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One morning in the life of a writer…
As I step outside at 4:00 a.m., the ambience is reverent. The calls of Great Horned owls echo through the dark silence.
I walk away from the house with the dogs trotting ahead of me. Big flakes of snow fall from the sky and glisten on Shannon’s back as she explores her favorite places, the places where, in the night, cottontails, coyotes, and bobcats have visited. I don’t see Jake. He’s mostly black and is invisible out there in the junipers and sage. Jake and Shannon are Shetland Sheep dogs, members of our family. I see no mountain lion tracks in the new fallen snow, but I’m wary, panning my flashlight over the cliffs behind the house. On occasion, we’ve been hiking in the canyon and discovered lions stretched out on the red sandstone ledges right above us. They are better predators than we, and I respect that.
I’m surprised when I walk down, following Shannon, and discover Pia resting by the gate. I know that means the rest of the small buffalo herd is close by. If I cock my head, I can hear them out there in the darkness, snuffling as they graze. Their hoofs in the snow are absolutely quiet.
Pia is fifteen this year. She’s an average-sized buffalo cow, weighing around 1,100 lbs. in the depths of winter. When spring arrives, and the grasses green up, she’ll gain another one hundred pounds. I climb through the buck-and-pole fence and crouch down to stroke her side. She licks the shoulder of my down coat, and exhales in that buffalo way that means, “I’m glad to see you.”
This close relationship might lead you to believe that Pia is a pet. She’s not. She’s a wild buffalo with whom we happen to have a love relationship. Do you remember in The Little Prince where the fox comes to the leading character, and tells him, “you must tame me,” then explains: “to tame, it means to establish ties.” Establishing ties does not necessarily mean an animal has become “domesticated,” only that a willing bond of trust has been established between individuals. As many of you know, Pia is an orphan, or rather was. We adopted her, became her parents, when she was twenty-four hours old. We found her alone, shivering. How she’d managed to survive the night after her mother was killed by lightning is still a miracle to us. At 45 lbs. she’d fought off every predator that had chased her through the stormy night, and had the scars to prove it, including three broken ribs. Despite her injuries, catching her was an adventure. A story for another time. Let’s just say that buffalo calves are powerful little creatures.
I reach down to stroke Pia’s left hoof. The long hair on her leg is warm, but the hoof is cold where it rests in the snow. We just discovered that Pia has arthritis. Deep cold is a misery for her. She’s been limping. When we brought our amazing veterinarian out to examine her leg, he gently said, “Well, it might be time for the slaughter plant.”
“Well, that’s not going to happen, Steve, so figure out a way to ease her pain.”
This afternoon we’ll go to Worland, a town about thirty miles away, to pick up her meloxicam. We’ve been giving her aspirin, which helps a little, but not enough.
Pia nuzzles my arm with her head, and looks away, out at the darkness where she must see the calves moving. She has responsibilities in this world. This is something humans do not always understand. The creatures with whom we dwell are intelligent, dutiful, and protective of those they care about. Pia has her own noble longings and obligations. This winter her chief responsibility is to protect the young calves we keep around the house. This is a duty she takes seriously. We live in a remote area. Mountain lions, wolves, and occasionally bears hunt our buffalo. Though she’s hurting, Pia will defend these calves if they’re attacked, with her own life if necessary.
Shannon silently arrives and attentively sniffs Pia’s back foot. Jake is more cautious. He’s been chased by the buffalo and knows to keep his distance. I see him standing with one paw lifted in the light of the house, waiting for our return.
I run my hand along Pia’s back, and pat her as I murmur soft confidences. The air this morning is luminous, prayerful, not a time for anything loud. Buffalo have a thick undercoat that is the finest cashmere in the world, much finer than vicuna wool, for example. When woven into garments, it’s extraordinary. But now, very soft and warm beneath my fingers. On the coldest winter days, magpies ride the humps of buffalo with their feet buried deep in this wool to keep them warm.
I reach inside the fence and tear up a handful of dry grass. When I give it to Pia, she takes it in her mouth and chews slowly. I get another buffalo exhale, which I know means, “Thank you.”
Mike and I have raised seven buffalo bottle-babies—calves we fed on bottles of milk. Not all survived. Those who didn’t are buried within walking distance of our house. We visit them often, just to tell them we miss them.
There are many people who would say that we “anthropomorphize” our world, that is, we give human traits to things that do not, in reality, possess them. As I look into Pia’s eyes, visible in the gleam of the flashlight resting in the snow, I wonder how anyone could think she lacks the ability to think or love or care about her world. I have seen her tenderly licking her baby’s face, then running like the wind in joyful play with her herd. I have seen her charge predators to drive them away from those she loves. Once, Pia protected me from a rather nasty cow who correctly recognized me as an apex predator. It took great bravery. Pia is low in the buffalo herd hierarchy. Because she’s smaller and less of a fighter than the dominant cows, she’s always the last to eat or drink. She patiently stands out on the edges of the herd, waiting her turn. She wisely backs down from fights with bigger more aggressive cows. Yet, on that day, she was willing to whirl around and stand her ground to protect me long enough that I could scramble through the fence and get away. To Pia, Mike and I are part of her personal herd. It would never occur to her not to protect us. Just as we will protect her for as long as we can in good conscience. There will come a time where conscience demands great kindness… but that is not today.
I am reminded that for most people this is not the real world. Smartphones, the internet, traffic—out of self-defense this world tends to force people to live inside their heads. We cocoon our emotions so we can survive the onslaught of noise.
Pia’s mouth is soft against my fingers as I give her another handful of grass.
It’s a morning for pondering and anthropomorphizing…
I wonder who we would become if we could cease being merely observers and live in a true relationship with the earth. What new shapes would the world take on if we could listen to the animals breathing, the rocks sighing in summer wind, and the plants whispering to each other?
Do our presences here matter? I can’t help but think we have a purpose in this world. A Purpose that is not tied to electronics, but rests rather in caring for one another.
The lights go in the house behind me. Mike is up, probably making coffee, wondering where I am.
Today we will finish People of the Morning Star. Ending books always conjures mixed emotions. There’s a sense of catharsis when the story is complete, but a sense of loss that those characters, and their journeys, are ending.
I pat Pia again. “I’ll see you this afternoon with medicine,” I say.
I pick up my flashlight and start back through the snow for the house. Shannon trots at my heels with her tail wagging. Jake has vanished, but I know from long experience that I’ll find him sitting at the door upstairs, eagerly waiting to get back inside where it’s warm.
For just a few more moments, I will live here and now in this world.
Then it’s back to another world of long ago. Back to A.D. 1,200, and Night Shadow Star’s final confrontation with the evil sorcerer whose madness has turned Cahokia upside-down…
Here’s hoping for a beautiful wet springtime.
Kathy and Mike
SUMMER NEWSLETTER, 2012
We woke up to a cool morning, 52 degrees, which is unusual for the first of August in northern Wyoming. As we sat on the porch with our cups of coffee, the sun rose over the red cliffs and shone out across the meadow where the buffalo were grazing. It’s always a quiet moment for us. The sight of grazing animals seems to touch something deep in the human soul that generates a sense of peace. Maybe it’s just the presence of the Wild so close. Maybe it’s because everything is connected to everything else and, for just a few moments, the boundary between animal and human ceases to exist, and we share the land and air as One.
It’s been very dry here, but not as bad as other places in the West. We’ve had enough afternoon and evening thunderstorms to keep the grasses from going completely dormant. We hiked up to Long Ridge yesterday to look at a tipi ring site with our friends Laura and Shannon, and were relieved to see some green blades in the middle of the bunch grasses. Not much in the way of seeds this year, though, which means the food sources for many animals and birds are way down. Every night we have mule deer in the yard browsing on our recently flowered nightshade, and raccoons knocking around the bird feeders. The good thing about living in the middle of nowhere is that no scrap goes to waste. We just put it outside at night, and some hungry creature is happy to fill his empty belly.
What’s happening with Pia and Stardust?
Thanks for all your notes asking about Pia and Stardust. For those who don’t know, Pia was an orphaned buffalo calf that we raised of bottles on goat’s milk. She’s fourteen this year, happy and healthy. But she’s always had a special place in her heart for babies, probably because she had a hard time growing up. After all, first she lost her mother, then she lost her herd, and had only two humans as parents and a Shetland sheep dog named Jessie as her best friend. The result is that Pia is very protective of her calves, and Stardust, born in 2011, is a good example. Ordinarily buffalo cows nurse their babies for seven or eight months, then they start kicking them off, weaning them. Not so with Pia. In July, when Stardust was fourteen months old, Pia was still nursing her. Mother and daughter were very attached to each other. The problem for us was that Pia’s physical condition was declining. With the drought, the nutrition in the grasses didn’t provide enough calories to keep Pia healthy if she was nursing…so we caught the buffalo and separated Pia from Stardust. We brought Stardust down to the pasture in front of our house, along with two friends, where we could keep an eye on them. Stardust seemed to be fine. Every day she romped and played with her friends, and ate well in the irrigated meadow. Pia, however, was heartbroken. She wandered away from the herd and spent lonely days and nights by herself with her head hanging low. When she walked, it was as though she barely had the strength to put one hoof in front of the other. We’ve seen buffalo cows do this when a calf dies, but this was different. We’ve weaned Pia’s calves for eleven years and never seen her in such despair. So…after two weeks of being apart, Pia’s milk has dried up, and yesterday we reunited Pia and Stardust. It was a sight to see. When Pia entered the pasture, she couldn’t see Stardust, but she could smell her, and mother and daughter started calling frantically to each other. Then Pia broke into a run, found Stardust, and after licking her all over, heaved a sigh that sounded very much like utter contentment. This morning Pia’s eyes are shining and happy.
