Thursday, April 18, 2013

Bucker Dudley. It's what you want to read.

Here's a scary thing. I just spent seven years writing a young adult historical novel. None of my publishing contacts thought they could sell it. I know only four or five young persons of fourteen and up, only one of them reads, and I'm not sure she even has a Kindle. Nevertheless I've decided to offer BUCKER DUDLEY as a Kindle serial of maybe five episodes, and see whether anybody buys it.

Ninety-nine cents an episode. If you have a Kindle, the first episode is free! Find it HERE. If you don't have a Kindle, you can pay 99¢ for the first episode and read it on a free Kindle app on your computer, smartphone or tablet. You can download a Kindle app HERE.

I'll sweeten the pot. Enter my contest. If you win I'll buy you a Kindle.

Now, you're asking yourself: Why would I spend my precious time in this short life reading about Polly McCaskie's adventures in the War of 1812, when there are so many reasons not to? First of all, she's Canadian. (I had an editor tell me some years ago, before the rise of Louise Penny, that nobody wanted to read about Canadians.) Secondly, it's the War of 1812, for cat's sake. Nobody but Canadians even likes that war. We in the U.S. are embarrassed by it. The British marched into Washington and burned the White House. President Madison ran like a hare. We don't want to hear about that. It's humiliating.

Furthermore the adventures in this book, while taking place in the Regency time period, are so far from the fashionable clubs and drawing rooms of London that they might as well be happening in another universe. Nobody says, “La, indeed, sir.” Nobody even wears corsets, except maybe in Sackets Harbor, and then they don't talk about them. Captain Leonard of the United States Navy is a rake, I guess, but he isn't an attractive rake, and he gets in serious trouble for it. Are there ladies? No, not a lot of ladies. Half of the major female characters make love for a living. Others are tough Indians scratching out a hard existence in the Canadian woods.

Actually that's why you want to read it. BUCKER DUDLEY will take you out of this worrisome world of the twenty-first century and carry you off to sea, and into the deep woods of Canada, with a girl who retains her light-hearted outlook in spite of war and dreadful vicissitudes. In the end she rediscovers her true love, an American seaman. Between the two of them they strike the blow that puts an end to this miserable war.

I would recommend it to teachers as an aid to teaching the War of 1812, if anyone wanted to teach that, and if the prostitutes didn't play such a prominent role in the plot. As it is I can hear the parents screaming. Oh, well. Leave me a comment if you want to be included in the drawing for the Kindle.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Monkeystorm is Finished and Available on Kindle and Nook

It's up. I meant for it to be a Young Adult novel, but it might be too far over the top. I defy you to read it all the way through without causing coffee to come out of your nose:


Teen-aged Carina Nebula (as she calls herself) breaks out of Trenton Psychiatric Hospital and goes home to right a terrible wrong: her older brother, Gilbert, killed their parents and put the blame on her. With her new boyfriend, Spike (unemployed game designer, homeless person, and possibly also a vampire), she sets out to ruin Gilbert's reputation, steal his money, destroy his software company, and bring him to justice. But it's harder than it looks. Gilbert has powerful allies, too, and he is still on a killing spree.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

When Bad Things Happen in a Good Town

I digress from my usual rants about the War of 1812 today to talk about evil and small town life. A popular young Lambertville woman has gone missing.

I always tell people that if I want to be ignored I get on a bus and go to Manhattan. People disappear from Manhattan all the time without causing a ripple. Here in Lambertville a person can't get a haircut without its being noticed, let alone go missing.

Sarah Majoras left John and Peter's, a bar and musical venue across the Delaware River in New Hope, around two o'clock last Saturday morning and walked across the bridge, heading for her home on Union Street. She never got there. Cameras on the bridge caught her heading down Lambert Lane, taking a shortcut along the canal bank. No one appeared to be following her.

It was very, very cold that night, well below freezing, and remained so for days.

Everyone in town is upset. Helicopters, those birds of ill omen, circled overhead all day yesterday and the day before. TV news vans converged on the town. Sarah's friends formed search parties, posted leaflets, knocked on doors, and poked in the waste places by the edge of the river. Police divers broke through the ice of the canal and looked for her underwater. More police rowed up and down the canal with sonar equipment. The state police parked a forensics van by the bridge across the canal. Today it's too foggy for the helicopters to see anything.

