Preview of BLOOD MOON: A CAPTIVE’S TALE

My upcoming novel Blood Moon: A Captive’s Tale will be published on June 14. Today, I want to share the cover and one of the early scenes.

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EXCERPT

July 1862

“Mama, mama, come look!”

The voice of my son breaks into the conversation I am having with my hired girl. Jimmy races into the kitchen and stops so abruptly that he nearly topples over. He gazes up at me, his blue eyes as wide as I have ever seen them. “Mama, a b-big war party is riding past.”

My heart lurches as I remember last month’s ominous sign, but mindful of my son, I place a hand on my chest to calm the palpitations. Although I am by nature a fearful woman, I must appear calm for the child’s sake. “Past the agency?” I ask. “They are not stopping here?”

“No. They are riding to the ford. Very fast.”

I expel my breath, yet my nerves remain as taut as freshly tuned piano wires. The Sioux have been restive this summer, so I dare not dismiss the possibility of danger. Jimmy grasps my hand and pulls me toward the parlor. I resist, saying, “Wait, let me think.”

My servant speaks up, “Mrs. Wakefield, I think I know what is happening.”

I glance back at the raven-haired girl, and for a moment, God help me, I wonder if I can believe her. Because Mary is Sioux. The name she was given at birth was Makawee, but the Reverend Mr. Williamson renamed her when she enrolled in his mission school. For a second, I stare at her. Although she is clad in a blouse and skirt like a settler, all I can see is the bronze skin and high cheekbones that mark her as a different race from me. Then I remember how tenderly this girl has helped nurse my children through their illnesses, and I tell myself I can trust her.

“Go on.”

“I heard that the Chippewa killed two of my people on the 22nd. This party must be going to take revenge.”

So they are not going after whites. My knees go so weak with relief that I brace my hand upon the table. During my years in Minnesota, I have learned a thing or two about the enmity between the Chippewa and the Sioux. In 1858, when John and I were living in Shakopee, the two tribes fought a battle so near the community that many townspeople went out to watch as though it were a wrestling match at a county fair. After the fight ended, John treated the wounded Sioux, and I assisted him as much as I was able, given my lack of medical training.

Now Jimmy leads me out the front door. We leave our fenced-in yard, cross the path that bisects the cluster of agency buildings, and climb the slight rise of land on which the warehouse stands. Once we reach that building, we halt and gaze at the government road that runs past the agency and curves toward the ford just west of the place where the Yellow Medicine River empties into the Minnesota.

The war party that gallops before us is large indeed. Even though I delayed coming outside for at least a minute, a steady stream of riders still passes our settlement. They travel so quickly that clouds of dust rise as high as the horses’ flanks. Judging from the direction they are headed, I conclude that Mary must be right. The party seems to be heading toward the Big Woods to fight the Chippewa.

BLOOD MOON: A CAPTIVE’S TALE is now available for preorder at the following links:

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Cover Reveal!

Check out the cover reveal and preorder information for my upcoming novel at the blog Layered Pages.

 

 

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Dakota War Stories: Mary Schwandt and Snana

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My upcoming novel Blood Moon: A Captive’s Tale tells the story of Sarah Wakefield, a woman who was taken captive with her two young children during the Dakota War of 1862, which took place in southern Minnesota.

Today, I want to tell you about another remarkable captivity narrative from this war: the story of Mary Schwandt and Snana, the woman who protected her.

Mary was a fourteen-year-old German immigrant who was working as a servant for the Joseph Reynolds family at the beginning of the war. Being at her employers’ home most likely saved her life that day. Back at her family’s place, six of her relatives were killed, and only her younger brother August managed to escape.

As the Reynolds family and their servants (including Mary) tried to flee to the town of New Ulm for safety along with several others, a party of about fifty Indians accosted them. Most of the settlers were killed in the attack, but Mary and two other girls (one of whom was mortally wounded) were carried away.

While she was in captivity, Mary was taken in by a 23-year-old Dakota woman named Snana (also known as Maggie Good Thunder or Maggie Brass). Snana had recently lost her own young daughter, and when she saw Mary, her maternal feelings caused her to take pity on the girl and care for her. She protected Mary for the duration of the war, even going so far as to hide her in a hole in the tepee floor covered over with buffalo robes and blankets.

Mary was among the more than 200 prisoners set free at Camp Release on September 26, 1862, at the end of the war. Four years later, she married a man named William Schmidt and had several children with him. Yet, she never ceased to be grateful to her adopted Dakota mother Snana, as the photograph above shows. It was taken in 1899, long after the conflict that brought these two women together.

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Little Crow: Caught by Contradictions

My upcoming novel Blood Moon: A Captive’s Tale tells the story of Sarah Wakefield, a woman who was taken captive with her two young children during the Dakota War of 1862, which took place in southern Minnesota. Between now and publication in June, I will be sharing background about the war and a few excerpts from the novel.

Today, I will talk about Little Crow, the Dakota warrior who was the chief Indian leader during the fighting.

 

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During the early 1860s, the Dakota people of Minnesota lived on a reservation along the Minnesota River, having ceded the rest of their lands to the U.S. government. The reservation was divided into the Upper reservation, home to the Sisseton and Wahpeton bands of the Eastern Dakota, and the Lower reservation, home to the Mdewakanton and Wahpekute bands. Little Crow, more properly called Taoyateduta (His Scarlet nation), was a chief of the Mdewakanton. It was four young men from his band who committed the massacre at Acton, the event that began the Dakota War of 1862.

