Stone Fever follows a geologist exploring a defrosted Antarctica when she makes new friends and sets off to find the elusive iris stone. What was the inspiration for the setup to this exciting story?
Geography, especially maps, has always been a hobby of mine. I pictured how the effects of continuing climate change might affect human populations, forcing migration toward the poles. These two groups could lose touch with each other and evolve separately.
Keltyn is an interesting and well developed character. What were some driving ideals behind her character development?
She is a rock nerd with few social skills. She has swallowed her pride for the sake of professional advancement, yet harbors a grudge about how her people, and especially her father, have been treated by white society. When she learns that her boss may want to promote Antarctica for settlement by canadian farmers, she instinctively pictures how this will threaten the locals and hatches an ill-conceived plan to thwart her boss.
What were some themes that were important for you to focus on in this book?
First contact between different cultures; resilience in personal development; the importance of mentors; intergenerational wisdom/memory.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
Stone Fever is the first book of the Erebus Tales series. The second book, The Color of Greed, will be out in spring 2021, and the finale, Gifts of a Dark God, next fall.
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The Gift of the Seer follows Katie and Hectors journey across the continent as they learn more about each others ways. What was the inspiration for the setup to this series?
I had a fairly bad childhood, but when I was seventeen, I became captivated by Native American history, and I have never looked back. I have spent my life studying Indian history, cultures, and stories, and I even went on to get a Masters Degree in English with a specialty in Native American literature. After having read dozens and dozens of captivity stories from the 17th, 18th, & 19th centuries, I wanted to write a book to share what I learned with people who have neither the time nor energy to dig through all those old documents.
Katie and Hector are dynamic characters with an interesting relationship. What were some driving ideals behind their characters?
I see Katie and Hector as metaphorical representatives of their people. They are endlessly intrigued by one another, even as they also pose a very serious threat to each other. Because they formed a physical bond before they understood much about each other’s worlds, they created a conflict that takes them decades to resolve–which is, oddly enough, equally true of almost all young lovers who get married and have children! So one of the basic premises of the story is that relationships are hard, whether those relationships are between individuals or nations, and finding common ground is an ongoing challenge. But, oh!–meeting that challenge is definitely worth the effort!
I enjoyed the nuanced world views and philosophies in the book. What were some themes you wanted to explore in this book?
I was very intrigued by the idea of writing a story that could be read on multiple levels. If you are interested in American Indians, you can read this book to learn more about Native cultures. If you are interested in complex marital relationships, you can read this book to find out how one “odd couple” made a difficult marriage work. If you are interested in personal identity issues, you can read this book to see how someone who suffers from chronic self-doubt deals with the challenge of living up to other people’s high expectations. If you are interested in Spirituality, you can read this book to ponder the role Spirit can play in the everyday life of humans. And if you just want a fast-paced adventure story, you can read this book simply for the thrills and chills.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
I was working on an intriguing manuscript three years ago, but I gave it up when I could not see how the story ended. Then my mother died, and I suddenly understood exactly how that story ended. Now that I have finally gotten The Gift of the Seer into the hands of the public, I am returning to my unfinished manuscript, and I hope to have something readable by mid-2020.
Katie O’Toole’s epic adventure began in The Spirit Keeper (Plume 2013) when she was rescued from a 1747 frontier massacre in Pennsylvania only to find herself chosen as the “Spirit Keeper” of a dying Indian Seer. She hesitated to accept this mysterious obligation until she fell in love with the Seer’s bodyguard, an Indian man she called Hector.
In The Gift of the Seer, Katie and Hector continue their journey across the continent, but the more Katie learns about the peculiar ways of her husband’s people, the more she dreads arriving at their destination. Will anyone believe she is the Spirit Keeper she pretends to be? Equally troubling, Katie knows the Seer expected her to prove his Vision—a Vision which foretold of infinite Invaders coming to his world—but to prove this prophecy, she must give his people the great Gift he also predicted. The only problem is that Katie has no Gift to give.
Years pass as she desperately searches for a way to fulfill her promise to the dead Seer, but when his former rival threatens to expose her as a fraud, Katie finally understands that her life and the lives of all the people in her new world hang in the balance. That’s when she knows she must give a Gift—she must—before it is too late.
