The Creek War(1813-1814), Part Two: Leaders, The Red Sticks

Let’s take a brief look at six major figures involved in the Creek War: Chief William Weatherford, Chief Menawa, Chief William McIntosh, Generals Ferdinand Claiborne and Andrew Jackson and Chief Pushmataha.

In this post, we’ll look at two Red Stick leaders. Red Sticks were those Creeks who opposed the settlers, so-called for their red warclubs, a deadly weapon. Red was the color of war in Creek society.

Red Sticks

William Weatherford

In 1780 Charles Weatherford, a Scotsman and Loyalist to Britain, rode into Alabama with his friend Samuel Mims to escape the violence and bloodshed of America’s revolution against Great Britain. Eventually, Sam Mims headed south, toward the Tensaw River and Spanish Mobile while Charles continued west to the Creek town of Coosada on the Alabama River, not far from present-day Wetumpka and Montgomery, Alabama. Here, in either 1780 or 1781, he married Sehoy, a wealthy Creek woman of the Wind clan. In 1781, Sehoy gave birth to a son who would become a legend—William Weatherford.

Nine clans (families) comprised Creek society, with the most powerful and privileged clan being Sehoy’s. Charles established a plantation, was a slave owner and slave trader, and also traded in cattle and deerskins. William Weatherford inherited this wealth.

As he grew to adulthood, Weatherford gained a reputation as a good leader as well as an excellent athlete. He was friendly to all who visited him, white men and Indian. In fact, though raised as a Creek, he dressed like a white man and adopted many of the white man’s ways.

Before the war, he advised his people to stay neutral because he knew the Creeks couldn’t win. Most of his relatives sided with the settlers, so why did he choose the Red Sticks’ side? His descendants say he joined to limit violence and save lives. Others say he was devoted to the cause. Two conflicting stories have tried to explain his decision.

Story Number One

Weatherford was returning home with his brother-in-law Sam Moniac after trading cattle when he found his wife and children being held by the Red Sticks. Their leaders, the prophet Josiah Francis and Chief Peter McQueen, told them they’d kill them in front of their families if they didn’t join their cause.

Moniac seized Francis’s warclub and whacked him on the head, stunning him long enough to gallop away. Weatherford, after warning them their fight was lost before it began, joined them because, as he was reputed to have said, “you are my people.”

Story Number Two

He returned from Pensacola and found that his family had been taken to a Red Stick village, so he went there with the intent of sneaking them out if an opportunity arose. That opportunity never came, the war’s first battle was fought and everyone assumed he’d become their leader. Thus, he joined them because he saw no other way out.

A Little-Known Fact

Gregory Waselkov, in his recent work A Conquering Spirit, writes that when Weatherford and Moniac drove their cattle to a Choctaw town, Weatherford held a “secret interview” with the town’s leader and tried to persuade him to fight in the coming war, but the Choctaw refused. Waselkov, then, is one historian who believes Weatherford was totally devoted to the Red Sticks’ cause.

Creek House, Fort Toulouse State Park, Wetumpka, Alabama Photo by Author

Whatever the truth, Weatherford would play a major role in the Creek War’s early battles and would lead one of the bloodiest massacres in American history, at a stockade built around Sam Mims’s house on the Tensaw.

Because of Fort Mims, Weatherford’s life was in constant danger from settlers who’d lost loved ones there. Till the day he died in 1824, he suffered from nightmares about the event but thanks to his family’s prominence, he was able to stay in Alabama and prosper as a plantation owner in Baldwin County, thus avoiding the infamous Trail of Tears.


Chief Menawa

Circa 1765, Menawa was born to a Creek woman and a Scottish father in the Creek town of Okfuskee. The name given him in his youth was Hothlepoya, “Crazy War Hunter,” for his raids and exploits in Tennessee where he stole American horses. These exploits made him famous.

