It started sometime in December of last year. IT was a story that perplexed me for most of that month. I have written about lumbermen, miners, labor strikes, newsmen and women, lawyers, politicians, and ordinary folks that live here in God’s Country. Yet, there is one topic–or life calling– that is dear to my heart and has never been a ‘feature’ of my storytelling through my first ten novels . . . that would be a teacher. In my work career I’ve pumped gas, delivered newspapers, worked in the mines, sold real estate, entered politics as a Minnesota Senate candidate, was an historian and later became a Commissioner of an Iron Range economic development agency (IRRRB)– so, I’ve worn many different hats and all have played a role in shaping me as the unique person that I am. Through it all I’ve learned that we are all unique and that each of us has a story; often as compelling as any story I have told. But, what has influenced me more than everything I ever done is my nearly thirty years as a classroom teacher at the Hibbing High School. Nothing has been more special. I was, and will always be, a teacher. As a parent and as a ‘grampa’ I think of that fact about myself nearly every day. I loved teaching and, in different ways, every one of the thousands of young men and women that came through my classroom doors–mostly Room 232.
I’m already making a short story long. I have never had a major character in my novels that was a teacher. My struggles last December were twofold: I wanted to do a teacher story and I wanted to follow-up on my last Father Mickey novel–The Sacred Seal. I’ve had lots of positive feedback on Mickey and his exploits and I greatly enjoyed creating the characters from my last story. My dilemma was how I might do both at the same time. I did leave the ending of The Sacred Seal hanging a bit . . . the murderers were in jail . . . but?
But what from there? My inner voice told me to keep the thread of ‘The Sacred Seal’ going and figure out a way to connect a teacher to a series of murder and human failings. I had good cops and bad cops, Duluth Hillside drug peddlers, prostitutes, and priests–along with a family in both Hibbing and Florida all in one good story. Of course i had to keep the Moran family story alive. Now, where would a teacher fit in? Especially with all these other folks. Then a light went on. Mickey was a Hibbing High School graduate (class of 2000) before entering the seminary. So, he must have had a handful of teachers–maybe even a favorite or two. My creation became Mr. Paul Martin who had since retired from his teaching of history at HHS.
That’s all about TEARS for now folks!
Since my last book was published a year ago, my distributor went out of business; much like independent book stores have up here and all over the country. Losing a distributor is almost catastrophic in this business. Without one, the ‘big box’ stores like Barnes and Noble (the giant of booksellers) become almost inaccessible. I’m left with myself and Amazon to market my titles. With the publication of my new novel, I cut back fifty percent of my previous production orders. To complicate that, my primary marketing period is limited to about five weeks. (As I’ve blogged before, I’m a coward and retreat to Florida for the wintner.) I gather my Minnesota family–two kids, a wonderful daughter in law, and four grand children together at Thanksgiving before heading sunward. Yet, in Naples is the other part of my family–a daughter and her two children. It’s neat to have family in both places . . . I’ve prayed for years that one of my kids would end up in Florida, Arizona, California, or someplace where there is no snow-shoveling, windshield scrapping, and parkas. Yet, to be honest, I do miss a good winter blizzard, and snow, and cross-country skiing, and Christmas in northern Minnesota. But palm trees and beaches and eighty degree days aren’t that hard to take.
In a week or so I will follow this blog with more details about TEARS along with my schedule of Range events. My webmaster, Jeremy Hendrickson, has updated my website so you can have a preview of sorts. Until next time, my warmest regards to each of you.