- Donald S. Whitney, Simplify Your Spiritual Life
Today was the first genuinely nice day of the year. I have a window (one) open as I sit here.
Sadly for you, there was no camera present to record the hauntingly beautiful “Welcome to Spring” interpretive dance I did this morning.
On Facebook, I had a short conversation with a truly remarkable man, Norwegian artist Anders Kvåle Rue. We’re Facebook friends, but there is a division between us. Despite the fact that we’re both Christian Viking aficionados, which puts us in a fairly small minority, he’s a supporter of St. Olaf, and I’m a supporter of Erling Skjalgsson. The feud of two men a thousand years dead lives on in our hearts.
I kind of like that.
Anyway, I went on to ask him about the video below (it’s in Norwegian) done by my translation publisher, Saga Bok. It’s about their trip to Iceland to examine the Flatey (Flatøy) Book, one of the great lesser-known troves of saga material in existence. Saga Bok is doing a Norwegian translation and Anders did the art. They wanted to get a look at the original artifact so he could match colors.
I asked him about something that may have surprised you too, if you watched it. He handles this precious object, well over a millennium old, with his bare hands. “Didn’t they want you to wear gloves?” I asked.
No, he said. The Flatey Book is written on parchment, made from animal skins. Unlike paper, which deteriorates from the acid in your fingerprints, parchment actually benefits from the body oils you deposit on it.
From the English Spectator, a review by the great Paul Johnson of Alister McGrath's new C. S. Lewis biography. I might note that Johnson makes one mistake. He says Mrs. Moore was Lewis’ friend Paddy Moore’s widow, when she was actually his mother. Tip: First Thoughts.
Have a good weekend!
Author David Mamet intends to self-publish his next work this year. He will be using a new service offered by his literary agency, ICM Partners, which will be using Argo Navis Author Services.
“Basically I am doing this because I am a curmudgeon,” he told the N.Y. Times, “and because publishing is like Hollywood — nobody ever does the marketing they promise.”
With this service, Mamet has more options. The Times reports that self-published books were about a quarter percent of the bestselling books on Amazon in 2012. With the ICM Partners deal, Mamet's book may published in ebook and print-on-demand paperback for 30% of sales.
I think I mentioned that I did a podcast interview for Baen Books a couple weeks back, about the "Vikings" TV series. I wasn't aware it had been posted -- last week, I think. Anyway, if you go here, you can scroll down and listen to the one second from the top.
I don't think it would be right to say that my column on Christian Fantasy for The Intercollegiate Review, posted yesterday, has gone viral. But it seems to be approaching the communicable disease level anyway. Editor Anthony Sacramone tells me it's rapidly approaching their record for hits. There've been several links, including...
Our friend Gene Edward Veith over at Cranach calls it "beyond excellent."
David Mills at First Things speaks of "good advice" and "interesting insights."
And, most amazing of all, Jeffrey Overstreet himself devotes quite a long post to it, calling me a "formidable storyteller," which is kind of like having your singing praised by Placido Domingo. Although he's visited our blog in the past and responded to some of my comments on his works, I'm surprised that a guy with so much more important things to think about was even aware of my work. He disagrees with my use of the term "Christian fantasy," a point I appreciate, but I don't think there's much to be done about it.
Anyway, thanks to everyone who's spread the word. I did not expect a response of this kind. Frankly (as I confessed to Anthony) I was a little embarrassed to submit the thing, because it seemed to me a lot of conventional wisdom that had been dispensed just as well by better writers.
But sometimes you're in the right place at the right time, like the merchant in Hailstone Mountain who brought a cat to a country full of mice.
Big day in my world today. Today (thanks to Ori Pomerantz for his technical expertise) my new novel Hailstone Mountain made its appearance at Amazon. In order to take advantage of Amazon’s promotional programs, we’ll be exclusively with them for a while.
Hailstone Mountain is an H. Rider Haggard-esque story, in which Erling is struck by a curse that could kill him slowly. In order to break the curse, he must sail north (along with Father Ailill, Lemming, and others) to confront the source of the magic face to face. Meanwhile, Lemming’s niece Freydis is kidnapped by her relatives from up in Halogaland, and it’s not a nice kind of family, so she must be rescued. And that sets off repercussions that could destroy the whole country. Erling must join forces with a bitter enemy to stave off a monstrous horror.
