Maps of Fate
Romancing the West welcomes Reid Lance Rosenthal this week! Reid, please tell us about your series.
Reid: The sixteen book Threads West, An American Saga series begins in 1855. It is the tale of disparate threads of lives--brave men and independent women--from locations around the globe, of different social origins, ethnicity and creeds. They are woven together into the tapestry of an emerging nation; a country offering opportunity and freedom and on the cusp of greatness. It is a sweeping, five generation, one hundred and seventy year story arc that will end with the last book of the series set in the real-time, contemporary West. Through the eyes of fictional characters the Threads West series accurately portray what transpired in our history, the evolution of our lands, our thought processes, morals and freedoms. So, too, will the contemporary novel portray in vivid reality—couched in nonstop adventure and romance—the current state of affairs in the West, and the United States. The Threads West series is the adventure and romance of America, her people, her spirit and the West. It is our story.
RTW: Why do you write Westerns? What aspect of life in the Old West intrigues you the most? Did you work that into the series?
Reid: Perhaps what drives my pen is my love of land, perhaps a genealogy that goes back four generations almost two-hundred years in land and cattle—including a goodly portion of that time by my ancestors in Europe. Perhaps it is the cowboy hat, the special feel and touch of a woman you care for, or the smell of horse leather and sweat. I love America and the West. I am enamored with romance, history, fiction, and all things western. They epitomize universal energies. So it makes sense that I love Historical Western Romance as a genre: the power of the land, the all-encompassing flow of steamy passion, heartfelt romance, and the intrigue of differing personalities line dancing on the stage of American History.
As a rancher, I am drawn by the power of the land. Alone and far from others, whispers of canyon breezes playin' oh so gentle ’cross my cheek, the smell of earth, sage, leaves and horse sweat might just be the only time I truly relax. It is those moments, high atop a windswept ridge, rifle nestled in the leather of the scabbard, that I am transported to ten thousand years ago where I am a native sojourner, clad in a hide loincloth and carrying a spear in quest of fresh meat for the clan. It is cleansing, and real, this time machine of earth energy. These are the feelings of which I write, and they are universal in their truth of any historical era, though less realized today than at any other time in man's “evolution.”
The American West has a special mystique—a romantic aura that is known worldwide. Some of this magic flows from its violent evolution, part emanates from the image of the cowboy, and a portion from the perception of values the historical west embodies. But underlying all those tugs to the hearts of many is the power of its open spaces, and the courage of its settlers.
In a Western, the tapestry of relationships is always the land. The intertwined twists are fascinating threads that the bind the conflicted men and women of the West back then, and now. I try to make the foundation of my stories that reality. There is intrigue, adversity, vicious duplicity, and triumphs that few know of, but which are always at play beneath the idyllic mosaics of inviting canyons and sundrenched plains.
RTW: If a person who had never read a Western asked you for a recommendation, what novel or movie would you recommend and why? What did the author do to bring the story alive for you?
|Reid Lance Rosenthal|
Reid: Actually, my taste in genres is wide and varied. The magic of Harry Potter, the action and history of Mila 18, Exodus, Battle Cry, and The Young Lions by Leon Uris. The Old Man and the Sea, and For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway. The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane. These would be some of the works that I draw from stylistically. I have read each and every one of Louis L'Amour's Westerns; I have his entire collection. I have devoured Larry McMurtry's stunning Lonesome Dove and Max McCoy's three Spur award winners, one of which is Hellfire Canyon, and his Indiana Jones novels (and movies). I am stunned, and thrilled to have his very rare endorsement on the cover of Maps of Fate.
Each book and author has contributed to my own craft of western words and story, style and structure, some—like Uris and Hemingway—more than others. I read many of these books for the first time of a dozen re-readings in elementary school. Many is the night I would huddle under the blankets, dim light of the flashlight I had snatched from the kitchen tool bag, fading and flickering as morning approached. I eagerly turned pages of the books, once in a while poking my head out to study the approaching light from the East, filled with youthful resentment that my reading time was coming to an end for another night. You could say the genres of Romance, Historical Fiction, and Western chose me, and I chose them. A mutual love affair, no pun intended.
If folks have not read them, the books by any of the authors I have mentioned above will thrill and delight. And, the mini series, Lonesome Dove and North and South, and the movies, Gone with the Wind, Silverado, 3:10 to Yuma, Red River, Bad Day at Black Rock, The Magnificent Seven, and She wore a Yellow Ribbon are just a few of the fantastic—and realistic-western films that will entertain and inform.
RTW: Why must your protagonist take this particular story or journey? What does he or she have to prove? How does secondary characters or settings affect their journey?
