The doorbell rang on July 1st, announcing the arrival of the proof copy of my new novel, Amber’s Choice. I thumbed through every page, looking for errors in margins and gutters, trim size and bleeds. Ten areas in all. I didn’t read it again before pushing the button to approve distribution, for fear I’d beginning the editing process all over again.
By July 4, it was available online, so I announced it on Facebook. What a way to celebrate my 70th birthday.
Publishing a book is something like having a baby. The idea is conceived. It grows over time. Then you go into the most painful part, labor, aka publishing. Like labor, publishing is the part you hope to forget so you can enjoy your new baby. There are other correlations. Babies and books deeply represent who you are. Both require properly picked names. Their weight matters. You hope neither has birth defects and that everyone will love them as you do.
Here is what Amber’s Choice is about:
First, it’s a love story between Amber McLean and Kelly Jorgenson. They were both featured in my first novel, By the Banks of Cottonwood Creek, and this is a continuation of their story.
Secondly, it’s a story about God’s calling in their lives, and in our own lives. Our heavenly Father calls us each into a relationship with him. He is a good father who has good plans for our lives. But, we are flawed human beings. Our past and personality get in the way. Often, we have our own agenda or motives. In addition, the world pushes us to conform to its standards. And sometimes we aren’t aware of our call at all.
Thirdly, Amber’s Choice is about…choices. In the story, Amber literally and figuratively rides a roller coaster as she tries to decide if her loyalty belongs to her career, her family, or Kelly and her calling. She asks the question many people ask: can she really trust God with her future?
Since Amber’s Choice was started four years ago, I’ve spent hundreds of hours at a computer, just me and my mug of coffee—and some inspiring scriptures pinned to the bulletin board in front of me. Yet, I’m indebted to many people for help with publishing this book. Here are just a few: the members of Dakota Writers for weekly motivation and guidance. Julie Hendrickson who polished the manuscript. Korrine Lang and Cinnamon Schuck for superb proofreading skills. Christy Brucks, who supplied the beautiful cover photo. Consultant James Dillehay for getting it launched. I won’t forget your support and encouragement.
Where to Find Amber’s Choice
Amber’s Choice is available, along with By the Banks of Cottonwood Creek and Secrets of the Dark Closet, at online retailers everywhere. For an autographed copy, send me a request through this website. The book will be available through retail outlets and at book signing events later this summer.
Two Upcoming Events:
August 13 at the Christian Women of Aberdeen (S.D.) luncheon at the Ramkota.
September 8 at the Old Fashion Pie and Ice Cream Social at Memorial Park, Grand Rapids, N.D.
The Scriptures Over My Desk
“Be still and know that I am God” Psalm 46:10. Sent by my good friend, Bonnie Haseleu
“Be confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in your will complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.” Phil. 1:6 This is basically my mission statement.
“We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts.” This is the scripture theme for Amber’s Choice.
“And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this.” Esther 4:14 This was on a card given out at Java Joy last fall.
A headline in the Bismarck Tribune recently made me think of my brother’s favorite saying: “Who says you have to like your job?”
His words usually came after listening to his nephews, and probably his sons, complain about their jobs. Long hours, hard work, low pay! Glen, a man of few words, would give them some time to get things off their chests, and then he would ask, “Who says you have to like your job?”
His logic and example probably ended a few conversations. Glen was born during the Depression, and grew up in a place and time where jobs were hard to find. He planted trees for the county, ran a road grader, and later began a small contracting business. If you needed a 60-foot tree taken down, a house demolished, a road built, Glen was your guy. He and his wife ran the business, and many of those sons and nephews worked for him at one time or another. I sure miss his wisdom and humor.
The newspaper headline that reminded me of Glen was this: “Unemployment falls to lowest rate since 1969” by AP writer Christopher Rugaber. The story states that the 3.9 percent unemployment rate is the best in 49 years. It reflects a healthy economy driven by strong consumer and business spending. Employers are having trouble filling openings. They’re having to raise starting wages. In addition, the Dow Jones is at an all-time high at 26,000. The low unemployment rate among Black and Hispanic people is particularly noteworthy.
