Kindle Scout book coming-Forgotten Body

Forgotten_ebook final coverNovember 14, 2015, is the big day! I just got word this morning (the 12th). My next mystery, Forgotten Body, will be on Kindle Scout.

Okay, you want to know exactly what Kindle Scout is? It’s partly a choose-your-own-read, in that anyone can nominate books they would like to read. After giving the reading public thirty days to choose a book, Amazon decides which ones they will publish in e-book form. (Part of their decision is based on the book’s popularity.) The best part for the reader: You receive a free e-book copy of each of the books you nominated. Okay, that’s only true if they decide to publish the book. (If not, they tell you where it is available.) As a reader, I’ve nominated many books I’d like to read. (They allow three nominations at a time.) Several have been published by Kindle Scout, so I’ve received free e-books. They were all great reads. They earned four or five stars when I placed my reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. (Since I know those reviews help the author and the reader, I try to review every book I read.)

Of course, there’s good news for the author too. The Kindle Scout program offers a favorable contract with advance and royalties, as well as publicity.

The Kindle Scout site for Forgotten Body will include the one sentence teaser, the blurb, and almost all of the first two chapters. It will even tell you something about me and ask me questions. (I answer, of course.) Meanwhile, I’ll tell you Forgotten Body is a sequel to Yesterday’s Body. Jo Durbin, my amateur detective will do her thing (along with that elusive, imaginary cat) at a reenactment of the War of 1812. On Saturday the 12th, the whole thing will go live here. So visit, and if you like what you see, nominate. If you have any questions, ask here.

Five Stars for Deadly Occupation

10-19 Bloody OccupationDeadly Occupation is a just-published prequel to the other Michael Stoddard historic mysteries. Lieutenant Stoddard is a British officer stationed in the American colonies during the Revolution. As such, one might not think him a hero to a 2015 American reader, but that is not a concern for this American reader. I have read the other mysteries in this series, and while I recognize characters from those, this book gives backgrounds of characters without spoiling or revealing anything from other books.

The Stoddard books bring out the ambiguity in America at that time. There were Americans who preferred British rule as well as those who didn’t. (And there were nasties on each side, one revealed for sure.) Deadly Occupation also illustrates the ambiguities of historians, for Suzanne Adair has delved into history that is seldom reported. Makes for a (excuse me) damn good read!

Other readers agree. Here’s a bit from one Amazon five-star review: “Michael Stoddard is a young, 27-year-old, Lieutenant with a gift for solving crimes, a chin full of blemishes, and a murky past. In this novel, he chooses an assistant, 18-year-old Nick Spry. Spry has his own talents, an eye for detail and a relaxed way with people that encourages them to open up to him. He’s young, but he’s no one’s fool. They are an unlikely pair, yet they get results.

“Whether stationed in one location or on the move with the Regiment, the settings are well-crafted with historical details that bring each scene to life. The suspects and characters populating the novels are realistic, with basic human motivations. They are colorful, interesting, and many are seemingly drawn from authentic historic figures.”

One place to order Deadly Occupation is Amazon. (There are others as well.)

Five Stars for The Witch Doctor’s Wife

9-28 Witch doctors wifeWith The Witch Doctor’s Wife, Tamar Myers delves into her personal history as the daughter of Christian missionaries in the Belgian Congo. Rich and alive with the sights and sounds of the continent—as exciting, evocative, charming, and suspenseful as Alexander McCall Smith’s No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency novels—Myer’s unforgettable excursion to colonial Africa recalls Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible, even the Academy Award-nominated film Blood Diamond. Award-winning author Carolyn Hart raves: “Mesmerizing….The Witch Doctor’s Wife will long linger in the hearts and minds of readers. Authentic. Powerful. Triumphant.”

The above is part of the publisher’s blurb for the book that followed many of Tamar Myer’s two wonderfully funny and clever cozy mysteries. I read The Witch Doctor’s Wife about five years ago, before I joined Goodreads, before I had a blog, and, mainly—before I began reviewing the books I read. However, I remember it fondly, so you know it has staying power.

