Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year

I'd love to be able to wish you a Happy New Year in American Indian sign language, but the gestures were limited to only the most common words.

So many languages were spoken among the plains Indians, and most were radically different from one another, so the only way tribes could communicate among themselves was through the use of their hands. Sign language proved an effective means of communication for simple needs.

Since horses were such an important part of all tribes and a demonstration of wealth and success, it stands to reason the gesture of the index and third finger of the right hand straddling the index finger of the left was something often seen.

Trading buffalo skins for food or identifying oneself and tribe would be fine examples of times when sign language might be used. Eventually fur traders, trappers, and soldiers who came to the plains learned enough sign language to be able to freely communicate.  Each tribe had their own way of introducing themselves.  For example:  A Crow warrior declaring his tribe would hold his fist against his forehead with the palm side out.  A Commanche would imitate a snake's movement with a finger, and a member of the Sioux tribe would move their hand across their neck in a cutting motion.

Words were determined by varying factors: location, movement, handshape, and orientation.


Location = where the hand is placed...for example in front of the face as opposed to in front of the lower body.

Movement involves the way the hands move when forming the sign.  Some require slashing motions while others are stationary, or move either above the head or arch to the side.

Handshape is determined just as it sounds; the shape the hand takes on when signing.  For example, "I Know" reqires the hand to form the 'L' shape.

Orientation refers to the placement of the palm and the role one might play when acting as a base from which the other hand moves.  

Unless you take a class and learn the ins and outs, it all sounds pretty confusing to me.  So, I would recommend you learn only one sign.  To describe my blog, you would demonstrate "good" by placing the right hand horizontally in front of the breast, and move it forward. That's all you need to say.  :)

Since I can't say what I want in Indian Sign, I'll just use a beautiful graphic to get my thoughts across.







Thursday, December 29, 2011

Displays of Affection

There has long been controversy over whether or not Indian lovers kissed.  Of course, no one can forget Kevin Costner (Lt. Dunbar) and his beautiful Indian woman, Stands With a Fist, and their toe-tingling liplocks in Dances with Wolves.  Did the writer take creative license and expand the romance for the sake of making the movie more appealing?  I know, as a romance author, I've had some pretty passionate scenes in my books, but I can't find much written about the "custom."  I recently sent off an email to an American Indian forum and I'm waiting for a response, but what I discovered in by book, The Sioux by Royal B. Hassrick casts a little black cloud over my passionate nature.  :)

I quote, "Lovers were never to be seen holding hands, and man and wife never showed any affection in public.  There is no intimation here that the Sioux failed to know all that is necessary to know about the intimacies of marital affection, but this knowledge could not be bandied about.  Any overt expression of affection would be uncouth."

The author further states that in events where women and men were both in attendance, they sat separately, with the women keeping their eyes downcast and whispering only to their neighbor.  Likewise, the men did not exchange glances with the females as modesty and reserve "were the essence of fortitude."

It sounds to me that what went on behind the closed tepee flaps shall forever remain secret, but the fact that it wasn't uncommon for young married couples to spend years with their elders might have provided less chance for intercourse or romance of any type.

It's great to be a fiction author.  Although I can guarantee most of my facts are historically accurate, I cannot with any certainty say that kissing was indeed a custom practiced in private by the Lakota.  I hope to get an answer from someone who might know.  :)  Feel free to share any resources here in the comments.  I think we'd all like to know.

Tribal Sexuality of the Sioux

A few days ago, I touched on courting and marriage, specifically the presence of plural wives in the tribes of the old west.  The main reason for having more than one was often dictated by the number of men killed during battle or buffalo hunts, and the honor of relatives to take on the families left behind.  If one brave had only one wife and his brother was killed, leaving behind two, then it wasn't uncommon for that man to become the husband to three.  Quite often, a singular wife might suggest her spouse marry again to ease her workload while giving her a senior status in the household.  Little is written about the sexual habits in the research books I've used, but I always wonder how accurate our romantic notions are in the novels we create about the American Indian tribes. Thankfully, we write fiction and can enhance what we don't know to be certain.

I was surprised to learn of the respect and attention given to males we would today consider homosexuals.  These tribal members were more the transvestite types, called 'winkte,' and although feared to some degree, they were not hated.  Rather than participate in male roles such as hunting and warring, the 'winkte' dressed as women and took up quilling, tanning, and other female duties.  They lived in their own tepees at the edge of camp, which I was suprised to learn was an area usually reserved for ancient widows and orphans.  I'm not quite sure why there would be orphans since most research indicates the Sioux were very family oriented, and the tribe was considered an extended family who took care of their own. As I continue to share my findings with you, perhaps I'll discover the answer.

The 'winkte' were believed to acquire their 'womanly' skills through supernatural inspiration.  Pieces of work completed by a 'winkte' were considered more desireable and often cherished. Some also deemed the transvestites  to have healing powers and sought the to name their children. Of course, the names are considered secret and not used, but still hopefully will strengthen the child.  Girls were never given 'winkte' names.

Although those men who dressed as women were given respect in some ways, male warriors were instructed that even though a 'winkte' lived and worked as a woman, to engage in sexual relations with one was cause for retribution after death.  The belief was in the land beyond, the warrior would not be allowed to live in the main circle, but away from the rest where the 'winktes' would torture him.  I suppose it worked as the Sioux held the 'beyond' in the greatest reverence.

There appears to be no documentation of obvious lesbaniasm among the female tribal members.  This may be attributed to the 'dream' instructions given to young women that warned of avoiding perversion.  Obviously, fear played an important role in instilling the goal of wife and mother, as no record exists of old maids among the Sioux.  I found it very interesting that men were given greater acceptance of their differences while women were more restricted and basically 'scared straight.'

I hope you're enjoying this series of information about the Sioux.  It used to be research for me, now it's become a passion.  Back soon.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Counting Coup?

