Tag Archives: Red Bird’s Song

In Need of An Herbal Tonic?

sassafras leaf in autumnSassafras comes to mind and figures prominently in my colonial American historical romances set in the Alleghenies among the Native Americans. Think the colonial frontier–The Last of the Mohicans–and you’re there.

Back to sassafras. I love the tree’s varied mitten shaped leaves and its distinctive, aromatic scent. My parents have a sassafras tree growing in their yard, but I’d have to head into the mountains to get my fix, or buy sassafras from the small local grocery store.

*Note to self, plant sassafras trees. Maybe if I put in an entire grove some would survive. Our challenge is the cows which occupy much of our land and eat anything not protected behind secure fencing. Saplings are among their favorite delicacies.

old sailing shipYou might be interested to learn, as was I, that Christopher Columbus is said to have quelled mutinous seamen by the sudden sweet smell of sassafras which indicated the nearness of land. Not only did it aid in the discovery of the New World, but was an important export to Europe in the early days of colonial American, even exceeding shipments of tobacco.

Wine made from the darkly blue berries has been imbibed for colds. During the spring-flowering period, the blossoms were simmered to make a tea for reducing fevers. A blood purifying spring tonic was and still is imbibed from a tea made by brewing the roots. A tea distilled from the bark was believed to aid in the treatment of bronchitis, respiratory ailments and tummy upset. Chewing the bark was thought to help break the tobacco habit, a problem even in the early days of this country. The roots were distilled and the oil from them used to flavor many products including ginger ale, sarsaparilla, cream soda, root beer, toothpaste…

Sassafras leaves in autumn

A poultice made from the leaves and laid on wounds was used to stop bleeding and aid in healing. Native Americans steeped in the many uses of sassafras passed their knowledge along to European settlers in the colonial frontier. A tea from the bark was also thought to be beneficial in the treatment of venereal disease, needed by both Indians and colonists alike. If you wonder what ailments afflicted folk in the early days of this country, you need only read what they were most interested in finding treatments for and cancer doesn’t make the top ten.

How to make sassafras tea: One method is to vigorously scrub several roots, a couple of inches long, and use the whole root, or cut them in into pieces, and bring to a boil in three pints of water. Reduce heat and simmer for fifteen minutes. Remove from heat, cover, and steep for another ten minutes before straining and serving. Yet another method is to drop several roots into a quart of boiling water, remove from heat and steep then serve. A pound of roots will make 4 quarts of tea and can be used several times before they lose their strength.

Native American historical romanceFor the bark, especially used as a spring tonic, cut or grind a teaspoon of bark and steep in a cup of boiling water for ten minutes, strain and sip. The tea from either root or bark should have a yellowish red hue, rich smell and pleasing taste. It can be thinned with milk or cream and sweetened. I would add some honey, but those of you who like it plain, enjoy.

And good health to us all.

The ‘Whys’ Behind Historical Romance Red Bird’s Song

Seems like a good time to revisit one of my most popular posts featuring historical romance novel Red Bird’s Song–the story of my heart for many reasons.  The initial encounter between Charity and Wicomechee at the river was inspired by a dream I had on New Year’s Eve–a propitious time for dreams–about a young warrior taking an equally young woman captive at a river & the unexpected attraction between them.
That dream had such a profound impact on me that I took the leap from writing non-fiction essays (by hand back then) to historical romance novels and embarked on the most amazing journey of my life.  That was years ago and the saga continues.  I also met the prophetic warrior, Eyes of the Wolf, in another vivid dream at the advent of this adventure, so when I describe him in the book I’m envisioning a character I feel I know.

The setting for much of Red Bird’s Song is the same as Through the Fire, the spectacularly beautiful Alleghenies.  Much of the history and events depicted in the storywere inspired by accounts I came across while researching my early American English/Scots-Irish roots and the Border Wars.

Most of you have heard of The French and Indian War, the time period in Through the Fire, but there were others.  (Chief) Pontiac’s War followed on the heels of the French and Indian and is the time frame of Red Bird’s Song.
Lord Dunmore’s War took place a decade later–all occurring in the colonial frontier.

Actually, life in the frontier was continually unsettled up through and even after The American Revolution had drawn to a close and warfare a reality. The boundaries of the frontier just kept shifting farther west.