On the international front, the U.S. has feared the irrational North Korean leader, Kim Jung-Un, who seemed to enjoy lobbing missiles at us and our allies. If you look at a satellite map of the world, you can pick out the two countries. The U.S. is the large one with all of the lights. North Korea is a small black hole, because even electricity is considered a luxury there. Since the surprising June meeting between our president and Kim Jung-Un, a.k.a. Rocket Man, a peace treaty is being negotiated.
We are also strengthening our ties with Israel. Doesn’t it makes sense to support the only democracy in the Middle East? Plus, Israel’s outstanding achievements are making our lives easier. Everything from geothermal power, to turning salt water into drinkable water, to developing the cherry tomato can be credited to this nation. With only .11 percent of the world population, they have received over 20 percent of the Nobel prizes. On top of that, the Bible says in Genesis 12: 3 that God will bless those who bless Israel.
More sensational and less important things make the headlines these days. The story about the unemployment rate was at the bottom of page B9. We mostly hear about people who are offended and angry, or are paid to protest because they are offended and angry. (Think about it. Can you afford to give up your job, and pay for travel and hotels in order to join protests across the country?)
So, with apologies to my brother, here is a paraphrase of his unshakable logic: Who says you have to like your president?
This is not meant to be a political piece, but an appeal. Look beyond the sensational headlines. We (US) are gaining back strength and self-confidence as a nation.
The sequel to By the Banks of Cottonwood Creek is still a work in progress.
In November, I’m excited to share a booth at The Big One Craft Fair at the Bismarck Event Center with Carol Schuck and April Schmidt. Carol makes beautiful centerpieces and April has her own line of essential oils and other natural products. I’ll be signing copies of both of my books there, but remember they are also available online.
Recently we attended our grandson Benjamin Schuck’s Senior Recital, performed on a grand piano before a full house. It was a summit he reached after 11 years of spending time each day at the piano or keyboard.
The program had his name at the top and included a story he wrote about his musical journey. He had composed an original piece, Toubaki Petals, so his name was listed with some famous composers, like Faber, Chopin and Glass.
Other kids performed, including our other grandsons, Solomon and Jonathan. We were so proud of them. However, it was Ben’s night.
And Elizabeth’s. The event made me think of where the music began in the Schuck family. While my husband’s father, Clements, was known as a musician, perhaps it was his mother Elizabeth Geffre Schuck that taught him how to play in the first place.
My only memory of the first Elizabeth Schuck (her daughter-in-law and a granddaughter were also named Elizabeth) was after Larry and I were married. She came to the farm for Easter dinner and gave each of her grandchildren a small gift of money, including me. She died a few months later.
Elizabeth lived most of her life on the windblown Dakota prairies. As a married woman, she hauled pails of water to the house to cook and wash clothes, worked in the fields and milked cows. When her husband left, she moved to a little house in Aberdeen.
In the midst of that hardscrabble life, she fostered beauty. Her wedding dress was fit for a princess. She also did fine needlework, and Larry and his sister recall that their faith grew when they stayed at her house.
However, it was her music that was passed from generation to generation. Elizabeth had a piano in her farmhouse, and she taught her son Clem to play. Along with the piano, he played saxophone, accordion, and organ. He played in a church band, and for a time traveled with Lawrence Welk’s band.
Later, while raising 12 kids and managing a farm at LaMoure, N.D., Clem had a lot to deal with, but at the end of the day, he’d let go of his worries by sitting at his Wurlitzer organ and filling the house with waltzes and polkas.
Like his father, Larry likes to play music in the evenings, although his instrument of choice is the guitar and his music is 50s and country western. He’s played in church bands for decades. Our sons took piano lessons, played sax and clarinet in the school band, and one played bass in a church band for years.
At the recital, the talent displayed by Ben and his brothers would have made Elizabeth proud. It certainly made his parents and grandparents bust some buttons.
