I’m really delighted today to welcome Linda Acaster to my blog. I first met Linda when we both attended a social media marketing course in York, run by Anita Chapman. She’s an East Yorkshire lass, too, and I met her again when I began attending my local RNA chapter meetings, as Linda was a regular. (Oh, I miss those meetings! I wonder when we’ll be able to resume them?) Linda served her writing apprenticeship penning short stories, mainly for women’s magazines, selling over seventy before turning to novels. She joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association to gain a cheap critique, and won what was then the Netta Muskett Award at her second attempt with a sweet medieval romance. She was a reader for the New Writers’ Scheme for several years. Here’s Linda to explain why she’s not your average romance writer.
Not your average Romance – or Romance Writer
History has always fascinated me; not the lives of the rich and famous, but the ‘how did they do that’ daily lives of ordinary people – not necessarily of the British Isles. Just as some very young children develop an obsessive focus on insects or dinosaurs, I had an obsessive focus on the peoples native to North America. As my interest matured, my mother would regale anyone who’d listen with the fact that she cut my first war bonnet from newspaper when I was four.
As to the seeding of this interest, I’d love to point to the influence of Westerns shown on television, but my family didn’t own one (yes, I am that old). By the time we did own a set and the choice of Sunday afternoon viewing was either a war film or a Western, I was asking the type of questions which leaves a parent wanting: Why do they race their horses round wagons waiting to be shot? Why are their faces always painted with two stripes down their cheeks?
Evidently it wasn’t only my parents I cornered, for neighbours would gift me illustrated books bought at church bazaars. These became portals to a wholly different, colour-rich, world. There weren’t just the Sioux of the war (coup) bonnet or the Apache of the southern deserts depicted so often and so badly on television, there were hundreds of peoples, some with cultures and languages as different as British and Thai. 200 years on, the US Government still recognises over 500 separate Native American peoples within its borders. As many again fell to European illnesses to which there was no immunity or to what would now be referred to as genocide.
If some of the horrific history was daunting, the Romance of the nomadic life of the Northern Plains peoples, their horse herds, drum-singers, and buffalo (bison) hunt, never wavered. Over the years my collection of research books rose to more than 150. From these I learned, and practised, how to sew skins with an awl and sinew thread (no needle required), how to decorate them with dyed porcupine quills and beadwork, how to make moccasins – rawhide soles are notoriously difficult (large dog chews were often to be found soaking in the bath) – and that body paint and feathers weren’t ornamental, they gave a short history of the person in the same way a modern soldier’s uniform, insignia and medals do.
The most interesting of the books came from late 19th and early 20th century ethnographers who ventured onto rather dire reservations to interview the old, many of whom had lived through or were a party to such battles as Custer’s Last Stand. Through native interpreters and the ubiquitous sign language which had been used for generations for inter-tribal trade, these authors painstakingly recorded the minutiae of a way of life that was fast receding into memory.
It was from these books I discovered accepted etiquette: a man and his mother-in-law never spoke directly, even if living in the same tipi, as well as courting and marriage customs. For the Apsaroke people, who I depict in Beneath The Shining Mountains, this extended to an annual Wife-Stealing festival, where previous lovers of recently married women attempted to lure them away from their new husbands, much to the amusement of watching villagers. A surprising number of women acceded, though it seems there were substantial enticements. Some, however, fought tooth and nail.
Beneath The Shining Mountains
‘Lover? I have no lover! I am chaste. There’s not a man alive who can entice me.’
Moon Hawk is playing a dangerous game. Her heart is set on Winter Man, but why would a man with so many lovers want to take a wife?
Challenging his virility captures Winter Man’s attention, but in a village of skin tipis where every word is overheard their escalating game of tease and spar soon spirals beyond control, threatening Moon Hawk and her family with ridicule and shame. From buffalo hunting to horse raiding, this is a story of honour among rival warrior societies, and one woman’s determination to wed the man of her dreams.
Beneath The Shining Mountains is free with KU or purchase from Amazon here.
Linda Acaster writes… all sorts: from a sweet Medieval Romance to a Western with a shotgun-toting school ma’am, Fantasy to Horror, to a writer’s How-to guide. Her latest fiction, the Torc of Moonlight trilogy, is a contemporary Gothic Romance with dual timelines set in her native Yorkshire. Where else? Yorkshire has more sacred waters than anywhere else in England. Never dropped a coin into a wishing well?
Find out more about Linda on her website.
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You can read an associated post on Native American decoration techniques on Linda’s blog here.
Images are copyright to Linda Acaster and show her own reproduction artefacts.