My most recent story, The Sheep Eater, is in the works getting edited now. Its date of release is expected to be May 15, 2015. All of the deadlines have been met so far and now it’s time to play ping-pong with my editor until it’s completed. This is the part that drives me nuts! Patience has not been a strong suit of mine over the years, even though there are people worse at it than I am by a long shot.
I picture a map in my head of the annual migration of a tribe making it to different locales to take advantage of the food supply available at given times of the year. I picture myself as the guy who gets way out in front of the people and has to finally sit down and wait because he’s too early arriving and gets hungry because the food hasn’t started showing up yet. Everyone else walks up and “Shazam,” the food magically appears just as it has every year since forever.
Trying to outsmart the system never seems to work to my advantage. It’s always hurry up and wait. I think editors enjoy finding writers like me that they can toy with. One of these days I’ll fool them, though. I’ll start turning in my material a day late here and there and listen to them pining for the old days when they were in control of the strings. Meanwhile, I have to go see a man about a buffalo in Blackfeet Country.
I’ve had a chance to review some of my notes on my expedition into the Pikuni Blackfeet Nation a couple of months ago. It was the busiest week of the year for the tribe that invited other tribes from all over the country to participate. It was a huge Pow Wow that ran for four nights.
One of the largest lessons I learned was how to ask a question. For instance, I was curious why an area was called “Two-Medicine,” thinking it had something to do with a couple of herbs. Nope, wrong answer. Two medicine men lived on a lake in the mountains…simple enough.
The obvious one: Why are they called Blackfeet? Most believe it is because they stained the bottom of their moccasins black. I never did get a good answer as to why. Most answers seemed to lean toward simplicity without much fanfare or lessons in the description, with the possible exception of vision quests on Chief Mountain at the south end of the mountain range.
I found myself wishing I had more time to nose around. I would have loved to visit some of the smaller towns where “the real Indians were,” according to a store owner I met. Nonetheless, I’m getting the itch to begin the next book.
It is unbelievable that Hollow Point has been on the market for eight months now. Sales haven’t quite helped to buy the yacht I have in mind, but the sales people at the marina are on standby. The fun part is that people read what I write, and many of them aren’t even family members.
The next thing is who I’ve been fortunate to meet while doing the research. There are some very interesting people around the country with unique points of view that are fascinating. You could come from the moon and it wouldn’t matter to them as long as you were respectful.
Now I’m working on my fifth novel, The Sheep Eater, that is sitting with my editor. Once we get the bugs worked out of the formatting, it should be another book worth reading. If you attach a sail to a row boat does it still count as a yacht? That’s okay because it’s just as much fun to fish as motoring around the Bahamas I’m told.
The next challenge is to spin a good yarn that happens on or near the Blackfeet Reservation in Northern Montana. My brain is starting to get that twitch again!
Having to perform a hard left turn after thinking you’ve got your story well underway sure fouls up a writer’s train of thought! Everything, and I do mean everything, must be rethought when your facts won’t allow you to move ahead. You know, small stuff like the mountains in relation to the grassland; and how many million ground squirrels there are per square foot that I originally thought were prairie dogs; farming bison as a food source (all the ones I saw had ear tags like cattle do).
Alcohol is readily available, hence not much need for a moonshine still. People who don’t want to live in or around Browning generally find a smaller town on the Rez where a more traditional existence goes on. It kind of messes up the whole idea of his Father and he being loners living in the nearby woods – they aren’t very near by.
All of this leads to one big realization: The story line I had in mind won’t work. That’s what I get for not doing the research first! I’ll just have to come up with something new and exciting, like the writer being gored by a bull buffalo!
I was able to participate in my Youngest’s wedding last week. There was an assortment of strangely-garbed friends of theirs dancing around, no doubt trying to imitate some sort of Tribal ritual known only to my new Son-In-Law. My walking stick was ready to do battle if needed.
It turned out to be the hottest day of the year in Seattle, so the shade trees were a welcome relief. The ceremony was actually very nice once the Star Wars theme concluded. It didn’t matter…my little girl was getting married to the man of her dreams – then they ran down and jumped around in the Seattle Center fountain to cap that part of their day.
So brought to an end ten days of an emotional marathon that my body has yet to forgive me for. I went to the swimming pool for physical therapy the next day and had a hard time getting out when I was done. There was nothing left.
Even working on the editing of my next book, The Sheep Eater, was a conscious effort to break through the mind numbing details for a few days. The first edit is done, plus all the necessary forms the publisher wants for art work and marketing. That is a story all its own.
Now I sit and wait for my best friend from Idaho, just outside Nez Perce country, to stop by for a brief visit. Fortunately, he knows my housekeeping habits…they’re rustic.
I promise I’ll get back to writing about what I write about soon. Meanwhile, buy books and read up about the Mountain Shoshone!
