Earthquakes in Tennessee??

Not only earthquakes, but huge 6.8 to 8.8 earthquakes!! They happened back in December of 1811 and January of 1812, but they could happen again.

new madridThe New Madrid Seismic Zone, (shown here compliments of Encyclopedia Brittanica) is six times larger than the San Andreas fault zone in California. It lies centered in New Madrid, Missouri, and the last time it shook it’s ugly head was two hundred years ago. It’s waaaay overdue!! Back in 1811/12, there were over 2000 earthquakes and aftershocks that shook the midwest. They were felt as far away as NY, Boston, and Washington D.C. President James Madison felt them at the White House.

No other quakes have produced so much damage in the history of the world. The Mississippi River ran backwards, crevasses opened up in the land, and missing people were assumed swallowed by the earth. It created two waterfalls in Mississippi.

The prediction for the future?? Some say an earthquake this size will split the United States in two. Some say we haven’t seen any activity from the New Madrid fault for two hundred years, so why worry about it now?

41n6zHpRqRL._UY250_My book Elly Hays opens with Tecumseh’s prediction for the quake, and the quake is the cause for the family moving from Tennessee to the Mississippi Territory. The story isn’t about the 1811/12 quakes, but they are the reason the story happened. Elly Hays is based on a true story and is the tale of my 5th great grandmother Elizabeth Hays Rodgers. It is the epic clash between a fearless warrior with nothing to lose and a young mother on the verge of losing everything.

Elly Hays is on SALE for only $0.99 at Amazon on Kindle April 1-5!

 

 

Saturday Snippet and Sale

51w5TKRgkCL._UY250_This week’s snippet is from An Orphan’s Heart. It’s the story of a girl who was orphaned during the Civil War and her quest to find the love she lost as a child. Martha Ellen Rodgers, simply Ellen in the book, grew up in a large, loving family in Mississippi. Her parents died of typhoid within days of each other when Ellen was nine. She spent the rest of her life searching for love and a place to belong. Her travels took her to Alabama, back to Mississippi, and eventually to Texas where she found the love of her life – only to have everything ripped from her in a shattering turn of events.

Note: You’re going to need a kleenex for this one.

An Orphan’s Heart is being offered for only $0.99 this weekend (March 18-22) on Kindle at Amazon.

Enjoy the video trailer and a snippet below.

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Ellen is staying at her aunt’s house in Alabama and helping with the children. She met a handsome boy named Milton who has unexpectedly dropped by while no one was at home.

We make ourselves comfortable at the table, and as we sip our coffee, we chat about his family and farm, but his deep brown eyes make it hard for me to concentrate on anything he’s saying. We chat about his siblings and his hopes for the future. He even mentions that he might like to go to a big city someday, which brings up his desire to ride a train. I would tell him of my dreams of riding a train also, but I can’t seem to get a word in edgewise. Throughout the one-sided conversation, he’s very friendly and open, and I think I may like him a lot more than my first impression, especially his penetrating gaze. Nothing else in the world exists while I’m under that gaze.

Hours later, in the middle of a sentence, he suddenly stops and pulls out his pocket watch. “Oh, it’s getting late.” He rises from the table. “I need to get back to the farm, and you probably need to pick the children up from school.”

Reality hits me like a lightning bolt. I hadn’t thought about the time since we sat down. “Yes!” I jump up from the table. “What time is it?”

“It’s almost three.”

“I do have to go get the children right now. I only have a few minutes to get there. Please excuse me, Milton. It’s been nice spending the afternoon with you, but I really must hurry.” In one move, I grab my bonnet and head toward the door, hoping he’ll hurry behind me, but he seems to be taking his time. I stand with my back against the open door, ready to close it the moment he exits.

