Once upon a time, some still small voice within me said "write." With varying degrees of success, I've been doing it, off and on, ever since. I was 19 years old, maybe 20, when that siren song first made me swoon, but it took me awhile to get at it, a wait was likely smart. I taught high school English for a while, then took a college job, after completing a masters.
The very first year of college teaching, I told myself it was time to listen. I was nudging close to 30, after all. So I set myself a goal, a story a month. And I did it.
What did I know about writing? Not much. Never had a class, had scribbled out just one story the last semester of my Arizona high school teaching stint. Somehow, somewhat brashly, I decided I could create character and setting--no problem. But story, narrative lines, plot--that was going to be a problem.
One Saturday night at a place I haven't been able to find since, we stumbled on an old cemetery, overgrown with weeds, in the middle of endless acres of row crops. We got out and walked around and found a ton of children's graves--influenza likely took all of them, early 20th century, out here on the edge of the plains. I didn't know the story, and I wanted to.
That graveyard stroll and my own increasing interest in my Dutch heritage--"know thyself"--started me on a reading regimen of dust-laden history books, the kind that only eccentrics think about--The Story of Sioux County, by Charlie Dyke, that kind of thing. I loved the stories I found in myriad places, so I decided I'd try to write the really good ones, take them out of unopened history book covers, change them into fiction, and put a new cover around them. A year later or so, Dordt College Press published my first book, Sign of a Promise and Other Stories.
I caught a big break when my own denominational magazine, The Banner, ran the title story, something that would never happen today--the story was far too long for almost any general readership periodical these days. I was off.
That book sold several thousand copies--I honestly have no idea how many, but I'd guess somewhere close to 5000, two printings. Then, many years later, it quietly slipped out of print.
The new world of publishing makes re-publication relatively painless. Publish-on-demand makes writers of us all, just as digital photography has made life miserable for the truly talented photographers. So with the release of the new Sign of a Promise, I'm taking full advantage of the new world of publication. There are about 100 of these reprints around, new cover, but not a thing altered or edited inside.
If you're interested in historical fiction about Dutch folks in the upper Midwest, I'll send you a copy. Ten bucks--well, $12 because it'll cost me $2 to mail.
I'm happy to announce it's back. My very first book is now my most recent. I'll even put a story up, a sample, when I can figure out how.
Yeah, this is a kind of ad. I'm not sure how the Lord feels about morning thanks whose sub-text is marketing, but I've got good friends who believe that business is sacred. Nonetheless, this morning I'm thankful to be able to say hello once again to an old friend, a book I wrote when I was someone else all-together. Maybe.
It's been 30-some years. I'm glad it's back--and thankful.
The cover is newly designed, but it holds the same picture--my immigrant Schaap great-grandparents, a wonderful homestead portrait in central South Dakota, circa 1890.