In the early mid 18th century, the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia was the frontier and only hardy souls dared settle here. The bulk of these were the tough Scots-Irish.  I think if the Indians had only had to fight regular British troops they might ultimately have won because they scared the s— out of men trained for conventional warfare, but the long knives were another matter. They weren’t easily intimidated and soon learned from their cunning enemy.

Although Hawk Eye in The Last of the Mohicans is an adopted Mohican, his lifestyle and behavior is that of a colonial frontiersman. The more rugged of these men dressed as he did, much in the Indian way. They hunted & fought with muskets, tomahawks, and their famous knives. Indians acquired these knives as well. They blended traditional weapons and ways of living with new-found tools and weapons of Western man.  A highly adaptable people.

The attack at the opening of Red Bird’s Song in the Shenandoah Valley is based on one that occurred to my ancestors at the tail end of Pontiac’s War and is recorded by Historian Joseph A. Waddell in The Annals of Augusta CountyA renegade Englishman by the last name of Dickson led the war party that attacked them.  Initially I’d intended to make the Colin Dickson in Red Bird’s Song a villain but as soon as he galloped onto the scene I knew differently. He’s now one of my all time favorite characters.

Wicomechee, the hero in Red Bird’s Song, is based on the Shawnee warrior by that name who lived early in the nineteenth century and to whom I have ties.  The Moffett’s, an early Valley family I’m related to, include a reference to him in their genealogy. Wicomechee’s father, John Moffett, was captured in Kentucky by the Shawnee at the age of eight and adopted into the tribe.  It’s said he was a boyhood companion to the great Chief Tecumseh, a chief for whom I have enormous admiration.  The accounts of John Moffett and Wicomechee are recorded by Waddell. It’s also noted that during the Black Hawk Wars Wicomechee recovered the captive daughters of a Dr. Hull and brought them safely into camp, which reminds me of Hawkeye in The Last of the Mohicans.  I’ve included more on this amazing warrior at the end of the novel as a bonus for those who read it.

Charity, the heroine in Red Bird’s Song, is drawn from a reference I came across of a young Scots-Irish woman captured along a river in the Virginia frontier.  Remember, early Virginia was enormous.  Augusta County, near where I live, encompassed present day states and was later sectioned off.  Nothing is known of what happened to that young woman. Just a single line in an old account of captives taken during the Indian wars.

The same sort of capture and subsequent lack of information occurred to the sister of my great-grandmother a number of greats back.  Both of these women may have made new lives with the Indians. There are records of women who married into the tribes and did not want to leave their warrior husbands and adopted people. Tragically, some those captives who wished to remain were later forced to return to their white families through treaties, causing great heartache. There are also accounts of captives who couldn’t get out fast enough! One such captive was Daniel Boone.

Charity’s cousin Emma in Red Bird’s Song is based on the young, very pregnant wife carried off in that original attack. In the actual account it’s uncertain whether or not her husband survived his injuries.  His last name was Estelle, as it is in the story, and we have early Estelle’s in our family tree. However, that name is no longer common in the Shenandoah Valley but has vanished into the mist of time along with a mostly forgotten era and its people.  Few remember or care.  Perhaps you will come to.

James, the little boy in Red Bird’s Song,is drawn from the lively child taken in the original attack who lived to tell about it and did so with great relish.  He’s also modeled after several high spirited little boys I’ve known and loved. James is a tribute to my young nephew, Matthew Trissel, killed in a farm accident, and my youngest daughter Elise’s close friend, Garry Keens, killed by a drunk driver.  Wonderful boys, gone before us but never forgotten.Although Eastern woodland Indians had a reputation for brutality, once a captive was adopted they were well treated and regarded as equals. Warriors were unpredictable and didn’t always behave in a certain manner anymore than all European men acted alike. Warriors could be unexpectedly gentle or sadistic.
I’ve read accounts of warriors getting up in the night to stir up the campfire and cover captive women and children with blankets, even delay their journey while a woman gave birth.  These men protected and fed their captives while other warriors burnt them at the stake. It all depended on who took you captive, and why, as to what your fate would be, and whether they kept, traded, or sold you.  Or killed you in retribution for a love done lost at the hands of the English. Of course, some braves didn’t take captives.  Just scalps.  The warriors most feared in the Shenandoah Valley were the Shawnee, regarded as the fiercest of all.  The more I studied these remarkable people, the more engrossed I became, especially as they figure into our family roots.
The sources I used in researching Red Bird’s Songwould take up pages, my list of reading material sizable, and I’m indebted to the long-suffering anthropologists and archeologists who answered my many questions and supplied me with research materials, also helpful reenactors, historians, and historical sites. Most of all, I’m indebted to my own forebears. Without these hardy souls, their faith in God and determination to forge a life in the New World, I wouldn’t be here.  Neither would many of you.

