Thursday, January 29, 2015

Someday is Today

Of all sad words of mouth or pen,
the saddest are these:
it might have been.

If I had a nickel for everyone who's said to me, "I'm going to write a book someday," . . . wait a minute,  QE597 just made those nickels completely worthless. Let's start over.

If I had a dollar for everyone who's--scratch that. Stupid dollars aren't worth anything either. I mean seriously, have you been to the Dollar Tree lately? 

Okay. Reset. If I had a Godiva dark chocolate truffle for everyone who's said to me, "I'm going to write a book someday," I'd be a bloated happy person with candy wrappers covering my naked body up to my neck.

Sorry for the visual.

My point is, don't just say you're going to write a book, or you're going to run a marathon, or you're going to herd llamas on the Serengeti Plain. Do it. Yeah, I know, you might have to break a sweat on your pristine little brow, but grab a hankie and do it. And if hankies gross you out, use a paper towel.

If there's a passion in your heart to accomplish something on this side of heaven, waiting for the right time, the perfect set of circumstances, or a good hair day isn't going to help you reach that goal. Why? Let's take these point by point . . .

There is no guarantee of a right time. 
If you put off your dreams for a time that's "right," it may never come.The only time you're guaranteed is right now. These breaths. The ones you're using at this moment. Life is a vapor, my friend. Don't wait. You want to write a book? Start penning a few words every day. Be able to run a marathon? Get your butt off the couch and jog twenty feet down the sidewalk. Whatever your goal is, start today with a baby step toward reaching it.

The perfect set of circumstances will not happen.
Newsflash: we live in a fallen world. There is no perfect. Even my grilled cheese sandwich was a little on the burnt-side of brown at lunch today. You'll never have enough money, fit into the skinny jeans hanging at the back of your closet, or enjoy a premium health care package all at the same time. Stop looking for the planets to align and work toward your dreams anyway.

Good Hair is overrated.
'Nuff said.

What passion is burning in your heart? Go for it. Don't make me put on my cheerleader mini-skirt and do back-flips all over this blog. My thighs are too chunky. Just doggone do it.

What? You're still here?

Wednesday, January 28, 2015


Shh. Listen. Hear that? It's the squalling cry of a newborn baby website that launched today. Readership is an innovative new opportunity for wannabe authors. It kind of reminds me of Wattpad but with the extra added bonus of potential money for the author. Here's their schtick:
"Readership is a digital book publisher controlled by readers. It was created out of a desire to see more publishers embedding themselves in online culture."
Okay, so I don't really know what that whole culture thing means, but the rest of the premise sounds interesting. I like the idea of readers getting a say in what gets printed. Here's how it works:

  • Writers upload extracts of their work
  • Readers vote yes or no if they think it should get published
  • Readers add donations to every yes vote
  • Every title that reaches its target gets published
  • If a reader votes no, they supply feedback as to why . . . which is invaluable to an author

Readers get a chance to read the first line, the first chapter and the second chapter. Here's a sample page for you to try.

The launch is being kicked off with a campaign that invites any writer to upload their work and see what the online world thinks. Readership will enable votes later on in the year, so make sure your work is uploaded ahead of time for when they open their doors to readers.

I'll be keeping my eye on this one and just might give it a whirl for giggles and fun.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

How Much Money Does an Author Make?

As an author, I'm asked a lot of questions . . .
  • Where do you get your ideas?
  • Can you help me get published?
  • Do we have any marshmallows in the house? No, really. I was just asked this like five minutes ago.

But the question I'm asked most often is how much money do you make?

I know. I see you. You're leaning toward the screen, holding your breath, looking for a dollar sign and six figures following. Hate to burst your balloon, Bucko, but I maybe know two authors who rake in that kind of moolah.

Here are some facts from The Guardian:

  • Half of the writers surveyed (both traditional and indie) earned $1,000-$2,999 or less.
  • Barely 10% earned $100,000 or more.
  • Only 4% of all writers earned $250,000 or more.

