Friday, August 30, 2013
Since the Windswept Texas Romance books are a series of linked novels about the Blake family, and ‘Spirit of the Wind’ is Ethan’s story, I had to play detective and dig deep to develop the character and his back story. In order to understand the man he became, I needed to understand what happened to that little boy, too. What was the emotional and psychological impact on Ethan being raised by the people who murdered his parents, and took him captive? When and how did he break away from their influence, and how did he survive in those early years of adulthood. Every little detail from the obvious lapse in schooling, the customs and traditions impressed upon him by the Comanche culture, to how he interacted with people, are key influences that make up the man.
When a writer starts doing research for a specific character or a plot, it can be exciting or frustrating. In my efforts to create Ethan’s past and the time period in which that past took place, the key for me was survival. What did he do to earn a living? I came upon one possibility that provided income but also would cause problems for someone raised by Indians as to the importance of the buffalo and the guilt he might feel about his actions toward a revered animal. I also discovered intriguing secondary characters and plot angles. And this is only one part of what research can do for a writer. So, today, I am going to provide you with a glimpse into the past of the mysterious Ethan Blake, and just one of the paths he chose to survive in the white man’s world.
As more and more settlers moved west along with the railroad, the demand for buffalo hides increased tremendously. Before the advent of the railroad, only well-tanned Indian robes were considered profitable enough to transport by overland wagons or river boats. Yet, the Iron Horse would take any buffalo hide, including flint hides and hides that had been wind-dried and not tanned.
Hide hunters came by the thousands and took only the hides of the buffalo, leaving the meat to rot on the prairie -- a fact that would have disgusted Ethan Blake who understood the importance of the bison in the lives of Indians. Needless to say, the ever-increasing intrusion of the white man on their lands and now the slaughter of their buffalo did not sit well with the Indians either. Tempers flared. Even the threat of attack by Indians wearing war paint did not hinder the hunters. They were determined to make money, and buffalo hides were "as good as the price of gold" at the hide yards situated near the railroad. The lightning speed with which multitudes of buffalo were killed by these hide men was mitigated by the firepower they had. With long-range buffalo rifles, they could pick off a herd in quick succession. At this time, the Indians could only hunt with bows and arrows since they were no longer able to trade buffalo robes for guns or ammunition.
Many tribes had become so impoverished they no longer had buffalo robes to warm their bodies during bitter winter months. Between the U.S. Army chasing the Indians away from their lands and the buffalo country, the hide men killing off great numbers of the animals just for their hide, the mass slaughter of the buffalo seemed to also foreshadow the end of the American Indian way of life.
Anger and resentment among the Indian nations continued to build. Various tribes like the Sioux, Comanche, and Cheyenne saw no answer but to attack and kill buffalo hunters as a warning to others. And in December 1868, buffalo hunter Ralph Morrison became one such victim. Killed and scalped by the Cheyenne, his body was found on a cold, desolate prairie by Lieutenant Read and John O. Austin near Fort Dodge, Kansas.
Despite the money a hide man could earn, their life was hard. They lived in isolation on the prairie. For weeks and months at a time they would track herds through mud, muck, mire, and snow. Their comforts were few; their clothing often soiled and bloody. Hides were heavy to begin with and became stiff as a board when dry enough to transport by wagon back to town. And despite the financial gain to be earned by bringing in a wagonload of buffalo hides, the men were often viewed with dismay. Who knew the last time they bathed? Then there was the fact it was not unusual to see a hide man return to town constantly scratching his body due to vermin infestation as well as buffalo mange that he’d encountered amidst his plunder of buffalo skins. In fact, the odiferous smell of buffalo hunters earned them the name ‘stinker’ as in, “Lord A’mighty, here comes another stinker.”
As for the hide business, in Dodge City alone, between 1872 and 1878, approximately 1.5 million buffalo hides were shipped by the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad.
So, why all this talk about hide men or buffalo hunters?
Apart from the fact they were part of an important period in the American West, they were men toughened by life and weathered by the elements. After the Civil War, they ventured west, motivated by the desire to earn a living and earn as much money as they possibly could while buffalo hides were in demand. They were ignorant (or just didn't care) about the consequences of their actions -- taking only buffalo hides (as many as they could get) while Indians already pushed off their lands needed the hide and meat for their people. And let's not forget these buffalo hunters caused the near extinction of the animal itself by 1890.
