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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.



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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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

Amazon US

Amazon Canada

Amazon UK

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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A Tiny Candle in the Dark

All morning, I felt agitated by the news of the attacks in Paris and Beirut yesterday and found it hard to settle to any productive tasks. Then about noon, I reminded myself why I’m writing my current novel.

Like The Ambitious Madame Bonaparte, it’s another novel based on real events—the story of an oppressed people, starving and without hope, and how a minority faction rises up and turns to violence and terrorism. My main character is a woman from the dominant culture, taken captive and held hostage with her two young children for several weeks. While she is captive, she forms a bond with someone who acts as her protector. These two try to reach across the cultural divide and misunderstandings, but events race out of their control, and their efforts do not work out quite as they planned.

This story is so pertinent to the times in which we live. So this afternoon when I felt distracted by what’s happening, I reminded myself that one of the best ways I can help the world right now is to continue telling this tale of two courageous people who tried to bridge the chasm of hate.


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Cover Reveal for America’s First Daughter


I was fortunate to meet the author Stephanie Dray at the Historical Novel Society convention in June, and today I am pleased to participate in the cover reveal for America’s First Daughter, which she wrote with Laura Kamoie.


In a compelling, richly researched novel that draws from thousands of letters and original sources, bestselling authors Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie tell the fascinating, untold story of Thomas Jefferson’s eldest daughter, Martha “Patsy” Jefferson Randolph—a woman who kept the secrets of our most enigmatic founding father and shaped an American legacy.

From her earliest days, Martha “Patsy” Jefferson knows that though her father loves his family dearly, his devotion to his country runs deeper still. As Thomas Jefferson’s oldest daughter, she becomes his helpmate in the wake of her mother’s death, traveling with him when he becomes American minister to France. And it is in Paris, at the glittering court and among the first tumultuous days of revolution, that she learns of her father’s liaison with Sally Hemings, a slave girl her own age.

Patsy too has fallen in love—with her father’s protégé, William Short, a staunch abolitionist intent on a career in Europe. Heartbroken at having to decide between being William’s wife or a devoted daughter, she returns to Virginia with her father and marries a man of his choosing, raising eleven children of her own.

Yet as family secrets come to light during her father’s presidency, Patsy must again decide how much she will sacrifice to protect his reputation, in the process defining not just Jefferson’s political legacy, but that of the nation he founded.

About Stephanie
STEPHANIE DRAY is a bestselling and award-nominated author of historical women’s fiction. Her series about Cleopatra’s daughter has been translated into six different languages, was nominated for a RITA Award and won the Golden Leaf. As STEPHANIE DRAVEN, she is a national bestselling author of paranormal romance, contemporary romance, and American-set historical women’s fiction. She is a frequent panelist and presenter at national writing conventions and lives near the nation’s capital. Before she became a novelist, she was a lawyer, a game designer, and a teacher. Now she uses the stories of women in history to inspire the young women of today.

Stephanie’s Links:
Website; Facebook; Twitter; Goodreads

About Laura
LAURA KAMOIE has always been fascinated by the people, stories, and physical presence of the past, which led her to a lifetime of historical and archaeological study and training. She holds a doctoral degree in early American history from The College of William and Mary, published two non-fiction books on early America, and most recently held the position of Associate Professor of History at the U.S. Naval Academy before transitioning to a full-time career writing genre fiction as the  New York Times  bestselling author of over twenty books, Laura Kaye. Her debut historical novel,  America’s First Daughter , co-authored with Stephanie Dray, allowed her the exciting opportunity to combine her love of history with her passion for storytelling. Laura lives among the colonial charm of Annapolis, Maryland with her husband and two daughters.

Laura’s Links:
Website; Facebook; Twitter; Goodreads

Rafflecopter Giveaway (Ten Readers will receive access to a Digital e-Galley at Edelweiss)
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Pre-Order Links:
Barnes & Noble


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Looking for Reviewers


Jay Amberg, my friend and publisher, just came out with a new novel. It’s an archaeological thriller called Bone Box. Here’s the synopsis:

On a hill overlooking the Aegean Sea in Turkey, an international team of archeologists discovers a stone box that first-century Jews used to rebury their dead. The box’s Aramaic inscription: Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ. Sophia Altay, the beautiful French-Turkish archeologist who heads the team, tries to keep the discovery secret until she can authenticate the ossuary. She knows that people will kill to obtain the relics—and to suppress the box’s other contents, documents that could alter Western history.

Joseph Travers, an American sent to Turkey to evaluate the archeological dig, soon finds himself pulled into the web of betrayal, reprisal, and violence. In his journey through Istanbul’s mosques and palaces, the archeological sites around ancient Ephesus, and, ultimately, the strange and mystical terrain of Cappadocia, he comes to understand the epochal meaning of the bone box.