I just completed my pre-edit for The Sheep Eater and passed it along to my editor. Of course I haven’t sent the Detail Sheet or the Cover Art form yet because they need some sort of conversion to allow it from “read only.” How come every time I start to work on them I want to lay my head down on my desk and take a nap?
I’ve noticed that it takes a bit to get up to speed with typing after you haven’t done it seriously for a while. The fingers have forgotten where certain letters and symbols exist. I doubt that the Tribes had that problem with painting long ago. A mistake in a painting might be sold as visionary among the Elders with a creative embellishment by the painter.
I’ve got time to get up to speed. Tomorrow is my youngest Daughter’s Big Day, so I should prepare to be shocked and amazed. I’m taking my walking stick just in case things get too rowdy, though. You never know which cartoon character will get out of line at one of these things and I’ll need to whack one.
May the Great Spirit protect us all!
I give up. I’ve fallen into the mantra of “where does all the time go” since I retired. Most of it is self-inflicted, but if it wasn’t for daughters getting married and doctors’ visits, my social calendar would be a breeze!
One daughter getting hitched is enough for my plate, but two within ten days of each other? Where’s my anti-anxiety pills? The funny thing is that I have little to do in preparation for either of their nuptial ambitions, except to be “Dad.” Neither groom is planning on giving me a string of ponies that I’m aware of, either. So much for the anticipated lawn maintenance bonus.
What was I thinking? I’m pretty sure the tribes had it right – if you want my daughter, give me something useful. I already have a new truck, so how about a boat or camping trailer? I don’t think that will ever materialize, but it’s a nice thought.
After their whoop-dee-dos, I will have to turn back to a first-round edit of my new book, due toward the end of August. New editor – new rules – new learning curve. It’s a good thing I went to Montana when I did, otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to venture far from my desk this summer.
It’s good that I can write all of this down for posterity. That way, when I look up from my death bed, I can say that I survived retirement longer than most and I will live on in the digital world. I can hear St. Peter snickering now.
I collected a whole satchel-full of information off the Montana research trip. I’ve only begun to sort it out. Now I’ve got to turn my attention to my middle Daughter’s wedding on the 2nd, but wait!
What’s this I see in my inbox? It’s from my new editor. “Fill out these forms; read these publications; I need your first edit run-through sooner than later; Is that a problem?”
I’m not complaining because I’d much rather be doing these things than sitting around watching TV re-runs. This just brings another dimension to “Hurry up and wait” and I’m hoping the new book is worth the wait!
Many years ago my young family and I were making our way to Billings on a dark, rainy night, when the VW 411 we owned began sounding like a machine gun went off in the engine compartment and smoke filled the passenger compartment. Upon inspection I noted several aluminum balls lying on the engine block covered in oil. Long story short, we had to sell the car for parts and have my Father-in-Law drive us to Kalispell where he had an old, rusted out 56 Chev that still ran and could get us home.
Yesterday, I was doing a car tour of the area surrounding the Blackfeet Reservation when my trusty ’07 Chevy’s transmission decided to self-destruct near Cut Bank. I made it into the local GM dealership where I was given grim news – the nearest available transmission couldn’t get there until next Monday and they might be able to get it installed by Wednesday to the tune of over $3,000 (that I don’t have readily available).
My salesman, Doug, happened to be the Mayor of the town. He was able to get me a great deal on a 2014 truck that looked almost identical to mine plus several upgrades mine didn’t have. The payments would be a hundred bucks less a month than I’ve been paying, to boot. Hmmm. Buyers remorse or stay in Cut Bank on public assistance for a few weeks? Sold! The lemonade was made.
Now I have a brandy-spankin’-new truck sitting outside my motel. Although I shall miss my old one, I can get used to this. I just have to figure out which buttons to push for launching hellfire missiles. It sure beats the 56 Chevy experience!
Otherwise, I lost a day of research. Back to work double time!
Now I totally believe in first hand research. Many things I read about doing research for my new work in progress were a bit off the mark, particularly having to do with some background information on the countryside.
Things I have found so far: The Blackfeet (and yes they are the BlackFEET, Ellen) in the Southern band located in Montana are the Pikuni (pic-uhn-ee). The Siksika I wrote about in the last post live in Canada along with a couple of other bands.
Badger Two Medicine is a place in Glacier National Park that is not sacred to the Pikuni as I was led to believe. It was named Two Medicine for two medicine men that had separate lodges on a lake there. The sacred place to go for visions is Chief Mountain at the end of the mountain range, a long way from Two Medicine.
Right now North American Indian Days is happening in Browning, the headquarters for the Blackfeet Nation. Tribes from all over the U.S. and Canada are participating. On my way to the grand entry last night, I drove by a good-sized herd of bison. Apparently they are managed for food by the tribe because all the adults had ear tags like the cattle in the area.
I’ll try to post some pictures as soon as I figure out how to do it from Dropbox and not delete the post in the process as I did last night. Meanwhile, the event lasts through Sunday (13th) and I plan to glean as much info as possible before heading back to the barn!