In other news, my American Spectator review of the Vikings TV series is now a citation on the show’s Wikipedia page. That’s my second citation there. So where’s my honorary doctorate, already?
It’s possibly not unrelated that (I’m told; I haven’t looked) somebody posted the Spectator piece at Free Republic, where it became the target of ridicule and obloquy. I don’t mind. I’ve heard from a couple people today looking for various kinds of information, so my profile is higher than it was yesterday, and that’s what you want when you’re trying to sell books.
Also it’s pretty much decided that I’m going to be going for my Master’s in Library and Information Science. Where will I find the time? I don’t know. If it cuts into my reading, I can always blog about library science, which ought to be within the parameters of this blog.
Oh, one more thing – if you’re a book blogger with an established blog and have Kindle reader capability, contact me at lars (at) larswalker (dot) com, for a free review copy of Hailstone Mountain. We did that for Troll Valley, and it worked out pretty well.
I know what you really come here for. Book reviews and theological meditations are all well and good, but what you’re really looking for is information on the present whereabouts of Anthony Sacramone, who used to blog at Luther At the Movies, and still blogs at Strange Herring when he feels like it.
Through my extensive network of spies and informants, I have received information that Anthony is now the Managing Editor of The Intercollegiate Review…
And Modern Age…
Both are publications of the Intercollegiate Studies Institute.
On my promise of total secrecy (which of course is worthless) he sent me a free copy of each publication. As you can guess from the covers, Modern Age (which goes back a long way and was once edited by Russell Kirk) is a scholarly journal, while the Intercollegiate Review is a lighter, slick magazine with more of an entertainment slant.
Subscriptions are available from ISI here.
I was going to celebrate a pretty good day by posting some kind of YouTube video associated with Vikings. I don’t know what. Just something. But YouTube doesn’t seem to be functioning tonight. So I chose the painting above, The Ravager by John Charles Dollman (ca. 1909). Because it’s cold and snowing up here, and it seemed appropriate. Even with the stupid winged helmets.
But it’s still a good day, never mind the weather. Or the wings. Did a reading of one of my theological translations for the Georg Sverdrup Society at the seminary this morning. That went well.
Also signed the contract for my book translation with Saga Publishers International. That means a direct connection between the wealth of Norway and my personal bank account. Also the tremendous respect that being a certified professional scholarly translator brings. And the groupies, of course.
Not coincidentally, I sent the completed first draft of the translation to Saga.
I even got a good parking place at the grocery store – one of those where I could pull forward into the next slot and so leave without backing up.
I should have asked some random woman on a date. But there are limits to a good day.
Tomorrow is the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, known in the church calendar as St. Thomas' Day. It was on St. Thomas' Day in the year 1028 that Erling Skjalgsson, hero of my novels, The Year of the Warrior, West Oversea, and (soon) Hailstone Mountain, was killed at the battle of Soknasund. (Or Boknasund.)
By coincidence or divine appointment, I have today reached verbal agreement with Baen Books to re-release The Year of the Warrior in e-book form. Look for it soon.
Addendum: Thanks to Ori Pomerantz for facilitating the negotiations.
Phil Johnson has an article on the recent rash of supposedly eyewitness accounts of heaven. He says it's nothing new:
Various survivors of near-death experiences have been publishing gnostic insights about the afterlife for at least two decades. Betty Eadie's Embraced by the Light was number one on the New York Times Bestseller List exactly 20 years ago. The success of that book unleashed an onslaught of similar tales, nearly all of them with strong New Age and occult overtones. So psychics and new-agers have been making hay with stories like these for at least two decades.Johnson points to an upcoming book by John MacArthur on heaven and these books. He argues that the Bible forbids the possibility that anyone can return from beyond the grave. "All the accounts of heaven in Scripture are visions, not journeys taken by dead people," MacArthur writes. "And even visions of heaven are very, very rare in Scripture. You can count them all on one hand." Moreover, the biblical accounts focus on God's overwhelming glory, not all the fun junk we might do in heaven.