And from a Digital Book World survey:

  • Independent authors make about $500-$999 a year.
  • Published authors earn an average of $3,000-$4,999 a year.
  • Hybrid authors (using traditional and independent routes) take in $7,500-$9,999 a year.
I'd say those figures are pretty dang close to accurate, varying in proportion to how many books an author has on the market. 

Being an author sounds like a glamorous gig, hanging out in your jammies all day, drinking java until you're all jazzed, but the truth is that most authors also have a day job.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Writerly Lessons From American Sniper

This weekend I ran outside the literary fence and roamed the Hollywood neighborhood. I sat down with a tub of buttered popcorn -- yeah, the free refill hog-o-maniac size --  and watched the outrageously successful film American Sniper. Here are a few randomosities . . .

Graphic Violence
If decapitated heads aren't your thing, you'll probably want to pass this one by. And that wasn't the worst of it. I won't even mention the electric drill. Oops. Just did.

Renewed Appreciation
When you see what American soldiers go through in a war zone, it increases gratitude for their service. The hell their families suffer makes viewers appreciate them more as well.

In real life, not every Iraqi is a savage. This movie leans a little heavy-handedly on showing only the "bad guys."

After Chris Kyle narrowly escaped death time and again overseas, I find it a bit ironic that it's an American who kills him.

Clint Eastwood is the bomb at directing. The ending of this film is perfect. Everyone in the packed theater sat in complete silence when it was over.

And those are just a few thoughts. What can a writer learn from all this?

  • Story is a powerful medium. Think carefully about what you want to impart to a reader because you will, indeed, affect them.
  • A hero who risks his life for the safety of others is the kind that everyone loves.
  • Don't sugar-coat the conflict, either emotional or physical. Conflict is what makes a character grow.
  • Sometimes less is more. **Spoiler Alert** There is no music with the closing credits, just silence, which is way more powerful than any song that would've distracted from the solemnity of the moment.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

First Draft Manifesto: Think Like a Pirate

I hit a crossroads today. Not like smashed the front fender off my van, mind you. Just barreled right up to a Y in the writerly road and stalled out, trying to decide which way to go. Should I follow the synopsis I've already written after much careful thought? Or do I throw it away and allow the story to zing off in a totally different direction? What's a writer to do when this happens?

Principle #4: 
Think like a pirate.

There are lots of things to admire about pirates, as long as you overlook their rank body odor and the fact that they slit throats and rob people. The piratey trait with the most takeaway value for a writer is that pirates aren't married to rules and regulations. Sure, they've got a code to follow, but in the words of Captain Barbossa . . .

When you set sail on the ocean of first draft, you have a destination in mind. There's a plan lurking about in your grey matter, a map for you to follow from beginning to end. If you're really a planner, you've even got a synopsis already written and know exactly how the story will flow from chapter to chapter.

But here's the deal . . . if you happen to come up with a better idea halfway through, it's okay to change directions. Sure, your story might not turn out how you expected it would, but that's okay. Don't put so much pressure on yourself to stay a certain course that you're not willing to explore a different direction story-wise. Some of the best creativity happens when least expected. Give yourself the elbow room to veer off course.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

First Draft Manifesto: Endure to Infinity and Beyond

Coming up with story ideas is easy. Telling a whang-banger of a tale around a campfire is child's play. But sitting down day after day, slogging through the minutia of plot arc and character development is grunt work, requiring the same perseverance my dog employs when she watches me eat a plate of spaghetti. And so, ladies and gentlemen, I give you the third installment of the First Draft Manifesto . . .

Principle #3: Endure to Infinity and Beyond

The idea of writing a novel is oh-so-much more romantic than actually parking your heinie in a chair and pounding out words. After a day or two of actual writing, the ninety-nine percent will tuck tail and run, whimpering about writer's cramp or block or something about a clogged artery in the posterior region.

