Slider’s Son! And is anyone else sick of paranormal…?

Slider’s Son will be published September

I wish my agent George Nicholson were alive to see this happen. He “loved” this manuscript when he read it, and that meant the world to me since he never used that term with my other novels, although he certainly championed them.

I’m getting my ducks in a row–wait, no, I’m not getting them in a row yet, but I’m herding them toward rows–for publication in ten months. That means setting up some book events and making myself available for young writers’ conferences and book fairs, libraries, schools, and, and, and…and it means lots of work, which is exciting work and fun work. I love doing book events.

However, it also means lots of social media time and online promotion. THAT I’m not such a big fan of. But I’ll do it. I’m delighted that North Star Press promotes its own authors’ events. That gives me great hope. I’m excited to publish this book with them.

The BEST news right now is that I found out last week that I will be receiving a Prairie Lakes Regional Arts Grant (PLRAG) Mid-Career Artist Grant to help promote this book!  I’m excited. And GRATEFUL!

Okay, besides the excitement,  I sat down to write here because I just followed a thread of a YA book promotional publicity group, thinking ahead to that social media aspect of publication. EVERY, and I mean EVERY book in the top thread was paranormal romance, time travel, or dystopian. A few dozen books down, I found one realistic-fiction romance book. Is anybody else sick of paranormal romance and dystopia? I really do love historical fiction. That’s what I love to read, and that’s why I wanted to write Slider’s Son, based on true stories, but set in the 1930s. I’m following my own passion, and it’s not the trend right now, but that’s okay!

Okay, that’s my vent for the night. In spite of the vent, I really am EXCITED to have Slider’s Son out in the world!

“Mohandas Gandhi learned…how much better…peaceful non-resistance…”

GandhiFrom James Michener’s The Covenant, the epic 1100-page saga of South African history, comes this nugget of wisdom. All quotes below are from this historical novel. With everything happening in Ferguson, MO, my heart aches…why can’t we learn from our hundreds of mistakes?

Interesting, during the Great Boer War launched in 1899, the battle of Spion Kop (Spying Hill) included four men who would change history. Each took something vastly different away from the conflict.

Winston Churchill learned a lesson in bulldog tenacity, which played out in his bid for immortality.

Louis Botha was a Boer and first Prime Minister (1910-1919) of the Union of South Africa—the forerunner of the modern South African state. at Spion Kop, he “became convinced that Boer and Englishman would do better if they worked together.”  He, however, believed this was necessary only for “the two white races.” This, of course, was part of the mindset that paved the way for apartheid government.

Micah Nxumalo, from the great Zulu Nation, served General Paulus de Groot, and the understanding he took away from this deadly conflict was that the conflict between the English and Boers was only temporary, and that the biggest struggle would be “white man against black and in the end [the black man] shall triumph.”

The most interesting lesson came from a man whose role in the conflict was surprising: that of stretcher bearer for the English forces. This young man was Mohandas Gandhi. He “learned that warfare was utterly stupid, that it solved no problems, and that when teh dead were colleced and the medals distributed, the warring parties still faced their insoluble problems. How much better had they avoided violent discourse and taken resort to peaceful non-resistance.”

Note: This term “non-resistance” has nearly gone out of vogue; it means “the practice or principle of not resisting authority, even when it is unjustly exercised” At its core is discouragement of, even opposition to, physical resistance to an enemy.  It is considered a very principled, disciplined form of nonviolence and pacifism at its purest.

How sad that we never learn. The disasters of racism, as they play out again in Ferguson, MO, need to end. Why can’t we just decide that we don’t hate each other and get rid of apartheid of the heart? What will it take?

I’m a little stressed as I’m on the search for a new agent, but such stress pales in light of what’s taking place in Missouri.

Michener, James. The Covenant. Fawcett, 1987.

The Covenant by James Michener

I’ve been reading The Covenant for a few weeks now. It’s an epic novel–about 1000 pages long! When I put it on my reading list for sabbatical, I had no idea that it was that long–or I might have reconsidered it. It’s fictional, but like other Michener epics, it’s based on a huge amount of historical research, and gives a beautifully sweeping arc of the history of South Africa.

