New Mystery – Forgotten Body

Forgotten_ebook final cover-small sampleMy new mystery has been published! Forgotten Body is the second in the Jo Durbin Mystery Series. Since it was in the running for a Kindle Scout book, I decided to offer the ebook free for five days. After all, if it had been a Kindle Scout book, everyone who nominated it would have received a free ebook. Well, I’m going one better. Anyone who wants it, can have a free book. (Of course, I won’t mind if a lot of readers decide to post a review.)

Do you remember Jo Durbin from the prequel (also new), Hidden Body, or the first volume, Yesterday’s Body? She’s the fifty-something woman who, looking to revitalize a journalist career going south, takes unusual steps. In Hidden Body, she was merely going along with her real estate salesman sister Sylvie to write up a glowing review of a cottage for sale. (Did that black cat mean bad luck? Or, did the cat help the sisters find the villain?) In Yesterday’s Body, Jo lived as a bag lady, planning to write up her experiences and maybe make big bucks. As a bag lady, she tried all the tricks the homeless might use—sleep in the park, use someone else’s keys, even take a part-time job. (We know plans in a mystery never work out.)

Here’s the short version of my blurb for Forgotten Body: Jo Durbin, embedded reporter, covers a reenactment of America’s forgotten War of 1812. Piece of cake. Action, faux dead bodies, pretend battles, and everyday lives of the RVers (Workampers)—all fodder for her pen. Except there’s a real body, forgotten in the grass.

With the victim’s checkered past, suspects multiply. When children are endangered, Jo follows a figment of her imagination despite any help or hindrance from her sister, a friend, and the man who wants to be more than a friend.

And here’s the Amazon link, free for the first five days.

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.

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.

Terror on the Chesapeake-1813

Rear Admiral Cockburn

Rear Admiral Cockburn

The War of 1812 did not start in earnest for those on Chesapeake Bay until 1813. Rear Admiral Sir George Cockburn was given the task: ruin coastal trade, destroy supplies of grain and livestock, and terrorize the population in general. In late April he reached Kent County, Maryland. His force consisted of one 74 (a gun ship), three frigates, two brigs, two schooners, and a number of tenders and barges. The British raided Howell Point and bombarded the land throwing shot as far as a mile from shore. At one farm they robbed a smokehouse, henhouse and sheep pen, and killed cattle. The militia arrived in time to prevent the enemy from carrying off the cattle and to fire at the retreating boats.

The British continued up the bay, lsying waste by plundering Frenchtown, and raiding and burning Havre de Grace.

Cockburn next turned to Georgetown, but he was frustrated by the intricacy of the Sassafrass River. He kidnapped a local resident to act as his pilot and sent word that if the residents didn’t resist, Georgetown would be spared and provisions they took paid for. However the militia, 400 strong, opened fire. When the British advanced, the militia abandoned the fight and melted away. The British torched thirteen dwellings and outbuildings, cobbler’s shop, tavern, a granary and storehouse. However, some homes were saved. (Local legend has it that the British spared several homes due to the actions of  Miss Kitty Knight, a local lady of esteem, who stood up to the British when they were about to burn the home of one of her elderly neighbors. The Kitty Knight house still stands.)

Kitty Knight House today

Kitty Knight House today

As Cockburn and his forces returned to the Chesapeake the news of burning and looting had its effects. Resistance had died. The Brits paid for supplies and returned the pilot to his home. However, they came back in August with a different intent.

This is another blog of my “History of The War of 1812 on Chesapeake Bay” series. Since my next mystery will take place during a reenactment of that war, I’ve discovered many interesting facts I like to share, also, a few facts I thought I knew that weren’t exactly true.

 

 

Craney Island – Another War of 1812 Episode

Battle of Craney Island

Battle of Craney Island

In June, 1813, the British were cocky. They had only encountered ineffective local militia. They had blockaded Chesapeake Bay and chased the frigate U.S.F. Constellation into Norfolk, VA. At Craney Island, protecting both Hampton Roads and shipyards at Portsmouth and Norfolk, VA, was a small military contingent. In every land battle so far, the Americans had run rather than fight overwhelming odds. The British did not expect much opposition.

