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