In 1811, he became the second chief of Okfuskee. He acquired wealth through trade, cattle and hog raising, and trading horses. During the Creek War, he lost his wealth but his political prominence and influence within the tribe continued. He died in 1836 on the Trail of Tears.

Sources

Griffith, Benjamin W. Jr. McIntosh and Weatherford, Creek Indian Leaders, Tuscaloosa and London: The University of Alabama Press, 1988.

Halbert, Henry S. and Timothy H. Ball. The Creek War of 1813 and 1814. 1895. Reprint edited by Frank L. Owsley Jr. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1995.

Waselkov, Gregory A. A Conquering Spirit: Fort Mims and the Redstick War of 1813-1814. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2006.

Links

“Menawa,’ American Battlefield Trust, https://www.battlefields.org/learn/biographies/menawa

Kathryn Braund,“Menawa,“ Encyclopedia of Alabama, updated May 16, 2019, http://encyclopediaofalabama.org/article/h-3594

Quick Tip: Use the Right Word

When we ponder definitions of words, we most often think about their denotative meaning–how the dictionary defines them.

However, words also have connotative (implied) definitions. For example, blue is, by strict definition a color. But if we say “Julie is blue,” we don’t literally mean she’s that color. Rather, we’re implying that she’s sad, maybe even depressed. We’d understand its meaning by its context.

Choose words that fit the story’s context, both connotative and denotative. By using the right words in the right context, by being precise., we can help readers visualize what we’ve written.

The Creek War(1813-1814), Part One: Background to Conflict

Today, I begin a series on the Creek War (1813-1814). Most of this war was fought in Alabama when it was still part of the Mississippi Territory, and it was part of the much larger War of 1812, as Britain and Spain were allies of the Red Stick Creeks. I’ll also share some videos along the way that will go into more detail on the subjects covered. I’ll continue sharing writing tips in other blogs, but this series ties into my novel coming out, hopefully, next year. Its working title is Circuit Riders: A Story of the Creek War.

The Geographical Setting and Settlements

Before we discuss the Creek War, it’s helpful to briefly establish some background to this conflict.

During and immediately after the American Revolution, many settlers who sided with the British (Tories) left their homes in the former colonies and migrated to Alabama, settling in the Tensaw-Tombigbee valleys just north of Mobile. Many married Indian women and became rich through trade and other means. Their offspring were called métis, French for mixed blood. Originally, France ruled Mobile, but the British took over after the French and Indian War.

In 1780 Spain, an American ally during the Revolution, captured Mobile. Some Spaniards then moved up the Tombigbee River and built a fort on a limestone bluff overlooking the river that would later become Fort St. Stephens.

Under the Treaty of Paris (1783) at the end of the Revolution, Spain was granted all of Louisiana as well as territory along the Gulf of Mexico, called East and West Florida. In 1798, Congress established the 31st parallel as the boundary between Spain and the United States and created the Mississippi Territory. It later expanded to the 32nd parallel (1802) when Georgia ceded lands to the federal government. The map below shows what the Territory, a vast region spreading from the Chattahoochee River to the Mississippi River, looked like in 1813, at the time of the Creek War.

In 1799, the federal government built Fort Stoddert on the Mobile River, and in April 1813 the American general, James Wilkinson, captured Mobile without a shot fired.

American pioneers who weren’t Tories, along with their slaves and cattle, began moving into Alabama and Mississippi country in the early 1800s.

The Tribes

Four tribes lived in the Mississippi Territory during this era: the Choctaws, the Chickasaws, the Cherokees, and the Creeks. With the exception of the Pueblos in present-day New Mexico, these tribes were more culturally advanced than all the other tribes north of Mexico.

The Creeks were a matrilineal society, which meant a child’s inheritance was passed through the mother. Women managed households and farmed. Men hunted and fought wars. Often, chiefs and headmen consulted their women when decisions had to be made on issues that concerned their towns. However, when it came to war, chiefs made the decisions.

