Sunday, April 17, 2011

The River People by Kristen James

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River-Song's father, Chief Sits-and-Thinks, is growing old and sick, but he trusts in her to lead their people. Her best friend has become her rival as they compete to marry the big chief's son. But as River-Song proves herself to him, she begins to see he isn't the man she thought. Then she must use her gift of words when a wandering band of braves seek a new home with them. They speak her mother's language so she can understand them. River-Song feels pulled to their leader but confused about her place in the tribe. Can this young girl hold her tribe together as the new braves join them, and again when hostile warriors attack their valley?

Come visit the River People in the Pacific Northwest before fur traders or missionaries arrived. River-Song lives in a valley of meandering streams that give them salmon and trout to eat. Oak trees abound in the valley, and a forest of cedar and fir surround them, making a canopy and giving them planks for their long houses, canoes, and totem poles.

Kristen James works as a full time author and publisher. She lives on the river, which has inspired her writing, especially her novel The River People. She enjoys the outdoors, especially through hiking, cycling, camping and berry picking. Her other novels include A Cowboy For Christmas and More Than Memories, and she has a nonfiction book titled Book Promoting 101.

What will readers like about your book?
The River People takes you back to a wild time in the Pacific Northwest in the western United States. The coming of age story is backdropped against a beautiful valley full of streams, and the book features a way of life that’s uncommon in Native American fiction.

Why did you self publish?
This is actually the first book I published. I had several under consideration with publisher but I learned about a new and more direct way to get a book into print and out to readers. The idea thrilled me. I have many reasons to self publish now, such as staying in control of my work, designing the book myself, and being able to complete the entire publishing process. Some people do not enjoy all these details, but I love to bring a book to life, from written idea to polished book. To date, I have four self published books and another due to be released in a few months.

What is your writing process?
I begin with thinking about the story and developing a movie in my head. Sometimes I run through different scenes to get to know my characters. Once the story is big enough and I can’t keep it contained mentally, I begin writing.

How long does it take you to write your first draft?
I can complete a book in three months if the idea is fleshed out well. I ghostwrite books in about that time frame. I spent much more time after that on my earlier books, editing, revising and polishing.

What inspired you to write this particular story?
This story developed from my love of the Umpqua Valley where I grew up, and my fascination with Native life. Part of my family is Osage but we don’t have much of our history. I researched the local Native group and found their lifestyle was very different from what I’ve read in books or seen in movies.


From Chapter 1: After the Winter

Lush green leaves crowded the riverbank as they journeyed south to the main village for the summer games. Her people sat in their two great canoes. While the other canoe paddled ahead, they drifted in the current. They could no longer see their long houses. River-Song had said goodbye to her home that morning, knowing it could be many days, or many moons, until she saw it again. Maybe she would be a wife when she saw it again. Or perhaps she would marry and go to a new village. Even after all winter to think about this, she did not really know what she wanted. She asked Father Salmon to guide her, as he guided all the people.

Behind them, the falls disappeared around the bend, and now even its loud whispering grew faint. Though the days were not yet hot, they had swam in the pool there and slid over their falls. Sometimes the younger people jumped in as soon as winter ended to welcome the new growing season. Once one person braved the cold, churning pool under the falls, everyone met the challenge.

“Ah, Brother Beaver!” Sits-and-Thinks held his arms out at the animal. River-Song heard the beaver’s tail slap as it headed under. She loved the way the river sang to them and the sound of the oars dipping into the water. She did not want to hurry her father. She understood he didn’t expect to make the trip again, though she couldn’t say why he thought this.

Her people loved to laugh and tell stories, but in times like this, they were quiet in reverence to the land, to the valley full of wandering streams, and the small hills. Their sacred mountain rose high above the hills to their north, always giving them direction when they needed it.

Sitting in front of River-Song, Little-Fox hugged her prized wooden toy, a smile on her chubby face. River-Song had given her the carved salmon, a toy her mother had crafted and given to her. Tree-Song had given this to River-Song as her token to help her through life. River-Song felt Little-Fox needed it even more then she did. Since she did not have a little sister, River-Song loved Little-Fox as one. The child’s eyes were as dark as the darkest bark, and looked like giant moons in her face. She seldom spoke, and many called her slow-witted for it. River-Song didn’t think Little-Fox was slow of mind, but that she thought in different ways.

Little-Fox’s mother, Silent-Sparrow, never spoke. She tried to feed her daughter, but she worked slow and didn’t have other children to help. River-Song felt that, as the village chief’s daughter, she needed to look after everyone in the village. Knowing Little-Fox had a good heart, she made sure the others didn’t steal her food or force her to do their work.

Fast-Runner jabbed River-Song. “Are we attacking the village? With that expression, you look like you want to put on war paint.”

She turned to the girl who had once been her friend. Fast-Runner had interrupted her thoughts yet another time. While she thought of a polite answer, Quick-Salmon, one of her father’s friends, spoke.

“Maybe she should.” The older man seemed pleased when everyone turned to look at him. “Much is at stake this year. I advise only the most serious to enter the competitions.”


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