Rest assured that I did not.
With the release of Wounded Spirits, the holidays, and putting my kids in school, life simply did not permit me time for everything I wanted to do. Unfortunately, my personal blog was one of those things that didn't make the cut as "absolutely essential."
But I'm back and will attempt to get back into a routine. I miss the days when blogging was my main focus, but I wouldn't give up being published for the world! Since I write mostly nonwriting-related articles for Reflections in Hindsight, I'll be keeping this blog focused on my writing journey and on bookish stuff in general. Because who loves books? ME!!!
How's the book release going, you ask? To sum up in one sentence, I never imagined it would be this amazing. Support from friends and family has blown me away. Old friends have come out of the wood-works to cheer me on. That alone has made the entire experience touching and unforgettable.
The reviews Wounded Spirits has received have been spectacular, which humbles me and terrifies me at the same time. I've got to keep it up! Pressure!!
As a thank you to all my wonderful readers, over the next weeks, I will be posting deleted scenes from Wounded Spirits. Initially, the novel was much heavier on the history side. My superb editor helped me see that too much history would bore most readers. I was sad to see it cut, but I don't regret it. She was SO right.
The following was the prologue, which was cut entirely. You'll see it is from Nokos' point of view, which was also cut (changed to Totka's). This prologue was written years ago and not the best example of my writing (to say the least!). Still, I thought you might find it interesting. It takes place one year before the start of Wounded Spirits. It is the council that sets the Creek civil war in motion. The civil war eventually turned into a war with the Americans and was the beginning of the end of the mighty Creek Confederacy.
Tuckabatchee Grand National Council, Upper Creek Nation
He squinted into autumn’s sun shimmering over the five thousand assembled from all over the Muscogee Nation.
“Have you ever seen Tuckabatchee so full?” he asked his father-in-law.
The old man rubbed his smooth chin, his shaggy brows furrowing in thought. “Not as I can recall, but never have times been as they are.”
The ancient capital of the Upper Muscogee, or Creek Indians, had never experienced the tension it did now, and Nokos wondered how life might change after this moon’s Grand Council.
The two blended into the flow of men meandering toward the council square. Nokos was a long way from his Koosati home. Longing to see his beautiful wife almost distracted him from the burdensome thoughts of war. Almost.
Pressed on all sides by the throng, Nokos yearned for the quiet of the woods, a cozy fire, and his young son to share it with. The crowd had worn his nerves to stubble, but today promised to be the day everyone had waited for. The day it would end. The day they would finally have an answer to long whispered question. Would there be war?
Opinions regarding the results of the Shawnee warrior’s talk floated around Nokos like leaves on the wind—leaves that held barbs of hatred and reeked with the stench of oppression. American oppression.
Due to his past with the Americans, Nokos was not keen to draw his bow in battle. Only when he tried to recall the last time a buck fell at the point of his arrow did the desire to drive the Americans from Creek soil enter his mind.
Entering the swarming square, Nokos searched for a place to sit. “I want a good view of—”
“Chief Red Eagle,” Gray hawk said with laugh and a twinkle in his eye. “You have said as much before.”
“Red Eagle is sage beyond his years. He is familiar with the strengths and abilities of the American soldiers as well as the capabilities of our warriors.”
The sun gleaming off the white in his hair, Gray Hawk clapped an amiable hand on Nokos’ shoulder then led the way around a group of benches to the far side of the square. “You need not defend him to me, my son,” he said over his shoulder. “Chief Red Eagle is loved by all. He is a man of honor. If you waver in your decision to war with the Americans, you would be wise to use his course of action as your own. You cannot fail in following such a shrewd chief.” Gray Hawk paused, his eyes softening. “I do not doubt you wish only the best for my daughter and your young ones. For this reason, whatever path you choose will be the right one. I am certain.”
Nokos’ heart glowed at the affection and confidence placed in him. Gray Hawk had been a father to him when there had been none other to call family, when a place among his people had been all he wanted.
A hush fell as Tecumseh drew near the square. Nokos yearned to gain a glimpse of the man from legend.
For two decades by evening fires, every Creek had heard the stories of Tecumseh’s excellence in the hunt. Just as every other boy striving for manhood, Nokos had aspired to the great warrior’s achievements and renown.
Born of a Shawnee mother, yet fathered by a Creek, Tecumseh had chosen to spend two years of his adult life among his father’s people. The Shawnee’s fame with the bow and scalping knife preceded him as he made a dignified entrance into the central square.
He wore a breechcloth, silver ornaments, and nothing more. A profusion of eagle’s feathers adorned his head, and intense eyes peered out from behind red and black war paint which streaked his face.
Judging by the quiet settling over the crowd, Nokos was not the only one spellbound.
Nokos’ eyes darted to where Chief Red Eagle sat motionless among the other chiefs. Adorned with two eagle feathers, his blue-black hair fell below his shoulder. Thick arms folded across his chest, he stared the Shawnee before him, his face unreadable.
The wind rustled the trees as the silent crowd waited for what might happen next. At last, a large chief stood and extended a pipe to the visitor. Tecumseh accepted, sat with the chiefs, and with easy calm, began to puff.
Nokos wondered where this man’s persuasive abilities would lead the Creek. Riot? War?
Tecumseh’s hatred for the whites was even more widely known than his hunting abilities, and Nokos imagined the mere mention of his name sent shivers of fear down the spines of most frontier Americans.
As the sun began its descent, the warrior stood to address them. An inner fire lighting his eyes, he faced the crowd. “Neighbors, brothers, hear my words! The red man has made a fatal mistake in adopting the ways of the whites and becoming friendly with them.” His speech was slow, deliberate.