*Red Bird’s Song, a 2012 EPIC eBOOK Award Finalist, is available in print and ebook from The Wild Rose Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other online booksellers.  Your bookstore and library can  order it in.  To read excerpts from the novel.
***My mother took the image of the Allegheny Mountains. Apart from the scene in The Last of the Mohicans movie, all other images are royalty free.

About Native American Historical Romance Novel Red Bird’s Song

Red Bird’s Song was the first novel I ever wrote but the sixth I’ve had published.  The story took years to research and completely finish writing.   Going back over and revising Red Bird’s Song became an annual event.  Though written first, it’s the second novel in my colonial frontier trilogy, Through the Fire being the lead story, and I’m at work on the third–have been on and off for twelve years. This time round, though, I’m determined to finish it!  That ongoing challenge is Kira, Daughter of the Moon.

But back to Red Bird’s Song.  A one line soundbite: “A young Scots-Irish woman and her Shawnee captor battle the dark forces against them only to discover their greatest challenge lies within their own hearts.”

Here’s the description I originally wrote for it:

Autumn 1764: Wicomechee scouts out the Scots-Irish settlement and the war party is in place. Then she comes. Her brilliant hair and green eyes remind him of a spirit of the autumn trees.  Charity whirls around to find the most savagely handsome man she’s ever seen standing behind her. Stripes of paint blur his striking features, his eyes are like the dark pools where deep-woods fern grow; his face reminds her of the man in her dream. But this can’t be––he’s a Shawnee warrior!

Here’s the official Blurb I ended up with after a great deal of help:

Taken captive by a Shawnee war party wasn’t how Charity Edmondson hoped to escape an unwanted marriage. Nor did Shawnee warrior Wicomechee expect to find the treasure promised by his grandfather’s vision in the unpredictable red-headed girl.

George III’s English Red-Coats, unprincipled colonial militia, prejudice and jealousy are not the only enemies Charity and Wicomechee will face before they can hope for a peaceful life. The greatest obstacle to happiness is in their own hearts.

As they struggle through bleak mountains and cold weather, facing wild nature and wilder men, Wicomechee and Charity must learn to trust each other.~  And to that I would add, or be destroyed.

Yes, I admit the second one is better, but I still like the first.

Wicomechee, the hero in RED BIRD’S SONG, was a real Shawnee warrior to whom I have family ties.   He actually lived  in the early nineteenth century, a little later than the setting for Red Bird’s Song, which was the colonial frontier–mostly Virginia but also the Ohio territory.   I loved creating the character of Wicomechee who comes vibrantly to life in the story, but he’s based on the unique and fascinating warrior I tell you more about at the end of the novel.

A deeper glimpse into Wicomechee through snatches taken from the book:

Shades of Wicomechee:

From the heroine, Charity’s, point of view:  “Wicomechee was undeniably attractive. She’d never expected that in a warrior. His eyes reminded her of dark pools where the deep-woods fern grow. His nose, neither too large nor too small, complimented his smooth brow, high cheekbones and strong chin. Nor could she fault his gleaming hair, or muscular chest partly revealed beneath the cream-colored hunting shirt open at the neck.
But his intimacy in the night left her bewildered, as did her disquieting response.”~


From his point of view:  “Wicomechee’s chest pounded beneath his shirt from his race down the ridge. Charity’s anguished shrieks had sent cold dread knifing through his heart, unlike anything he’d ever imagined. She must be in dire peril to call out to him. Her name for him swelled in his ears.”~

From her point of view:

~“You are paca, beautiful.” Closing his arms around her, he drew her gently against him. He combed his fingers through her hair. “Like fire, your hair, and your eyes…never have I seen such a color. You are the sun, the trees, come to life.”~                                                                             ****

“How do you guess my thoughts? You’ve done this before.”