What’s Happening in the Rest of the World?
On the opposite side of the spectrum is the recent tragedy in Aurora, Colorado. After listening to the story on the news, we went into the library and pulled out our copy of An Interrupted Life, the story of Etty Hillesum, a Dutch Jew in her thirties, who was taken to Auschwitz. Here are just a couple of passages that struck us. In the deportation camp, Etty says goodbye to a friend, and writes, “We were both able to bear our loss…what is so desperate about this place is that most people are not able to bear their lot and they load it on to the shoulders of others. And that burden is more likely to break one than one’s own.” Later, she says, “Whenever yet another poor woman broke down…or a hungry child started crying, I would go over to them and stand beside them protectively…force a smile for those huddled, shattered scraps of humanity…for what else could one do? Sometimes I might sit down beside someone, put an arm around a shoulder, say very little and just look into their eyes…People said to me, ‘You must have nerves of steel to stand up to it.’ I don’t think I have nerves of steel…but I certainly can stand up to things. I am not afraid to look suffering in the eyes…. Against every new outrage and every fresh horror we shall put up one more piece of love and goodness…”
Incomprehensible acts of violence generate feelings of rage, even hatred. Etty reminds us that love and goodness are the only real solace for horror.
What’s Happening with the Books?
We are hard at work on People of the Morning Star, and awaiting the September releases of the paperback editions of A Searing Wind and The Broken Land. People of the Morning Star will be our second novel about Cahokia. Twenty-two years of concentrated research on Cahokia and the American Bottoms just across the river from St. Louis have provided us with a stunning new insights to this largest city in pre-contact America. Imagine a city it would have taken five days to walk across. The place became a polyglot concentration of population, all come to share the magic of Cahokia. Entire villages in a five-state area packed up and moved lock, stock, and barrel to help build the great city, play chunkey, worship Old-Woman-Who-Never-Dies, and the resurrected “Morning Star,” the bodily reincarnation of the legendary hero of the Beginning Times, known to archaeologists as Bird-Man because he’s portrayed as human with wings, and maybe snakeskin.
We’re fortunate in that People of the River, which has long been a favorite of so many of our fans, now acts as a prelude—a good description of what archaeologists are calling “Old Cahokia.” Readers who digest People of the River and enjoy their time with Lichen, Nightshade, and Wanderer, will be amazed at the changes wrought in the next two generations. But then, a lot can change with a civil war and a religious transformation. As archaeologists, we’ve always been fascinated by messianic movements. People of the Morning Star should be delivered to Tor/Forge sometime this fall. We’ve already written over 400 pages of the draft.
In October, People of the Black Sun, the fourth and final book in the Iroquois saga, will be released. We honestly love this book. Of course, we love them all, but keep in mind that we’ve spent around a half million words with these characters, and it’s hard to let them go. We hope you feel the same way when you finish the last page.
Have a wonderful time during the remaining months of summer…
We send our best regards,
Michael and Kathleen
GEAR & GEAR – MARCH NEWSLETTER, 2012
We are delighted to announce!
A SEARING WIND
BOOK THREE OF CONTACT: BATTLE FOR AMERICA
MARCH 6, 2012
“Had you asked me the morning before the battle of Mabila, I would have told you I was prepared for the horror, the desperation, and the ensuing pain. I would have told you that the chance to kill the Adelantado, Hernando de Soto was worth the coming blood and misery. After all, we were fighting to save our world.”
“Elder?” The Hopaye’s face swims into her vision, as if through clear water. “Let us help you up. You’ve had too much sun. We need to move you into the shade...get you something to drink.”
Hands reach out. She feels her bony body raised; the dank odor of sweaty people who press too close replaces the stench of Mabila.
Absently, she says, “Black Shell? Oh, Black Shell, the question still lingers: How many lives is a world worth?”
“Elder?” the Hopaye inquires.
“I have to tell him...warn him...”
“Black Shell. He has to understand. Mabila was but a flickering spark. Ahead of him, at Chicaza, is the searing wind...”
So begins the third and final volume of the CONTACT: BATTLE FOR AMERICA series. We think that in A SEARING WIND we’ve crafted a fitting and worthy conclusion to the story of Black Shell, Pearl Hand, and their battle against Hernando de Soto and his Spanish army. If you haven’t read the first two books, COMING OF THE STORM and FIRE THE SKY, we suggest that you do. Both are available in paperback and can be ordered through your local bookstore or through any of the bookseller link icons on our www.Gear-Gear.com homepage. The novels are also available for download on both Kindle and Nook. If you haven’t read the previous books, it’s not absolutely necessary since in A SEARING WIND our characters explain the backstory to the Chicaza people. That’s a great advantage to a story that covers a lot of country and brings in new characters.
A SEARING WIND is a tough book for Black Shell. Fate has taken him full circle and brought him back to his native Chicaza. Now he has to face the family that banished him as a coward. Not only must he win their trust and convince them of the danger posed by de Soto’s Kristiano invasion, but he must engage the monster face-to-face in a desperate game of wits, bluff, and deception that will determine the fate of the Chicaza and the entire native world for which he fights. It won’t be easy. It’s a toss-up as to who will kill him first: the Spanish, or his own family! We’re uncommonly proud of this one and hope that you’ll find as much emotion and joy in the reading of it as we had in the writing.
Also new: GraphicAudio.net has just released PEOPLE OF THE RIVER Volumes 1, 2, and 3, as their latest “movie in your mind” performance audio. Following PEOPLE OF THE WOLF, PEOPLE OF THE FIRE, and PEOPLE OF THE EARTH this latest performance is one of their best. Not only have the actors really gotten into the characters, but we’re delighted to relive the introduction of one of our favorite personalities: Nightshade. Graphic Audio stories come on standard CDs and can play on any device. We listen to them on long cross-country drives. Some of our fans listen to them at night before they go to sleep. Others listen while commuting, or on headsets as they clean house. If you haven’t given Graphic Audio a try, please do. You can Google them at www.GraphicAudio.net or call at 1-800-670-5220.
In the news, we’ve just returned from New York where we met with both of our publishers, our agents, and publicists. We’ve about concluded a deal with Macmillan to release all but a handful of Tor/Forge titles from LONG RIDE HOME all the way up to BROKEN LAND. The deal will only exclude titles agented by the William Morris Endeavor agency: THE VISITANT, MORNING RIVER, and BIG HORN LEGACY. We’ll post on the blog when these titles do finally come available.
During the New York meetings, we tentatively came to an agreement to write four more books for Tor/Forge. They include a Native American fantasy, a new PEOPLE book based on the latest research at Cahokia, and a spin-off series from that Cahokia book that will continue the story of most of the major characters as they encounter the complexities of the Cahokian empire. Think of them as the Great Lord of Cahokia’s secret agents.
Within the next few weeks we will be inking a deal with a Hollywood screenwriter who has written a screenplay for one of the People books. You’ll find more details on the website and in the Facebook Gear fan club comment threads. To date this is just an attachment for the screenplay and nothing else. So, no, the book hasn’t been optioned, let alone green-lighted for production. We’re still at the most preliminary of the preliminary stages. Once we approve the screenplay, the writer and his company will start shopping it around. Nevertheless, it’s a start.
We’re happy to report that in the current horribly depressed book market, the sales on the PEOPLE OF THE LONGHOUSE series is keeping up with expectations. BROKEN LAND has sold most of its hardback print run to date. The numbers are nothing like they were before the crash, but we’re keeping our heads above water while many authors we have known and loved have been washed away. Take note: If you’re a Gear collector, you might want to spring for BROKEN LAND now. Within a couple of months the last of the hardbacks will be gone. BROKEN LAND will be out in paperback in September just prior to the release of the fourth book PEOPLE OF THE BLACK SUN in October.
If you are reading the PEOPLE OF THE LONGHOUSE series and have finished LONGHOUSE, DAWN COUNTRY, and BROKEN LAND, you need to know that Odion, Wrass, Koracoo, and Baji will be back in PEOPLE OF THE BLACK SUN. When our editor, Susan Chang, read the final draft she wrote us and said, “I got so emotional I had to stop editing and just read.” She let it sit for a week before she went back with the red pencil and did the hard edit. If we can elicit that kind of response from a hard-core no-nonsense editor like Susan, we think PEOPLE OF THE BLACK SUN is going to provide you with a great pay-off. The kind that leaves you saying, “Wow!”
