America At War-1812

My Thurs­day series on the War of 1812 con­tin­ues.

President Madison

Pres­i­dent Madi­son

They called it Pres­i­dent Madison’s War. It was a war to free the impos­si­ble con­di­tions on the Atlantic Ocean—Britain seiz­ing ships and con­script­ing sailors, while both Britain and France declared our ship­ments ille­gal. The coun­try was deep in depres­sion with the Pres­i­dent for­bid­ding trade across the ocean. Although also ille­gal, com­merce con­tin­ued to the north, across the Great Lakes with Cana­da.

But the lack of com­merce and the result­ing Amer­i­can finan­cial depres­sion wasn’t the only rea­son many in the Unit­ed States favored war. Some want­ed to over­come the advan­tage the British had with the Indi­ans who often joined Eng­lish forces against the Unit­ed States. Oth­ers were look­ing to grab land, to add farmable acres, specif­i­cal­ly Cana­da and Flori­da. Thomas Jef­fer­son is said to have remarked that cap­tur­ing Cana­da was, “a mere mat­ter of march­ing.”  There were areas of Cana­da large­ly pop­u­lat­ed by Amer­i­cans. Mean­while, Eng­land believed that Cana­da was ade­quate­ly pro­tect­ed. The Unit­ed States did bat­tle with Cana­di­an and British forces, with vic­to­ries going each way.

One notable Amer­i­can vic­to­ry was at Put-In-Bay when Amer­i­can Com­modore Oliv­er Haz­ard Per­ry turned pos­si­ble defeat into vic­to­ry and cap­tured an entire British fleet. His report became famous. “We have met the ene­my and they are ours. Two ships, two brigs, one schooner and one sloop.”

Even­tu­al­ly, how­ev­er, the Amer­i­can attack was defeat­ed. The Amer­i­cans in Cana­da didn’t ral­ly around their for­mer coun­try­men. They only want­ed to be left alone. They prob­a­bly num­bered among those who were unit­ed by the Cana­di­an vic­to­ries into the coun­try that, in 2012 cel­e­brat­ed their two hun­dredth anniver­sary of vic­to­ry against their south­ern neigh­bors.

Dur­ing much of 1812, most British ships were too involved fight­ing France to wor­ry about our east coast. The only for­ti­fi­ca­tions on both sides were along our North­ern board­er with Cana­da. Life went on as usu­al on most of the Atlantic coast. Var­i­ous civil­ian mili­tia formed along the water­front and in towns and vil­lages. How­ev­er, no Unit­ed States mil­i­tary forces were placed on Chesa­peake Bay.

Goodreads Giveaway-YESTERDAY’S BODY

I’m sub­sti­tut­ing a bit of news for my usu­al five-star review today. I’m run­ning a Goodreads give­away with Yesterday’s Body, my first pub­lished mys­tery. The event runs from March 17, through April 9, and I’m giv­ing away ten copies. Goodreads give­away link here.

For a brief descrip­tion: Jo Durbin isn’t under 40 or anorex­ic slim. Her face wouldn’t launch a thou­sand ships or even a row­boat. She won­ders, how did she get the job with those beau­ti­ful peo­ple? And, will the police find her fin­ger­prints on the mur­der weapon? Did one of those beau­ti­ful peo­ple she works with kill Francine? Or, will they point to Jo?

Hard to explain that she’s only try­ing to revi­tal­ize a career gone south. Her plan—write a best-sell­er as a bag lady liv­ing on the street. Invent an imag­i­nary cat to fur­ther her image. Col­lect keys that let her into unused stor­age and vacant homes. Get accept­ed by the street peo­ple. Befriend the guy who wants to “save” them all. It seems pos­si­ble. Ignore the carp­ing sis­ter who “knows bet­ter”? That one’s tricky. Elude the killer long enough to solve the crime? You know that’s the killer ques­tion.
“I very much like your voice. You project just the tone and atti­tude I love to read.” Chris Roer­den, Author of Agatha Award-win­ning DON’T MURDER YOUR MYSTERY.
The first edi­tion e-book was a 2011 EPIC final­ist for mystery/suspense.
The sequel, For­got­ten Body, will be pub­lished lat­er this year.

