2022 Reading Challenge

2022 Reading Challenge
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Guest Post: Polishing the Treasure: Bringing Marjorie Carter’s Red With Native Blood Series to Publication by Randal Nerhus

Today I’m pleased to introduce you to Randal Nerhus and Marjorie Carter, whose new series – Red With Native Blood – is now available. A Native American seer and shaman pens a powerful YA fiction novel based on a vision of an 1870s Apache battle. And the story behind the story is even more engaging! Enjoy…

About the Books

Talks Like Thunder

An inspiring story of resilience, grit, and perseverance of a young female Apache warrior.

Posthumously published, Red With Native Blood is a three-novella series that begins with Talks Like Thunder.

Talks Like Thunder is seven when her grandfather, Gray Fox, nantan of the Three Hills Chiricahua, learns of her parents’ passing and claims her, and they travel to his tribespeople’s village in the New Mexico territory. Thunder leaves behind her beloved but fairly ruined village that has been ravaged by fever, the white man’s “rotten stomach” illness, and likely starvation.

After at first wanting to escape her new Apache village, feeling like an outsider among the Chiricahuas, she soon falls into a somewhat contented routine, learning to ride a horse, developing hunting skills, and even making a special friendship with a young brave, Golden Eagle. As time goes on her grandfather teaches her many things about nature and its creatures, plants, the stars and universe, and the Apache’s supreme deity, Ussen.

She welcomes this new knowledge and works hard to stake her place. Soon, she is invited into the Warrior Society, a great honor for a girl, now twelve. As she begins her warrior training, she enjoys it not only for the time it affords her to spend with Golden Eagle, also a fellow warrior, but also the privilege of the status it brings her, after being ridiculed for so long by the other girls her age. Thunder proves her warrior mettle during a raid against the white-eyes who had stolen five Apache horses.As Thunder and Golden Eagle’s friendship deepens, they soon become betrothed. Thunder’s bliss doesn’t last long when, the next day, white soldiers—the Bluecoats—surprise the village the next day, outnumbering the Chiricahua warriors. She does not yet realize that her life will soon be changed forever.

Falling Star

In Volume Two, Falling Star, readers follow the journey of Falling Star of a Cheyenne village in present-day Wyoming. The fourteen-year-old girl is taught the spiritual ways of the Cheyenne by an old shaman, Raven’s Wing. Star has a vision telling her to go to Canada, and as her group makes their way north, the white-eyes attack her tribe, killing Raven’s Wing and all of the rest. The soldiers depart and, as Star lies near death from a rifle shot, Thunder finds her and nurses her back to health. The danger and violence continue when, on the girls’ journey together, Thunder is brutally violated by a trapper whom Star kills. They decide to turn south to search for Golden Eagle who, unknown to them, has escaped the white-eyes’ reservation to look for his beloved Thunder.

Guest Post: Polishing the Treasure: Bringing Marjorie Carter’s Red With Native Blood series to publication

I had met Marjorie Carter in a writing group in Mexico in 2002. After suffering a stroke, she needed help both on her ranch and transferring her manuscript, which had been on multiple floppy disks, to her computer’s hard drive. I gladly offered my assistance. Marjorie and I were friends for two years before she died of pneumonia in 2004, leaving her unfinished manuscript with me. I knew that others needed to see the gold that rested in the pages of her novella series.

Many of my family and friends wondered what I needed to do to bring the novel to publication, repeating the very question I asked myself several times a day. Marjorie took great care in writing her story, and I would need to do the same. What made completing the novel difficult wasn’t improving Marjorie’s work, but bringing my own writing up to her level.

Looking back, I was in a unique position to finish the novellas. Horses were central to the characters’ survival; weapons vital for self-defense and hunting; means of existence centered around the changing seasons. As I grew up on a farm in Iowa, I had a pet horse, used slingshots, knives, guns, as well as bow and arrows. I spent hours in nature nearly every day.

Though I didn’t study religion and psychoanalysis to write a novel, those tools were the core of my contribution to the story. And, of course, three years living among tribal people in the Amazon jungle gave me a much better sense of the world I wrote about.

In 2005, before delving too deeply into the manuscript, I looked for other unfinished novels that were brought to publication posthumously. There were more than I expected, and I found two of note. Multiple authors had put different endings on Jane Austen’s Sandition. Unable to find much about their reasoning, I assumed they left Austen’s work intact and simply completed the story in their own way. However, I had a strong urge to put Marjorie’s stamp on the novella series throughout. 

Earnest Hemmingway’s Garden of Eden was published twenty-five years after his death by Charles Scribner’s Sons in 1986. Tom Jenks, an editor for Scribner’s, cut and rearranged the manuscript from 200,000 down to 70,000 words, adding nothing, rewriting nothing. 