"Only seven years ago we made a treaty by which we were assured that the buffalo country should be left to us forever. Now they threaten to take that from us also." ~ Sitting Bull
The more I researched buffalo hunters and the plight of the Indian nations and the buffalo, it meshed perfectly with the inner struggles of Ethan as a white man raised by Indians. As he witnessed the Comanche and other tribes being forced off their land, and even participated in the destruction of the buffalo, a dying breed, how could he not feel a connection between his life and the animal? Everything about his way of life was changing.
I always envisioned Ethan as an unhappy, gruff, unfriendly recluse caught between two worlds...in more ways than one. He doesn’t seek out the company of others, and those he does trust are few. He hates and resents the Comanche for what they did to his family, and yet he cannot deny the influence they had on him. He is wary of white men, part of them, but not part of them at the same time. In his mind, he is better off walking through life alone. Since he’d been raised by the Comanche and learned survival skills from them, what better way for him to transition from tribal life and live amongst the white settlers than as a solitary but skilled buffalo hunter. It provided him a means to earn a living until he could save enough money to do what he loves…breed and train highly prized horses.
Of course, there are a lot more details about Ethan, and lots of twists and turns in the telling of his story. But it is the complexities of his character, his strength, his love of nature and connection to the elements, as well as the wall he has built around his heart that makes him unforgettable and endearing. Is he a tormented hero? Definitely. He has experienced so much upheaval and violence in his life, that he prefers to live in isolation and peace. He is a loner, satisfied with the simplicity of his life until he learns the little brother and sister he thought had been killed many years earlier along with his parents are still alive, and an unusual, irritatingly talkative Englishwoman decides to save him and, in the process, turn his world completely upside down.
I hope you enjoyed my post about Buffalo Hunters and the glimpse into the hero of ‘Spirit of the Wind’, Ethan Blake. I will keep you posted on its release date, so don’t stray too far. ~ AKB
The Buffalo Hunters: The Story of the Hide Men by Mari Sandoz (1978 - Bison Books)
The Buffalo Hunters by Charles M. Robinson, III (1995 - State House Press)
Wednesday, August 28, 2013
I've talked a bit about the Wolf Creek series before here. It's one of my most favorite projects I've ever worked on, anywhere, anytime.
The series is the brainchild of Troy Smith, a good friend of mine and an excellent writer and "idea man". His thought was to create a bible to be used by the participants of the series to work from for the fictional post Civil War town of Wolf Creek, Kansas. Any member of the Western Fictioneer professional writing organization could contribute when their character was called for in the plot structure.
Now this is quite a daunting task when you think of having at least 23 (and climbing!) people who wanted to contribute, having to come up with plots that would involve at least 6 characters in each book--some of them the same as a common thread-- and keep all the books fresh and interesting. But Troy managed to do it.
The latest book, Wolf Creek Book 6: Hell on the Prairie, differs. It's an anthology of short stories by some of the contributors about their characters. Here's the blurb for it:
Welcome to Wolf Creek.
Here you will find many of your favorite authors, working together as Ford Fargo to weave a complex and textured series of Old West adventures like no one has ever seen. Each author writes from the perspective of his or her own unique character, blended together into a single novel.
In this volume -an anthology of stand-alone short stories: ... Marshal Sam Gardner confronts a notorious gunfighter who hates lawmen; Deputy Quint Croy learns the secrets of Asa Pepper's place; Billy Below learns to be a cowboy; Doc Logan contends with a specter from his past; Derrick McCain faces family secrets; Ben Tolliver gets the shock of his life; and strangers get caught up in the Danby Raid...
I loved this idea because each participant is able to write a short story featuring their character(s) and show a depth to their character they might not be able to convey in a collaborative effort such as the other books before this have been. My story is called IT TAKES A MAN, and of course, Derrick McCain, my foremost character, is at the center of this one. When Derrick and his mother are ominously summoned to the Cherokee settlement of Briartown, Derrick is determined to set things straight with the man he’s learned is his real father. But once he arrives, he’s distracted by the beautiful cousin, Leah Martin, of his best friend’s wife. Leah is hiding a secret—one that could be the death of her. Once Derrick discovers it, will he walk away? Or will he save her…and possibly himself? IT TAKES A MAN to do what his heart tells him.