“A warrior must see in the face what lies in the heart. This is why we are careful to guard our thoughts.”

“Why don’t you want others to know?”

A hawk shrilled overhead as he answered. “Much danger lies in this.”

“I don’t know how to hide mine.”

“No. Like clouds making shadows over the earth, your face changes to show what you think.”

“It’s just as well I haven’t any secrets, then.”

His eyes looked deeply into hers. “None?”

“Perhaps I’ve a few.” Suddenly self-conscious, she squirmed under his forceful gaze.~


“I am the man in your dream, but you will not say.” Without waiting for her stammered reply, he continued. “You grow cold. I will take you from here.”

“Wait. Before you do, where is my home?”

He pointed to the east. “There.”

She searched the rippling ocean of ridges for a final glimpse of the lush green valley called Shenandoah, Daughter of the Stars.

“Will I ever see the valley again?”
A sweep of his arm encompassed the western sky. Lavender and rose streaked the golden rim of the ruggedly beautiful Alleghenies. “Your home lies that way, beyond the mountains. You belong to Shawnee now.”~


From his pov: Wicomechee sought shelter in the fast descending darkness. These ridges would be cold tonight and Charity was especially vulnerable to the chill. A wolf loosed a long thin howl above the wind crying through the trees.

She jostled against him. “Mechee—a wolf.”

“Brother Wolf will not harm you.”

“How can you call that beast your brother?”

“He is clever. Shawnee respect him.”
Wicomechee guided her through the dusky light to the cluster of evergreens. A rocky mound on the windward side of the trees offered additional cover.

He paused before the dim outline of the thickly branched evergreen. “Go under.”

She crawled beneath the sweeping boughs and hunched on the layer of needles. He slid in beside her. The force of the wind instantly lessened and he kept her in the innermost recess of their hideaway.

He laid his musket down and slipped the shot pouch and powder horn from his shoulder, barely discerning their shapes in the gloom. His tomahawk joined the others at arm’s length. The knife remained at his waist. Like trusted friends, he kept his weapons close.~


He untied her cloak and pressed his lips over the curve of her neck…like swans’ down. “You feel some fondness for me? Before, you said I am only your enemy.”

“You are. I’m just—having difficulty remembering.”~


From her pov: In one lithe movement, Wicomechee was out of the water. With three short strides he stood over her, his black hair streaming. “You attacked Chaka first?”

She stared up at him, shivering in her wet clothes. “He provoked me,” she faltered. “ I only tried to knock him down.”

Disbelief mixed with the potent censure in Wicomechee’s eyes. “Is this a fight you thought to win?”~


From his pov: With a howl of deepest anguish and blackest rage, Wicomechee flung down his musket and grabbed his tomahawk Before the big Long Knife could reload, he sprang at him.~


Wicomechee speaking:  “Can a heart be taken, like a horse? Even horses remember their masters. A man cannot force a woman’s heart as he can her body…her heart is mine. She seeks my love in return. Not yours. When she wakes with fear, she holds to me, not to you. Her tears wet my shirt, not yours. When she is glad I hear her laughter. For me she sings.”

Native American Historical Romance Novel Red Bird’s Song, set in the colonial frontier, is available in print and or digital download from  The Wild Rose Press,  Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other online booksellers.

Native American Historical Romance

The opening to both of my Native American Historical romance novels, THROUGH THE FIRE and RED BIRD’S SONG were inspired by dreams, as were some of the subsequent scenes in them.  I also encountered several of the key secondary characters in that mystical realm.  Behind these stories lies an immense wealth of research.  Boggles the mind how much work went into them (into all my stories, really).  I have shelves of books and piles of manuscripts given to me by historians, old journals, etc, heaped here and there in my house.  Now, of course, there are all the online sources too, but back in the day, there weren’t.   And I began this research fifteen plus years ago.

