Friday, December 28, 2012

A "Smashing" Review of my new book, THE THUNDER

St Andrew's Castle with a former student
 I was just sent the January 2013 issue of the Canadian magazine Reformed Perspective (a well-put-together journal, I might add) with a review of my new book on John Knox, THE THUNDER. "Douglas Bond does a smashing job, ...a great novel for anyone who likes history... simply an amazing tale told exceptionally well."

The Thunder : A novel on John Knox / by Douglas Bond
All I knew of Knox before reading this was that he was supposed to be the Scottish John Calvin. But after The Thunder I think a better comparison might be some combination of
action hero and Scottish Elijah. His first notable foray as a Reformer was as a bodyguard, wielding a two-handed
sword in protection of a preacher. He was then ordained himself, and shortly thereafter imprisoned and sent to a French
galley to row for almost two years. And when finally freed, though the trial left a permanent impact on his health, Knox
then made a habit of speaking Truth to Power, chastising the regent of England, encouraging the child King, Edward VI, and then admonishing Mary, Queen of Scots as well as her mother, the Dowager Queen Mary of Guise. This was a guy, weak though he was in body, who would not back down! So that’s the man, but what about the novel? Douglas Bond does a smashing job, telling the tale from the perspective of one of Knox’s students. This device allows Bond to tell one near unbelievable tale after another about his principle figure, but make it all believable by having the young student also marvel at the spiritual might of this Reformation giant. This is a great novel for anyone who likes history, older teens through adults, and simply an amazing tale told exceptionally well.

Reformed Perspective, January, 2013

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Hot off the press, brand new tune for carol!

Original tune, WONDER, by Vince Treadway
I have been delighted with the response to my hymn tune writing challenge. My friend Vince Treadway, organist extraordinaire and composer, from a PCA church in Lake Wales, Florida, has written the first tune and named it WONDER. All you pianists out there, sit down and play it and let me know what you think. I think Vince has captured a good deal of the sense of wonder I was thinking of as I wrote the poetry.

I was richly blessed this morning as I made some deliveries in my truck, singing and meditating on Watts' greatest of all carols, Joy to the World (Psalm 98). May Jesus rule and reign in all our hearts and may the wonder of his love, his truth and grace, fill our hearts afresh this Christmas season. Here's the hymn poetry and Vince's original, fresh from his imagination, musical score, WONDER. May it fill us with wonder at the incarnation of Jesus!

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

The child who is the Way, the Truth,
          Who pleased His Father in His youth,
Through all His days the Law obeyed,
          Yet for its curse His life He paid.         
         
What drops of grief fell on the site
          Where Jesus wrestled through the night,
Then for transgressions not His own,
          He bore my cross and guilt alone.

What glorious Life arose that day
          When Jesus took death’s sting away!
His children raised to life and light,
          To serve Him by His grace and might.

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

                             Douglas Bond (December 16, 2010)

Friday, December 21, 2012

INKBLOTS - Freedom of speech, bloated friars, and the pen

-->
Fat Hubert appears in my Wycliffe novel

INKBLOTS -- December 10, 2012

Outside tonight are dense mists, like you read about in a Dickens novel. Brrr. But we have hot spiced wine and a cheery fire on the grate, and a 12 foot noble fir all bedecked for the season. Shane leads off with some fulminating nonfiction based on Obama Care, freedom, and the fallen world in which we live.

We are all dying... He was responding to a frustrated unbelieving friend who had just lost a loved one and who believed was convinced that Obama Care would have saved his friend. Shane also read a piece he wrote to a church leader before leaving the church, over a female pastor now preaching. This was just before the election. His argument was against churches being restricted from political preaching, upon pain of revocation of tax exempt status. He argues that it was a deal cut to maintain church exempt status. Freedom ought to be restored for churches to have freedom of speech.

This is well crafted persuasive argument, appropriate evidence cited with clarity. Your critique of the Johnson Amendment is well reasoned. Shane is a big fan of Thomas Sowell and Walter Williams.

Shane read on, a short story. He apologized for taking another tack than I taught fiction writing (it's been enough years since Shane was a student of mine that either he or I may not remember accurately or have changed enough for this not to be accurate, we'll see). Good detailed description, peeling the mango. The conflicted decision making was effective, your protagonist warring within himself about their route. I think a bit more attribution will clarify the rapid exchanges of conversation with his mother. I think the delirium reflected in the jerky thoughts and description works well, however, without giving us more reason to care about his plight, would be difficult to sustain much longer without dehumanizing your protagonist, detaching him from the reader's ability to enter into his experience. Shane fills us in (story incomplete) as he is dying of rabbis from a monkey bite. The protagonist will die in the end. Sounds like Ambrose Bierce, Bitter Bierce, all of whose main characters die.

