This is one of our fun days here at the P & P Blog, where we get to talk about things we don’t usually blog about. Now, interestingly,, Linda Broday asked me recently (when we were talking about the blog) how I decide on the places I write about — the locations.
It was a question I’d never given much thought to until she suggested it and then decided it would be great to talk about it. Particularly this most recent story.
Usually, the story itself sets the location, as well as the tribe I’m writing about. The Wild West Series was a fun series to write because it was a Western set in both England and New York, which I found to be exciting.
This new story, She Steals My Breath, was inspired by the passing of a good friend of mine and my husband’s — Native American Actor, Steve Reevis. Because he is Blackfeet, this took my story line to Montana, of course. But, a couple of years ago, I had visited my Blackfeet sister on the reservation and she mentioned they’d had eight feet of snow that winter.
Eight feet! Wow!
And then I realized that, although I’ve written books about the Blackfeet before, they were always set in the summer, and yet where the Blackfeet are in Montana, they have long winters and often there are blizzards and squalls, much snow and below zero temperatures. There is a book I was reading recently entitled, “Yellow Wolf, His Own Story,” by L. V. McWhorter and in that story Yellow Wolf makes the point that even hardy men, used to the weather changes in the northern regions could freeze in a matter of minutes if they weren’t prepared for it.
And so, I decided to set a Blackfeet tale in the winter months in Montana. By the way, the picture here to the left is Steve Reevis in the Movie, The Last of the Dogmen.
This recent book, She Steals my Breath, is book #1 in the Medicine Man series. This is a bit of a different kind of story for me since this series lends itself into going a little deeper into the customs and mores of the Blackfeet and in particular the medicine men. I have to admit that I have a lot to learn about these men, who were trusted by their people to help them through hard times. And, one of the things I found that has fascinated me is that they realized their ethics had to be without fault, because if they were to go down the path of darkness even a little or black magic (so to speak), they would lose their ability to help and perhaps to heal the people who came to them for help. Their code of ethics was strict. It had to be and they felt such an obligation to their people, few ever stepped off this moral and ethical high ground.
Here is a fact I had little knowledge of prior to my study: The Medicine Men had many rituals that weren’t really about magic, but were rituals to enable them to become like a “hollow bone,” so the Creator (God) could work through them. This comes to me from the book, Fools Crow by Thomas E. Mails. In writing about the medicine men, I am realizing more and more that I’ve had a rather false idea of them due to Hollywood movies. I have always realized Hollywood’s depiction of the Indian warrior was not a true image, but I hadn’t taken into account that their depiction of the medicine man might also be one which is very far from the truth. I am still learning.
I’m going to leave you with an interview recently done with me about this book, SHE STEALS MY BREATH, and then I thought I’d share an excerpt of the book with you. Would love to hear your thoughts and ideas about this, about the interview, the medicine men or the excerpt or anything else you’d like to say or ask. So, without further ado, here at the start is this short interview:
What’s the story behind the story? What inspired you to write She Steals My Breath?
Lately, I’ve been at a point in my life where I really wanted a story where the hero was, indeed, a very muscular and handsome hero, but also a very kind hero. The Native American Medicine Man could be such a person. If the man were to be a true medicine man, he understood his power came from God, or whatever it was in his own language that he called God. Because of this, they had to adhere to a very strict code of ethics, and part of that code was kindness.
If you had to pick theme songs for the main characters of She Steals My Breath, what would they be?
“You Raise Me Up.”
What’s your favorite genre to read? Is it the same as your favorite genre to write?
Romance to both questions. I enjoy all sub-genres of Romance. But, my heart is particularly drawn to Historical, Native American, Romance.
What books are on your TBR pile right now?
Adolf Hungry Wolf; and “Blackfeet Tales of Glacier National Park,” by James Willard Schultz
What scene in your book was your favorite to write?
I think the very beginning scene in chapter one, where the hero and heroine first meet each other and speak to each other in sign language.
Do you have any quirky writing habits? (lucky mugs, cats on laps, etc.)
Not really, although I might take this as a suggestion and try to adopt some training pattern of one kind or another.
Do you have a motto, quote, or philosophy you live by?
Upon thinking about this, perhaps it might be that the real path to spiritual enlightenment is a very narrow path. One would do well to read about the philosophy of the Lakota Medicine Man, Fools Crow, and that one has to be strong to resist the temptation to commit an evil act.