Coming by April 1 to Amazon Kindle are COMES A GREEN SKY and FRACTURE EVENT our modern anthropological thrillers. Both novels were originally written for our German publisher, Bastei/Leubbe and published as DAS ENDE ALLER TAGE and DER EDEN EFFECT. If you’re a Maureen Cole and Dusty Stewart fan from the Anasazi Mysteries this will be your chance to share time with these two favorite personalities.
For the time being neither COMES A GREEN SKY nor FRACTURE EVENT will be available for Nook, although our agent is working on that. If you think Middle East politics is complicated, try ebook publishing!
Meanwhile, we’re hard at work on the new books. We’ll let you know how they are progressing. In the short term, we hope that you enjoy A SEARING WIND. It should be available at a bookseller near you or through any of your on line distributors. We recommend you contact your closest independent bookstore, Books-A-Million BAM, Barnes & Noble, Borders, or Hastings for a copy. That or please feel free to link through our www.Gear-Gear.com home page!
Be well and read in good health!
W. Michael Gear and Kathleen O’Neal Gear
WINTER 2012 NEWSLETTER
January 30, 2012
“I don’t feel my body, just the air cooling as color leaches from the forest, leaving the land strangely gray and shimmering. When the blue sky goes leaden, and the rounded patches of light falling through the trees curve into bladelike crescents, I faintly begin to sense my skin. I have the overwhelming urge to run, but I can’t. My legs do not exist...”
So begins BROKEN LAND, the third book in the PEOPLE OF THE LONGHOUSE series. It has been 12 years since the events you read about in THE DAWN COUNTRY. Odion, Wrass, Zateri, Tutelo, and the others have grown into adulthood. Koracoo has become a Standing Stone matron, taking the title of Jigonsaseh. Cord and Baji have gone back to their people, but the ties forged during the desperate hunt for Gannajero remain. They will become the glue that binds together a small band willing to resist the increasing threat of Atotarho’s brutal attacks.
THE BROKEN LAND is a January 2012 release, and is available on book store shelves and from all on-line vendors. ISBN 978-0-7653-2694-2. In the current market, with book sales in free fall, a limited number of first editions were printed, and not all bookstores received copies. If you like hardcovers, you might want to hurry.
The fourth and final book in the PEOPLE OF THE LONGHOUSE series is titled THE BLACK SUN. The manuscript is complete, has been turned in, and is currently scheduled for October 2012. We hope we managed to bring this grand epic to a worthy conclusion. One of our favorite characters in THE BLACK SUN is the forever loyal and devoted Gitchi! Victory, like all good things, only comes at a terrible price. We have to tell you, this quartet of books is one of our all time favorite PEOPLE stories.
And, yes! Black Shell, Pearl Hand, and the dogs are coming back! Following COMING OF THE STORM and FIRE THE SKY, the third and final book in the CONTACT series will be released in March. The title is A SEARING WIND. Black Shell must take the battle against Hernando de Soto home to his native Chicaza. The only question is who will kill him first? The Spanish invaders, or his own family? Pearl Hand, as usual, has her own laconic ideas about things. You can preorder on-line. Use any of the tags on the www.Gear-Gear.com home page. We don’t have an ISBN yet, but any bookseller should be able to figure it out.
Meanwhile, life just spins faster and faster! We’ve had a busy winter in the buffalo business. In December the Western Bison Association voted to pursue the delisting of Woods bison from the Endangered Species list. Recent genetic research has determined that Woods and Plains bison are the same. A couple of mitochondrial haplotypes (maternal family lines) have a higher frequency in the woods population, but no more so than certain human haplotypes in various places around the globe. Iowa State University has finished the initial phase of the bison genome. From the preliminary report, they’re having real trouble distinguishing bison from beef genes. Given the relatively recent split between bison and cattle, we’re probably looking at the reclassification of buffalo as Bos bison (it’s currently Bison bison) when this is all over…which is where it probably should have been all along.
On the book side, we’re in the process of having Kathleen’s ABYSS OF LIGHT, TREASURE OF LIGHT, and REDEMPTION OF LIGHT released as Kindle e-books. Note: She wrote these titles under Kathleen M. O’Neal. Michael’s WARRIORS OF SPIDER, WAY OF SPIDER, WEB OF SPIDER, THE ARTIFACT, STARSTRIKE, REQUIEM FOR THE CONQUEROR, RELIC OF EMPIRE, and COUNTERMEASURES will also be out on Kindle by the end of February. Our DARK INHERITANCE and RAISING ABEL, authored under W. Michael Gear and Kathleen O’Neal Gear will be released at the same time. Pricing is at $5.99 a download. For those of you who have been waiting, the negotiations over the Macmillan titles continue to drag on...and on...and on. Eventually, we will get it worked out and you will be able to find all of our books as e-books.
Once again, Graphic Audio has released another of the PEOPLE books on their “Movie in your Mind” audio. The 3 volume set of PEOPLE OF THE RIVER joins PEOPLE OF THE WOLF, PEOPLE OF THE FIRE, and PEOPLE OF THE EARTH. If you haven’t tried the Graphic Audio, we urge you to. Simply Google WWW.GRAPHICAUDIO.NET for more details or call them at 1-800-670-5220. We’ve become rather addicted to these acted out audio editions, especially on those long Wyoming road trips. Trust us, from Thermopolis, you’ve got hours to anywhere that resembles a population center. It really helps to hear different actors adopting the roles of our favorite characters. Complete with sound effects! Graphic Audio did such a good job they researched the sounds that antelope make when they’re curious. We don’t think that any Gear collection is complete without these.
Coming up next? We’re working on a final edit of COMES A GREEN SKY and FRACTURE EVENT, the thrillers we sold to Germany. While both are still out to different US editors, we’re trying to get the manuscripts polished enough to release on Kindle as original fiction. Our fans have been asking for more Dusty and Maureen books for years, and we’ve had to tell everyone, “Sorry. They’re only out in Germany.” Assuming you haven’t read the German editions of DAS ENDE ALLER TAGE and DER EDEN EFFECT, they will soon be available in English as e-books.
As to what we will write next, that partially depends on our meetings with Tom Doherty, Linda Quinton, and Susan Chang at Tor/Forge in February. We’ll also meet our new editor at Simon & Schuster, Adam Wilson, and discuss future projects. Currently we’re hoping to dust off A TOUCH OF SANITY, a Civil War novel written years ago, and go through it again. We’re ready for a change of pace to recharge the creative batteries. Another inviting story is that of the Native woman carried back to Iceland by the first Viking settlers in North America around A.D. 1000. Her mitochondrial DNA has been recovered in several modern Icelandic lineages. Our problem is—given our penchant for research—do we really want to try and cross the North Atlantic from Labrador to Iceland in a Viking longboat? Some of you will recall that when we were writing PEOPLE OF THE MIST we decided we had to canoe across Chesapeake Bay to get a feel for The Panther’s journey. As veterans of many canoe trips, we would have never guessed how really, REALLY, frightening it is to be out in the middle of the Chesapeake in a canoe. A Viking longboat sounds way out of our league. But! You never know.
Our six-month schedule: We’re presenting a paper at the Society for American Archaeology meetings in Memphis again this April. We’re hoping to spend a couple of weeks on the BMW riding around the Southwest in late spring. We will also by at the Western Bison Association summer meeting and the “Bison Advantage” program in mid June in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Bison Advantage is an introductory workshop about raising buffalo and will be held at Cold Creek Bison Ranch on I-25 eight miles south of Cheyenne. See the westernbison.org website for more details. And, finally, we’ll be at Thrillerfest in New York City the second week of July.
Meanwhile, we wish you all health and good reading for 2012. After all, there has to be some alternative to listening to the political advertising. Now that the superpacs are in full swing, there will be tens of millions spent bombarding us with negative ads about every candidate! What better time to turn it all off, pick up a book, and slip into another universe…
W. Michael Gear and Kathleen O’Neal Gear
SUMMER NEWSLETTER FROM THE GEARS
It’s been a busy summer. Last autumn, when we realized that THE DAWN COUNTRY--published in March of 2011--would be our 50th published novel, we decided to grant ourselves a special holiday. Not every author publishes fifty novels, let alone books requiring the complexity and research that ours do. Our reward was a cruise that encompassed most of the classic archaeological sites in the Mediterranean. We toured sites beginning with the Cycladian/Minoan civilizations, the Etruscans, Ionian Greek, classical Greek, and the Hellenistic and Roman ruins at Ephesus.
We walked the streets of ancient Carthage and toured the museum in Tunis, which houses the most extensive collection of Roman mosaics in the world. It was spectacular. Being there after the revolution was marvelous and we wish the Tunisian people all the success in building their new democracy. If they pull it off, they will become a beacon for the entire world.
We walked the cobblestoned streets of the Roman forum, marveled in the Marcus Agrippa’s Pantheon, and stood atop the ramparts of the Castille Sant’Angelo. The Capuchin ossuaries filled us with an unsettled wonder. Phoenician, Greek, and Roman ruins beneath the streets of Barcelona amazed us. Antoni Gaudi’s Familia Sagrada stunned us with its marvelous intricacy. No building we’ve ever seen compares.