I'm sure many of you have heard the term 'coup' (pronounced coo or ku) used in western movies.  Coup points were awarded to distinguish the bravery and daring of an Lakota Sioux warrior.  Originally, coup was awarded when one touched an enemy with hand or coup stick, but later, other acts were deemed worth of coup.  At the same time, symbols played an important part in recognition of said deeds.  The first warrior to make contact earned the right to wear a golden eagle feather in an upright position at the rear of his head.  The second brave to touch the same enemy garnered entitlement to wear an eagle feather, but tilted to the left.  The third could wear the feather horizonitally, while the fourth and last wore a buzzard feather which hung vertically.

It's important to note that coup was earned for touching, rather than killing the enemy, and men, women and children counted in that category.  Also, the coup must have been witnessed and sworn to by another member of the tribe, and any warrior who had coup counted upon himself bore great dishonor.

Not all coup was achieved by touch.  A warrior who killed a combatant hand-to-hand, earned the right to display a painted red hand upon his clothing or horse.  Anyone rescuing a friend from battle earned a painted cross on his clothing, and to have ridden the friend upon one's mount may have earned dual crosses to display.  Stripes on leggings also indicated coup status, such as red vertical signified someone who had been wounded.  Notched feathers had significance as did the number of horse hooves painted on someone's clothing.  Stolen mounts were not only a way to garner status, but horses were considered valuable assets in bartering as well as determining one's status in the tribe.

The number four plays an important role in the rituals and beliefs of the Lakota people: Four classes of Gods (superior, associate subordinate, spirits), four elements (sun, moon, sky, stars,) four direction, West, North, East and South,) four times (day, night, month and year,) four parts to all plants (root, stem, leaves,  fruit,) four classes of animals (crawling, flying, four-legged, two-legged,) and four phases of life (infancy, childhood, maturity, and old age.)

As important as the four, also the "round" symbolized the earth, the sun, the moon, and the sky.  Likewise, the winds circled the earth,  the round bodies of animals and plant stems.  The tepee was built in a circular pattern, and the contents arranged likewise.  As with warrior status, the walls inside and out bore the achievements of the lodge dweller.  The historical legacy of a family was often displayed in drawings for all to witness.

From the quilled, beaded, and painted garments they wore, to their decorated horses, lodges and bodies, our brothers and sisters of the Lakota Sioux are a very spiritual group.  They have been for documented centuries and much of the history I've shared today has been garnered from a wonderful book called "The Sioux," by Royal B. Hassrick.  I look forward to sharing more about these fascinating folks in the weeks to come.  I invite you to join me with legends, rituals, and tales of your favorite tribes.  Have a book to promote?  A story to tell?  Email me, and let's share.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Nothing More Spiritual than...

I'm sure my muse sisters, Gail and Tanja won't mind if I share this on today's blog.  I was so touched by a beautiful seasonal song sang in Navajo...nothing belongs on Cowboy Kisses more than this:


Monday, December 19, 2011

Taking a little break for the holiday.  I'll be back on the 27th, with a new post and some exciting guests scheduled in January.  Hope you'll join me in welcoming them.  In the meantime, Merry Christmas and Cowboy Kisses!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Say Howdy again to Keta Diablo


Dark Night of the Moon
Keta Diablo
A paranormal/historical

Read more here: Amazon Author Page
Coming to a Kindle and Nook near you on January 1, 2012

Dark Night of the Moon is the second book in the series and the sequel to Holding on to Heaven.

Creed Gatlin flees to Arizona intent on eradicating the haunting memories of his brother’s wife. His brother Brand, presumed dead, resurfaces after a long absence and with his re-emergence, the destinies of those he loves is altered forever.

In a land rife with war and danger, Sage must travel to the village of her husband’s People. There, she is reunited with Crooked Back, the ancient healer. One the long trek back to Full Circle, devious plots are underfoot and peril lurks around every corner for Sage, Lauren and Peter Pa.

Dark Night of the Moon will take you on an unforgettable journey of war, violence, overwhelming grief, and finally, compassion and love.

* * *
 Excerpt from Dark Night of the Moon: Sage takes an arrow intended for the wolf

Late in the afternoon, Sage emerged from the tipi. She didn't have to search for Looks Back. He lurked outside the lodge like a Roman soldier guarding a sacred tomb. She pointed to the woods -- a sign she needed to relieve her bladder.

A bow and a quiver of arrows hung from his left shoulder and tucked into the waistband of his breachclout, the shiny handle of his long knife glistened beneath the hot sun. 

With Looks Back dogging the heels of her moccasins, Sage selected a clearing surrounded by tall pines and dense underbrush. Respecting her privacy, the brave turned his back, but kept his sharp eyes peeled on the outskirts of the clearing.

The branches on a nearby scrub rustled. No doubt a critter searching for his next meal. The eerie feeling someone was watching her claimed her again, a sensation she couldn't ignore. She turned her head toward the noise and uttered a quiet gasp when her eyes met the yellow eyes of the wolf. "Walking Spirit," she whispered, her heart pounding.

Time hung suspended on the boundary of sanity and absurd. Reason told her men didn't turn into wolves, and yet she knew in her heart her man had.
 
Looks Back spun around, his keen sense alerted to danger. He pulled an arrow from his quiver as Sage scrambled to her feet and adjusted her clothing. His eyes narrowed; he notched and arrow drew back on the sinew.

"No!" she screamed and lunged toward the shrub. A white-hot pain shot through her chest. She looked down and watched the blood soak her doeskin dress. My blood? Sage fell to her knees and then crumbled to the ground, the canopy of pine branches spinning overhead. "Run, Walking Spirit, run," she gasped between pain-filled breaths.

Looks Back loomed over her, his face masked in terror. He drew her into his arms and sprinted back to camp, stumbling over his own feet as he entered Mad Bear's lodge. Laying her on her berth of soft branches he knelt beside her and stared at the arrow embedded in her torso. 


Pain choked her when she turned to look at him. "You must pull the arrow
out." 

Tremors claimed his lean body when the howl of the wolf split the still air. He rose and paced the tipi, his eyes locked on the opening. 

"You must pull it out! If you don't, I'll die, and so will you when Mad Bear returns." 

