War in the Wasteland – A Review

War in the Wasteland by Douglas Bond
Released 2016

“Full-scale assault,” said Sergeant Ayres.

“Another one?” said Nigel. “Boche learned nothing from the last one?”

“Not them.” Ayres shook his head soberly. “It’s a counter attack. Tomorrow morning, first light. It’s us over the top.”

Nigel Hopkins finds himself in the trenches of World War I under the command of teenage atheist 2/Lt C.S. Lewis. Nigel and his war dog must learn the source of true courage while facing a desperate enemy in No Man’s Land in the final offensive of the war.

Meanwhile, underage WAAC Elsie Fleming, working at the field hospital in Étaples, will have her idealism about war challenged by the brutal realities she sees in the broken men who return from the Front—and the many who never return.

My Review

I went into reading War in the Wasteland with very little knowledge of WWI. Not the battlefront. I had studied how the people at home coped, at least, in the United States, but I hadn’t really read much about the actual war.

War in the Wasteland kept close to Nigel as he shipped out, joined his platoon on the Front, landed in the hospital, fought battles, got to know his comrades, faced the harrows of killing the enemy… I could almost feel the mud and filth, hear the guns and explosions, see the destruction of land and the death of men. I know that my imagination still falls far short of the reality, but I left the book with a far deeper perspective and appreciation for what so many soldiers fighting in the Great War went through. Just how much those left at home lost.

I really also enjoyed Nigel, the young eighteen-year-old, shipped out to war so soon after his birthday. Courageous, yet very human, seeing the war through his eyes, listening to the debates of his senior officers, and taking care of his loyal terrier.

Reading about an atheist C.S. Lewis, I found to be fascinating. In many ways, Mr. Bond kept the “voice” that I have come to recognize from reading works by C.S. Lewis intact, though his verbalized opinions were certainly not those I tend to associate with him. Knowing that the author well-researched the man, before attempting to write him into a historical fiction novel, it is truly amazing to think of the change the LORD wrought in C.S. Lewis’ life and thoughts. I knew much of this before, but seeing it in dialogue form proved to be fascinating and memorable.

I can honestly say that I never figured out for certain if a few characters were fictional or truly from history. I would have loved a complete list of historical characters, such as Mr. Bond included in the back of Duncan’s War. I can’t say that the lack affected my enjoyment of the story, but it would have satisfied my historical curiosity.

I would certainly recommend this book.

About the Author
Douglas Bond, father of six, is the author of a number of successful books. He directs the Oxford Creative Writing Master Class, speaks at conferences, and leads historical tours. Visit his website at: www.bondbooks.net

To the KING be all glory!

What I Learned in Oxford – Part I

The view from atop St. Mary’s Tower

My love of telling stories began almost in babyhood, coursing on through childhood, high school age, and my early twenties. However, as adulthood lengthened to my late twenties, I became increasingly disillusioned. My published books, though received fairly well when they were actually read, didn’t sell particularly well. I struggled with marketing and building an audience, and as I tried to begin learning it, so many voices began to clamor at me.

Write more. Change your style. Change what you write about. Change how you write. Change your writing speed. Publish more often.  

And I started to shift with the voices. Every time I sat with my pen, I thought of the reader. The market. Could I get this book done fast enough? Would it be well received? Would it fit within my brand? Could I publish quickly enough? Would it sell?

The more I tried to push speed, the more I tried to listen to the clamoring voices, the less I enjoyed my craft. I rewrote and rewrote, trying to like my manuscript and only partially succeeding. I would learn to love my characters, but never reached a proper level of satisfaction with how I told their stories. Then, the other questions started. Should I dial back on the message of the book? Write books that might sell better? My books weren’t selling; almost subconsciously, I began to shift with the clamor. I still enjoyed writing, but it wasn’t the same as it used to be. Perhaps, it wasn’t supposed to be. Maybe writing should change when you become an author with six books published.

Then, the LORD sent me to Oxford.

I say sent, because every single step of my heading off to the Oxford Creative Writing Master Class, I could see orchestrated by God. When the year began, I had no plans of heading to Britain this Spring, but He did and I never had any doubts that the LORD sent me there.

As I spent a week walking the same streets as C.S. Lewis, hearing and nearly seeming to witness the fiery end of the three martyrs, singing hymns by Newton and Cowper, listening to C.S. Lewis’ written thoughts on writing, becoming immersed in church and literary history, Scripture and hymns, a light seemed to break in my mind. Listening to Douglas Bond speak on writing, read from those gone before, and lay out the meaning and the joy of being a Christian Writer, the passion that I could remember, the excitement that I all but rarely experienced anymore, began to burn brightly again.

I had come with the hope of improving my craft – I left with so much more.