Apart from all of these non-fiction sources, I’ve read very little NA based fiction.  And I’d already written Red Bird’s Song before I got around to seeing the superb 1992 film,  The Last of the Mohicans.  Granted I loved the movie, but never set out to reproduce it in any of my novels, only to say that they have that sort of flavor.

My admiration for Native American people and their culture is a long-standing one, as is my profound regret at the horrific treatment they suffered at the hands of Western man.  In my stories, I aim to depict both points of view with varying the shades of grey.  No one group is ever all bad or good–people are people the world over.

I tire of some readers telling me my hero, if he’s a warrior, wouldn’t do this or that.  First, he doesn’t have to fit a Native American cookie cutter mold.  He’s an individual.  And yes, I consulted historians, anthropologists, archeologists, reenactors and even some of the Shawnee themselves before and during the writing of these stories, so I had a good idea what comprised traditional behavior for that era, and there’s no one size fits all for warriors.  It just all depended.

Bear in mind that Eastern Woodland warriors intermingled heavily with the whites, or could have, through trade, acting as guides…not to mention the inevitable warfare and captive situations that threw the two groups together.  Many warriors spoke at least some English and possessed an awareness of Western ways.   Again, to various degrees.   Some were educated.  The eloquence of their words are with us still, at least in those instances where they’ve been preserved.

Back to the interaction, remember, the first settlers to the New World arrived  in the late 1500’s (think Roanoke Island and The Lost Colony), and Jamestown was established  in the early 1600’s.   So, Eastern  Woodland Tribes had a lot of experience  with Europeans by the time period my stories take place.  Unlike western and Plains tribes, some of whom hadn’t even seen whites until the mid 1800’s.   Makes an enormous difference.

***Kira, Daughter of the Moon is the sequel to Through the Fire, a story that also builds on the history of Red Bird’s Song and follows closely on its heels time wise. All of these novels are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and from other online booksellers.

Historical Romance Novel Red Bird’s Song got An Outstanding Review!

*I think this is a particularly well written and insightful review.


Sep 2010
334 pgs
Historical Romance, Western
4.5 Stars
The author weaves a story of deep complexity. The descriptions of life among the nomadic tribe are simply without parallel. It is difficult to explain how deeply touching I find it to be.  In the Afterward, Ms Trissel confides that her ancestors settled in the Shenandoah Valley and that the family records document that some relatives were killed in Indian raids and others were taken hostage and later adopted into the tribe.  It seems clear that this story is exceptionally well-documented historically. I found it to be entertaining, thought-provoking, and educational. This book touched my soul even as it provided a thrilling fictional escape into a period of history I have always found fascinating. 
Night Owl Reviewer

Native American Historical Romance RED BIRD’S SONG Has A Release Date!

Blurb:  Taken captive by a Shawnee war party wasn’t how Charity Edmondson hoped to escape an unwanted marriage. Nor did Shawnee warrior Wicomechee expect to find the treasure promised by his grandfather’s vision in the unpredictable red-headed girl. George III’s English Red-Coats, unprincipled colonial militia, prejudice and jealousy are not the only enemies Charity and Wicomechee will face before they can hope for a peaceful life. The greatest obstacle to happiness is in their own hearts. As they struggle through bleak mountains and cold weather, facing wild nature and wilder men, Wicomechee and Charity must learn to trust each other.


Charity swiped angrily at a tear. She’d run away, if she had anyone to run to. It wasn’t right they were all dead.

On impulse, she jumped to the ground. “I’ll go anyway,” she muttered. “Eat nuts and berries and live in the woods.”

“Will you go alone?” a low voice asked.

Sucking in her breath, she whirled around. Less than twenty feet away, grasping his musket, stood a tall young brave. Stripes of red and black paint blurred his striking features. His dark brown eyes riveted her in place. This warrior was like no other and the most savagely handsome man she’d ever seen.

God help her.  She should flee now, but could only stare, open-mouthed.

She swept her disbelieving gaze over the loose black hair brushing an open buckskin vest that revealed his bronzed chest and shoulders molded into contours of muscle. An elkskin breechclout left a great deal of his hard thighs exposed. Despite the dread hammering in her chest, a fiery blush burned her cheeks. But it was the sheathed knife hanging on his left side and the lethal tomahawk slung on his right that snapped Charity from her near-trance.

