5-Star Review from Readers’ Favorite for “The Curse of Dead Horse Canyon: Cheyenne Spirits”

Authors are always sensitive to both praise and criticism. When I received an email this morning from Readers’ Favorite I braced myselft. I realize that it’s next to impossible for EVERYONE to like your book. Everyone doesn’t even like the Bible, for heaven sake (pun intended.) But when you give it your all, then someone rips it to shreds, its pretty devastating.

To use a Texas term, this is not my first book rodeo. I look back at some of my earlier work and cringe. But this is published novel number six and I like to think at this point I know what I’m doing.

This review validated that for me and felt really, really good. It made me cry. Here is what it said:

Reviewed By Susan Sewell for Readers’ Favorite

Conspiracy and murder have taken place in the Colorado Rocky Mountains in the chilling thriller, The Curse of Dead Horse Canyon (Cheyenne Spirits) by Marcha Fox and Pete Risingsun. Both of them dying at the scene of a car wreck, Sara Reynolds watches her husband Bryan go into the light just before returning to her body. Before he moves into the light, Bryan requests that Sara expose those who murdered him. However, when Sara awakens in the hospital, she has no memories relating to the day their pickup plummeted down the side of the mountain. As her health improves, the feeling that the wreck wasn’t an accident persists. When she is once again the victim of another near-fatal accident, Sara realizes someone wants her dead. Why is Sara being targeted? Had Bryan’s computer hacking skills unearthed a deadly secret that someone thinks Sara knows?

Brimming with drama and suspense, The Curse of Dead Horse Canyon (Cheyenne Spirits) by Marcha Fox and Pete Risingsun is the first book in an exciting new series. Opening with a heart-rending scene, the story captured my interest from the outset. Infused with a sense of danger, the intricate plot and dramatic storyline create a breathtaking and intense story. Containing a fascinating combination of Cheyenne and Dine spiritual practices seasoned with astrology, the novel is educational as well as entertaining. The Cheyenne fasting vigil, spirit animals, and the medicine wheel combined with astrology readings are intriguing aspects of the story that are genuine and authentic. It is an exceptional novel complete with conspiracy, intrigue, and murder that will enthrall everyone who has an affinity for suspenseful thrillers with just a smidgen of the paranormal.

This review was especially sweet because a few months ago I paid big money for a Kirkus Review. It sucked. It was apparent from the poorly written choppy paragraph that the person had not even read the book. It was slapped together like a 7th grade book report written at midnight the night before it was due. I would bet dollars to donuts that this supposed “professional reviewer” was some down and out semi-literate individual trying to make a few bucks with no sense of honor or integrity. Furthermore, Kirkus PROTECTS these people by allowing them to be anonymous, PLUS you cannot complain–they make you sign a release upon submitting your work. They pile a boatload of requirements on you while not maintaining professional standards themselves.

I complained, nonetheless, and wrote them a scathing letter to which, as expected, they did not respond.

Authors, please take note: DO NOT WASTE YOUR MONEY ON A KIRKUS REVIEW! If you are an indie author who is relatively unknown, they will throw your book to some unqualified cretin who probably won’t even read it, much less give it an honest assessment. They are just another one of those fraudulent services preying on indie authors. I am not the only one who has had this experience with them. Besides putting a huge hole in your wallet (which would be better spent on classes or promotion), they do NOT give you a fair shake.

Please spread the word. It’s too bad we can’t find all their victims and go after them with a class action suit, except we’re too busy writing. Attention, those of you who write murder mysteries! Try this for a premise: Author goes psycho over bad review and tries to find, then stalk the anonymous reviewer.

Revenge is sweet, n’est-ce pas?

I was not only insulted, but upset for all the reasons stated above. Some little demon in the back of my head kept telling me that the book was no good. Now I’ve been vindicated and it feels mighty good.

Take that, Kirkus! May your dirty deeds be exposed along with all the other corrupt, blood-sucking services targeting me and my kind!

“The Curse of Dead Horse Canyon” A cross-cultural epic saga begins . . .

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Government corruption ignites a 19th century Cheyenne curse….