As familiar as we are with the magnificence of North American archaeology, exploring the roots of Western civilization gave us a sense of place for the academic studies that have filled our education.
On the publishing front, the paperback for FIRE THE SKY will be out in September, and the paperback for THE DAWN COUNTRY will be released in December. THE BROKEN LAND, book 3, of the PEOPLE OF THE LONHGOUSE saga will be out in hardcover in January of 2012. We humbly believe that it has the best ending we’ve ever written—but we will await your judgment on that, since yours is the one that counts. We owe a debt of gratitude to our excellent editor, Susan Chang, for being a tough editor. Tough editors force you to do your best. We’re grateful.
If you’ve finished FIRE THE SKY, you should be aware that A SEARING WIND is the final Contact novel that features Black Shell and Pearl Hand. At this moment, we’re completing revisions and will deliver the final manuscript by August 16. Thanks again to our editor at Pocket Books, Jennifer Heddle, for her pertinent comments. The hardcover for A SEARING WIND will be released in February, 2012.
The final and fourth book in the LONGHOUSE series, entitled THE BLACK SUN, will be complete by November of this year. We’re making pages by the day.
Other significant news! We’ve finally managed to negotiate terms with DAW Books and will be releasing our science fiction titles in e-book format in the next couple of months. So, too, will we release out-of-print titles like RAISING ABEL and DARK INHERITANCE. The Skip Murphy/Maureen Cole thrillers will also be released--and for the first time you won’t have to read German to enjoy them!
Our negotiations with MacMillan continue, though we’re a little closer to a deal on eBooks for the PEOPLE series, and other Macmillan titles. Why such a long and drawn out process? EBook publishing is literally changing by the moment. No one is sure what form the “book” will take in the future, so everyone’s edgy about rights. Stay tuned.
If you haven’t experienced the Graphic Audio presentations of PEOPLE OF THE WOLF and PEOPLE OF THE FIRE on compact disc, you might want to. We’re absolutely delighted by their work. They hired top-notch performers and artists. It’s always interesting for us to see how others view the characters and stories we’ve created. Sometimes it’s, well, horrifying. Other times, as with the Graphic Audio versions of our books, it’s just plain wonderful.
The Graphic Audio presentation of PEOPLE OF THE EARTH, parts 1 and 2, have also been issued, with part 3 on the way. Graphic Audio markets the stories as “A movie in your mind.” The titles are available at both Love’s and Pilot truck stops across the West. Google “Graphic Audio” and search by author or title.
PEOPLE OF THE LONGHOUSE is also available in audio form from www.tantor.com in a 12 hour unabridged version. We, naturally, prefer the unabridged versions. In the old days, when our books came out in “abridged” formats, some of which were very good, we nonetheless used to scratch our heads, because we didn’t recognize our own stories!
Upcoming public appearances include the Archaeological Gala, August 6th, in Dubois, Wyoming. We’ll be offering signed editions of our work at the silent auction held for the George Frison Archaeological Institute. Contact Melinda Bobo at the Dubois museum, 1-307-455-2284. Then, on Friday, September 16th, we’ll be giving an evening lecture on “Warfare, Witchcraft, and Cannibalism” at Aztec Ruins National Monument in Aztec, New Mexico. Contact Cyresa Bloom or Gary Brown at Aztec National Monument for details. We think it starts at 7:00 p.m.
For those who’ve asked, the baby buffalo born last winter, Blizzard (thanks to David Majors for naming him), is doing just great. We had a rainy spring and summer, which means our grass is belly-high on a buffalo, and filled with vitamins and minerals. All of our buffalo are looking fat and sleek. It’s amazing to look out our windows at the end of July and still see green grass and wildflowers covering the mountains. What a great year this has been.
Until next time, we wish you the best of health, the warmth of family and friends, and a world filled with great reading.
W. Michael and Kathleen O’Neal Gear
WINTER NEWSLETTER FROM THE GEARS
It’s been a cold snowy winter here in northern Wyoming. As we write, the temperature is around zero. The world is soft and still. The red cliffs that surround us are frosted with snow, and each time one of the buffalo exhales, his or her breath hangs in the air like a frozen cloud. One of the best things about winter is that buffalo play a lot when it’s cold. At dawn this morning they were out running across the field, chasing each other, kicking their heels and tossing their heads. We imagine this behavior is shorthand for, “Boy, it feels good to warm up.”
As for us, we’re eagerly anticipating the publication of the paperback of PEOPLE OF THE LONGHOUSE, and the hardcover of FIRE THE SKY, book two in the COMING OF THE STORM trilogy. Both will be published next month. The hardcover will be on shelves on February 15, 2011. And we’re hard at work on Book Three—title still unknown! The lives of Black Shell and Pearl Hand get even more difficult when Black Shell must return home to try and convince his own people to join the fight against De Soto’s army. You will recall that Black Shell’s people consider him to be a traitor and Outcast. To say the least, Black Shell is not looking forward to this.
As well, Book Two in the People of the Longhouse quartet, THE DAWN COUNTRY, will be released on March 15, 2011. The story follows Odion, Baji, and Tutelo as they struggle to rescue their friends, Wrass and Zateri, and destroy the evil witch-woman, Gannajero. We honestly can’t wait for her to breathe her last.
Publication of THE DAWN COUNTRY marks a major celebration for us: it will be our 50th published novel. We remember well the day in 1985 when we decided we were going to try and write full-time. It was, frankly, terrifying. Mike sold his archaeological research company, while Kathleen continued working as a federal government archaeologist for another year to keep the bills paid and give Mike a chance to finish a book. On January 17, 1986, we moved to a historic cabin at 9,000 feet elevation in the mountains, and began in earnest. The cabin had no running water, and the two-hole outhouse was, well, interesting. Especially in the winter when the trail up the mountainside was coated with thick ice, accomplishing basic necessities required downright courage.
Ah, those were good days. A bit thin on food, however. Mike loves to say that he never realized how quickly putty knives wore out when you were scraping up roadkill. After a while, we gave up on hood-ornament pheasants, though. They were way too dry for our finely trained taste buds.
We spent the past few days at the Wyoming Library Association’s “Winter Gathering” at the Park County Library in Cody, Wyoming, where we taught a workshop and spent time with all the wonderful Wyoming librarians. In a rural state like Wyoming, libraries are the heartbeat of communities. They are places where the free exchange of ideas is encouraged, and you can find in-depth information on anything and everything. It was especially wonderful to see all the children in the library yesterday. Reading is so important. Please help keep your local library strong and healthy for future generations who want to learn.
Don’t know how many of you heard the news about the DNA haplotype recently discovered in Iceland. It’s a new mitochondrial haplotype (DNA that comes only from the female) and is called the C1e haplotype. Researchers traced it to the south of Iceland, around the Vatnaj’kull glacier. The interesting thing about the C1e haplotype is that it’s most likely Native American, dating to the time of the first Viking explorations of North America. It seems that around 1,000 A.D. a native girl or woman returned to Iceland with the Viking ships, either willingly or taken as a slave. There are four distinct family lines with her mitochondrial DNA, so around forty generations of her descendants have lived in Iceland. In an interesting passage from the saga of Eric the Red, it says: “…when they sailed from Vinland (presumably North America), they had a southern wind…they took the children with them, and taught them their speech, and they were baptized…then they came to Greenland...”
Was one of these children the mother who left her DNA haplotype in Iceland? We’re thinking about who she might have been, where she came from in Canada, and what it would have been like to see the shores of Iceland for the first time. It must have been a stunning and frightening adventure for a girl raised in the lush forests of North America. Yes, her story is already spinning, and it’s a fascinating one.
Like fine wine, the magic of storytelling just gets better with time. There are still so many tales to tell. We hope you continue to enjoy them.
Here’s to the swift arrival of Spring!
W. Michael Gear and Kathleen O’Neal Gear
2010 Fall Newsletter: Gear-Gear.com
What a summer! June was spent on the road, logging over six thousand miles on the BMW as we rode from Wyoming, through Canada, to Maine, where we attended the Gear Family Association’s tri-annual meeting and gave a presentation on writing about prehistory. From there we rode to Washington D.C. for the American Library Association meeting, then home to Wyoming just in time to catch a plane to New York. Yeah, we know. We had just been there. The tickets, however, were non-refundable.
Thrillerfest is the most productive writers’ conference in the country. Being held in New York, most of publishing’s movers and shakers—i.e. editors, agents, buyers, publishers, and press people—are present, easily accessible, and happy to spend quality time discussing the business and where it’s going.
After Thrillerfest we dove into revisions for FIRE THE SKY, the second book in the CONTACT series we’re writing for Pocket Books. At the same time we finished final revisions for THE DAWN COUNTRY, sequel to PEOPLE OF THE LONGHOUSE. In addition to this we had to finger through our old contracts in an attempt to figure out what to do about the e-book situation. We have sole rights to many titles, some we share with publishers at different royalty rates, others must be “negotiated in good faith.” It’s a mess. While we all knew e-books were coming, no one knew how e-books were actually going to develop or what their impact would be.
