refrain based on John Calvin's personal seal, "My heart I offer thee, O Lord, promptly and sincerely." We entered it in a Calvin 500 commemorative hymn writing contest based in Geneva... and lost; they said it was too doctrinaire, or something like that, and preferred a hymn written in commemoration of Calvin's 500th birthday (July 10, 1509) to be more conciliatory with modern ideas about God and religion.

Watch for this hymn and others on a forthcoming album composed and arranged by Greg Wilbur.

Creator God, our Sovereign Lord,
The heavens tell, the stars have shown,
Your splendor, might, and Deity,
Yet Truth lies in your Word alone.
                        My heart to you, O God, I give,
                        And by your Word I live.                                               
In Truth your Word reveals my guilt,
My lost, unworthy self makes known,            
But now made new I’m justified
And live and move by Faith alone.
                        My heart to you, O God, I give,
                        And now by Faith I live.

Before you made the world you chose,
In love, to send your only Son
To ransom me and make me one
With Christ, my Lord, by Grace alone.
                        My heart to you, O God, I give,
                        And now by Grace I live.

O Christ, Redeemer, Savior, King,
Subdued by grace, I am your own;
Enthrall my soul and make me free,
Reformed, redeemed by Christ alone.
                         My heart to you, O God, I give,
                         And now in Christ I live.

O glorious God, who reigns on high,
With heart in hand, before your throne,
We hymn your glory ‘round the world   
With psalms adoring you alone.
                          My heart to you, O God, I give
                          And for your glory live.

                                 Douglas Bond, Copyright, October 31, 2007

Brief commentary:
Creator God, our Sovereign Lord, by Douglas Bond, is written in quatrains of iambic Long Meter with a developing refrain arranged in an 8.6 couplet in iambic meter. The five stanzas are organized around the five theological priorities of John Calvin and the Protestant Reformation, expressed in Latin as, Sola Scriptura, Sola Fide, Sola Gratia, Solus Christus, Soli Deo Gloria, and in English as the Bible alone, Faith alone, Grace alone, Christ alone, to God alone the glory. The refrain makes parallel references to these five solas, and also alludes to Calvin’s inscription on his personal seal, Cor meum tibi offero, Domine, prompte et sincere, or in English, “My heart I offer thee, O Lord, promptly and sincerely.”

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Crisis: Relationship tension, fighting, and resolution--INKBLOTS

I read an article my friend Greg Bailey at Crossway shared about new research on common themes of bestsellers. Marriage, love (not reduced to illicit sex), human closeness, and work topped the list of themes explored by bestselling authors. It sounds like human beings remain fascinated with the primal relationships and responsibilities God ordained in the beginning. You want to write a bestseller? Okay, start by immersing yourself in the bestseller of all time, the Bible.

Inkblots tonight, warm autumn evening, the Scriptorium warm and toasty (new heat pump belching out a steady breath of warm air as the sun sets, evening falls, and temperatures begin to drop). We had a new guest this evening, welcome, David. And regulars John, Patrick, Alisa, Sophia, Rachel, and yours truly (Dougie Mac and Bob R had better things to do, snubbed us, humph).

Alisa leads off with an award-winning story (entered in a writing contest and won; do this) she wrote seven years ago and is now dusting off and reworking, a prank gone wrong. 1970s but make more clear about hard line or cell phone, for Patrick. Begins with a call to 911 dispatcher, his brother missing, awkward to describe his brother. I like the way Alisa writes one side of the phone conversation but gives us clear impression of what was said on the other end, though we don't actually hear what is said. Brother goes hunting for his brother while law enforcement is on its way. Not at the logging camp; where had they taken his brother? David likes the way Alisa had the Led Zeppelin song grate on him. Creating tension on multiple levels. Description of room, algebra homelike lying about. Patrick pointed out that Alisa is showing not telling, so well. What are areas she wants to change and improve. There's great benefit to switching genre and projects, fiction to nonfiction, article to poetry, blog post to different topic blog post, and did I mention poetry? Alisa is writing from the point of view of a teen male, "Not deep thinkers," she tells us, with total candor and precise accuracy for the vast majority. David, a psychologist, agrees that the male brain doesn't fully develop until twenty-three. Sounds generous to me. Alisa's protagonist is years out on that score.  Alisa brings a range of writing experience to 'Blots, with several newspaper articles on her writing plate right now, and the final push on Swiftwater to book in hand.