The Forgotten War

This year, 2015, marks the 200th anniver­sary of the last bat­tle of the War of 1812. Note that I didn’t say this is two hun­dred years since the end of the War of 1812, because that offi­cial­ly came on Decem­ber 24, 1814, when The Treaty of Ghent was signed. But that was in Europe, and with­out twen­ty-first cen­tu­ry com­mu­ni­ca­tion, such as cell phones, radio, or even cable mes­sages, the news had to wait until a ship crossed the Atlantic Ocean.

Why am I inter­est­ed in that bit of his­to­ry? My next book revolves around a reen­act­ment of the War of 1812, so I did a bit of research for inci­den­tal com­ments as my char­ac­ters speak. I want­ed to know what was true, although some of my char­ac­ters may not know the real facts. But why did I choose that time to reen­act instead of the more com­mon Rev­o­lu­tion­ary War or the Civ­il War?

That’s anoth­er sto­ry.

My hus­band and I spent a lot of time sail­ing on Chesa­peake Bay. We stopped at var­i­ous ports and I shopped the local gift shops. They always had a book about the local his­to­ry, which includ­ed the War of 1812 and bat­tles on Chesa­peake Bay. I read up on those bat­tles. The burn­ing of Havre de Grace. How the peo­ple of St. Michaels fooled the British. The defeat of Wash­ing­ton, D.C. and the burn­ing of the White House. The suc­cess­ful bat­tle at Bal­ti­more. So I knew when I wrote the next book my char­ac­ter, Jo Durbin would be involved in a reen­act­ment of the For­got­ten War. Of course, there’s a For­got­ten Body.

And, while the sub­ject is fresh in my mind, I’ll spend the next few Thurs­days telling bits of Amer­i­can his­to­ry that changed the lives of our ances­tors (and, even­tu­al­ly, our lives as well).

Why did we go to war with Britain? What hap­pened back in 1803-07? The Unit­ed King­dom (Eng­land) and Napo­lian­ic France went to war against each oth­er. Nei­ther side want­ed Amer­i­can sup­plies to reach the oth­er. They both declared it ille­gal for Amer­i­can ships to deliv­er goods to the oth­er. Which, they fig­ured, made it per­fect­ly okay to seize ships defy­ing their laws. France seized 206 Unit­ed States flag ships, but Eng­land seized 528 Amer­i­can ships. Not only that, but Eng­land seized around 6,000 men from our ships and put them to work on their ships, often claim­ing they were real­ly AWOL from British ships. They also bar­ri­cad­ed Amer­i­can ports.

In 1811, Pres­i­dent Thomas Jef­fer­son decid­ed the only way to solve that Henry Clayprob­lem was to for­bid the Amer­i­can com­pa­nies from ship­ping any­thing any­where. Con­gress agreed. That put the whole coun­try into a finan­cial depres­sion. Not hard to imag­ine what came next. Ful­ly half the old con­gress was vot­ed out. The old guard was replaced by the young War Hawks. Hen­ry Clay became the new Speak­er of the House, a posi­tion, until then mere­ly as a pre­sid­ing offi­cer. Under Hen­ry Clay the office became one of par­ty lead­er­ship, as it is now. (That would be the Demo­c­ra­t­ic- Repub­li­cans, before the par­ty split. The oth­er par­ty was the Fed­er­al­ists.)

So Amer­i­ca went to war against Great Britain. Amer­i­ca was com­plete­ly unpre­pared for war.