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When you tire of the overload of digital and technology tools within our 2019 era, K.B. Laugheed’s The Gift of the Seer will expedite time travel back with you, and this author will have you writing with a feathered quill by the end of this literary journey! Put on your cultural anthropologist boots and allow this novel to cleverly weave historical yet fantastical plot elements, interestingly complex characters, and a rugged setting that will definitely transport and immerse readers. You will face cultural nuances, norms, spiritual beliefs, worldviews, philosophies, goals, life lessons, conflicts, natural connections, romances, and myriads of adventures via an Indian perspective. Our protagonist, Katie, provides uncensored reflections and stories spanning from the years 1748-1778. Yet Katie, the book’s protagonist, is not the docile, silent, subjugated, stereotypical, domesticated wife and mother that many heroines from her time era typically portray. Instead, she is a literary and cultural badass-think Katniss from The Hunger Games -but Katie encompasses more maturity, carnal pleasures, and complexities as a woman struggling to survive among different cultures, determined to sustain her love for her husband against all odds, and abandoning the feelings of guilt and condemnation based on her feeling that she’s living a big lie!
In short, adventures, dangers, thrills, and chills will bombard you on every page. Yet instead of feeling defeated and exhausted, you will experience the triumphs and evolution, right alongside Katie, as if you were a passenger in her canoe! The book is brilliant in terms of its vivid, sensory details that paint a no-nonsense picture of life during this era. The characters also conjure feelings of fables and folk tales via the author’s unique, authentic style. At times, I noticed hints of magical realism, which further add pizazz to this riveting book. While there are so many positive qualities about this book, especially the way in which the author develops her vast array of characters and executes her dramatic dialogue, all with cultural relevance and sensitivity, I was a bit overwhelmed with the plethora of social, historical, political, cultural, marital problems and themes that she tries to address all at once. At times it was slightly too ambitious for me to keep track of all the family members, neighbors, friends, and foes. Although they are important, especially to comprehend the larger scope of the historical fiction milieu, some of the symbols were slightly perplexing and some plot events were mentioned but not fully explained.
All in all, because readers can sense the imminent danger on every page, as evident from the great use of foreshadowing and cautionary notes to build suspense throughout the text, as in “til the ocean wave of Colonists comes crashing down upon us—then we will see which of us is right,” We not only learn cultural and historical information through characters with real vulnerability and authenticity, but we also find solace in our own journeys about how to fit into this world and all its challenges! We obtain a true sense of empowerment within this challenging piece of art. Try this time travelling and cultural anthropological plight by K.B. Laugheed in The Gift of the Seer!
Pages: 308 | ASIN: B07L7FHTFC
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Beloved Mother by Laura Hunter is a saga that follows the lives of several members of the Parsons, a poor coal-mining family. The story begins in Covington, Virginia in 1923 when thirteen-year-old Mona Parsons is taken away to Carolina by Jackson Slocomb. He abuses her, and she’s rescued by a Native American man named Walks in Tall Corn. He takes her in and raises her son, Briar, as his own. Ten years later, Tall Corn is injured in a farming accident and his wound becomes infected. He dies and Mona (River of Two Tears) returns to Covington, but her father doesn’t welcome her. She and her son end up in a coal mining town, Breakline Mining Camp. Mona’s younger sister, Anna, runs away with Clint, and they end up in in the coal mining town, too. But although Two Tears and Anna interact and live in close proximity to each other for many years, they never realized that the other is their sister. Told from a number of different points of view, this book spans generations and decades, even going back in time to earlier generations.
I enjoyed the author’s writing style, and her vivid descriptions drew me into the story. I liked the bits of history that the author added throughout the book. The story touched on a number of different time periods, from the great depression and World War II to the mid 1800’s.
I enjoyed the Native American aspect of the book–the Great Spirit, Sister Sun and Brother Moon, and the Cherokee medicine woman (called a Beloved Mother). It added an interesting element to the story that I would have loved to read more of. The characters lives were hard, as they struggled to scrape by, but I felt that most were selfish, thinking of their own wants and needs, in desires to get ahead. There is a lot of colorful, and questionable relationships, from adulterous affairs to a twenty-six-year-old man married to a thirteen-year-old girl, and an older man with romantic feelings for his young half-sister–though he was unaware of their connection. This made it hard for me to relate to, although I certainly appreciated, the characters.
Overall, this is an emotional story that pulls at your heart. I would have enjoyed a more uplifting theme, if not a few moments. There were a number of deaths, and very few characters were still alive by the end of the story, but I suppose… such is life.