He came to an abrupt halt, his face white with fear. "I can not do this thing."
 
"You can and you will." She didn't believe for a minute he cared about her welfare, but she had to convince him if he didn't remove the arrow Mad Bear would kill him when he returned. That was her only chance.

He knelt beside her again, sweat from his forehead trickling into his dark eyebrows. He jumped when the haunting lament from the wolf echoed around them.

"Soon I will lose consciousness from the loss of blood. You must hurry --break it off close to the skin."

His voice trembled. "Then what must I do?"

"Dig the arrow out with your knife."

"No, no. Do not ask this of Looks Back."


Struggling for breath, she rose to an elbow and stared into his dark eyes. "You listen to me. I'll be dead by nightfall if you don't. My medicine pouch, there." She pointed to a shelf over her berth. Find the bone needle and pull a strong hair from your horse's tail to sew up the wound when you're done."

The brave rose, pulled the pouch from the shelf and handed it to her.She dumped the contents on the floor and held a twisted stem before him. "Cat's claw. Once the arrow is removed, place the leaves over the wound and
cover it with a wet rag."

He shook his head. 

"No more talk." She softened her voice. "If you plan to grow old, you must remove it. Now, find a leather thong I can put between my teeth, and be quick."

* * *
For more on Keta Diablo, visit her website and blog.

 Keta is offering an ebook to one lucky commenter from yesterday and today's post . Please leave your name and e-mail below to be eligible to win. Your e-mail will never be used by Keta for any purpose other than this contest. However, if you'd like to sign up for her newsletter, you can do that here: http://ketaskeep.blogspot.com (upper right hand corner). The owner of Cowboy Kisses will select a winner tomorrow and announce it on the blog. Winner will also be notified by e-mail. GOOD LUCK everyone!


Saturday, December 17, 2011

Say Howdy to Keta Diablo


Holding On To Heaven
Erotic Romance/Historical
Keta Diablo

AVAILABLE NOW ON KINDLE AND NOOK: Amazon Author Page

Watch the Video trailer: http://bit.ly/lbBTir

BLURB:
When the blazing fires of revolt ravage the countryside, Lauren and Sage McCain are trapped amid the flames of destiny. The Civil War has crumbled a Nation, and the Dakota Sioux uprising has turned southern Minnesota into a violent battlefield.

Holding on to Heaven is a story of love between two men and a woman, love between siblings, and love that crosses all boundaries and forges all cultures.

* * *
Setup and Excerpt: The Horse Race. Creed and Lauren race against one another at a family gathering.  An experienced rider, Lauren soon realizes she can’t beat Creed unless she cheats.
* * *
Through the pounding heartbeat in Lauren’s ears she realized she wanted Creed, wanted him like she’d never wanted another. Damn, had she lost her mind? The man reeked danger and abandon, would take her body quicker than . . . no, it wouldn’t be quick. He’d take her slow. Their love would be wild, crazy and passionate, all the things she’d yearned for, craved, in the dark solace of her dreams. Lord, how she wished she’d never laid eyes on the decadent man.  
Brand’s calm voice pulled her from her tumultuous thoughts. “Time for that race, Lauren.” He rose and offered her his arm. “I’m placing my money on you.”
“I wouldn’t advise you do that.”
“You can beat Creed. Concentrate, and no matter how much you want to see if he’s about to run you over, don’t look back.”
She chewed on the inside of her cheek and nodded. “It’s going to take a miracle to win, isn’t it?”
“Miracles happen every day.” He brought his fingers to her face and brushed her cheek. “Ride like you rode against me today and you have a chance.”