Instead, they planned to capture the island, continue on to the larger Virginia cities, and capture the stranded frigate. According to a lieutenant from the Constellation who visited the blockading fleet under a flag of truce, the British officers said they would strike at the ship soon, vowing that “they must & will have it!”

USS Constellation-1812

“The British became the victims of their own overweening arrogance,” says Maryland historian Christopher T. George, author of “Terror on the Chesapeake: The War of 1812 on the Bay” and editor of the Journal of the War of 1812.

“They thought they were facing ill-trained rustics. So they rowed in as if they were just waiting to be shot at. They were sitting ducks.”

General Robert Taylor

General Robert Taylor

As General Taylor wrote in his letter of July 4, 1813, to the Secretary of War: “The whole force on the island at the time of the attack, consisted of 50 riflemen, 446 infantry of the line, 91 state artillery, and 150 seamen and marines furnished by Capt. Tarbell. Of these, 43 were on, the sick list.”

He added, “I cannot withhold my grateful acknowledgments to Com. Cassin, Capt. Tarbell, and the officers and crew of the Constellation and gunboats, who have in every instance aided our operations with a cordiality, zeal and ability, not to be surpassed.”

The ship’s crew helped, but as British Napier lamented in his journal, “A sharp cannonade from the works on the island cost us 71 men, without returning a shot.”

The British did not capture the Constellation, and they left the area without attacking Norfolk.

The reported number of British casualties varied by source. There were approximately 80 killed, wounded and missing. One barge was captured and at least two more were severely damaged. The defenders did not suffer any casualties in the first major War of 1812 victory on Chesapeake Bay.

“The British had all the advantages. They had the numbers. They had the firepower — and they should have won,” said former Virginia War Museum director John V. Quarstein.

“You can’t go visit Craney Island today. It’s not immortalized by a song like the ‘Star-Spangled Banner,'” he adds.

“But the battle there was the first big American victory in a long string of defeats on the Chesapeake Bay — and it deserves to be better remembered.”

War of 1812 – Kent Island

In August, 1813, Captain Charles Gordon, U.S.N. said, “MARYLAND INVADED…it appears the enemy have taken possession of Kent Island, and that the inhabitants of every description have removed to the main land…From the circumstance of landing cannon on Kent Island, it appears to be the intention of the enemy to keep possession of it for some time; and certainly a more eligible situation could not have been selected for their own safety and convenience or from which to annoy us.”

Burning in Kent County

Burning in Kent County

Indeed, on August 5, the British, with two thousand men and seventeen ships, took over the island. British Admiral John Borlase described Kent Island as a “valuable & beauty Island which is half as large as the Isle of Wright…a central Point between Annapolis, Baltimore, Washington and the Eastern Ports of the State of Maryland.” After they prepared the island, they launched raids on St. Michaels and Queenstown. However, they left on August 27 to sail to their winter quarters.

One reason they left so soon was because of the heavy storms they had encountered in the previous September.

This bit of history and others that I’ve shared added to the reenactment of the forgotten War of 1812 in my upcoming mystery—Forgotten Body. In fact, some I’ve read today means I have to change a few things in that upcoming manuscript. Saved me from a major historical boo-boo. Of course, since all the characters live in the twenty-first century, any misstatements they make could be blamed on ignorance. But Jo (my amateur/reluctant sleuth) is smarter than that.

I just said that, didn’t I? My character is a person—not an extension or imagination of my brain. As a writer, does that happen to you too? As a reader, do you think of the characters as paper dolls or real people? As a reader, when I enjoy a book, I’m firmly in the “real people” mind set.

 

A War of 1812 Prank

One of my favorite souvenirs from our years sailing Chesapeake Bay waters was a small book from St. Michaels, Maryland, The Town That Fooled The British. Besides detailing day-to-day activities and preparations for war and telling the story of saving the ship-building community from British attack, it told about Jacob Gibson’s Prank.

In April 1813, Mr. Gibson farmed Sharp’s Island (now mostly sunken). The British sized the island, imprisoned Mr. Gibson, and confiscated his cattle and sheep. However, they shortly released him and even paid him for the animals.