Reid: The Threads West series is an epic saga. It breaks the traditional mold in some respects, one of those being the number of characters, and their very diverse origins-the stately row houses of London, cattle farms of Prussia, slums of Dublin, tipis along the Powder River, plantations in Oklahoma and the crowded streets of Shang hai, to name just a few. While there are three “absolute” primary characters—one man and two women, there will be, over the course of the series, more than fifty eight primary, and more than one hundred significant secondary characters. I try to write from the perspective of both genders, and the singular viewpoints of each of these diverse cultures. I have talked with elders in the Mormon Church. (Those threads of lives will be apparent in upcoming books, but were just introduced in Maps of Fate.) My editor is a specialist in Native Americans and her husband is a full-blooded Sioux. Though I myself am an adopted second son of a Mohican Chief (that is yet another tale) being able to be historically accurate to the “nth” degree in how the Western Indians tended to and felt about the most minute aspects of their lives, as portrayed in Maps of Fate, was invaluable. I have interviewed the offspring of slaves, descendants of mountain men and pioneers, and fourth generation Asians whose ancestors stowed away in the bowels of steamships in the 1850’s. Though I rarely do this in a blog, one of the more than fourteen hundred five star reviews and comments on the series might best sum up these thoughts:
“Reid Lance Rosenthal outdid himself with this novel. His settings and descriptions are stunning. I survived that snowstorm - felt the cold wet damp of the snow creep into the bones. The heat of the sun, warming a back, slashing through branches. The smell of a campfire, the tang of raw game, the stench of battle. I was there, traveling with that train every step of the way. What a trek! The plot is excellent. The weaving of the stories together and apart flows easily, creating an incredible depth of experience for the reader...But it's Reid's people that just blew me away. (I hesitate to call them characters - that would insinuate that he made them up...) They are as real - if not more so - as most of the people I have ever met. I know Rebecca better than most people I have ever gone to school with. People I worked with for years have never solidified in my memory the way Sarah and Zeb have...Maps of Fate flowed perfectly, without having to stop and think about where everyone was and when... I love that - running into people I know.
I felt a surprising sense of appreciation for the diversity of the author's people and plots. Every group - cultural, religious, racial...Following Eagle Talon's journey, Israel's escape, Black Feather's tragedy, as well as the wagon train's travelers, all of whom come from even more layers of origin, makes for a rich blend of experience, perspective, and understanding. Ironically, it is this attention to our differences that magnifies so greatly the similarities between us all. Americans may have started out on a million different paths, but it's the strength, determination, and perseverance that all American ancestors had in common, regardless of where they came from and how, that created your purpose. As a Canadian, and a proud one, I know that we have a similar heritage. But whereas we describe our country as a mosaic, we see yours as more of a melting pot. There's a lot to be said for that. And Rosenthal says it beautifully.”
Writing in the genres of the West, romance, and history is in some respects made easier by my fourth-generation land and cattle heritage, and my rancher avocation. I must admit, though from time to time, particularly over the last year, I become confused. Am I a rancher who writes, or an author who ranches? Right now I am a sleepless both!
There is a synergy that flows from ranching to my pen. The land is the true enduring character of the series, the perpetual anvil upon which the characters are shaped. That energy is as much a personality as are the characters who live in the pages.
RTW: Would you share an excerpt with us?
Reid: Delighted, Jacquie! Perhaps a few short excerpts from the very different perspectives of gender and culture might also give your great followers a feel of the scope of characters, action, romance and history in this story of us!
* * * * *
She felt the fire in the smooth caress of his fingertips as they traced across her breast, lingered, then continued down her hips and came to rest lightly, longingly, on the concave valley of smooth belly between her hips. The smell of him, and of them, mingled with the fragrance of sunbaked sage.
* * * * *
“That is called a holy iron. It is the weapon of the hairy-faced ones,” had been the response to his inquisitive tug on his father’s loin cloth. The memory dissipated, and the promise of the spring dawn and later lovemaking were carried away by the east breeze; only to be replaced by a feeling of foreboding deep in Eagle Talon’s spirit.
* * * * *
Mac lowered the spyglass. “It’s Zeb, and he ain’t wasting no time getting back.” His great bushy eyebrows furrowed in contemplation. “Reuben, tell folks to get out their rifles and gather in every other wagon. Get five men on horses, and come back up here. I’d choose Johannes, Charlie, John, Harris and that swine Jacob. He is always looking for a scrap.” He nodded down at the holstered Colt on Reuben’s hip, “I would take the thong off that hammer, son.”
* * * * *
“Don’t you dare ‘now Lucy’ me,” she wagged her finger at him, the digits crooked from years of manual labor. “You know it’s against the law for our kind to read.” Peeling the thick-glassed spectacles from one ear, and then the other, Israel ignored his wife, cleaned the lenses with his shirttail, and though about what he had just read: “New York—January 17, 1855—“Slaves Find Help In Escape.”
* * * * *
The farmer spoke in a cracking voice. “Whatever you want. Please, this is all we have.” The Smoothbore lay across Black Feather’s forearm, its muzzle pointing at the man’s head. “We already know that we can have whatever we want.” Black Feather let his eyes slip to the hysterical girl. Her gangly shape was just taking on the form of a woman.
* * * * *
RTW: What’s next? Maps of Fate is only the second part of the series isn’t it?