There are some lessons to learn from this this simple woman of the prairie. Elizabeth taught the gift of music, stitched beauty with her own hands, passed along her faith, and was generous to her grandchildren. Maybe for all of us, it’s enough to follow her example, plant good in the lives of others and leave the rest in God’s hands.
Note: Elizabeth likely never met my grandmother, Bessie Kloubec Muir, however they were contemporaries, born in 1887 and 1888, respectively. Both moved to North Dakota and married in 1907. Bessie died in August 1966 and Elizabeth a year later. Because Bessie’s son documented so much of her early life, I ended up writing a historical fiction story about her called Secrets of the Dark Closet.
Here is where I’ll be in the next few weeks:
August 23. Fargo Barnes & Noble from 6-8 p.m. Local/Regional Author Event. Here’s your chance to browse the store, meet several local authors and purchase signed copies of By the Banks of Cottonwood Creek or Secrets of the Dark Closet.
September 6. Joy International’s Java Joy meeting at Boneshaker Coffee Company at 1501 Mapleton Ave., Bismarck, ND. At 6:30 p.m. Motto is “Women experiencing fresh faith, new hope, real love.”
September 13. A special presentation for the Christian Women’s Club Brunch Group at 9:30 a.m. at the Eagles Club, 323 N. 26th Street, Bismarck. For reservations call 223-2177.
“Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” Psalm 27: 14
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June is busting out all over! And boy, do we who live up here on the prairie appreciate it. After a long winter, everything is now green, green, green. This May, the apple and chokecherry trees had bumper crops of blossoms. The lilacs opened en masse.
As soon as greenhouses were stocked, dozens of carts rolled through the aisles piled high with pots of alyssum, daisies, geraniums, petunias and every imaginable veggie plant.
We were pleased to be out there pushing carts, too. Last year at this time, we had just moved, and there were Bobcats roaring around the house moving dirt and rocks. This year, we’re pleased to have actual grass and weeds.
Swept up in the joy of spring, I joined the Bismarck-Mandan Garden Club, and in a weak moment, the Daylily Club. These organizations are filled with Master Gardeners. You can pick out their homes by the wonderful landscaping and quality blooms in their yards.
Since I’ve only successfully grown one Daylily, I question whether I deserve to be a member in good standing. Also, last year four out of my six new rose bushes died. Still, wearing a new pair of garden gloves and fancy sandals, I’m determined to make our postcard-sized yard beautiful.
Of the two remaining rose bushes, one was up right away this spring, while the other slept in. I’m happy to say they’re doing fine and one is blooming! In fact, in the past two weeks, most of our garden has been growing.
I say most of it, because of the green beans. They came up right away, then disappeared. It seems some of our wilder neighbors (rabbits) like them for breakfast. Then there are the chukars. These brown Hungarian partridges thrive in Bismarck. While they’re shy, they aren’t afraid to stroll across our patio and wallow in the garden dirt. Nothing is growing in their favorite spot.
Now, we’re working on the front yard. We dug in an old-fashioned rose bush, a short row of Hostas, and Daylilies! (Purchased from A Garden Club member.) Each plant has a name attached. I only hope to be organized enough to remember which plant is which.
I’m having trouble with other parts of this landscaping business, too. For some reason, we sold our nice outdoor table and chairs, but our aging picnic table survived the move. I wrote a sad tale about it last year. It was a center of outdoor activities for our family for decades. The night it was hauled away was a low point in the moving process.
Well, surprise! It went to our son’s garage, survived the moving sale, and showed up at our twin home. Now, the darn thing needs another coat of paint.
Also, the view outside my office/guest bedroom window is of the utility wall of the tall, beige house next door. There is nothing inspirational about it. Wouldn’t a trellis with climbing roses or grape vines look nice there?
I didn’t mention this to anyone, so it seemed like an answered prayer when friends offered us a wrought iron archway. We went to look at it. With a little sanding and a fresh coat of paint, it would be lovely.
We didn’t realize how big it was until our friend delivered it. It’s eight feet high, with a five-foot wide gate. We soon realized that the small space outside my window is too narrow and sloped to hold the behemoth, even though it would be cemented in the ground. It would look a little strange in the back yard because we have a rock wall right behind the house. In other words, the dream archway is turning into a nightmare.