* * * *

An indefinable feeling snaked through Creed’s gut when Brand walked forward with Lauren. Anna pressed her voluptuous breasts into his side and wished him luck, but he didn’t hear her words. Tired of Anna’s continual demands, the time had come for them to go separate ways. He’d known Anna for years, but only in the last several months had he succumbed to her fleshy curves. The woman had tried every wile known to female to rein him in, and all had failed. Although warm and eager, Anna had never held his interest for more than an hour or two. But then no woman had ever intrigued him the way Lauren McCain did.
He’d stifled the jolt of lust pedaling through his veins as she watched him during the meal. It had taken all his reserve to act detached while she sat beside his brother and flashed her cat-like eyes at him. He didn’t like the feelings she aroused in him. They left him sullen and edgy. Jesus, what in hell was wrong with him? He barely knew the she-cat with a tongue sharper than barbs.
Now, with every step she took toward him, the blood rushed to his groin. He wasn’t prepared for the vision she presented, the snug riding pants and filmy blouse. A dark brown ribbon held her hair back from her face and then tumbled down her back in a veil of burnished copper. The color of those silky tresses reminded him of autumn leaves. Brown eyes slanted upward at the corners, topped by arched brows that rose articulately depending on her expression. How had he missed that nuance when he’d committed to memory every other feature of her face?
Tall for a woman and thinner than smoke, he imagined running his hands down the small of her back, her perfect bottom and . . . hell, he had to stop thinking about fucking her all the time. He had to beat her in the race, and beat her he would. Smiling to himself, he savored the thought of what it would be like to take her down a notch or two. Only then would that smirk be wiped from her lovely face—the I’m-better-than-you-sneer she flaunted now as she sashayed forward.
“Miss McCain, I hope you haven’t gorged yourself.” Inwardly, he smiled when color stained her cheeks. “I’d hate to see your mount weighted down for the final race.”
“Don’t worry about Adobe or me.” She spat the words and mounted. “We’re more than ready to leave you in our dust.”
The gold flecks in her eyes sparked. For a brief moment he forgot about the crowd and longed to yank her from the saddle and introduce her back to the dust she spoke of.
“To your success.” Creed raised his tankard of ale, downed it and set it on the ground near his feet. He spoke to Mason as he swung a leg over the saddle, his words confident and bold. “Let’s be about it then.”
The crowd broke into rowdy whistles and then fell silent at Mason’s words. “On the count of three. One . . . two . . . three!”
The horses bolted at the retort of the pistol. Adobe and Creed’s black mare ran neck and neck to the opposite end of the field. Thick clumps of sod flew through the air from Adobe’s hooves as he sailed over the bundles in perfect sync with Creed’s mount. He dragged his gaze from her expert riding skills and concentrated on the race.
Someone obviously had warned her not to look over her shoulder. She rode low, close to the stallion’s mane her lush body one with the horse. The very air enveloping them groaned with a competitive edge he’d never felt before. The spitfire intended to beat him at any cost.
Although fleet of foot, his mare lacked size against the stallion. When they reached the bales at the far end of the field, his time had come to overtake her. Her stallion navigated the crazy-eight with ease, and so did the mare. His moment was at hand. As the mounts crossed over and headed for opposite sides, she dug her heels into Adobe’s side and drove him into the mare’s withers. His horse stumbled to her stifles, her frightened whinnies echoing through the air. Lauren pressed on without as much as a backward glance.
The mare found her footing and like her rider, rage spurned her onward. She made up for the precious lost seconds the reckless stunt had cost them, but not enough to charge over the finish line before the stallion.
The crowd went wild as the riders swept past them in a swirling haze of dust. Damn, the cheating bitch had won. Halting near the corral, Lauren dismounted and bolted from her mount.
Creed dogged her heels, so close, he saw her knees quake. “You cheated!” He advanced and poked a finger into her chest. “You could have killed me with that crazy stunt you pulled!”
She backed away, visibly shaken. “Whatever are you talking about? You lost, fair and square.”
He screamed so loud, she jumped. “Liar!”
“Your clumsy mount lost her footing and plowed into Adobe!” Their gazes locked, and in that infinitesimal moment, he lost pace with his breathing. “You, Creed Gatlin,” she said her voice quavering. “Were bested by a mere woman so live with it.”
“You’re no woman.” He didn’t know if he wanted to ring her slender neck or toss her to the ground and slam into her until she admitted that she cheated. “You’re a spoiled little bitch!”
An audible gasp fell from her lips before her brown eyes narrowed.
“You could never beat me fair and square and you know it.” He struggled to control his emotions. She’d beaten him in the race, albeit by cheating, but why did he sense she was beating him again now? 
Her bottom lip trembled. He became aware of her childlike vulnerability, and his potent desire for her. The cutting remarks, the bold, confident persona were nothing more than a fa├žade on her part. Her nearness sent his senses reeling―the scent of woman, horse and leather adding to the roaring chaos in his head. She stumbled on the words she tried to speak and tears filled her eyes.
“Leave, now,” he said. “Before I do something we’ll both regret.”
She raised her dainty chin and held his eyes for an eternity it seemed. Then her long lashes swept down across her cheeks before she bustled passed him in a cloud of dust. 

 


 Tune in tomorrow for more from Keta Diablo
 Keta is offering an ebook to one lucky commenter from today and tomorrow. Please leave your name and e-mail below to be eligible to win. Your e-mail will never be used by Keta for any purpose other than this contest. However, if you'd like to sign up for her newsletter, you can do that here: http://ketaskeep.blogspot.com (upper right hand corner). The owner of Cowboy Kisses will select a winner tomorrow and announce it on the blog. Winner will also be notified by e-mail. GOOD LUCK everyone!
 

Friday, December 16, 2011

Vision Quests Anyone?

I've always been the kind of mother who worried if my child wasn't home the moment I expected them.  Rather than chalk the tardiness off to just being late, I pictured them kidnapped, dead in a ditch, the most horrible scenarios one could imagine.  I've always been that way, so I can't imagine being an Indian mother and sending my son off on a vision quest.

What is a vision quest you ask?  In most tribes this trek into the wilderness to bond with nature and commune with spirits was a young brave's initiation into manhood.  Clad only in a breechclout and moccasins, the lad is banished to a lonely existence in a vision pit where he'll stay for four days and nights without food.  Whether the vision he receives is from delirium or truly a spiritual occurrence, we may never know, but to the Indian nation, a vision quest gave the budding brave an experience to see life through the eyes of his heart...to determine an image of himself as an adult.  As in all rituals, preparation aided the participant for his journey, in this case, time spent in a sweat lodge purifying his mind and soul.

Now I've raised another question.  Sweat Lodge?  Usually a small and beehive shaped structure of willow covered with buffalo skins in which stones heated outside were passed inside where water was poured on them to create a purifying steam. With the flap closed, occupants (all male) sat naked inside with the boy, chanting and praying, and claiming to hear spirit voices.  Afterwards, the "steamed" men dried themselves with sage leaves and the boy left for his quest.  A very similar ritual took place before each war party departed the village.  Unlike a women's first menses, which was a once in a lifetime celebration, vision quests took place as frequently as a Lakota Brave needed spiritual help.


When a young brave returned from his quest, his visions were interrupted by a medicine man who gave him clues to his "adult" name and the animal that would henceforth be considered the lad's protector.  For instance, a man might garner power from an elk, while another might have envisioned a bear during his quest.  Each animal represented a particular skill or attribute such a bravery, healing, speed, etc.

The Lakota Sioux are a fascinating tribe, and I'm so happy to be able to share some of their legendary history with you.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

You Want Me to What?

American Indian women in the 1800s had it far tougher than you can imagine.  When the men went on a buffalo hunt and slew hundreds of the huge, shaggy beasts, who do you think did the skinning, the cutting of the meat, the drying, the hide tanning, the recovery of all parts useable?  The women.  Could you fathom your husband telling you to delve up to your elbows into the bloody insides of an animal that big?  I can't.

The plains tribes revered all animals, and only killed for survival.  The buffalo provided the mainstay for the tribes, so when white hunters started killing the animals for sport, taking only the skins and leaving the rest to rot, we can sort of understand why that angered the Indians.  From the buffalo came their food, blankets, lodge coverings, sinew for bows and sewing, bones for needles, utensils and plates, and myriad of other things I've most likely forgotten.  Instead of pulling a needle from a package you bought at Walmart, could you fashion one from a small buffalo bone, or cut tendons and muscles so thin as to create thread with which to sew?  I can't even resew a loose button, so I'm pretty soon I'd suck at life as an Indian woman.

