Thursday, September 21, 2017


Hi everyone! The end of the year is in sight and with it comes such a time crunch for most of us. In the publishing world, things begin to gear up toward the end of August and don’t grind to a slow-down until Christmas. Holiday stories must be gotten out in a timely manner for readers, and there are many contests that deadline at Dec. 31, as well.

In the midst of all that, I managed to finally get one of my own short novels out, and what a joy! THE DEVIL AND MISS JULIA JACKSON started out as a short story for our Prairie Rose Publications anthology, Sweet Texas Christmas. BUT, sometimes stories take on a life of their own, and this one did just that. It soon became obvious that it was not going to be eligible to include in the anthology when the word count topped 20K and I was only about halfway finished. These characters needed a longer story! Here’s the “short” version:

A woman with no home…

Beautiful Southern belle Julia Jackson has just been informed she and her niece must find a new home immediately—or else. With no family to turn to in Georgia, Julia takes a mighty gamble and answers an advertisement for a nursemaid in wild Indian Territory—for the child of a man she knows nothing about. Together, she and five-year-old Lauralee waste no time as they flee to the safety of the new position Julia has accepted. She can only hope this move will be the start of a bright future for them away from Lauralee’s dangerous much older half-brother.

A rancher with no heart…

The death of Devlin Campbell’s young daughter has ripped the light from his life. Though the birth of his son, little Jamie, should have been a source of happiness, the subsequent loss of his wife forces Dev to ignore his emotions and trudge through life’s joyless responsibilities. But all that changes with the arrival of Miss Julia Jackson from Atlanta! Not at all what Dev is expecting in response to his ad, his resentment boils over at her failure to mention her tag-along niece—a painful reminder of the loss of his own little girl just two years earlier. Yet, how can he deny the sunshine Julie brings into his drab existence with her very presence?

Can love find a way?

In the depths of Dev’s boundless sorrow and his accompanying anger, is there room in his life for anyone else as Christmas approaches? Can Julie convince him that love is the cure for a broken heart, and hope is the only recipe for a new beginning between THE DEVIL AND MISS JULIA JACKSON…

THE DEVIL AND MISS JULIA JACKSON is available now for pre-order for KINDLE, and will release on October 26 in both digital and paperback. It’s full of action, suspense, and of course, Christmas magic!

Here's the link to order THE DEVIL AND MISS JULIA JACKSON for your very own! It will also be available in paperback on October 26.
Fall is definitely here, and it’s time to settle down with a good book in a comfy chair with a favorite beverage (and maybe some chocolate!) and read, read, read!

Friday, September 15, 2017

The Indian Civil War, Part Two

Troy D. Smith

In my blog post last month, I set the stage for the “Five Civilized Tribes” to get involved in the American Civil War (you might want to re-read that one first!) Now, it is time to see how the war started in Indian Territory.

Each of the Five Tribes were divided between “modernists” who adopted white ways and views and “traditionalists” who had not been as eager to do so. Many of those modernists (though not all) were also mixed blood (with white fathers or grandfathers), and quite a few ran successful businesses or plantations (and owned black slaves). It was common for them, therefore, to identify culturally more with the Southern states than with Northern ones, and to sympathize with the Confederacy. 

Traditionalists, on the other hand, tended to view their tribes’ treaties with the United States as sacrosanct –their word given was their word kept (whether the other side did so or not). In addition, many (though not all) traditionalists either opposed slavery outright or viewed it more from a traditional native approach.

This divide was not the same among all five nations, it fell along a spectrum. At one end of that spectrum you found the Choctaws and Chickasaws, among whom support for slavery and sympathy for the Confederacy was by far a majority opinion. In the middle you found the Cherokees and Creeks, who were both pretty well evenly divided in their support –those divisions falling along the same lines as the previous divisions between pro-Treaty and anti-Removal factions, with those who had opposed Removal most likely to support the Union (but the federal government removed them! one might say… however, it was done at the behest of the Southern states. Those tribesmen most inclined to “take the deal” offered by Southern states during the Removal period were then more likely to support the Confederacy and the South). At the other end of the spectrum we’d find the Seminoles. They had a higher proportion of traditionalists, had violently resisted removal, had more readily accepted runaway slaves into their tribe, and still tended to treat their “slaves” as semi-autonomous.

The U.S. had established several forts in Indian Territory around the time of Removal, and part of the removal treaties was a promise to protect the Indians in their new homeland. Most folks don’t stop and think about this, but when the government removed tens of thousands of Indians from the South to Oklahoma, there were already indigenous people living there who didn’t appreciate their neighborhood becoming so crowded all of a sudden. This included, in the western part of the territory, Comanches and Kiowas (designated “wild Indians” at the time) who were prone to raid their new “civilized Indian” neighbors.

