- Roy Jacobsen, on his blog "Writing, Clear and Simple"
Andy Crouch discusses the flak flying over some of Mark Driscoll's publications. Sure, some material was used inappropriately, but is this a plagiarism problem? "There is something truly troubling here, in my view," he writes. "Not that 'Pastor Mark Driscoll' carelessly borrowed a section of a commentary for a church-published Bible study, but that 'Pastor Mark Driscoll' was named as the sole author of that Bible study in the first place."
He points to St. Paul's use of scribes and partners and the unique credit given in Romans 16:22.
Prolific writer and author John Piper has taken to Twitter on this: "If lying is the 'industry standard' reject it. Come on, famous guys, if someone writes for you, put the plebe’s name on it." For more, see Warren Throckmorton's blog for many details.
Irene Gallo, an art director with Tor Books, went to their press building in Gettysburg, PA, to see A Memory of Light (Wheel of Time, Book 14) being printed and bound. "The whole process looked like a marvelous bit of Suessian-magic to me, with long conveyer belts that doubled up and looped around," she says. (via Loren Eaton)
Speaking of Mr. Eaton, his 2013 Advent Ghost Storytelling is up.
In my American Literature class, professor Ruth Kantzer instilled in me a love for the Bay Psalm Book. I could hear the music, like you can below, but the words, translated for singing, captured me. At first, I believe the congregations and families sang without instruments, so what we have below came many decades later.
One of the 11 original copies of the first book printed in America will be up for auction tomorrow at Sotheby's. The video above will give you some details. You can buy your own copy here: Bay Psalm Book
The Billfold has a brief piece on Flannery O'Connor's insistence on being paid well.
“I do believe that she was quite savvy about the business side of being a writer, and she understood the difference between art and commerce,” says Craig Amason, the executive director of The Flannery O’Connor-Andalusia Foundation.
It’s our usual practice here at Brandywine Books to post cover art for the books we review, but I’m going to skip that in making a reading report on a selection of mystery novels from Hard Case Crime. Their publishing strategy, which I applaud in the abstract, is to try to recreate the substance and spirit of the old hard-boiled paperback detective novels of the 1950s (many of which were published by Fawcett Gold Medal, a publisher born in the town where I live). In order to do this, they put out reasonably priced reprints of out-of-print classics (including, bizarrely, The Valley of Fear by “A. C. Doyle”), and also publish new works in the pulp tradition. This extends to racy cover art with lots of blazing handguns, fistfights, and half-naked women. Which explains why I’m not posting any covers.
Having some Amazon gift card money to spend, I bought five of Hard Case’s titles. Alas, I must report that I probably won’t be patronizing them again soon. I encountered some very good writing here, but I don’t think the stories will appeal much to our audience.
The first one I read, and one I rather liked, was 361, a classic by the great Donald E. Westlake. This is a story of a man who comes back from World War II service to unlooked-for peacetime carnage. Maimed in an assassination attempt, he learns that his family is not the family he thought it was, and sets out on a vendetta.
Baby Moll, by John Farris, is also well-written. It’s about a Florida man who used to be an enforcer for a crime boss, but has given up that life and gotten engaged to a “nice” girl. But, as you’d expect, they “drag him in again,” and he goes back into a world of murder, seduction, and betrayal, and gets a taste of it all. There is some heart in this book, but the body count is awfully high.
Songs of Innocence, by Richard Aleas, left me very cold. Excellently written, it’s the story of a young private detective investigating the apparent suicide of a female friend. This is a book that should be confiscated – by force if necessary – from any person prone to depression.
Fifty-To-One, by Charles Ardai, is a very bizarre book, a novelty piece. It was written to celebrate the fiftieth book release by Hard Case, and to mark the occasion Ardai produced a novel of fifty chapters, each using one of the Hard Case book titles, in sequence of publication, as its chapter title. The story of a young girl from South Dakota in big, bad New York City, this book has sort of a lighthearted, Perils of Pauline quality, but is more interesting as an exercise than as a compelling narrative. Fifty chapters of this were too many.
And finally, The First Quarry, by our old friend Max Allan Collins. This is the first in a series of novels which constitute a kind of departure for Collins. In place of his usually more sympathetic heroes, Quarry (an alias) is a professional assassin based in the Quad Cities of Iowa and Illinois. Collins does an expert job massaging the plot so as to make us root for a fairly repellant man in an even more repellant situation. Lots of violence, lots of quite explicit sex. Very well done, but not the sort of thing we generally boost around here.
So there you are. My advice is to be cautious with Hard Case Crime novels. Aside from the subject matter, there’s a very noir sensibility here, a consistent attitude of nihilism – or so it seemed to me. Pretty much all the elements (except for bad writing) that I generally warn readers about can be found in these books.
Mike Duran remarks on The Weekly Standard article on J. Mark Bertrand and his Roland March novels. Jon Breen had written of Bertrand's limited audience because his books are published by Bethany House. Duran asks, "So how does being a religious publisher limit the reach of an author’s audience? Well, it doesn’t… unless you write sci-fi, epic fantasy, ethnic fiction, espionage, horror, literary, or crime fiction." He says Bertrand's books deserve a large readership, but perhaps this publisher doesn't know how to market them.