Women were charged with repopulating the tribe so as I mentioned in yesterday's blog, it was uncommon for a brave to take more than one wife.  Girls married at young age, and aspired to become mothers, most giving birth in what was known as the 'women's hut, specifically a home to all things women, including monthly periods.  During birth, a woman squatted next to a stick driven into the ground, and holding tight, she delivered her baby into a special trough in the dirt that held a clean piece of hide with which to swaddle the newborn.  OMG!  I thought having to go through labor without pain meds was the height of torture.  Squatting next to a stick and pushing the kid out into a little ditch? Give me a break.  Natural childbirth was popular long before we ever imagined.

The very place that some young women were born, also served as a place they spent their menstruating time.  Women having their monthly time were considered to possess spirits dangerous to the virility and strength of the braves in the tribe.  For that reason, during those days of the month, menstruating women were isolated from the rest of the tribe.  Yeah, right.  Like God didn't make us suffer enough with cramps and bleeding, now we have to go spend seven days in a little hut, away from everyone else.  I don't think so.  Men should fear us.  I guess maybe PMS was around, just not named back then.

The end of the first period for a Sioux maiden was a time for celebration.  Her friends were treated to a feast, given gifts, and listened to chants recited by the tribal Shaman as he paid homage to the Buffalo Woman deity.  The American Indians were big on rituals and celebrations.  Tomorrow, I'll talk about some of them, like visions questions and honoring the four directions.  BTW, I celebrated the end of my LAST period.  No more buying pads, no more cranky moods, no more monthly agony.  No feasts or parties, but a cause for celebration nonetheless.  See ya later!


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

I'll See Your Two Horses and Raise You One!

Today, we're all captivated by Sister Wives, a relatively new reality show on television, but Polygamy was commonplace long ago among some of the Native American plains tribes.  More than one wive sharing a husband isn't a new thing.  While there were some monogamous relationships, the danger involved with buffalo hunting, saw many braves die and left  women far out-numbering the men.  Plural marriages become commonplace. 

Besides, needing to re-populate the tribe, Indian women shouldered a good share of the work in camp.  A husband with two or three wives was more likely to have a large family and be looked upon with admiration.  Being part of a polygamous relationship also split the workload and made the burden less cumbersome for one wife.  Consider being responsible for motherhood, skinning and preparing all meat killed by the man of the house, tanning of those skins, beading, cooking, sewing, laundry, plus all the packing and unpacking when the camps relocated.  I'm sure I haven't listed everything an Indian wife did, but it's no wonder they welcomed other women into their lodges. 

In a courting ritual, it's told that young braves presented horses to the fathers of their intended. The rumor that these animals were to pay a purchase price is unfounded, instead the number given provided a method for the male parent to judge the depth of the suitors' desire for the young maidens and their ability to be good providers.  Many of the 'donated' animals were taken during raids on enemy encampments, and success in attaining the most demonstrated even further the ability of the brave to be a worthy mate.

Some variations existed among the tribes.  It's said that some courting was conducted inside a blanket.   When a young brave wanted to make known his intentions, he played a love song on his flute outside the young woman's tepee.  If she welcomed him, she wrapped in a blanket, joined him outside, and extended one arm to enfold him inside where they discussed their relationship and plans in private.

Marriage ceremonies were often simple.  In the Cheyenne tribe, it was customary for the bride to be toted atop a blanket and left outside the lodge of her young brave's father.  In the Sioux, custom shows that many brides were delivered on horseback to a rite conducted by the chief.  Dancing and feasting usually followed.

It's said when a man wished to divorce a wife, he simply pounded a drum and announced he was throwing her away.  Don't know the validity of this, but I do know that in most tribes the lodge was the property of the spouse, handed down from mother to daughter, and that the children stayed with the wife.  Sort of make sense to me.  Sure would end a lot of divorce battles these days.  :)  Life wasn't simple among our red brothers and sisters. Tomorrow, more about the Plains Indian Woman, motherhood, birthing and rituals.  

Again, I credit my favorite research book from Reader's Digest, America's Fascinating Indian Heritage, for teaching me so much about my passion for history set in the old west.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Learning Through Historical Research

Writing historical novels is much harder, in my opinion, than writing contemporary.  Those who read historical whether romance or non, usually read with a critical eye and expect facts and language the author uses to be correct for the period. Sometimes, making sure this happens requires a lot of extra reading on the part of the writer.

I have long appreciated any story in which the American Indian plays a part, and while researching information for my first historical novel, Prairie Peace, I fell in love with the Lakota Sioux.  I cannot tell you exactly why that particular tribe attracts me, but I migrate to that tribe when selecting a home for my heroes. 

In Prairie Peace, I describe quite a few of the rituals undertaken by the Lakota, and I'm particularly interested in tiny facts I discovered.  For instance, the meaning of the symbols painted on the horses, the direction in which the lodges face and why, all the many things made from the buffalo and why the animal's demise impacted the Indians so severely, and so many other things I'll be sharing with you on this blog.

Today, I'd like to share a scene from Prairie Peace, specifically the Sun Dance which was a twelve-day religious ceremony which testified to the courage and endurance of the people.  The Lakota, considered part of the 'plains Indians' were major participants in this summer ritual.

In this scene, Cecile, later known as Green Eyes, is speaking with her husband, Lone Eagle.

"What is the Sun Dance?"  There was still so much she didn't know.

"During the celebration, tribes gather to honor the Great Spirit.  We dance to thank him for his  blessings.  Many braves will participate with their bodies painted in symbols and colors telling how much pain they are willing to bear.  Some will only dance, while others will endure great suffering to commune with the spirits.  Those who have skewers placed through their skin and hang suspended from a pole until the flesh tears endure the greatest agony.  It is through our discomfort that we receive direction from the Great Spirit."

