Courtney Miller

Literature & Fiction, Mystery, Thriller & Suspense

Author Profile

Courtney  Miller

Courtney Miller is a multi-award winning author in the genres Historical Fiction, Faction (Fiction based on Fact), Young Adult, Fiction, Mystery, and Geezer Lit. He is the author of The Cherokee Chronicles, The White Feather Mysteries, and Native American Antiquity.

Books

Gihli The Chief Named Dog: Book 3 of the Cherokee Chronicles

Literature & Fiction

Set in a time when the Cherokee were at their peak and before the European influence, this fast-paced story of peace and war, good versus evil, and the pursuit of happiness takes the reader on a roller coaster of emotions while enlightening him on the fascinating culture of the ancient Cherokee! The long lost culture is brought back to life through award-winning story-telling.

Book Bubbles from Gihli The Chief Named Dog: Book 3 of the Cherokee Chronicles

Yunwi Tsunsdi-Cherokee Leprechuan

When the Irish came to America, they brought stories of their “little people”, the Leprechauns. A mischievous dwarf full of tricks and magic. But “little people” were already a legend among Native Americans. The Navaho and Ute told stories of the “Pitukupf”, a mischievous spirit-dwarf that lived in a badger hole. The Cherokee called their legendary little people “Yunwi Tsunsdi”. They were magical and mischievous, as well. James Mooney wrote: “There is another race of spirits, the Yunwi Tsunsdi, or “Little People”, who live in rock caves on the mountain side. They are little fellows, hardly reaching up to a man’s knee, but well shaped and handsome, with long hair falling almost to the ground. They... spend half their time drumming and dancing. They are helpful and kind-hearted, and often when people have been lost in the mountains, especially children, [they] have found them and taken care of them and brought them back to their homes. Little People do not like to be disturbed at home, and they throw a spell over the stranger so that he is bewildered and loses his way. In the book, The Little People appear to help Ali on two occasions. Are they real or imaginary?

Cherokee Justice

Comparing the ancient Cherokee Tribal Government to the U. S. Government, our Congress is similar to the General Council. The Executive Branch could be compared to the Chiefdom, except that the Cherokee had two "Presidents"--the Peace Chief and the War Chief. The Peace Chief presided over the tribe during peace time, the War Chief took over in war times. Our Justice Department compares to the Council of the Beloved Women. It was up to this council of women to decide the fate of prisoners of war and other domestic issues. Among the Cherokee, this appears to be the only time that sex mattered. A woman could be on other councils and could be a chief, but the women handed down justice. In Gihli, The Chief Named Dog, Kalona, the village Peace Chief, heads up the Council of Beloved Women comprised of representatives from each clan. Tagwa renegades kidnapped three Cherokee daughters and the Council must decide whether or not to return the corpses of the Tagwa to their village.

The Perfect Villain

In Gihli, The Chief Named Dog, 14-year-old Ali and two other young Cherokee girls are kidnapped by three Tagwa renegades. Tagwa warriors made the perfect villain because of their scary appearance. The Tagwas practiced artificial cranial deformation or modification. "Head flattening, or head binding" as it is sometimes called is a form of intentional skull alteration involving the distortion of the normal growth of a child's skull by applying force. Typically, it was done on an infant, when the skull is most pliable, and the binding begins approximately a month after birth and continues for about six months. It was practiced throughout north, central and south America.

Introducing Main Characters

Whenever I read a book, I like to mark the page where a character is introduced so that I can easily go back to refresh my memory. When these introductions are spread out or slowly brought into the story, I can forget or get confused about who they are. So, I tried something different with this book, I introduced the main characters in the first chapter. The reader can easily return to the first chapter to review these characters. Of course, I also list all of the characters, who they are and how to pronounce their names in the front matter of the book.