When war began between the U.S.A and the C.S.A., those federal forts were in a tenuous position, located so close to the Confederate states of Arkansas and Texas (and therefore so difficult to reinforce and re-supply if the Confederates attacked.) Federal forces abandoned the forts, therefore, and fell back north to Kansas. Many tribal members viewed this as a violation of the U.S. treaty obligations. Confederate troops moved in and occupied the forts.

Union forces may have retreated from Indian Territory, but the Confederacy looked upon it as a prize –for several reasons. First, there were a lot of valuable resources there, controlled by the Indians –including enough saltpeter mines, it was estimated, to manufacture gunpowder sufficient to supply the entire Confederate Army. There was also the matter of strategic location. The Confederacy had designs on the American Southwest, and if they controlled what is now known as Oklahoma they could cut that region off from the rest of the Union.

The Confederacy definitely wanted to negotiate with the Five Tribes, and gain them as allies.

They sent a diplomatic mission to Indian Territory, led by someone uniquely suited for the task: Albert Pike. Pike was born and raised in Massachusetts, but had spent most of his adult life in Arkansas. He was a newspaperman, a poet, and a lawyer. In that latter capacity he specialized in representing removed tribes in their financial claims against Washington to get full value for the lands they had been forced to cede. He worked, at various times, for the Creek, Choctaw, and Chickasaw nations, and was respected and well-regarded by all of them. 

Pike’s military escort for this mission was led by legendary Texas Ranger Ben McCulloch, now a Confederate brigadier general.

(note: Pike was also a high-ranking Freemason, and is still honored as such. There is also evidence he was highly placed in the Ku Klux Klan after the war.)

Not limited to the Five Tribes, Pike negotiated with the “wild” Comanches and Kiowas. He got them to sign what was essentially a nonaggression pact; they would not be allies of the Confederacy, but would maintain a truce and not attack them. Pike had higher aspirations for the “civilized” tribes in the eastern half of the territory, though, and –meeting with the leadership of all five tribes –had some attractive offers for them.

First, he pointed out that the federals withdrawing from their forts in the region had been a treaty violation. Then, for those Indians who still had a sense of loyalty to the Union because of the treaties the tribes had signed, he argued that was well and good, but with secession the “Union” with which they had signed those treaties no longer technically existed (a point that a lawyer for the other side, had one been present, could have argued against). Then came the enticements. Ally with us, Pike said, and you will get the following:

                   We will take over the U.S. obligations to you, re: annuity payments for your lost lands.
                   We will recognize your sovereignty, and your own legal jurisdiction. That is, if for example someone from Texas comes to the Creek Nation and kills a tribal member, we will recognize your right to prosecute him under Creek law (this is something the U.S. NEVER did).
                                        If you agree to raise troops from your tribe for our cause, we will pay to arm and equip them.
                   We will guarantee that each of your tribes has a seat in the Confederate Congress.

These were, surprisingly, very good terms. Confederate President Jefferson Davis was equally surprised, as he had not authorized them and believed the Confederate Congress would never agree to them all. In the long run, it didn’t matter, since the Confederacy lost. In the short term –it worked. Pike was able to get the leaders of almost all the tribes to sign a treaty of alliance, even the Seminoles. There was only one holdout.

John Ross, Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation.

Ross, who had been in office 34 years, was a traditionalist. This was true even though he was, by blood, 7/8 Scottish, and was a slave-owner. He had been backed for chief in 1827 by the principal traditionalists of that time, and had resisted ceding his people’s homeland until the bitter end: his own wife perished on the Trail of Tears, dying of exposure after giving her blankets away to freezing children. While not a member of the traditionalist Keetowah Society (some of whom were abolitionists), he was strongly supported by them. His counterpart among the modernist Cherokees was his longtime opponent Stand Watie, who had been part of the pro-Treaty faction during the Removal period and had barely escaped an assassination attempt upon the nation’s arrival to Indian Territory.

Ross met with Pike and McCulloch, but stressed to them his determination to remain neutral in the coming conflict. There were many reasons for this: his people were divided on the subject; he was still making frequent trips to Washington to get the rest of the money owed to his people, and signing an alliance with the Confederacy would risk losing all claim; like many of his people, he preferred to honor his people’s treaties; and, most importantly, a point of geography. The Cherokee Nation was in the northeastern corner of Indian Territory, sharing a border with Kansas. If the Union Army decided to invade Indian Territory, his nation would be where it happened, and his people would take the heaviest brunt of the fighting. In contrast the Choctaws and Chickasaws, who were most eager to join the fight on the side of the Confederates, lay farther to the south.