Lone Eagle bore scars on his body, and by the way his chest puffed with pride while describing the festivities, Cecile knew he'd been a worthy participant.  She couldn't imagine what would drive someone to go through such a test, and her body shivered at the thought of hanging from a pole by her skin.  "Isn't there more to the Sun Dance than that?"

"Of course."  Lone Eagle continued.  "It's also an opportunity to visit with friends from other tribes who we see only once a year.  Just think of the new friends you will make.  The sun dance is a festive time enjoyed by the entire tribe."

***
Although there is no set pattern to the way the tribes celebrated during the Sun Dance, it was a rare year when the Lakota didn't attend.  The first four days were festive, a time for the bands to come together, swap stories and bond.

The second four days were a time of segregation for those electing to dance.  They were instructed by the Shamans/Medicine Men about the meaning of the ceremony and the part they would personally play in honoring the Great Spirit, or Wakan Takan as 'He' was called.

The final four days were the most sacred.  The women of the Sioux were charged with locating and 'capturing' a cottonwood tree, representative by the shape of the leaf to  the tepee in which families lived.  The tree would be the centerpiece for the celebration, and  the object around which a war dance was held.  Painted in four different colors, the trunk of the tree also held cutouts of a buffalo and human, both male, at which the braves would shoot arrows.  The final day of the celebration marked the sacred dance.  The ceremony ended when the final 'dancer' ripped free.

I hope you'll join me in the coming days when I'll share some more Indian lore with you.  My favorite book, America's Fascinating Indian Heritage, from Reader's Digest has been a most valuable asset for me in learning about the Lakota and I'll be using it as a reference point here on Cowboy Kisses.











Sunday, December 11, 2011

Bad Girls of the Old West

 Disclaimer: The following contains adult-related material, perhaps not suited for all ages.

Prostitution has been around since the beginning of time, but did you know there was a difference in the old west between the "painted ladies" and "saloon girls?"

Although proper women assigned many names to others in their gender who held these jobs, names such as "fallen angels, soiled doves, daughter's of sin, or scarlet ladies," the 'painted ladies' were normally those who offered sex for pay, while 'saloon girls' were paid by the establishment owners to entertain clients with singing and dancing.  No matter which position they held, women who worked in saloons and other similar places were looked down upon by 'proper' women simply for their association with drinking, gambling and whoring.  Back then, even watching an animal mate shocked the sensibility of an upstanding lady.

The women who worked in saloons were generally lured there out of desperation.  Flyers promising fancy clothing, fine pay, good working conditions, and protection played upon the female senses since job's were scarce and many husbands died unexpectedly by guns, horses, and disease.  Life expectancy in the old west wasn't very long, and women without partners didn't have the choices we enjoy today.

Of course, I imagine there were some women who became whores simply because they enjoyed sex, and in some instances, 'proper' women considered 'daughter's of sin' a necessary evil. Sex wasn't often discussed between mothers, daughters or even among friends, so entering a marriage bed without any knowledge made the experience unpleasant, and sometimes, something to be dreaded. If romance authors wrote about true experiences, at times our books wouldn't be all that romantic.  Thank goodness, we can stretch the truth a bit.  :)

In my latest historical western release, Odessa, my heroine takes a job as a "songbird" in a saloon, much to the dismay of the hero.  But, being a feisty gal, and finding all other options closed to her, Odessa soon finds she should have heeded Zach's warnings. 

Here's a scene:

  Odessa returned from her third break of the evening. John Harper, quite the polite young man, had provided a welcome respite to worrying about Zach. She’d learned more about John and his family and shared some of her own past. She steered clear of any conversation that might lead to questions about how she ended up in Charleston.

The crowd grew rowdier as the night progressed, and Alf had come to her defense several times when a few trail hands made inappropriate comments or tried to drag her onto the dance floor. Not wanting to draw any more attention to herself, she dropped her suggestive poses and stood with hands clasped at her waist. The jar atop the piano behind her was half-full, and now she’d find out if her singing or her sleazy stance had earned her the extra money.

She joined in on cue when he played Oh Susanna. She tapped her toe to the music and sang in her loudest voice, although she couldn’t help but wonder how someone came from Alabama with a banjo on their knee. The crowd clapped, and some even joined in the chorus. Odessa, caught up in the fun, did a do-si-do with a heavyset and obviously inebriated customer during a piano interlude. But when she sashayed back to her place, she realized he wasn’t ready to end the dance.

Odessa tried to brush off his clutching hands and continue with the song, but her actions only narrowed his eyes and flared his nostrils.

Alf leapt to his feet. “Hands off, mister.”

The drunk punched Alf and sent him sprawling, then blasted him with an icy glare. “Now get up and play, you bastard,” he slurred. “I plan to finish what I started with this here whore, or my name ain’t Augustus O’Reilly.”

People who had glanced over when the music stopped had gone back to their banter and drinks. Alf plunked out Red River Valley, but his gaze rested on Odessa. His face displayed the fear she felt. Time moved in slow motion. Visions of another encounter with an inebriated man flashed in her mind, only this time there was no Zach to come to her rescue.

Her racing heart echoed in her head and she felt helpless. Fingers bit into her skin. Odessa craned away from the burly man. “You’re making a mistake, Mr. O’Reilly. I’m only here to sing.”

“Right.” He guffawed, leering at her chest. “You ain’t showing off those pretty little titties jes to belt out a few tunes.”

This was the very thing Zach had warned her about. Or was it a nightmare?

***

If you want to find out how Odessa fares, you can find her story at Eternal Press and featured on Amazon (plus many other places you can Google).

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Say Howdy to Mary Jean Kelso


Would You Have What it Took
To be a Woman Homesteader?


