Thursday, December 22, 2011

Travels and Trails

With the release of Michigan and Rookie in September, I’ve been fortunate to participate in a number of book events. Of course traveling means giving up time at home and falling behind on things…like, well, my blog. After the official book launch at Indian Summer in Milwaukee, my next destination took me westward, to the South Dakota Festival of Books in Deadwood, SD.

I considered this invitation a real honor, knowing the level of distinguished authors and cultural figures in attendance, including 2011 keynote speaker/author, Joseph Marshall, III. The three-day event kicked off with an author reception at the historic Deadwood Public Library, with wine and appetizers, a chance to mingle and get to know others.

Deadwood Public Library

It was there I met Cathy A. Smith, an artist who crafted the traditional regalia for Hollywood’s biggest westerns such as Dances With Wolves, Last of the Mohicans, Son of Morning Star, Geronimo, and many more. Her power-point presentation was filled with photos of her work, authentic replicas of regalia from different time periods and native tribes. She shared stories of having to make six identical regalia pieces for each of the main characters in Dances With Wolves. She also made a replica of Crazy Horse’s warrior shirt for the cover of Joseph Marshall’s book, The Journey of Crazy Horse.

The imagery of her work captivated me completely! I absorbed every detail, fascinated with her stories and beautiful artistry. If you have any interest in period pieces of Native American regalia, you’ll want to go to her website and check out her amazing collection:

Friday and Saturday were filled with all kinds of events. The festival was spread out among several historic sites in downtown Deadwood, such as the Franklin Hotel, Masonic Temple, and Deadwood Pavilion. My presentation, “The Hidden Heritage Journey”, was at the Franklin Hotel on Main Street…apropos since the journey in fact started on Main Street Deadwood in 1999. (See post from Sept 29, 2011 for the remarkable details!)

I also shared the podium with Minnesota author Colleen Baldrica for a workshop titled “Seeking Heritage – Where Literature and Identity Intersect” in the upstairs meeting rooms of the Masonic Temple, an imposing building on the corner of Main Street.

All the authors gathered at the Deadwood Pavilion for two mass book signings where I ran into several friends and family of Paul LaRoche, and my friend, Wyoming poet Patricia Frolander.

Saturday’s events culminated with a delicious dinner and Joseph Marshall’s address at Deadwood Mountain Grand, a new hotel/casino event center being converted from the former slime plant of the Homestake Gold Mine.

The hubby and I stayed at The Lodge at Deadwood, another beautiful new hotel/casino on the edge of town, right across from Tatanka, Kevin Costner’s museum. Our room was on the fourth floor, so unless we were carrying boxes of books, we took the stairs and by the end of our sixth day, we could really feel those leg muscles toning up!

 As always, the hubby and I enjoyed our time in Paha Sapa, the beautiful Black Hills of South Dakota. We stayed an extra day to hit a few of our favorite spots: Rico’s in Hill City so the hubby could have tamales; Moonshine Gulch in tiny Rochford so we could have the best-ever cheeseburgers; Sundance, Wyoming…my dream home; and a stop at the Devils Tower National Monument, the very place I enjoyed a full week as a guest of the monument when I won a writer’s residency in 2008. We walked the Joyner Ridge Trail in the late afternoon, just as a full moon rose behind the tower, the perfect end to our stay in the hills.

Two weeks later I traveled to Elbow Lake, a tiny prairie town in western Minnesota for a meeting with a local writers group, followed with a presentation to a small but intimate group of ladies at the Thorson Memorial Library.

Last, but not least, I hopped a flight to Michigan for the Novi Pet Expo on the north side of Detroit. I hooked up with Joaquin and Rookie for three full days at the Suburban Showplace Convention Center (Suburban as in GMC and the SUV, ‘cuz in Detroit, all things good connect to the car industry!) where we met a number of dog lovers and new fans of the book.

And now the traveling is done and it's time to enjoy "home and holidays!"

Friday, November 11, 2011

Michigan & Rookie--On the Move!

