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Friday, January 28, 2011

Cedar Woman by Debra Shiveley Welch

Title: Cedar Woman
Release Date: December 9, 2010
Author: Debra Shiveley Welch
Publisher: Saga Books
Buy Links:
Genre: Women’s Literature/romance

Lena Cedar Woman Young Bear, a daughter of the Lakota Sioux, opens the first high-end Native American restaurant in Central Ohio.

This is her story.

Born in May Hill, Ohio, Lena Cedar Woman travels to Columbus at age 12 after tragedy befalls her family. Here, in the capital city, a chance encounter leads her to her destiny.
Walk with her as she changes the lives and fortunes of those she loves.

Follow her to powwow where she meets her half-side.

Rejoice with her at the grand opening of her restaurant.

Cedar Woman allows the reader to learn the ways, and some of the language of The People, while also offering romance and discovery.

Welcome Debra, I'm so thrilled to have you here!  To get started, what is your latest offering?
My latest offering is Cedar Woman

What is Cedar Woman all about? 
Born in Southern Ohio to parents of the Lakota Sioux, Cedar Woman travels to Columbus, Ohio after tragedy befalls her family.  In the capital city, she meets the woman who will change her, and her family’s destiny, and because of Cedar Woman’s determination and extraordinary talent, she brings prosperity to her small family.

At age 17, Cedar Woman travels to Keokuk, Iowa and to powwow, where she meets her half-side and learns more of the ways of her people. Upon her return to Columbus, she begins the pursuit of her dream: the opening of the first high-end Native American restaurant in Central Ohio – Cedar Woman.

That sounds fascinating. Was there anything in particular that inspired this book, or did your muse come up with it?
A few factors inspired Cedar Woman: one was my adoptive sister, Julie Spotted Eagle Horse.  As the years have gone by, I have come to respect and honor her culture and beliefs.  I wanted to show that Native Americans are like everyone else and deserve the same respect as any other culture.

For instance, at one powwow we attended, a church group picketed the event and tried to keep attendees from getting into the park where the event was being held.  I couldn’t understand why they were so opposed to the gathering, or why a powwow was any different from say, a Greek, Irish or Italian festival.  It is merely a group of people, gathering to celebrate their ethnic origin, family, foods, dances, and artisans.   They also pay tribute to their veterans, which I found very moving.

The second was my desire to write a romance.  I’ve written a children’s book, a murder mystery (co-written with my cousin), a memoir, and now it was time for a new genre.  I like to stretch my literary wings.

The third is my love for food and cooking.  I’ve always wanted to own a restaurant, and so accomplished my goal through this book and the opening of the high end, Native American restaurant – Cedar Woman.

Who is your cover artist and how much input do you have in the design?
My publisher designed the cover.  She always gives me full input on the design.

If you could co-author a book with anyone, living or dead, who would it be and why?
Shakespeare, because I would want to sit at his feet and learn.  All literature should be poetry.  Another would be Army Tan for the same reason.

What books are in your TBR pile?
I haven’t read A Tale of Two Cities for a long while, and have that set aside to read.  I also have set aside Black Elk Speaks.

When you begin a new book, do you write it straight through, or do you work on more than one story at a time?
Actually, both: I have the next book outlined and ready to go, and when I hit a block on the current write, I go to the other and mess around a bit.  By and large, however, I write it straight through.

Tell me a little about your back list, and which of these is your own personal favorite?
A Very Special Child:  a children's book which explains adoption in a spiritual way
Jesus Gandhi Oma Mae Adams: a murder mystery
Son of My Soul - The Adoption of Christopher:  A memoir. This one is also my favorite and it has won four awards:  FaithWriters Gold Seal of Approval - Outstanding Read (2007), Books and Authors Literary Excellence and Books and Authors Best Non-Fiction Book 2007 and AllBooks Review Editor's Choice 2010. 

My son was born with cleft lip and palate.  So a percentage of all of my royalties goes to Operation Smile.  I'm going to add Ameriface soon.

Last year, I managed to pay for an operation of a little girl.  I received her thank you letter, with before and after pictures, read it, and cried my eyes out.  I was so happy that I'd managed to help this little girl.  As my son's plastic surgeon is a member of Operation Smile, I knew that the foundation is completely legitimate and was thrilled to be a part of it.

