Saturday, December 15, 2018

Christmas 2018 specials

Late-gift specials

New Books:

Looking for Dawn (2018), a novel--a sacrament on the wintery plains. Pastor John Schuurman says, "An exceptional read that will make a man completely abandon any notion that a miscarriage is a small misfortune from which one can easily walk away. I loved this book." $20.00

Ghosts of the Plains--Small Wonder(s)--first in a series of hand-printed collections. Four essays from the much beloved public radio feature. $20.00

From the basement--$15@.  

Reading Mother Teresa (2012)--meditations from a Calvinist on the life of a saint.

Sign of A Promise (1982)--Tales of Dutch immigrants to the rural Midwest. 

Touches the Sky (1998)--a novel set in 1890 on the turbulent Dakota plains--wooden shoes and Wounded Knee.

Near Unto God (1997)--summary meditations based on the much beloved work of Abraham Kuyper. 

Up the Hill: Folks Tales from the Cemetery (2014)--short stories rising from the stones of an old Siouxland graveyard.

If you're local, I'll deliver. If you're not I'll send them off.

HUGE SALE!!!! :). For just $50, I'll send you any four of the books and even slip in another old one.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Interview with the author (v)--Wounded Knee

Wounded Knee is here in Looking for Dawn again, like Touches the Sky?

Sort of. Plays a minor role, really, but an important thematic one. It just so happens that today—December 29—is the date of the Massacre. The very first time I went there—the day after Thanksgiving some 15 years ago maybe—I was all alone. It was cold and windy and not a day to visit a place like that, but I think the experience of being there all by myself, standing up on the hill where the guns were sitting, where once there stood a church, where the ’73 action took place, where the mass burial took place (see the picture?)—all of that got into me, as well it should. I think you’d have to be less than human not to feel something.

And I’ve always been impressed by “the riders,” the Native people who start all the way north at Standing Rock and ride all the way down to Pine Ridge, to the place where the massacre took place. It’s really cold—normally—out there (and here) right now, but they are determined to follow the trail of Big Foot and his people.

The riders are sort of there, importantly there—even though they’re not.

You think ordinary people know about all of that? Do they care?

I don’t know. I’m quite sure that few white folks know anything at all about Native American history. If you do, it’s hard to take Donald Trump’s gag-line seriously—you know, “Make America Great Again.”

Let’s not talk about Trump.
That’s a good idea.

Wanted to ask you about something else—there’s some cussing in this novel, a couple of f-bombs. Is that new in an old writer like you?

Yes, but it’s a long story.

I got time.

Tell you what—let's go there next time.

One more thing! It just so happens that today--December 29--is the day of the Wounded Knee Massacre, back in 1890. I've written about it often, and did again to day. If you'd like to read something, go here:

Monday, December 25, 2017

Interview with the Author (iv) -- Self-published????

. . .in which this brilliant interviewer continues his thoughtful questioning of his alter-ego. . .well, maybe just plain ego.

And this is all yours, isn’t it? Looking for Dawn is an Amazon self-published book?

Stem to stern, plus Amazon Create Space. Yes. I did the whole thing myself. That’s a lie, really, but you’re right—it’s self-published.

You chose to self-publish?

Heck no. I’d have much rather gone the old way, had the manuscript accepted by a legitimate publisher, got a sweet advance and a contract; but it didn’t happen and it wasn’t likely to happen.

You tried?

Basically, once. I ran into an editor who knew Up the Hill, an award-winning collection of stories about the souls in a cemetery. She told me to send her the manuscript when I asked her if she could give me some advice on where to send it. I happily sent it an hour later (a bit hyperbolic). Five months later, she sent it back and said she thought the Native elements of the novel needed some ramping up—would I do that? Sure, I said. And did, then, as instructed, sent it back to her. Five long months later, after I wrote a note just wondering what was going on, she just said “we decided against it.” Sweet.