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Honor Among Outcasts continues the story of the Dark Horse inhabitants that joined the Union Army as soldiers in the Missouri State Militia Calvary. What direction did you want to take this book that was different from book one in the series?
In the first novel of my DarkHorse Trilogy, The Lies That Bind set in the antebellum South, I wanted to debunk many stereotypes and myths about blacks, whites, rich and poor, regarding slavery and gender. Southern literature is generally about powerful aristocrats who make fortunes, and often ignores the slaves who actually did the work or gives them little credit. So I created a situation where the protagonist, Durksen Hurst, a hustler/drifter, forms a secret partnership with a group of escaped slaves to build their own egalitarian plantation in the fictional hamlet of Turkle, Mississippi. But, rather than the white man, one of the slaves, Big Josh Tyler, who had run his former master’s plantation, is the natural leader of the group and is greatly responsible for their enterprise’s success. (Such was often the case, historically.)
Developing the novel into a trilogy allowed me to show the full historical arc and the resultant changes of the time period: from antebellum South/slave society (The Lies That Bind, book 1); to the Civil War years (Honor Among Outcasts, book 2); and end in post-war Reconstruction (Something in Madness, book 3). You see the arc.
Together, the three novels depict the historical developments and their effects on the men and women, black and white, of all social stations.
So to answer your question, in book 2, Honor Among Outcasts, the milieu, conflicts, plot, and themes all had to be completely different from book 1, as will those in the third.
I felt like you did a great job with the historical details and facts. What were some things that you felt had to be accurate and what were some things you took liberties with?
Although I am a big Civil War buff, I didn’t want to write a typical battle-type novel. Fortunately, the guerrilla war in western Missouri was like modern-day Syria, with terrible murders and depredations like the massacre and burning of Lawrence, Kansas, by Quantrill’s Confederate bushwhackers. In Missouri, combatants of both sides took scalps! I felt it important for the characters to face these major events in order to illuminate humanity’s potential for brutality and cruelty.
Also, in the spring of 1863, President Lincoln began to allow “colored” regiments to be formed, but these required a white officer to lead them. Naturally, having the DarkHorse partners form their own regiment was a nice parallel to their dreams of the democratic enterprise depicted in The Lies That Bind.
Throughout Honor Among Outcasts, I tried to remain faithful to the difficulties and unique dangers these regiments and the local populace actually faced. In rare cases, I had to move minor events around to aid the narrative. For example, a train raid massacre like the one in Honor did take place, but at a later date and at a different location. Nevertheless, in writing book 2, the actual history did very much shape the story.
The characters were very well developed in this story, which led to some heartbreaking scenes when some characters met their end. What was your decision process like in deciding who stays and who goes?
Heightened emotions give your themes greater impact. I hated to kill off some of the characters I’d become attached to, but in doing so, the reader is able to feel the senseless terror and cruelty of the time, which required more than the characters merely observing the conflict.
For example, wise Big Josh is the backbone of the DarkHorse partnership, despite the many loses in his past that he carries in his heart. So when his mate, Ceeba, found late in life, is one of the three women killed in the train massacre, the poignancy of the event is increased. Plus, Josh’s emotional state throughout the rest of the novel is deepened. Similarly, in the Lawrence massacre a relatively unarmed colored regiment training there actually was massacred. How could I ignore that in my novel? And with the loss of a favorite DarkHorse character during the Lawrence raid, I hoped to bring out the horror of that event. (I, myself, had to recover after writing that wrenching scene.)
Where will book three in the Dark Horse Trilogy take readers and when will it be available?
In the final novel, Something in Madness, at war’s end the surviving characters return to Mississippi, only to confront new indignities restricting the rights of freedmen in the South.
Researching the Black Codes, lynchings, and other humiliations perpetrated on blacks during Reconstruction made writing book 3 tough, and I expect it will be tough on the reader, as well.
History is not always pretty. I only hope the DarkHorse Trilogy does its part to see that such cruelty and hatred doesn’t re-occur. Something in Madness is planned for release in 2019.
After their harrowing escape from Mississippi, abolitionist Durksen Hurst, his fiancée Antoinette DuVallier, and their friends — a group of undocumented slaves — land in guerrilla-infested Civil War Missouri, the most savage whirlwind of destruction, cruelty, and death in American history. Trapped in a terrifying cycle of murder and revenge, scarred by Quantrill’s cold-blooded Lawrence massacre and the Union army’s ruthless Order Eleven, Durk and everyone he cares for soon find themselves entangled in a struggle for their very survival.
