Saturday Snippet of I, John Culpepper

I began researching my ancestry as a teenager. I knew my Culpepper line came to America from England in the 1600s, and I knew they were wealthy land owners with much prestige in the English court, but I didn’t understand why they would give all that up to sail to an inhospitable land full of savage Indians, facing the possibility of shipwreck, starvation, and death. How did those aristocratic people end up as the modest family I knew in my youth in Mississippi? The journey to find these answers became a series of four books about my 10th great-grandfather, John Culpepper.

51hHerBrPbL._UY250_Follow the series as John rebels against his father, the English civil war destroys the family, John ends up as the family patriarch in the colony of Virginia, and finally, as John comes to terms with his life and his past. The first book in the series is I, JOHN CULPEPPER. The subsequent books are JOHN CULPEPPER THE MERCHANT, JOHN CULPEPPER ESQUIRE and CULPEPPER’S REBELLION.

Here’s the opening chapter of I, JOHN CULPEPPER, setting the stage with his tumultuous relationship with his dad.

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CHAPTER 1

Fall 1626

“No! For the hundredth time, no!”

John looked down at the intricate grain of the walnut desk beneath his fingertips and shifted his weight to his other foot. He sighed, feeling his dreams disintegrate before his very eyes. The snap of the white sails, the taste of the salty spray on his lips, the smell of the tar that sealed the decks—the visions were quickly vanishing behind the thick fog of his father’s adamant disapproval. He pictured his mighty ship sinking into the black waters of condemnation, bubbling like a cauldron as it disappeared from sight. There was nothing he could do to change his father’s mind, and he wondered whatever possessed him to come to this man for assistance. He should have known better.

His father glared at John from behind the desk. He propped his elbow on the scrolled arm of the chair as his large hand methodically stroked his pointed beard. “Is there anything else?” he snapped.

John didn’t look up. He shook his head and mumbled, “No.” He turned and padded across the thick rug toward the door, listening to the man’s heavy breathing behind him. He reached for the brass doorknob, paused, and turned back. “You know I’ve always done everything you’ve asked of me. I went to school. I studied to be a lawyer. I did it all for you. I never wanted to practice law. I’d never be happy on the bench.”

“Happy? What makes you think life has anything to do with being happy? You are a Culpepper, and as such, you have an obligation to serve your family and your king in a manner befitting your station. This childish notion of owning a ship is nothing but rubbish.”

John released the doorknob and walked back toward his father’s desk. The intimidating man dwarfed the desk, his size exaggerated by the broad shoulders of his leather jerkin, yet he sat up taller in his chair in preparation for the quarrel to continue. It was a wasted gesture, as his opponent already knew the battle was lost.

John made sure he didn’t raise his voice. “Father, you have financed merchant ships for as long as I can remember. What difference does it make if I’m the one who owns the ship?”

“Culpeppers don’t own ships. I funded those expeditions as an investment—a losing investment, I might add.” He rose from his chair and his voice grew louder, echoing off the oak panels that lined the walls. “There has never been a Culpepper placed in a position of experiencing hunger and savages and shipwrecks, and there won’t be one now, not with my blood written on the purchase. I will not fund a ship for you, John, not now, not ever.” He pointed his finger in John’s face. “And if you somehow find a way to procure a ship, mark my words—I will disinherit and disown you. No son of mine will become a common sailor. I am finished with this conversation once and for all. Have I made myself clear?”

John exhaled, beaten. His shoulders slumped as he broke his father’s glare and dropped his eyes to the floor.

“John? Have I made myself clear?”

“Completely.”

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5-star-largeThe recipient of 5-stars at Readers’ Favorite, I, JOHN CULPEPPER is available in paperback and Kindle at Amazon. CLICK HERE.

“In I, John Culpepper, you will be transported back to the time John lived and you will feel like you are a part of John’s life. The experience of reading this book was out of this world. … it is a magical experience and you will not want to miss it for anything! Amazing!” ~ Rabia Tanveer for Readers’ Favorite

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Saturday Snippet of STUCKEY’S BRIDGE

Stuckey's cover_webIf you haven’t yet heard about Old Man Stuckey, he’s a little like Dexter, but with less conscience and 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. I got so many emails and letters asking about the secondary character, Levi, who is a little psychopath in his own right, I wrote the sequel, STUCKEY’S LEGACY: THE LEGEND CONTINUES. There were similar legends around the same time and the same place, so I pulled them all together and finished up the trilogy with STUCKEY’S GOLD: THE CURSE OF LAKE JUZAN. They are best if read in order, but can stand alone on their own.

