On John Ross and Perseverance

John and Mary Ross

This photo is from the Oklahoma Historical Society

I don’t often share themes from my stories but I will say this: they boil my blood, and they show me perseverance.

Today I had to brush up on my John Ross timeline. Can you imagine spending your life and energy in Washington to keep your people in their homes, and coming back to find that your own house has been taken? Given away, actually. Everything you built, every memory, signed away by people not authorized to speak for an entire nation. It is in somebody else’s hands and there is nothing you can do to get it back. None of the 17,000 people who backed your petition are of any consequence.

How did this come to be? Why is this important? WHO IS THIS GUY? If one is not familiar with the Cherokee Nation’s struggle, that person is probably thoroughly confused by now. Here is some background information. The entire story is so much more complex than what I have written here, and I encourage each reader to follow the links at the end of this post and also do more research.

Who is John Ross?

Born in 1870 to a Scotsman and a part Cherokee member of the Bird Clan. Since they had a matrilineal system, Ross, or Guwisguwi, became a member of his mother’s clan. He grew up with plenty of resources and education, giving him an advantage in politics and language skills. This lead to his rapid climb within the Cherokee Nation leadership. He became their principal chief and advocate to Congress, president Jackson, and the supreme courts. He had a lot to lose and lost most of it in the process of defending his people.

How this happened

In the early and mid-1800s, the US government was bent on removing all native tribes east of the Mississippi River to what they called “Indian Territory”. This process was done through treaties, bribery, and coercion. Differences in language, leadership styles, and culture lead to many misunderstandings and chaos ensued.

The Cherokee had been torn over whether or not to move for decades before Ross lost his home. Multiple treaty attempts ended in a split nation and bitter revenge, or fear of revenge for signing away land.

In 1827, tensions were rising again and the pressure was on to move. Ross drafted a constitution for the Nation and modeled it after the US constitution. The idea was to identify as a nation and not child-like people with no rights—the latter being the common opinion at the time.

An 1828 Gold rush in Georgia prompted the state to demand the native people leave. Their premise was hard to deny. The government had negotiated with Georgia decades earlier to release land that would later become other states in exchange for paying off Georgia’s war debt, and removing all natives “as soon as peaceably possible”. The state wanted to cash in on that promise. Andrew Jackson vowed to make this happen if he were elected president. He was elected and got right to work. So did Georgia.

According to the Cherokee Registry, “Georgia immediately passed a legislative act annexing all Cherokee lands. The Cherokees were forbidden to hold a council within the limits of the State; were denied legal rights of trial; forbidden to dig gold on their own land, and Cherokee land was divided into lots of 160 acres and gold lots of 40 acres and distributed by lottery to Georgia citizens.” This ended up being a bit too far for the US, and is just one battle Congress and courts would have with a state over “state’s rights”, but not much came of it.

John Ross, now principal chief, immediately sprung into action. He went straight to Washington to appeal to Congress, the president, and the courts. While he was gone, Georgia gave his home away in their land lottery. He moved to Tennessee and kept campaigning, albeit being arrested while working with an author who was interested in writing about the Nation’s plight.

The response? The Indian Removal Act of 1830. This authorized the president to negotiate treaties on his own. Ross pushed his case to the courts instead and made progress, but not all the way.

It didn’t look like things were going to get better, so a few chiefs signed a treaty in 1835 while there was still money to be had in the deal. This gave away the rest of the Nation’s land and was not authorized by the National Council. John Ross was not there. He gathered 17,000 signatures in protest. This was almost the entire Cherokee population. Jackson wouldn’t have it.

The Nation was given two years to leave. The ones who signed the treaty moved out quick so they could avoid certain revenge for doing away with everyone else’s home.

When the time was up, soldiers moved in and forcibly removed Cherokee people to stockades. One story worth reading is that of Tsali who, after a deadly scuffle with soldiers, sacrificed himself and his sons so the people who escaped with him could live in the mountains. They became what is now the Eastern Band of Cherokee.

Summer brought so much death in the stockades that the National Council petitioned for and were granted permission to move their own people in the Fall. Thirteen parties moved out that Fall, thus beginning what is normally referred to as the Trail of Tears. They arrived in Indian Territory in the Spring of 1839. It is said that about 4,000 out of 16,000 people died on the way, included John Ross’s first wife.

In their new home, the Cherokee once again elected Ross as principal chief and he went on to mend and help reconstruct their government. Many lawsuits passed through many hands after this to account for broken treaty terms on their trip, and most of the men who signed the 1835 treaty were brutally killed.

The next event to tear the Nation to pieces was the Civil War, and that is a matter for another day.

Why we should care

Ross didn’t give up. He could have “passed” as white and cast off his other identity. He had the money and the resources to turn away. It would have been easy to walk out and chose to abandon his mother’s people, but he kept trying and used his skills to help, even when it got devastatingly worse. He lost his house and land, then his wife, his pride, his homeland. Many others sacrificed everything, including their lives, but I want to ask that if you have the means to make a difference, please do. Please fight as long and as hard as you can.