Honor Among Outcasts takes readers on a pulse-pounding journey of desperate men and women caught up in the merciless forces of hatred and fear that tear worlds apart, and the healing power of friendship to bring them together.
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The Civil War was filled with pain, suffering, and too much death for both the North and the South. The often-untold stories of suffering and valor are those of the slaves and former slaves. Out in Missouri and Kansas some of the most brutal fighting occurred, not from the armies, but from guerrilla warfare. Honor Among Outcasts continues the story of the Dark Horse inhabitants that have joined the Union Army as soldiers in the Missouri State Militia Ninth Calvary. This is a story of how a group of former slaves fight for their freedom along with their half Indian partner. They face war, racism, and the loss of family and friends, and a multilevel conspiracy; but through it all, their spirit and honor never waver.
Ed Protzel uses historical fiction to bring light to things that went on during the Civil War. While the story of Durk and Antoinette is fabricated there is truth underlying their situation. Generals in the war often didn’t agree with the side they were on; but cared more for their political status than the men they sent off to die. Colored soldiers were especially expendable and were not given adequate supplies and provisions to fulfill their missions, yet few cared. Protzel does an amazing job showing the fear for each decision and action that the soldiers in the Dark Horse regiment had to make. It was never a simple decision of what makes the most sense, it was always about, what will keep us alive the longest while maintain honor. Paralleling their story, is the one of the women from the Dark Horse plantation. These women could not join the army, so they had no protection when all their papers are lost. This was a common issue among freed slaves. You could not go anywhere without your documentation or you were at risk of being put in jail or hung. This fear is so prevalent in the writing.
Reading about the harsh conditions in Missouri that the soldiers lived in is hard, starvation, lack of medical care, equipment shortages in the way of horses and weapons. Soldiers being sent out with little more than their bare hands to fight off guerrilla attacks. I know growing up and learning history I never heard about the guerrilla warfare and the complete brutality of it all. It didn’t matter who you supported, they were merciless and only cared about collecting the spoils of war. Killing meant nothing to these mercenaries. Double agent spy’s playing to whatever side they could is not a far-fetched idea and I’m sure it happened more often than even Protzel makes mention of. Lives and families torn apart and those left alive must suffer from it all.
Reading Honor Among Outcasts, I can see where Ed Protzel got the title. Everything is stacked against the Dark Horse group, men and women, but through it all they retain their honor. They refuse to take the easy way out of things to save their own lives. As I read this book I wanted to see the happy ending, I wanted everything to be okay, but true to real life, that isn’t always the case, not everyone will live, not everyone has a happily ever after. There is still another book in this series and I look forward to reading it to see what happens with the remaining Dark Horse members’, just maybe they will find peace.
Pages: 269 | ASIN: B077YRFB9J
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In the Shadow of the Hanging Tree takes place in the 1860s and follows the lives of three people trying to find their way in post-Civil War America. What was the inspiration for your characters; the Henry the ex-slave, Clara and lieutenant Elliot?
I have always been an omnivorous reader. From horror to historical and most genres in-between. The American western is genre that seems to have sort of faded into obscurity over the last thirty years or so. I suppose I can understand why. A lot (not all) of it had become dusty, formulaic, trope-worn, overly-romanticized, and historically inaccurate. I set out to write a story set somewhere between the gold rush and the turn-of-the-century. Something with a different kind of hero from the gunfighter or bank robber. Something that would dust off the genre, add some real humanity, and hopefully spark some renewed interest in this fascinating and sometimes troubling time period.
Henry as the main protagonist was an easy choice. I read a short once, about a man who was freed after the civil war and went on to become a well-known cowboy in Texas. The man had a remarkable way with horses. He was the inspiration for Henry. The challenges African Americans faced even after they were freed from slavery were monumental, and so many extraordinary men and women overcame this adversity and went on to live noteworthy lives.
With Clara I wanted to highlight challenges that women of the period faced. Their oppression can’t be compared equally to African American’s enslavement, but neither can it be marginalized. I also used her character to showcase the disconnect between wealthy easterners and the reality of what was going on in the rest of the country.