 

Five Star Read — EVANS ABOVE

This is the first of the series, and the first of Rhys Bowen’s three series. I dis­cov­ered her third series first, then the sec­ond, and now while I’m try­ing to col­lect all the books in the sec­ond, I decid­ed to try the first. Did not know what to expect with a male pro­tag­o­nist, a vil­lage con­sta­ble in Wales. I must say, from my read­ing of the first book, that this series is just as delight­ful (not a term usu­al­ly asso­ci­at­ed with male cops) as the oth­er two. In this book read­ers are right there in Wales, along with all the frus­tra­tions, the odd goings on, and the vari­ety of char­ac­ters. Add to that a puz­zling plot and a wind-up that pulls an amaz­ing host of events togeth­er.

Evans aboveI’d like to quote from the publisher’s descrip­tion — Evan Evans, a young police con­sta­ble, has trad­ed city life for that of Llan­fair — an idyl­lic Welsh vil­lage. Nestling in the Snow­do­nia moun­tain range, Llan­fair looks to Evans like a town for­got­ten by time, but he quick­ly learns that even the bucol­ic coun­try­side has its share of eccen­tric — and dead­ly — char­ac­ters. Evans’s new neigh­bors include two com­pet­i­tive min­is­ters vying for the souls of their flock, one las­civ­i­ous bar­maid, and three oth­er Evans­es: Evans-the-Meat; Evans-the-Milk and Evans-the-Post (whose favorite hob­by is to read the mail before he deliv­ers it).

Before Evans has time to sort through the com­pli­cat­ed rela­tion­ships and rival­ries of his new home, he’s called to the scene of a crime as bru­tal and fear­some as any he encoun­tered in the big city. Two hik­ers have been mur­dered on the trails of the local moun­tain, and Evans must hunt down a vicious killer — who may or may not be linked to the mys­te­ri­ous destruc­tion of Mrs. Pow­ell-Jones’ prize-win­ning toma­toes.

Most of this series is avail­able as e-books only. I’ve got­ten them as used books through the resellers on Ama­zon since my hus­band enjoys them too, and he hasn’t con­vert­ed to e-book read­ing. I do wish they were more wide­ly avail­able.

Since I men­tioned the rar­i­ty of books pub­lished even as late as 2005, I won­der, do you have a favorite series that is out of print?

 

Thoughts on the Writing Process

One Penn­syl­va­nia Dutch expres­sion I’ve heard is: “Too soon old, too late smart.” A more com­mon expres­sion is: “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” I guess I could accept both those sen­ti­ments, but as the 85-year-old self-described Grand­ma Moses of Mys­tery, I tend to ignore them. Why else would I read writ­ing mag­a­zines, lis­ten to videos, and inter­act with oth­er writ­ers to learn more of my trade? Or, am I relearn­ing things I thought I already knew?

I’ve been attempt­ing to write a short sto­ry, a pre­quel to my first mys­tery. writer at workEvery day I start­ed over, chang­ing what I had writ­ten, decid­ing it was all wrong. Then I read a blog post from a well-pub­lished author I fol­low. She was hav­ing trou­ble writ­ing her newest book. She decid­ed the prob­lem was that she didn’t know where it was going, what should come next. She had to take time out until she knew what her char­ac­ters would do. A few days lat­er I read a mag­a­zine Q and A with an author. His words—writing was a strug­gle all the way. But he also said that if he were told what a scene should be, he could write it eas­i­ly. The idea was the hard part.

Okay, got it. Yeah, that idea. And I real­ize, when I’m writ­ing a full-length mys­tery, I keep a sep­a­rate file to talk about my sto­ry. I ask myself, would Jo do that? If she did, what would her sis­ter say? What would Mel do? I’ll ram­ble on down one path, then back up. “Nope,” I tell myself, “that’s not right. But maybe, if she said…” And I’m off on a new string.

So, why not do the same thing with a short sto­ry?

Hey, did this old dog learn a new trick? Umm, maybe. Maybe just a relearned trick. But that won’t stop me from look­ing for some­thing new for my tool kit. After all, I only start­ed this blog a cou­ple of years ago, at 83. And I’m still try­ing to improve it every chance I get. I try, as well, to improve my sto­ries as I write new ones. I will go along with the, “Too soon old,” part of that say­ing. But, “too late smart?” Nope, that will nev­er hap­pen.