May I suggest a review of the anatomy of fiction. Flannery O'Conner, complete but don't over write, don't make it too pat. Life is never completely resolved, this side of heaven.

John reading from his Peter book, immigrant Russian in America. Conflict of shady influences, corrupting a fellow who just wants to make a living. Making good money quickly, so he would have a chance with Amy. Vladimir is the face of the Russian mob. Never use 'very,' a dead word. Car theft. Maybe show a bit more of his conflicted inner struggle at stealing a car for the first time. End chapter with more foreboding. I like the irony coming of him winning Amy and then when she finds out how he earns his money she won't have anything to do with him. Show don't tell. Have him recalling the moral training he had from his family, a favorite ethical saying from his grandfather maybe. Hardworking family background, a family that would rather die than steal. Develop this and his internal struggle based on his family background.

We tied about using foreign language in English prose. Fiction is contrivance, and must be authentic, but also comprehensible to the English reader. Dialect is valuable for authenticity, but it will never be purely authentic. It requires compromise.

I read from my now 'finished' Wycliffe manuscript. Story began at Crecy in 1346; a number of years have now elapsed. My peasant Willard has come to the climactic moment where he has to do what he must to rescue his sister from the lecherous hands of Hubert the corrupt friar.

Monday, December 17, 2012

What is a Christmas Carol?

In some of my English classes right now, we're sorting through the question of what makes a poem a carol.  Do any of these qualify as Christmas carols? "Rudolf the red-nosed reindeer," "I'm dreaming of a white Christmas," "Frosty the snowman"? Most of us would agree that these represent more of the residual fluff that has emerged to pad the season with a sort of vague wintery charm, but they're not carols.

How about Longfellow's poem written in 1864, "I heard the bells on Christmas Day"; does it qualify as a Christmas carol? Hate is still tragically strong and does indeed mock the song of peace on earth good-will to men, as we have so painfully been reminded of late. But is it really a Christmas--Christ worship--carol? Determined not to be a cynic, though the cannons of the Civil War were nearly drowning out the chimes of the Christmas bells, Longfellow takes a significant leap between the last two stanzas of his carol, and concludes, “God is not dead, nor doth He sleep; The wrong shall fail, the right prevail ...”

But how did he get to that conclusion? I think a genuine Christmas Carol, a hymn in praise of Jesus' coming into the world as a baby for the sole purpose, "...to save his people from their sins," fills in the gap between Longfellow's deep despair expressed in the second-to-last stanza of his poem, and his final inexplicable confidence that the right will somehow prevail over the wrong expressed in the last stanza. But what or rather Who bridges the gap between the despair and the hope? Answer with the gospel of grace alone in Christ Jesus alone and you have the material for a true Christmas carol.

With a measure of trepidation (carols are some of the church's most endearing hymns), I offer a new Christmas carol. Whether or not this effort of mine qualifies as a true Christmas carol is up to others to decide, but here it is (still awaiting a John Baptiste Calkin to come along and set it to a wonderful tune, as Calkin did to Longfellow's). Here's my challenge deal: a free copy of my new novel on John Knox, THE THUNDER, to the best composition for my Christmas carol (other royalty compensation may apply).

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

The child who is the Way, the Truth,
          Who pleased His Father in His youth,
Through all His days the Law obeyed,
          Yet for its curse His life He paid.         
         
What drops of grief fell on the site
          Where Jesus wrestled through the night,
Then for transgressions not His own,
          He bore my cross and guilt alone.

What glorious Life arose that day
          When Jesus took death’s sting away!
His children raised to life and light,
          To serve Him by His grace and might.

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

                             Douglas Bond (December 16, 2010)

Monday, December 3, 2012

Pilgrim Radio Network Interview--Bond on Knox


I had a great time chatting with Bill Feltner, host of Pilgrim Radio Network on my biography of John Knox, THE MIGHTY WEAKNESS OF JOHN KNOX. The program airs in California, Nevada, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, and Utah.

He wrote me a note today, filling me in on the air times for the interview: "I've divided your interview about John Knox into two parts, which air today (Mon., 12/03) at 12:30pm and 9:30pm PST, and tomorrow at 2:30am; 12:30pm and 9:30pm PST. Thanks very much for an excellent interview. God bless and Merry Christmas. Bill Feltner, Pilgrim Radio Network."

If you care to, you can listen in online at www.pilgrimradio.com. 

Trust you all will have a Merry Christmas! 
Douglas Bond

PS. We have only a few seats left on the REFORMATION FOR ALL TIME TOUR, June 21-July 1, 2013. Participants will have an unforgettable experience of Reformers from Luther and Bucer, to Calvin and Zwingli, and of the places where they lived, ministered, suffered, and died: Paris and Wittenberg, Zurich and Geneva, and more. The tour also features the 450 celebration of the Heidelberg Catechism, 1563-2013. We are rapidly approaching the closing of subscriptions to the tour, so don't delay!  

