Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Saint's Roost

It was the year 2000 when I wrote my first inspirational fiction, a book titled “To Keep a Promise.” It came about because mother was on me to write a book with a female protagonist. We had a place out at Greenbelt Lake near Clarendon Texas and much of the writing for the book was done out there. In the process I became fascinated by the history of Clarendon and that history combined with mom’s request formulated where the book would go.

The town was fascinating. Established by a group of ministers right in the middle of wild and wooly cow country, and flanked by the wide open towns of old Tascosa, and the town of Mobettie standing outside of Fort Elliott. Where most frontier towns built around a saloon, the first building in Clarendon was a frame building that was a combination church and school structure. As a matter of fact, no saloons, drinking, gambling or ladies of the evening were even allowed in the town which is the reason that the town was nicknamed “Saint’s Roost” by other residents of the Texas Panhandle.

Fascinating, right? All town property sold with the codicil that no liquor would ever be sold on the premises. The little community was founded as a Methodist colony by Reverend L. H. Carhart, a retired Methodist minister. It was started at the mouth of Carroll Creek on the Salt Fork of the Red River, the town named for the Reverend's wife, Clara. Carhart had been a pastor in Dallas and Sherman. Then he discovered land could be bought for $100 a section through the medium of railroad script. With the help of a wealthy brother-in-law, he established the colony and a cattle ranch. Clarendon had been advertised back east as 'Paradise on Earth.' Carhart even ventured as far away as London to promote it, which is one reason a lot of ranches in the Panhandle ended up established with British ownership and capital.

When I started work on the book the town itself became a character that rivaled those that would carry the story. The history in the book is accurate, save some small adjustments in the dates to make the story work better, and many of the characters are actual residents of the community. The book was put out by The Fiction Works, and my good friend Ray Hoy. This company is known for amazing audiobooks that they do with a cast of characters, music, sound effects, the works. To Keep a Promise was to be one of the first titles as they branched out into print. They bought the equipment, set up shop, but were unable to make the print operation work to their satisfaction and the book was stranded after a painfully small print run. Ray went back to doing just the audiobooks. At the same time it received great reviews, was a finalist for the Eppie Award and for the Willa Award given by the Women Writing the West. In short it was a good book, too good to be stranded with a print run that sold out within a couple of months.

Fast forward to the present. I occasionally pitched the book trying to interest someone in a reprint over the years without success. Reprinting a book is really hard even with great sales numbers. Getting someone to understand why a book could be good and have so few sales because so few were printed was something else. Kim Moore over at Harvest House got it, and loved it. She had me to do a major rewrite adding 30,000 words to the project, but couldn’t sell her vision in committee.

It happens. But I loved the book and wouldn’t give up. Enter Lee Emory over at Mountainview Press. She got it too. A smaller Press with a wonderful reputation she thought this was just her kind of project and what had happened to the book in the past was simply prologue. There were too many similar titles with the word promise in them, so the book took on the name of the town that spawned it and became “Saint’s Roost.”

It has gone through several cycles of editing and the galleys have been proofed. It’s ready to go into production. This book is such a fun read and carries the most powerful faith content of anything I’ve ever written, I just couldn’t be more pleased for it to get a fair shot at the market. The people that hang out over here are going to love it! Stay tuned. When it is ready to release, I’m going to talk about it again and tell you about the story itself. And I’ll give a couple of copies away.

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