In his excellent book Gospel Deeps: Reveling in the Excellencies of Jesus, Jared Wilson touches on this in a paragraph near the end.
Can I tell you one of the problems with books like Heaven Is for Real? Aside from the obvious honesty issues, they very often demote Jesus to a Character in heaven like one of the costumed players at Disney World. He is Santa Claus, an attraction of some kind. Read the rest of this entry . . .
J. Mark Bertrand is a remarkable man. He probably hunts elk on weekends and subs occasionally at Chez Dakota for his sous chef friends. He's also an author and reader, has been an editor, if he isn't still, and blogs about Bible design at his blog called... Bible Design Blog.
He doesn't always drink beer, naturally, but when he does--you get the idea.
All to say he has a fascinating article on which Bible to buy for yourself or your dear, dear friend on First Things. The article has many recommendations, but I'd like to highlight one to which a reader points: The Four Holy Gospels, ESV Bible (Slipcase), illuminated by the wonderful painter Makoto Fujimura. It's not a bible you take to church really, but I'm sure it's one that will inspire your meditation.
As promised earlier, we have a few more possible book covers for you to look at. Here's a sentimental favorite (with me at least): Another version including all my buddies, utilizing the central space for a blurb from Hal Colebatch:
Read the rest of this entry . . .
If I were really professional, I’d probably have postponed beginning my translation of Norge i Vikingtid until I had a signed contract, but phooey. Most of my novels were written before I had a contract, or even the promise of one. And I’m excited about this project. It vitalizes me.
Translation can be a disorienting process. I suspect it’s extremely complex, neurologically. There’s a sort of mental dance that goes on between the original text and the translator’s thoughts. You can get a semi-passable (sometimes) translation of a text by running it through something like Babelfish, but the results testify to the very complex and subtle nature of language. There are nuances in the text that have to be caught, music you need to transpose. Sometimes an accurate translation takes you a moderate distance from the precise words of the original, because the original language is accustomed to taking different paths to the meaning than English is.
I read somewhere that the Italians have a joke, based on the fact that the words “translator” and “traitor” are very similar in that language. I think it’s also the Italians who say (my apologies to anyone who might be offended), “A translation is like a wife. If she is faithful, she is probably not beautiful, and if she is beautiful, she is probably not faithful.”
I have an ambition – and I don’t think it’s entirely arrogant – to make this translation both beautiful and faithful. I honestly think I can do that, or something pretty close.
One of the weird aspects of the process, at least for me, is what I think of as “losing my English.” I’m reading along in the Norwegian, and understanding it just fine, and then when I turn to my laptop to render it my native language, I can’t for the life of me remember the English word I want. It’s there, I know, but I just can’t put my hand on it. It’s very similar to the experience we’ve all had where we search for a word we know perfectly well, but temporarily can’t find it for some reason. Only when I’m translating this happens constantly, again and again. I generally put in a not-as-good word, highlight it, and move on. If I ignore it, it’ll come wandering back eventually, like Little Bo Peep’s flock.
I suspect (I haven’t researched it) that different languages occupy different parts of the brain, and that I’m in the process of running new data lines from the Norwegian section to the English. Perhaps the problem will diminish as I spend time at it.
I bet you I’ll still stink at understanding spoken Norwegian, though.
I got good news today. I received a favorable reply to an offer I'd made (by invitation) to Saga Bok Publishers in Norway to do the English translation of Prof. Torgrim Titlestad's recent book, Norge i Vikingtid. That would be Norway in the Viking Age in English.
I lowballed my offer, because I'm unproven in professional translating and I'm keen on this project, and on establishing a working relationship with Saga Bok.
Years ago, as I began to work on a novel about Erling Skjalgsson, I came to certain conclusions about what his principles were, on the basis of the saga accounts.
It was with some delight that I discovered later that there was a Norwegian historian who shared, to a large degree, my views on that particular subject. That historian was Prof. Titlestad.
The project looks to be fairly easy, except for the length of the book, which is considerable. But most of my translation to date has been of 19th Century Norwegian writings, with flowery language and often convoluted sentence structure. Prof. Titlestad, on the other hand, writes in a simple, clear style.
I don't expect that this will interfere with my fiction writing to any great degree.