Sarah Majoras was–is–a graduate of South Hunterdon Regional High School, the valedictorian, they say, one of many sweet, charming young people with many friends. The town is full of them.  None have any particular desire to go off to Manhattan and become hedge fund managers. They like rock 'n' roll. They know how to have fun.

Her friends hope to find her alive, though I'm thinking that even if she lay down under a bush and took a nap on the way home (and why the hell would she?) hypothermia would have got her before very long. Worst case, she fell in the canal and drowned. Very worst case, she was murdered. Rumors are rampant. People who don't know him suspect her boyfriend. Others think it was Guatemalans or Mexicans. There was a guy a couple of years ago who attacked a jogger on the canal path. People remember that, and they think maybe he's back in town.

Knowing they are suspected, perhaps expecting the attention of the immigration authorities as a result, the young Hispanic men have disappeared from their usual haunts in town, the corner where they wait for work, the library where they surf the internet.

The curious thing to me is the speed with which this story blew up. The state police were all over it at once, not waiting the usual time for a missing persons case but at once. Was it because of the uproar on Facebook and the internet, or something else? What did they think, and why did they think it?

What happened to Sarah? Reporters and strangers will offer all sorts of speculation. There is no answer until there's an answer.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Putting a Historic Figure in the Novel

As near as I can determine, there are no pictures of Captain Benjamin Forsyth.

He was an American hero of the War of 1812, leader of Forsyth's Rifles, a dashing if rowdy and larcenous crew involved in many important battles on the Canadian-American border in the Thousand Islands area. He plays a part in the story of Bucker Dudley. When Bucko was imprisoned in Elizabethtown, Captain Forsyth and his Rifles crossed the frozen river, raided the town, and released all the prisoners. This was an actual raid, carried out by the actual historical personage, Captain Benjamin Forsyth. But what did he look like?

Sean Bean

I like to think of him as looking like Sean Bean when he played Richard Sharpe of Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe's Rifles, a gorgeous hunk in a skin-tight uniform, broad-shouldered, maybe six and a half feet tall, his handsome brow creased with the consciousness of having killed many men and broken the hearts of many women.

But maybe he was short. It has been said that in the woodland skirmish where he lost his life Benjamin Forsyth climbed up on a stump to see what was happening, whereupon a British marksman picked him off. A tall man wouldn't have had to do this. And maybe his shoulders weren't broad at all. You can never tell about the people of that time, since broad shoulders were so unfashionable that even a man who had them would be painted as not having them, wearing those cramped, pinch-shouldered jackets that were in style in those days.

Portrait of General Hull

But who cares? I'm writing this story. I can make Captain Benjamin Forsyth as fine-looking as I like. It's called poetic license. My poetic license hangs over my desk. Take a look at it. The powers it gives me are sweeping.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


Most Americans, when they hear that the Texans want to secede from the union, immediately think the case parallels the Civil War (aka the War Between the States). They do not think of the War of 1812, when the New Englanders nearly seceded. Yes, folks, in those days it was the Yankees who couldn't stand the bull from Washington anymore. They even went so far as to meet in Hartford to go forward with their plans for secession. Here's how it went down.

First of all the New England merchants and farmers were sore at President James Madison. They hadn't voted for him, but for DeWitt Clinton, the Federalist candidate. When he declared war on Great Britain they were filled with alarm and venom. The war quickly began to go badly. The British blockaded all trade. The merchants lost money. In spite of New England's refusal to support the war with money or men, the federal government continued to fight against the British.

After two years of things not going their way, the Yankees decided they weren't going to take it anymore. In December of 1814, with the war dragging on, delegates came to Hartford from all over Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island, as well as a few from New Hampshire and Vermont. Nobody knows how the treasonous meetings went, for they kept no minutes, possibly for fear of being hanged. In the end they backed down from outright secession and made a list of amendments they wanted made to the Constitution. They sent a delegation to Washington to put their list before the Republicans in charge of Congress, without hope of winning them over, but thinking to embarrass them.

The delegation arrived in Washington to make their constitutional demands about the same time that the news arrived that the Treaty of Ghent had been signed, Jackson had whupped the British in New Orleans, and the war was over. How embarrassed they must have been. The New England Federalist cause was irrelevant now. As a result not only the New England secessionist movement but the entire Federalist party lost all influence in the country, and withered away completely.

The Texans might want to think about that.