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 paperback and Kindle at Amazon. CLICK HERE. 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
“Lori Crane is a Southern storyteller of the first order.” ~Writer’s Digest

Saturday Snippet of Elly Hays

elly cover_webElly Hays is based on real people and real events. She was my 5th great-grandmother, Elizabeth Hays Rodgers. I wrote about her granddaughter in Okatibbee Creek and about her great-granddaughter in An Orphan’s Heart, but I began to wonder where the strength of these women came from, so I backed up in the family tree and found Elly. She lived in the Mississippi Territory, today known as Alabama, in the early 1800s – through a most frightening time when the South was the unsettled frontier and the Creek Indians fought against the Americans for the rights to the land. Not only is this her story, but we also get to see it through the eyes of the Creek warrior, Tafv (pronounced TAH-fuh.)

Elly Hays is told in alternating chapters of Elly’s point of view and Tafv’s point of view, and from the first few chapters, you can sense their will be an epic clash between a warrior with nothing to lose and a young mother on the verge of losing everything.

Below is a snippet of the first meeting between Elly and Tafv’s brother Eto.

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She angrily plopped down on a rock and yanked dirty stockings from the basket. She dunked them in the water and began scrubbing them hard enough to put holes in them. She could feel her ears buzzing and her shortness of breath and realized she needed to calm down. She stopped scrubbing, closed her eyes, and took a deep breath through her nose, trying to slow her heart. She concentrated on releasing the tension in her shoulders and the knot in her stomach. She felt guilty for losing her temper with her husband, but frustration was taking over her life. Every day brought new problems—life-and-death problems. Her mounting anger was overriding her fear of the Indians and her love for her husband.

She opened her eyes when she heard him clear his throat behind her, and she turned to apologize for her harsh tone of voice. But when she saw the black eyes looking back at her that did not belong to James, she stopped and gasped. They belonged to an Indian, sitting tall on a brown and white painted horse. She hadn’t heard him approach. She jumped to her feet, wondering where she could run.

The Indian was bare-chested, wearing only tan animal hide pants and moccasins. His hair was short, shaved on the sides and sticking up higher on top. Most of the Indians she had seen had this same haircut. His face was covered with lines of red and black paint, and he wore a headband tied around his head with strips of animal fur hanging on either side of his face. His headband was not adorned with any feathers. This was not the same Indian she had seen before.

He stared at her for a long time and did not move. She glanced across the swift creek to the left and right, but there was nowhere to run. She would never be able to outrun a horse. Her heart beat wildly as beads of sweat broke out on her brow. She remained frozen.

“I came to warn you,” the Indian said in a monotone.

Elly was surprised by his English.

He sat motionless, waiting for her response.

She finally blurted out, “Warn me about what? That you want us to leave? We already got that warning.” She could feel her temper escalating again. All of the tension she had felt the last few months, all of the worry for her children, all of the stress of building a new life, was about to explode in this Indian’s face.

“Yes, I’m here to warn you that you need to leave, but not for the reason you are thinking.” He looked down at the reins in his hands, as if trying to gather his thoughts and find the correct words. “My brother and I were the ones who killed your animals.”

Elly threw a wet stocking on the ground. She hadn’t realized she was still holding it, and it had dripped down her blue linen skirt, causing the front of her dress to become dark in color. “You? You did that? How am I supposed to feed my children?” she raised her voice, her temper becoming stronger than her fear.

“This is the least of your worries. When your husband chased us away, my brother’s boy fell from his horse and snapped his neck.” His eyes carried a tint of sadness. “The boy is dead.”

Elly felt her heart soften for a young boy she didn’t even know. Her anger began to subside, as if it were being washed away by the babbling creek beside her. “I’m…I’m very sorry to hear that,” she stammered, wringing her wet hands together.

“You must understand, my brother is the great warrior of our village. He has vowed revenge on your husband and your family for the death of his son.”

Elly’s eyes widened as the Indian continued.

“He told our Great Chief your husband killed his son, and the Great Chief has given him permission to slaughter your family.”

Elly was shocked by the revelation and quickly shook her head. “No. My…my husband would never kill a boy. He’s never killed anyone, for any reason.”

“Our great warrior does not know this.”

“Please tell him. Tell him my husband didn’t kill his son.” She took a step forward as she begged.

The Indian shook his head and looked at her with compassion. “I cannot tell him anything. I can only warn you. You must leave now…before it’s too late.”

Elly placed her hand over her mouth as tears stung her eyes. Her body began to tremble, and she turned her face toward the creek so the Indian would not see her cry. After a moment, she composed herself, wiped her cheek with the back of her hand, and turned back toward the Indian, but he was gone. She looked left and right through the trees, but it seemed he had simply vanished as quickly as he had appeared.

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3booksElly Hays is available in paperback and Kindle at Amazon.