Getting the story out of your head and onto paper takes time. A lot of it. It's called determination, folks, deciding that you're going to write whether or not:

  • you feel like it
  • the words are flowing
  • it's a nice day outside
  • you got invited out to lunch
  • the zombie apocalypse takes place

The only way to finish a first draft is to . . . umm . . . **excessive throat clearing** FINISH THE DANG THING! Yes, I'm yelling. There's no easy way out except through, and that takes endurance.

So keep plugging away, word after word. Eventually you will give birth to a pound-and-a-half baby manuscript, putting you in the ranks of those with a complete novel to their credit instead of a loser talking smack about writing one.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

First Draft Manifesto: Step Off the Cliff

Writing is not for the squeamish of heart. The sissies. Those who cry like a little girl because of a slanted cross-eyed look. Before you even think about writing a first draft, you need to run over to Target and purchase yourself a pair of big kid undies
. . . which brings up the next point in our manifesto.

Principle #2: Step Off the Cliff

There's a certain amount of bravado involved in penning a first draft. How much? Gobs. No, really. I measured. It takes guts to expose the story in your head for all the world to see, but there's no need to hyperventilate. The beauty of a first draft is that no one but yourself need see it. So go ahead. Take a deep breath. Then expel every crazy word idea swirling around in your skull.

Since no one else needs to ever see this prototype of a story, why not go rogue? Allow your characters to take risks with their actions. Snark up the dialogue, letting it shoot off into conversations you never dreamed possible. Give your plot permission to take a sharp left turn or even mow down into the ditch for some off-roading.

Your writing will never change or grow if you don't vary the way you write. If you usually write in third person, do a scene in first, just for the heck of it. You don't have to keep it that way, but in the exercise, you might find a new perspective in which to stage that scene. Flail around a bit with structure, like writing only dialogue for an entire chapter. Quit rolling your eyes. Of course you'll go back later and add in setting and descriptions.

First drafts are the safest place to experiment and stretch the boundaries of your usual writing norm. If you were waiting for permission, here it is. Go for it.

Monday, January 19, 2015

First Draft Manifesto: Divorce Your Art From Perfectionism

A lot goes into writing a first draft. Thought, time, energy, and lots and lots of coffee. There are some basic principles, though, and this week here at Writer Off the Leash, I'll try to capture them all like little Pokemons, then compose them into a First Draft Manifesto.

Principle #1: Divorce Your Art From Perfectionism

Sometimes writers make things way too complicated. I do. When I sit down to write a new story, it takes me an hour or two to figure out that hey, I don't have to compose Shakespearean prose in iambic pentameter. I simply need to get the dang story down on paper. So, here's a good reminder for all of us:

Just write what you're thinking.

I know. Sounds too easy, right? Like I'm making up a fake truth to fool you so that your writing will fail, and then I'll swoop in with mine and make millions (cue evil laughter).

Nope. Nothing like that at all. Here's the deal . . .

When you put too much effort into finding just the right words to put together, your creativity gets bunched up, bogging you down. Sometimes even stopping you. That's bad, folks. Newsflash: you don't have to have the most psychedelic words strung out across the page like a hippie on acid. You only need to have words. Period. They don't have to be perfect. Not yet. That's what editing is for.

So go ahead and write like you think, not like how you think you should sound (click to tweet). At this point, you're merely getting the story wrangled onto paper. You can always go back later and sprinkle jazzy word glitter all over your paragraphs.

Friday, January 16, 2015

January Giveaways

Two fantastic contests for you to enter . . .


Contest Details . . .

Post A Photo
Just snap a shot of you with your copy of Brentwood's Ward and post it on your Facebook page or Twitter or wherever. Then share it with me and I'll toss your name in a drawing for a signed audiobook of Brentwood's Ward. Contest ends next Friday, January 23rd.