The Confederate representatives were not pleased at all. Pike and McCulloch made a point of immediately having a meeting with Ross’s rival Stand Watie, whose pro-Confederate sympathies were well-known. The implication to Ross was clear: Just like in the lead-up to Removal, if you won’t sign our treaty we know Stand Watie will. This was probably primarily meant as a threat to Ross’s political standing among his own people, and he may have recognized it as such, but it also brought a new factor into the discussion for him.

After the Trail of Tears, the anti-Removal faction who supported John Ross and the pro-Treaty faction who had followed Stand Watie’s family fought bitterly for over a decade. It started with the assassinations of Watie’s brother Elias Boudinot, their cousin John Ridge, and their uncle (and leader) Major Ridge. After that, there was an ongoing bloody feud, tantamount to a civil war, in the newly located Cherokee Nation (other principal combatants included the Starr family, some of whom would be famous half-a-century later as Wild West outlaws). After much death on both sides, a peace had been negotiated, and all involved came together to form a unified Cherokee government, followed by a decade of relative peace and prosperity.

Pike’s threat of negotiating with Watie instead of Ross threatened to re-ignite the Cherokee civil war.

John Ross, therefore, agreed to a compromise. He would call for a national referendum of the Cherokee people, and allow them to vote on whether to ally with the Confederacy or not. The vote was held, and the pro-Confederates won. John Ross, reluctantly and against his own judgment yet with a desire to represent the will of his people and maintain tribal unity, signed the alliance treaty. While significant portions of each tribe opposed the alliance –including a minority even among the Choctaws and Chickasaws –the official tribal governments of all Five Tribes had joined themselves to the Confederate cause.

Ross’s longtime ally Opothleyahola, the traditionalist Creek chief, was deeply saddened that his old friend was casting his lot with the Confederacy, which Opothleyahola refused to do despite being in a similar situation (supported by traditionalists but outvoted). Opothleyahola and Ross had been on different sides in the Creek War of 1813-1814 (Ross fought among Andrew Jackson’s Cherokee allies against the Red Stick Creeks), but as fellow traditionalists had been on the same side since the Removal period. Opothleyahola had supported the death sentence carried out on William McIntosh, who was a Creek version of Major Ridge (having signed away the tribal lands).

Opothleyahola made it clear that he would not personally support the alliance his people had made with the Confederacy. Pro-Union people started streaming to his camp –at first the traditionalist Creeks, but then Seminoles, Chickasaws, and a few Choctaws… as well as free blacks and runaway slaves.

Meanwhile, the Native American Confederate army was being raised and quickly taking shape. Uniformed soldiers were equipped from all Five Nations. The two initial Cherokee regiments were commanded by Colonel John Drew (whose men were mostly full bloods loyal to John Ross) and Colonel Stand Watie (whose troops were mostly mixed-blood modernists loyal to Watie). The two initial Creek regiments were commanded by the sons of William McIntosh (Daniel and Chilly), whose father had died at Opothleyahola’s command. Albert Pike was commissioned brigadier general, a rank held later in the war by Stand Watie.

Opothleyahola and his motley collection of Unionists felt threatened by the Confederate forces coalescing around them. He sent a letter to President Lincoln, asking for sanctuary in Union Territory. Meanwhile, a Confederate brigade was being sent to give Opothleyahola’s group one last opportunity to change their minds, at gunpoint if necessary. It was commanded by Douglas Cooper, who had before the war been the U.S. Indian Agent to the Choctaws and Chickasaws. In addition to those two tribes, the brigade included three Texas regiments, John Drew’s Cherokee regiment… and the Creek regiment led by Daniel McIntosh.

The confrontation was about to begin.

Next time: the Flight of Opothleyahola

Troy D. Smith is a history professor at Tennessee Tech, where he teaches Native American History, Environmental History, and the U.S. West. As an author of western fiction, he is a past winner of the Peacemaker Award and two-time winner of the Spur Award. His award-winning novella Odell's Bones centers on the Civil War in Indian Territory; one Spur judge described it as "reading like a lost chapter of Lonesome Dove."  

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Ranger Jim's Ramblings for September.

Howdy, all,

This month, we stick with the Texas Rangers, but leave the days of the old West.