Elly Hays received Honorable Mention in the 2013 Great Midwest Book Festival, it was on the short list of “50 self-published books worth reading 2013/14” at Indie Author Land, and the cover was a semi-finalist in the 2014 Authorsdb Book Cover Contest. It is the third book of the Okatibbee Creek Series, following Okatibbee Creek and An Orphan’s Heart.

Saturday Snippet of An Orphan’s Heart

AOH%20cover_webThe second book in the Okatibbee Creek Series is the tale of one of the orphans lost in the shuffle in Okatibbee Creek, Martha Ellen Rodgers Meek, simply known as Ellen. In An Orphan’s Heart, nine-year-old Ellen’s family has been decimated by the civil war and a typhoid epidemic that swept through the county. She and her siblings are now forced to live with other family members, and Ellen finds herself longing for the love of her mother. She is relocated from Mississippi to Alabama, and upon reaching maturity, she decides to go back to Mississippi. Things are certainly not the same as they were in her childhood. She eventually travels to the great plains of Texas to visit her brothers, and immediately upon her arrival, she meets the man of her dreams and plans for a bright future – but has everything torn from her in a shattering turn of events.

An Orphan’s Heart is based on a true story. The names are real. The events are real. The story is told in first person, present tense. The photo at the bottom of this page is the real Martha Ellen Rodgers Meek, taken sometime around 1880.

Below is a snippet of when Ellen met handsome Sam Meek. The electricity was evident from the first moment.

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The inside of the house is as charming as the outside. A blazing fire warms the room, and the air smells of freshly made coffee. Mollie introduces me to their daughters: Minnie, who is five, and Willie Jo, who is two. What cute little girls! Judging by their nightdresses, they were about to go to bed. They both run up and wrap their arms around my neck as I bend down to say hello.

“Aunt Ellen, how long did it take you to get here?” Minnie asks.

“A couple of days. I traveled on three different trains.”

“Did you bring us any presents?” Willie Jo asks.

I laugh. I didn’t even consider doing so, but I pull two pieces of candy from my bag and they’re happy with that.

I’m so wrapped up in the little girls, I don’t even notice him sitting quietly at the table.

“Ellen, I’d like to introduce you to my brother. This is Sam Meek.”

The man rises from the table to greet me, and I’m immediately taken aback by his rugged good looks and warm smile. Our eyes meet and lock. Suddenly I feel as if I’m drowning in a pool of green—the richest green of a mountainside, the darkest green of the deepest water. Everyone and everything else disappears.

He offers me his hand as I rise from the floor. “It’s very nice to meet you.”

“And you, sir.” I take his hand and feel electricity flow through every vein in my body. I pull my hand away, and just as quickly regret the action. I wish to feel that sensation again, but there is no way to touch him again now. I glance down and admire his tan forearm, half covered by his rolled-up sleeve. “I am very sorry about the loss of your mother,” I offer as I try to compose myself.

He doesn’t respond for a moment, and stares deeply into my eyes. “Thank you. It’s very sad for all of us.” He doesn’t pull his eyes away.

Mollie brings some coffee to the table, breaking the spell Sam Meek has created, and she motions for us to have a seat.

“Would you like something to eat?” she asks.

“No, thank you.” I shake my head, finding it hard to look away from the exquisite creature in front of me.

“Sam?”

“No, I’m fine, but thank you,” he says, not breaking our gaze. “I’ll have to get to sleep in a little bit. I’m exhausted.”

I sink into the chair but have no idea if I’m actually sitting. The thought of him leaving the room is disheartening, and I’m surprised a man I just met is having this kind of effect on me.

“So, how was your trip?” He turns toward his coffee cup as Mollie fills it.

“It was amazing. When I was younger, I traveled through a small town in Alabama that had a train station. I was so enchanted by the women in their fancy hats coming and going, I vowed to myself I would someday travel on a train to a distant place.” I smile. “And here I am.”

“Sounds nice.” He takes a sip of his coffee, watching me over the brim of his steaming cup. His voice sounds like silk.

I watch the way he sips. I watch his strong, callused hands place the cup back down on the table. I watch his tongue lick a stray drop from his lips. I watch his tanned throat as he swallows.

“Did you sleep on the train or did you stop somewhere?”

“I spent the night in Mobile and New Orleans, but the rest of the trip was on a sleeper train that had bunks. The rocking motion of the train was actually very soothing.” I sip the strong, bitter coffee, then glance at him as I place the cup back on the table.