Jane Austen Inspired Giveaway
Enter to win your copy of Brentwood's Ward, Lizzie & Jane, A Lady at Willowgrove Hall, plus some Jane Austen inspired goodies including a tumbler, breakfast tea and a teacup, and a Pride and Prejudice DVD. Contest ends next Friday, January 23rd.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Fine Dining Now and Then

Whether you've spent the entire day writing or had your nose stuck in a fantabulous book and just couldn't come up for air, frozen pizza is a great go-to meal—but not if you lived in early nineteenth century England. Dinner wasn’t just a meal. It was an event, especially when combined with a ball.

The punch table would sustain you for awhile as you swirled through dance after dance, but eventually everyone’s tummy would start growling. It wasn’t uncommon for “dinner” to be served around midnight, when you’d enter a sparkling dining room, candlelight glinting off silver and crystal. But your contemporary appetite might be a little squelched when you find out what might be served . . .

Meat Pies

Who doesn’t like a good chicken potpie? That depends upon your definition of good. Meat pies served in the 1800’s didn’t just have a crust slapped on top. They had an entire bird head and wings sticking out.

Baby Eel Gelatin

What kind of cartoon bubble does that bring up in your mind? If it makes you go, “Eew!” then you’re right on track. Baby eels look like big worms, and you’d see their little eyes staring at you because I’m not talking cherry Jell-O—they’d be served in a clear gelatin. Add a little jiggle to that when the dish was spooned out and you might not be as hungry as you thought.

Golden Sweetmeats

No actual meat involved in this one, but as for the gold, 24 karat baby. Picture a delicious, chocolaty truffle, just the right size to pop into your mouth. Now add in a golden coating—of real gold. I don’t know about you, but personally, I like to wear my jewelry, not eat it.

Oysters on the Half Shell

Okay, so this one isn’t so strange, and is still considered somewhat of a delicacy even today. But it wasn’t for the hero in my new release, BRENTWOOD’S WARD. When Nicholas Brentwood, a street-wise lawman, is faced with a plate of raw oysters in a dining room, surrounded by those who are used to such fare, he’s forced to man-up and let them slide down his throat. It’s a dinner scene he—and the reader—is not likely to forget.

As for me, I’m pretty thankful that some of yesteryear’s dishes are no longer in vogue, because I’d much rather sit down to a meal that doesn’t include feathers, heads, or precious metals.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Coffeehouses: Nothing New Under the Sun

“You can’t buy happiness, but you can buy coffee.
And that’s pretty close.”

Today I started back in working on a sequel to Brentwood's Ward. I ran off to a Caribou Coffee to get reacquainted with the characters and plot. Why not just stay home, especially since it's freeze-your-nostril-hairs cold outside? Because I write better with the sound of an espresso machine shushing in the background.

Hipsters may think they’re trendy by hanging out at the local coffee house, but nursing a cup of java while discussing the politics of the day has been around a long, long time. In England, this dates back to the seventeenth century. Surprise! Who’d have thought those proper tea-drinking Brits even knew what coffee was?

Here are a few fun facts:
  • First coffee house opened in Oxford, 1650.
  • In the 17th and 18th century, there were more coffee houses in London than today.
  • A mug o’ joe cost a penny, which was a great price because you also gained an education. It was said that a man could “pick up more useful knowledge than by applying himself to his books for a whole month.” Hence the nickname: Penny Universities.
  • English coffee houses started the custom of tipping servers. Patrons who wanted good service and better seating would put some money into a tin labeled “To Insure Prompt Service (TIPS).
In my Regency era historical, BRENTWOOD’S WARD, I highlight the coffee house phenomenon by setting a scene at The Chapter Coffee House. Women of the times didn’t usually frequent such establishments, but this historical venue is a little different. It was a known haunt of booksellers, writers, and literature hounds. Even Charlotte Brontë visited on occasion.

And just in case you’re wondering if historical coffee would taste the same as today’s brews, here’s a recipe so you can try it yourself:

Coffee ~ A Regency Recipe

Put 2 oz. of fresh-ground quality coffee into a coffeepot. If you must take your coffee extremely strong, use 3 oz. Then pour 8 coffee-cups worth of boiling water atop. Let it rest for 6 minutes. Then add in 2 or 3 isinglass-chips and pour one large spoonful of boiling water on top. Set the pot by the fire to keep it hot for 10 more minutes, and you will have coffee of a supreme transparency.