In a rush of memories, she recalled the stories of her father’s death under the scalping knife and neighbors who’d suffered the same violent fate.

No Indians had been spotted in their settlement since the Shawnee grew hostile and war had erupted nine years ago, but the warfare had ended. Hadn’t it?

Clenching ice-cold fingers, she dug her nails into her palms. “What in God’s name are you doing here?” she forced past the dry lump in her throat.

“Watching you.”


RED BIRD’S SONG published by the Wild Rose Press is out Sept 10, 2010 in both print and digital download~

For more on the inspiration behind RED BIRD’S SONG~

For more on the story behind the story please visit my website: www.bethtrissel.com

Upcoming Releases

Somewhere My Lass~

Neil Mackenzie’s well ordered life turns to chaos when Mora Campbell shows up claiming he’s her fiance from 1602 Scotland. Her avowal that she was chased to the future by clan chieftain, Red MacDonald, is utter nonsense, and Neil must convince her that she is just addled from a blow to her head–or so he believes until the MacDonald himself shows up wanting blood.

Mora knows the Neil of the future is truly her beloved Niall who disappeared from the past.  Although, her kinsmen believe he’s dead, and she is now destined to marry Niall’s brother, she’s convinced that if she and Neil return to the past, all will be right. The only problem is how to get back to 1602 before it’s too late.


Light paranormal romance Somewhere My Lass is a unique suspenseful Scottish time travel, the next story in my ‘Somewhere’ series.  Release date TBD. I will keep you posted. This story was mega challenging to write, but I loved the characters and am pondering a sequel.  Senior Faery Rose Editor Amanda Barnett is fabulous.

Red Bird’s Song~
Taken captive by a Shawnee war party wasn’t how Charity Edmonson hoped to escape an unwanted marriage. Nor did Shawnee warrior Wicomechee expect to find the treasure promised by his grandfather’s vision in the unpredictable red-headed girl.

George III’s English Red-Coats, unprincipled colonial militia, prejudice and jealousy are not the only enemies Charity and Wicomechee will face before they can hope for a peaceful life. The greatest obstacle to happiness is in their own hearts.

As they struggle through bleak mountains and cold weather, facing wild nature and wilder men, Wicomechee and Charity must learn to trust each other.


Native American Historical Red Bird’s Song is an adventurous romance set in the Virginia colonial frontier with a The Last of the Mohican’s flavor, inspired by events that happened to my early Scots-Irish forebears.  The first novel I ever wrote and oft rewrote, Red Bird’s Song is the story of my heart.  I am thrilled to finally be getting this published. Release date is 9-10-2010.  Senior Historical Editor Nicole D’Arienzo is wonderful to work with.

Follow Your Dreams

HawkThroughFireI’m thrilled to have signed with The Wild Rose Press for my historical romance, the story of my heart (actually written first and oft rewritten, the story I cut my teeth on and grew up with) RED BIRD’S SONG!  Set in the Virginia colonial frontier with a The Last of the Mohicans flavor, inspired by events that happened to my early American ancestors and the story that launched me onto my novel writing journey.

Back in the 1990’s, my sister Catherine (to whom I’m dedicating the book) cautioned me that it might take more than a few months to get Red Bird’s Song published.  I was like, ‘no way!’  Yes, way.

Catherine stuck by me in all my rewrites and helped sustain me, along with my mom and dad, a few close friends, and my hubby has always been supportive.   I finally set my beloved story aside, temporarily, and went on to write my next five books.  But now and then I’d go back and rework it some more.  Ultimately, I had to cut out well over a hundred pages and revise many scenes, though never the heart of the story.  And, at long last, “A triumph, my dear. A triumph,” to quote Bob Crachette in The Christmas Carol.

In those days (years–the previous decade) The Impossible Dream was my theme song.  So for all of you who have a dream, whether it’s to write a novel or fly to the moon, or something far more simple and yet daunting, never give up on anything (or anyone) you truly love.  Find a way.  People along your journey will help you; some of these are not even known to you yet.

“You are not finished when you lose, you are finished when you quit.” Quote from my youngest daughter’s basketball coach, back in the day.  I gained many motivating quotes and inspiration from watching her struggling team play B-ball.

“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

“Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly.” ~ Lanston Hughes