September saw us loading up the BMW for a tour of the Southwest. Our first engagement was a lecture at Aztec National Monument, the large Anasazi site in northern New Mexico. Thirty-five miles south of Moab, Utah, a bearing disintegrated in the BMW’s rear drive. For the first time in forty-five years of riding we watched the bike towed away. A rental car took us to Santa Fe where we signed stock for B&N. Then to Aztec where we were honored to give our lecture in the Great Kiva, the only restored Anasazi structure in the world. Truly, it was an honor. The sacred character of that kiva has played a central role in many of our books and while we have been there many times, this is the first time we’ve been there at night. We had a wonderful audience. It was such a pleasure.
We signed stock in Sedona, Arizona, and for our good friend Andy at Arches Bookstore in Moab. Drove to Grand Junction, Colorado, and retrieved the fixed BMW, then signed more books at the Grand Junction Barnes & Noble. Great staff there!
Now we’re home, working on THE BROKEN LAND, the third book in the PEOPLE OF THE LONGHOUSE series. Why four books about the Iroquois? Because two young men and a far-sighted woman would develop the “League of Peace,” a concept that would change the entire world. The Iroquois confederacy would fundamentally shape “American democracy.” Later, based on Louis Henry Morgan’s League of the Iroquois, a German philosopher would pen a work called Das Kapital that would influence the development of Communism. So, there you have it. Out of a struggle for peace six hundred years ago in New York, New England, and Ontario, Canada, came the roots of the two competing political philosophies of the modern world. We want to give the story the time it deserves.
Meanwhile, COMING OF THE STORM is out in paperback. If you’ve been looking for it, and haven’t seen it on the shelves, you’re not alone. It’s pretty scarce. Like the every other business in America, times are tough in publishing right now, so hang onto your hats. We keep our fingers crossed every day.
February will see the release of FIRE THE SKY, the sequel to COMING OF THE STORM. If you’re into Black Shell, Pearl Hand, and the dog pack, you might want to preorder. We don’t know how many copies will be printed, or how they will be distributed. In FIRE THE SKY, Black Shell and Pearl Hand chase de Soto and his murderous army across Florida, Georgia, the Carolinas, Tennessee, and Alabama. De Soto, however, has changed his tactics, figuring out that most of the Nations he visits are very civilized places. Instead of attacking, he relies on lies to ingratiate himself before taking the chiefs hostage. It all ends in a terrible battle at a walled town called Mabila...
March 15, 2011, will be a special day. Yes, history fans, we know. It’s the Roman ides of march, the day Caesar was stabbed in the Forum. (Actually, they stabbed him in the body—a lot of times. He only died in the Forum.) For us, however, March 15th will mark the publication of THE DAWN COUNTRY--our 50th published novel. THE DAWN COUNTRY continues the story of Odion, Tutelo, Koracoo, and Gonda as they hunt Gannajero and the remaining captive children through Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut and New York. In doing so they will ally with the Abenaki in a desperate attempt to bring Gannajero to justice. In the process a bond is forged between the characters that will influence the future of the Iroquois, and in the end, the world.
We are already reflecting on what the publication of THE DAWN COUNTRY means. Our fiftieth book is a milestone. We don’t write short category fiction. Our great love is epic historical novels that require in-depth research, complex characters, and intricate cultural reconstructions. With each new story we must challenge ourselves to challenge the reader. It’s been a lot of hard work and a constant battle to avoid falling back on formula. The payback was succinctly put to us at the Aztec lecture when an archaeologist asked, “How is it that you seem to ‘get it right’ long before the professional community does?” Actually, some of it is luck, brought about by looking at the data from outside the box. The rest, though, is that we have the luxury of testing archaeological theories in a living breathing fictional world. Often, theories don’t work. The ones that do, however, become the heart of our plots. Then we mold our characters actions to the archaeological record.
We would have been proud to author fifty novels of any kind. But looking back, we’re especially happy to have been able to write about the extraordinary prehistoric peoples that inspire and inform our own lives.
And there’s so much more to write about. Archaeology never sleeps…we’re learning more every day.
Thank you all for supporting our work over the years. Hopefully we will continue to produce the kind of fiction that challenges, entertains, and delights you.
All the Best,
W. Michael Gear and Kathleen O’Neal Gear
P.S. We’re having fun answering questions at Gear Fan Club: First North American Series on Facebook. Please join us.
Monthly Midden - JULY 2010 NEWSLETTER
We hope you’re all having a wonderful summer. It’s been an interesting few months for us.
Firstly, for those of you who’ve been having problems getting PEOPLE OF THE LONGHOUSE—which was just released—at Amazon, we apologize. We’re working with the great people there to get the problem fixed. The book was selling quickly and apparently they couldn’t keep up with the demand and had to backorder some copies. They should be shipping very soon. In the meantime, we know there are many of you who collect the first editions. If you’re afraid Amazon’s delay may result in you’re getting second or third editions, we recommend you go to your local bookstore, Barnes and Noble.com, Borders, Hastings, Books-A-Million, or other places where books are sold. We understand many retailers still have the first edition available.
And for those who’ve already finished PEOPLE OF THE LONGHOUSE, we’ll soon have a special treat on the website…the first few chapters of Book 2: THE DAWN COUNTRY, A People of the Longhouse novel. We hope you enjoy this rare glimpse into the future of the story. We genuinely love these characters and this time period, and are hoping you will, too.
The past ten days have been exciting. We’ve had Dr. Laura Scheiber’s archaeological field crew from the University of Indiana on the ranch. Dr. Scheiber’s student, Katie, is finishing her Ph.D. on the Nostrum Springs Stage Stop along the Fort Washakie to Thermopolis Stage Road. The station began service some time between about 1880-1900. We can’t say for certain because the historical records are scanty. Hopefully archaeology will be able to answer this fundamental question, as well as many others. A few days ago, the crew found a curious object. If any of you have ever heard of this tradition, please let us know? Tucked into the mortar between the walls, the crew discovered a small, round, brass canister, about two inches in diameter. It was clearly deliberately placed in the wall, then mortared over, and plastered over that. The box makes a metallic clink when gently shaken, so there’s something metallic inside. Once we’ve all determined how to open the box without damaging it, we’ll let you know what’s inside. It’s been hidden for over a century, so a few more days won’t matter—though such things always bring out the “Indiana Jones” frenzy in archaeologists. “What do you mean we have to wait to open it? Where’s the hatchet?”
Three days ago, Dr. Linda Scott Cummings came up from PaleoResearch Institute in Colorado to talk to the crew about paleo-botany, and take home some samples from the stage station. Linda is one of the top paleo-botanists in the world and listening to her is always a revelation. We got a few results back today, and they’re intriguing. The large main roof pole of the stage station is Douglas fir and the cross beams are ponderosa pines. This is intriguing because neither species grows nearby. That means they must have traveled to the Owl Creek mountains, 20-30 miles away, to cut the trees and drag them back, probably with a team of horses. That was a lot of effort. Clearly the Nostrum’s planned to build a quality stop for the people traveling the stage road. We also know from historical records that the Nostrum’s had an apple and pear orchard that they used to dazzle stage travelers by providing fresh fruits as well as pies, jams, and jellies.
On another front, three weeks ago we attended Thrillerfest in New York, the annual conference of the International Thriller Writers, where we participated in a panel with Katherine Neville about religion in thrillers. We, naturally, were talking about prehistoric spiritual traditions. A great time was had by all. For beginning writers there is no better conference than the Craftfest portion of Thrillerfest. Even old hands like us learn something new every year.
Incidentally if you’ve never read the books of Katherine Neville, we think they’re fascinating and suspect you will also enjoy them. And our favorite newly discovered authors are Tosca Lee and Jon Land. Wow. They can write. It’s such a pleasure to find new authors who transform their reader’s world. We know how hard that is to do.
Lastly, we will soon be adding a new video section to our blog: “Campfire Readings with the Gears.” We hope you enjoy it.
We send our best regards,
Michael and Kathleen
Monthly Midden - December 29, 2009
Happy New Year to All!
On the personal side, Michael judged the Western Bison Association show and sale on December 3-5 and had a great time with co-judge Bill Rogers. At the WBA fun auction two autographed advance reading copies of Coming of the Storm brought $1,000 each! How’s that for anticipation? Thanks to everyone who attended the show and sale, and came to support the organization at the fun auction.
Between January 23-25 Kathleen will be judging buffalo at the National Bison Association’s Gold Trophy Show and Sale, which occurs every year at the National Western Stock Show in Denver. We’re honored that she has been chosen as a judge for the National Bison Association’s ultimate competition. Mike will watch from the sidelines and help at the NBA tent by giving public tours of the buffalo pens. If you’re in Denver, do stop by. Anyone in the city can give you directions to the stockyards. Tours run from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm.