Ripples in the Pond

Fourteen-year-old twin brother and sister, Atselvdi and Ali sit by a pond enjoying a lazy afternoon. Both are recovering from life changing events in their lives. Atselvdi takes a branch and dips it in the water and then flicks it up cause disruption in the pond representing the recent disruption in their lives. When the waters eventually calm, Atselvdi explains to Ali that calm is the natural order of things and that their lives will soon calm and peace will return. This simple scene is the theme for the book. It represents, I think, the undaunted spirit of the Cherokee people who have had their lives disrupted over and over again and yet still triumph.

It's About Time: A White Feather Mystery

Mystery, Thriller & Suspense

When will Frank catch a break? When will Sam put his life back together? When will someone put an end to Benny’s harassment? Franklin Roberts is a good man who does not deserve the outrageous misfortune that has left him homeless and destitute. It’s about time he got a break. White Feather is convinced that his new friend has a rare case of Synathesia and can SEE TIME. Maybe, he can also travel back to his past. It’s about time to find out. Detective Sam Morrison has lost his family and then his job as a homicide detective for Denver P.D. It’s about time he puts it all back together in the Wet Mountain Valley. Benjamin Cook is making life miserable for everyone at St. Jude Methodist Retirement Home. It’s about time someone put an end to it. Five old men have found themselves stuck in a retirement home waiting to die. It’s about time they restart their lives. When a resident at St. Jude Methodist Retirement Home mysteriously dies at lunch, five eccentric old men team up to solve the crime. Will the 5 Sleuthkateers wind up in jail or solve the mystery? Follow these lovable, comic, old geezers as they bring together their eccentricities to sometimes compliment, sometimes complicate the local sheriff’s office’s investigation. Who will ultimately solve this unique mystery?

Book Bubbles from It's About Time: A White Feather Mystery

Dropping Hints for a Future Novel

When writing a novel, ideas for the next novel often pop into my head. Sometimes the idea is prompted by a character or event in the current novel. Sometimes the idea comes from outside the current novel. In either case, I may insert a hint for the reader. I call it “planting seeds”. For example, in “Ludwig’s Fugue,” Benny Cook was introduced including his relationship to Chief Buster Crab. In the second White Feather Mystery, “It’s About Time,” Benny Cook is the victim of a poisoning. In this second book, Lizzie Dawson is introduced. She becomes the main character in the third book “Ghosts of St. Jude.” In both the first and second mysteries, Gabby, the part-time dispatcher at the Sheriff’s Office is caught reading paperbacks written by local author Agatha Christopher. In the third mystery, the reader gets to meet the local author and she gets entangled in a real-life mystery. These are just a couple of examples of seeds planted in the novels. The astute reader will find many of these little hints.

St. Jude Methodist Retirement Center?

St. Jude Methodist Retirement Center only exists in the pages of a White Feather Mystery. It first appears in book one, "Ludwig's Fugue.” The Undersheriff of Rockcliffe has placed his uncle-in-law in the facility, but Benny is not adjusting well. Chief Crab has to take time out from his murder investigation to try to get Benny to stop being a menace at the home. In book 2, a new character, Frank Roberts, is accepted into the Retirement Home and meets the notorious Benny Cook who is still menacing the residents despite all efforts to get him to settle down. When he dies mysteriously of an apparent poisoning, Frank and his new friends Albert, Ralph, Monty, and White Feather form the "Sleuthkateers" to try to solve the murder. This mystery, venturing into the genre, "Geezer Lit", is a humorous, sometimes poignant story of five old geezers competing with the Sheriff and his deputies in a mystery with a Hitchcockian twist. The building on the cover is actually the administrative building of the Hudson River Mental Institution in New York which was closed years ago. Those who search for the location of St. Jude based upon descriptions in the books will be disappointed. That part of highway 69 is just ranch land.

Writing About Indigents

I have often been asked why I chose to make St. Jude Methodist Retirement Center a home for indigents. What is my connection? Before I became a writer, I worked for forty years in business management. Every company I worked for was bought out, downsized, went out of business, or reorganized at some point. So I have been laid off many times. For the record, it wasn’t my fault. Fortunately, I was always able to bounce back, but I have seen first hand how easily and quickly fortunes can turn. I truly felt vulnerable after I turned 60, and often worried about how easily we could lose everything. So the character Frank Roberts was born out of those sleepless nights.