Friends, this is perseverance. When your life has gone to s**t, don’t give up, and don’t let others define you. Do good and the lives you touch along the way will never forget your kindness.

I don’t mind that this boils my blood. I want it to. If it doesn’t evoke some reaction in myself, it’s not worth exploring. Mind you, Ross was not a perfect person. How can a proponent of freedom, who knows what it is like to be helpless, restrict others from having it themselves? Slavery was a huge part of the economy and we see it in many heroes of the time, but if he were a character of mine, it would be hard for his action to pass my Why Test. This happens when we examine our heroes closer; we find they are merely humans and we must learn from their failures in humanity as well. Of course, the irony ties into my theme. It is a part of my own history that I cannot erase, so I must not shy away.

For more information on John Ross, see these pages:

https://www.cherokeeregistry.com/john_ross.pdf (This is by far the most concise summary I have found)

https://www.cherokeeregistry.com

https://en.wikipedia.org

https://www.okhistory.org/

https://www.ias.edu/ideas/2016/mcgrath-history (on interracial marriage)

Vanity, Hybrid, and Traditional Presses VS Self-Publishing

stacked booksIf you spend a lot of time in writers’ groups, chances are you’ve seen this scenario. A poor, unsuspecting newbie asks the dreaded question:

“I got an offer from a publisher but not sure I can afford it! What should I do?”

Said unsuspecting newbie gets buried in proverbial excrement and feels shamed they don’t know about the difference between vanity, hybrid, and traditional publishers.

Thankfully I had spent enough time lurking in the groups to know a traditional publisher doesn’t ask for money, and a vanity press is one an author pays to get their book “published”. I was able to avoid the onslaught of “run away!” remarks.

As well-versed as I thought I was, I still hit a wall on the definition of a hybrid press. Is publishing not as black and white as I thought? If a hybrid is not as suspicious, what do they offer that a vanity press does not? I set to find out the difference between all these options.

Continue reading

Writing Terms and Definitions

notebookThere are writing terms out there I never thought existed, and ones I thought I knew but didn’t. When I got into writing, none of these things mattered, but now I need a place that is not the corners of my brain to store this information.

I’ll update this list as I go, but here are a few writing terms to get started:
Agent

A paid middle-person who can represent a novel to a publisher and negotiate contracts.

ALPHA reader

A reader who sees the manuscript first, in its infancy. They are used to first and second drafts and can sort through the clutter, but it’s still best to clean up a little so the mistakes are not distracting.

ARC

Advanced Reader Copy. These are book copies for people to read right before the author or publisher releases said book. In this stage, the author encourages reviews for launch day.

BETA reader

A person who reads a manuscript in its final stages before the author approaches publishers or self-publishes. Unlike ARC readers, these ones offer feedback that will be highly considered in the next edit. Many people confuse them with Alpha readers, and it honestly doesn’t matter that much as long as people are up-front about their expectations. See my handy list on how to get and maintain relationships with these readers.

Critique partner

A person to bounce ideas off of and who trades portions or entire manuscripts with the author. This person usually is a writer and will give and take advice.

Continue reading

Avoid Using Google Images in Your Work

Tree roots in a tangle

Take some images. Even tree roots are interesting!

Google Images.

You can find just about anything there. Google pulls images from every website it can index and displays them in the order it thinks you want to see. It’s kind of like a menu. A poisonous menu.

Don’t use them in your work.

I spent a few years in marketing searching for just the right images and I can spot a popular stock image model a mile away, but I still insist on one thing: do not use another person’s unique images as your own.

The desire is understandable. People want something different, something just right. However, these images do not belong to anyone but the person or entity who has purchased them or made them. Using those images can be a copyright infringement.

People have lame excuses for using “found” images. Heck, I’ve even used a few of these, but we have to accept the consequences of getting caught. Here are a few popular excuses, and sadly I have used all of them at one point. Many of us have, but we need to stop.

Lame excuse #1: Just use a citation ‘Google images’

The image does not belong to Google. This is not adequate.

Continue reading

Unraveling Point of View: Can of Worms

Let’s see if I can use point of view to make you want to reach out and slap me through the screen.

That moment when you eat an apple and fat worms greet you with smiles on their faces. I threw that apple so hard I hurt my arm. She spun around, holding her arm, and ran into a low-hanging branch. Curse that tree. Curse those worms! Little did she know the worms would stage an attack later that day.

Mother of God. That was second, first, third, and omniscient all in one paragraph.

tin can full of wormsOpen a can of worms with me and explore point of view

Point of view shows the story through a lens. Notice the tense, as in past or present, sometimes changes with whatever sounds best.