In any case, I need the money.
"There are so many Lincoln geeks that buy everything new that comes out," Cathy Langer, the lead book buyer at the Tattered Cover Book Store in Denver, tells Stephanie Cohen of the Wall Street Journal. Cohen goes on to report Langer's claim "that in her years as a buyer, she has rarely turned down a title about the 16th president." One such book is Killing Lincoln, which has sold over two million since its release a year ago September. Cohen states some 16,000 books have been written about President Abraham Lincoln, and there's more to come.
To illustrate the volume of existing Lincoln works, the Ford's Theatre Center for Education and Leadership in Washington created a three-story, 34-foot tower sculpture out of Lincoln titles, meant to "symbolize that the last word about this great man will never be written," according to the center.Perhaps I should start writing a series of short volumes on the ignored presidents, like Polk, Hayes, Tyler, and Garfield. I could call them Thrilling Histories, e.g. The Thrilling History of James K. Polk. Or maybe they should be called the Presidential Insider's Guides. Or maybe the What You Didn't Learn series. (via Frank Wilson)
Last night as I was getting ready to turn in, I turned on Dennis Miller's talk show, which is delay-broadcast here. A married couple was sitting in for him (I forget their names), and they announced that their next guest would be their friend Dean Koontz, to talk about his new novel, Odd Apocalypse.
I listened to the interview and took the book's release date, my birthday, as a sign from heaven that I was meant to buy it now, and not wait for a lower price when the paperback comes out.
I'll review it soon.
In other literary news, Gore Vidal has died.
They say you should speak no ill of the dead.
I have nothing more to say.
Coffee and Markets talks to Keith Urbahn about his new firm, Javelin, and publishing conservative authors. "As the only full-service book writing and publicity firm in the nation’s capital, Javelin is the first of its kind," says Urbahn's LinkedIn bio, "offering concrete, multi-channel services from crisis communications and social networking solutions to speech and book writing."
Maybe publicity doesn't lead to book sales. Maybe an author sitting on the couch for seven minutes with Gretchen Carlson on Fox News doesn't sell 10,000 of his books. Are book sales the whole ballgame?
Elsewhere on the web, Lindsay Buroker asks what's a good price for ebooks? Are new authors pricing their books at $0.99 hurting everyone?
An editor talks about how J.K. Rowling's books opened up the world of children lit, and he strays into how nice he thinks it would be to have fewer books printed.
Roger Sutton says we're pressed to believe children don't want to read, but they are "reluctant to read what? If you put down that novel and look around, you will see that lots of so-called reluctant readers are reading plenty; they just aren’t reading fiction, which in this age constitutes 'real reading' as defined by 'real readers'—mainly teachers and librarians."
On the future of print publishing, he says, "Every author in this room is going to disagree with me on this, but there are too many copies of too many books being published. A little curation would be a good thing." So if libraries were the place to go for holding a book in your hand, then we would have a sane publishing world. Is he ignoring home libraries, or does the future have room for that?
Yesterday was a big day for me, because I got my first royalty check from Amazon for the earnings on Troll Valley. Actually, it was the first time I've ever gotten a royalty check (I've had publisher advances, but no actual royalties). On careful consideration, I have decided that this is a good thing, and needs to be pushed along. So if you haven't bought your copy yet, for Kindle or Nook, I can give you a tip that the crowds have thinned out and there's no waiting.
As an added attraction, The American Spectator posted my cranky review of The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest today.
Finally, an outstanding post from Andrew Klavan Himself, on Palm Sunday and the Trayvon Martin case.
Because he puts the Truth before God, his fellow man, justice and morality, Everett is the last man standing in defense of all of them. That’s because Truth is the cornerstone on which every good structure stands. Without a commitment to Truth, our religions, brotherly love, justice and morality topple into meaningless ruins. Even when it’s carried by an imperfect vessel, the Truth and only the Truth can set us free for every other good thing.
You see why I boost Klavan so much? He gets it. Even before he was a Christian, he got this central point, which a lot of people just can't seem to understand in this crooked generation.