As I’m swept up in the joys and trials of spring, I’m also trying to pause to smell the flowers. Noticing the beauty around us and counting our blessings every day can add happiness to our lives and the lives of others.
I Thessalonians 5: 18 says, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” It is one of many Bible verses that has been proven true by science. It really is healthy to have a thankful heart.
That said, I’m thankful for you, my readers, as the Prairie Lighthouse Blog begins its fourth year. Blessings to all of you.
I’ll be at the Downtown Arts Market in Jamestown on June 14 from 5-9 p.m. Please stop by if you are able to attend. Both of my books, By the Banks of Cottonwood Creek and Secrets of the Dark Closet will be available.
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Mother’s Day isn’t just about moms, it’s also a wonderful time to honor other women who influence our lives. Alice was one of those people.
I met Alice when my brother brought her to the farm to meet our parents. It was a winter night and I was seven years old. Glen, my nearest sibling in age, was probably 20 at the time. Alice was an 18-year-old beauty, with long dark hair and a pixie nose.
Other young women might have ignored the little waif who approached with a coloring book and crayons, but not Alice. She gave me her full attention, even coloring a couple pages in my book. I’ve adored her ever since.
She and Glen married and moved to Virginia, where he was stationed with the Army. A couple years later, they came back to North Dakota to raise a family.
Alice was kind, talented, and fearless. Fearless, except for one time. We had taken the BB gun out to the pasture to shoot gophers. For the record, I don’t think we actually hit any. However, we did draw the interest of some cattle. Suddenly a whole herd of bulls was stampeding over a hill toward us. We ran for our lives. Alice leaped over the barbed wire fence and then pulled me to safety.
When we told the rest of the family about our adventure, they just laughed. They said the “herd of bulls” were just some curious and harmless yearlings. (I’m still not convinced.)
For a while, Glen and Alice lived in a storefront building in LaMoure that had been made into apartments. By this time, Mom, Dad and I also lived in town. Both of my parents worked full time. I was nine and sometimes stayed with Alice.
One hot summer day she learned that I’d never had a chocolate malt, so she gave me a quarter and sent me up the street to the Dairy Bar. That malt was so good. I slurped it down and said I could drink another one, never dreaming she’d give me a second quarter and insist I get a second malt. And, no, that one didn’t go down as fast.
Eventually they moved onto the home place. At age 10, I was already sitting at the kitchen table drinking coffee with Alice and my sister, while their boys played outside. Sometimes we’d pile all the kids in the backseat and explore an abandoned farm or go shopping at a nearby town.
One of my favorite memories is of Alice strumming her guitar and singing. She had a husky voice and perfect pitch. I never hear the song, “Me and Bobby McGee” without thinking of her. When I became a teenager, Alice was the one adult I could talk to. She listened to my teenage traumas and always had sound wisdom for me.
Later, Larry and I married and lived in the old house on his family’s farm. We thought we’d stay forever. We’d be just a few miles from Alice and Glen and I could imagine afternoons spent with Alice, tackling projects or just drinking coffee.
However, it wasn’t to be. After two disastrous farming years, we moved away so Larry could go to school and begin a career. When his family farm was sold, the new owners hired Glen to bulldoze down the old house. That is a poignant memory.
As time went on, their kids grew up and moved away. Glen died at age 59 and Alice was left alone on the farm. Her independence showed. She had some cattle at first. Kept a big garden. Lived through winter storms without electricity. Helped her neighbors and her kids. Was a fan of my books.
We’ve had family in Dean township since 1904, but for the last 25 years, Alice held the position alone. That ended in 2017 when, frail and on oxygen, she finally admitted she couldn’t live alone on the farm any more.
Alice passed away this month. She wasn’t much for anything showy and she didn’t want any fuss over her departure, such as being written about in a blog. However, she is likely playing a heavenly guitar right now and won’t care what is happening back here.
So happy Mother’s Day, Alice. I hope the story of your faith, kindness and strength will inspire others.