A few days later, Jacob Gibson, who was well known for his practical jokes, must have been feeling his oats. He and some of his slaves rowed and sailed a barge up Broad Creek toward St. Michaels, about fifteen miles away. He tied a red bandana to the mast, and when they neared St. Michaels, he ordered one of the sailors to beat on an empty rain barrel. (It might have been on a bright, moonlit night.) The videttes (mounted sentries) rode to alert the town. The residents grabbed their stores of food and animals and vacated the town while the St. Michaels Patriotic Blues (the local militia) stood ready to fight the enemy. Fortunately, they recognized his boat, and since Jacob was a quick talker as well as a big joker, he escaped without bodily injury. However, he did give the town two six-pounder cannons as a peace offering.

And, those cannons may (or may not—let’s not forget these stories were passed down by word of mouth before they were written down) have been helpful in the later defense of St. Michaels.

 

War of 1812 in St. Michaels

cover-St Michaels bookSt. Michaels, Md. calls itself “The Town That Fooled The British.” During the War of 1812, there were as many as six shipbuilders in and near St. Michaels. One ship they produced was a fast schooner (later known as the Baltimore clipper). These vessels were well suited for outrunning pirates or foreign naval vessels at sea. A military battery was stationed at St. Michaels to protect the town and the shipyards. On August 10, 1813, the British attacked. However, the residents had turned off any lights in their homes and hung lanterns high in the trees. As a result, most of the cannon balls sailed over and beyond the village. One house  was hit by a cannonball. It went through the roof, and bounced down the stairs next to a child sitting there. (She told all about it in later years.) There are other stories of that time in the book—about the women sewing an American flag, about the battle against the military battery, about getting information from a British deserter, and about a farmer on a nearby island who tried to fool St. Michaels.

Several years ago, when my husband and I were sailing on Chesapeak Bay Maritime museum2Chesapeake Bay, we often stopped at St. Michaels and tied up in a slip next to the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum (shown here). Of course, I shopped for souvenirs. I purchased the booklet shown above. The story is engrossing. I vowed to write about the War of 1812 someday. That day arrived in 2013, and my mystery is now finished. It is in the process of cover design and manuscript formatting, to be published this summer. So, I haven’t hit exactly 200 years from 1813, when the St. Michaels incident occurred, but the war officially ended in 2015. Shortly, Forgotten Body, the second in the Jo Durbin Mysteries, will be published. It isn’t exactly about the war, but it does involve a reenactment of the Forgotten War of 1812.

 

War of 1812 in Havre de Grace

Havre de Grace in 1813

Havre de Grace in 1813

This coming summer my new mystery, Forgotten Body, will be released. Since it centers around a reenactment of the War of 1812, I am sharing some of my research. What did the area look like? This diorama made to represent Havre de Grace at the time shows a sparsely settled area.

Havre de Grace sits on the shore of the Susquehanna River in Maryland. On May 2, 1813, the British under Admiral Cockburn attacked and burned most of the houses in the town. Several reports from that time tell the story. The Admiral planned to bypass Havre de Grace until he saw an American flag flying and someone shot cannon fire. That was probably John O’Neill. He stood his ground, firing until the cannon backfired on him, forcing him to leave. However, he did join others with their muskets.

O'Neill At The Cannon

O’Neill At The Cannon

The 40 local militia, mostly older men, wisely retreated in the face of an overwhelming force after one was killed. John O’Neill was captured. He was to be executed the next day, however his 15-year-old daughter rowed out the admiral’s vessel to plead for her father’s life. Since she had the papers that proved he was a military officer and not a civilian, he was released. The surviving articles hint that her comely ways and bravery affected the admiral. In any event, he gave her his gold-mounted tortoiseshell snuff box. (Exactly what any teenager would love to have.)

Other stories may not have been authenticated. One I heard was that the admiral declined to burn the home of a widow since she had no husband fighting against Mother England. (I must admit, that is the story I used in my upcoming mystery.)

Question: When the entire story is a fabrication, must the history be absolutely authentic?

My answer: Sometimes. If the history is presented as authentic—you bet your life. I’ll make it as authentic as I can. If the history is admittedly augmented—hey the writer/history doesn’t tell everything. And, if the history is presented as a fabrication—go for it! (I understand that was the thinking behind Unicorn Westerns.)

What is your answer?

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.