It starts 15,000 years ago with the San, later called the “Bushmen.” The characters leave the lake they have always known when it dries up. Michener lets us travel with them, hope with them, fear with them, as they move across the harsh landscape searching for a better life.

We move to the 15th Century, when Gold is being mined. We observe how seductive money and power are, even when pitted against family, home, and love.

In the next century, South Africa changes drastically. The Dutch seek a trade route to Java, and the Cape of Good Hope provides the perfect stopover place. At first, that’s all Cape Town is, and “The Company” Jan Compagnie rules with more than an iron fist. Eventually, of course, the Boers spread north and east. Those Boers who can read use the Old Testament as a guide for how to live in this new land. They consider themselves the “chosen ones” in “Canaan,” and have no compunction about killing, enslaving, and oppressing because God has given them the land and the right to do so. Besides, they doubt the “little brown” people they encounter in Southern Africa have souls at all. Missionaries who came along and treated the native Africans like people with souls were shunned and sometimes slaughtered themselves.

The Van Doorn family is one whose line is traced through the centuries, as is Nxumalo’s lineage. The Saltwood family from England figures powerfully, too. We meet the Xhosa nation, and Shaka the powerful and bloodthirsty Zulu king. Nxumalo’s descendant is Shaka’s trusted advisor, who also plots his death.

It’s fun to put pieces together from other history that I’ve read. And at this point, I’m only halfway through!Covenant


Michener, James. The Covenant. Fawcett, 1987.

Medusa, Historical fiction, South Africa, and other thoughts

I revised my Medusa book for Capstone press. It’s Medusa’s side of the story–with my Greek mythology obsession, it was a FUN book to write. It’s moving fairly quickly through the editorial process, but I still don’t know when it will be out on the market. I really like how the story turned out.

I think it will be in 2013, which means, at least, that I have had a publication in 2009, 2011, 2012, and maybe 2013. That also means I gotta get CRANKING on revising Slider’s Son so there’s a chance it come come out by the end of 2014!!!  I’ve also got some tips that this is not such a bad time for historical fiction as the last few years. Don’t know if that’s true or not, but I want to go with that thought! I have a three-day weekend. Maybe I can dig in and get something done. I’ve written so little this year since school started. It’s easy to get disheartened, but at least I have great classes and students.

I’m teaching The Power of One in my South Africa Humanities class. I have been wondering for several years why the author Bryce Courtenay moved to Australia for the rest of his life. I JUST found out, doing some research, that it’s because while he was a teenager, he started a school for Africans. Blacks were NOT supposed to learn to read under Apartheid, and he was labeled a communist as a result, and exiled from his country at age 17. Holy smoke. No wonder I love this guy. He just died three months ago. I’m sad I didn’t make a pilgrimage to go meet the man. –>

Back to the grindstone. 

Another rejection

Slider’s Son garnered its second rejection this week. “Not enough historical detail” is what Calkins Creek said. George is baffled by that (maybe more than I am, even), so he’s going to ask them what they meant by that. In the meantime, I’m going to spread in some more Depression-era details into the manuscript. I was mostly concerned with the character in the small town and making his life real. Guess I’ll try to make the national news come home to roost more than it does already.

I have some ideas. I’m going to add some of them this weekend.

I wish I could get a book right the first time. Or second, third, fourth, fifth, or sixth. Wonder what it means that I have to revise at least TWELVE times before anything gets published.

It mostly means that I should do nothing but write and maybe I’d get a book done WAY faster (and be with my kids, and be with friends, and ride my bike, and play with Freya–oh, yeah, and teach and grade papers).

Oh, well. I’m heading out on my bike to THINK in a few minutes.

Slider’s Son

So, finally, finally, finally, with weddings and all the other stuff going on in life (oh, and there’s full-time teaching and paper-grading, too), I FINISHED editing Slider’s Son. It’s as good as I can make it until some editor tells me what he/she wants me to do with it.
I like the story. A lot. I sure hope some editor snatches it up fast, so I can have a book coming out in 2013.

This is the story of a 12-year-old boy growing up in North Dakota on the tail end of the depression. All he wants is to be a major league pitcher. His dad is the county sheriff, and there’s a murder in town… Lots of things get in the way of his dream…
I’ll keep you posted on how this manuscript does.