I'm not sure I understand what's missing. Is it simply that if it doesn't sell in a Christian bookstore to a primary audience of white women, Christian publishers don't know what else to do with it?
Maybe Amazon is engaged in a price war, but maybe it's just taking advantage of publishing dinosaurs who don't want to understand what different people are willing to pay for real books.
"If the [publishing] industry can’t find a way to truly understand the new reality that has grown up around it," writes Suw Charman-Adnerson for Forbes.com, it will never find a way to survive current and future changes. Key to this is understanding Amazon’s position in the market and what impact its behaviour actually has."
She suggests Amazon is not sending the huntsman to cut the heart out of brick-and-mortar stores, but is merely playing its part in a real market. For more common sense on the real book market, see this post on Futurebook.
Joel Friedlander draws lessons from the J.K. Rowling as Robert Galbraith episode. Galbraith's book was highly praised, but sold 1,500 copies before the Rowling news. Friedlander explains: "My opinion is that it was the complete absence of any platform for Robert Galbraith, the lack of any fans, anyone who cared about him, the lack of anyone willing to host him on a blog tour or help him set up readings at bookstores, or a tribe that would greet his long-awaited first book with enthusiasm that held back sales of what’s obviously a well-written book."
The Cuckoo's Calling, which Publishers Weekly described as "[combining] a complex and compelling sleuth and an equally well-formed and unlikely assistant with a baffling crime...A stellar debut," has the name Robert Galbraith on the cover, but is actually the work of veteran author J.K. Rowling. She published it with Mulholland Books under that pseudonym with the supposition that readers believe it was a pseudonym "for a retired British military investigator." Now that it is being reprinted, the publisher has let the cat out of the bag.
Rowling says she enjoyed writing as Robert Galbraith and receiving criticism untainted by her past success. Of course, the book has sold out with this news. Perhaps some critics will tell us they suspected something like this all along.
Author Jeanette Winterson, who loves cover versions of established stories, is writing a prose version of Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale as part of Random House's effort to rewrite all of the bard's plays for his 400th anniversary.
"The Shakespeare purists," she says, "miss the point about his exuberant ragbag of borrowings thrown into the alchemical furnace of his mind and lifted out transformed. He sums up the creative process, which is not concerned with originality of source but originality of re-making."
I understand retelling stories, but while West Side Story may be based on Romeo and Juliet, it isn't the same story. Play it cool, boy. And we all know you can retell essential stories again and again. People like cliches, but they will love one story over another because of the details around the essentials. When contemporary writers retell Shakespearean tales, it's usually like telling a good joke wrong.
There’s a Great War going on currently in the SFWA (the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America; don’t ask where the second “F” went; it’s a secret). Although I’ve been a member for years, I wasn’t aware of the controversy until Vox Day started discussing it (in pretty strong terms) over at Vox Popoli, because I don’t follow the SFWA Forum. I just read the members’ Bulletin, which is what sparked the fist fight.
One of the magazine features I’ve enjoyed for the last few years has been “The Resnick-Malzberg Dialogues.” In this series, old pros Mike Resnick and Barry Malzberg talk back and forth about the history – and sometimes the future – of the Science Fiction genre from the perspective of two guys who’ve been through the wars and met the people most of us never had the chance to. I’ve never been a fan of either guy, but I’ve learned a lot from picking their minds at one remove. Even when they disagreed with each other, which was fairly often.
Anyway, in a recent issue they dealt with the almost mandatory subject of women in science fiction. In the course of the discussion (which I personally judged a bit obsequious and politically correct), they mentioned that a couple of the women under discussion were quite attractive, and one of them spoke admiringly of how one looked in a bikini. Also they used the word "lady."
And the heavens parted, and the Furies were unleashed.
Sarah Hoyt, in an excellent blog post today, speaks with more authority than I can:
So how [expletive deleted] did these columns – innocuous and reminiscent – become the latest fire storm in the long-drawn civil war in science fiction. And who is fighting this war, anyway?
Ah, sit around my children, and make long ears. Aunt Sarah will tell all. Well, actually not, but I always wanted to say that. I have guesses and ideas at what is causing this series of conflagrations starting with Orson Scott Card’s non-calling-for-the-death-of-all-gays but opposing their belonging to his church (this my atheist, Budhist and various other flavors of Christian gay friends find a non event, btw.) and continuing to what can only be called the wilding hunt for Malzberg and Resnick.
This hunt has gotten out of control….
I expect I won’t renew my SFWA membership when it next comes up. The organization is growing increasingly irrelevant, especially for self-publishers like me. I’ve kept with it mostly to have credentials of some kind, because credentials are pathetically important to those of us with low self-esteem.
In any case, it looks like SFWA is going ideological, and if I want to belong to an ideological writer’s organization I ought to join a Christian one.
Qantas, an Australian airline, not only wants to give you a comfortable ride to your destination of choice, but they also want to give you a paperback to read on the way—a book you will be able to finish when you touch down. Figuring an average reading speed of 200-300 words a minute, Qantas offers several Bespoke books, each according to length. They call the collection "Stories for Every Journey." Apparently, their subject matter has a wide range, with non-fiction, thrillers and crime short stories being most popular.
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."