“Well, I’m glad you had a good journey.” He stands. “I’m sorry to interrupt our coffee and conversation, but I really need to get some sleep. I can hardly keep my eyes open. It’s going to be a long day tomorrow with the funeral and all.” He grabs his hat from the side table. “Relatives have been coming into town all day.” He nods to me. “It was a pleasure to meet you, ma’am. I’d love to speak with you more about your journey, and I’ll see you again tomorrow.”

“Nice to meet you, too, Mr. Meek.” His movements are like a stallion running through a field, like an eagle catching its prey, like a…

“Please, call me Sam.” He grins, showing the slightest dimple under his dark stubble. His eyes sparkle in the firelight.

I nod and smile. I can’t stop staring at him.

He bids a good evening to Mollie and Willie, and just as instantly as he appeared, he is gone.

My heart is pounding in my ears. My palms are sweating. I can’t seem to catch my breath. I wish I could follow him. I look down at my coffee cup and shake my head. When I look up, Mollie and Willie are both staring at me, and I blush.

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James daughter Martha Ellen Rodgers MeekAn Orphan’s Heart is available in paperback and Kindle at Amazon.

An Orphan’s Heart was a finalist in the 2014 Eric Hoffer Awards. The cover was also named a top-ten finalist in the 2013 Authorsdb Book Cover Contest. It was also awarded a Five-Star Review at Readers’ Favorite. It is the second book in the Okatibbee Creek Series. The first book is Okatibbee Creek. The third is Elly Hays.

Saturday Snippet of Okatibbee Creek

okatibbee creek cover front JPEGOkatibbee Creek is the story of Mary Ann Rodgers Carpenter Jolly and her trials and tribulations in Mississippi during the Civil War. As her brothers and husband went off to war, a devastating typhoid epidemic swept through the county and decimated what was left of her family. Following the loss of so many loved ones, including both parents, she took in her orphaned nieces and nephews and focused on survival. When the war finally ended, she had to pick up the pieces of her shattered life and begin anew. But how?

Okatibbee Creek is a real place. The characters are real. The events are real. The book will leave you crying and cheering. It is written in first person, present tense, diary-style, allowing you to see inside of Mary Ann’s heart and experience every emotion she felt.

The following is a snippet of the scene when Mary Ann received word that her husband had been killed in the war.

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When I reach the bottom of the stairs, I see him. I do not recognize his face, but I recognize his clothing. He is a Confederate soldier. He is standing in the open doorway of the store with the gray, cloudy sky at his back. He is dressed in a wrinkled gray uniform with a dirty yellow cummerbund. His trousers have holes in them, with mud caked around the bottoms of his pant legs. His jacket is missing some buttons, and he looks quite thin and weary. He is wearing shoes that are covered in red Mississippi mud and probably have no soles on the bottom. He is holding his tattered hat and a piece of paper in his dirty hands.

“Hello, sir, what can I do for you?” I ask as I approach.

“Hello, ma’am.” He nods. “Are you Mrs. Carpenter?”

“Yes, I am. And who are you, may I ask?”

“Private Joseph Brown, ma’am. Captain asked me to deliver the latest casualty list to you in person.” He holds the folded piece of paper toward me and looks down at the floor, like a child in trouble for doing something wrong.

“Why are you delivering this? It usually comes by a mail carrier,” I ask as I reach for the paper. I look at the boy’s face. He nervously avoids my eyes and keeps staring at the floor.

“Why are you delivering this to me?” I repeat.

“I promised I would. I’m sorry, ma’am. Goodbye, ma’am,” he murmurs, and backs out the open door.

I look at the piece of paper in my hand for a long time, wondering if I can open it. I don’t know whose names are on this paper, but I suspect the worst, and I don’t want to read it. My eyes sting with tears as I dread a simple piece of paper. I try to unfold it, but my hands are shaking, so I stop and hold it to my chest. I take a deep breath.

Martha Jane stands behind me, not saying a word or making a sound.

“Martha Jane, will you please go upstairs and mind the children for a few minutes?” I ask her.

She nods and quietly heads up the stairs.

I walk outside across the wooden porch and down the two stone steps onto the ground. I walk across the dirt road that is now filled with puddles of red mud from the rain. I keep walking straight ahead. I walk into the overgrown field across the road. I walk with purpose, with determination, like I have somewhere important to go. I want to run. I want to run away and never come back. I keep walking.

In the middle of the field, the thunder sounds above my head. I stop and look up at the ominous clouds that are almost as threatening as the piece of paper I hold in my hand. My hands are shaking as I slowly unfold it and smooth it open. My stomach feels like it has a hole in it. My eyes fill with tears. My hands are now trembling so violently, I almost can’t read it. The name at the top is the only name I see.

“Carpenter, Rice Benjamin: killed in battle 31 December, 41st Mississippi Infantry, Co C.”