Continue reading

NaNoWriMo Episode One: The Pantser Tries to Plants

Grammarly suggests replacing "pantser" with "more pants"As I gear up for my first NaNoWriMo, I find myself challenging my aspirations to plot ahead of time. I have an outline for book two, but I don’t feel like working with it. I want to just slap all my written snippets together and sort it out. Bad…very bad pantser! I’m trying to be a plantser this time and maybe graduate to a plotter next time. After all, that’s how people pump out a book every three months, right? Take a look at this other post for the difference between Pansting, Plantsing, and Plotting: Pantser Vs. Plotter.

Introspection shows two problems with my first plantser try.

Continue reading

Story Minds all Start Somewhere

By the time I was old enough to have pet rabbits, a power-hungry rabbit with malocclusion (misaligned teeth that don’t stop growing) took over the world and sent people on a run for their lives. In college, I made an animation out of it just for fun. Trust me, it was bad.

Our rabbits were sometimes proof that one such occurrence hid just over the horizon. They had pen pals, you see, and thus co-conspirators. You should have seen the crap they talked about us! Ungrateful beasts.

One of them even growled at us as we walked by, and took care to show us just how far her bite could reach, but we kept her because she was show quality.

Her neighbor, Ida, did not care for such ambitions. She lay like a lump on a log—or in our arms—or on the couch—or laced in a bonnet, happy as can be. I imagine she would be the comic companion in the quest for independence.

But what about some the famous authors? What did they first write?

Margaret Atwood

She began to write plays and poems at age six.

Age six! I was still discovering fish sticks and relishing in extravagant grape juice at age six!

Steven King

He started by copying comics and seeing his mother’s disappointment when she found out they were copies. On to bigger and better…comics of his own such as I Was a Teenage Grave Robber in 1965.

JR Tolkien

He made a few of his own complete languages in his teen years and knew several real languages as well.

I tried a secret language once with my sister. We wanted to be like Harriet the Spy. It never really took off.

Jane Austen

She wrote stories and plays and poems from at least age eleven on, probably performing a few plays with her family. Her first works from between 1787 and 1793 were compiled into a novel she called Juvenilia. She titled them Volume the First, Volume the Second and Volume the Third. According to scholar Richard Jenkyns, the works are “boisterous” and “anarchic.”

John Steinback

He locked himself in his room at age 14 and began his writing career over poems and stories. As with most writers, it took some years to get going. His work is influenced by the Salinas Valley, which is fairly close to me. I’d like to read Grapes of Wrath again with an adult mind that can pay attention.

So what about you? What did you first write?

Every writer and author started somewhere. Even if you are working on your first work right now, I’d like to know!

Who Can Compliment Authors’ Babies on Amazon

Such an angry baby

Nothing hurts more or feels better than reviews on your written work. But it seems hard to get reviews when authors are just starting out.

Let’s say you go into a grocery store with your baby and:

Your babysitter happens to be shopping as well. She looks over and coos “my, chubby cheeks is looking happy today! So cute!”

An employee glares up from stocking veggies and says “you haven’t spent enough money here to compliment babies.”

A woman compliments your baby from across the store. She hasn’t even seen the child. The manager asks her to leave.

Your spouse walks in, winks, and says “hey, nice baby.”

The managers and employees all gather around and point at your spouse. “No family or friends can compliment babies!”

As your spouse looks on in dismay, a person pushing a cart piled high with fish sticks swerves around the corner, slams into your cart, and makes the baby cry. “Ugly baby. Shouldn’t have been born,” the cart owner growls.

Nobody reacts at first. Then, one by one, everyone at the scene starts to chant “you have to buy the baby before you can review it!”

Continue reading

Writer Pages: Do it right the first time

confusing signs

Hi friends!

It’s time. I am taking the plunge! This subdomain on WordPress.com will soon be redirected to my own domain. But whyyyyy?

I don’t like ads, and I already pay for my host site, so why not go for a more professional look.

It’s painful, I know. But followers have multiplied faster than I thought they would, and I don’t want to risk losing them by making this move too late in the game. I intend to migrate everyone with the transfer so nothing should be done on your part.

Please let me know if you receive errors. It should be about 24 hours before everything propagates, so I’m trying to be patient! Hopefully you get to see this post!

Here is why I titled this post the way I did

Moving everything, paying for the redirect from WordPress.com, tracking down broken links, navigating SEO damaging 502 errors, all these things are a pain in the butt. If you start an author page, do something more like this:

Continue reading

The Why Test

confusing sign“No, we can’t go to the park.”

“But why?”

“Because I said so.”

That never worked, did it? It doesn’t work on readers either.

If our stories can’t pass the Why Test, there is a motivation problem. The problem may be even deeper than why we allow something to happen, or a character to act a certain way. Does the part/person in question have a justified existence?

Let’s try it on my first draft of Fodder for Pigs.

I had to rip this information out of my head, and my readers probably would have done the same if they could reach me. Watch as it gets better in increments:

Continue reading