Originally, the order of my novels was Montana Harvest, Mystery at Little Bitterroot, and The Killing Zone and the original timeline was 1995-1997.
However, as I continued with the series and once Missing in Montana was completed in 2018 which required backstory to describe a kidnapping in 1992, I realized that there is a certain degree of importance to not just refer to occurrences that happened in the past and how characters lived their lives during that time. It is also critical to develop these occurrences and the characters in such a way as to show the reader how these events actually took place in the author’s mind. It reveals the characters in a different light and time than in the current writing.
For instance, in the first three novels, Jim Buchanan is Cedar County Sheriff and Dan McCoy is a retired sheriff. Time is quickly passing Dan by since he retired and some of the old ways of doing things are no longer relevant or even accepted practice. Dan sometimes struggles with this and often comes across to the reader as bumbling, uncooperative, or argumentative and is called out by the people still active in law enforcement. In Missing in Montana, Dan hadn’t yet retired and was still Cedar County Sheriff and Jim was a Montana Highway Patrolman. It provided an opportunity to draw Sheriff Dan McCoy with a much different personality and as a confident and courageous law enforcement officer fully in charge of his jurisdiction.
Taking it a step further, I began writing the novel, Blood On the Rez which describes Sheriff Jim Buchanan as a 16-year old Crow youth banished from his tribe for a serious indiscretion. Not only does Jim’s domineering father, Angus Buchanan come into play in that novel where he was only a reference point in the first three novels but Sheriff Dan McCoy becomes a surrogate father figure to Jim. In that novel, another character, Willie Otaktay will end up going to prison for a crime that I have referred to in my first three novels. Again, it will provide me with an opportunity to reveal to the reader different aspects of my characters’ emotions and behaviors and explain what led up to the situations that I’ve referenced in the first three novels.
There will be another novel, The Ghost Wind that will take place between the end of Blood On the Rez and the beginning of Montana Harvest that will follow Jim’s career as a Montana Highway Patrolman and leading up to his election as sheriff. It will show him fully involved in trying to solve a mystery.
But everything changed when I began to receive feedback reviews on Missing in Montana. It appears that some readers who were following my main characters did not like my secondary characters being the main focus of Missing in Montana. Therefore, I have put on hold, Blood on the Rez and resumed writing the next novel in the series, Miracle of the Taking Stick which contains all the main characters from my first three novels. I will complete Blood on the Rez in my spare time and hopefully will be able to publish it in the near future.
During the summer of 2018 one of my stops with the Western Writers of America was Chief Plenty Coups State Park. There I met Park Manager Aaron Kind who was so respectful of the artifacts located in the basement and so knowledgeable of the life of Chief Plenty Coups and the history of the land that Chief Plenty Coups donated to the State of Montana.
The last chief of the Crow Nation, Chief Plenty Coups experienced a vision when he was very young that non-Native American people would ultimately take control of his homeland (Montana), so he always felt that cooperation would benefit his people much more than opposition. He very much wanted the Crow to survive as a people and their customs and spiritual beliefs to carry on. His efforts on their behalf ensured that this happened, and he led his people peacefully into the 20th century.
One of his famous quotes is: “Education is your greatest weapon. With education you are the white man’s equal, without education you are his victim and so shall remain all of your lives. Study, learn, help one another always. Remember there is only poverty and misery in idleness and dreams – but in work there is self-respect and independence.”