Research, Research, Research… oh, my. By Constance Gillam

Lakota Moon RisingLast year I self-published Lakota Dreaming, a contemporary mystery with a strong love story. The main character, Zora Hughes, had visions of an ancestor’s life (genetic memories). My readers were enthralled and wanted to know more about this ancestor. So I decided to write a short prequel (novella length) historical about Zora’s ancestor. How hard could it be? I knew the characters in question and figured I could whip this novella out in one or two months. Fast forward thirteen months, fifty thousand plus words and much hair pulling later.

What took so long? In my naiveté, I didn’t take into consideration the amount of research needed on the Plains Indians, life in the 19th century and the fact I knew nothing about Julia’s (Zora’s ancestor) love interest and future husband. I learned a lot about life on the Great Plains and about me as an author (that I’d never write another historical). My hat is off to all authors who write historical fiction. You’re not paid enough.

Lakota Moon Rising takes place in 1851 and starts on a Louisiana plantation. The main character, Julia, a slave, escapes and is later captured by the Comanche and then traded to the Cheyenne. She witness the brutality of the Indians but appreciates the beauty of the wide-open Plains. She struggles against her attraction to a Lakota Sioux warrior. She doesn’t want to be enslaved by love.

Below is an excerpt from Lakota Moon Rising, being released on October 1st and now available for preorder at a sale price of $0.99 through September 22nd:

The sun was at its highest, and the heat lay on the land like a smoldering buffalo hide. Sunkawakan Iyopeya wiped sweat from his brow and surveyed the village. Few people were about, a few children playing in the dust at the opposite end of the village and two captives, one minding her cooking fire, the other sitting. Reined in by its master’s hands, his mount blew out an impatient breath and pawed the earth. The hunting party was right behind them. Jubilant with their catch, the men rode hard to the rise.

Mindful of the women and children, Sunkawakan Iyopeya turned and shouted, “Halt.”

They didn’t heed his warning but flew past him riding straight toward the heart of the village. This was not part of the agreement. They knew children and the elderly wandered between the teepees. But Sunkawakan Iyopeya knew their pride was at stake. They couldn’t be bested by a Lakota Sioux.

Leaning over his mount, he spurned his horse to greater speed, hoping to beat the men to the village.

“Hiyah,” he shouted to his stallion. His heart banged in his chest like a ceremonial drum.

He’d passed all but two of the horsemen by the time they reached the center of the camp. He could see only one of the women, fear and defiance playing across her features. The first horseman managed to avoid riding over her. The second couldn’t stop and plowed into her, knocking her to the ground. Sunkawakan Iyopeya could hear the rest of the hunting party, twelve men, hard on his horse’s hooves.

She’d gotten to her hands and knees, trying to rise again. Leaping from his mount’s back, he fell onto the woman, sheltering her thin body with his own and rolling them between the hooves of the oncoming horses. One hoof caught him a glancing blow, but he didn’t loosen his grip.

They rolled into a teepee, bringing down the whole thing.

Her breath blew hot and choppy on his neck. She smelled of corn and woman musk. For a brief moment, he cradled her in his arms.

“Get off me, you heathen,” her muffled voice said from beneath him.

The last stretch had been a race for her life, and it had left him winded as though he’d been in battle. When she pushed at his shoulders, he realized his full weight pressed her into the ground.

He raised his head and stared down at the bundle in his arms. Her face was different than any he had ever seen. Her skin, the parts not covered in soot, was brown like the nuts that fell in the forest. Her eyes were like honey, and they spat fire.

Rolling off and standing in almost one motion, he reached down for her. She slapped his hand away and struggled to her feet.

“Good with the horses not with the women,” one of the men from the hunting party shouted. The other Cheyenne laughed.

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