John reads from Saving Grace, Grace is abortion-minded, her dad a cop dealing with a grim crime scene, "refuse" from an abortion clinic, murder of two children, but MDs did it and its just medical waste. She has just told her parents. Who spoke words of comfort to her distraught daughter--show us this, don't tell us. Dean said tenderly, but is he a tender guy? He sounds too nice. His throat felt as dry as death valley--kills this, or alter to avoid cliche. From what I've read about his character, this seems not how he would react, at least at first. Sorry I interrupted, seems unrealistic. I think there needs to be more rapid exchange dialogue here. What does the mom say, the day reply, or retort? Grace says a few words, parents interject. Have Dean be torn; he wants her to abort to save her scholarship, his job, their reputation as a family, everything. But then images of what he saw at crime scene. War Games, filmed in part in Steilacoom, David reminds us of a moment when they have a brawl over whether a human or a computer can push the button. Purpose of this scene was to give background to the depth of what they are about to do. Bring audience up to speed, fill in back story, in a fight. The reader is riveted, but also getting the back story needed for the rest of the yarn to work. Backstory can stall the pace or be an opportunity for intensity. Make this scene a fight, one that only gradually simmers down, but make the reader wonder if it will resolve satisfactory, but deeply want it to resolve right. Sophia comments on the dialogue, girl in this place, telling her parents that she is pregnant, or some other parent child conflict, is going to be explosive in the extreme.

Sophia reads from her point of view, from various blogs, coming together for a book of encouragement mostly for women. Challenge is bringing things together from. Going from blog voice to book voice. From Lament to Love: Finding God in Life's Darkest Places. I like the description of awkwardness at a first meeting, handshake, but not too firm, too sweaty in the palm, arms crossed, well done. This from Sophia's role as a personal trainer. Honesty coming out, and the feeling of hypocrisy. Insecurity of being chronically ill but being a physical trainer, in a role to tell others how to be well and fit, when she didn't feel well and fit herself. Good job of directing the reader to the Lord, God in holy community with himself, the Trinity, so we are called to live in community. We need one another. In the darkest places the light will shine through, the Psalms. This is very good material, maturing spiritual reflections, honesty, candor. I have found that I learn best from story, mine, yes, but the myriad of other people's stories too. Consider a story/expound pattern something like Colson does in Loving God maybe. I love your direction to the Word, Lamentations. Chapters organized around themes (as in The Prophet). Patrick asked if it will be stories, rather than abstract reflections, essays. Using conversations, dialogue. I'm a fake, stick with what you began with. Inclusio, end introduction or chapter where you began it. Are there more than one book in this material? Probably. Patrick had lots of good ideas about this piece, including being intentional in the tone, blogging tone that is more intrusive, or book tone where the author disappears more. Can you write this as a chronology? Where you are able to show the sequence of your own change.

I was just reading Isaiah 60 (I find myself parked in this section of Isaiah, the Gospel according to Isaiah. There will be no sun or moon in the New Jerusalem; Christ will be our everlasting Light. Thinking about your title, Sophia, and the direction of your manuscript. I wonder if Being Found of God in Life's Darkest... might not be more accurate?

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Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Despair in Politics: Delight in Worship (NRH 06)

WW I British soldiers singing on the march

NEW REFORMATION HYMN 06: King Jesus Reigns (NRH 06) Long Meter, LM,

I don't know about you, but I've just about had it with this presidential campaign. I try to stear pretty clear of political posts (I ALWAYS get skewered by someone, and if I'm going to get skewered, I'd rather get it for a post on an ultimate theme, a topic worth dying for). Never before in my life have I felt more out of step with both parties, and their respective candidates.

In our family worship of late we have made it a goal to pray more immediately for Hillary Clinton. There's hardly a single issue on which I agree with her, but she is sixty-eight, our second oldest president to take office (if she wins), and she has had too many health episodes even for her supporters and the MSM to ignore. She needs Jesus, King Jesus. Our prayer is that she is not "sickness proof and sermon proof," as Samuel Rutherford wrote (I would vote for the author of Lex Rex in a heartbeat; I know he's a Scot, but, hey, our all-embracing immigration policy being what it is, surely we can fix it so he could run. Okay, I know he's dead, but we allow dead people to vote, so why not?).