In 1879 a drunken hoard of silver miners raided a Cheyenne village while the tribe’s warriors hunted buffalo. A small band of young braves, not yet old enough to join the hunt, escaped and rode for help. Their efforts failed when they were discovered by the raiders, who ran them over a cliff along with all the tribe’s horses that had been left behind.

When the warriors returned and found the devastation, the tribe’s medicine man, Black Cloud, placed a curse on the site.

A century and a half later, a scandalous Top Secret project is under construction in the same Colorado wilderness. Bryan Reynolds discovers that its roots lie in the same greed, corruption, and exploitation of the Earth that precipitated the curse. But before he can expose what he’s found, he’s killed in a suspicious accident that his wife, Sara, miraculously survives. Her memory of where they were or what they’d discovered, however, is gone.

Neither Sara nor Bryan’s life-long Cheyenne friend, Charlie Littlewolf, will rest until they find out what Bryan discovered that resulted in his death.

Charlie is acutely aware that the only way to solve the mystery is through connecting with the grandfather spirits. To do so he must return to his roots and the teachings of his medicine man grandfather, Eaglefeathers. His journey back to the Cheyenne way includes ancient rituals and ceremonies that guide him and Sara to the answers they seek.

As a descendant of Black Cloud, his destiny is deeply embedded in the fulfillment of the original curse, which was triggered by the scandalous government project Bryan discovered and his subsequent death. Charlie’s quest has only just begun.


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It took me far longer to write this story than I ever imagined. Believe it or not, my original intent was to write a cozy mystery which I planned to finish in a few weeks. Once I got into it, however, and started doing some research (my fatal flaw as a write), it morphed into a not-so-cozy murder mystery with a sharp conspiratorial edge. It took nearly two years from when it was conceived to releasing volume 1 of a trilogy.

Part of the delay was when I decided I needed a Native American to give my work a sanity check. I didn’t want it to be inaccurate or offensive. I did a lot of research, but recognized that is often insufficient. Through a rather serendipitous chain of events I found Pete Risingsun, a Cheyenne who lives on the Northern Cheyenne reservation in Montana. It didn’t take long for Pete to connect with the story to such a degree that he became the story’s coauthor. The Cheyenne portions of this story are accurate. You can read Pete’s biography as well as mine on the book’s website here.

A government conspiracy lies at the core, though this first volume concentrates on Sara and Charlie discovering what Bryan knew that got him killed. It’s character driven like my other novels with them riding a freight train of research that captured me in their iron grip. Every time I turned around I discovered something else that fit the story and situation too closely to ignore.

Modern man’s colonialism coupled with a blatant disregard for the environment conflicts with Native American philosophies of animism and the necessity to honor the Earth. These ideologies have clashed for centuries. Informed individuals already know about the downside of fracking. Past pollution caused by 19th century mining and the EPA Superfunds charged with cleaning them up, however, are not as well-known.  Put them together and there’s a subplot just waiting to hatch.

Various paranormal and supernatural elements including detailed descriptions of Cheyenne rituals and ceremonies are included. You’ll learn about the sacred red pipe, ceremonial fasting, and the sweat lodge. The Cheyenne’s name for the Great Spirit is Maheo, who is referred to throughout. There are numerous other-worldly situations included. While the story is fictitious, these depictions are authentic.

Modern technology plays a significant role in juxtaposition to traditional Native American elements. Astronomy and the ancient art and science of western astrology play roles as well in helping Sara and Charlie find the answers they need.

These complexities are what expanded this story into a trilogy. Charlie’s journey back to his roots and the consequences Sara pays for fulfilling Bryan’s dying request play out in the next two volumes. They are already drafted and awaiting collaboration with Pete and then the usual rounds of editing. Native American history is touched upon, but will be covered in greater detail in subsequent volumes.

I hope you’ll join me in this incredible journey and enjoy it as much as I have putting it together with the assistance of my awesome coauthor.

Pick up an electronic copy on Amazon or Google Play until July 31, 2020 for only 99c!

More vendors are on the way. The print version will be out in about a month. COVID19 has slowed down the conventional indie publishing process to glacial speed, but it is on the way.

Check out the series website for more information about the sequels and an excerpt from this one.

The saga has barely begun….