Wednesday, 25 July 2012

The Lindas - Linda Acaster: For the Love of Writing - Native American


Even before I could read, I found romance in the historical lifestyles of Native Americans – the open grasslands and vast skies of the northern plains, the freedom of living in a tipi and travelling on horseback, hearing the beat of a drum and the call of an eagle – it was such an exotic opposite of my own lacklustre upbringing in the middle of an English industrial city. How could I not be romanced?

I marvelled that everything they owned was so compact, so organised, and all of it was light-weight to aid their nomadic lifestyle. When my family went camping there were folding chairs, a table, a “portable” cooking stove that weighed a ton and needed metal gas containers, pots and pans… practically the kitchen sink went into the boot or on the roof of the family car. There was hardly room for us children to be prised along the back seat.

I had a picture-book showing a group of Native Americans around a fire, sitting comfortably on woolly buffalo hides and relaxing back on… seatless chairs? I studied that picture through the distortions of a cheap magnifying glass and sketched what I thought they were sitting on, until I convinced myself that I knew what it was made from and how it was put together. Armed with a junior hacksaw and a ball of parcel string, I went onto rough land close to our house and began.

bag with porcupine quill decoration
 I can’t recall how many attempts I needed to make a willow backrest, or even if it was willow I was cutting. The end result certainly didn’t look as dignified as in the picture, but it worked. Three four-foot poles hammered into the grass as a support frame and I could hang from its top the A-shaped curtain of horizontal sticks and lie back in the relative comfort of an old pillow. And what’s more, it could be taken down and rolled for portability, and weighed a lot less than those camping chairs.

Man's hair ornament
I was hooked, not just on reading about and researching these peoples’ day-to-day lives, but on recreating their handicrafts, eventually meeting like-minded people and becoming a re-enactor. For a novelist, it’s akin to the difference between watching from the sidelines and taking part in the experience. Transferred to the page, it’s an experience that readers can share, too.

There’s nothing quite like sitting in front of a tipi as the sky turns orange towards a sunset, sewing moccasins with an awl and sinew, or working with porcupine quills to decorate a belt bag, while songs and laughter from a group playing a stick game drift on a breeze laden with the scent of roasting meat.

How could anyone not be romanced?


Linda Acaster’s Native American novel Beneath The Shining Mountains is available as an ebook and will soon be in print.

c1830s northern plains - Moon Hawk is set on making Winter Man her own, but why would a man with so many lovers want to take a wife? Her wry challenge to his virility catches Winter Man’s attention but starts an escalating game of tease and spar that threatens Moon Hawk with shame and her family with ridicule – and ultimately the life of the man she loves.

“..I loved learning about their customs and rich culture and seeing the land through their eyes..” 5* Classic Romance Revival

Apple iBookstore: http://bit.ly/iBkstLA
All Formats: http://bit.ly/sw-BSM

Excerpt:

The cold water of the creek had been unusually invigorating. Perhaps it had merely been the company and the circumstance. Moon Hawk believed so, but it seemed imprudent to delve too deeply into the reasons for her intensified senses. She walked at Winter Man’s side seeing new colours in the dry, over-grazed pasture they trod, a different beauty in the cloud formations above their heads. The air seemed never to have smelled so sweet, or the breeze to have felt so vital. She locked her arm about her husband’s for the sheer enjoyment of his touch, and listened to him laugh and joke with the young men who constantly called out to him.
     Meat was waiting outside their tipi, a kettleful already cooked. It steamed busily when she removed the lid.
     ‘I think we are about to entertain guests,’ Winter Man mused, raising a jocular eyebrow.
     Moon Hawk lifted the kettle into the lodge and lost no time in preparing a fire for it to sit over. She brushed Winter Man’s hair as a wife should, and painted his face as he directed. Then she sat and let him brush her hair and let him paint her face. She felt as proud as any married woman ever could. It was a husband’s act of love and devotion that everyone in the village could see.
     When the stew bubbled noisily, she tied up the door-flap as a signal that they were ready, and took her place beside Winter Man at the rear of the lodge. They did not have long to wait. His female relatives were the first to come, bringing furnishings for the tipi. Each was offered food and each provided a bowl to eat from. Winter Man’s brothers and uncles came, too. One led two of his horses: the roan with the short line around its neck, which was picketed to a tipi-pin, and one of his buffalo-horses packed with his personal possessions.
     Winter Man unloaded it with dignity and care. Various pad and antler saddles he left outside the doorway. Bags containing clothing, paint powders and tools he let Moon Hawk arrange as she wished. A bundle of seasoning arrow-shafts he hoisted high into the apex of the tipi. His gun and his bow-case he tied to the lodge poles above the bed, but his shield, a man’s most valued possession next to his Medicine, he entrusted to the hands of Moon Hawk. As his wife, it was both her duty and her privilege to keep its face, and the face of its cover, turned forever to the sun as the orb travelled slowly across the sky. The mystical properties imbued in the shield during its creation were nourished by its warmth. A sunned shield would never betray its owner’s trust, and would deflect every arrow-head, axe blow and musket-ball it encountered. Moon Hawk felt her world was complete.

Thanks for reading!