Some day, my son and I hope to travel to Central America and help in any way we can.

That is an awesome project to be involved in, Debra. What are you working on now?
I’m just starting Ista Numpa, which is the sequel to Cedar Woman. Ista Numpa will address domestic violence and racial discrimination. Next will be Heads Are Gonna Roll, a thriller about reincarnation, revenge and murder.  My son, Christopher and I are working on a cook book titled Christopher’s Family Table, subtitled Inheriting Family Recipes & Traditions From Adopted Kin & Clan.  Finally, I will begin another children’s book titled Christopher Meets Buddy.

Actually, my fingers are itching to write Heads Are Gonna Roll, but my readers insisted on a sequel to Cedar Woman, so…okay! :-)

Thank you for joining me, Debra, if I twist your arm would you give us an excerpt? J

From Chapter Two:

            Mary had been a timid, solemn, yet sweet child, who always stayed near her mother, causing the concerned parent to despair of her daughter ever becoming independent, until one day, as she was stringing beans, Mary as usual at her feet, Roma Brings the Corn Fools Bull observed the child staring up into the sky.  As if by magic, a single eagle feather landed upon her tiny nose.  The child laughed aloud, and lifting the single feather in one, chubby fist, waved it in the air as if to say, “Wopila,[1] thank you for the gift!”
            “Wambli[2] has chosen our child,” Roma solemnly stated to her husband, “and we should have no fears for her future.”  Upon hearing of the incident, and after long meditation, Mary’s grandmother gave the name of One Feather to the young girl.

            Mary One Feather Fools Bull prepared for the journey with increasing trepidation.  While washing and ironing the few pieces of clothing she possessed, she would find herself trembling.  As she packed her clothes in an old cardboard suitcase, which had been her mother’s, she gently placed wild sage within the folds of each garment.  She loved the smell of the sage, which always calmed her when she was troubled or under stress.
            Mary held up the last item to go into the small suitcase.  It was her mother’s ribbon dress.  Made of plain, white cotton, the A-line garment fell to her ankles, the bell sleeves and a boat neckline cunningly trimmed in blue and red ribbons.  Cut four-times longer than the circumference of the sleeve’s hem, and crossing at the back, the ribbons were sewn to the fabric, the remaining two feet floating freely, giving the garment an airy, elegant feel.  The center of the bodice was decorated with chevrons represented in the same satiny trim.
            Beginning at the knee, four couplings of red and blue bands encircled the skirt to the hem.  It was a beautiful dress, and Mary was moved when her mother insisted that she take it.
            “A woman has to have a wedding dress, and there is no time to make one.  It would make me proud if you wore this on your wedding day.  I cannot go with you, yet I will be there just the same.” 
            “Ina![3]” Mary wept, throwing her arms about her mother’s frail frame.  Roma, patting her daughter’s heaving shoulders, and gently breaking the embrace, left the room to begin the evening meal.  There were other children to care for, and her duties must not be neglected.
            Mary reverently placed the lovely garment into the suitcase.  She started to close the lid, hesitated, and returned to the small chest of drawers where she kept her clothes. 
            “I can’t believe that I almost forgot you,” she whispered reverently.  Stroking the eagle feather, caught in her infant hand years before, which her mother had been careful to save, she reverently placed it in among her clothes, and snapped the metal catches closed.  Turning, and walking slowly, Mary left the small, sparsely furnished room to help her mother in the preparation of the foods for the evening supper, her farewell feast, the last meal she would take with her family.

            The bus ride was interminable, swift, endless.  Gazing at the passing landscape, her pleas to Creator flying out of the open, smudged window, Mary fought off a feeling of panic, a desire to flee. Clutching her dilapidated luggage, its battered form resting upon her knees, she found herself mesmerized by the sound of the vehicle’s motor, the rhythm of the bump, bump, bump of the wheels on ill-repaired roads.  She felt as if she were leaving her body, perhaps leaving her present predicament behind.
            Without warning, Mary found herself leaping from her seat, her small, cardboard receptacle hitting the sticky, dirty floor of the bus with a muted thud.  Racing to the driver, and clutching the steering wheel in her two, small hands, she began screaming, “Let me off! Stop the bus!  I can’t do this!”
            Waking with a start, and gazing around the bus with confusion, Mary soon realized that she had been dreaming.