If you could choose one thing for readers to remember after reading your book, what would it be?
Again, I had to ponder this for a bit. And I think it might be this: that there was, and still is, a lot to be learned about these ways of life that might be passing away under the thrust of “civilization.”
Karen Kay is the author of the new book She Steals My Breath
Connect with Karen Kay
And now, I’d like to leave this post with an excerpt from the book:
SHE STEALS MY BREATH, by Karen Kay
Eagle Heart was honestly worried, and, to counter this, he reached out into the environment, looking for She-steals-my-breath in the age-old manner of communication known and practiced by and between medicine men, as well as the Indian scout. Was she still alive?
He could no longer check his path for accuracy. The snow was too thick and spinning about the ground, and he could not see even a few hand lengths in front of him. There was now danger of losing his direction, as well. But, he wouldn’t be turned away. No woman as beautiful as she should be made to die because her man did not understand the dangers of this land.
He reached out to her with his mind until he thought he’d found her, then said to her in the ancient way of medicine men, “I am coming for you. You must talk back to me with your mind so I can locate where you are. The snow is too dense, and I could lose my way. Can you speak to me with your mind so I can find you?”
“Yes,” came her response.
With relief, he let out a deep breath. She had heard him and had even spoken back. He reached out again with his mind and said, “It is I, Eagle Heart, from the Pikuni tribe. Are you cold?”
“Yes. My fingers are frozen, I fear.”
“Are you hurt?”
“Yes,” she answered with her mind. “I can’t move my right leg and my right arm. I fell upon them. My spine is hurt, too, I think. Maybe it’s broken, for the agony in my spine when I try to move is very painful.”
“I understand. You must remain warm, for the blizzard is coming upon us fast. I am going to see if there are wolves close to you who might come and surround you to keep you warm until I can get to you.”
“Wolves? I’m afraid of wolves.”
“You will not be afraid of these. I will try to find them and speak to them so they can come to you. If I locate them, they will help you and keep you from freezing. Do not be afraid of them.”
“But, how can you do this?” she asked. “Talk to wolves?”
“I am speaking to you this way. I can also speak thusly to the wolves. I will send them to you. Do not be afraid of them.”
The communication between them stopped, and, quickly, he reached out to her again and said, using the same ancient manner of communication, “You must keep talking to me with your mind even if I do not answer, for I am also seeking to find the wolves. Wait! I have found them. They are close and will come to help you. Let them keep you warm.”
“I will try,” she silently spoke back to him. “If I am to continue talking to you, as you say, what shall I tell you? I know not how to help you find me, and I am afraid for my life because I am so cold. Is there something else I could talk to you about to keep my mind off my fear?”
“Tell me about yourself. Why are you here? Are you in love with the man you are to marry?”
He sensed she might have found a little humor in his question. This was good. If she could laugh—even a little—perhaps she wouldn’t center all her attention on her fear.
She silently spoke again in the mind-to-mind speak and said, “My name is Laylah McIntosh, and I have come here to help my father and also to marry the man I am engaged to.”
“Do you love him?”
“Why do you ask?”
“Then I will tell you honestly,” she told him, “that I don’t know if I love him or not. I have believed I am in love with him, but recently I am beginning to experience doubts.”
“How old are you?”
“I am eighteen years old. How old are you?”
“I am twenty and four snows.”
“Snows? Do you mean years?”
“Mr. Eagle Heart, the wolves are here. I am afraid of them.”
“Do not be. Let them lie next to you. They have answered my plea and are there to help you. You are close to me now. I have found the coulee, for I almost fell into it when I dismounted from my horse.”
“Are you certain it is the coulee I am in?”
“Yes. The snow here is already deep. I do not wish my horses to lose their footing, so they and I must climb down to you slowly, one step after another.”
“I understand. Should I keep talking to you with my mind?”
It was a slow, tortuous climb down the incline. But, at last, he and his ponies managed to step onto a more level ground and he found her lying there before him. Indeed, he almost stepped on one of the wolves who had come to surround her. He then said to her with his mind only, “I am here, but you must continue to speak to me silently and with your mind, for I must construct a shelter for us. Do not let yourself sleep. Stay awake.”
“Very well. Should I continue to talk, then?”
“Yes. Can you see me?”
“No. The swirling of the snow is too thick.”
“I am going to bend down toward you. Do not fear me. I am going to feel your body for injury. I shall try to touch your arm, your leg and your spine.”