Al Mohler laments the passing of the printed Britannica. "My guess is that, all things being equal, a boy my age riding along in the family's Prius this summer is more likely to be playing Angry Birds on his iPad. Left behind is the unexpected serendipity of reading about the mating habits of aardvarks. Is this progress?"
Heh, he has a point, though it would be better served by another example, don't you think?
The Encyclopaedia Britannica distinguishes itself from the more Internet-popular Wikipedia by challenging the latter's knowledge-base and open-editing format. The kerfuffle (which is such a fun, old Scottish word) Soledad O'Brien got into last week illustrates this point precisely. CNN's O'Brien argued with Joel Pollak of Breitbart.com that Critical Race Theory has nothing to do with white supremacy, apparently getting her information from a line or two in a Wikipedia article. Now, due to a series of edits and reverts on that article attempting to validate O'Brien's misread, top Wikipedia editors have frozen the article.
I would tell you what the Britannica says about it, but can only find that Derrick Bell, "American legal scholar and educator who strove uncompromisingly to reveal and confront the pernicious racism that he found ingrained in American legal and social structures," is known for developing the theory.
What has been in print continuously since 1768, got started in Edinburgh, Scotland, and will now be available only online?
The Encyclopaedia Britannica.
To the Best of Our Knowledge, a show from Wisconsin Public Radio, had a great program last Sunday on the influence reviewers from New York and Los Angeles have on national readers. They ask, "Do you ever get the feeling that everyone's reading all the same books and listening to all the same music, and seeing all the same films?" They talk to a few good people who have opinions on that, mostly Wisconsin people oddly enough.
The Frankenfont Project, mixing up the letters of Mary Shelley's text.
Our friend Dr. Gene Edward Veith has a new book out, Family Vocation: God's Calling in Marriage, Parenting, and Childhood.
I probably won't be reviewing it myself, this subject being outside my sphere of expertise, but if you're a normal person, you're likely to find the book useful. Dr. Veith is a wise and godly man.
If you're a faithful Barnes & Noble customer, and have been waiting for Troll Valley to appear on their site, I have wonderful news for you. B&N is now carrying the e-book for the Nook.
Alas, we haven't been able to include the cover art with this file. So here's a nice big version, which you can save to your favorite device and have for your very own:
Tell your friends. Tell your acquaintances. Tell your co-workers and courteous, trained service providers.
I haven't gotten a new review in a couple days. Feeling a little antsy.
I am reliably informed that Troll Valley is now available in (for?) the iBooks app. As I understand it, I don't need to provide any kind of a link, just inform you that this is so. The world of iStuff is a mystery to me.
Also, someone pointed me to this link, which takes you to a full-length image of the Bayeux Tapestry. You can scroll it from one end to the other. It's rather impressive, seen front to back. Like the mother of all comic books.
Author and editor Nick Harrison asks if a book can be published, and if published, can it sell if it has a sad ending. "I like a sad ending that offers hope, but I think those of us who feel that way are in the minority," he says. "A sad ending in a book for our market has an uphill struggle..."
I've been having a small problem with my beloved Kindle's battery. It's supposed to last about 3 weeks, if you keep the WiFi use down, but mine has been lasting about 2 weeks. So I called them a couple weeks ago, and they ran me through some procedures to re-set it. That didn't do the job, so I spoke to Customer Service on Sunday, and they told me they'd send me a new Kindle. I got it today.
I call that pretty good service. All I have to do now is pack the old Kindle up in the mailer box, and send it back to them for cannibalization.
It's still under warranty. If the warranty had run out, I'd have to pay a modest fee for the replacement, far less than buying a new one.
I remain a Kindle fan.
Everybody's talking about the Florida Primary today. I only remember one primary from my years of residence in Florida. I was still a Democrat back then, struggling with the increasingly obvious fact that my party hated both me and the horse I rode in on. I puzzled over who to support for president, and decided that the one who seemed most socially conservative was... Al Gore. Read the rest of this entry . . .
I'm currently contacting bloggers, offering free e-copies of Troll Valley for review. If you are writing an established blog (no newbies or once-a-year bloggers allowed), contact me through this blog to ask for yours.
Update: To make the process easier, the handiest way to request a review copy is to e-mail me at lars (AT) larswalker (dot) com, and let me know what reader format you prefer. Thanks. lw