As he nears the door, I impatiently wait for him to walk through, but he stops an inch from my face. I think he may kiss me and I feel panic rise in my chest and can’t breathe. I close my eyes for a moment, but then think maybe I shouldn’t because it’ll look like I want him to kiss me, so I quickly open them. His full lips, that cocky grin, and those dimples are enough to set a girl’s head spinning. I’m late to pick up the children, but for that split second with his mouth an inch from mine, I really would like him to kiss me. But then I get this uncomfortable feeling that spending this afternoon with him has been highly inappropriate, so I sidestep away from him and move outside onto the porch.

“Thank you for coming by, Milton. It was very nice seeing you, but I really have to run.”

He steps out onto the porch, with his head cocked to one side, looking at me through squinted eyes. The afternoon sun in his face shows the slightest beginnings of lines around his eyes, and I think as he ages, he’ll become more and more handsome. He shrugs and his smile widens. His smile is filled with a knowledge and confidence that’s alluring, but it also unnerves me in a way I can’t explain. I wish I was more attractive, more assured of myself, more experienced with boys.

I slide behind him, pull the door closed, then quickly move around him again to step off the porch. He watches me with the look of a lion stalking his prey as I climb onto the wagon.

“The visit was my pleasure, Miss Ellen, my pleasure,” he says as he strolls over and places his hands on the worn wood of the wagon.

“I really do have to go now. Please come by again anytime,” I mumble. Did I really just say that? Did I just invite him over again?

“Oh, I’ll be back. You can count on that.” He winks and his eyes twinkle.

I snap the reins and coax the horse away from the house. I take off so fast, I almost rip Milton’s hands off, but I refuse to look back and check. I know he’s standing there watching me. I will not look back. I will not. No.

As I reach the bend in the road, I glance back. Sure enough, he is still standing in the yard with his arms folded across his chest, watching me and smiling. And now he knows I looked back. Oh, what a mess.

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An Orphan’s Heart is only $0.99 on Kindle March 18-22 at Amazon.

Lori Crane is a bestselling and award-winning author of historical fiction and the occasional thriller. Her books have climbed to the Kindle Top 100 lists many times, including “Elly Hays” which debuted at #1 in Native American stories. She has also enjoyed a place among her peers in the Top 100 historical fiction authors on Amazon, climbing to #23. She resides in greater Nashville and is a professional musician by night – an indie author by day. An Orphan’s Heart was a finalist in the 2014 Eric Hoffer Awards!

Backstory of “Stuckey’s Bridge”

Here’s a little background on my series – The Stuckey’s Bridge Trilogy.

stuckey's bridge from VA Iron and Bridge Co on wikiMy childhood: I grew up in Meridian, Mississippi and heard the legend of Stuckey’s Bridge my whole life. It actually began in a book about the area written in the 1970s. The local paper, The Meridian Star, picked up on the legend from the book and the story spread like wildfire. The bridge instantly became THE place to party on the weekends, searching for ghosts and frightening girls into cuddling closer. (If you want to go there: head south out of Meridian on Interstate 59. Turn right at exit 142, then a quick left onto Meehan-Savoy Road. Travel 2.2 miles until you see a dirt road on your left. That is Stucky Bridge Road. The bridge will be about two miles down the dirt road. It is now closed, so you’ll have to turn around to leave. After you read the following legend, you may not want to go.)

The legend goes: In the late 1800s, a former member of the Dalton Gang came to Lauderdale County, Mississippi to find his fortune. He opened an inn near the Chunky River and stood on the old wooden bridge at night, flagging down merchants with his lantern, offering them a warm bed and a hot meal. Supposedly, he murdered his victims in their sleep and buried their bodies on the banks of the river. In 1901, the Virginia Bridge and Iron Company began rebuilding the old bridge and the bodies were discovered. The innkeeper, Old Man Stuckey as he is known to the locals, was hung by a posse from the iron rails of the new bridge.