In that week, I re-analyzed my reasons for writing, helped on by discussions with Mr. Bond and my fellow students, who soon became my friends. Long ago, I chose my writing motto; what I wanted all of my books, no matter what they were, to reflect. I spent much time and thought coming up with a sentence that would remind me of it. I wanted to write Bible Centered, Modern Literature.

During my week in Oxford, I regained that vision.

I want to write stories, so well told, that God willing, they will stand the test of time. That, if our LORD tarries, in one hundred, two hundred years, my books might be read and seen as literature, crafted with words and cadence, characters and story-lines that still draw people in.

I want them to have a depth beyond a good story. A richness. I don’t want to merely tickle the fancy of the reader; I want to reach them.

Ultimately, at the end of everything, I want to point my reader to Christ. I want His followers to leave my stories encouraged and blessed in their walk. I want the rest to leave convicted or, at the least, with some knowledge of my LORD and His words. I don’t ever want anyone to question whether I could be called a Christian Writer, because that is exactly what I am.

That does not mean that I won’t still try to navigate the confusing world of marketing. I can’t reach anyone if my books are never read. I’ll still learn what I can, hopefully implement it, and, LORD willing, both gain a growing readership and not lose my sanity completely. It really just means, that I’ve re-shifted my focus.

It also doesn’t mean that I have nothing else to learn about writing. Goodness, do I! I don’t believe the day will ever come when I don’t have something to learn about writing. I shall always be learning.

Since returning home, despite jet lag, getting back into a nannying schedule, and a few others things, I have written more then I did in the two months previous. I began my current manuscript over again and have passed the previous point that I stopped at, and it is better then it ever could claim to be before. I have not had this much joy and inspiration to write in some time, and the LORD used my trip to Oxford to bring that about.

To the KING be all the glory!

As the Book of 2017 Draws to a Close…

Another year has reached an end. At 12:00am the gong will strike and 2017 will join its predecessors as a Ghost of Years Gone Past.

I have often seen a year referred to as a chapter that comes to a close on December 31st. While I can understand that, I tend to see each year as more of a book.

Each day of the year is a scene, each week a chapter, each month a part, and each year a book in this series of Life. And each dawn of the New Year, as I close the book on the last paragraph, I store the volume away in my mental library to review later.

Some books are reviewed more often than others. Some are quite dusty from hardly any handling. Some are well used. Some, even when I pull them down, have such faded writing, as to only have certain section visible anymore. 1995 for instance, only has some chapters in legible print. 1992 only has certain pages.

Over some chapters, despite the clear presence of the ink, the pages are difficult to read, because water drops have damaged the paper and made the ink begin to run. The storm left its mark and is sometimes clearer than the actual events accompanying it.

Other pages, mostly pressed together in one sole book, are obscured by so many marks and splatters of dark ink, that it’s difficult to review the words inscribed at all. The mental darkness of those days made itself quite visible on the written page.

Still, though the ink in every book shifts from dark to bright, if I remember to look closely at each page, I’ll be able to see that every word is written in shimmering gold, a reminder that the LORD’s hand is always evident in my life. Sometimes the darkness fades away and the ink shines brighter with age, other times those pages remain dark as ever.

Now, I’m drawing near to closing the book on 2017. The LORD blessed me with many lovely experiences this year. October was one of my favorite chapters. I went on an airplane, I met one of my dearest friends in person, I saw Virginia, visited Mount Vernon, and later in the month, we all attended our church Reformation Party, which is always a highlight of my year.

December was another favorite chapter. Besides Christmas with its lights, music, and celebration of Christ’s birth, my nephew Triumph made an appearance and his whole family spent two weeks at our house.

Other chapters and pages stand out as I glance through the book. I published Presumption and Partiality in November. I manned a book booth at the Homeschool Convention in July. We celebrated my niece’s first birthday in May.

Yes, there are tear-stained pages and ink splattered chapters. I’m not sure I have more than one book without them – just the first, which is honestly so faded now, that I can’t read it at all. Yet, I tend to focus on the sad and darkened parts far too often, so tonight, I’m focusing on the blessings and joys.

As I close the Book of 2017 and let it slip away as a Ghost of Year’s Gone Past, while the first page of 2018 opens with a bright clean slate, I pray this year proves to be one of Giving and Growth, while giving glory to my LORD.

Happy New Year! It’s time to greet 2018 with a smile and with the knowledge that whatever is ahead, our God is sovereign and in control. Enter the New Year praising HIS Name!

To the KING be all the Glory!

~”It’s a Wonderful Life” and a Lesson in Thankfulness…

It’s a Wonderful Life. My family watches it, at least, once every Christmas. Despite its oddities, it’s a film that I look forward to every year. Watching George Bailey grow up, marry, have a family, experience loss, and then hit rock bottom before he is shown how different the world would be if he had never been born. It’s an interesting movie, spanning a long stretch of George’s life. The Singhs even watch it in 24 Days Before Christmas, though they don’t watch a lot of films.