I did interview Tamar for the Sisters in Crime blog. I remember a couple of answers from that interview. For one, she had a computer dedicated to writing, with no games or internet access. (That’s one I really, really should follow.) Also, she said she didn’t write the story—it was already written. All she did was ask the Universe to deliver her daily portion of creativity and it did. She then sat down and wrote a thousand polished words a day, five days a week.

And that is talent!

Incidentally, she has written more books in that series, as well as continuing the cozy series. In fact, she has a four-page Amazon author page. For a taste of Tamar’s fun, I would suggest reading the acknowledgments in Death of Pie.

War of 1812-Recruitment, A Matter of Money

What was a young man to do when his country went to war? Soldier, mariner (sailor), what? Go where the money was best, of course. At least, that’s what happened.

Possibly some wanted to be on the sea, sailing and fighting against the British ships. Since most of those ships wintered in Bermuda, a few months off probably didn’t hurt recruitment. However, several army units were enlisting men and giving them bounties of $30 plus $8 monthly with only one year enlistment. The marines (navy) gave them less. One could always sign onto a privateer—they paid better as well. There was another option. Hire on as a sea fencible. That brought in $12 a month for one year. An advantage was that a man could not be called up in any other service, he would be close to home, and in the winter unless something else came up, he could take his food home to the family. Possibly as a result of the different pay schedules, many blacks were marines. From the history I’ve read, they were clothed and worked as equals.

This is another of my War of 1812 series. I am still discovering history I didn’t know, still finding in quite interesting. My next mystery involves a reenactment of that war, which is why I’ve been reading up.

It’s two hundred years since The War of 1812, forgotten by most of our history books. It is, still, a part of our history. Do you find it as interesting as I do?


Five Stars for Murder on Lexington Avenue

8-31 Victoria Thompson coverMurder on Lexington Avenue is the 12th in Victoria Thompson’s Gaslight Mystery series. I’ve read several, but this one is a favorite of mine. My review: Sarah Brandt, New York midwife in the early 1900s, keeps getting involved in murder while delivering babies. It isn’t anything about souls passing in and out, it’s just that the same people are involved. While one woman is having a baby, someone she knows, be it her family or her neighbors, is mixed up in murder, often as the victim. Sarah is handy and willing to help out an Irish cop, Detective Sergeant Frank Malloy. In this case, the teenage daughter of the victim is involved with conflicting schools of training the deaf. Her father is a generally disliked business owner. But, who killed him? Seemingly he was alone at his place of business. His business partner, and several others may have visited. Or, none of them saw him, if one is to believe the testimony. And, even if Frank Malloy finds the killer, 1903 in New York often meant Frank, although he was the police, would find it difficult to accuse anyone who had the money to make sure he didn’t keep his job. Then another murder complicates the possibilities.

The ambiance is authentic, the plot is devious, the characters are a mix from delightful to devilish. Best of all, the outcome is completely unexpected, but, oh so absolutely right! Highly recommended to mystery and history readers.

Victoria Thompson has been nominated for an Agatha for historic mystery. There are now 17 books in the series. Her Amazon author page is here. (I believe the midwife and the police detective sergeant are planning to wed in the latest. Must read that too!)

Art In The Attic

A son visits his father.

A son visits his father.

The drawings on the wall of a third floor storage room have been there for over one hundred years. As the house passed through different owners, one promise was made—leave the pictures alone. They are pencil drawings, made by two boys who lived with their mother in the rented house. Some of them depict their older brother, Leo Hauck, who was a champion boxer.

How did this all get on the front page of my local newspaper? The current homeowner was curious. She asked questions and discovered a few amazing connections. Three of Leo’s children survive and live locally. Peggy, age 100, and Eddie, age 94, didn’t walk up the stairs to see their father as a young boxer. Joe, age 80, lives less than a mile away. He and his daughter visited the third-floor drawings and were amazed.