Drops of water fall onto the page, but I can’t tell if they are raindrops or teardrops. Even God Himself is crying.

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Rodgers, Mary Ann Rodgers Carpenter JollyOkatibbee Creek is available in paperback, Kindle, and audiobook at Amazon. CLICK HERE. It is the first of three Okatibbee Creek Series books, but they are stand-alone stories. The second is An Orphan’s Heart. The third is Elly Hays.

Okatibbee Creek was the bronze medal winner of the 2013 eLit Book Awards in literary fiction. It also received honorable mention in the 2013 Great Midwest Book Festival for regional fiction and was a nominee in the 2013 Global eBook Awards for historical fiction. It was also awarded Five-Stars at Readers’ Favorite.

Amazon sale rumor, snippet, and a FREE book!

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Word on the street is Amazon will celebrate its 20th anniversary on July 12 and will kick off a mega sale sometime during the week. I’ve heard they have asked for overtime by their staff, hired some temps, and notified their carriers that the volume of packages will double.

Update: Amazon has confirmed a huge one-day sale called Prime Day on July 15. Lightning Deals, seven Deals of the Day, and according to Amazon, more deals than black Friday.

Well…cool! 7,305 days we’ve been together and I still love you, Amazon!

I’d like to take you back in time to the War of 1812 with a snippet of my book ELLY HAYS. Elly’s husband has decided to move the family from Tennessee to the Mississippi Territory, the land we know today as Alabama. He wants to get his family out of the way of the coming war. Little does he know, the Creek Indians living in the place he wants to go are in the middle of a civil war, so he is completely wrong about the family’s safety. Too bad they won’t find that out until they get there.

I’d like to offer you a FREE Kindle copy of ELLY HAYS while your shopping the sale at Amazon July 12-16. Click here to visit the ELLY HAYS Amazon page and bookmark it so you can return July 12-16 and get your FREE copy.

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41n6zHpRqRL._UY250_War is Coming

“So, what are you saying, James? You want to pack all of our belongings, our animals, and our children, leave Tennessee, and move to some wild Indian territory that’s not yet settled?”

He sipped his coffee and nodded. “Yes, that’s exactly what I want to do.”

“What about the children? What about their school?”

“We’ll do what we have to do, Elly. We’ll school them ourselves if that’s what it takes. This is a great opportunity, and the timing couldn’t be better. The government is selling that land for next to nothing, and we’ll have twice the property we have here. Our farm will be twice as large, earning twice the money. And honestly, with what’s going on in the North, I don’t think we should stay here any longer. It looks as if we’re going to declare war upon the British. They’re already fighting up there, and I’m afraid the fighting is going to move its way down here. I would rather school the children myself than to take a chance on them living in the middle of a conflict, or worse, dying in it.”

She looked at him in disbelief and didn’t know what to say. He had a tendency to exaggerate, so she didn’t know if he was being truthful or purposefully saying shocking things about the children’s welfare to get her to agree to move.

He continued. “During the revolution, my father was too old to fight, but he housed many soldiers who related vile tales of death and destruction. He told me stories of the horrors. Men who weren’t killed or injured in battle often starved and died anyway. Women and children were often caught in the crossfire. I don’t want to sit here and watch history repeat itself. The revolution gave us our independence, but the British are still dominating and oppressing us. We still don’t have the freedom we desire. That’s what they’re fighting for in the north—freedom. I agree with what they’re doing, but I don’t want my wife and children caught in the middle. I think there’s going to be a second revolution. After what my father told me about the first one, I can’t help but be fearful that this one is destined to be the same.”

“Yes, I know the stories. I’ve heard them myself. But I don’t know about moving, James.” She shook her head as she lifted her skirt to stand. She walked away from the table and placed her coffee cup on the counter. “I don’t know how to pack all of our things and start all over. It seems impossible.”

He sipped his coffee again and grimaced. It had grown cold. He placed the cup down on the table and looked at her. “I don’t think we have a choice, Elly. The war is coming. We have a good opportunity right in front of us to avoid the whole situation, to start fresh, and to keep the children safe.”

She leaned her back against the counter and placed her hands on her hips. “What about Indians? Aren’t there Indians there?”

“Yes, there are, but I’m sure they won’t be any problem. Other people live amongst them. And besides, we’ll be buying the land from the government, not from the Indians. It will be our land, fair and square. At least we won’t find ourselves caught in the crossfire because the Indians don’t have guns. From what I’ve heard, they live off the land and keep to themselves.”

She sighed, knowing he would not let this go. He wanted an answer right now, but she couldn’t give him the one he wanted. She looked across the room and stared out the wavy glass of the window for a few minutes, trying to decide what to say. After a while, she folded her arms and looked at her husband. “All right, I’ll make you a deal. You go and look at the land, and if it’s nice and there are no Indians, I’ll agree to move there.”