Today is the release date for my latest Texas Ranger James C. Blawcyzk novel, TEXAS JEOPARDY.  Some of you may notice the different middle initial. That's because this novel features the sixth generation of the Blawcyzk family. The main character is the original Jim's great-great-great-great grandson. This Jim gets into deep trouble when he shoots and kills a drug dealer during a raid. On top of that, there's a series of murders taking place, murders where the perpetrator or perpetrators are careful not to leave any clues.

Matters really turn ugly when the drug cartel attempts to not only eliminate Jim, but also his family. From a bullet punctured car chase through the streets of downtown Austin,  to attempts to gun Jim down, the action is non-stop from beginning to end. With accurate depictions of modern day police procedures, the reader will also gain insight into how the present day Rangers work. Available on Amazon from Fire Star Press, an imprint of Prairie Rose Publications, and on my website.

Also just released from Center Point is the large print version of my first even published novel, Death Rides the Rails. the new title for Trouble Rides the Texas Pacific. The reader can go from 1870s Texas to 2017 Texas in one afternoon of exciting reading.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

         Upon leaving for the Southwest, Sister Blandina was warned about teaching in an isolated area by two traveling frontiersmen. “Travelers are sometimes snowbound for two weeks and you are alone. This though is not the greatest danger to you. Your real danger is from cowboys . . .no virtuous woman is safe near a cowboy” (Segale, p. 13, 1932)

One-room Schoolhouses #6
Sister Blandina Segale, THE OUTLAW’S TEACHER
By Julie Hanks  aka  Jesse J Elliot

            Once again, life proves stranger than fiction. A great example is Sister Blandina Segale, a nun who taught in the Southwest. Tenacious, resourceful, and caring, Sister Blandina set off to teach the children of the Southwest, often finding no school, no supplies, and a country full of lawlessness.  Her unusual encounters with Old West outlaws later became the stuff of legend and were the subject of an episode of the CBS series Death Valley Days entitled “The Fastest Nun in the West," Albuquerque Evening NBC News, June 5, 2014, 5:42, and it focused on her efforts to save a man from a lynch mob. In addition to her encounters with mobs and outlaws (Billy the Kid and his gang), Sister Blandina spent most of her time building schools and hospitals, teaching in Colorado and later New Mexico. She was tenacious in her commitment to education, women’s and children’s health, the welfare of Native Americans, and her religion.
            Segale was born in Italy. Her family moved to Cincinnati where she became a nun with the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati. She was ordained there and actively fought to eradicate white slavery and abuse to women and children. She arrived in Trinidad, Colorado, in 1877 to teach poor children and was later transferred to Santa Fe, where she co-founded public and Catholic schools. During her time in New Mexico, she worked with the poor, the sick, and the recently arrived immigrants. 
            Sister Blandina was the only healthcare provider in the area willing to nurse a teenage gunslinger in Trinidad, Colorado, who had been shot in the leg. She continued to nurse him for nine months until he finally died. The young man was a member of Billy the Kid’s gang. One day the entire gang showed up to visit him, and the Sister describes her first encounter with the gang leader. “One would take him to be seventeen—innocent looking, save for the corners of his eyes, which tell a set purpose good or bad” (Segale, p. 65).  His fellow gang members, themselves no older than the boy who lies dying were peach colored and innocent looking—in spite of their gruesome love of violence.
            Though Sister Blandina is most remembered for her interactions with outlaws, she was a dedicated educator and nurse who worked hard to develop hospitals and schools in the isolated Southwest communities. One of the ways she persuaded the community to build and improve her schools was recounted in an section taken from her journal.
            Upon arriving in Trinidad, Colorado, I discovered the only schoolhouse was a tumble down adobe. The church leaders once asked if I had a plan by which I could build without money [June 1876]. “‘Here is my plan, I told the Sisters. Borrow a crowbar, get on the roof of the schoolhouse and begin to detach the adobes. The first good [New] Mexican who sees me will ask, ‘What are you doing, Sister?’ I will answer, ‘Tumbling down this structure to rebuild it before the opening of the fall term of school.’”
The other sisters laughed, but she went ahead and began detaching adobes and throwing them down. The first person who came across her was a wealthy Dona Juanita Simpson. . . “when she saw me at work she exclaimed, ‘For the love of God, Sister, what are you doing?’ I answered, ‘We need a school house that will a little resemble those we have in the United states, so I am demolishing this one in order to rebuild a house with a single room.’ Mrs. Simpson returned with six men. . . and in a few days the old building was thrown down, the adobes made and sun-burnt” (Segale, p. 55).
            In less than a month, a new stone foundation was laid, and a schoolhouse was built on top of it (Eness).  In addition to her educational expertise, Sister Blandina also had experience in nursing. During the Civil War, she observed the Sisters of Charity in Ohio nurse wounded soldiers. She felt that this experience would make her more capable of taking care of Native Americans, orphans, and others in need. Little did she know that this experience would create a bond between her and Billy the Kid.
            For the Sister’s kindness toward his dying gang member, the Kid carried out several favors that she requested of him:  1. Do not torture and kill the four doctors who had refused to help his friend who died, and 2. Don’t rob and kill the people on the stage that she was riding many years later.
            She described that last encounter with the outlaw while riding on that stagecoach years later. “He recognized me at once and raised his large-brimmed hat with a wave and a bow. Before turning and riding away, he stopped to give us some of his wonderful antics on bronco maneuvers” (Segale, p. 85).
            She was transferred to Albuquerque in 1881. While there, she helped build three schools for the general population and [sadly] one for the Indians taken as young children from their tribes. (And yet, she sympathized with the Native Americans and the loss of their land and lifestyles.) One of the Indians she sympathized with was Geronimo. Because of this she would later go and teach the Apache women and children.
Once again her services were required in Colorado, however, upon returning to Trinidad, a dilemma arose. No one on the Board of Education doubted her and the other nuns’ academic qualifications, they had all passed the qualifying exams while many other teachers failed, but the schools did not want the specter of religion in the public schools and asked the nuns to exchange their habits for more conventional, secular clothes.
            In the summer of 1892 Sister Blandina went before the Trinidad School Board.  A new school supervisor, unaware and unconcerned with the educational and health accomplishments Sister Blandina and her nuns brought to the area just a few years back, asked her to “change her mode of dress.”
            She replied: “The Constitution of the United States gives me the same privilege to wear this mode of dress as it gives you to wear your trousers. Good-bye. . .”  From this time forth, Sister Blandina worked in Catholic schools and hospitals until she died in 1941.  She and her Sisters of Charity are still found in local schools and hospitals—in fact, one such school is less than a mile from my home.      