As a writer, I always think, what if? What if any one of the owners of the house had painted over those pictures? What if, the house was remodeled and windows replaced a wall? What if the area had been zoned for renewal and the place torn down and became a parking lot? What if none of those happened, but the connection was never made?

Joe Hauck was thirteen when his father died. He knew he’d been a fighter. He’d known those uncles who drew the pictures as children. He knew his father started boxing as a flyweight at age fourteen. He knew he was known as the “Lancaster Thunderbolt,” and often as Leo Houck due to a misspelled promotional piece. Joe’s father, who successfully boxed in every weight up to heavyweight (as he grew) is named in the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Now Joe knows a bit more.

To see more pictures and the complete article, check out this link in LNP Newspapers.

The Burning of Washington, D.C. 1814

Rear Admiral Cockburn had his portrait painted in front of burning Washington

Rear Admiral Cockburn had his portrait painted in front of burning Washington

After Britain defeated and imprisoned Napoleon Bonaparte in April 1814, they had the men and ships to renew attacks on the United States. England wanted to retaliate for  the “wanton destruction of private property along the north shores of Lake Erie” by American forces. Rear Admiral Cockburn was given orders to,  “deter the enemy from a repetition of similar outrages….” You are hereby required and directed to “destroy and lay waste such towns and districts as you may find assailable”.

On August 24, 1814, he found Washington, D.C. assailable. Most public buildings were destroyed. Actually, the American’s burned the fort before the British arrived to keep them from getting their powder. The British burned what was left of it in their sweep. The Library of Congress and all the books were burned. Cockburn was so upset with the with the National  Intelligencer newspaper for calling him a Ruffian, he intended to burn their building too. However, a group of women convinced him a fire would burn their homes, so he had his men tear the building apart, brick by brick. He also had them destroy every C in the type fonts, so they could no longer abuse his name.

At the White House, it was not Dolley Madison who saved George Washington’s portrait. She did organize the slaves and staff to carry valuables, carrying some of the silver in her reticule, The French doorman and the president’s gardener saved the portrait. After Mrs. Madison and the staff left, the British came in, ate the meal and drank the wine prepared for the residents, then went about burning the building. It was difficult. They ended up piling furniture and lighting it which finally started the building burning. They added fuel during the night. The only government building left standing was U.S. Patent Office.

Less than a day after the attack started, a terrific storm hit the area from the southeast. It spawned a tornado and put out the fires. According to reports Admiral Cockburn asked a woman, “Dear God! Is this the weather to which you are accustomed to in this infernal country?” She replied, “This is a special interposition of Providence to drive our enemies from our city.” But Cockburn insisted the storm helped them destroy the buildings. Actually, he was correct. However, the storm also damaged the British ships in the harbor.

Sounds to me like they had a hurricane.

Five Stars for Red Notice

8-10 Red Notice CoverA non-fiction that reads like a thriller? Yep, that’s Red Notice. Before the book begins, the term is explained: “An Interpol Red Notice is the closest instrument to an international arrest warrant in use today.” Any country can issue a red notice, which then goes into the electronic system that is used to verify travelers as they go from one country to another. Almost always, unless the person checking passports is not following procedure, that person is shipped straight to the country they probably want to escape. It’s rare that Interpol fails to comply—which was why some Jews trying to escape Hitler’s Germany were returned. There are other such instances as well.

Bill Browder, the author of Red Notice was speaking in Norway when Russia issued the first one on him. Born in the United States, he lived in London with his Russian wife and his children. But, by then he was no longer running Hermitage Capital Management, the largest foreign investor in Russia. By then, some crooked cops and others had stolen his Russian business he’d downsized in favor of diversification. He survived many legal business deals that were unpopular with Putin. He thought, since he was not Russian, that he was safe. However, he was only safe while his activities were in Putin’s best interest.