I think writ­ers are a time­less bunch. We write about oth­ers of any age, no mat­ter our own age. Women write about men, men write about women. We send our char­ac­ters to far lands, or into their own minds. If we didn’t con­tin­ue to learn and inno­vate, we’d have one sto­ry to tell, then be done. I’m will­ing to bet, each writer has learned some­thing com­plete­ly new with­in the last year, and writ­ten about it. Do you agree? Or, do you dis­agree?

Craft Blog Visit

I’m vis­it­ing Killer Crafts and Crafty Killers blog today with a repeat post 3-2-15 786px-Quilt_barn_stock_tp_harrison_co_Ohioabout barn quilts. How do you like the new barn pic­ture she found to show? See the whole sto­ry here.

My ebook, A Knuck­le­head in 1920s Alas­ka is still free through March 2, 2015. It is avail­able for Kin­dle at Ama­zon.

Fol­low the dai­ly posts at Killer Crafts and Crafty Killers. Thurs­day, on my blog, look for a writ­ing hint I dis­cov­ered a cou­ple of days ago, quite dis­prov­ing that say­ing, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”

Free e-book—A KNUCKLEHEAD IN 1920s ALASKA

A Knucklehead in 1920s AlaskaEvery Thurs­day I post some­thing I find inter­est­ing, hop­ing you will too. So, today’s inter­est­ing bit is about tomorrow—which is when one of my e-books goes free for five days.

File it under both his­to­ry and mys­tery. The his­to­ry part is easy. The book is one I wrote with my father from audio tapes he gave me quite a few years ago about going to Alas­ka to earn col­lege mon­ey.  He was nine­teen, a hot-head­ed kid who didn’t want to take any guff. Of course, guff is often what one gets from an employ­er, so he had a lot of dif­fer­ent jobs. He failed to blow him­self up car­ry­ing dyna­mite. He failed to drown when he and a horse end­ed up under the ice in a near-freez­ing riv­er. He even man­aged to sur­vive danc­ing with what they referred to as “a woman on the line” when her boyfriend showed up. In fact, after I heard my father’s adven­tures, I real­ized that it’s a mar­vel I was ever born. That’s the his­to­ry part.

The mys­tery part is at the tail end of this book, sort of a Thank You for reading—a reprint of my first short mys­tery, “Yesterday’s News” pub­lished in Future’s Mys­te­ri­ous Mys­tery Mag­a­zine sev­er­al years ago.

A Knuck­le­head in 1920s Alas­ka e-book is avail­able for Kin­dle. The free dates are Feb­ru­ary 27 through March 3, 2015. Do read and enjoy!

Mon­day, I’ll be back here, but I’ll be vis­it­ing Killer Crafts and Crafty Killers too.

Agatha Nominee-WRITES OF PASSAGE

WRITES OF PASSAGE frontMy five-star pick this week was nom­i­nat­ed in the non-fic­tion cat­e­go­ry and includes essays from 59 Sis­ters in Crime mem­bers (I’m one of them). Hank Phillip­pi Ryan edit­ed Writes of Pas­sage and is the author of a mys­tery also up for an Agatha. Pub­lish­er. Hen­ery Press, is a hot-bed of Agatha win­ners and nom­i­nees. With a line-up like that, how can this book miss?

Read­ers agree. This is one review on Ama­zon. 