Linda Acaster writes in a number of genres, including Mediaeval, Paranormal Thriller, and Non-Fiction. Discover more about her work at http://lindaacaster.blogspot.com and http://www.lindaacaster.co.uk
She also writes Westerns under the pseudonym of Tyler Brentmore at http://www.tylerbrentmore.com

16 comments:

Linda Acaster said...

Hey! Pleased to be here on Lindsay's Romantics as part of the Three Linda's blog.

If anyone has any questions, please ask.

Linda Sole said...

Lovely blog Linda. Interesting and informative. Linda S

Linda Banche said...

Hi Linda,

I guess distance makes for interest. I live in eastern Massachusetts, which is Native American territory, and I never thought much about it. The area is full of Indian names, like the state itself, and Natick, Assabet, and here's a doozy, Lake Chaubunagungamaug.

Wikipedia has a list of lots of Native American place names in the area: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_place_names_in_New_England_of_aboriginal_origin

And then, there are lots of English place names (Boston, Waltham, Sudbury), which the English used when they colonized the area.

Neecy said...

Hi Linda, great to meet you. I have some Iroquois Indian running through my veins. Never did any extensive research on them though. However, I did find out from my dermatologist, that all my moles, and beauty marks are an inherited trait from them. My dad, God bless his soul, was half Indian and Irish.
I wish you all the best with your new release,
Neecy

Linda Acaster said...

Thanks, LindaS. Great that you could call in. It's so interesting that such different elements inspire us.

LindaB - I'm not so sure it's just distance. Learning about NA (I focused on western plains and know *nothing* about First Peoples in New England) led me in a somewhat roundabout way to the early people of my own area - Torc of Moonlight - and on up to the way history of the region interacts with the contemporary - the w-i-p. Not sure if I would have got here, or got here with such insight, if I hadn't been obsessed with NAmerican for so long. LOL!

Hi Neecy - half Iroquois, half Irish father? Sheesh, now there's a potentially firey mix (and a neat starting point for a novel...) Thanks for your good wishes.

Savanna Kougar said...

Hi Linda, absolutely fascinating. Here, when I was growing up, sad to say, the American Indian culture was basically demonized. I wish I had learned the truth about the various cultures, their way of life, how they really lived, and their spiritual ways. I would be better for it, and so would our country.

Wonderful excerpt. Thanks for sharing.

Linda Acaster said...

Well, Savanna, Native Americans didn't actually get top billing over here either. Perhaps it's just the way I looked at what was put before us, mostly in Hollywood films, granted. A sort of "but if that's so, then why...?" Perhaps I had a writer's turn of mind before I knew I wanted to be a writer.

Savanna Kougar said...

Linda, I understand what you're saying. I've always had that writer's turn of mind. Although, I labeled it curiosity when I was a kid.

Back in the mid 90s, I wrote a 'what if' alternative romance novella based on a culture that instead of being at war, the American Indian, European and Spanish cultures merged, and came together in wonderful ways that incorporated the best of all, and also honored their traditions. Nope, it's not published, but it did win an RWA contest for best paranormal.

If I had the time/energy, I would rewrite and Indie publish.

Linda Acaster said...

Hey, Savanna... what's the saying? Never throw anything out; we don't know when it'll come in useful! Its time will come.

It's amazing what I have tucked away that seemed great at the time, then rubbish later. But I visit the files occasionally, and you know what...?

Sharon Harris said...

Hay Linda! I live in New Mexico and love your work. There are multiple tribes of American Indians here in New Mexico. Would love to see you write a novel based on Eastern Plains of New Mexico and the Apaches or even the Navajo that came to work in the broomcorn fields.

Linda Acaster said...

Hello Sharon! Thanks for coming across to have a read and leave a comment. Writing about NMexico? Well, I've been cogitating...

Lindsay Townsend said...

Great post, LindaA ! You know I'm a fan of Native American romance and I'm hoping you will write some more. That whole other world aspect is what draws me in, too, and the whole way these cultures lived within and respected the land.

Thanks for being part of the Lindas this week. It's been smashing so far and I'm sure tomorrow will also be excellent. I've not popped in before now because I've been past my ears in edits.

Linda Acaster said...

My pleasure. I'm looking forward to LindaB's post tomorrow. I never could write humour, so I'm looking for some pointers. You hearing this, LindaB?! Pointers, please - and no skiving off watching the Olympics!

Celia Yeary said...

I've been following the "Lindas" but haven't commented. What a great idea you all had!Everytime I read the digests or mail from Lindsays Romantics, I'd think..wow, so many Lindas.
And your book, Beneath the Shining Mountain I still remember so well. Mainly because the hero was unintentionally funny. The serious side to the story was great--I know you're having continued success with this book, and good for you!

Linda Acaster said...

Hello Celia, good to have you drop by, and thanks for your kind words about the novel. It continues to tick over so well as an ebook that I am currently formatting it for print!

Oddly enough, or perhaps not, other readers have mentioned the humour. I didn't mean to write funny incidents / characters, but perhaps that is how I saw Winter Man, or how I felt while writing. I think I need to take advice from the expert. Off to chat to LindaB!

Destiny Blaine said...

A lot of great information here, Linda. Thanks for sharing!

Destiny