Jay has agreed to give five review copies to my friends. There are a few simple conditions to qualify:

a) be someone who already reads and enjoys thrillers
b) have previously written reviews on Amazon or Goodreads
c) promise to write your review within a month of the receipt of the book

If you are interested, send me an email via the “Contact Me” form on this blog. In your message, include the follwoing:
1) your preference for paperback or ebook
2) the street or email address to send the book
3) a link to your existing reviews–don’t worry, I’m not going to check their style or content; I’m just verifying that they exist.

The first five people who contact me and meet the qualifications will receive a review copy.

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Bone Box excerpt 1: Uncovering the Ossuary

This is an excerpt from a friend’s just-published novel.

Jay Amberg, Author

I’m happy to announce that Amika Press has just published Bone Box, my thriller/mystery novel set at an archaeological site in Turkey. It is available at Amazon and the Amika Press website, on Kindle, and coming soon to Barnes & Noble, iBook, Kobo and Nook.

Here is an excerpt from the book’s second chapter. I would love to find out what you think. Please let me know.

The sky is cobalt, but the sun is already low—and little light reaches the trench in which the two men work. The evening air is hot and still as though it has hung there for centuries. Sweat soaks the stout man’s sleeveless T-shirt and mats the gray and white hair on his arms and shoulders. His nose is bulbous above his mustache, the top of his head bald except for long strands of hair hanging limply over his left ear. He grunts as he pushes dirt…

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Ayasuluk Hill

This is a friend and colleague, Jay Amberg, standing on the site where much of his upcoming thriller Bone Box is set.

Jay Amberg, Author

Jay Amberg at the Temple of Artemis. Photograph by Mark Henry Larson. Photograph by Mark Henry Larson.

In this photo, I’m standing at the foot of Ayasuluk Hill in Turkey, where much of my novel, Bone Box, plays out. The column over my left shoulder is from the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The Saint John’s Basilica archeological site is directly above my head. The 7th century citadel stands at the top of the hill above the İsa Bey Mosque built in 1375.

Humans have lived on this hill at least since 6000 BC. From the walls of the fortress, you can look down through Western history at the cathedral’s ruins, the mosque, the remnants of the temple, the ancient city of Ephesus, and the Aegean Sea.

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Judging a Book By Its Cover

Hello all. A friend is looking for responses to a proposed book cover design. If you could wander over, take a look, and leave a comment, that would be helpful.

Here’s the synopsis of the book:

On a hill overlooking the Aegean Sea in Turkey, an international team of archeologists discovers a stone box that first-century Jews used to rebury their dead. The box’s Aramaic inscription: Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ. Sophia Altay, the beautiful French-Turkish archeologist who heads the team, tries to keep the discovery secret until she can authenticate the ossuary. She knows that people will kill to obtain the relics—and to suppress the box’s other contents, documents that could alter Western history.

Joseph Travers, an American sent to Turkey to evaluate the archeological dig, soon finds himself pulled into the web of betrayal, reprisal, and violence. In his journey through Istanbul’s mosques and palaces, the archeological sites around ancient Ephesus, and, ultimately, the strange and mystical terrain of Cappadocia, he comes to understand the epochal meaning of the bone box.

Here’s a link to the cover design.


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Interview: Ruth Hull Chatlien, Author of ‘The Ambitious Madame Bonaparte’

Nicole Weaver, an award-winning children’s author, was gracious enough to do an interview with me this weekend. You can read it here.

Melange of Cultures

I have a lot of respect for authors who can write historical fiction. It takes a tremendous amount of research to write in that genre. Ruth Chatlien has written a compelling story that won gold in the Readers’ Favorite International Award Contest. I am beyond happy she accepted my request for an interview.Ambitious_Mme_Bonaparte_cover

Can you tell me about yourself?

I’m a native of northern Illinois who has worked in educational publishing as both a writer and editor for 25 years. I’ve also published several short stories and poems in literary magazines. My husband is a writer too; in fact we met in a writers’ critique group. We were critics of each other’s work for three years before we ever starting dating. Having this vocation in common really helps us to support each other. I’m also a breast cancer survivor. I was diagnosed in December 2013 – the same month that my…

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Bringing Home the Gold

Hi all. I know I’ve been neglecting this blog. I’ve been trying to get into the new novel, and that’s taken most of my creative energy lately.

However, I just had to tell you all about a new honor for The Ambitious Madame Bonaparte. The book took the gold medal in the Reader’s Favorite Book Award Contest in the category of Fiction—Historical Personage! I’m really excited. I’ll be going to Miami in November to receive my medal. Woo hoo!




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