Early in my novel, before the war breaks out, my main character Sarah Wakefield muses on what she knows of Little Crow and the seeming inconsistencies in his character:

Late in the afternoon as we draw near the agency, we pass through several Mdewakanton Sioux villages—including those of Big Eagle and Little Crow. In each, tepees and bark lodges cluster around a common central area, and in Little Crow’s village, a still-unpainted, two-story frame house stands. The sharp scent of freshly cut lumber hangs in the air. Bob, the teamster who drives my wagon, says that the government recently built the dwelling for the chief.

I have seen Little Crow only once, but I remember him as a handsome man in his fifties with an intelligent expression in his hooded eyes. John has told me a great deal about him, having learned bits of the story from Galbraith. Taoyateduta or “His Red Nation,” as Little Crow was originally called, was a wastrel as a youth. He traveled out west where he hunted buffalo, traded furs and whiskey, became a proficient poker player, and married and divorced a couple of wives. The Sioux say he matured only after his father died, leaving the chieftainship to a younger half brother. Taoyateduta returned to his father’s village to challenge that decision, and two of his half brothers shot him through both forearms, mangling his wrists and crippling his hands. His bravery on that occasion won him the band’s loyalty, and he became chief, adding his father’s name of Little Crow to his own.

As a leader, Little Crow is said to be educated, charismatic, pragmatic, and full of contradictions. He urges his people to farm but will not plow his own land. He dresses in white men’s clothing but still wears a Sioux medicine bag. He attends Dr. Hinman’s Episcopal mission but refuses to convert. Little Crow’s paradoxes fascinate me, as I too struggle to find middle ground, striving to balance the strangling propriety of my New England upbringing with the freedom—and dangers—of my current life.

Once the Acton massacre occurred, Little Crow was overtaken by events. He knew that war might be possibly destroy his people, but as a respected chief, he felt he had no choice but to lead them in the fight. He survived the war and escaped to the west. The following year, he returned to Minnesota with his son, was recognized, and murdered.

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Free Giveaway

“You say my father haunts the White House. . . .”

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I am giving away electronic copies of my historical short story “Robert Todd Lincoln’s Last Words.” All you need to do is to follow this link to sign up for my mailing list.

 

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New Book by M.K. Tod

It’s publication day for my friend Mary Tod! Her third historical novel Time and Regret is available today.

When Grace Hansen finds a box belonging to her beloved grandfather, she has no idea it holds the key to his past—and to long buried secrets. In the box are his World War I diaries and a cryptic note addressed to her. Determine to solve her grandfather’s puzzle, Grace follows his diary entries across towns and battle sites in northern France, where she becomes increasingly drawn to a charming French man—and suddenly aware that someone is following her.

 From her grandfather’s vivid writing and Grace’s own travels, a picture emerges of a many very unlike the one who raised her: one who watched countless friends and loved ones die horrifically in battle; one who lived a life of regret. But her grandfather wasn’t the only one harbouring secrets, and the more Grace learns about her family, the less she thinks she can trust them.

About M.K. Tod: Time and Regret is M.K. Tod’s third novel. She began writing while living as an expat in Hong Kong. What started as an interest in her grandparents’ lives turned into a full-time occupation writing historical fiction. Her novel Unravelled was awarded Indie Editor’s Choice by the Historical Novel Society. In addition to writing historical novels, she blogs about reading and writing historical fiction at www.awriterofhistory.com.

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Praise for Time and Regret:

“With fluid prose and a keen eye for detail, M.K. Tod takes readers on a decades-spanning journey of wartime loss, family secrets, and, ultimately, redemption.”

— Holly Smith, Managing Editor, Washington Independent Review of Books

 

Spiced with mystery and a spark of romance, TIME AND REGRET is an immersive journey into one man’s brave but terrifying slog through the killing fields of France and Flanders during WWI. Tod’s prose brims with exquisite atmospheric detail, drawing the reader into an unforgettable story.

— Juliet Grey: author of the acclaimed Marie Antoinette trilogy

 

Time and Regret, equally captivating and suspenseful, presents well-drawn characters who strive to resolve past mysteries and overcome present obstacles. M.K. Tod is an impressively gifted storyteller who creates relatable conflicts and believable dangers. Highly recommended!

— Bestselling author Margaret Porter

 

“Hugely satisfying – impossible to put down.”

— Elizabeth St. John author of The Lady of the Tower

 

“Time and Regret is something as rare as a treasure hunt with heart. Between the gritty trenches of World War I, the romantic allure of present-day France, and the cut-throat New York arts scene, M.K. Tod has spun a gripping family drama that delves deeply into the effects of war on the human soul and takes us on an intriguing journey of self-discovery. It is a book rich in hard-won wisdom and crucial historical insights, and Tod’s perceptive voice leads us unfalteringly through some of the darkest chapters in human history to a very satisfying conclusion.” Anne Fortier author of The Lost Sisterhood

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Upcoming Novel: The Captive’s Tale

I am proud and pleased to finally announce the project that I have been working on since before the publication of The Ambitious Madame Bonaparte. I hope this new book will be published in early 2017:

THE CAPTIVE’S TALE

Southern Minnesota. August 1862. Smoke fills the horizon and blood soaks the prairie as Little Crow fights to drive white settlers from his ancestral homeland. Sarah Wakefield and her two young children are fleeing for their lives when two warriors capture them. One is Hapa, an enraged murderer who wants her life. The other is Chaska, an old acquaintance who promises protection. Chaska takes her to live in his mother’s tepee, but emotions run so high among both Indians and whites that Sarah and Chaska may not survive the war that rages around them.

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