“Serve wholeheartedly as though you were serving the Lord and not people.” Ephesians 6: 7 NIV
Many other women have also encouraged, influenced and guided me along the way–enough to fill a book! Do you have a special “Alice” in your life? I’d love to hear your story.
I’m busy working on Chapter 23 of “Amber’s Choice” and the poor girl is really up against it at this moment. Have you ever had to make a decision that will alter your life forever? That’s what Amber is facing and I can’t wait to see what she decides.
On May 21, I will talk about my writing at St. Gabriel’s here in Bismarck. Also looking at some other engagements and craft fairs this summer.
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The Sears store in Bismarck is closing. I think it’s worth a blog post to offer a tribute to one of the retail wonders of the 20th century.
When I was a kid, the Sears and Roebuck catalogue arrived regularly every spring, fall and Christmas. I’d spend hours looking through each section. The Christmas catalog was also known as the “wish book.” You could order almost anything from the Sears catalog, kind of like ordering from Amazon today.
Living in a rural area, we depended on mail order to purchase everything from shoes to overalls. Oh, Sears had competition from others, such as Montgomery Wards, affectionately known as “Monkey Wards,” but it ruled. We also had small Sears store in towns where we shopped.
I do remember seeing the big Sears store in Bismarck for the first time. I was 12 and the leaders of the Happy Hustlers 4-H Club took two carloads of girls to see the State Capitol in Bismarck. Note: We didn’t have seatbelts, so you could squeeze quite a few little bodies into the backseat.
The Sears department store was on Main Avenue and Fourth Street. It had huge plate glass windows, and a brick and black marble front. There were three stories of clothes, furniture and appliances. The ceilings were tin and looked like a wedding cake.
Eventually Sears moved north to the new Gateway Mall. After I married and we moved to Bismarck, I made many trips across town to the store. Sears sold Toughskin jeans, which had a lifetime guarantee on the knees. I had two active sons. The knees on the jeans would last two or three weeks, and I’d go and trade them in for a new pair.
Later, my first job in Bismarck was at Sears. I dressed up several times a week and drove across town for a 3-hour shift ordering draperies for customers and pricing towels. I was working the day President Reagan was shot. The department was around the corner from the television section, so when I wasn’t busy, I’d watch the unfolding developments. After a few months, I found a job with better hours that was located much closer to home.
There was a time when Sears, Penney’s and Montgomery Wards were prominent in the Dakotas. Today, Wards is completely gone and Bismarck has one of the few Penney’s stores in the state. Sears has been struggling for some time. Getting rid of the ever-popular Craftsman tools was a real sign that the store was on shaky ground, and it got so they had so little staff, that you had to hunt for a clerk.
The other day, we stopped by the store for a last look. Another couple was walking out as we walked in.
I looked around and said, “This is sad.”
The woman nodded. “I’m sorry I came,” she said.
It was a little like walking around the estate sale of an old friend. Goodbye Sears, you will be missed.
This past month, the plan was to work every day on Amber’s Choice, the sequel to By the Banks of Cottonwood Creek. The reality has been I needed to spend the time pulling together a presentation. While it came together slowly, I’m certainly happy with the end product. Happy, because it’s fun to talk about writing Cottonwood and my historical novel, Secrets of the Dark Closet. But more than that, the presentation is about passing on your family values.
Life for younger generations is way different now than it was in the 20th Century. What that really means is people need hope and encouragement more than ever. The talk, “Cottonwood Tales,” includes a PowerPoint presentation. I used it for the first time at the Spring Breakfast at the Bismarck Senior Center this past week.
For information about scheduling a presentation, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Meanwhile, I’ll be spending more time with Amber McLean. She has some interesting choices to make, and when I left her, she was in a very awkward position. I can’t wait to see how she gets out of this predicament.
As much as we joke about going to Boot Hill someday or tell stories about St. Peter guarding the gates of heaven, when death comes for a loved one, it’s no laughing matter.