John Elliot’s inner conflict wasn’t that uncommon for soldiers both during the civil war and the years following. I have read truly heartbreaking letters sent home disillusioned soldiers from the period, particularly ones from soldier’s involved in what could arguably be called the Native American genocide.
This novel gave a good view of life in 1860s America for slaves and Native Americans. What were some themes you tried to highlight throughout this novel?
Henry and Clara’s relationship is touching but anchored with fear and a desire to find their way to the right side of things. What served as the basis for their relationship while you were writing?
Henry and Clara’s relationship is one of self-discovery for both of them. Henry begins to forgive himself, and finds that he is still capable of love. Clara discovers that her prejudices were misinformed. Her interactions with Henry, and his honesty, later affects how she later handles John’s disturbing revelations.
What is the next book that you are writing and when will it be available?
I have two novels in the works. One is a contemporary drama about a twelve-year-old whose parents both die tragically less than two years apart. He’s subsequently injected into the foster care system and eventually runs away hoping to find an estranged grandparent who lives off-the-grid in Montana. The second is about a man searching for his daughter years after a global catastrophe. Both novels should be released in 2019.
In 1865 a shadow hovers over the nation: the shadow lingers still…
Born into slavery, Henry’s young life is spent working in tobacco drying sheds on Missouri plantations. Freed at the onset of the Civil War, he’s alone, starving, and on the run from Confederate militiamen.
Five years later, Clara Hanfield, the daughter of a powerful New York shipping magnate, escapes her tyrannical father and travels west in pursuit of John Elliot, the man she loves. John, a U.S. Army lieutenant, was sent to the Dakota Territory where he discovers a government conspiracy to incite an all-out war with the Indians; a war meant to finally eliminate them as an obstacle to the westward expansion.
Henry finds himself caught in the middle.
Aided by Clara, John, and his native ally, Standing Elk, Henry must battle hatred, greed, and the ghosts of his past during this turbulent and troubling time in American history.
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In the Shadow of the Hanging Tree, by Michael A. McLellan, takes place in the 1860s and revolves around the lives of three people trying desperately to find their way in post-Civil War America. Henry, a man freed from slavery but never free from the horrors he endured, finds himself assisting Clara Hanfield in her quest to reunite with Lieutenant John Elliott, the man she loves and her father loathes. All three are caught up in the government’s plot to push the Native Americans from their land once and for all. Fate has dealt quite the hand to Henry, and his introduction to Clara and her mission to find John poses yet another obstacle to Henry’s quest to find the freedom and peace he deserves.
McLellan’s writing is simply breathtaking. The richness of the language he gives his characters immediately reels in the reader. The exchanges between Henry and Eliza are tender, and her early attempts to refine his speaking habits are affectionate and determined. The trials the two endure to survive as slaves in the South and their attempt to escape the lynch mobs running rampant tore at my heart. McLellan’s words ring all too true. Henry and Eliza’s story is painful, tragic, and well-crafted to convey the horrific circumstances of the era.
Clara’s rescue by Henry is one of those moments in the book worth rereading. Henry, for all intents and purposes, is making amends in any way he can for the loss he has suffered and the guilt he feels for that loss. Sweeping in and pulling Clara from the hands of the enemy, Henry begins a friendship he never could have seen coming. Theirs is a touching relationship punctuated with fleeting moments of light-hearted banter and anchored with fear and a fierce desire on both their parts to find their way to the right side of things. Clara, described as being much like her father, uses it to her advantage as she faces insurmountable challenges on her journey with Henry. Hers is a character refreshingly unlike any other I have read in the genre of historical fiction.
Randall breaks my heart. He is one of those characters the reader will root for from his first appearance. Without giving away too much of Randall’s subplot, I will say that from those first moments of indecision with Clara at West Point. I wanted to see Randall come out on top. The backstory involving his own child and his love for Clara makes for a unique connection and offers the reader all the more reason to admire Randall.
I am giving In the Shadow of the Hanging Tree an enthusiastic 5 out of 5 stars. McLellan has written a piece of historical fiction incorporating elements for every reader. His plotlines involving a family divided and the tragedy surrounding Henry’s life as a slave intertwine to create a beautiful story of friendship, trust, and stand as a testament to the strength of the human spirit. I highly recommend this book to any fan of novels from the Civil War era. McLellan’s characters are truly unforgettable.
Pages: 268 | ASIN: B071YMXDQL
Posted in Five Stars
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