"Seeing Time"

Frank Roberts has always visualized the calendar as a huge circle resembling a vinyl record. His position on the circle indicated the point of year. January was at the start of the circle with each month advancing counter-clockwise around the circle. When White Feather discovers Frank's concept, he accuses him of being able to "see time". White Feather also tells Frank that he can travel back in time because of it. Frank is disturbed by White Feather and mentions his conversations to his favorite retirement center aid, Stacie. Franks' condition sounds familiar to Stacie and so she researches it and discovers that Frank has a rare condition called "Synethesia". This excerpt from the book is when Stacie shares her discovery with him. It is a real condition, but White Feather's idea that Frank may be able to travel back in time is, of course, his own wrinkle on synethesia.

Ludwig's Fugue: A White Feather Mystery

Mystery, Thriller & Suspense

Can David Ludwig Emerge from His Fugue? Was He Set Up … or Did He Murder His Family? The Wet Mountain Valley Sheriff’s Office has its hands full when they must not only deal with solving a homicide, but, with limited resources, must call in the CBI and deal with an arrogant and closed-minded agent. White Feather, an old Cherokee medicine man, uses his unique skills to compete with the local Sheriff's Office to solve mysteries. He sometimes compliments but more often complicates the more traditional investigating methods of local law enforcement. Sam Morrison, fired from the Denver Police Homicide Division, accepts a job in the beautiful Wet Mountain Valley Sheriff's Office just in time to work on the Ludwig murders. Can he solve the crime? Will his personal life that caused his ex-wife to flee from him complicate his ability to work? And, will Sam be able to put his life and his family back together again? Set in the scenic, rural Wet Mountain Valley of southern Colorado, the White Feather Mysteries are a delightful cross between “Cozy Mystery” and “Geezer Lit”. Multiple book award-winning author Courtney Miller will keep you guessing until the end! “A cunningly crafted mystery." --Margaret Coel

Book Bubbles from Ludwig's Fugue: A White Feather Mystery

Rockcliffe

In the White Feather Mysteries, the peaceful little town of Rockcliffe sits in the heart of the Wet Mountain Valley in southern Colorado.  The Sheriff's office and many of the character's homes are in Rockcliffe.  But, if you pull out a map and look up the Wet Mountain Valley, you will not find Rockcliffe.  It is a figment of my imagination.   What you will find are the twin cities "Westcliffe" and "Silvercliff".  I am inspired by the peacefulness and beauty of the lovely towns and I try to capture that "feeling" in the fictional town of Rockcliffe.    The same is true of the people of the Wet Mountain Valley.  I love the spirit, the friendliness, the caring of the people and I try to capture those traits in my characters.  But the characters do not represent nor are they based upon actual people.  If one of the characters seems familiar to you, it is probably because I don't know the person you think you recognize!

What Caused Ludwig's Fugue?

David Ludwig's "fugue" is not a musical composition. In this case it is the term from psychology referring to "a period during which a person suffers from loss of memory." The idea for the book came to me after watching the two movies "50 First Dates" and "Memento". I wondered whether there was any validity in the premise--that someone could lose all of their memories after sleeping. I found no evidence of that, but did find a case in the Smithsonian magazine about the case Henry Molaison who lost his ability to create new memories after brain surgery in which his hippocampus was removed. After the surgery, he could not remember anything for more than a few seconds. In the book, Ludwig's Fugue, I reference this article on page 122.