We’re in the final countdown for the release of Coming of the Storm. This is the first novel in our new Pocket Book series Contact: The Battle for America. So far the reviews from both Booklist and Publisher’s Weekly have been outstanding. Normally we don’t get that worked up over reviews. We work hard to produce novels that feed our long-time fans’ appetite for historical accuracy, great characters, and absorbing story. This time, however, we chose to write in the first person—something we’ve never done before.
Why first person? It’s challenging and sets the Contact novels apart from the People series. Coming of the Storm is told from Black Shell’s perspective. He’s a Chickasaw trader gone in search of the mysterious “bearded sea people” everyone is talking about. Unfortunately for Black Shell, he finds them. It is 1539 and Hernando de Soto’s army has just unloaded in Florida. Things go from very bad to really worse in a hurry. Thankfully, Black Shell has managed to hook up with Pearl Hand, a former slave, who knows something about the invaders. When it comes to classy heroines, Pearl Hand is the sort you want on your side: smart, clever, resourceful, and innovative.
We’re very excited about this project. And Pocket Books has done a bang-up job publishing it. The cover is gorgeous. Coming of the Storm will be available in your local bookstores starting February 10. Amazon may ship earlier. The good folks at Books-A-Million, Borders, Hastings, and Barnes & Noble should have copies out in New Fiction as well as with our other titles on the fiction shelves.
For those of you living in the upper Midwest, you can find autographed copies after February 7 in grocery stores, drug stores, and airports served by News Group. Look for the yellow “Autographed Copy” sticker on the front of the book. Yes, those really are our signatures. Pocket Books is working with the outstanding folks (thanks Marianne and Angie) in Spring Arbor, Michigan, to get us there to sign the copies.
In other news, we have just completed the sequels for both Coming of the Storm and People of the Longhouse. We’re beginning work on the third Contact novel, and on People of the Sky, the next Iroquois book. We have also contracted with Leubbe Books in Germany to write another eco-thriller tentatively titled Carbon Cauldron. The book asks the question, “What happens after we hit the Tipping Point of 450 ppm of atmospheric carbon dioxide?” As with Comes a Green Sky, there is no American publisher yet so you have to read German. Tor/Forge has contracted for another two prehistory novels, tentatively titled People of the Sky and People of the Black Sun. With four books to write our schedules are filled for the next couple of years. Wish us luck and nimble fingers.
Check gear-gear.com for our public appearances. We’ll be on tour from February 7–16 in Florida for the release of Coming of the Storm. See our website for details.
Finally, we want to introduce the latest addition to our family. His name is Jake, a tri-color Shetland sheepdog puppy. As of this writing Jake is five and half months old. He comes from Al Harris’ wonderful Worthingtons’ kennel in Roswell, New Mexico. Along with being an all around great guy, Al raises some of the finest shelties in the country. Jake is a charming, smart, and loving addition to Red Canyon Ranch. While he’s taken on responsibility for ranch security, we’ve noticed at least five Arapaho cows that have sneaked into the creek pasture. Hey, he’s young, right? Look for future updates on Jake’s progress.
That’s about it for now—we’ve got Arapaho beef to chase out of the creek bottom. We wish everyone the best of health, happiness, and joy for 2010.
All the best,
W. Michael and Kathleen O’Neal Gear
Monthly Midden - October 06, 2009
We know that most of you are aware that Coming of the Storm will be published in February of 2010. The good folks at Pocket Books asked us for a short marketing piece. Since we have been receiving numerous questions about the new series, we thought you might be interested in a preview. So, here it is, just like we sent to New York.
CONTACT: THE BATTLE FOR AMERICA—THE COMING OF THE STORM.
Coming of the Storm important because one out of five Americans claims Indian ancestry--from the mythical to full-blood. If you are one of that 20% this novel is about your heritage. But then without the first white guys, the rest of us wouldn’t be here either, so the novel has relevance for all of us.
Here’s how Coming of the Storm shatters the mythic de Soto: No other single European killed as many native people as de Soto. His name deserves to be included with the great war criminals and genocidal maniacs of history. The guy was 16 when he burned his first man alive! At Napetuca he killed hundreds. At Mabila he killed thousands. And that doesn’t include the thousands he worked to death in chains, or had savaged by his dogs. Why then do we have counties, parks, elementary schools, and highways named after him?
What did de Soto destroy? He cut a swath through a series of Native American nations that spanned the Southeastern US. We call these peoples Mississippian moundbuilders. Moundbuilding cultures had existed for almost 6,000 years when de Soto arrived. Unfortunately for them, de Soto showed up during a “dark ages” following a climatically induced collapse in the 1400s. He records small states, what anthropologists call polities--or collections of small cities that control large territories. Many of these were ruled by kings and queens; and all had elaborate art work, agriculture, sophisticated religion, and thriving international trade. Despite de Soto, the “Five Civilized Tribes” of the Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek, and Seminole would survive.
Pocket Books has contracted for three novels in the CONTACT: BATTLE FOR AMERICA series dealing with de Soto. The fact is that our native peoples defeated the most sophisticated military invader this country had ever seen. They destroyed de Soto’s army, supplies, and mobility, a feat that not even the Inca could match. The big myth is that Europeans always won. Actually, our native Indians won most of the early rounds. It’s something that every American should be proud of, and in Coming of the Storm, we tell that story.
The major characters are Black Shell, an outcast Chickasaw trader. These traders carried goods throughout the Southeast, packing ritual plumage, drugs, medicines, jewelry, and luxury goods such as copper. Much of the freight was carried by pack dogs, or by canoe. The woman he falls for is Pearl Hand, what we would call a courtesan. She’s beautiful, smart, and has been everywhere. While her mother was a North Carolina Chicora, her father was one of Ayllon’s Spaniards, so she speaks some of the Kristiano language. We chose two such widely traveled characters for the breadth of interpretation they’d give the reader about the diverse cultures inhabiting the Southeast.
We want to make the following points: Coming of the Storm is an entertaining and exciting read. It will change the way you think about our nation and its indigenous peoples. You’ll discover America’s fascinating and sophisticated Indian nations. The whitewash of Hernando de Soto is ripped away. And finally, if you like great, heartwarming, dogs, this is your book!
We hope you enjoy the story. It was really fun to write.
Michael and Kathleen
Monthly Midden - July 20, 2009
In an attempt to actually keep up with events, we’re sending the July newsletter in July!
The biggest news, of course, is the publication of CHILDREN OF THE DAWNLAND in the United States and Canada. This is our first children’s book written for ages 8-12. That doesn’t mean that adults can’t read it, too. A teacher’s guide is available and can be downloaded online from the publisher. We set the novel at the end of the last ice age, during a time archaeologists call “Clovis culture.” Clovis apparently only lasts for a period of 250 years, spanning all of the U.S., most of Canada, and some of Northern Mexico. The highest site density, however, is in the eastern United States. Then, like shutting off a light, Clovis is gone from the archaeological record at approximately 12,900 years ago.
The story revolves around a twelve year old girl, Twig, and her best friend, a ten year old boy named Greyhawk. Twig’s decision to go and study with the peculiar old man known as Screech Owl is going to cause her no end of grief—especially with her mother. Meanwhile, the sinister Thornback Raiders are attacking nearby villages, seeking to collect all of the sacred artifacts they can find. And next, they are coming for Twig. If she can’t find the most Powerful dreamer in the world, Cobia, and convince her to help the People of the Dawnland…they may well be doomed to die in the mysterious green light that keeps exploding in Twig’s dreams.
For years we have been asked to write a children’s book. We heard you, and here it is. Look for it in the children’s section at your local bookstore. So far we haven’t seen CHILDREN OF THE DAWNLAND shelved with our adult fiction. Two weeks ago the book won the Flamingnet “Top Choice Award.” Flamingnet.com is a review site run by and for children. Great site if your looking for books for children.
Also published in July: Das Ende Aller Tage by Bastei Lubbe, our German publisher. The novel is of course available throughout Germany in softcover, and the price is 8.95 Euro. The tag line on the jacket copy calls this “The Most Provocative Thriller in Years!” which we think is pretty cool given that Bastei Lubbe is one of the largest publishers of thrillers in Germany.
The story was sold under the title of COMES A GREEN SKY and sees the return of Dr. Maureen Cole. Fans of Dusty and Maureen’s Anasazi Mystery series will just have to wait for it to come out in English. Maureen has been digging up war-crimes bodies in Iraq when she is called to investigate what seems to be a mass murder aboard a cruise ship. The White Star is carrying Bobby Box’s Christian pilgrims to the Holy Land when everyone on the ship is mysteriously killed. But who did it? Several fundamentalist Muslim organizations claim credit. Maureen finds herself the target of bombings, threats, and rage. Enter Skip Murphy, executive protection specialist, and security consultant. But when the American government asks Maureen to publicly speak out against fundamentalism, can Skip keep her alive long enough to finish the tour? And, just who is the real enemy?
We love this thriller, and are still trying to sell it to an American publisher. American publishers seem to think it’s too controversial. Meanwhile, if you read Russian, it will be available this fall. We’ll keep you informed of the pub date.