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Giles and Gillian Writing Christmas Carols



Here's Giles's (9) first carol effort of the season: 
Come and see the newborn Child,
Come and see him, meek and mild!
"You shepherds," the angels call,
"Come before the Child and fall."

Worship him! Worship and sing!
Christ, Messiah, newborn King!
 

God's perfect Son, holy babe,
Born of a lowly virgin maid;
In a cattle stall he lay,
While Shepherds bow down and say:

Worship him! Worship and sing!
Hail you, Jesus, newborn King!


The wise men saw the star
And brought him gifts from afar,
Of gold.... (still working here)

Worship him! Worship and sing!
Christ the Savior, newborn King!

And here's Gillian's (7) first carol effort of the season:


The King is Coming

By Gillian Fiona Bond

He is our Father,
All glorious, mighty, and strong!
Our Father, O you are the King,
Lord God, you are my Lord.
He is coming!
The Son of God, he is coming!

He is the holy Son;
He is coming, the Son of God,
Jesus Christ is coming to earth;
Through Mary, a poor virgin,
He is coming!
O, Lord God, Savior Almighty.

See more New Reformation Hymns (and a carol) at www.newreformationhymns.webs.com



Tuesday, October 23, 2012

INKBLOTS -- How to make fiction read like reality


Not this Tito

INKBLOTS October 22, 2012

Fire on the hearth, South African Syrah (thanks, John, very nice). Four of us tonight; welcome, T2, not the Tito pictured!

Doug talked about Reviewer #9 (without affection). Particularly offensive was the certitude that an eighteen year old would not know who Knox is or anything about the Westminster Standards. Grrrrrowl (to quote roughly  Dougie).

We talked about how to portray thoughts in fiction. Italics and punctuated as if it was a speaker instead of a thinker. Doug Mac read from his Monte Casino campaign WW II historical fiction. We learn that the Brazilians fought in this campaign, and we learn that Tito is named for the Dictator of Albania, named for a Marxist when his dad used to be one himself.

Are you continuing in present tense? I say, he asks, makes my stomach tighten... Make sure you attribute early for a new speaker. Dougie Mac is intentionally writing in present tense. I missed the anticipation of the incoming ordnance and the death of the German. Protagonist is willing to compromise his theology principles to please the mother of Sophia, the Italian girl he thinks he is in love with. The relic is the cross of St. Anthony, the patron saint of marriage. Dougie's overall objective is to adorn the unity of the body of Christ. 

John commented on the overuse of the word "wall." Do you hear shells incoming? You hear that you never hear the one that gets you. Writing historical fiction sometimes means doing some pretty detailed research to get things accurate. Fiction is contrivance, and the best fiction is detailed and accurate, contrivance that is authentic and convincing.

John is preparing his submission of Saving Grace to Writers Edge. He read his synopsis which reminded me again of the great potential this books has. Dougie wonders if it ends too abruptly without actually telling how it resolves. Which brings up whether a synopsis in this context should tell all or withhold the final conclusion. Obviously the synopsis on the back cover of the book should not tell all, but what about when submitting a manuscript to a reading service or publisher? My theory is that we’re also trying to sell the publisher on the story, as we hope they will want to do to readers. Therefore, I’d recommend telling enough in the synopsis so they get the idea, but leave them wanting more, tease them into wishing you had given them the end, but don’t do it. My opinion, for what it’s worth.
 
T2 is working on a book of sermons turned to book chapters. T2 is editor of the project, to be published by Reformation Heritage Books, Joel Beeke. T2's testimony is a thrilling story of the power of the gospel to transform a life, the clear highlight of the evening. His dad, a well-known South American neurosurgeon, with no time for the gospel, disowned him. Named by his Marxist father for the Albanian dictator, Tito has a degree in chemistry and another in accounting, but his calling is to preach the gospel and shepherd his flock.

I brought up the rear with reading from chapter seven of my 14th century tale set during Wycliffe’s life in England. When I finished Dougie Mac’s comment went something like this: “When I listen to you read you seem to show so much more than in my writing, atmospheric details like birds, but specifically eider ducks and what they are doing on the banks of the river, and then your protagonist heaves a rock at one…” It went something like that.