Stuckey's cover_webIf you know me, you know I couldn’t stop searching until I figured out who this Old Man Stuckey really was…that became the first book in the Stuckey’s Bridge Trilogy – The Legend of Stuckey’s Bridge. (Check out the book trailer here…creepy!)

unnamedWhile writing the story, I didn’t want Old Man Stuckey to be alone all the time, so I had him run across a young boy named Levi. In the story, young Levi took on a creepiness all his own, and I received tons of emails and messages asking what Levi’s past was. As usual with my overactive imagination, I was more interested in his future than his past, so I wrote Stuckey’s Legacy: The Legend ContinuesAt the end of that book, Levi “got his” and the story became focused on the young woman Levi met during the story – Penelope Juzan.

Back to my childhood: There was a second legend around the area where I grew up. Supposedly there was an inn on Lake Juzan in the 1840s where an innkeeper murdered his guests for wealth, much like Old Man Stuckey. The man’s name was Pierre Juzan, and he dumped the bodies in the lake with the help of his Indian sidekick. Toward the end of the legend, one of them killed the other for the wealth of gold they had confiscated.

Side note: There were also a couple different accounts of trunks of confederate gold disappearing as they traveled through the area during the Civil War.

I thought all these stories had a similar thread, and I wondered if I could separate them or maybe combine them.

stuckey Gold Cover smallBack to the trilogy: I came to the conclusion that these legends were indeed different stories, but thought they were probably connected in some way. Those crazy ideas in my head became the third book in the trilogy, Stuckey’s Gold: The Curse of Lake Juzan.

These tales tickled me pink while writing them, and I hope you enjoy them too!

stuckey Trilogy_ smal

 

 

 

Saturday Snippet – Stuckey’s Bridge

51ae9DloKqL._UY250_If you haven’t yet heard about Old Man Stuckey, he’s a little like Dexter, but with less conscience, and he’s a lot more lovable. The Legend of Stuckey’s Bridge got its start when I wondered about the real man behind the ghostly legend I grew up with in Mississippi.

You can find the Kindle version of The Legend of Stuckey’s Bridge at Amazon!

Here’s a creepy scene featuring Old Man Stuckey in his younger days…

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He stood silent and still for a long time, not knowing what to do next. It wasn’t like he had ever killed anyone before. He didn’t have this planned out. He was certain his father would beat him to a pulp when he found out. He stood with his back against the barn door, gazing down at his dead brother, and came up with a plan.

He gathered piles of hay and arranged them in mounds in the middle of the floor. He then pulled matches out of his coat pocket and set the hay ablaze. He added more hay. And more. The fire came to life and roared as he watched. Black smoke filled the air. He felt as angry as the fire looked. His brother deserved to die and to burn—in hell. This was as close as he could come to creating the real thing.

He felt the flames hot on his face, and the smoke made him cough. He covered his nose and mouth in the crook of his arm, and breathed through his sleeve as he watched the flames grow higher and larger. The fire crackled and hissed as it quickly raced up the dry wooden ladder into the storage loft above. There was nothing up there but last summer’s hay, which lit with a whooshing sound.

He looked up. The dimness of the barn had been replaced by a bright yellow glow. Within a few short minutes, the fire had spread all the way across the loft and the roof. While he watched the loft, he didn’t notice the fire had spread all around him, eating everything in sight. Even with his nose covered, he began to cough violently, and he made his way through the black smoke to the barn door.

He pulled on it. It wouldn’t budge. He pulled it again. It wouldn’t move an inch. His brother’s dead body was lying in a heap in front of the door, blocking his escape. He bent down and grabbed the arms and attempted to pull the body out of the way, but the dead weight was far too heavy for his small, slender frame. He gave up, coughing even harder, and tried to pull the door again. He was having trouble breathing and thought he should have planned this better. He was going to die in this barn with his brother.

Suddenly, he heard his mother’s voice outside. “Is anyone in there? Thomas? Wilson?” She pounded on the door.

“Ma?”

“Thomas?”

“Ma, I’m in here. I can’t get the door open,” he yelled over the roar of the flames.

“Thomas, is that you? Pull the door!” She was screaming now, hysteria building.

“I am! It won’t open!”