It’s been a crazy-busy fall with book events scheduled in Minnesota, Michigan, and South Dakota. I’ll start with a few highlights from Joaquin’s visit to Minnesota in October, sort of a whirlwind weekend with three funfilled events packed into two days!

Ironworks – Men’s Ministry (Friday morning-6:30 am!) at Berean Baptist Church in Burnsville. The men's group is studying The Micah Project, based on the verse, Micah 6:8. As Pastor Roger Thompson shared with the men in attendance, Joaquin’s story and 22-year career in law enforcement tied in perfectly with their theme of justice in today’s world.

Minnesota Book Club with host Sandy Beaudette, Friday evening at 7pm:

This was the same delightful group of book lovers that had read Hidden Heritage this summer and invited me to their meeting in June, so in a way it was like spending the evening with old friends. When Joaquin and I (and Rookie!) arrived at the Beaudette’s, delicious smells emanated from the house immediately luring us inside. Sandy put out a wonderful spread of nummy creations…appetizers, salads, daughter Jennifer’s  delicious pico de gallo, scrumptious sandwiches, topped off with homemade apple crisp for dessert.

The evening was especially fun because everyone had already read Michigan & Rookie so they had lots of questions, wanting to know more about Joaquin’s stirring story. A few of the husbands even stayed, equally eager to hear Joaquin share more of the details. And in this more intimate setting, Joaquin was able to open up about some of the things we weren’t able to include in the book.

 And like everywhere we go, Rookie pretty much stole the show. His beautiful coloring, incredibly soft fur, and easy-going temperament (unless ordered otherwise!) draw people to him like a magnet.

 A big thank you to Sandy and Jennifer for hosting such a warm and wonderful evening!

Book signing at Barnes & Noble, Saturday afternoon at 1 pm:

Our last event of the weekend was a book signing at the Apple Valley Barnes & Noble Bookstore. Not sure how many to expect, John and Joaquin commandeered a big table near the windows (instead of the end-table and single chair set in the aisle), which turned out to be a smart move. We had a nice-sized crowd of friends and family who took time out of their busy Saturday to join us. The windowed corner gave us plenty of room, and the beautiful October sunshine made the perfect backdrop to our afternoon presentation!

So far book sales (and book reviews!) have exceeded our expectation. We really appreciate everyone who has supported us by coming out to one of our events. It’s especially fulfilling when people tell us they are buying the book as a gift for someone special in their life. More than anything, we love hearing how the book has touched those who have read it.
All for now,

Monday, October 17, 2011

Barnes & Noble Book Signing!

We're hoping for a great turnout this Saturday (Oct. 22nd) at the Barnes and Noble in Apple Valley at 1:00 pm to meet Joaquin and Rookie II, and hear Joaquin share stories from "Michigan and Rookie: Guardians of the Night." There will be plenty of books on hand, and Joaquin and Rookie will sign copies for everyone. (Yup, he's got a paw print with Rookie's name!)

Event Icon

I've got a packed weekend planned for Joaquin and Rookie while they're in Minnesota. On Friday morning bright and early (or should I say 'dark and early'?) we're making a stop at Ironworks, a men's ministry group led by Pastor Roger Thompson at Berean Baptist Church in Burnsville. The topic is "justice", which ties in perfectly with Joaquin's 22 years as a police officer.

Friday evening we've been invited to meet with a book club out in Victoria, hosted by Sandy Beaudette. I met all the ladies in this book club back in June when they read Hidden Heritage: The Story of Paul LaRoche. Judy Schultz hosted the group that evening and we were treated to the most delicious gourmet summer dinner and drinks, sitting outside in her screen porch on a perfect June evening.

Maybe the most interesting part of Joaquin's visit will be seeing how Mr Duke and Miss Daisy (our two newly adopted yellow labs!) react to having a great big ol' German shepherd in the house. If you hear a crazy commotion coming from the house this weekend, you'll know why!