The Raven Mocker's Legacy

Literature & Fiction

“If you’ve read “The First Raven Mocker,” you’ve already gained an appreciation for the author’s unique ability to spin a tale. His characters seem real to us because Miller took the time to do extensive research about Indigenous Native Americans, the Cherokee in particular. Where possible in this edition of the continuing saga, he accurately describes the dress, lives and culture of the Cherokee prior to contact with Europeans. At the same time he takes great care not to recreate ceremonies that are sacred and private to those who remain strong in the practice of their Cherokee spirituality.  “This story takes a winding path through prehistory that could have been real. It is a fiction that has numerous actual components. The characters represent a dichotomy of personalities from dreadfully dependent to feverishly psycho. He includes descriptions of striking native beauty while peaking our interest, page after page, in a magical story beyond compare.

Book Bubbles from The Raven Mocker's Legacy

More popular than American Football

Prior to European contact, the game known as the "Anetso" was more popular among the eastern Native American tribes than football is in the United States today. How did it become so? The story goes that the Iroquois and the Cherokee were once the same tribe. According to old Cherokee stories, the Northern Iroquois insulted the Southern Iroquois and the Southern branch broke away to become the Cherokee. For years and years, the Cherokee and Iroquois fought what seemed like an endless war. Finally, the chiefs of the two tribes met in hopes of settling their differences and bring peace. What they decided I think is a monumental idea--to stop the war and, instead, have an anetso to allow the two nations to vent their aggression. Anetso means "War's Brother". The game is the precursor of today's LaCrosse. After establishing the national ballplay event, the Cherokee and Iroquois enjoyed many years of peace and the Anetso became the biggest event of the year.

The Legacy of a Love Potion, part 2

After awaking from the spell of a love potion, Sakonige resents Ugi for his deceit and bitterly leaves him and her sons. But over time, she comes to realize that she has always loved Ugi in spite of the love potion. The hate she felt when she discovered his deceit turns into anguish. If only he had released her from the spell. If only he had given her the chance to love him. If only he had not been so insecure. When Ugi’s uncle, Udo, looks in on her, she is disappointed that he is not Ugi come to see her. Udo tries to comfort her by suggesting that his mother fancies that the raven that visits her is, in fact, Ugi. Sakonige remembers that a raven has been chattering in a tree beside her house. At that point, Sakonige finds some solace in believing the raven to be her Ugi, also. But it is little comfort after giving up not only her husband, but also her children. Sakonige lives a dour life waiting for the raven to materialize into her long lost Ugi and waiting for her children to finally seek her out and reunite. Will she ever see them again? Will she ever see Ugi again?

The Legacy of a Love Potion, part 1

In book one, The First Raven Mocker, Ugidahli Unega “Ugi”, White Feather, accidently gives Tlvdatsi Sakonige, Crazy Little Fawn, a love potion instead of a compound for her head wound. Ugi so loves Sakonige that he never removes the spell of the love potion fearing she will not love him back. Years later, when Ugi’s evil son, Tsisgili, slips her the antidote out of spite, Sakonige comes to understand the spell she has been under. She resents Ugi for keeping her under false pretenses. She resents Ugi for taking her away from her family. She resents him stealing her life. She resents the stigma put on her by Ugi’s witchcraft. Angry and bitter, she leaves Ugi and her boys and returns to her home village. Tragically, she is cursed by being the wife of a witch and the villagers and even her family reject her and leave her depressed and alone. Only Ugi’s family accepts her and tries to keep in touch with her. [see part 2]

Love At First Sight? No. Love Discovered!

When Spirit Dancer, Adanvdo Alsgida, first sees Wadulisi, it is not just "love at first site," he feels that he has "discovered" the woman from his subconscious. This is the woman that his mind has conceived as the perfect woman. "...her features were instatly recognizable as the model for perfection that every face on earth strived to copy but fell short, left as but an imperfect imitation of this most pristine standard." I once read about a study that took thousands of faces and averaged the features. The study found that the closer a face was to the average, the more beautiful the face was perceived to be. If this is correct, Spirit Dancer has found the most perfect (average) face he has ever encountered.

World Trade in Antiquity?