Works Cited

AP News “Fastest Nun in the West: Blandina Segale on Path to Sainthood” on the Albuquerque
   Evening NBC News, June 5, 2014, 5:42.

Enss, C. (2008). Frontier Teachers: Stories of Heroic Women of the Old West. The Globe
   Pequot Press: Guilfort, CT.

Schmiesing, K. “Blandina Segale, Sister of Charity in the Wild West,” Crisis Magazine:
   A Voice for the Catholic Laity. February 25, 2013.

Segale, B. (Sister). (1932). At the End of the Santa Fe Trail. Originally published in 1932 by
   Columbian Press and reprinted in 1948 by Bruce Publishing Company, Milwaukee.


Sunday, August 27, 2017


Even when on our best behavior, we fiction writers are strange beasts. We spend our days staring off into space, dreaming up people who may have lived experiencing events that might have happened. Some days, the story gushes from inspiration to paper, almost writing itself. Other days, we couldn’t string three words together with a gun to our heads.

But then, there was that time when you wrote 3,500 words in a day, and the subsequent book was snapped up by the first publisher who read it. And you were wearing those lime green socks your kid gave you at Christmas. Or that Tractor Supply cap. Or maybe you were sitting in the second booth on the right at IHOP instead of at your writing desk at home. That’s where superstition comes into play.

Many famous authors admit to having rituals or lucky charms. They include time, place, wearing certain articles of clothing (or not!), and even way-out OCD things like the number of pencils on the desk. Here are a few notables.

Truman Capote never started or ended a piece on a Friday. He refused to accept any hotel room assignment containing the number “13” and allowed no more than three cigarette butts in his ashtray. He also favored writing while lying down, as did Mark Twain, Edith Wharton, and George Orwell.

John Steinbeck wrote his drafts in pencil…make that one of twelve perfectly sharpened pencils (no more, no less) he kept on his desk.

(Note to self: buy a dozen pencils and a sharpener. Proceed to write several great American novels. No problem, right?)

Jack London insisted on writing one thousand words every single day of his career. (Slackers like me, take note. And, by the way, define "career." Can we three to four-day-a-week writers prorate that number?)

John Cheever (from the waist up)
John Cheever dressed in a suit and tie when he was preparing to write. Then, he went to his basement and took off his pants. Writing in his boxers served him well. He won a Pulitzer for The Stories of John Cheever.

As for me, I don’t have any particular talismans or rituals that I rely on. That said, I notice that I usually write with my feet propped on a table. I tend to get new ideas or work out story details when I’m driving. Strangely, I have done a lot of my best writing in busy places like restaurants or airports. And there is that Mickey Mouse coffee mug…