It’s been a long winter for our family. In October, my 58-year-old niece died unexpectedly. No one should die before their life’s work is complete. In January, my husband’s sister died after two lengthy illnesses. Thirty days later, another sister’s husband died. He was my age. The slippery slope of declining health had already changed family dynamics. It’s been years since we all packed up our kids and went to the river for a day of grilled burgers and raucous water fights. It’s even been a long time since we’ve spent a big, noisy Christmas together. The deaths still hurt.
With each goodbye, we try to imagine what happens when we die. We wonder, what is heaven like? Will we see our loved ones again? How can we know for certain what happens when we die?
The answer to these questions is Easter! Easter is the most important and oldest festival of the Christian Church, celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It separates Christianity from every other religion. Other beliefs teach that we must work our way to heaven, but Christians believe Jesus did the work for us.
Sadly, many people believe in God and try to lead good lives, but they miss this truth. They don’t know where they will spend eternity. But we can know, and when we understand what Jesus did for us, that truth will fill us with hope and joy.
This month, a fine man and great evangelist died. Billy Graham shared one message throughout his career, what Jesus said in John 3: 16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
It’s that simple:
The days leading up to Easter are a wonderful time for soul searching. We clean our houses in anticipation of the holiday. Why not also get rid of our lingering doubts about what happens when we die? Take God’s Word to heart.
The movie, “I Can Only Imagine” just opened. This is a powerful true story of singer songwriter Bart Millard of the band, MercyMe. The movie had me gripping the arm of my seat and stuffing back tears, as well as laughing. The movie is based on the song “I Can Only Imagine,” the best-selling Christian song of all time.
Why is it so popular? Because Millard envisions what heaven will be like. The movie and song are both infused with the hope and truth we need so badly in this old world. (Check out the movie and song with a keyword search of “I can only imagine.”)
So, let’s take a step of faith and believe that Jesus paid the price for us to spend eternity in heaven. It’s that simple. Then we will find the joy that Jesus’s followers had on that first Easter Morning. With them, we will be able to say,
He is Risen! He has Risen Indeed!
Speaking of Easter, one of my favorite chapters in Secrets of the Dark Closet is the family’s Easter in 1899. Get your copy online, or send me an email to obtain a signed copy.
I’m working on the sequel to By the Banks of Cottonwood Creek and the characters have become very real to me. This morning I admired a friend’s cape and told her that Amber just bought a cape. Fortunately, my friend has read Cottonwood and knows Amber.
On April 5, I’ve been invited to speak at women’s spring breakfast at the Senior Center in Bismarck. I’m excited to share stories about writing in a talk entitled “Cottonwood Tales.”
February hosts both Valentine’s Day and Heart-Health Month, so here is a little test for you to take:
Dr. Caroline Leaf has spent her life researching the brain. She has found a link between the brain and the heart. In her book Who Switched Off My Brain, one of the steps to detoxing the brain is to tune into your heart.
Dr. Leaf says: “It’s not just poets who consider the heart as the source of love. Research shows that the heart considers and “thinks” about information it receives from the brain. This implies the heart has opinions of its own. It acts as a still, small voice that checks out our thoughts for accuracy, integrity and wisdom.”
She goes on to say, “Your heart is not just a pump. It’s your body’s strongest biological oscillator, which means it has the ability to pull every other system of the body into its own rhythm. When the heart is at peace and is filled with love, the entire body under the direction of the brain feels peace and love as well. The converse is also true. When your thought life is filled with toxic emotions, your heart is heavy and burdens your body and mind. In effect, your heart amplifies what is going on in the brain.”
Science is learning a lot about what makes the heart tick and how to keep it healthy. However, it is only catching up with what the Bible has always stated. There are over 300 Bible verses about the heart. Here is some biblical advice from the Proverbs, which were written between 950-700 B.C.:
Proverbs 4: 23: “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”
Proverbs 15: 13: “A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit.”
Proverbs: 15: 30: “A cheerful look brings joy to the heart, and good news gives health to the bones.”
Proverbs: 17: 22: “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”
The Psalms mention the heart many times. Here are two verses that explain what happens to our hearts when we trust God, instead of being worried or angry.