Illness has a way of re-calibrating ones world view.  By the grace of God alone, the Democratic presidential nominee's failing health could be the best thing that ever happened to her. Our prayer as a family is that she will be terrified by these health episodes, that, far more that merely being unfit health-wise (not to mention, otherwise) to be president, she will fear her own dying. And that that fear would lead to godly sorrow, which would lead to true repentance and faith in King Jesus.

What the world needs now is neither income equality, nor reproductive rights, nor gender equality, nor a few more rednecks. No doubt I have overstepped into politics sufficiently for a skewering, so I'll leave of haranguing about it. What the world needs now is what the world has needed since the Fall: King Jesus. Which takes me to the next New Reformation Hymn, King Jesus Reigns (NRH 06).

While listening to a sermon on the text "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesars, but to God the things that are God's," I began furiously jotting down a flood of ideas for this hymn. My wife at times scowls at me during a worship service when I begin doing this; she thinks it might be a bad example to the children. I explain to her (later, not during the service) that it's just my version of taking notes on the sermon. I don't think she entirely buys this, but I'm imminently satisfied with it. Readers of the Crown & Covenant Trilogy will hear hints and allusions reminiscent of the grand struggle of Covenanters to uphold the Crown Rights of the Redeemer in his Kirk.  
King Jesus reigns, enthroned on high!
With heart and voice we glorify
His Majesty, his power and grace,
And his high sovereignty embrace.

Though kings usurp and proud men try
Their pompous selves to deify,
Adoring praise shall never cease
For Christ, Redeemer, Prince of Peace!

King Jesus rules upon his throne
And does the wealth of nations own;
While fading things to Caesar bring,
Ourselves we render to our King.

While pharaohs, kings, and emperors boast,
The King of kings leads out his host;
The proud, one day, shall bow the knee
When Christ in triumph sets us free!

King Jesus wears his worthy crown,
Though envious men and nations frown,
And we, by grace, on eagle’s wings,
Uphold the Crown rights of our King!

His holy nation, chosen ones,
We joyful bow, and with our tongues
We hymn allegiance high and sing,
“Hail Jesus! Sovereign Lord and King!”

                Douglas Bond, Copyright, March 12, 2008

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Love Poetry, Hard Labor, and the Hymn (NRH 05)

NEW REFORMATION HYMN (NRH 05): If I Can Speak With Tongues of Fire (NRH 05) (Long Meter, LM, 
After singing one of very few poetic texts on I Corinthians 13 and feeling that there was so much left unearthed in the lines I was singing, I began working on the following. This hymn was intensely painful labor (with apologies to my darling wife and all mothers). Over months that became years, I have worked and reworked several versions, some shorter, and one considerably longer.

In another post I might share another hymn that is a recasting of a recasting of one of the recastings of this one (and still recasting), the hymn itself being a recasting of Paul's great text on love, which was Paul, under Divine inspiration, recasting a description of Jesus himself who is ultimate love personified.
Hymn poetry.      Musical score.   Musical score 2      Erfurt (score)     Audio.

If I can speak in tongues of fire
Yet fail to do what love requires,
I’m nothing—though high mountains move—
I’m nothing without perfect love.

I’m nothing if I try to hide
Resentment, envy, selfish pride.                      
I’m nothing—though high myst’ries find—  
If I’m not patient, humble, kind.
His heav’nly gifts God gives to me
So Christ’s perfected love I’d see
And know—and speak, and serve and give—
And in my holy Bridegroom live.

In faith and hope, love perseveres,
No anger and no rudeness hears;
Such lovingkindness—fully blessed—
Gives foretastes of eternal rest.

We see in part like children here,
A poor reflection in a mirror;
Yet in my heart I long to find
Love more by Jesus’ love refined.

Above I’ll know, as Christ has known,
How vast his love for sinners shown!
With eyes undimmed I’ll end my race
And gaze on Jesus face to face!
                            Douglas Bond, Copyright, December 28, 2007