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ELLY HAYS is FREE at Amazon July 12-16.

Saturday Snippet – John Culpepper the Merchant

The Merchant ebookMy new book, John Culpepper the Merchant, takes place in the 17th century, both in the colony of Virginia and in the country of England. England was in the middle of a civil war, and John’s uncle, Sir Alexander Culpepper, was a knight in the king’s army. At the battle of Bridgewater, we witnessed how brave Alexander really was.

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John Culpepper the Merchant

July 1645, Battle at Bridgewater

“Advance the second cavalry!” Goring commanded.

The second group galloped down the hill.

That’s when Alexander saw them on the other side of the stream. Fairfax’s cavalry appeared out of nowhere, crossing the ford with nothing to stop their advance. There was no clanging of armor as with a regular group of horse heading into battle. Alexander knew these soldiers weren’t in armor. The weight would slow down the horses. He had to admit, Fairfax was a brilliant commander. There was no thunder of hooves as the horses were not galloping. The approaching men were dressed in leather jerkins and moved to a strange and ominous sound of marching hooves and creaking leather. A menacing sound sure to make even the most courageous opponent question his bravery.

They advanced four abreast, knee to knee, with four more behind, and four more behind that. There had to be hundreds of them. They looked like demons rising from the very depths of hell, bent on killing each and every royalist. What happened to the day of fighting with honor and valor? When did the parliamentarians stop taking prisoners? When did they start killing every man who crossed their path? The Welsh soldiers were gone. The light guns were gone. The only thing standing between success and defeat were the three groups of horse, two of which were not faring so well against Fairfax’s army.

“Ready your swords, gentlemen!” Alexander yelled to his men who were waiting nervously at the top of the ridge. Nearly half his men were not professional soldiers but farmers. They weren’t used to facing anything this terrifying. He wasn’t sure he had ever faced anything this terrifying. “Steady…” He watched the horses below him advance across the ford, and far in the distance, he recognized a figure dressed all in black astride a white horse. Fairfax. Black Tom, the royalists called him. The man sat tall in his saddle at the back of his army, looking like Satan himself. Alexander felt his adrenaline rise. Today would be the day General Thomas Fairfax paid for his decision to abandon the king’s men. Today would be the day Black Tom took a sword through his black heart.

Alexander’s men waited and watched, their horses prancing nervously. Fairfax’s group of horses easily destroyed Goring’s first line, scattering the men about the marsh like scarecrows. Even horses lay dead. Alexander grimaced as he watched more men fall and some of the horses run off. The second group fought more diligently than the first and Alexander thought for a moment they could win the battle. That’s when he saw the next group of Fairfax’s men on horseback, larger than the first, crossing the stream, again four abreast. There had to be more than two hundred of them.

“Ready, men!” He yelled to his group of sixty men.

Their swords glistened in the sunlight. This would be the day of their greatest victory or their worst defeat.

Alexander took a deep breath, braced himself, and from the pit of his stomach he bellowed, “Charge!”

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John Culpepper the Merchant is available in Kindle and paperback at Amazon.

For pictures, paintings, and documents of the people and places in the series, visit the Culpepper Saga Facebook page.

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Saturday Snippet – John Culpepper the Merchant

If you read the first book in the Culpepper Saga, “I, John Culpepper,” you’ll remember the red-headed wench John’s father was flirting with at the Blackwall Inn the day John was born in 1606. I was tickled to included her in the second book, and in an off-handed way, she is instrumental in saving John’s family at the end of the book.

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The Merchant ebookJohn Culpepper the Merchant

January 1643, Oliver Cromwell

John and his brother rode through a cold and damp fog into London and went for an ale at the Blackwall Inn. They removed their hats and scarfs and took a seat at the dank, corner table nearest the soot-encrusted fireplace that was glowing warm with embers. A scrawny boy placed a few logs into the fireplace, and the brothers watched the red embers grow into a roaring fire. They ordered a couple pints of ale, and once the barkeep delivered the mugs to the table, Thomas began to fill John in on all the unrest in the land that John had missed over the previous year.

“JC wrote me of the king trying to arrest those five members of the House of Commons and of his raising his standard at Nottingham, but what happened in between?” John asked.

Thomas took a drink and sighed. “Did he tell you about Cromwell?”

John shook his head.

“After the fiasco in the House of Commons, the king fled London and was ambushed in Birmingham.”

“JC told me that.”

“That attack was instigated by Oliver Cromwell.”

“Who’s Oliver Cromwell?”