Inspiration for the first in The Homesteader series came from a grandmother I never met. Although she died before I was born, I always felt a kinship to her.
Having been a “change of life baby,” born when my parents were much older than when they had my siblings, My father and mother lived the western cowboy way of life. I soon learned about it  from tales they related.
Included in this oral history was the fact that my maternal grandmother was widowed. She had three step-children and a passel of her own youngsters to support.
What was she to do when she was left without a husband? She moved the family from Oklahoma to New Mexico where she taught school and claimed a homestead.
Moving to New Mexico is as far as her life goes in the story line. It is only loosely based on Mary (Mollie) Ellen Hall Warren in the fact that she was a woman homesteader. Parts of the novel would probably shock her or, in the least, make her certainly want to correct me.
In The Homesteader, published by Wings Epress, Molly Kling is a woman set on a mission. She will do whatever it takes for her and her three step-children to survive and build a home.
The family lives under their buckboard on the bare property and uses the tailgate as a counter to prepare their meals. Molly dreams of a real kitchen in a real house with a real bed.
When her plans are threatened by a wandering stranger (Trace Westerman), she has no compulsion against shooting the man. She fires close to his leg, to get him away from the rocks she and the children have come to claim for a foundation for their house.
An accident requires the stranger’s help. Molly is forced to allow him to return to the homestead with them.
Wary of the stranger, she questions his sanity when he contributes to their dinner menu. Following is an excerpt when Trace and two of Molly’s stepson’s return after the oldest boy, Andy, has delivered the rattlesnake Trace shot for dinner:

            “Having Trace there certainly made life interesting, Molly had to admit to herself as she saw the three of them approaching.  She'd had guests bring something to the supper table before, but never a rattlesnake.  For certain, he'd have to show her how to cook it.  But, she'd be darned if she'd give him the satisfaction of letting him know his contribution disturbed her.  She hated snakes.  Rattlesnakes were the worst to her.  She had almost turned down the land claim when she found they were natural creatures to the area.  Only the family’s desperation kept her from moving on.  Since then, she had done everything in her power to eradicate or, at least, keep the snakes at bay.  She might cook one for Trace but she wasn’t about to eat it.”

            The Homesteader’s Legacy, Back to the Homestead and Life on the Homestead follow the first book, The Homesteader. New characters are added as the series continues. Currently I am working on Annabel’s Story as the series becomes The Homesteader Chronicles.
            Keeping with the historical theme, Whiskey Creek Press published Blue Coat and Kat’s Cradle. Both are situated in historic western sites.
_________________________________
Author Mary Jean Kelso lives in the true west, Nevada, where cowboys abound and start out as cowboys when they are old enough to ask for a hat. The location has inspired Kelso’s writing for over 50 years.  She publishes not only adult and young adult novels but children’s illustrated books as well. Kelso says, “Look for my littlest cowboy, Cowboy James, recently released from Guardian Angel Publishing.”

Kelso’s books are available in print and digital formats at www.Wings-press.com, www.whiskeycreekpress.com, www.guardianangelpublishing.com and www.Amazon.com and other venues.


TITLES;
MYSTERY IN VIRGINIA CITY - Great Basin Press
A VIRGINIA CITY MYSTERY - MarKel Press
ABDUCTED!  - MarKel Press
SIERRA  SUMMER  - MarKel Press
GOODBYE, BODIE  - MarKel Press
THE HOMESTEADER (May 2005 Best Seller -  Wings-Press.com)
THE HOMESTEADER'S LEGACY - (February 2007 - Wings-Press.com)
BACK TO THE HOMESTEAD - (May 2008 - Wings-Press.com)
LIFE ON THE HOMESTEAD - (July 2009 - Wings-Press.com)
GOODBYE IS FOREVER (March 2006 - Wings-Press.com)
BLUE  COAT (April 2006 - Whiskeycreekpress.com)
KAT'S CRADLE (October 2007 - Whiskeycreekpress.com)
THE CHRISTMAS ANGEL (August 2007 - GuardianAngelPublishing.com)
ANDY AND THE ALBINO HORSE (April 2008 - GuardianAngelPublishing.com)
ONE FAMILY'S CHRISTMAS (August 2008 - GuardianAngelPublishing.com)
ANDY AND SPIRIT GO TO THE FAIR (July 2008 - GuardianAngelPublishing.com)
ANDY AND SPIRIT IN THE BIG RESCUE (March 2009 - GuardianAngelPublishing.com)
ANDY AND SPIRIT MEET THE RODEO QUEEN (April 2010 - GuardianAngelPublishing.com)
THE ADVENTURES OF ANDY AND SPIRIT, BOOK 1 (July 2010 - GuardianAngelPublishing.com)
ANDY AND SPIRIT IN SEARCH AND RESCUE  (Spring 2012 - GuardianAngelPublishing.com)
ANDY AND SPIRIT GO ON A DAY COUNT (TBD - GuardianAngelPublishing.com)
ANDY AND SPIRIT RIDE A TRAIN (TBD - GuardianAngelPublishing.com)
COWBOY JAMES (Aug. 2011 - GuardianAngelPublishing.com)
THE BOW TIE BUNNY (TBD - GuardianAngelPublishing.com)
THE CHICK THAT COULDN'T SCRATCH (TBD - GuardianAngelPublishing.com)
THE RV MOUSE (February 2010 - GuardianAngelPublishing.com)
CHRISTOPHER MAKES MAGIC - (TBD - GuardianAngelPublishing.com)
BIRDS IN THE FLOWER BASKET - (TBD - GuardianAngelPublishing.com)

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Imagine Being Swept Into The Old West...

When I try to imagine living in the old west, I get dizzy from the thoughts of giving up all the things I've grown used to.  Of course, back then, not ever having a hair dryer, a dishwasher, mascara, a television, a radio, I wouldn't know to miss them.  In fact, my time-travel romance, Sisters in Time shows two women, one modern day and the other a pioneer wife, who switch bodies and eras, and how they each react to the lack of conveniences... or appearance of 'new-fangled' contraptions.  You realize there's so much to this book, I just want to show it all...Taylor discovering she has no blow dryer or cell phone, while Mariah eventually experiences an automobile and finally an airplane.  And then there's the frustration of the husbands whose wives don't seem to recognize them.