Here's a short excerpt:
As Leah neared the outcropping of stone, her steps slowed.
Derrick stopped, waiting to see what she would do. She walked out onto the rock shelf and stood staring down into the rushing water.
She watched the churning current, mesmerized for a moment, and Derrick read her thoughts. Desperation was written across her lovely features. She was about to do the unthinkable. The beautiful fire in her eyes guttering out forever seared him to think of—much less have on his conscience. He stepped out from the shadows, coming toward her at a leisurely pace.
Now, he understood the turn of the dinner conversation. Had he known her circumstances, perhaps he’d have been more circumspect in his comments.
Leah glanced up as he came closer. “What are you doing here, Mister McCain?” She lifted her head, and Derrick could see the way she tried to push the dread of what she was about to do out of her expression. Her voice was low and almost sultry, with a forced hint of disdain.
Derrick smiled. “Carson and I used to play down here every chance we got.” He stepped up onto the outcropping of rock, and Leah moved away a step, just out of his reach.
He looked around, judging which way she’d jump, if she still was determined. The look in her eyes said she was.
“Current’s vicious tonight,” Derrick said, nodding at the water below. “Drowning wouldn’t be the way I’d choose to go. I thought you were stronger than this.”
Leah gave him a long stare. “You’ve never been in my situation, Mr. McCain, and you never will be. Sometimes, there’s …simply no choice.”
Just this past month, all three of the Wolf Creek books I contributed to (Bloody Trail--Book 1, Showdown at Demon's Drop--Book 5, and Hell on the Prairie--Book 6) were on the Kindle top 100 bestselling western list! Wolf Creek Book 1--Bloody Trail, is on sale right now for only .99 to get you started on the Wolf Creek series. The others are available for only $2.99.
You can find Hell on the Prairie and all my other work at my author page here:
Or go here for all the Wolf Creek books, 1-6, that have been published so far. Scroll down on this page to find all of the Wolf Creek books. Look for book 7 sometime in September!
Monday, August 26, 2013
By Andrea Downing
OF THE SNAKE RIVER
It’s the name of my hero—the marshal—in Lawless Love.
“Yes, I’m ready.”
In celebration of the forthcoming release of Lawless Love Andrea will send a copy to one lucky person who leaves a comment--to be randomly selected. Happy Reading
Lawless Love is currently only available on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Lawless-Love-Lawmen-Outlaws-ebook/dp/B00D0TB0DO/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1375742464&sr=8-1&keywords=Lawless+Love--
It will be published and available on all sites Sept. 4.
Loveland, a finalist for the RONE Awards tab this Friday, is available at
Saturday, August 24, 2013
Thursday, August 22, 2013
|Cape Meares Lighthouse|
|Lightkeeper and bride|
|Cape Meares, lighthouse on tip|
|Floor plan of keeper's house|
Tuesday, August 20, 2013
I recently read an article in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram about Handly, a small town founded in 1876 a few miles from Fort Worth. Eventually annexed by its sprawling neighbor, Handley made me think of another town that suffered a similar fate. It was called Birdville.
In 1840, upon the orders of General Sam Houston, Captain Jonathan Bird and twenty Texas Rangers established Bird’s Fort on the north bank of the Trinity River in what is now Tarrant County in north central Texas. At that time the area was still on the Indian frontier. Bird’s assignment was to make it safe for white settlers. A treaty with nine Indian tribes was signed at Bird's Fort on September 29, 1843, shortly after which the fort was abandoned. Settlements grew around a few homesteads, water sources and trading posts.
Camp Worth was established in June 1849 by General Ripley A. Arnold and his troops nine miles west of Birdville. Built on a bluff overlooking the convergence of the West Fork and the Clear Fork of the Trinity, the camp was named after General William J. Worth. The outpost protected small settlements around Birdville and Denton until 1853, when the troops were moved northwest to Fort Belknap.
Birdville had approximately fifty inhabitants in 1849, with farms and ranches scattered around it. Settlements were also springing up around Fort Worth. A group of area residents petitioned the Texas Legislature for a new county and, on December 20, 1849, Tarrant County was created, named in honor of General E. H. Tarrant. An election was held on August 5, 1850, at a polling place in Birdville, to elect county officials and choose a county seat. Birdville won.