In more modern times, Jesus said “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in me.” That’s John 14: 1, by the way.
The choice is ours. If we choose to count our blessings every day, gratitude to God will flood our hearts, for even though we face trouble, we are still incredibly blessed. Another way to encourage our hearts is to sing. (Yes, sing aloud.) Pick a favorite hymn or praise song and belt it out. This encourage our brains, as well as our hearts.
The result will be, “The peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4: 7.
May you have a happy heart today
and every day!
Writing Update: If you purchased or received a copy of Secrets of the Dark Closet in November or December, I would love to hear from you.
This winter I am back to working on the sequel to By the Banks of Cottonwood Creek. The new book will again feature Kelly Jorgenson, but Amber Rose McLean is the main character. I’m having fun with chapter titles such as A Small Box of Chocolates, Snow Angel, and Little Flower of Lent.
It was a chance encounter. We’d stopped by Barnes & Noble to see if my book, Secrets of the Dark Closet, was in stock. (It sold out, new copies were on order.) A clerk suggested that I talk to the new manager. I planned to call him the next day, but there he was as I made my way out of the store.
We began a conversation. When I said I was a local author, his eyes lit up. He took me to a computer and typed in the name of the book. A page came up showing every sale, by day, since it was published a few months ago. (Computers can be wonderful…and a little scary.)
He then made a comment—one sentence—that revealed so much about our community. He said, “People here love local authors.” I think that is a lovely insight from a newcomer to Bismarck.
It explains why the store has long rows of books by authors from our community, state, and neighboring states. Independent authors used to be the stepchildren of the publishing world. That is changing as more people take control of their work through hybrid publishing or smaller publishing houses.
The Rainbow Shop Parable Christian store has also supported me from day one, by stocking both Secrets and By the Banks of Cottonwood Creek. They also hosted a book signing in December. Other shops in Bismarck, Jamestown and Medora are also friendly places for local authors.
Our city and state are flourishing. Driving around the city, I am struck by all of the new local businesses. They’re popping up everywhere. In addition, the Women Entrepreneurs Bismarck is a thriving organization.
Isn’t it wonderful that local authors can also flourish here? And we are. Bismarck has a lot of writers. When the Friends of the Library hosted a local authors event a few years ago, over 20 writers showed up with their books.
I only know a fraction of the local published writers, but I want to list a few women who have published novels and memoirs this century that I’ve enjoyed. They all live in the state and their books are available in local stores, on the Internet or through the authors’ websites.
All of these women set their stories in North Dakota. They capture the landscape and the unique culture found here. These don’t even include the dozens of nonfiction, devotionals or other genres, or books published by men.
I also want to mention two out-of-state authors who are on the writing and publishing journey with me. Linda Lewis, Golden Memories. Linda’s memoir is set in rural Michigan in the 1920s. It offers a charming look at life in that era through the writing of her mother. Barbara Brabec, Marcella’s Secret Dream. Barbara lives in Chicago and her memoir takes the reader on a journey into her mother’s life in rural Illinois.
If you have always wanted to write, 2018 is a great time to step out and let your voice join those of other writers across the region. If you are already writing, take heart, local and regional work is coming of age.
Readers: Do you have a favorite author that writes of the culture where you live? I’d love to hear from you. Just post a comment in the box at the bottom of this blog post.
While we usually think of celebrating Christmas in December, it is also a lovely month for weddings.
It’s been 110 years since my grandparents, Gale Muir and Bessie Kloubec, were married on Christmas Day 1907. While there were many things revealed about Bessie’s life in Secrets of the Dark Closet, there was nothing secret about their wedding. It was a happy event.
I’d love to slip back in time and watch the wedding preparations. The farmhouse must have bustled with relatives coming and going as they made food and decorated the house. Bessie, her sister Carrie, and their mother certainly sewed their own wedding clothes, as they were excellent seamstresses.