Based on that observation, we discussed knowing when to throttle back the pace of the story so that there is room to flesh out the local color and ambiance, make things authentic, real-to-life, but still not lose the forward motion, the energy, the rapid pace so essential to a fascinating and compelling read. There are times when I feel that I need to slow down and flesh out authentic details in the narrative, but always in the context of the details effecting my protagonist, never dangling description. It always must be landing, creating a reaction in my characters, otherwise it doesn’t need to be there, and it will stall the pace of the story.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

CBC feature on hymns, God's Greatest Hits, asked me to consult for the series

I had a recent contact from a fellow named Jason Charters, one of the producers of Canadian Televisions series on hymnody. Here's what he wrote. "I am one of the producers of  a Canadian television series called God's Greatest Hits that airs here on VisionTV.  I am currently researching hymns for our second season and I  came across your websites.  We are planning a trip to Ireland and England  to do some filming for three of our episodes.  One is on British hymns,  one is on Irish hymns and one is on Maritime hymns.  We are looking for people to interview about some of the songs and for local performers as  well. Would you have a bit of time to talk on the phone with me?"

After our telephone conversation, he asked me to review their list of hymns and hymn writers for the series and make recommendations. Whether or not they will use any of my recommendations remains to be seen. Their selections feature jazz and pop singers singing versions of classic hymns (and some not so classic ones). One Canadian posed the question in the Vancouver Sun: "Should U2's inspiring song, ONE, be a contender for the Canadian series, 'God's Greatest Hits?'" You get the idea. Nevertheless, it was interesting to be asked to offer some input to the second season of the series.

INKBLOTS: Rejection, editing, sanctification, and point of view



INKBLOTS October 8, 2012

First fire of the season, though it was blue sky and full sun today, there is a definite autumn snap in the air. Somehow INKBLOTS seems like a cooler weather activity. We're back at it. John brought a nice French Bordeaux, and a home vintner-ed rose... ahem... cough

Five ink blotters and their efforts. Dave's book with Winepress, just signed off on the text and waiting final approval on the cover art. Dougie Mac is reading Essentials of English (Barons).

Carl is speaking at a conference in North Carolina, White Unto Harvest Conference, and they nixed his idea and offered their topic. "What is true conversion--Fruit." He wants input. John posed the question, what is the minimum requirement to be saved. I offered Larger Catechism 73 and WSC 35, "...a work of God's free grace..." and the Scriptural proofs as a good starting place. A good discussion of grace and sanctification followed and how we know we are converted, the pitfalls of making fruit a contingency proposition. I mentioned Finney who made sanctification a condition of justification, and thereby did violence to the gospel of free grace in Christ alone. John 6:28 ff says that the work of God is to believe in Jesus, in justification and in sanctification. I want to be in conversion mode first, not assurance mode.

Dougie Mac got another rejection from Writers Edge after getting their highest accolade, "publishable potential," on another manuscript. He read the rejection which says it is a good story, but has copy editing issues, and has too much doctrinal material going on. Signed by reviewer #9 (they want no hits put out on their reviewers). Improve mechanics big time, they recommend. This is helpful. A great tale communicated with marginal grammar is not going to fly. Publishers like clean manuscripts. Hence, Dougie is reading Essentials of English.

We talked a good deal about copy editing and the problems when copy editors try to write over the author's book, or altering the stylistic preferences of the author for their own. These things really do happen. It happened to me with Rebel's Keep, Accidental Voyage, and there can be out-of-the-blue glitches introduced by zealous copy editors sincerely trying to "fix' things, but inadvertently introducing a big problem (as happened on page 170 in Hand of Vengeance when the copy editor omitted part of a simile they didn't like but never told me, so there dangles a lonely "like"--the rest of the book works very well, in my opinion, but these glitches can be very frustrating). Then we talked about offensive language. Winepress made David change a scatological euphemism to something else. He thought it was a bit unreasonable. Why do we use it, if we do, and is it productive, useful, edifying, fitting in its context? I like to be guided by: Would I write it or say if Jesus was in the room? If not, write not.

John shared with us revisions he is making to Saving Grace, a role for an existing character who will be instrumental in helping Grace when she is suicidal and needs support and encouragement. Not a lot of body language in this early version. Get your attributions up early in the dialogue so the reader is absolutely clear who is talking in this conversation. Placard God's will not man's, in my opinion. Your discussion of the gospel is well done, but showcasing free will seems odd to me. It derails us a bit from the centrality of Christ and his will, which you otherwise seem very concerned with. John referred to Lewis and how God can attend to everybodys praying at the same time (not as daunting a prospect as it ought to be given how poorly many of us pray). 

We talked again about point of view and sticking with one. Next I read an excerpt from my Wycliffe novel wherein I very intentionally switch points of view!

David read his newest fiction work, wherein he switches points of view! Protagonist is the assassin, plotting to kill a man and his daughter. Uses the word 'prey' far too often. Hit man is cold, unfeeling, without human feeling. Probably switch to third person in next chapter.