            The bus was late.   Scuffing the dirt on the dusty wooden porch of the bus depot, Peter tried to quiet his jangling nerves.  What will she look like?  Will she at least be presentable?  Will she be of a sweet nature, or will she be deceitful like Spider Woman?[4] he wondered, thinking of the Lakota legend of Spider and his devious, conniving wife.
            Dressed in a denim jacket, white tee shirt and jeans, Peter was a handsome man of the Lakota Sioux tribe.  Approximately 5’10”, slender, with deep brown eyes and flowing, dark hair, he epitomized the romantic figure of a handsome, young, Native American male.
            Anxious, excited, filled with trepidation, Peter continually glanced down the dusty road as if the intensity of his longing would cause the bus to materialize.
            Removing his black cowboy hat, pulling his red bandana out of his right hip pocket, and mopping his brow, Peter heaved a heavy sigh filled with impatience.  It was June 15, 1955, and at least to Peter, getting warmer by the minute.
            Startled by the sound of a loud engine, he glanced down the road, and spotted the dust-covered bus.   Fists clenched in nervous anticipation, he instinctively stepped back a few paces from the edge of the splintered porch, and took a deep breath.
            Brakes squealing, the bus slowed to a stop, and the metal door screeched open.  Silhouetted in a rectangle of dim light was a small, winsome figure.  Peter felt his heart skip a beat as his soul recognized its mate.
            Mary One Feather Fools Bull stood exactly 4’10” in height and weighed 80 pounds.  Large, luminous eyes, gazing just above his head, filled a face, which appeared to be too small to hold the twin, shimmering orbs.
            Pointed of chin, snub of nose, Mary appeared to Peter to resemble Theda Bara, the raven-haired silent star of the “silver screen” from 1914 to 1926.  Peter remembered Theda’s picture from the cover of several copies of old movie magazines, purchased by his mother when she was still a child.  Mary was 16-years-old.
            Taking a deep breath and attempting a trembling smile, suitcase in hand, Mary descended the metal stairs to the wooden porch upon which her groom stood.
            Cha![5] he thought to himself, she doesn’t look like she could lift a spoon – somehow, I don’t care.  I will do all of the work if she will just have me.
            Mary, on her part, could not bring herself to meet his eyes.  She was terrified!  What have I gotten myself into? She panicked.  What have I done? I don’t know this man!  Have I lost my mind? Ina was so sure that I should do this – could she have been wrong?  Trembling, Mary stared at her groom’s dusty boots.   She was prepared to move back for each step he took forward.   Overwhelming fear pressed upon her.  Swaying slightly, she felt Peter’s protective hand upon her arm.  Somehow, this calmed her instead of making her more afraid.
            Peter sensed her distress.  He felt in tune with her emotions, almost as if he were feeling them himself.  His heart ached for her, and yet, he was determined that she would be his wife.  
            “Come,” Peter begged, “let us go now to my mother’s house.  Everyone is there, and there will be fry bread and corn, rabbit pie, berry pudding, and….” Peter’s voice faltered.  Afraid of scaring her off, he bit his tongue.  Be quiet! he admonished himself. 
            Peter bent to take her suitcase from her tiny hand.  As he did so, he caught the slight, evocative scent of wild sage.  Straightening, he again tried to catch her eye, but Mary kept her shining head bent.
            “Come,” he repeated, and again taking her elbow in his hand, lead her to his 1939 Ford pickup, inherited from his father, and now badly rusted and dented.
            Helping her into the truck, its upholstery torn and smelling of dust, and running around to the driver’s side, Peter hopped in and started the engine.  Very soon, this woman would be his.  His body gave an involuntary shudder as he placed the truck in gear and drove away from the station.  Peter Spotted Eagle Catcher was already deeply in love.

            Reva walked to the truck as it came to a creaking stop, dust billowing around the cab and bed as the tires dug into the loose dirt of the reservation.  She smiled at Mary, gazing deeply into her soon-to-be daughter-in-law’s glistening, brown eyes.  Opening the car door, Reva offered to help Mary out of the truck.
            Mary accepted the older woman’s hand and grasped it firmly.  She is as frightened as a bird who sees the shadow of the hawk, Reva thought to herself.
            “Come, Cuwitku,[6] I have a place for you to change, and then you will be wed.”  Reva nodded, as if to reaffirm to herself the verity of what she was about to say, and smiled. 
            “Come.  It will be all right.”