The fire was thunderous; it was almost as loud as a train roaring down the tracks. He never realized fire made such a deafening noise. The flames spread quickly toward the door, licking at his feet. He looked behind him, and all he could see were yellow flames and black smoke.

“Push the door, Ma!”

He pulled the door as she pushed from the outside, and it inched open just enough for him to squeeze out. She grabbed his arm, and they ran about a hundred yards before they stopped and turned to look back at the barn. Black columns of smoke billowed into the sky, and the flames were a continuous rumble.

When he took his initial breath of fresh air, he coughed even harder. He wrapped his arms around his mother’s waist, buried his head into her bony shoulder, and hugged her tightly. She asked again if Wilson was also in the barn, and tried to pull away from him to go check. He coughed more through tears and hugged her even tighter. Again and again she tried to pull away from his grasp to go search for her other son, but he wouldn’t let go until he was sure the fire had erased all traces of his deed.

When the walls collapsed and the flames finally began to die down, he released his grip on his mother and said, “Thank you, Ma. I’m fine now.” He glanced at the smoldering rubble, then back at his mother, and added, “I don’t imagine Wilson is, though.” He turned toward the house and walked away, leaving her standing in the field with tears streaming down her smoke-stained cheeks.

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5-star-largeA five-star recipient at Readers’ Favorite, THE LEGEND OF STUCKEY’S BRIDGE is available in Kindle at Amazon. The paperback is also available. Pick up a copy and root for the bad guy for a change.

The Legend of Stuckey’s Bridge by Lori Crane is a page-turning winner. This is a five star winner and Lori Crane is a must-read author.” ~Trudi LoPreto for Readers’ Favorite
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“Lori Crane is a Southern storyteller of the first order.” ~Writer’s Digest

The backstory behind Okatibbee Creek

I wrote Okatibbee Creek in 2012. It has become an award-winning book and a story many people seem to treasure. I’m often asked where the story came from…so here ya go.

Rodgers, Mary Ann Rodgers Carpenter Jolly

She was just a name in my family tree. Mary Ann Rodgers Carpenter Jolly. My third great grandmother. 1828-1898. I visited her grave at Bethel Cemetery in Mississippi in 2012, and my husband asked, “Now, who is this again?” I sat with him at the foot of her grave and told him her story.

I first discovered she lost her husband, Rice Carpenter, in the Civil War in 1862. How sad to lose the one you love, but hey, it’s war, people die. After he died, she remarried in 1864.

I looked at the 1870 census and found she married William Jolly and was living with his children, her children, and three children they had together. It was a house-full! But at least their three children were proof they must have liked each other, right? That’s good. I was interested in where William came from, so I traced him back and looked at his 1860 census. In 1860, he was living with his wife Harriet, their four children, and a woman named Nancy Carpenter who was 69 years of age.

Nancy Carpenter? The only Nancy Carpenter I know is Rice’s mother. Why was Mary Ann’s mother-in-law living with her future husband in 1860?? Were they neighbors? Was Nancy the cleaning lady? I clicked on Nancy Carpenter and saw her relationship to the “head of house” was listed as “mother-in-law.” She was William’s mother-in-law? What?? She was Harriet’s mother?

So, I went back and looked at Rice’s family, and sure enough, his sister Harriet was married to William. Rice died 31 Dec 1862 and Harriet died a month later of typhoid on 30 Jan 1863. Their spouses, Mary Ann and William, brother-in-law/sister-in-law, married in 1864. Well of course they did. They had known each other for many years, hadn’t they?