In order to hide from his evil brother, White Feather joins a trade caravan that travels and trades with cultures throughout North and Central America. But is there reason to believe all of these cultures actually did trade with one another? I have written a number of articles on the prolific trading done by ancient cultures in the Americas for the online magazine Native American Antiquity. Quoting from an article titled “Ancient Trade: 9th Century”, I wrote, “For instance, at Casa Bonita in Chaco Canyon, New Mexico, they found chocolate and parrot feathers from Central America and copper ornaments possibly fashioned at Cahokia, near St. Louis, Missouri and shells from the coast. They had to have been trading with those cultures. And archaeological evidence shows us that trade and communication throughout the ancient Americas was extensive and prolific.” And why did I choose “Kokopelli” as the caravan leader? Here is an excerpt from another article titled “Who Was Kokopelli Really?” “So who was this curious little man really? Because of his widespread appearance — from Mexico to west of the Mississippi — I think Kokopelli represented the travelling merchant or trader. He most likely dealt with Pochteca that were traveling merchants in the Aztec Empire. His humped back originally looked a lot like a tump basket.

The First Raven Mocker

Literature & Fiction

Young, Cherokee boy, Ugidahli Unega, is taken in by an old wizard and his wife when he is rejected by his mother's family after the mysterious death of his father. Seeking to save the dying couple, he descends into the dark world of witchcraft. Pitted against the evil cannibal witch Stone Clad in an epic confrontation, he discovers the secret of the Askina and learns that the four souls of man are the key to immortality. In his quest, he becomes the first Raven Mocker witch and must betray his family, his clan, his tribe, and the love of his life and suffers scorn, rejection, and expulsion. -- Will the Cherokee people ever accept him? -- Will the girl of his dreams forgive him? -- Will he survive or will he be destroyed. In the First Raven Mocker, Courtney Miller introduces The Cherokee Chronicles series. Youth, innocence, secrets, betrayal, the dark world, tragedy and justice are woven through this captivating and intriguing story revealing the ancient Cherokee culture few know about.

Book Bubbles from The First Raven Mocker

Like Michener and Hailey?

Someone recently said that my Cherokee Chronicles series is, “as if James A. Michener and Arthur Hailey teamed up to write the Cherokee’s story.” If that is true, then I am extraordinarily honored because I am a great fan of both authors. Arthur Hailey’s comment, “I am a storyteller and anything else is incidental,” is something I can totally identify with. I am particularly proud to be compared to Arthur Hailey, because I am trying to expose the Cherokee culture through story in the same way that he exposed the inside workings of a hotel through story, or a bank in his book, Moneychangers, or the airline industry in Airport. This description: “fictional, lengthy family sagas covering the lives of many generations in particular geographic locales and incorporating solid history,” was written about Michener’s novels, but could also be used to describe the Cherokee Chronicles. In the 7-book series, I have taken a fictional Cherokee family starting in mythological times with each following generation in a different point in time all the way through contact with the Europeans, interaction with the newly formed United States, and ending with their relocation from the eastern homeland to Oklahoma. So, I am quite honored and pleased to be compared to Michener and Hailey.

The Four Souls of Man

In my first published work, The First Raven Mocker, the secret of how to acquire a man’s souls and thereby steal his remaining years to add on to his own life is revealed. The technique was extrapolated from the Cherokee legends and myths surrounding their most feared witch, the Raven Mocker. In searching for clues, I researched many sources including James Mooney’s writings from living among the Cherokee while working for the Bureau of American Ethnology and from the insightful findings of Alan Kilpatrick’s investigative book, “The Night Has a Naked Soul.” I, of course, had to guess how the Raven Mocker actually would have transferred the souls to himself. When writing the novel, I debated how I should present the Raven Mocker. I decided that I would portray him as he was believed to be. Whether or not we believe that a witch is capable of these things is up to the reader. But what I wanted to give to the reader was the authentic version of what the Cherokee once believed he was capable of and to do it in a way that made some practical sense. Used to introduce the Raven Mocker in this book, the scene is taken from book three, “Gihli, A Chief Named Dog.”

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