You’ve been writing a long time. Are rejections like that still painful?

No kidding.

Did you try another?

Look, I’m two months away from being 70 years old. The chances of me getting picked up by an agent (the only way to get published by an established publisher these days) are not at all good. Who’s going to make a living on a writer who’s 70 years old? If I was 35, and this was my first novel—you know, maybe someone could build a chunk of a career on me. But this old?


Not really. Then there’s subject matter. This is a novel set in South Dakota, midway though, too—not Sioux Falls or in the Black Hills. In the heart of the state. Face it—there aren’t a lot of readers who typed “South Dakota novels” into Google a month ago, looking for presents for the family. I might think there should be, given South Dakota's incredible history, but it's not likely.

Sort of anti-Fly-over country prejudice kept you from traditional publication?
Look, I wish I could blame someone or something, but I can't. Rural, upper Midwest prejudice may well be part of my reluctance to send it out again and again and agin. But then there’s the religion thing, too.

Is Looking for Dawn a Christian novel?
You tell me what that is, and I’ll tell you if Looking for Dawn qualifies. But I'll say this, faith plays a significant role in the novel, maybe more than it should. I’ve always fallen between the cracks—not religious enough for the Christian market, too religious for a reader who isn’t interested in issues of faith. That’s another problem.

So, you self-published?

Yes, and it was—as others who have told me—remarkably easy. With the help of some friends, I hope I’ve created a good product. Let me know what you think. . .

(that's a joke. . .blush. I know what I think)

Interview with the author (iii)--Native America?

There’s some Native American things here. Is that new for you?

Not totally. Touches the Sky is a novel that includes the something of the massacre at Wounded Knee. It’s a 19th century novel. Looking for Dawn is quite contemporary. I’ve been really interested in Native American history and culture for quite some time now—and it’s not over.

And where does that come from?

I’m not sure I understand that myself. I’ve been surrounded by “Sioux-This” and “Sioux That” for the last forty years, but no real Lakota people. That plays some role, I’d say. You know—Sioux Center, Sioux County, Big Sioux River, Little Sioux River, Sioux City, Sioux Rapids, Sioux Falls—and nary a Sioux around. Here and there a Winnebago, but I don’t know that I’ve ever met a Lakota man or woman anywhere close. I think my interest began with the Ghost Dance.

Ghost Dance?

A religious movement that swept throughout the west, most every reservation, but played something of a role in the Wounded Knee Massacre. I was born into what I’m recognizing more and more to be a very religious home—and, just for the record, I’m not at all angry about that. It’s that religiosity that piques my interest in things like the Ghost Dance—I want to know more and more. That interest led to the earlier novel, Touches the Sky, and it didn’t abate, really. I did some feature journalism for an old, well-established Christian Reformed mission enterprise in New Mexico, Rehoboth, just out side of Gallup, and a century-old mission at or in the Zuni pueblo. Through long interviews with families on those reservations, I began to understand more about Native American mission enterprises—both the horrors they brought to American Native populations, but also the blessings they created—and there were blessings. And there were horrors! There were both.

Christian mission among the indigenous in America created some blessings?

Yes, but that’s an issue for another time. Let me just say that paradox has always interested me. It sits at the bottom of everything. An old Dutch-American preacher-friend, born on the Rosebud Reservation, I might add, used to say that truth is never a circle (I’m sure lots of Lakota would argue with that, but I’ll let it sit). It’s always an ellipsis—it has two centers, not one. Christian missions created horrors on Native reserves and reservations, but they also delivered some really significant good things--two centers, two truths. 

Be that as it may, I’ve come to believe that one of Christianity’s greatest sins when it came to Native missions was not listening, just talking, just preaching, just believing that we white folks were burdened with these poor people and had to do something about making them into our own likenesses.

All of that’s in Looking for Dawn?

I’ll let you be the judge.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Interview with the author (ii)--setting and set up

It’s cold in this novel, isn't it?—really, really cold. . .