The more I looked at the Rodgers and Carpenter families, the more I was amazed by the sheer number of family members they lost to war and typhoid. At the time of my research, I remember counting SEVENTEEN, but I’m sure there were many more I missed. I couldn’t wrap my head around that kind of heartache and quickly became impressed with Mary Ann’s strength. How would you react if you lost two or three family members this year? You would probably need Prozac. How would you respond if you lost a dozen? I wouldn’t even be able to get out of bed. Seventeen in one year? I can’t even fathom that.

okatibbee creek cover front JPEGWe all come from these strong women. We are the living proof of their strength. If the boat sank, the story would be over. But it didn’t, and we know that because we are here. We are the survivors. I dug deep down in my heart and soul and decided to tell her story, a story she would be proud of. I wanted her to know that she didn’t endure all of that heartache in vain. I am here. I am her legacy. Her story has been told to make us see the strength in our own hearts. We are the products of strength, fortitude, and integrity, as well as tears, heartache, and pain. We are the children our grandmothers fought so hard for, and I want Mary Ann to be as proud of me as I am of her.

Okatibbee Creek is available on Kindle at Amazon for only $0.99 March 4-8. You may also want to pick up a box of Kleenex.

Saturday Snippet – Catherine Culpepper

The following is a rough draft of my current work-in-progress, The Culpepper-Fairfax Scandal. Catherine Culpepper is nineteen years old, and her rich father, Lord Thomas Culpepper the baron of Thoresway, has just died. For two decades, he had been living in London with his mistress and had left everything to the mistress in his will, but Catherine’s mother had the will suppressed. This scene takes place at the probate hearing at Westminster.  Thanks to her mother, Margaretta, and her uncle Alex, Catherine inherited nearly everything.

We’ll make due with a painting of Catherine until I can get a proper book cover made. 🙂

LadyCatherine

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When the proceedings ended in Catherine’s favor, Margaretta and Alex attempted to whisk Catherine from the courtroom, but they were met at the door by a crowd of enthusiastic well-wishers and more than a few gentlemen of questionable intentions. Catherine had just inherited more wealth than she could ever dream of. Not only was she now the sole owner of Leeds Castle, she also held manors and lands in Sussex and Essex, and was one-sixth owner of the proprietorship of the Virginia Colony. The crowd’s din grew as they attempted to get closer to the wealthy heiress. Pushing and shoving toward her, people reached out to touch her, to take her hand, to gain her attention and her favor. When the family emerged from Westminster, Alex hailed their coach, but when he turned back for Margaretta and Catherine, they had been separated from him by a sea of bodies. Margaretta reached for her daughter’s hand to pull her through the crowd, but their fingers were inches away from each other’s as Catherine was pushed back by the crowd, away from the protection of her mother and their waiting carriage.

“Catherine!” Margaretta called.

Catherine heard her mother’s call but couldn’t see her over the heads of the people surrounding her. She attempted to turn, but a growing throng of people blocked her way. Someone was standing on the hem of her gown, stifling her movement, lest she rip her skirts. Her mother called for her a second time. Her heart began pounding as she heard the panic in her mother’s voice and suddenly realized she might be in a dangerous situation. The crowd was growing riotous, pulling at Catherine’s clothing and her hair. Her honey-colored curls fell to her shoulders as her hairpin was snatched from her head, taking with it a handful of hair. She cried out for her mother, for her uncle, for anyone to save her from the melee. It was then that she felt a strong arm around her waist and another under the back of her legs.

“I’ve got you,” he whispered in her ear.

She was scooped into the arms of a savior. She buried her face into his shoulder as he pushed his way through the crowd toward the waiting carriage. When she was gently placed onto the seat in the carriage, she smoothed her hair from her face and lifted her eyes to look at her uncle. But her savior wasn’t Uncle Alex.

Before her stood a striking man whose brown eyes bore into her own, his dark curls falling over his brow, his full lips begging to be touched. Their eyes locked as if time stood still. He then nodded to her and quickly closed the carriage door, disappearing into the crowd.

Uncle Alex yelled for the driver to make haste, and the carriage sped away from the scene, the wheels bouncing on the rough cobblestone street.

 

New Release and a FREE Book!

Culpepper4The fourth book in the Culpepper Saga – Culpepper’s Rebellion – is here!!!! You can pick it up at Amazon by clicking HERE. If you haven’t yet read any of the Culpepper Saga, you can pick up the first book – I, John Culpepper – for FREE through November 4th by clicking HERE. The four books are the continuing story of the life of John Culpepper, the patriarch of the modern-day American Culpeppers, from his birth in 1606 in England to the end of his life in 1680 in Colonial Virginia. Check out the book blurbs below.