            Face freshly scrubbed, her dark, shining hair newly brushed and hanging loose to her waist, a sage wreath, wrapped with red trade cloth, graced her shapely head.  Her mother’s ribbon dress replaced the skirt and cotton shirt she had worn on the bus, and hung gracefully to her ankles.  Beaded moccasins, a gift from her mother for her sixteenth birthday, encased her small, graceful feet.
            Standing in Reva’s tiny bedroom and clutching the footboard of the rusted, tin, bed frame, Mary resolved to run if she had to.  She would walk up to her groom.  She would finally look into his eyes, and if she didn’t like what she saw, she would run.  She would run and run and run as fast as she could.  I don’t care if I have to wash dishes and sleep in the back room of a diner.  If I don’t like him, I’m going to run! Mary thought frantically to herself.  She had barely completed her thought when the door squeaked open, causing her heart to give a frantic jump.  Spinning toward the sound, her beautiful hair fanning out around her slight body, Mary discovered Reva, arms once again held out to her for comfort.
            “Come, Mary.  It is time,” Reva announced, enfolding Mary in a warm embrace, and placing a small bundle of wild flowers in her trembling hands.
            Slowly, slowly, Mary walked to where a tight knot of people were grouped together in what would be the living room, but, in fact, was merely part of one room which served as kitchen, dining room and parlor.
            She felt as if in a dream – as if she were walking in slow motion, or wading through deep water.  Her heart was pounding against her rib cage as she slowly advanced toward a single man standing apart from the others, a wild flower tucked in the button-hole of his plaid shirt, his pony tail neat and freshly groomed, and a sage wreath, identical to hers, adorning his head as well.
            She did not hear the words spoken, or her own replies.  The Medicine Man/Justice of the Peace performing the ceremony, raised the Pipe and murmured some words.  Peter turned and tied an eagle plume to Mary’s hair, and still avoiding his eyes, Mary tied one to his.  The medicine man picked up a star quilt, and wrapped it about the couple.  Slowly, the newly weds turned to face their guests, and the reality of what had just occurred hit Mary with full force.  She had obeyed her mother and married.  Now was the time, now she must look into the face of her husband.
            Hesitantly, oh so hesitantly, she turned toward him, and at last gazed into his eyes.

            Time froze.  All sound, all movement ceased.  Within her ears was the single sound of her heart’s beat, and as her hands touched his, the sound of his beating heart as well.  As heartbeat fused with heartbeat, as soul merged with soul, and recognized its eternal partner, time seemed to stand still.  Time no longer held any relevance; time was subjective; time held no meaning.

            The wedding of Peter Spotted Eagle Catcher and Mary One Feather Fools Bull would reach legendary proportions in the minds of those who witnessed it, and later in those to whom the story was told.
            Witnesses would report a shock of electricity, a wave of emotion flooding the room, as Mary’s small bouquet fell, tumbling as if in slow motion, slowly, slowly to the floor.  Mary reaching for Peter’s hands, her hair seeming to float upon the air, Peter appearing to expand, to shimmer, a silver light enveloping the couple, the bride looking deeply into the eyes of her groom, and he, wonderingly, into hers.
            The small group was mesmerized.  Somehow, they knew that an amazing thing was happening, and that they would remember this day for the rest of their lives.
            Something had indeed happened to Mary.  She had fallen irrevocably in love with Peter.  She felt a new strength surge throughout her body, her very being, and realized, deep within her soul, that he was her destiny, her cuwihpiya okise,[7] her half side, her soul mate.
            Mary, the timid, was now filled with courage.  She knew that she had made the right choice, and that she could go forward without fear.

[1] Woe-pee-lah – Thank you
[2] Whan-blee – The Sacred Golden Eagle of the Lakota
[3]  Ee-nuh - Mother
[4] Lakota legend of Spider Woman and Coyote
[5] Sha – used as an exclamation or to make a point
[6] Chew-weed-koo – Daughter
[7] Choo-weeh-pee-yah oh-kee-shay – one who makes you whole


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