Reid: I'm astounded by the success of the Threads West, An American Saga series. The eight National awards, #1 best selling ranking achievements all caught me unaware. I am humbled, surprised and thrilled all rolled into one! Two books are out—Threads West (Book One) and Maps of Fate, the second novel. I’m hard at work on Book 3--Uncompahgre—where water turns rock red and its release is planned late this year. (More info at www.threadswestseries.com). Book 4, Moccasin Tracks is planned for early spring 2013, and Book 5, Footsteps, for late 2012. I am excited about Uncompahgre because I think, and hope, that I've met my goal of surpassing the high bar I masochistically set for myself with the first novels. The readers will determine that!
Like Book 2, Uncompahgre will examine slavery, from the viewpoint of the slave—a race yearning to be fully American, totally free and self-determining. Lucy and Israel, though elderly, have set their life sails for the winds of freedom. Through the eyes of a young Oglala, Sioux family, the tragic story of the Indians a sad, dark blotch on the pages of American history, further unfolds and will carry forward in the series. New characters, from what will be the Confederate States, Asia, and the Mormon settlements of Cache Valley will catapult into the tale.
And, of course, Uncompahgre will follow the evolving life threads, passions, loves, disappointments, tragedies, romances, and in some cases the pathos filled, lethal experiences of the European and American characters which the readers of Book One and Two seemed to have thoroughly enjoyed and bonded with. Their life threads hurtle through American history towards the cloth of their destinies and still subsequent generations in the balance of the series.
Uncompahgre releases nationally in December, at Amazon, Hastings, Barnes and Noble, and many fine independent bookstores around the country, plus a number of international locations. It will also be available on that date in Nook, and Kindle – iTunes to follow a few days later.
As is the tradition, the publishers are throwing a great Release Branding Day and contest, with terrific prizes. There will be upcoming information on our website and on Facebook. The first and second printings of Book One and Two sold out the mornings of their release, so the publishers have set up a reservation system and everyone who has reserved a copy of the book on our sites (no cost!) or purchases any one of the three novels on the Uncompahgre release date may enter.
In addition, every person who registers on the site (ten seconds, easy, private, no cost) prior to November 5, will be entered in a drawing. Winners will be announced in mid-November and there will be three each—signed copies—of Book One, Book Two and Book Three given away!
RTW: Anything else you’d like to add?
Reid: I knew this series was a big project when I began. But I have come to realize the undertaking is monumental. So—the introspective question becomes “why?” Putting aside my long held, deep need to write, to share, to tell the story, I am inspired by the cowboy hat, the special feel and touch of a woman you care for, or the smell of horse leather and sweat. I love America and the West.
As a rancher, I am drawn by the power of the land. As a man, I am intrigued by the energy of steamy passions and the enveloping flow of heart-felt romance. As an American, I am enamored of the unique spirit of America and her people, and the evolution of all these energies through the relatively short span of American History. Each author needs to choose those energies which call to them.
Having spent most of my time in the wild and remote (my nearest neighbor is 11 miles away) makes writing the setting and creating the theater in which the characters love, lose, triumph, act and interact, far easier. I cannot fathom how an author who does not live within such an environment possibly writes one of these novels. Being a rancher and a cowboy affords me great familiarity with the varying landscapes of the West, many of which I’ve walked or ridden across. The physical environment and specific era of a Western are all-important. Many readers who follow the series will know that most chapters begin with a description of the scene. It’s an ambiance that speaks to the characters, frames the moment, and (I hope) whispers to the readers. That peculiar angle of the sun, sky prisms following rain, shadows creeping with the ever-changing angle of light, is the written image on the page much as a photograph is the visual of film. These are never to be repeated seconds, the sensory underpinning of my writing. Mood, setting, a snapshot of the Earth, of the moment, of the motion, and the current. The pen becomes merely the shutter, and the paper, the film.
Living that life has tremendous advantages in writing detail, too. These are moments, scenes, feelings, history which I feel compelled to capture for the readers of today, and I hope of the future in some small part through my books, lest they be lost in the cobwebs of time. I know, first-hand how the whispers of a Canyon breeze play gentle across my cheek. I am familiar with the smell the earth, sage, last year’s leaves and horse sweat. I have felt, thousands of times, that primordial transport back through eons while sitting in the saddle, rifle in the scabbard, hunting for the table. I’ve heard the bawling of cows, smelled their sweet stench, and breathed their dust. The cool waters of creeks and streams have soothed me, the sun has kept me warm, the chill of windy winter nights have crept through my bones, and I have often experienced the wonder of stars that never end above the friendly crackle of a campfire. And, overall, I have felt the freedom of all that magic.
I am concerned about the future of America. The disintegration of the values of the old West and of our revolutionary forefathers distresses me. These seem to be traits that are slipping away, replaced by entitlement mentality, dependency on the red herrings of government rather than the tried-and-true traits of self-reliance, individualism, family and community. I hope this series evokes emotion, brings smiles and tells a story—but most of all it is my wish that it serve as a reminder—who we are, why we are and a rich and textured history—which while less than perfect—is the foundation of all of us.
Watch for Reid's Thursday article: Westward Expansion--Our Story.