Culpepper_1I, John Culpepper

John Culpepper was born into a privileged childhood, surrounded by abundant wealth, vast land holdings, and stately English manors. As he grew, he was expected to follow family tradition—attend law school and serve in Parliament, following which he would retire to a quiet life as a country gentleman.

John, however, had different desires. He longed to captain a mighty ship, to hear the snap of the sails, to taste the salty spray on his lips. To follow his dreams, John would have to risk being disinherited by his unyielding father. He would have to defy family convention. He would ultimately be forced to choose between the woman he loved and his mistress—the sea.

The Merchant ebookJohn Culpepper the Merchant

For hundreds of years, the Culpepper family backed the monarchy, but when King Charles disbanded Parliament, married a Catholic princess, and appointed an archbishop who was a Catholic supporter, the royalist Culpeppers found themselves at odds with their friends and neighbors.

Years earlier, against his family’s wishes, John had purchased a merchant ship, sailed to Virginia, and spent most of his time there. While on American soil, he received word of the uprisings that followed the king’s actions.

When civil war began, John feared for the safety of his family in England. He was horrified when the king was captured, convicted of high treason, and beheaded. Would John’s family be next? The only way to rescue them would be with his ship, under the cloak of darkness. Would he succeed, or would they all be caught and tried as traitors?

JC Esquire (1)John Culpepper, Esquire

John Culpepper was a prominent figure in colonial Virginia, a merchant in Jamestown for two decades and a resident since the disastrous civil war that shook England to its core. The Culpepper family, decimated by the war, had known great defeat, but none as heartbreaking as the tragic event that abruptly left John in the position of family patriarch.

He struggled with this newly acquired role, marrying off his nieces to eligible colonialists, sending some of the boys back to England, purchasing a ship for his sons against their mother’s wishes.

Upon the collapse of the English Commonwealth, members of John’s family escorted the exiled prince back to London to be crowned as King Charles II. Would the Culpepper family finally reclaim the power and prestige it had once possessed? And how would John hold his family together on two continents?

Culpepper4Culpepper’s Rebellion

John Culpepper thought he had done right by his family when he married off his niece to his childhood friend, Sir William Berkeley, the governor of Virginia. When his cousin Nathaniel Bacon appeared and began an uprising against Berkeley, John was caught in the middle. He did everything in his power to advise his friend, protect his niece, and honor the crown.

He was unaware that during Bacon’s rebellion, his own son was planning a rebellion in Carolina. John had spent most of his life defying his father and the status quo, but when his son was arrested and charged with treason, he was forced to examine every idea he held about his life and his past. The legal training John had rebelled against in his youth would now be the only thing standing between his son’s life and death.

 

Celebrate All Hallow’s Eve with a Shiver up Your Spine!

Happy All Hallow’s Eve to all of you ghouls and goblins.

Just for fun, try the Kindle copy of

The Legend of Stuckey’s Bridge

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Old Man Stuckey is the perfect accompaniment to a frightful Halloween week. He’s a little bit Dexter with a streak of Hannibal, but somehow, he makes me laugh.

 

Pick up a copy…if you dare! Sweet dreams.

Click HERE to go to Amazon! If you don’t have a Kindle, no worries. Click HERE to download the app to your tablet, computer, or phone.

 

 

Saturday Snippet – In Exchange for Your Freedom

Leeds_Maidstone_Fairfax_Doublet_1648In celebration of the release on October 31st of the fourth book in the Culpepper Saga, “Culpepper’s Rebellion,” we’re spending the next few Saturdays re-living moments from the first three books. In the second book, “John Culpepper the Merchant,” John finds himself mostly in Virginia, while at home in England, a deadly civil war has begun. His brother Thomas has been promoted to colonel in the king’s army. In this snippet, Thomas is fighting in his own backyard against General Fairfax of the parliamentarian army. Thomas’s wife and children could probably here the cannons from their house. The photo is the leather doublet General Fairfax wore in the battle. It has been preserved and is on display at Leeds Castle.