So saying, he bent toward her while the wind blew the snow around them. Reaching out to her, he felt underneath the blankets placed over her and ran his hands along her right arm and right leg. He said in Blackfeet, “I believe both your arm and your leg might be broken. I cannot feel your spine at this moment. I will need to move you carefully into a shelter, where I can determine if you have broken bones or if your muscles are merely strained.”
“I don’t understand you,” she said in English, but he was aware of the concept of what she said anyway.
He nodded, then realized the snow was so thick, she couldn’t see the movement. He repeated his words, but with the mind-to-mind talk only. Then he told her, “I must make us a shelter and a travois so I can move you without further injury. Do you understand?”
“I have a warm buffalo robe to place over you to keep you as warm as possible. Stay close to the wolves and allow them to share the robe while I make a shelter and a travois to carry you. You have only to reach out to me with your mind if you need me. Thank you, my friends. My family. Please stay with her a little while longer. And, even when the storm passes, please stay close to me if you can. I might need your help again.”
Only then did he rise to his feet, and he soon left to build a shelter that might keep them warm against the storm. And, it had to be quickly done.
Laylah felt a little warmer, but she was still very cold. It seemed as if the temperature had dipped even further, causing her to wonder if the air in the canyon was well below freezing. She couldn’t feel her fingers anymore and her toes were now following the same pattern as her fingers.
With her mind, she reached out to Eagle Heart and said, “I believe I am freezing to death.”
He didn’t answer. Was he still there? She panicked. “Eagle Heart, are you still here?” she yelled out in English.
“I have not left you,” he answered without words. “I must secure a shelter. Keep awake. Do not freeze. It will be ready soon. Instead of the cold and snow, think of a fire and how warm you are as you sit beside it.”
“I will try.”
The communication dropped then between them, and she felt so sleepy of a sudden, she could barely keep her eyes open. But, she tried to envision a fire and its warmth.
She wasn’t aware how long it was before she felt him beside her again. Carefully, and yet with manly strength, she could feel him lifting her onto some contraption that she thought must be made out of wood, for she could feel some of its branches beneath her. Then, she was aware they were moving through the spinning, heavily-falling snow.
But soon, a particular kind of tiredness closed in upon her.
“Do not sleep,” he said, using his mind only.
“No, do not do it. We are almost at the shelter. Keep awake. Speak to me, either with your mind or words.”
“Yes, you can.”
“I tried thinking of the fire. But, I was so cold, I couldn’t do it any longer.”
“Then, tell me of things you find joy in.”
“Christmas, new clothes. Fashion. Strips of cloth I use to curl my hair. And you. I am suddenly thinking you bring me joy.”
“You flatter me. We are here at the shelter at last. Do not leave me.”
“It’s so hard to keep from sleeping.”
Suddenly, his arms were around her, and she was so cold she didn’t feel the pain when he picked her up. Soon, he was carrying her into a place of warmth.
He deposited her onto something soft, and, without pausing a moment, he began to rub her hands and then her feet. It went on and on. She felt his hands all over her.
Suddenly he was speaking to her in concepts only again. “Do not be alarmed. I must remove your clothing, for it is wet and frozen. I have a warm robe that is not wet, and I will wrap you in it. I will have to move you a little to remove the clothing from you. I might have to cut some of your clothing from you.”
She didn’t answer. It was beyond her.
Again, with his mind alone, he said, “Talk to me.” When she didn’t answer, she heard him speak to her in his own language. She tried to communicate back to him, but found she couldn’t and so remained silent.
However, she held on to the sound of his voice, afraid to sleep for fear she might not wake up. There was a quality about his words she found beautiful, and she responded to his voice and to him, refusing to give in to the darkness. Indeed, it was as though with his touch and his voice alone, he was keeping her alive and conscious.
She felt him pick her up and wrap her in something very warm, and, as she settled back into its heat and against her bed, sleep claimed her at last.
KAREN KAY aka GEN BAILEY is the multi-published author of American Indian Historical Romances. She has written for such prestigious publishers as AVON/HarperCollins, Berkley/Penguin/Putnam and Samhain Publishing. KAREN KAY’S great grandmother was Choctaw Indian and Kay is honored to be able to write about the American Indian Culture.
Please refer to https://petticoatsandpistols.com/sweepstakesrules for all contest rules.