Because their society was matrilineal, a white man who’d married a Creek woman was considered Creek. Two of the Creek War’s most prominent Creek leaders were cousins who fought on opposite sides, William Weatherford and William McIntosh, but we’ll get into that later.

The Choctaws, Chickasaws, and Cherokees were also matrilineal. Most of the members of these tribes supported the settlers. One Choctaw leader we’ll be discussing later is Pushmataha, a highly respected chief.

Next week we’ll look at two major leaders of the Red Sticks.


Sources


McMillan, Malcolm C. The Land Called Alabama, Austin, TX:: Steck-Vaughn Company 1968.

Waselkov, Gregory A. A Conquering Spirit: Fort Mims and the Redstick War of 1813-1814, Tuscaloosa, AL: The University of Alabama Press, 2006

 


 

Minimalist versus Maximalist Prose

In today’s literary landscape, two writing styles dominate—minimalist and maximalist. What are they?

Minimalism

Minimalist writing is simple and direct with a tight focus on the literary subject. For the most part, it’s devoid of imagery such as similes, metaphors, and personification. Also, minimalist writing doesn’t use backstories. The idea behind such writing is to give readers just enough information to let their imaginations run wild. Minimalists look to write their prose as tightly as possible.

One of the most famous minimalist stories is Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea. I read it in the sixth grade. It was easy to follow because of the language’s simplicity. No metaphors, no similes, just sparsely written prose.

Maximalist Writing

Maximalist writers use lots of fancy language that’s full of imagery, backstory, long descriptive passages, lengthy sections of dialogue, and long, complex sentences. They add detail after detail to enlarge their stories.

Interior designers use maximalism to tastefully decorate a home or room in excess. In literature, maximalist authors tastefully write prose in excess. For an example of maximalist prose, read William Faulkner’s book, Absalom, Absalom!

So, which style is right? Either one. It depends on which one an author’s most comfortable with.

How about you. Are you a minimalist or a maximalist?

Use a Juxtaposition

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us…” Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities.

In this famous opening line to Dickens’s classic, we find that he used a literary device called juxtaposition. For example: best of time/worst of times, wisdom/foolishness, belief/incredulity, etc.

Juxtaposition uses opposites, or near opposites, to create special effects and evoke emotions in readers. We find this technique not just in writing, but in other art forms as well.  In writing, this technique can be used in both fiction and nonfiction, and poets use it a lot too.

How to Use Juxtaposition in Literature

Use it in sentences, such as Dickens used in the above example.

Use it with characters. For example, let one character be a constant worrier during a time of crisis and juxtapose him with a character who’s calm during this same crisis. In Mark Twain’s classic, The Prince and the Pauper, two lifestyles are contrasted—poor Tom Canty’s and wealthy Prince Edward’s. When we make our characters unique, it makes it easier to juxtapose them in different settings and situations.

Use it in settings. For maximum effect, don’t make the setting predictable. If Tom is in love with Carol and plans to propose to her, put them in an unpredictable place where he does this. Perhaps they’re attending a professional boxing match, and he proposes to Carol there. Fighting contrasted with romance. The boxing could be a metaphor, or foreshadowing, of future conflict in their marriage.

Using juxtapositions must be intentional, so they require some thought, but if used well, they’ll enhance your writing.

Hare or Tortoise–Which One Are You?

close up photography of tortoise near leaves
Photo by Jonny Lew on Pexels.com

I have a confession: I’m a tortoise. No, not a literal tortoise, a writer tortoise.  My writing speed is…well…it’s slow.

When I see advertisements about helping writers “write fast,” I often pause. Me? Write fast? Well, I have nothing against writing at hare speed so long as the writing is well done. However, I prefer to write slowly. For me, writing is akin to eating a half-gallon of ice cream during a four-hour Oscar-winning movie. Both take time to enjoy.