Here is a copy of a handwritten invitation to the wedding, followed by a story from the LaMoure Chronicle dated Dec. 27, 1907:
The home of Mrs. Mary Roots in Cottonwood was the scene of a pretty wedding Christmas day at high noon when Miss Bessie Kloubeck, daughter of Mrs. Roots, became the bride of Gale Muir, youngest brother of John W. Muir. Rev. J.G. Noordawter read the service, the bridal couple standing beneath a pretty area of Christmas greens. The bride wore a gown of cream crepe and carried bride roses. After the ceremony the family and invited guests partook a sumptuous Christmas dinner. Mr. and Mrs. Muir departed on the afternoon train for the Twin Cities and other Minnesota points for a visit of several weeks. The young couple are highly regarded by many friends all who join with the Chronicle in hearty congratulations and wishes for many Happy New Years.
Now, in December 2017, we are invited to the wedding of a friend. June is a widow with children and grandchildren. After a successful 42-year marriage, she was content with her life, which included volunteering at a local thrift store. Then one day a fellow named Ordean visited the shop. Soon he also became a volunteer, and they became friends. In October he proposed and she said “Yes.”
Nothing speaks of new beginnings quite like a wedding. It is two people willing to launch into the next phase of life with faith, hope, joy…and wedding gifts.
Of course, Christmas might be explained in a similar way, as faith, hope and joy coming to earth wrapped up as a baby.
I still remember a Christmas Eve service we attended in Healdsburg, Calif., where the speaker asked the congregation if we were to find a baby lying on the pew next to us, what would we do with that baby? Would we leave him lying there or take him home with us?
His point was that we celebrate the birth of Jesus every year, but then we must choose what to do with Him. Do we leave Jesus at the church or do we embrace him and take him with us?
In The Purpose of Christmas, Rick Warren discusses the most important gift we’ll ever receive. Writes Warren, “We often celebrate Christmas year after year after year without receiving God’s gift to us. And if you were to give me a Christmas gift, or any kind of gift, and a year later, you go ‘Hey Rick, how did you like my gift’ and I go, ‘well actually I’m really glad you gave it to me, Steve, but I didn’t have a chance to open it, I was really busy.’ Well you’d be offended and I would miss the benefit of the gift.”
Bessie and Gale gave themselves to each other that Christmas day and every day for the next 50 years, until his death in May of 1957. On their wedding day, they didn’t know all they would live through, but even if they could have foreseen the future, I’m certain they would have still chosen each other.
In the same way, we can’t see the future, but we can chose to find faith and hope in God. A favorite Christmas carol, Oh Little Town of Bethlehem, ends with these words, “O come to us, abide with us, Our Lord Emmanuel.” That is a good prayer for this season and for all of our lives.
Since August, I’ve signed books 11 days in eight different venues in Bismarck and LaMoure. Now the comments and reviews are coming in. Your kind and thought-filled words are a great reward. Thank you from the bottom of my prairie heart! Here is an email from a nephew. It is so sweet, I thought about saving it for Valentine’s Day, but it’s too good to hold onto.
I read to (my wife) every night, usually a good Christian book or biography, and then the Bible before we drift off to sleep. We’re now reading Secrets of the Dark Closet. I’ll only read one or two chapters an evening savoring each one like dark chocolates. We REALLY like this book. You write so well with such descriptions as to take us into each setting and feeling what Bessie felt. Being personally connected is another bonus for me in that I remember Bessie and especially Carrie. I am so blessed and proud of you Auntie Gayle.
Thanks so much!
And thank you for sharing your kind words and this intimate glimpse inside your marriage. That special time you spend together each evening is sooo romantic, it’s possible a few women readers will want to read your message to their husbands!
What’s up next? Well, there are parties and a Christmas wedding to attend. And perhaps it’s time to send some cards, purchase a few gifts and bake some cookies. By the way, congratulations to June and Ardean. May you have many Happy New Years!
By the beginning of 2018, I will be ready to talk to groups about the writing process and do more book-signing events. And…there is another book begging to be finished.
Please feel free to leave a reply in the box at the bottom of this page.
MAY YOUR CHRISTMAS BE FILLED WITH FAITH, HOPE AND JOY!