Serve with fine cream and either fine sugar as well, or pounded sugar-candy.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Success . . . What's Your Definition?

"If financial success becomes the standard by which to determine if you are successful or not, you are likely setting yourself up to feel disappointed in yourself and your work. It’s not fair to your craft, to put this kind of pressure on it. Get a job on the side to pay the bills, and learn how to live an inexpensive, frugal life."

Define success. Go ahead. I'll give you a minute. 

What? You need more time than that? Of course you do, because success is harder to pin down than simply slapping a dollar sign in front of a number and then running headlong toward that amount. There are other things to take into consideration when defining if you're successful at any given task, things such as:
  • contentment
  • joy
  • contribution to society
  • knowing you're doing what God wants you to
  • putting a smile on someone's face

So go ahead and define what success means to you, but keep in mind that bank accounts, sales numbers, or the sound of coins jingling in your pocket are poor measurements. 

Monday, January 12, 2015

Book Signing Low-High-Low

I had my very first book signing at a LifeWay bookstore on Saturday. Dare I admit I was kind of dreading it? I know. I hear you . . .
"Michelle, what kind of freak are you? No one's scared to do a dang book signing. It's a thrill! An honor! A major league taste of the big time. This is like crossing a literary finish line and you should revel in each and every second of such an accomplishment."

Yeah, I know all that, but I still woke up in a cold sweat. An event like this is a hair outside my comfort zone. It's smacks too much of look-at-me-I'm-a-rockstar, and that's what bothers me the most. I know I'm not a rockstar. I don't even want to be one. Spotlights give me hives. So this part of the signing was a definite low.

My husband prodded me with the sharp pokey end of a pitchfork all the way there -- verbally, that is. He reminded me that the event wasn't really about me but about the readers. Plus I'd benefit the bookstore because I'd invited a bunch of friends to attend. And guess what? He was totally right (I hate it when that happens).

As soon as I walked in the door there was a smiley buddy with one of my books already in hand. A continual stream of other friends and family stopped by over the next 2 1/2 hours. Time flew. No, really. I felt the whoosh of wind caused by flapping wings when I looked at the clock. This was a definite high.

And then it was over. Just like that. Done. Finito. The. End. It was kind of a let down driving home. All the fun and reindeer games were over. The pendulum swung back to low.

But (and I've always got a big but) next Saturday I get to repeat the process. There's one more LifeWay book signing. This time, though, I think I'll skip the first low and go straight to high.

Speaking of high (WARNING **awooga-awooga** lame segue alert), the high price of Brentwood's Ward just took a tumble as in HOT SALE AT AMAZON!

$4.99 for an ebook
$10.83 for a paperback

Zip on over there now because the sale ends January 19th.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Want to Win Some Tea and a Book?

Christmas whoop-de-doos are boxed up and stored away. New Year's shebangs are hibernating until next December thirty-first. Now what? All the fun and reindeer games are over and there's nothing left but Arctic cold and grey days.

**taps microphone, clears throat, ear-piercing screechy feedback from the speakers**

Good-bye January blues and hello Photo Contest!

Anyone want to win a BRENTWOOD'S WARD AUDIO BOOK and some English Breakfast Tea? 

Post a picture of you reading Brentwood's Ward. That's it. That simple. Or if you're really camera shy, just prop up the book in front of your dog or cat or stuffed animal or . . . the sky's the limit! 

Where should you post? Anywhere. Everywhere. Ideas: Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, Your Own Blog, Tumblr, yada-yada. Just send me a link to where you posted and I'll toss your name in the hat.

And yes, the most creative picture will get a super special secret surprise extra giftie. Why all the secrecy? What is it? Yeah, see, I don't actually know yet, but I'm sure I'll come up with something.