 

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The Merchant ebookWhen the afternoon grew late, the heavens opened up and heavy rains fell on Maidstone, but that did not stop Fairfax’s advance. His troops attacked Thomas’s army from behind. Their powder had become wet in the storm so they couldn’t use their muskets, but they fought with their longbows and swords. Fairfax’s men pushed Thomas’s soldiers back street by street, inch by inch. Lightning flashed as the royalists fought near Gabriel’s Hill. Thunder pounded their ears as they were moved back further to Week Street.

By the time evening turned to night, Thomas and his men had been pushed back to St. Faith’s Churchyard. They fought among massive oaks and tombstones, often not knowing which sounds were thunder and which were cannon fire. Thomas’s men held their ground.

As midnight fell, the fighting died down and Thomas’s men found shelter inside the church. The thunderstorm had flooded the cemetery and the torrents had seeped under the door of the church, covering the floor in inches of rainwater. The soldiers lay on the pews, wondering what they would do come morning. They were tired. They were cold and wet. They didn’t know how they would escape from the church that had now become a prison since Fairfax’s army had the building surrounded. What was left of their ammunition was wet and useless.

In the wee hours of the morning, the storms subsided, and the two armies sat in silence until the night gave way to the soft light of early morning. Thomas looked out the window and saw Fairfax, dressed in black, gallop onto the scene on his white horse. Fairfax spoke to a soldier, and though Thomas couldn’t make out their words, he could tell by Fairfax’s gestures that he was instructing the man to allow the royalist soldiers to emerge from the church and then send them home.

Thomas understood the move. Fairfax only wanted to capture the town; he didn’t want to be responsible for a thousand prisoners. Thomas instructed his men to wave a white flag and surrender. He needed them to stay alive to fight another day. Staying holed up in this church with no ammunition would not win the war. They had to keep their eyes on the larger prize.

One of the men cracked open the church door and stuck a white cloth through the opening, waving it at Fairfax’s man. Slowly, the soldiers exited, arms behind their heads.

Fairfax had won Maidstone.

Since St. Faith’s Church was flooded, the prisoners, under the shadow of muskets and swords, were commanded to walk single file up the hill to All Saints Church, where Fairfax’s men would catalog their names and release them, making them promise to lay down their arms and return home.

Thomas stayed with his men but remained silent at the back of the line, his head bowed, his eyes meeting no one’s. At All Saints Church, Thomas stood in the kaleidoscope of sunny colors blazing through the stained-glass windows and gazed down at his uncle Alexander’s tomb. He was certain his men had fought a brave battle, but as he stared at the tomb, he wondered if he could have done more. His men were before him, lined up like cattle ready to go to slaughter. He felt their fate was even worse than death, for they were giving up their pride and their king.

Perhaps he was being hard on himself. Perhaps he was just tired. After all, he had not felt the comfort of a soft bed for the last forty-eight hours.

After staring at his uncle’s tomb for more than an hour and listening to his soldier’s names being taken at the front of the line, Thomas decided to follow in his uncle’s footsteps. They could take his name on this day. They could take his arms and his horse. They could disband his men, but they would never take his spirit nor his ambition to see the king back on the throne. He would live to see these men with their ink pots and quills beheaded for treason. He would fight for his king until his final breath. Today was not the end. In fact, today was a new beginning.

When he was the only soldier left in the church, he raised his head and stepped away from his uncle’s tomb. He marched to the table set up near the door and looked down at the soldier sitting behind it. He found himself gazing into the eyes of General Thomas Fairfax.

“Well, Colonel Thomas Culpepper, do you claim command of these men?”

“No, these are George Goring’s men. I am only here to serve.”

“Goring? That traitor? It seems you have chosen to serve the wrong side.”