Coming in November—finally!--PEOPLE OF THE WOLF, PEOPLE OF THE FIRE, and PEOPLE OF THE EARTH are being given new covers! We’ve seen the flats, and they look great. The style is based on the jacket design PEOPLE OF THE THUNDER sported. Also neat, the books are coming out at a special $4.99 price. If you’re thinking about Christmas gifts and want to introduce people to the series, this might be the time. For those of you who live in Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana there will be autographed copies available at your local grocery, airport, truck stop, or Walgreens. Angie and Marianne, the good folks at News Group up in Jackson, Michigan, are bringing us in to sign 10,000 copies for distribution throughout their region. We’re already stockpiling Aleve and Red Bull, ready to take a crack at breaking our old record of 9,881 books for Levy Home Entertainment back in 2007.
That’s it for now. We wish you all health, wealth, and wisdom. During these stressful times we hope that everyone sees their situation improving.
All the Best,
Kathy and Mike
June 23, 2009
Yes, we’ve been remiss about the newsletter. The past six months have been like living inside a tornado, but we’ve made some major changes in our lives. Most notably, we now only own five buffalo, and have leased the ranch to our long-time manager and friend, John Gerrells. Disentangling and shutting down the buffalo business has been a long and involved process, and distracted us from the newsletter, for which we beg forgiveness. But we found a wonderful home for the animals we’ve loved for sixteen years. They’re being well cared for, and have about thirty times as much land to roam.
But we have been writing! The immediate news is that CHILDREN OF THE DAWNLAND will be in bookstores on July 7th. For years people have asked us to write a children’s book, and we have always wanted to. At last, here it is. The YA novel is set at the close of the Clovis, Paleo-Indian culture. Our best guess these days is that the disappearance of Clovis Culture may be tied to a comet strike over the Laurentide ice sheet. Think apocalyptic! The story is about how Twig, a girl on the verge of womanhood, deals with a gnarly spirit-helper and the coming catastrophe. A teacher’s guide is also available.
PEOPLE OF THE THUNDER, our New York Times bestseller, will be available in paperback—yes, we hear you cheering—by Thanksgiving, and February will see the release of our new series, CONTACT: THE BATTLE FOR AMERICA. The first novel, COMING OF THE STORM, will be out in hardback February 1, 2010. For those of you who read the blog, this is the story of Black Shell and Pearl Hand. They encounter Hernando de Soto’s 1539 entrada into Florida. You’ll be surprised to discover that de Soto was not the “hero” you learned about in school, but a really brutal piece of work. And, despite all the odds, Black Shell and Pearl Hand have to figure out how to beat the monster. This is currently the first of three books, so we hope you like Black Shell, saucy Pearl Hand, and their faithful dogs as much as we do. They’ll be around for a while.
PEOPLE OF THE LONGHOUSE will be released in July of 2010. This will be the first in a series of People books about the origins of the Iroquois Confederacy; it’s set during the 1400s. All across America, the 1400s were a period of warfare, and resource competition. The climate had cooled off, shortened the growing season, and people simply couldn’t produce enough food to feed their children. The Northeast was especially hard-hit. The Iroquois were under severe stress. Set against the backdrop of war, young Odion is stolen during a raid and sold to the witch, Gannajero. It is up to War Chief Koracoo and her deputy, Gonda—Odion’s parents--to find him before Gannajero kills him. If you like forest chases, with mysterious characters, and many twists and turns of plot, we think you’ll enjoy PEOPLE OF THE LONGHOUSE.
Currently we are working on sequels for both COMING OF THE STORM and PEOPLE OF THE LONGHOUSE. Delivery for both manuscripts is set for August. We don’t know yet when they’ll be published but will let you know as soon as we do.
As a final note, we have just learned that our long-time friend, Don Coldsmith, author of the “Spanish Bit” series, has passed on. We pray, Don, that divinity, in all of its wonder, wraps itself around you and bears you to the afterlife. Keep the coffee pot on, will you? We’ll see you on the other side.
Kathleen O’Neal Gear and W. Michael Gear
What a couple of months! Through September and October we spent quite a bit of time on the road in an eight-state sell-in tour for PEOPLE OF THE THUNDER. We alternately drove and flew all over the Southeast, meeting with booksellers and conducting seminars on both PEOPLE OF THE WEEPING EYE and PEOPLE OF THE THUNDER. Finally we ended up at the Delaware Book Festival on the first of November, where we had a wonderful time.
Excitement seems to be growing for the release of PEOPLE OF THE THUNDER. To tell the truth, we’ve been a bit anxious about this one. For those who haven’t heard, due to changes in the marketplace, the publisher decided to split our eleven-hundred page manuscript into two volumes—something unique in the PEOPLE series. We’ve done long books before, as those of you who read PEOPLE OF THE LAKES, PEOPLE OF THE SILENCE, and PEOPLE OF THE MOON know. That was before so many of the grocery stores, airports, and other retailers decided that a minimum of five books had to fit into the pockets.
Why so big? PEOPLE OF THE WEEPING EYE and PEOPLE OF THE THUNDER deal with the highly complex Mississippian civilizations that filled eastern North America after the fall of Cahokia. We were looking to create an epic story that did these majestic cultures justice and provided an idea of the depth, diversity, and sophistication reflected in the archaeological record. Then, as is so often the case, the characters took over and ran with the story.
How did we do? So far the critics seem to love PEOPLE OF THE WEEEPING EYE. Most of the reviews on Amazon and B&N.com have been great. We’re really anxious to hear how our readers react when they have both books back-to-back. Writing the ending of PEOPLE OF THE THUNDER was especially powerful for us. Great epics are supposed to end that way. When you read THUNDER, please let us know if we pulled it off. Meanwhile, while we love to hear from you, save the postage, you’ll find out how the story of Old White, Two Petals, Trader, and Morning Star ends in January when the book lands on your bookseller’s shelves.
Also, this is a heads up for those of you waiting for the paperback of WEEPING EYE. It should be on the shelf just after Thanksgiving.
Progress report: We’re hard at work on PEOPLE OF THE LONGHOUSE, dealing with the origins of the Iroquois Confederacy set around 1425 in New York and Pennsylvania. To date the manuscript is over two hundred pages in length, and the story is really starting to cook! Given the new constraints on length, we’ll have to struggle to keep everything acceptable when it comes to spine size. We project that this will be a duology.
The next bit of news is that we’re working on a spin-off series: CONTACT: THE BATTLE FOR AMERICA. How many times over the years have we been asked if we’d write a novel that dealt with the native peoples first contact with Europeans? Our reluctance has always been that Europeans just didn’t fit the established PEOPLE framework, and we really believe that North America’s lost heritage deserves a series all its own. Face it, more Americans know about Ankor Wat in Cambodia than Cahokia in America—and Cahokia, just outside St. Louis, is a World Heritage Site. The archaeology in our own backyards remains a mystery to most. Therefore, we will continue to write the PEOPLE series as intended for years to come. We sure won’t run out of archaeology. And in the BATTLE FOR AMERICA series, we will chronicle the contact period between the native peoples and Europeans.
A great number of myths have been spun about the arrival of the first Europeans. Most are fanciful enough to fit into a fantasy series, and the Native Peoples come off either as saints or savages. Our mandate is to tell the story from the original inhabitant’s point of view. We’ll keep you posted as the series progresses.
We’ve had questions about THE BETRAYAL. Oh, yeah, and some really interesting fan mail, too. For those of you who haven’t picked it up, this is our recently released novel about how Constantine’s minions essentially bent and folded early Christianity into the Roman Empire. And, yeah, we have expertise in that field, too. One of the questions we constantly hear is: Why? What you get here, in the Midden newsletter is an inside scoop. Part of the answer is that one our friends, John Gritts, a Cherokee, once asked why we don’t take a serious look at the mythology and religion in our own culture. That’s the reason THE BETRAYAL is the only novel we’ve ever written with footnotes. Outside of the characters and plot, we didn’t make anything up. The assertions in the novel can be checked against the actual sources. So, read the novel, consider the footnotes, and make up your own minds. If you’re not into the theology, it’s a rollicking thriller, and Kalay, with her checkered past and handy sharp knife can really drive pious monks insane.
That’s all for now. Thanks for subscribing, and with fewer weeks on the road through this winter, we should be able to keep in better touch.
Read in peace, and remember, a book lasts longer than a movie in these financially trying times.
All the Best,
W. Michael Gear and Kathleen O’Neal Gear
READ OF THE MONTH: Tess Gerritson's Body Double.
Wow! August already? Time is like a good bottle of cognac: It's tough to make it last.
As an update, we've been really busy and learning how to work the new website is going to take some getting used to. First we've had a very busy summer including trips to the Western Bison Association board meeting in California, a West Coast book tour for The Betrayal, a journey to New York for the 3rd annual ThrillerFest where we met with agents and publishers, then to the BMWMOA national motorcycle ralley in Gillette, Wyoming. In August we were off to Denver, Colorado, for the World Science Fiction Con--our first attendence at such an event in 13 years.