I love playing around with words and phrases, taking things out and putting things in till I’m comfortable with how my writing sounds. Sometimes I do catch myself envying those who can write both fast and well, but if I write too fast, I feel that it’s sloppy. This is just me, though.

close up of rabbit on field
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I’ve come to realize that every writer is different. Tolkien spent twelve years writing his trilogy, The Lord of the Rings (1937-1949). Other writers, such as Joyce Carol Oates, are super-prolific.

No, it’s not wrong to write hare-fast as a hare,  nor is it wrong to write tortoise-slow. Each writer must write at the pace that he or she is most comfortable with. And even though I’m a literary tortoise…Hey!  I’m enjoying the process!

Experimental Fiction

James Joyce (1882-1941)

Three Identifiers of Experimental Fiction

Experimental fiction breaks the rules of genre fiction. Often, it doesn’t have a beginning or an end, or it may go in circles and barely have a plot.  It can be long or it can be short. It goes however and wherever it wants to go, and ends wherever and whenever it wants to end.

Experimental fiction is hard to read. If you want a nice, quick read when you go to the park or the beach, I highly suggest you don’t take an experimental novel with you.

Experimental fiction experiments with language. Authors use various literary techniques, often in the same book. They may put a new definition on a word, make up a word and even use poetry.

Experimental Fiction Tips

  1. Know the rules of good writing: grammar, punctuation, and spelling.
  2. Know the principles of good storytelling in the traditional sense, such as when to show and when to tell, dialogue and characterization, etc.
  3. Don’t break the rules just for the sake of breaking them. Be able to justify your decisions in experimenting.

A Few Famous Experimental Novels

James Joyce, Ulysses

Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five

Henry James, The Other House

Daniel Keyes, Flowers for Algernon

George Orwell, Animal Farm and 1984

If you want to write experimental fiction, know the rules before you break them and be able to explain why. Also, don’t forget to revise and produce the best work you can. Who buys literary fiction these days? Submitting your work to literary magazines is the best way to begin.

Publishers Who Prey, Part Three: How I Do It

The term, “self-publishing,” says how I do it. I am the publisher, which means I have total control of my work, which means I go through many of the same steps traditional publishers do.

My Nine Steps to Self-publishing

Step One       

I buy my International Standard Book Number (ISBN) from bowker.com. ISBNs are your book’s unique identifying number. They help buyers identify you as the author and enable places such as libraries to order your book. Bowker is the only legitimate company in the United States where these important numbers can be purchased.                        

Some self-publishers, such as Amazon KDP, will provide an ISBN for you for free. However, if Amazon provides the number, authors aren’t allowed to have their own imprint, but Amazon does give authors the option to use their own ISBN and imprint when they publish their books.   

Step Two

I write my book and revise and revise and revise till I’m happy with it. In other words, I strive to write the best book I can.

Step Three

I submit my work to beta readers, those readers who read objectively and offer sound advice. I’ve written a blog about beta readers that discusses how to find the right one. Visit it at: https://wordpress.com/post/theauthorscove.com/2050

Step Four

I hire a professional freelance editor to review my book and offer suggestions for improvement. Because each genre has its own rules, it’s important to find one who is knowledgeable about your genre and era. In historical fiction, for example, lots of narrative exposition is more acceptable than in other genres, such as thrillers.

Photo by Shamia Casiano on Pexels.com

Step Five

Taking the editor’s advice into consideration and using what’s helpful, I make more changes. Since we’re all human, it’s easy to overlook things such as punctuation and spelling errors, so I proofread again.

Step Six

I hire a good cover designer. Some of the companies I mentioned in my previous post do cover designs, but I hire my own because covers are hugely important. They’re the reader’s first impression of your book. A good cover encourages readers to look inside your book and perhaps even buy it.

I also hire a professional to format my book. A short while back, I did something I’ve never done before. I took a book I’d purchased back to the bookstore for a refund. I bought it because it dealt with a subject I had an interest in. I returned it because the formatting was bad, which led me to believe the author was an amateur. The writing wasn’t that great either.

For any who may be interested, my cover designer and the one who formats my books can be found at this website: www.teddiblack.com. I have used Teddi and Megan for many years.