However, as much as I enjoy the film, one thought started to creep into my head in these recent years. A thought that, instead of taking it captive to the obedience of Christ, I fed and nourished.

I wish I could have the same experience as George Bailey. I wish someone would show me all the good things that wouldn’t have happened in the world, if I hadn’t existed. And I wish there would be as many things for me, as there were for him.

If you can’t tell by the above statement, besides having an inordinate amount of focus on myself, I have struggled with feeling useless or unneeded or even worthless. Not only were my thoughts unhelpful in purging those feelings, they didn’t help me snuff out the spotlight that I had trained on myself either. Instead, they bred more self-focus and a sinful discontent. I also realized that I may have missed the real point of the movie.

George Bailey didn’t ask to be told how important his existence had been or shown how much of a blessing he had been to his fellow men. He had lived a life of putting others first, in a humble way, not elevating himself for it. He didn’t ask to be honored for his love and service before or, what struck me most, after he saw the impact that he had made.

George didn’t go running though the streets of Bedford Falls, puffed up with pride, shouting how wonderful it was and how honored the citizens should feel that he had been born in their town. He didn’t start yelling, “Look what I’ve made possible! Look what my life has influenced! Look what I have done for you all!”

No, he ran through those streets with a renewed love and gratefulness for the life and people and places that he had been blessed with. For the wife, children, brother, mother, family, and friends that had been given to him. He cast aside his discontent and despair, not in a selfish glow of pride, but in a beautiful burst of thankfulness. And all before his troubles changed. He still thought that he was headed to jail, didn’t know how he was going to take care of his family, and might have pictured the Building and Loan soon to be in ruins.

I always thought the movie was about showing George how important he was. While the movie is about the life of George Bailey, or part of it, the message points to thankfulness and recognizing the blessing staring you in the face, even in the midst of a storm, as well as remembering that your life does impact others in ways you may never even know or simply don’t think about. (I mean, seriously. If George had thought about it really hard, he would have known that if he wasn’t there, some things would change, most obviously being that he wouldn’t have a wife or kids. He didn’t really need Clarence to show him some of those things. George just never seemed to have thought that far.)

Sometimes, we’re not meant to see the ways we impact others. At least, not this side of Heaven. We are told to consider it all joy during trials and to give thanks to the LORD in everything. That last would require recognition of, at least, some of the blessings that the LORD has given us. If we’re to give thanks to the LORD in everything – than there must always be something to thank Him for. Even in the deepest, darkest moment. There is always something that we can thank the Father for, even if it doesn’t feel like it. (And I’ve been there, in the dark, where thinking alone hurts, much less trying to think of thanking the LORD.) It’s a Wonderful Life is a good reminder that sometimes we’re blinded to our blessings or we take them for granted in such a way, that we never even think of them, let alone thank our Creator.

Did Frank Capra think through all that when he created the film? I have no idea. He certainly didn’t lay it out in so many words. Yes, the movie is still a little weird and theologically skewed. (Every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings – really, the only thing going for that line is the rhyme.) Still, it was a great illustrative reminder for me. I am so thankful that the LORD can use whatever means that He pleases to illustrate His truths to us!

To the KING be all the glory!

The Homeschool Convention is Over Already!

The Homeschool Convention is over. Wow, it went fast.

My sisters and two friends went with me on Friday morning and by the time we were finished setting up, I had a lovely booth! Between navigation miscommunication, a wrong turn, and a looney GPS, we did manage to get lost and arrived rather later than I had planned, but nothing dreadful resulted and we were set up and ready in good time for the exhibit hall to open. I really loved the added aspect of the bookshelf and the ice cream set we did this year. Having only been a Young Entrepreneur with a little booth before, I had no idea how large my space would be this year! My fears of being crowded were very unfounded.

I had some great booth neighbors, who truly kept me laughing the entire time. I doubt if I entertained them much, as I can rarely be accused of being funny, but they were a blast to be around. They kept even the slow hours from being boring.

Second day, I decided for various reasons, to try a different setup. I admit, I was sceptical about the outcome, since I went into a change more from necessity than anything else, but it actually turned out far more lovely than I expected!

The day felt both short and very long. I had some great conversations and enjoyed reconnecting with people I had met in previous years, as well as meeting new ones. We handed out a ton of flyers and toward the end of the day I drew a winner for the giveaway. A highlight of the day definitely had to be the two young ladies who, at separate times, found me, recognized my books, and got super excited. They each had gotten one of my books the year before and loved it. I hope they enjoy their new books this year, half as much!

Even when there weren’t many people around looking at my books, my sisters were around when they weren’t wandering about, and I had several friends in and out of my booth. I even got to hold and play with little people a few times.

At the end of the day, I had lots of help and we got my booth packed up quick and efficient. I had several lovely helpers and they did a great job!

Overall, it was a good convention. The LORD has blessed me! I’m already looking forward to next year!

To the KING be all the glory!