So far this year we've put over 12 thousand miles on our BMW 1100RT and over a thousand on the Moto Guzzi Norge. As noted in our new blog, we do many book events and a great deal of research on our motorcycles. Both of the bikes average right around fifty miles to the gallon, and riding cross country is our favorite mode of travel. At the BMWMOA rally our RT even received a blue ribbon for being an outstanding specimen. We were tickled, having made the Beemer into a perfect long-distance ride. By the time the RT is shut down for the winter the odometer will read close to 85,000. In all that time we have only had to replace one fork seal, and recently had to have the ABS system fixed. While the BMW is our long-distance ride, the Moto Guzzi is our take-the-afternoon-off-and-ride-to-Cook-City bike. Only this year we haven't been able to take an afternoon off to ride to Cook City. The Guzzi has only made Mike's birthday ride, and a trip to Denver to have a luggage rack replaced on a factory recall. Maybe next year?
Perhaps. We'll have to see how many books get written in the meantime.
Which, of course, takes us to our writing. We've finished the final, final revisions on the children's book: Children of the Dawnland which Tor should publish in June of 2009. We have also gone through page proofs for the upcoming hardback of People of the Thunder and the page proofs for People of the Weeping Eye in paperback.
Currently we are working on two new novels, one a traditional "People" book will be set in upstate New York and deals with the formation of the Iroquois confederacy in the early 1400s. The second is a novel about the de Soto expedition entering Florida in 1539. This latter is a novel that we hope will spin off into a new series: Contact: The Battle for America. The book is exciting in that we're taking a slightly different approach, writing in first person, and well, we've got Spaniards. The actual de Soto expedition was an abject failure. Native peoples won that first round rather handily.
With regard to People of the Weeping Eye and People of the Thunder, there have been comments from some fans that wish we hadn't split the story into two volumes. We didn't want to either. The grisly facts are that publishing is a business for Tor/Forge and the modern market is changing the kind of books being sold. Had we kept Weeping Eye and Thunder as one volume, the price would have been more than $30.00. So, dear faithful readers, be ready for the second half to land on bookstore shelves in January. In the future we will struggle to keep the page count down as a means of avoiding such problems.
As of this writing we still do not have a U.S. publisher for Comes a Green Sky. For you bilingual types it will be available in Germany next summer. Our literary agent is waiting until publishers get back from their August vacations to send the manuscript out to different thriller editors looking for environmental thrillers.
At the 2008 World Con we had a delightful dinner with Betsy Wolheim and Sheila Gilbert, our publishers at DAW Books. The occasion was to celebrate the 20 year anniversary release of Warriors of Spider. The book has been repackaged with a great new cover and can be picked up at Barnes&Noble as well as Borders and Amazon. If you've never read the Spider trilogy, this is your opportunity. We both offer our most sincere thanks to Shiela and Betsy for their constant support of our science fiction books. With a few exceptions the novels are as relevant today as they were when Michael wrote them in the late 1980s.
Also upcoming on the horizon is the 20 year collector's trade edition of Michael's Long Ride Home. This was the first novel he sold way back in 1987. Tor Books bought it three days before DAW bought the Spider trilogy. For more information on either of these titles, see the book section of the web site.
Upcoming events include a sell-in tour through the Southeast in October. This is currently being planned by Dot Lin in publicity, and we'll try to get events listed in the calendar as the schedule is firmed up. Also we will be appearing at the Deleware Book Festival. You can Google their website for updated information.
On September 5 and 6 the Rocky Mountain Bison Association summer meetings will be hosted by Red Canyon Ranch. We're looking forward to seeing old friends and feasting them on some of the best buffalo burgers in the country.
Also in September we have to bite the bullet and learn how to do Powerpoint presentations. This really eats the slimy banana as far as we are concerned. Slides worked just fine, thank you. Put them in the machine, push the button and look at the machine. Even undersophisiticated primates like us could do it. We have yet to see a powerpoint that didn't take twice as long, have some computer glitch, and bring up the wrong string of photos. Kathy has made the assumption that Mike is smart enough to figure this out. Mike has no assumptions left: he knows Kathy is assuming he's smarter than he really is.
In bringing this to a close, we would remind you that the fall elections are looming. If neither candidate is your cup of milk, please don't sit home on election day. No matter what the right to vote has only been won by blood and sacrifice. If you really don't like either party's offering, remember, you can always write in for the person you think would do the best job. Not worth while? Think about how the parties would react if twenty percent of votes were write ins!
Until next time, all the best and read good books.
Favorite Read of the Month
Pax Dakota, by Ken Rand. ISBN-10: 1594146721; ISBN-13: 978-1594146725 (Five Star Science Fiction and Fantasy)
Interview: The Betrayal
Mike and Kathy are interviewed a lot. But this one is special. Recently, they opened their home to Karen Jones for an interview on The Betrayal, a great rarity.
Mountain and Plains Library Association Award
Wyoming authors W. Michael Gear and Kathleen O'Neal Gear have been selected to receive the 2008 Literary Contribution Award from the Mountain Plains Library Association. Beth Avery, the Chair of the Awards Committee, says "The award is given to an author whose published writings most successfully further an understanding and appreciation of the Mountain Plains region." The MPLA Award banquet will be held at the annual conference, Thursday evening, May 1, 2008, in Salt Lake City, Utah.
The Gears, who say they are "deeply honored" by the award, will give the keynote speech at the conference.
Michael and Kathy will have an article in the Spring issue of Bison World Magazine. The title is The Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
Children of Dawnland is complete, but still no publication date. Other publication dates have changed as well; the new dates are posted on The Books page.
Expect a mass market paperback of People of the Nightland in March, 2008.
Kathy and Michael's new thriller, Under a Green Sky, currently weighes in at 350 manuscript pages. It is due to the German publisher, Lübbe,, in February. No US publisher has signed up yet.
Characters' names get changed from time to time, just ike books. Special Investigator Christopher Keef is now "Skip Murphy".
Some upcoming events are listed on the Public Appearances page.
People of the Painted Canyon, and People of Dawnland are now under contract. The latter takes the characters of Children of Dawnland up to adulthood.
Under a Green Sky
A new thriller by the Gears is in process.
When a luxury cruise ship is found floating in the Atlantic with 4,000 people dead, three Muslim fundamentalist groups immediately claim responsibility. Even worse, the vessel was carrying a world famous Christian preacher and 2,000 loyal supporters on their way to the Holy Land for a controversial "Crusade" to recover the Holy Land for Christians.
As tensions mount, it is up to Dr. Maureen Cole and Special Investigator Christopher Keef to uncover the truth.
But as Christian suicide bombers begin picking targets, Maureen and Chris begin to understand that another, greater threat may be at play.
To Cast a Pearl has a new title, The Betrayal: The Stolen Life of Jesus. As noted, it is already in print in German, Italian and Russian.
Kathy's Children of Dawnland is complete. It takes place as a comet exploded over eastern Canada, 12,900 years ago. There are over a million elliptical depressions we call the Carolina Bays scattered from New Jersey to Florida. There is a "black mat" layer in the Earth at about this age, laden with iridium, glass sphericles, carbon spheriules, fullerenes and other material associated with large impacts on the Earth. This is about the time that Clovis activity stopped, and Kathy notes that Clovis sites occur below or in the "black mat" layer, but not above it.
The event lead to what we call the Younger Dryas Cool Episode, in which the slow deglaciation of North America was interrupted by a cooling period, and many large mammals such as the mammoth went extinct.
There will be a Teachers Guide. The book will be used in classes such as science and history for children aged 8 to 12.
Two scripts are in progress, for Children of Dawnland and The Betrayal.
Tor Books interviewed Kathleen and Michael at Red Canyon Ranch on People of the Nightland. (21MB file, Microsoft ASF format)
Mike and Kathy are working on contracts for two new prehistory books. People of the Painted Canyon, and People of Dawnland, which takes the characters of Children of Dawnland up to adulthood.
We've added a new excerpt, from People of the Weeping Eye and People of the Thunder. Release date for People of the Weeping Eye is currently April, 2008. There's no release date yet for People of the Thunder.
To Cast a Pearl is published in Germany, from Lübbe. Look for US publication from TOR in June of 2008.
Michael is pleased to announce that he is now (unofficially) an Iron Butt motorcyclist! On July 13-14, he rode his BMW from Denver to Thermopolis, almost circumnavigating Yellowstone in the process. He rode 1445 miles in 22 hours and 44 minutes, and has the gas receipts to prove it. He qualified for the SaddleSore rating, but is 65 miles short of the BunBurner Gold rating. Once the association certifies his records, his name will go up on the Iron Butt Association's web site.
Kathy, meanwhile, has started work on a book for children ages 8-12, for Tor's Young Readers category. The working title is Children of Dawnland. It takes place some 12,000 years ago as a comet explodes over China, and glaciers begin to melt. Kathy says that writing for children requires a very different writing style.
Kathy is freshly elected to the Western Writers of American board for a two year stint.