“Exactly. He’s a nobody, a man of modest means, barely inside the gentry class. He’s sat in Parliament for a few years but has been pretty much useless and quiet. His only claim is that he led a single cavalry troop some years ago, and for some reason, Parliament thought that enough to elevate his status. They placed him in charge of their cavalry. He’s a committed Puritan with deep-rooted desires to take the king down because of his past religious rulings. After remaining quiet and never participating in Parliament’s dealings for years, somehow he convinced Parliament to pass what he called the Militia Ordinance, proclaiming the people of London are bound by law to join Parliament’s militia if called, and he immediately began recruiting men of low birth.”

“What’s the punishment for not joining?”

“Beheading.”

John exhaled and shook his head in disbelief.

Thomas continued. “He’s not recruiting military men or men of gentry, he’s recruiting anyone he can get his hands on. He’s not a trained military leader, so from a strategic standpoint, it’s difficult to guess his next move.”

“How many men does he have now?”

“Probably twice as many as we do. He took over the king’s royal army in London and is recruiting men by force.”

“Have the members of Parliament lost their minds?”

“Apparently so, but not all of them. Many members have disappeared to their country homes. They refuse to participate in taking down the king. The ones who are left, like Cromwell, are now jockeying for position in what they think will be a new country. Parliament is supposed to represent the people, but sadly, the citizens are now afraid of Parliament and the king is nowhere to be found to protect them. Without an option, they’re joining Cromwell’s militia in droves.”

John groaned and looked down into his mug.

An older woman with slivers of gray in her long red hair set two more pints on their table.

“Thank you,” John said.

“You’re Culpeppers,” she said, unquestionably.

John nodded.

She looked into John’s eyes. “You look just like your father.”

“Excuse me, do I know you?” John asked.

“No, you don’t know me.” She smiled and pointed at the mugs. “These pints are on the house. Tell your father to come by and visit.”

“Our father is long dead, madam,” Thomas said.

She spun her head to look at Thomas, shock in her eyes. “Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t know.” A flash of sadness crossed her face and she looked back at John.

John wondered how this lowly, tavern wench knew a man of his father’s importance. She was middle aged with soft wrinkles around her eyes, but he could tell by her prominent cheekbones and full lips that she had probably been quite beautiful in her younger days. Perhaps this wench was the reason his father remained in London for lengthy stretches of time so many years ago.

The woman’s eyes became misty. “I’m very sorry to hear that. I was rather fond of your father. Well, if you ever need anything, my son owns the fishery in Maidstone, right on the River Medway. His name is Waller and the place is called Waller’s. You tell him his mother sent you.”

John and Thomas looked quizzically at each other and then Thomas said, “Um, Waller’s. All right. Thank you for the information, madam.”

“Of course.” She nodded at Thomas and slowly backed up from the table, stealing fleeting glances at John. “Just like your father,” she mumbled.

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“John Culpepper the Merchant” is available in Kindle and paperback at Amazon.

For pictures, paintings, and documents of the people and places in the Culpepper Saga, please visit the Culpepper Saga Facebook page.

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Saturday Snippet – John Culpepper the Merchant

The Merchant ebookMy new release, “John Culpepper the Merchant” is the second book in the Culpepper Saga. It begins in England in 1642 at the onset of the English civil war. The king had been angering his people for his entire reign of seventeen years, and the opening chapter of the book sets the scene. It is one of the catalysts of the war.

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John Culpepper the Merchant

Chapter 1

January 4, 1642, London, England

The king marched into the room unannounced. He walked through the middle of the active session of Parliament and was greeted with stunned silence. Never before had a monarch entered the House of Commons uninvited, and the nearly two hundred members present froze in place as if someone had painted their portrait, capturing the moment complete with paper strewn across tables, pens held in the air, and faces turned to pose for the painter. The king did not return their shocked gazes.

From his seat at a table in the center of the room, JC watched the king walk past him, easily slipping between the unmoving members of the House. JC’s jaw fell open when the king sat in the speaker’s chair. JC looked back toward the door, wondering how the king had entered the room without warning and saw the king’s sergeant at arms blocking the doorway. Behind the intimidating man stood the king’s soldiers—hundreds of them as far as JC could tell.

After a lengthy and excruciating silence, the king rose from the chair. The knuckles of his right hand turned white as he gripped the ball on top of his walking stick. His left hand remained at his side, balled into a fist.

“Gentlemen!” The king narrowed his eyes as he scrutinized each face. It was obvious he was not going to stay as he had neglected to remove his wide-brimmed hat, which matched his black velvet cloak. Underneath, he wore a red doublet and breeches, almost the same shade as his face. “I am sorry to have this occasion to come unto you, and I apologize for violating your parliamentary privilege.” His beard twitched as he clenched his teeth. “But those guilty of treason have no privilege.”

