Thursday, May 31, 2007

Kathleen Is Back From the Dakotas

I've been to the Dakotas twice in two weeks, and, man, that's a long drive. We usually go home where the Eagles roam (i.e., Standing Rock Reservation) for Memorial Day, but having made the trip a week early for Clyde's oldest sister's birthday, we weren't planning another trip so soon. But we got the call to attend to some horse business. Immediately. So off we went.

We just got back, and it's late, but I've been thinking about my Friday blog on the long drive. And I have a couple of pictures from the trip, so here we go. First off, a question for any horse lovers or Horse Bowl champs out here--and we do have a championship coach in our midst--regarding our two yearlings.
Can you tell from the picture whether they're Medicine Hat Paints? Okay, I just wanted to show off a horse picture, but 7 hours in a pickup will lead to the occasional disagreement, and one of us says they are, one says not. Anyone know what makes a Medicine Hat?

Enough horsing around. So we ended up going to the Dakotas for Memorial Day after all. Clyde says it always rains on Memorial Day, and it seems to be true. It rained like crazy the whole 3 days we were there.

Here's what an Indian cemetary looks like after the veterans have put up the Memorial Day flags. There aren't many headstones here. Lots of wooden crosses and other smaller markers on a windswept hill. It's an old graveyard--late 19th century graves there, including Gall (of Little Big Horn fame), but it's where the Eagles tend to land. Ordinarily you'd drive right past, hardly notice what it was. But the flags makes such a stirring sight! Oh, the people are proud of their warriors, let me tell you. And this military brat loves all the ceremony--especially when it's combined with singers around a traditional drum.

Moving on, has anyone seen Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee yet? We watched it the first night. It focuses on a very small part of the book, but I like the way they chose three people whose stories, taken together, offer a range of insight. They are Sen. Dawes, the white man who "knows what's best" and probably really wanted to save the people from extinction; Sitting Bull, who stood his ground; Charles Eastman, a man caught between two worlds.

Any story--fact or fiction--is all about characters, and figuring out how to tell a story about Wounded Knee without sending your reader/audience after the bottle of anti-depressants is a challenge. So often I hear people recite the list of topics they don't want to read about/watch on the screen in their "leisure" time. Children dying is a big one. Animals dying might even be bigger. Infidelity is a common taboo among women. War and gore and the list goes on. But, hey, we're romance writers. We can stay away from the icky stuff, can't we?

Maybe. But sometimes we don't. (And some of us take a broader view of Romance than others do.) I've touched on the history of the Wounded Knee massacre in two of my books: Reason To Believe (contemporary) and Fire and Rain (sort of a historical-contemporary hybrid). Both stories have hopeful, uplifting endings--what I consider to be the real hallmark of a Romance--and I think you can only achieve that through the characters. Let's face it, is there anything darker than human nature? But, oh, that individual good-hearted soul, that shining moment, that selfless deed! How do the rest of you deal with potentially dark or disturbing aspects of your stories?

I do think the HBO movie is worth watching, but they gave short shrift to the climax, blending two events that happened miles and weeks apart into what almost appeared to be one incident. I've heard that a multi-part series was condensed into two hours, and that would explain the montage effect at the end. Read the book. When it came out it opened a lot of middle-American eyes. Anybody see it yet? Comments?


Michele Hauf said...

Dno't get HBO, so unfortunately will miss that show.

Let me take a guess at what makes the Medicine Hat horse such. Is it that brown, hat-like marking on its head?

Don't laugh. I know less than nothing about horses, and usually do contact our resident expert (Lois) on all things horse.

Hey, I know they have four legs and are big.



Betina Krahn said...

Kathy, I haven't seen BMHAWK yet, but I intend to watch it this weekend. It looks wonderful.

And I love your horse photos. My money's on the "yes-- Medicine Hat Paint" side of the argument.

Meanwhile, the dark, disturbing stuff? I've occasionally dealt with it. . . usually end up trying to shove some dark humor into a bad guy to make it palatable for me. But then, that makes the villain more human and more understandable I think. My favorite villains usually have a darkly absurd side that makes for great, unexpected laughs. . . like Allan Rickman as the Sheriff of Nottingham in "Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves." He's my gold standard for a villain.

Lately, however, I've created a couple of guys with just darkness in the core. . . the villain in my last book for example. And it's interesting how tough and uncompromising I get when I'm writing those guys.

Does that mean I'm a "method writer?" I'm afraid that might be the case. More and more, I have to get into the character in order to write her/him. Anybody else have that problem?

Kathleen Eagle said...

Betina, I absolutely have to get into the character when I'm writing. I have to zone out of me and into him. Or her. Method writing might be a good term from what I've read about method acting. Maybe we should use some of their exercises when we're teaching. "Down on the floor! It's not a floor; it's a frying pan with a fire under it. You're bacon. Go."

Kathleen Eagle said...

I've been thinking, Betina. I seldom write a real villain. There was a villain in SUNRISE SONG, but I didn't get into his viewpoint. And he was maybe too real -- never got any kind of comeuppance -- mainly because he was based on a real person. SUNRISE SONG has a very dark side. It's based on a little know piece of history that's much like Wounded Knee. I did the historical/contemp hybrid so that I could pull out a hopeful ending through a second set of characters. I still get thoughtful comments from readers about those books.

But you know how we second-guess ourselves all the time, especially when we're planning the next book. How dark are readers willing to go if I promise to bring them back into the light?

Kaitlin said...

I don't have HBO, so I never saw it. Maybe if it goes onto DVD?

Also, wanted to say to Cindy (since I know she sneaks in here whenever) that if she clicks on my name, it'll take her directly to my blog & the review. Otherwise, it's :) hope you like it! :)

lois greiman said...


They look like medicine hats to me...which, of course, means good luck. So you should be cashing in on that soon. Maybe you just lucked out on really loud colored paints. Either way, it's all good.

Sorry I missed your blog for so long. I was in ND too. Hmmmm.