“When all is said and done, we’ll see if that is true, but I suspect you’re mistaken.”

Fairfax sighed and scribbled Thomas’s name on the paper in front of him. He spoke without looking up at Thomas. “Colonel Culpepper, in exchange for your freedom on this day, you are to lay down your arms and return to your home. Do you understand?”

“I understand,” Thomas lied without a flinch.

“Then you are free to go,” Fairfax said.

Thomas didn’t move.

Fairfax looked up.

Thomas said, “I hope you know what you’re doing, Thomas Fairfax. It will be a great shame when we change places and you’re forced to give up your talents as a competent military leader, only to find your head on a spike next to Cromwell’s.”

Fairfax narrowed his eyes. “Is that a threat, Culpepper?”

“No, just an observation.”

A bead of sweat appeared on the general’s forehead. He looked around at his own men loitering in the church. “We are finished here.”

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The first three books in the Culpepper Saga are available in paperback and Kindle at Amazon.

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Saturday Snippet – Father/Son Troubles

In celebration of the fourth book in the Culpepper Saga, “Culpepper’s Rebellion,” coming out October 31st, I’ll be reviewing re-living moments from the first three books. Some are triumphant, some are heart wrenching. If you haven’t read any of the story yet, follow along for the next few Saturdays and witness occasional tense and often loving moments between John Culpepper and various members of his family. The following snippet is from the first book in the series, “I, John Culpepper,” which is the story of John’s youth and his turbulent relationship with his father. In this snippet, John’s young niece has died and the family is meeting at the church for the funeral. John’s father, Johannes, has just arrived.

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51hHerBrPbL._UY250_December 3, 1630

John stood in the doorway of the church and watched his father climb down from his carriage. Sporadic blasts of cold wind whipped at Johannes’s thinning, gray hair and ruffled the hem of his cloak. He refused help from his footman and grunted with each movement. He was pale and wrinkled, his shoulders hunched by the weight of his sixty-five years. He leaned on his cane as he hobbled toward the church, favoring one leg over the other. When he reached the door, he looked up at John with tears in his bloodshot eyes. John stepped forward to take his father’s arm and escort him inside.

As they stepped through the stone archway into the church, Johannes grumbled, “Bloody flux.”

John nodded, not knowing if the comment required a reply. “Where’s Ann?” he asked instead.

“She’s visiting at her son’s house. I didn’t have time to go fetch her. I came straight here.”

John nodded again. He led his father to the front pew and helped him be seated. John stood in front of the pew and looked around at the family in attendance. For the first time in John’s life, he felt as if he needed to be the man in control of the family. This was an unusual sensation because his father or brother always filled the role of patriarch, but John accepted it for the time being. He returned to the door, just in time to see Thomas and Katherine enter.

Katherine was holding their eight-month-old baby Anna in her arms. John walked straight toward her, softly placed his hand on the infant’s head, and looked into Katherine’s eyes. “Katherine, I am so very sorry. Mary was such a beautiful little girl.”

Katherine looked down at Anna. Her lip quivered and tears rolled down her cheeks.

“And little Anna is just as beautiful.” John kissed the sleeping baby on the forehead.

“We had hoped for a son,” said Thomas quietly, “but we were happy to have Anna as a playmate for Mary. Sometimes plans and dreams just don’t work out.” Thomas’s voice cracked.

John understood that statement well. He looked into his brother’s face and realized he had never seen his brother so sad. If he could figure out a way to take this pain from him, he would. Katherine began to sob, and the men escorted her to the front pew.

After a long and dismal hour, the sermon finally ended and the family gathered outside in the graveyard, surrounded by stone monuments and chiseled epitaphs. Blustery snowflakes wafted through the air, twirling around bare branches of dormant oaks, as the family placed young Mary Culpepper in her tomb and solemnly left the grounds. John followed Thomas and Katherine home to Greenway Court. He left Johannes to fend for himself.

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The first three books of the Culpepper Saga are available in paperback and Kindle at Amazon.

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