Here's a scene from the perspective of both women.  First, Mariah, fresh from a cattle ranch in the 1800s, awakens in a modern-day hospital, attached to strange tubes and startled by a woman in white and a strange man who keeps calling her 'Taylor' while being way too familiar:

The nurse’s poking and prodding rudely awakened Mariah. “Good morning, Mrs. Morgan. I need to check your vitals.”

Early morning sunlight barely filtered through the window covering. Mariah’s head felt like it hovered somewhere above her. She blinked her eyes hoping she was in the middle of a bad dream and about to wake up. She grimaced as a strange band squeezed her arm and the nurse placed a round, flat object against Mariah’s skin. “Good blood pressure,
Mrs. Morgan. How are you feeling?”


How? Mariah felt terrified. She heard her own heartbeat. “I’m sore,”
was all she could croak out.

“Of course you’re sore. You were in a terrible car accident.”


Car? What kind of accident is a car? Where is my family? Her thoughts
jumbled, but putting them into words seemed impossible.

Her eyes widened when the nurse rounded the bed and Mariah noticed the shortness of her skirt. She bit her lip to keep her mouth from gaping. Unfazed, the woman tucked the covers in at the end of the metal frame. “Do you think you could manage a drink this morning? Perhaps some ginger ale? The doctor left orders for you to have liquids. Once we know you can tolerate drinking, perhaps we can get you a food tray.”

Mariah realized she was hungry. If she’d been here for two weeks, how did she survive without eating? Just the mere thought of being without food for so long made her stomach growl. She struggled, forcing out the words, “Yes…please.”

After the nurse placed a filled glass on Mariah’s tray, she pushed a button on the side of the bed. Mariah rose into a sitting position. Her gaze darted from the mechanism to the nurse, and questions burned in her mind. Oh my goodness! How did you do that?

Amidst her jumbled thoughts, she maneuvered around the tube in her arm and picked up the glass, anxious to ease the soreness of herthroat. As she took a sip, he entered the room.

“Taylor! Look at you. Sitting up! You must be feeling better.”

The man called David Morgan had combed his blond hair and shaved. He didn’t look nearly as haggard as she recalled. He appeared not quite as tall as her Frank, but the shirt he wore revealed the same muscular shoulders. Mariah considered him good-looking, but his clothes, his shoes...everything about him and this place seemed strange. Everyone
dressed and spoke differently. If only someone would explain what was
happening.

“It won’t be long before I can take you home, babe.” David interrupted her thoughts. “I’ll bet you’ll be happy to be back in your own home and bed.”

Mariah’s hand trembled. She set her glass down, lay back against her pillow and looked away. Why would she go home with him? She didn’t even know the man. Using every bit of strength she could muster, she turned her glaring gaze back to him. “I’m not Taylor!” she croaked.
*********************

Next we visit Taylor, a feisty female attorney, who awakens in a room very different from her own:

 Taylor’s head pounded with pain. Trying to focus, she opened her eyes and blinked a few times, then propped herself up on her elbows. Everything looked strange. The room seemed bright and cheery, but things appeared very old fashioned. She fingered the patchwork quilt covering the bed, and puzzled over the antique mirror hanging above an
old-time washbowl and pitcher across the room. An incessant ache
throbbed in her temple.

Where was she? What’d happened to her? A zillion questions raced
through her mind.

“David,” she called for her husband. Her voice painfully resonated in
her head. “David, where are you?”

She slid off the bed. Her legs wavered beneath her and she clung to the bedpost. Slowly, as she regained her equilibrium, she weaved across the room and peered into the mirror. A massive bandage covered the top her head; black circles ringed her swollen eyes. She didn’t recognize herself. “Boy, I look like hell,” she muttered.

As she raised her hand to touch the bandage, the door behind her
opened, and she spied the reflection of a strange man.

“Mariah, sweetheart. You’re finally awake.” He crossed the room
with open arms.

Taylor spun and faced him. Feeling disoriented, she shook her head. “You have the wrong room, sir.”

His brows arched. “Mariah, what are you talking about? What wrong
room?”

“Look fella, I’m not Mariah. Evidently you’re in the wrong place if
you are looking for someone by that name.”

The stranger rushed over and took her in his arms. “Oh my sweet angel, the bump on your head is worse than Doc Samuels thought.”

Taylor shoved him away. “Take your hands off me. Who is Doc Samuels, and who in the hell are you?”

Suddenly, the room spun. Her stomach turned queasy. Needing to sit, she staggered back to the bed, her gaze still assessing the stranger.

 “I’m Frank…your husband.” He followed her, his head cocked, his eyes clouded in confusion.

She swallowed. “Excuse me? My husband’s name is David...David Morgan. I don’t know who you are, mister, but you must be the one who bumped your head if you think I’m your wife.”

“Well, if you aren’t, then just who might you be?”

“Taylor Morgan. I live in Denver. Can you please tell me where I am?”

“You’re in Colorado, about two hours from Denver City. Don’t you
remember?”

“Two hours? How in the hell did I get here?”

Frank’s eyes widened. “When did you start cussing?”

“Don’t worry about it, just answer me. How did I get here?” Her last nerve frayed, and he plucked at it.

“Don’t you recall? We were going to town in the wagon—”

“Wagon? What the hell would I be doing in a wagon? A station wagon?”

Frank took a deep breath. “We were going to town, and Jacob needed to pee. I think he disturbed some rattlesnakes and they spooked the horses...sound familiar?”

Taylor’s mind raced. Who was this loony?  “Who is Jacob? Wagon? What
horses?" She assaulted him with a barrage of questions. "I don’t know what you’re talking about. Frank...is it? Look, Frank, I have an idea. Why don’t you just call me a cab and I’ll get out of your way.”

She looked down at the tacky nightgown she wore and wondered who had removed her clothing. Tugging at the sack-like shift, she let out an exasperated huff. “If you’ll just retrieve my things, I’ll get dressed and be ready to go when the taxi arrives."

Sisters in Time is available through Eternal Press and featured on my Amazon page.  I promise you'll be involved.  :)