I could go on, tell you more of this engrossing, true story, but I don’t want to ruin it for any reader. It’s great as a story. It’s even better as a warning. One of the author’s Russian lawyers was tortured to death because he refused to lie and accuse Browder of trumped up charges. Two of Browder’s lawyers were older. They remembered the Russian mindset and barely managed to escape. The younger lawyer knew he’d done nothing wrong. He knew Russia had no legal reason to arrest him. But, of course, to Putin, legal had absolutely nothing to do with it.

Do read this chilling tale. Then watch the news. You won’t get most of it—the media is too involved in various flashy stories. However, recently I read in The Week Magazine something I saw nowhere else. One night a month or so ago, Russia moved all the boundary signs a mile into Georgia territory. The homeowners now in Russia were upset. A pipeline was now in Russia. Nothing was, or could be done.


Five Stars for The Glassblower’s Wife

8-3 Glassblower coverI love an historical mystery. I especially love one that introduces me to history I don’t know in such a thoroughly engrossing way. The Glassblower’s Wife, by Joanna Campbell Slan, is a long short story rather than a full-length novel. But, it packs a wallop! It is an historic tale involving Jewish glass blowers from Italy who took their exceptional craft to France to make the mirrors for the Hall of Mirrors in Versailles. There’s murder, devotion, an excellent plot, and superb writing.

The official blurb states: “When Jewish glassmakers and their families flee the powerful Doge of Venice, the cost of their freedom is three hundred and fifty-seven mirrors–the creation of the magnificent Hall of Mirrors in Versailles. But the Doge sends assassins to pick off the artists, one by one. Can Ruth Telfin, the mute wife of the head glassmaker, save her people?”

I’m not the only reader who commented favorably. One says, “Since this is a short story, I figured it would be a good chance to get a taste of this author’s writing style. I never expected such a powerful story.”

Another said: “I must admit that this type of book isn’t really what I usually pick to read. Having read all of Campbell Slan’s other books, I decided to give it a try. This is a long short story based on historical facts back in the late 1600’s. I really learned a lot from it. She throws in a fictional character that really saves the day at the end. Kudos to Slan for her research and drive to write this book.”

And that’s my focus today—fiction that gives the reader history with a story that not only interests the reader, but opens her eyes to something that really happened, perhaps years, perhaps centuries ago. All too often history is presented as boring, irrelevant, unimportant, or, even as perpetuated untrue myth. One of the websites I researched to follow this story said: “Historians have long repeated that the formula for lead-glass was invented in 1674 by an Englishman, George Ravenscroft. Historians often make a habit of being in error. In this case the error could not be more gross. Ravenscroft was neither an artisan nor an inventor. It is true that Ravenscroft patented the process; it is false that he invented it.”

And, occasionally, textbooks perpetuate myth as well. I remember one such from my own high school years. I certainly know that fiction often plays fast and loose with historic past. No problem, as long as it is understood. Some of my favorite reads are steampunk novels, the ultimate reworked history. But I love the true meaning that often comes through in historical fiction.

Dressed for Summer Fun

7-23 PicnicThere’s nothing better than a summer picnic, along with a few summer games. It’s time to look in my “many years ago” file. I found a picture from a Sunday School picnic with children dressed to enjoy a lot of fun.

Umm, really? The year was 1908. The children gathered at the church, then marched to the picnic grounds, accompanied by a band. A decorated wagon carried those too young to walk. The activities included a program with drills, music, and addresses by prominent speakers. Finally, a free supper wrapped up the event. But not before the accompanying photo was taken.

Where were the children’s games, the splashing in water, Where7-23 sack race
were the races? I remember those— three-legged race, wheelbarrow race, all number of ways to give the little ones a fun time. And, don’t forget the gunny sack race. (Gotta be dressed just right for that one.)

7-23-Goat race 2Speaking of being dressed just right, and races as well—how about a goat race? Twenty-five years ago, that was on the summer picnic agenda. And of course, the goat had to be dressed for the occasion. (Don’t know if this was the winner, the loser, or just the most photogenic.)

Do you remember school picnics in your past? Maybe there are some in your present and future. (Or, do they still have them?)