“I pur­chased this book to sup­port Sis­ters in Crime. What the heck, I thought. I can read a sto­ry a day with my tea in the morn­ing. Then I can read my “oth­er book” lat­er in the day. Except I didn’t. I found myself read­ing four or five sto­ries in the morn­ing (each one is about 2 pages), and then pick­ing it back up lat­er in the day. So much for my “oth­er book!”
“If you’re a begin­ning, estab­lished or emerg­ing writer, or sim­ply inter­est­ed in the writ­ing jour­ney, there’s some­thing in Writes of Pas­sage for you. Many some­things. Encour­age­ment, pas­sion, truth, advice, humor and angst resolved.
“I won’t pick my favorite sto­ries here — couldn’t if I tried. But I will give a major kudos call­out to Hank Phillip­pi Ryan’s exem­plary job of edit­ing. This could have been just a bunch of sto­ries. Instead it’s a cohe­sive blend of many voic­es, com­ing togeth­er as one.”
For two months, Sis­ters in Crime post­ed a clip from each author. This one was from my con­tri­bu­tion called: The Gup­py Con­nec­tion. “I’m a Gup­py who is still learn­ing, but also offer­ing any help I can to my favorite group.” (That’s the Gup­py chapter—originally named for the Great UnPub­lished, but now, many con­sid­er them­selves the Great Under Pub­lished, as many have gone on to pub­lish­ing even mul­ti­ple mys­tery series.)

Eagles on the Nest

The tem­per­a­ture is about to hit zero in my part of Penn­syl­va­nia. Who knew it is eagle nest­ing time? Not me, until I noticed an arti­cle about a near­by eagle nest with an eagle cam mount­ed to see all the eagle’s inti­mate moments. Lay­ing egg one? Got that. Egg two? You bet. I just checked the eagle cam and saw one of the eagles stand­ing by, watch­ing the eggs, before she (or he—they take turns) set­tled back down.

I also learned a lit­tle bit about eagles and their eggs. Cold as it is, it evi­dent­ly doesn’t hurt the eggs to be uncov­ered for ten or so min­utes. In fact, that keeps them from being over­heat­ed. Anoth­er fact—it takes thir­ty-five days for an egg to hatch.

Here’s a few links to fol­low our local eagles, named Lib­er­ty and Free­dom by news­pa­per read­ers. That’s unof­fi­cial, since the Penn­syl­va­nia Game Com­mis­sion, whose cam­era is livestream­ing these eagles and their nest, does not “per­son­i­fy wildlife.” (I should imag­ine the eagles are unaware of these names as well.)

The Valentine’s Day love sto­ry.

The first egg. The sec­ond egg.

And, since every sto­ry should have a bit of con­tro­ver­sy—were the eagles scared off the nest?

And here’s the eagle cam, so you can watch at any time. Plan on view­ing on March 21, the esti­mat­ed time for the first hatch­ing.

Are there any eagle cams near you? Are there any oth­er ani­mals watched by cam­era?

Five Stars for MAIDS OF MISFORTUNE

My five-star pick this week com­bines two of my loves—mystery and his­toric fic­tion. Maids of Mis­for­tune takes place in 1879 San Fran­cis­co. A young wid­ow sup­ports her­self as board­ing house own­er Annie Fuller, and, in dis­guise, as psy­chic Sibyl who gives per­son­al and finan­cial advice to clients. As a woman, she knows that no one would ever accept such advice from her, but they will accept it as com­ing from the stars. When one of her clients dies, sup­pos­ed­ly by sui­cide, she knows his finances weren’t in the sham­bles the police claim. When the police real­ize it was mur­der, they look to his fam­i­ly. Annie pos­es as a serv­ing girl for the fam­i­ly to find the truth.

The author, M. Louisa Locke, seam­less­ly puts the read­er square­ly in that time and place. While we are engrossed in the plot we notice the work involved to keep up a house, the atti­tudes of every­one toward a Chi­nese cook, Annie’s belat­ed real­iza­tion of what her laun­dry girl does, and the prob­lems of trav­el and com­mu­ni­ca­tion in an ear­li­er age.

Maids of Mis­for­tune is the first of a series (the ebook is now free). There are sev­er­al short sto­ries as well. The fourth full-length mys­tery in the series will be out this month.

Of inter­est to the writ­ers among my read­ers, M. Louisa Locke’s blog shares her ongo­ing mar­ket­ing plans for an inde­pen­dent writer. (Next week I’ll revis­it the upcom­ing Agatha awards with anoth­er good read.)