“You must protect and defend this, your sacred land. I exhort you to abandon the plough and the spindle. Burn your fences, cast off the garments the whites have taught you to wear, and dress in the skins of beasts, which the Great Spirit has given his red children for food and clothing. Use the war-club, scalping-knife and bow. Return to the ways and customs of our fathers before us.” Tecumseh shook with passion.
A rumble of heated discussion spread across the masses. Tecumseh waited for quiet to resume.
“After the whites have possessed the greater part of our country, turned its beautiful forests into large fields and stained our clear rivers with the washings of the soil, they will reduce us to slaves just as they have the Africans.” His voice grew in volume and intensity.
“They seize your land, corrupt your women, and trample the ashes of your dead! Back, whence they came!” He snapped his arm eastward. “Upon a trail of blood, we must drive them back. Back to the Great Water whose accursed waves brought them to our shores!”
A booming cheer resounded. Tomahawks raised, it seemed as though every man present thirsted for war.
Locking eyes with Gray Hawk, Nokos found a mutual astonishment. His gaze landed on Red Eagle.
The man grasped the handle of the knife at his side. They shared the same fear. What of the few whites present? Would there be bloodshed?
“Those who decide to take up the club and join the war party will be shielded from harm. None will be killed in battle!”
Nokos’ head swiveled back toward Tecumseh. What had he said?
“When you fight, shake your war clubs, shake yourselves; you will frighten the Long Knives and their weapons will fall from their hands. The Great Spirit will surround your enemies with quagmires to bog them down. The prophets will stand between you and your enemy making their bullets useless.”
A ripple of awe spread across the crowd, but Nokos knew the prophecies to be madness. Fighting the Americans with only war clubs and bows meant certain destruction.
Tecumseh toned down his discourse and laid out his simple plan for the future of all natives from the Big Lakes to Florida. They must unite in a confederacy, holding all their land in common. Their friends, the British, had sent him to ask for Muscogee aid in driving out the Americans. Together, this was possible.
Hundreds of heads nodded in agreement, and Nokos’ heart sank. Was war so inevitable?
“It is the will of the Great Maker of all things.” continued Tecumseh, raising his hand in the air. “As a sign, you will see an arm of fire stretched across the sky. Watch and you will know the words I speak from the Great Spirit are true. Our prophets will stay with you to train new prophets who will lead you in battle and teach you new war songs and dances. Stand ready to bloody your scalping knife.”
Most under the voice of the Shawnee rose to their feet. Like a mudslide, their shouts rumbled in Nokos’ chest and crushed any hope of a peaceful future for his children.
Chief Red Eagle stood, tall and imposing, his broad forehead furrowed, his eyes becoming mere slits. “The Shawnee’s talk is the worst counsel which can be given to the Creek Nation.”
The people quieted.
“To follow his counsel would be our downfall. When weak and few in numbers, the Americans defeated the British and created a new nation. Now, they are strong and their numbers multiply. They will conquer again.” He stopped but raised his hand as if holding the attention of every man in his palm.
Nokos inwardly cheered the daring chief and willed him to resume.
The Shawnee sat cross-legged, elbows resting on his knees, seemingly unperturbed by Red Eagle’s opposition.
“It is easier to begin a war than to end one,” Red Eagle said. “The power and the resources of the Creek Nation and of all the tribes together is no match for the Americans. A league to unite our interests would be but a weak cord certain to snap at the first of our differences. Having no solid foundation, it would fall. The English have no more care for you than the Americans. Both are white and equally oppressive.”
A slight murmur of agreement followed.
“The wisest choice is to remain neutral, but if forced to decide, we must side with the Long Knives. They will surely win.”
So, this is the path Red Eagle has chosen.
Tecumseh stood. “Red Eagle, your blood is white. You do not believe the Great Spirit has sent me, but you shall believe it.”
Red Eagle said nothing, but, as solemnly as if he had received a death sentence, he lowered himself to the ground.
The talk continued among the council until the sun rose. Nokos and Gray Hawk reached their beds as the birds announced the beginning of a new day.
Unable to sleep, Nokos flipped on his pallet, and found Gray Hawk staring at the roof of their shelter. Nokos chuckled. “Sleep eludes us like the deer and bear.”
A sad smile crept up the man’s wrinkled cheek. “The bear live only in my memory. Our world has changed much in a short time.” Gray Hawk had seen the height of the Creek Nation. He knew the fullness of their loss.
He remembered the abundant game which roamed the forests before the lucrative cost of their hides sent them fleeing to more sparsely populated land to the west.
Uncertainty at his people’s future and sadness at the loss of their traditions darkened Nokos’ heart. He rubbed his dry eyes. “And still, you desire peace with the Long Knives?”
Grey Hawk sucked in a lungful of air and let it out in a gush. “We, the Muscogee, wish to be free of the strife caused by our neighbors, but it is not to be. One cannot stop a raging river bent on changing the course of the land. One can only step aside. When the floodwaters are spent, the earth is renewed and life will begin anew.”
There was no doubting which side Grey Hawk would take. He was a man of peace, as was Red Eagle.
Yet, was Red Eagle correct in saying war with the Americans was futile? Was he right to condemn those trying to regain what may or may not be lost to the Creek?
Turning onto his back, Nokos locked his fingers under his head. Before the week was out, there was certain to be a division in the nation--the warring Red Sticks on one side and the peace-loving White faction on the other.
Only time would tell if the clever chief would have enough influence to stay a war, or if the Red Sticks would sway him to their side.
Regardless, Nokos would follow him. The great Red Eagle’s fate would be Nokos’ own.