It took a long time for my award-winning historical novel, Stone Woman, to see the light of day. In Part Two I will explain why.

A War Story…A Love Story

I thought that my interest in doing this story might wane after I finished my horror novel, The Modoc Well. On the contrary, it would simply not let go. I wanted to do another horror novel, but by the early eighties the market for horror had already peaked and was now in decline. Besides, I could not stop thinking about the Modocs, and while I knew that it would be a massive undertaking, I began more intensive research in advance of beginning the project.

But what approach to take? I did not want to write another history—there were a number of them in print, published by small presses with little distribution or sales. Besides, I was—and always will be—a novelist, so fictionalizing the story was a no-brainer. An easy decision, to be sure, considering that some remarkable “characters” involved in the history had been revealed during my research. I just needed to bring them to life.

Captain Jack, Modoc chief

Stone Woman is presented primarily through two POVs. Winema is a Modoc woman—a young girl, actually, when the story begins. Frank Riddle is a Kentuckian who comes to California as a teen during the Gold Rush. How this unlikely pair overcomes the taboos of their respective cultures to fall in love is a story worthy of a romance novel. But told within the context of the storm brewing around them for close to two decades—the conflict between whites and Modocs, and the deterioration of an uneasy peace—the story of Winema and Frank becomes even more compelling. Their roles during all those years in helping maintain the peace, and subsequently their efforts as interpreters and negotiators during the war, make them unforgettable “characters.”

But Why So Long?

Good question. To begin with, I held a full-time job and had three young daughters, limiting my time. Second, back then I wrote my books on an old electric typewriter, a slow process. And third, my initial draft of what was then called Dreams of Stone numbered 240,000 words. That is not a misprint. Needless to say, just writing it took a few years.

Frank Riddle (c) with Winema, their son Jeff, and Modoc warriors, c. 1875.

Then came some family issues (you know what kind; Tammy Wynette sang about it and spelled it out), which stopped me from writing for a couple of years. Then came a short-lived run of success, in which I published a couple horror novels with Bantam and three science fiction/satire novels with Berkley (though I continued to tweak the Modoc novel). Then came my self-imposed seventeen-year hiatus from writing (still tweaking, but minimally). Finally, the last few years, during which I published three new novels and did some major serious tweaking on what I now called Stone Woman. I “tweaked out” 90,000 words, the length of an average novel, getting it down to a manageable (for a historical) 150,000 words.

And now, at last, it’s time to LET IT GO.

Despite the overview I gave you here, this is an incredibly multi-layered story that oftentimes lends credence to the saying, Truth is stranger than fiction. I added a few characters, and inserted dialogue that may or may not have been spoken. Otherwise, Stone Woman offers a real look into the culture of a little-known People and tells of their courageous efforts to defend the life they had always known. I hope that you enjoy it. The eBook and paperback are available from Amazon.

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