Although I found Jenks’ approach more detailed than the authors of Sandition, I couldn’t bear to haphazardly throw away Marjorie’s writing. Printing off her manuscript, exactly how she had left it, was my smartest decision surrounding the book. I can’t count how many times I referred back to that. Also, when forced to cut anything from the manuscript, I pasted it into a separate document. Throughout the years of rewrites, I’d pull out a paragraph, a sentence, or a phrase—until nearly nothing was left when the novel was finished. On almost every page of the published series, Marjorie, Steve, and I had our contribution.

I brought in Steven Lenker to help with editing in 2006. He was a master at clarity, continuous story flow, and deemed potholes in the plot unforgivable. Marjorie wrote without referring to when or where, and it seemed unproblematic to me. Steve, however, considered it the writer’s job to make reading as easy as possible. So, we added the time and place at the beginning of each chapter. Though readers confessed that they were too consumed with the story to take note of them, I found those guideposts very helpful while editing the manuscript. 

Steve’s background in anthropology drew my attention to make a significant change to Talks Like Thunder. Marjorie had Thunder living in a Pueblo village before her grandfather reclaimed her. After some heated arguments with Steve, I had to agree that Thunder would never consider herself an Apache if she was born Pueblo. Thus, we changed her early childhood to White Mountain Apache. 

Another change turned into an unending series of rewrites. Marjorie had told most of Talks Like Thunder in flashbacks. Steve and I wondered if the story would flow better chronologically. We spent several weeks perusing the manuscript, weighing what would be lost and gained. Marjorie had considerable merit to her approach, and we hated to disturb what she had written. However, during that time, my beta readers sent me their comments which confirmed our suspicions. The rich detail and power of Marjorie’s writing, along with dozens of characters, made the flashbacks too hard to follow. We had to change a major portion of her book.

We dug into cutting and pasting—much more work than I’d ever imagined. The flashbacks, when told in the moment, needed expansion, and my beta readers always wanted to know more about tribal life. That required more research and burrowing deeper into Thunder’s soul. 

Though every writer has writer’s block from time to time, I had it at every word. What had to be bridged was sandwiched between Marjorie’s writing that I dared not touch. Especially when writing scenes of Thunder, I could only move the story forward by asking: What would Marjorie do here? What would Marjorie say? What would Marjorie think? Every revision further boxed me in, until I reached the point where there was only one way to connect Marjorie’s work. 

Bringing this book to life, I wasn’t able to follow other authors’ approaches to complete Marjorie’s vision. Still, much time and great care was made for every decision, no matter how small. You might find some smudges I may have overlooked, but the unearthed treasure is published for all to see.

The first novella in the Red With Native Blood series, Talks Like Thunder, is available now on Kindle.  The audiobook is available on Audible.

In the second novella, Falling Star, Thunder meets a Cheyenne girl Falling Star and they forge a friendship in their harrowing journey to escape the white-eyes. Falling Star is available on Kindle now, and set to be released on Audible in June.

Red With Native Blood’s incredible culmination in the third and last novella of the trilogy, Singing Wind, the story of a young Lakota girl named Singing Wind who meets Thunder and Falling Star, all hoping to start a new life. Singing Wind will be released on Kindle in July and Audible in August.

About the Authors

Randal Nerhus received a BS in Agricultural Studies from Iowa State University in 1982, and an MA in Oriental Philosophy and Religion from Banaras Hindu University, India, in 1988. Shortly after obtaining his agriculture degree, he volunteered with the Peace Corps in the Philippines. While traveling in the mountains on the island of Palawan, he visited a remote tribal village and encountered a very different way of life—one of community, contentment, happiness, and love. Fifteen years later, his interest in tribal traditions deepened while taking part in a ManKind Project initiation that used native approaches to bring men into a life of integrity. In 2002, Marjorie Carter took him under her shamanic guidance which complemented and expanded upon his early Christian foundations. From 2013 to 2016, he lived in Colombia’s Amazon jungle, learning under Cocama shaman don Rogelio Cariguasari, and relevant parts of that experience were incorporated into the novel.

Marjorie Carter was born in Salem, Missouri, on July 17, 1937. Of Cherokee descent, she learned the traditional ways of her relatives from early childhood. During the eighth grade, she was forced to leave school to work and provide for her younger brothers. At the age of nineteen, she moved to Texas and began her careers in the restaurant and real estate businesses. During her life, she was diagnosed with seven different cancers and fought against melanoma for twenty-five years. A Native American seer and shaman, she had a passion for art, poetry, and stories. She wrote at her ranch near San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, hoping that Red With Native Blood would help reservation students embrace their heritage. Marjorie died of pneumonia on July 12, 2004.

You can find more information about the Red With Native Blood series at: https://randalnerhus.com

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