Alternate Arts

blogging the hell out of art

July 21, 2017
by jimwall
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Charles de Andrade & the Steward Series

Read about The Steward Series by Charles de Andrade at alternatearts.comCharles de Andrade is a bit of a renaissance man, having had a variety of roles in the business world and as a creative. He recently completed Damaged Goods, the third book of his Steward Series.

You can learn more about Charles de Andrade, or order any of his books at his Steward Series website, or visit his author’s page at Amazon.

In this interview, de Andrade shares some thoughts on the creative process, stewardship, and the challenges of writing a book series.

CAREER WORK AND WRITING

Alternate Arts: You’ve had a variety of careers, ranging from leadership roles in the construction software industry to your own business, marketing products from beekeepers. Is there a common thread among the various businesses and ministry/non-profit work you’ve done?

de Andrade: Yes, I’ve been blessed in really liking everything I have had an opportunity to do and experience. I like working with people, and every business has been centered on serving both my co-workers and our customers. I believe one of the most exciting parts is that I am never bored! My writing also is a natural outlet for many of the experiences I have had in my life. The experiences in my various positions and the people I have met and heard the stories of, often serve as the rich ground from which my characters, settings, and plots emerge.

Alternate Arts: What drew you to writing?

de Andrade: The genesis came from taking a class at a small seminary for lay people in Baltimore, Maryland, and having the final exam that required we write a story based on what we had learned during the class. I’m not 100% sure what happened, but the short story took on wings and grew, and suddenly a whole other part of my life, that I was not aware of, came alive. Suddenly the facets of life exposed in the Scripture, the stories of those very real people, and the applications to my life and experiences drew me to write the stories. I have so many more stories bouncing around in my thoughts, I would love to have the time to do that as a living as well.

ON STEWARDSHIP

Alternate Arts: Many people think of stewardship as being primarily a financial thing. You seem to have a broader view of the word steward. Could you elaborate on that?

de Andrade: Sure! Glad you picked that up! If you read the first chapters in the Bible, in Genesis, you will discover that we were created with a purpose. We were created to be the stewards of the magnificent creation that was seen as being “good”. God planted a garden, to serve as a template for our first parents to mirror throughout the world. He brought the animals to Adam to name and, in so doing, showed in that act of naming a special relationship between the man and the creation. That is why our naming of our children is also so significant. The act of naming shows a special bond between the name giver and the name receiver. We were designed to care for the creation. God commanded man to bring order to the creation, mirroring what God had done in that first garden, and what God showed in allowing Adam the responsibility for naming of the creatures. Man’s fall into sin did not change the purpose of man but now the ground would produce thorns and thistles, and we would sweat as we worked. And the fear of man would be placed into the animals. But all of this did not change our purpose, and guess what? There is a whole creation groaning for the revelation of the sons of God. There is a time coming, where once again we will fulfill our purpose. We struggle with that right now. We are saddled with all sorts of problems, stemming directly from the sin of Adam and our own sin. It is my belief that we are explorers for a reason. There is a whole creation waiting (groaning) for the stewards to be released to fulfill what they were designed to be. Isn’t that an exciting vision of what is yet to come?

THE STEWARD SERIES

Alternate Arts: Could you give a brief overview of the flow of the five-part Steward Series of books?

de Andrade: Ephesians 6:12 is the theme verse behind the series. The Steward Series is about the spiritual struggle behind our daily experiences in life.The series is historical fiction bringing many real events and experiences into the stories.

The first book, Chosen, starts with the Vietnam war and follows the experiences of a young American soldier who serves in that war and the people impacted by his presence at that time and place. The soldier is given the opportunity to see behind the veil of the physical reality and see the very real spiritual struggle playing out in the war. He learns that there really are spiritual forces, protecting him in his role as a Steward and other spiritual forces desiring both his destruction and the destruction of all he is charged to care for. It is a love story between the soldier and a Vietnamese woman who is touched by the young soldier’s character and care. The story ends with the fall of Saigon and the beginning of the boat people migration.

The second book, Intervention, is set during the boat people migration from Vietnam to Thailand. The spiritual struggles that were present in the war become even more focused, as the refugees flee the physical war, only to find that a major part of the war accompanies them on the trip. Once again, another love story about two of the people fleeing on the boats and the impact of the spiritual conflict on their physical experiences.

The third book, Damaged Goods, looks at the life of a North Vietnamese commander, who is wounded grievously during the war, but like the American soldier is given the gift of seeing the real enemy behind the scenes. It is his love story and experience as he comes to the country he once considered his enemy, the US, and learns to love and serve an American woman and her family. Restoration is the theme of the book, that everyone of us is flawed, that we are all damaged goods, but there is a purpose to our lives that calls us to serve one another, and, in doing that, we begin the process of returning to what we were purposed to do.

The fourth book, Homecoming, is the story of the return of the American soldier to the US, and the continuation of the spiritual war that is threatening to consume his brother. It is the story of a pastor, who feels abandoned and a failure, only to discover that his ministry has an impact far broader than he imagined. It is a love story of a mother for her son she thought was dead and for her other son, who appears to be headed for disaster. It is at times an ugly story, as evil appears to prevail, but in the end the battles lost are a prelude to the war that has already been won.