Deadline: January 23. The drawing will be here on my blog for Fun Friday.

Ready? Set? **gun shot** Let the picture taking begin!

Seriously, what else do you have to do in January?

Where is Your Hope?

You can hope to write a killer story, receive rave reviews, or sell a bajillion books.

On a deeper level, you can hope you find a job, your child will repent, the cancer goes away, or your spouse quits thinking about suicide.

You can even hope for peace and justice and all the pain and tears to stop.

Hope, my friends, is a beautiful thing.

But tragedy still happens. There are no guarantees in this life -- save one . . .

God is good.

If your hope isn't anchored in that truth, or if you choose to believe that God is not good, then you don't stand a chance of peace in your heart when tragedy happens. And it will. It always does. That's a guarantee as well.

So today, if you're looking for a lifeline to grasp onto as you bob in a raging sea of life circumstances, reach out and grab ahold of this:

The Lord is good;
a stronghold in the day of trouble,
and He knows those
who trust in Him.

Nahum 1:7

Yeah. Hope. It's beautiful.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Books Worth Sneaking Off to Read

Okay, so yeah. Shameless advertising. Cut me some slack. The high here in Jotenheim is going to be a freeze-your-patootie-off minus four fahrenheit. Apparently Minnesota didn't get the global warming memo.

But there's no better time to curl up with a great read! Here's what's near the top of my stack in case you're looking for some ideas . . .

By Travis Thrasher

Brandon Jeffery’s summer started out with a bang—as in, a friend crashed his car and now he has to work two jobs to pay it off. It’s at Fascination Street Records that he’s introduced to a beautiful but quiet girl named Marvel. She’s new to Hidden Cove and looking for a summer job, so Brandon secretly strikes a deal with their boss to work for free so she can be hired.

When a classmate is found murdered, however, their summer takes a turn for the mysterious. Brandon’s friend Devon is sure he knows just who’s to blame: the creepy recluse of the town quarry. But the police have few leads, and Brandon has the sneaking suspicion he’s being watched.

That’s not what’s in the forefront of on his mind, though. More than trying to pay off his car to his unemployed, alcoholic father and protecting Seth Belcher from the school bullies, he’s determined to date Marvel. He doesn’t understand why they seem so close and she refuses to date him, but as the mystery behind her tragic past begins to unravel, Marvel finally confesses her reason: God has revealed she’s destined to die saving others—and it’s going to be soon.

By P.D. Bekendam

Ben thinks the retirement home where he works should be called “Heaven Can Wait a Little Longer While I Golf” instead of Heritage Gardens. But who asked him? He’s just the janitor, after all. Of course, his inept boss, the cantankerous residents, and even his attractive podiatrist friend don’t know one important thing about him: he was recently a cardiothoracic surgeon, not a broom-pushing custodian.

Ben is in search of a stress-free life with a little freedom from the past thrown in. But will it be that simple to escape who he used to be—and all he used to fear?

By Martin Allison Booth

Arthur Conan Doyle is on the run from his own fame. Taking a much needed holiday, Doyle flees to a picturesque village in Switzerland nestled beneath the imposing Reichenbach Falls. There he hopes to find anonymity, but even in this beautiful rural setting, peace eludes him when he finds himself immediately recognized by a fan who pressures him into looking into the death of a fellow visitor.

All too soon, Doyle’s somewhat unwilling gentle probing into the case begins to cause the finger of suspicion to turn towards him. But can the creator of the famous detective actually do the sleuthing himself? Although able to pen the character of Sherlock, he soon begins to learn he does not share his leading creation’s characteristics, but rather Watson’s. Can the “sidekick” see enough of the picture to solve the case for once?

Sherlock Holmes has fascinated readers ever since he first burst into fiction, over one hundred years ago. In this novel, the first in a trilogy, we meet his author and discover the difficult relationship between them.