The First Tarrant County Courthouse was a wood-frame structure located in what is now Haltom High City, one of the “mid-cities” between Fort Worth and Dallas. An eighty-acre tract was donated by two citizens for county buildings. An 1851 plat of the new town includes 12 planned city blocks and a public square. Bonds valued at $17,000 were issued, bricks were collected and a foundation excavated. A jury list, drawn up at Birdville's temporary courthouse in 1855, showed 280 qualified voters, all male of course.
A permanent courthouse was never built in Birdville. In November, 1856, in a hotly contested special election, Fort Worth won the county seat by a slim margin of between three to thirteen votes (official tally varies). Jubilant Fort Worthians (yes, that’s a real word) took possession of county records, equipment and furniture, placing them in their town’s own temporary courthouse. Sadly, all early Tarrant County records were lost in a courthouse fire on March 29, 1876.
Photo from Birdville Historical Society
The outcome of the 1856 election was contested all the way to the Texas Supreme Court, which allowed the results to stand. A new county election was held in 1860, and Fort Worth won by a large margin.
An article by the Birdville Historical Society states, “Had Birdville retained its seat, chances are good that it would have attracted in the years ahead the population that made Fort Worth. The furor over the election cost several lives and the State of Texas about $30,000.”
Birdville lost population for several decades, but later began to grow. By 1960, its residents numbered 23,000 thanks to growth and annexations. Then, in 1990, Birdville was annexed by Haltom City. However, if you think the town is forgotten, that’s far from true.
Old Birdville School (Birdville Hist. Soc.) Birdville High School (Birdville ISD)
The Birdville Independent School District is alive and doing just fine. It encompasses forty square miles, serving the cities of Haltom City, Richland Hills, North Richland Hills, Watauga and Hurst. Not a bad legacy for the little town that gave Fort Worth a good fight for the county seat.
Now here’s an excerpt from Dashing Irish (Texas Devlins, book two)
Fort Worth rose against the warm, crystal-blue morning on a bluff overlooking the Trinity River. Yesterday, Del Crawford had declared they’d lay over here for one day to rest the cattle, and Tye had heard the men talk of little else since. The cow town was “wide open,” so they said.
Just how wide open, he discovered as the herd streamed through town. Traffic moved aside, and outside the weathered buildings, residents welcomed the noisy, dusty parade. Beginning where the trail entered town at the south end, crude signs heralded a bevy of saloons, gaming halls and cathouses. The latter were easy to spot by the bawds who lounged out front. Smiling and waving, they called out boldly.
“Hey, handsome, come and see me later. Ask for Bell,” one honey-blond vixen shouted at Tye over the ruckus of bellowing cattle.
He grinned and waved, knowing he wouldn’t visit her. She was pleasing enough to look at, but she wasn’t tall and slim, with dark eyes that flashed defiantly. She wasn’t Lil.
They drove the herd across the Trinity to the bed ground Choctaw Jack had scouted out for them. Afternoon was well along when the last longhorn clambered up the far bank. By then, Chic Johnson had restocked the chuck wagon at a supply store on the town square and had forded the river. He pitched camp while Neil MacClure made the rounds, announcing which men could go have a good time in town and which were to stay with the herd. The lucky ones whooped with excitement and galloped back toward the river. Tye hoped he’d be among them as the segundo cantered up to him.
“Devlin, you’re ta stay with the herd tonight. Kirby, Dewey and young Jubal will keep ye company. I’ll send relief riders out in the morning and you’ll get your turn at the saloons.”
Tye frowned and shot a searching glance around for Lil. He saw her riding toward town with her father.
“A whiskey would go down good, but ’tisn’t my chief interest.”
The Scotsman chuckled. “Aye, I know where your interest lies.”
“So ye do, and since you’ve done me one favor concerning the matter, I’ll ask for another. Will ye let me go into town tonight?”
Neil shook his head. “Sorry, laddie, but this time I cannae oblige. I’m no the one made the decree.” Turning his horse, he called over his shoulder, “Do your job and dinna worry. The bonny lass will keep ’til tomorrow.”
Will she? Tye wondered. He recalled Lil saying that Frank Howard lived near Fort Worth. Would she see the long-haired blowhard? Images of her and Howard at the November social gnawed at him without let-up, keeping him awake more effectively than Chic’s potent coffee through the long night.