The fifth book, Exclamation, concludes the series, tying together the history of the fifty years since Chosen and passing the baton of the spiritual battle to the next generation.

Alternate Arts: How’s progress coming on Homecoming, the next book in the series?

de Andrade: It’s finished and in editing. My publisher went bankrupt closing their doors in February of this year, so I am in the process of finding a new publisher or making the decision to self publish this book. An exceptional artist agreed to create the cover for the book, which is now complete as well. I hope to have it published in September of this year.

Alternate Arts: You’re writing a series of books with a similar theme. What struggles are unique to writing across a series, as compared to containing everything in one book?

de Andrade: In some ways it has been easier for me to write this first series. I have a number of single books in development, but I have found those more difficult to complete than the books coming in a series. (Or at least it feels more difficult for me to complete everything in just one book.) In the series, I get to introduce the characters in the first book, but then tell their unique stories through the series. Also, the series mirrors my own life in age span. My characters get to age and mature through the books just as I have. Many of the settings are drawn from my own life, from my early childhood experiences on my grandparents farm in Michigan, through the Vietnam war era, and then my training in history in college that exposed me to history as story telling. Finally my own awakening to what the Bible teaches us about our reality and the God who really is and the importance of his Son, and finally looking to the future, beyond this current experience into that future reality which is something more marvelous. I have loved the writing of this series, and have started a second series focusing in on the experiences of those touched by the miracles of Christ. That series is named Witnesses, and the first book is done, and the next four are maturing in my thoughts.

Alternate Arts: Any significance in the recurring “C” that is on the cover of all three books?

de Andrade: The curved scythe being welded by the spiritual enemy holds a special place in the symbology in the books. Whether we like it or not, we are in a very real war, against a foe that desires our ruin. Once again, the Scriptures make it clear that there are spiritual forces who particularly hate mankind, who are made in God’s image, just a little lower than the angels, but who are given the role as Stewards of the entire creation. That scythe wielded by our adversary is symbolic of the desire not only to mar and destroy our lives in this world, but to tear our soul out of our bodies and ensure that we will never get to fulfill the grander purpose promised us after this life.

WRITING PROCESS & CHALLENGES

Alternate Arts: Regarding your discipline of writing. Do you write on specific days, at specific times? Do you have goals related to writing output in a particular time frame?

de Andrade: Well, I am working full time, so writing is my pleasure and leisure time. I don’t watch much TV and I am happier when the thoughts are pouring out onto paper, than almost anything else I do for fun. I’m running two businesses right now, so the evenings and weekends are when I write most often. Writing has come in spurts, as there are times I start writing and discover I failed to go to sleep. (I can’t do that during the week, as I need to focus on my work). But I do something related to my writing practically every day!

Alternate Arts: What is your biggest challenge as a writer?

de Andrade: Finding more time to write even more! I am hoping that in the next five years I either get to retire or make writing my next full time career. The second challenge is almost larger than the first: getting the word out about my stories. As you know, the publishing world has really gone through some amazing changes, and now I spend a lot of time trying to market the books already published. My hope is that something will happen, someone with connections will discover value in what I am writing, and suddenly I can focus on writing all of the other stories still waiting to appear on paper or in the digital world!

THE SCRIBBLERS

Alternate Arts: Do the Scribblers still meet? If so, can you share a little bit about the goals of Scribbler meetings?

de Andrade: Yes, Scribblers is a group of Christian writers who gather to support one another every 3rd Thursday of the month at the Crossing Restaurant in Norcross, GA. The group was founded to mirror the experiences found in “The Inklings,” a group of English Christian writers that included C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and others. I was mesmerized by that story, of how these amazing writers got together to read the works they were working on to one another, at the local pub. So our focus is on encouragement, on helping each writer get better by reading and commenting on what we liked and what needed more work, and by working together to market one another’s books. Having 10 writers sharing the cost of a exhibit booth is way more affordable than one trying to do it. Also, various printers, publishers, editors and others visit from time to time, sharing what they can do to help us accomplish what we want to do…tell our stories.

July 15, 2017
by jimwall
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I Let the Deal Go Down

As someone who remembers thinking Frigid Pink recorded the definitive version of House of the Rising Sun, it’s hard to admit falling deep for a bluegrass song.

But it happened.

A while back a friend lent me a DVD, Best of the Flatt & Scruggs TV Show. This was Volume 1 with episodes from August 1961 and February 1962. Lester Flatt (lead vocal and guitar) and Earl Scruggs (banjo) were at the height of their creative and performance powers.

I listened to the first 18 songs. Liked them, appreciated them, respected them.

Song 19 sent chills down my spine.

It was called, Don’t Let Your Deal go Down. I played it over and over, amazed by the song and the performance as these consummate pros worked the two stage mics.

I have since researched the song. Although no one knows for sure who wrote it, the earliest known recording is by Charlie Poole & The North Carolina Ramblers in 1925.  They recorded it as Don’t Let Your Deal Go Down Blues.