Hope to see you at the book signing!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

South Dakota Festival of Books 2011

More good news to share…I’ve been invited to participate in the South Dakota Festival of Books, October 7-9, 2011 in Deadwood, South Dakota, a 3-day festival celebrating all things literary. This year’s theme is Native America, which is why Hidden Heritage: The Story of Paul LaRoche was selected as one of the books to have on hand.
I'm scheduled for two presentations, Saturday, October 8th, at the Franklin Hotel, Main Street, Deadwood.

Saturday, 10 am: "Seeking Heritage: Where Literature and Identity Intersect", with Minnesota author Colleen Baldrica.

Saturday, 4 pm: "The Hidden Heritage Journey"

All authors are invited to take part in two book signings at the Deadwood Pavillion/Chamber of Commerce:  Friday, October 7, 4-5 pm, and Saturday, October 8, 12:30-2 pm.

Attending the festival in Deadwood has deeper meaning for me, because that is where the ‘Hidden Heritage Journey’ first began. Here's what I mean...


The Hidden Heritage journey began with a chance encounter in the tourist town of Deadwood, South Dakota. On a family vacation in the Black Hills in 1999 we happened upon Brulé playing near the sidewalk seating of the Buffalo Stockade bar on Main Street. The music from this small, upcoming band of three was as captivating as the surrounding landscape. Their distinct sound initially caught my attention—the hauntingly beautiful mix of flute, keyboard, and traditional drum they are now famous for. Listening one could immediately sense something deeper at the heart of it. Sure enough, in reading Paul’s Artist Bio I was equally captivated by his life story.

All the way back to Minneapolis I heard a voice, You should write a book about this man…

But before I reached home my own doubts drowned out the voice, telling me I had no connection to Paul LaRoche, a complete stranger. I wasn’t Native American or adopted, and more importantly I didn’t have any writing credentials. The loudest doubt pushed through time and time again: You’re not a real writer; you’ve never even been published! Yet each time I listed to Paul’s unique music, the voice returned.

Three years passed before I dispelled the doubts and found the courage to respond…and as soon as I did, an amazing journey began. First came an article about Paul, published in a regional magazine, followed by the book in 2006, Hidden Heritage: The Story of Paul LaRoche, including two awards. That summer I joined Paul for book signings at several Brulé events, but none was more moving than at Mount Rushmore National Monument. I stood on the park’s plaza, the majestic monument in the backdrop, beautiful Brulé music playing in the mountain air, signing books alongside Paul. It was a moment I never could have imagined seven years earlier on our first vacation to the Black Hills.

Yes, there have been roadblocks along the way, some bigger than others, but with faith and perseverance we’ve tromped over and around those obstacles, committed to keep this journey on track. In 2009 Hidden Heritage, a documentary-style television series premiered on the RFD-TV cable network, opening a door for Brulé to perform at the RFD-TV Theater in Branson, a show that’s now described as 'a Native American experience in sight, sound, and soul.' On January 1, 2011, Brulé performed atop One Nation, a Native American-themed float in the prestigious Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, sponsored by RFD-TV.

So next week I return to Deadwood to attend the South Dakota Festival of Books as an invited author, 12 years after I first saw Paul playing his soul-stirring music. Chance encounter? Hardly. Every phase of this journey declares it is God’s perfectly designed plan, a journey that is far from complete.

While writing Hidden Heritage, I discovered Paul’s great-great-great grandfather, a Yankton chief named Strikes the Ree (1804-1888), was an important figure in American history. In 1804 Lewis and Clark camped at Calumet Bluff when word came that a baby had just been born. The famed explorers wrapped the infant in a flag and declared that he would someday be a great American citizen. Their prophecy indeed came true. Strikes the Ree became a great leader among his people and played a significant role as a peacemaker during the Great Sioux Uprising. During his life he traveled to Washington DC and received peace medals from three US presidents. Worthy of an epic tale, the great burdens the chief bore during the years of cession and settlement on the Northern Plains have largely been overlooked by historians.

Strikes the Ree
South Dakota State Historical Society Photo

I believe the Hidden Heritage journey has led to this important, historical book. All this and more I could have missed, had I not taken that first step.

Where is your journey taking you?


