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.