From Wikipedia: “This song sold over 106,000 copies at a time when there were estimated to be only 6,000 phonographs in the southern United States, according to Poole’s biographer and great-nephew, Kinney Rorer.” 

106,000 copies! This meant that just about everyone who heard it, bought it. Average sales for a country record at that time was around 5,000.

Although this song’s been covered innumerable times, it was the Flatt and Scruggs version that caught my ear.

Amazingly, these live recordings from the show almost didn’t survive. Literally found in film cans in a garage, 24 episodes of the Flat & Scruggs Grand Ole Opry Show were donated in 1989 to the Country Music Hall of Fame, which eventually released the DVDs in partnership with Shanachie Entertainment.

The band, featuring Flatt, Scruggs and the rest of the Foggy Mountain Boys, was the inspiration for the Soggy Bottom Boys in the Coen brothers 2000 film, O Brother, Where Art Thou?

Don’t Let Your Deal Go Down has been around in some form or another for at least 100 years. And it will continue to be discovered for the gem it is. Even by former acid-rock fans.

July 8, 2017
by jimwall
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How Idols Melt Your Face Off

An idol is anything you place above God. More specifically, anything you love more than God.

It’s the thing you dream about, fixate on, want to have. It’s the thing that captivates you.

The movie, Raiders of the Lost Ark, depicted this perfectly.

Agents of Nazi Germany are attempting to locate and control the biblical ark of the covenant. In the movie, the ark represents a direct connection to God and thus power over others. That’s the first idol – the insatiable lust for power – and it is personified by the German character, Major Arnold Toht.

The second idol – the desire for eternal life and to to control God on our terms – is personified by the Frenchman, Dr. René Belloq. Belloq is helping the Germans to acquire the lost ark, but for his own purposes.

There are some fairly intense verses of judgment in the Old Testament book of Ezekiel, chapter 16, where the Lord says, And I will give you into their hands, and they shall throw down your vaulted chamber and break down your lofty places. They shall strip you of your clothes and take your beautiful jewels and leave you naked and bare. They shall bring up a crowd against you, and they shall stone you and cut you to pieces with their swords.” 

This is hard stuff to read. The context of the verses is that the Lord rescued a discarded baby, Israel. He fed her, clothed her and took care of her. When she was old enough, she gave her heart and body to lovers, who, in turn, ravished her and left her bare and homeless. Israel’s heart was set on serving the gods (idols) of the nations that surrounded her. Those nations then burned Israel to the ground. This is a metaphor for God’s call to us – to love him deeply. The Lord is merciful in warning us; the things that captivate our hearts enslave us and then ravish (destroy) us.

You see this vividly in Raiders. At the end of the movie, the German Toht and the Frenchman Beloq open the ark. Light streams out. Belloq says, “It’s beautiful!”

Isn’t this what serving idols first feels like? A burst of light, inherent beauty? But soon the light fades. The beautiful turns ugly.

For those standing at the ark, their idols led to judgement and destruction. The Nazis are consumed by fire. Belloq explodes. Majot Toht’s face melts off.

As artists who share in the human experience, we need to discern what idols we’re nurturing in our hearts. This is something we constantly have to wrestle with. It’s worth the struggle.

As Christians, we have a promise, also from the book of Ezekiel, in chapter 36: “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you.”

June 24, 2017
by jimwall
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Always More, and Less is Best

As artists, we sometimes wrestle with the question of volume: how many CD's to press, how many books to print, etc. AlternateArts.com shares a couple of encouragements on the difference between artistic output and publishing volume.As artists, we sometimes wrestle with the question of volume: how many CD’s to press, how many books to print, etc.

I’d like to share a couple of encouragements on the difference between artistic output and publishing volume.

The best way to think of it is to always aim for more creativity and output, but be very restrained and measured in your publishing volume.

Re output: this is where the battle lies for most artists. We struggle with overcoming our fear of rejection and the invisible barriers that often seem to cause resistance to our work.

The concept of resistance and assistance is powerfully addressed by such thought leaders as Steven Pressfield (The War of Art, Do The Work) and his blog here, and Julia Cameron (The Artist’s Way), and her blog here.

Activity begets activity. Creativity begets creativity. Ultimately, your goal as an artist is to produce a body of work that best represents who you are as a person and reflects your artistic vision. Once you get started, keep at it! You’ll find it easier to sustain momentum. So, for creative output, it’s “Always More.”

For publishing, remember that “Less is Best.” It is very tempting to want to press 1,000 cd’s, screen 500 t-shirts, print 2,000 books.

Don’t.

Then how do you know how many to print/publish? Always do the minimum. Here’s how you figure out the minimum: count how many people you know who will buy the product. That’s your minimum.

Please do not be discouraged if that’s a low number. Publishing minimum amounts of anything is more cost-effective than ever. Start with 25 books, cd’s, t-shirts, etc. If you don’t sell all of  these immediately, no problem. You haven’t cash-strapped yourself. If you sell out, great! You can easily print/press/publish more, because now you know the ropes and you understand how to quickly get more of what you want. So, for publishing your work, “Less is Best.”

In every circumstance, keep at it. Our creator God is a living God. He will breathe life into your art and heart.