Friday, September 16, 2011

Indian Summer Book Launch

Where do I begin?

The whole Indian Summer experience turned out to be one of those rare moments in life when God aligns the stars just right and we as mere humans stand in amazement at His divine orchestration. The beautiful lakeside Henry Maier Festival Park and absolute perfect weather, combined with the many reflections of Native culture and stirring Brulé music brought a true sense of God’s handiwork as the festival unfolded.


I couldn't have asked for more in the way of a book launch. On one side stood Joaquin with his brand new book Michigan and Rookie: Guardians of the Night, and on the other side was Paul LaRoche and his biography Hidden Heritage: The Story of Paul LaRoche. It’s humbling as a writer to think the God of our great universe chose me to write Paul's and Joaquin's stories, which in turn led to this amazing intersection of people, stories, faith, and culture.

Joaquin, Barbara, Paul
Many of North America’s tribal nations were represented throughout the three-day event, from the nearby Ojibwe tribes of Minnesota and Wisconsin to the Aztec people of Indigenous Mexico.

Because of Brulé’s popularity our booth was located inside the main entrance, making us easy to spot. :)

Besides the steady stream of newcomers that we visited with, my niece Lisa, her husband Arlo and daughter Tammy, along with another niece Babette from Wisconsin drove over to say hello. We don’t get to see each too often, so it meant a lot to have them make the trip.

Lisa, "Auntie" Barbara, Babette
Also, daughter Karli’s boyfriend Cameron’s parents, Wes and Sue, drove down from Fond Du Lac to meet us for the first time. It ended up that they enjoyed the festival so much they decided to stay for the Brulé concert.

You'll never guess which stage Brule' played...'d you ever guess-- Miller Stage!!!
 And like the thousands of fans who showed up to see Brulé, they weren’t disappointed. Somewhere between 2,500 and 5,000 showed up for Saturday night’s show alone…and judging by the crowd’s contagious enthusiasm, no one walked away disappointed.

Brule' dancers

Paul LaRoche, founder of Brule'/AIRO
Paul invited Joaquin and Rookie onstage during the concert both nights and shared a little about their experience at Ground Zero. Many people in the audience stopped by our table to say “Thank you” to Joaquin for his service.

More highlights from Indian Summer 2011:

One lady couldn’t wait to begin reading Michigan & Rookie: Guardians of the Night and took a seat right behind our vendor tent...

Having fun with the Brulé gang...

Stacey hard at work while Judi and Kim goof off

Judi promoting the books
(Thanks, Judi!!)
Kathy, Paul, Vlasis

John and Rookie sharing a hot-fudge sundae…

Lakota giving Kim some juicy kisses…

Moonrise over Lake Michigan…

Joaquin's parents, Jim and Lupe, enjoying a nice breeze off the lake…

Meeting lots of new people...

9/11 Honor Parade with veterans, first responders, and Joaquin and Rookie…

One of the most poignant moments of the whole festival happened on Saturday evening. Just like the previous night, many people were drawn to Rookie’s powerful presence and asked to pet him or have their picture taken with him. As a working service dog Joaquin always has to be careful in big crowds, making sure people approach Rookie only one or two at a time.

One woman asked Joaquin to have her picture taken with Rookie. It was apparent she had some physical limitations, yet she knelt down beside Rookie, ready to pose right next to this K9 hero. As her friend held up the camera to snap the picture, she reached up and removed her ball cap, exposing her nearly bald head. At the very same instant Rookie raised his face toward hers, gently “kissing” her cheek in soft, tender licks.

Joaquin later confided that Rookie never does that, but he had somehow sensed the woman’s illness and vulnerability. In an unscripted display of affection, Rookie touched the hearts of us all.

Of course all good things must come to an end and by Sunday evening it was time to close up shop. On behalf of our crew (John, Jim, Lupe, Rookie, and Lakota) a great big THANK YOU! goes out to Paul and Kathy for inviting Joaquin and I to join up with them at Indian Summer.  Without a doubt, the book launch was an experience we'll never forget.