There was a collective gasp from the room, and a trickle of sweat dripped down JC’s back. Parliament had not been convened for nearly nine years, as the king thought it his royal prerogative to rule the country alone, but after Scotland had invaded the north in retaliation for the king’s religious rulings, he desperately needed money to fund his army. The only body that could legally raise taxes to fund an army was Parliament, so the king was forced to call on it. It denied the king’s request to raise taxes, and instead compiled a list of over two hundred grievances against the king, demanding he address them. The document had been delivered a month ago but Parliament had never received word as to the king’s reaction.

JC had not participated in the writing of the grievances. For the last nineteen years, he had worked in the king’s service, just as his family had done for many kings and many generations. He would never contribute to anything as treasonous as telling the king how to rule. During his service, JC had never seen the king’s demeanor this threatening. This unannounced visit to the House of Commons was not going to end well for someone.

The king lifted his hand and gestured for his sergeant at arms to enter the room.

All heads turned toward the door, and all eyes followed the sergeant as he walked to the middle of the room and unrolled a piece of paper. He held it with both hands in front of his face and turned clockwise as he read aloud. “I am commanded by His Majesty, my master, upon my allegiance that I should come to the House of Commons and request from Mr. Speaker five members of the House of Commons. When these gentlemen are delivered, I am commanded to arrest them in His Majesty’s name for high treason. Their names are Mr. Denzil Hollis, Sir Arthur Haselrig, Mr. John Pym, Mr. William Strode, and Mr. John Hampden.”

The sergeant rolled up the paper and stuffed it back into his breast pocket.

JC witnessed a scowl cross the king’s face while the sergeant read the names. The five men were the authors of the list of grievances.

Attempted_Arrest_of_the_Five_members_lenthall kneels before charles“Mr. William Lenthall,” the king bellowed.

A man wearing a black cape with a white collar emerged from the crowd and knelt before the king. “Yes, Your Majesty.”

“Mr. Speaker, where are these men we seek? Do you see them in this room?”

Lenthall kept his eyes to the floor. “May it please Your Majesty, I have neither eyes to see nor tongue to speak in this place but only as the House is pleased to direct me, whose servant I am.”

The king stared at the top of Lenthall’s head. Lenthall remained still. No man risked a glance toward another or even dared to breathe for fear of attracting the king’s attention. The king sighed and said, “I see all the birds have flown.”

With a flick of his wrist, the king flipped his long hair off his shoulder and marched past Lenthall, leaving him kneeling in front of his own empty chair. The sergeant at arms followed the king from the room. When the door slammed, everyone exhaled.

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John Culpepper the Merchant” is available in Kindle and paperback at Amazon.

For pictures, paintings, and documents of the people and places in the series, visit the Culpepper Saga Facebook page.

Saturday Snippets – I, John Culpepper

Culpepper_1My new book, I, John Culpepper, is now available!!

It is the first of four books in the Culpepper Saga and takes place during John’s youth. John was born into great wealth and prestige and got to do things and see things mere commoners would only dream about. When John was fourteen, his cousin, JC was knighted by His Royal Highness King James I, and John not only attended the ceremony, he also attended the joust afterwards.

Here’s what happened…

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Trumpets sounded again, causing the spectators’ din to increase in pitch. Knights’ horses were usually escorted onto the field by a groom, but a massive black horse, its face covered with metal plate, galloped onto the tiltyard. On its back sat a knight clad in iron armor, sunlight glinting on his breastplate, making it look as if it had been polished for weeks just for today’s event. The crowd roared and rose to its feet as the black horse pranced back and forth, kicking up dust. The rider removed his helm and waved to the crowd. It was JC! John rose to his feet and cheered loudly for his cousin.

A second knight in full plate, riding a white horse, galloped toward the field. The crowd applauded even louder for this contestant, and John bobbed up and down on his tiptoes to see over the standing spectators. Who was this newcomer to receive more applause than his cousin? The horse was wearing plate on its face and chest, and its back was covered with a sapphire blue blanket. It was followed by a small donkey ridden by a squire carrying a standard and trying unsuccessfully to keep pace with the knight and his mighty horse. As the two approached the tiltyard, John saw the standard boasted the royal crest. It was the king!

The two opponents met each other in the middle of the tiltyard and tapped their lances together. JC nodded to the king and then pulled sharply on his horse’s reins. The massive beast stepped backward and curled one of his front legs beneath him in a regal bow. The spectators gave a collective roar of approval.

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I, John Culpepper is available at Amazon.

The Culpepper Saga Facebook page contains photos and paintings of the houses and people in the series. Hop over and take a look.