Yes, it is. The environment plays a role here, because most days the environment does play a role in the lives of people who live out here and farther west on the Great Plains. The novel is set right before Christmas, when the temps out here—and out there (it takes place a few hours west in South Dakota) can actually kill people. I wanted the landscape to be a part of things here because it simply is.

In some ways, there isn't much writing anymore that uses nature as a central character--as an antagonist especially-- largely because so many of us live in cities, where there simply is more shelter. If you live in Buffalo, of course, you're acquainted with snow--I'm not saying all cities are in the sun-belt. But I wanted this to happen when it does--mid-winter.

I don't think you can set a story where this one is set, and not have the environment play a role.

And it happens very quickly. . .

Yes, it does. Trust me, I didn’t set out to write a 300-page novel and tell a story that happens in a 24-hour span; but I did. I’m stuck with it. 

Once it was clear how this was going, I started hoping that the novel doesn’t sit comfortably in your hands, that it moves around a lot and pushes you to keep turning pages. I want it to be entertaining, strong on plot. I don't want you taking any deep breaths until the whole thing is over.

It’s a serious novel, but there isn’t much of an intermission—it just keeps on moving. I hope you can’t help keeping up.

An Interview with the author: "Where does this story come from?"

Your stories often have a real-life core, right? Can you point at some happening, some story, that gave you the idea for Looking for Dawn?

Yes, I can. There was a suicide attempt, young lady who had, from day one, faced problems not every kid does. I knew a number of her relatives (I think she was in high school when the attempt was made). It was on a Saturday night, I think, because in my mind I was really interested in who might go to the hospital to visit her and bring her flowers—you know, that kind of thing. The parents and she had many—step and adopted and birth—and grandparents, I just figured, would all want to be there. I got to thinking that the hospital room could easily have been jam-packed with visitors. What’s important to the story is that all the parents were sort of settled into a rather conventional life after some trials when they were younger. I couldn’t help thinking that the young lady’s hospital room would be crowded with people, many of whom maybe hadn’t talked to each other all that much—or talked much about what happened 16 years before.

Okay, then what’s the “what if?” here, the question you were thinking of coming out of the blocks?

If I hadn’t told you what I just did, I’m quite sure no one on the face of the earth would read Looking for Dawn and think of that event, long ago, as a prototype. But it was and is. What happens in the novel doesn’t resemble in the least what might or might not have happened in that hospital room, but the idea of bringing together principle players in the life of a troubled young girl who may have tried to take her own life is what’s going on here, people who’ve not talked about what happened years ago when the child was conceived. What might have happened when all those people had to look at each other and talk. That’s the “what if” at the foundation of the plot.

Why didn’t they talk before?

Good question. I wouldn’t say, necessarily, that anyone in this novel is that uptight about what happened—that’s really not it, although a certain amount of “don’t talk about it” still rules in small town life as I know it. I think things weren’t talked out in the novel’s case because, in large part, the kids were still little. They wouldn’t have begun to understand. So, time passed, no one talked much about it, and wounds healed, sort of, until something happened to make the whole story bleed anew.
Don't be fooled. Schaap's new novel is self-published. At this point in time, only four people in the world have read it. The interviewer here, and interviewee are, strangely enough, the same person. Just so you know. 

Friday, December 22, 2017

A plot summary. . .

What happened to the kid was not particularly surprising. Dawn Burnett had been too frequently close to real trouble, if not half-buried in it. 

And, sad as it might be to say, she would not have been the first Lakota kid to die mysteriously, horribly, in the open spaces of blinding winter cold all around. 

Nothing of that was shocking. Sad? —yes, unquestionably and terribly sad. After all, Dawn was a gorgeous young girl with so much going for her. 

Whatever happened that night, whatever she did or didn’t do, opened stories never told but not forgotten, stories that emerge painfully in a world of swirling, naked cold, where forgiveness seems an endless horizon away.