Step Seven

Once step six is done, I proofread again, make suggestions for changes to my formatter and when  I’m happy with the result, I upload my book on Amazon  KDP.

Step Eight

After the book is published, I record it in my Bowker account beside the ISBN number I’d purchased.      

Step Nine

I send two copies of my book to the Copyright Office. Why? Because it’s the law. The Copyright Office gives authors three months to do this.

Although it’s not required, I register my book with the Copyright Office. According to copyright law, once a work is in fixed form it’s automatically copyrighted. Registration just gives the work a little more legal protection and more money if the author sues someone who plagiarized him.

Well, folks, this is how I do it. Till next week, y’all.

Publishers Who Prey, Part Two: How to Spot Predators

Although this list of red flags isn’t exhaustive, if you spot any of them during your search for a publisher, watch out!

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Red Flags

  • Predators charge exorbitant fees. As indicated in last week’s post, authors should not have to pay fees to publishers or agents, except for necessary things such as postage. Authors who fall victim to these predators pay thousands of dollars for their book’s publication. On the other hand, legitimate publishers and agents earn their money by taking a cut of an author’s royalties. This is explained in their contracts.
  • Predators promise to edit and proofread an author’s manuscript. Well, their editing is often shoddy, as is the proofreading, and this can embarrass authors once their book is in print.
  • Predators promise high royalties (such as 70%) and say they’ll put your book in bookstores. They’ll put it on their website’s online bookstore and on other online bookstores, but no brick-and-mortar store will carry their books. Why? Because nine times out of ten, the writing is poor. These predators accept practically every manuscript that crosses their desks. It’s how they make money—from authors, not from the reading public. They can promise high royalties because few readers will buy their books.
  • Predators promise to make an author’s book a bestseller. How many wannabes have fallen for this line? I shudder to think of a number. The fact is, no one can make this promise, not even a traditional publisher. Lots of factors must fall into place for it to become a bestseller. If a publisher promises this— beware!
  • “Publisher looking for authors.” Wow, this sort of predatory advertising is a dead giveaway—predators hunting for victims. Actually, it’s authors who look for publishers, not the other way around.
  • Predators promise to get your work registered with the copyright office. This isn’t a false promise. I’m sure they do this. Hey! I’ve registered my work with the copyright office too. It’s super-easy to do, yet it sounds complicated to inexperienced writers.

Some Legit Self-Publishers

There are legitimate self-publishing companies out there. Below, I’ve listed a few, but once again, it’s not exhaustive. I’ve only listed those I’ve had experience with and/or those I know something about.

  • Book Baby:  Book Baby does charge authors, but its prices are not exorbitant. It has a very good reputation in the self-publishing industry.
  • Amazon KDP: Amazon doesn’t charge authors to publish its books. I’ve used it for all of my self-published works.
  • Barnes & Noble Press: This press is relatively new. An earlier version of this was Barnes & Noble Nook, which was similar to Amazon Kindle.
  • Kobo:  It publishes ebooks.
  • IngramSpark: Although this company is primarily a book distributor, authors also use it to publish books. A cost is involved but again, it’s not exorbitant. The owner of a  local independent bookstore in my hometown told me she orders all of her books from IngramSpark. It’s great to use if you want your book in a brick-and-mortar store.
  • Draft2digital: This company will format and update an author’s manuscript for free. It makes its money in a manner similar to traditional publishers, that is, when a book sells it takes 10 % of the book’s retail price.

Be sure to research a company before spending your hard-earned money.

A Tip for Finding a Literary Agent

Be sure the agent is a member of AALA (American Association of Literary Agents), which used to be called AAR (Agents and Authors Representatives). The AALA is like the Better Business Bureau of literary agents in that it requires them to abide by certain ethical standards. For more information, here’s a good link: https://nelsonagency.com/2021/03/one-easy-way-to-verify-if-an-agent-is-legit/

Next Week: Self-publishing: How I Do It