So . . . what's on your stack? Share the love by tossing in more reading ideas in the comment section.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015


Brentwood's Ward is officially official, like on the shelf, in the catalogs, taking up real estate on Amazon's website, yada-yada. Want to know what it feels like to have your 4th book published?

It's just as nail-biting as the first.

The same old fears crawl out of the cellar like creepy anacondas and coil around you, squeezing until your worry bones crush into a fine powder, fears such as:

  • What if the sales numbers are crappy, el stinko, or worse . . . nonexistent?
  • What if I get hateful reviews from haters who love to hate my writing?
  • What if I never get another contract again?

You would think that by book four these fears wouldn't stand a chance at working up any kind of emotion, but doggone if writers aren't insecure no matter how many books they've published. The trick is to not focus on all the "What Ifs" and turn into a navel gazer. There are bigger struggles in life to deal with.

And in light of eternity, sales numbers, contracts and reviews lose their importance.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Unsolved Historical Mysteries

Person of Interest? Sherlock? NCSI? Today, everyone’s got their favorite criminal mystery show, but did you know that crime investigation has its roots planted deeply back in the late eighteenth century in England? The Bow Street Runners were the first organized detective force of the era. But even they couldn’t solve some mysteries . . .

An Unusual Tale

Elizabeth Canning was a maidservant who disappeared for four weeks in 1753. Her story of what happened ultimately divided the nation.

She claims she was abducted—not by aliens, but thugs—and taken to a brothel in Enfield, a town just outside London. She refused to be forced into prostitution, so they locked her in an attic, where they stole her corset and fed her stale bread. Somehow, she managed to escape out a window.

When she told her employer what’d happened, he led a mob to the establishment, a brothel run by Mother Wells. Henry Fielding—the creator of the Bow Street Runners—acquired convictions for Mother Wells and her gypsy accomplice, Mary Squires. Wells was branded and Squires was sentenced to hang for the corset theft . . . but Squires had reliable alibis that put her in a different part of England during those four weeks. The Lord Mayor of London intervened, and Squire’s conviction was overturned. This angered the public, because hey, they were missing out on a hanging, which was great entertainment back then.

So, what really happened? Who knows? Speculation says that Canning was likely trying to hide a pregnancy and may have run away to get an abortion or maybe even birth an illegitimate child. Wells ended up getting convicted of perjury and was sentenced to seven years in America. She never came back.

An Unusual Corpse

Recently London archeologists excavated the graveyard of St. Pancras Old Church in preparation for yet another rail terminal. Why were archeologists called in instead of hard-hat wearing construction workers? Because this site had been used for mass graves during the first part of the nineteenth century. Care needed to be used instead of backhoes. As expected, they found lots of coffins, but one in particular grabbed everyone’s attention.

It contained the remains of eight people—and a thirteen-foot walrus.

No one knows how it got there, where it came from, or even why. In the early 1800’s, a walrus would’ve been considered a sea monster, and there were precious few of those roaming the London streets. Okay, none, but obviously there was one, because they found the bones to prove it.

An Unusual Code

On the grounds of an English country manor, there is a beautifully carved monument. No big deal, right? Wrong, Watson. Not even Sherlock could solve this one.

The inscription on Shepherd’s Monument at Shugborough Hall is a cryptic sequence of letters that has contemporaries and historians scratching their heads. It reads:


Those ten letters are known as one of the world’s top uncracked ciphertexts. From Charles Dickens to Charles Darwin, no one who’s put his mind to it has been able to figure out what the message means. Some speculate it might’ve been left by the Knights Templar as a clue to the whereabouts of the Holy Grail . . . yet no one really knows.

These mysteries remain unsolved, but if you’d like to read an intriguing tale that ties up all the loose threads by the end, pick up a copy of my latest release, BRENTWOOD’S WARD . . .

There’s none better than NICHOLAS BRENTWOOD at catching the felons who ravage London’s streets, and there’s nothing he loves more than seeing justice carried out—but this time he’s met his match. Beautiful and beguiling EMILY PAYNE is more treacherous than a city full of miscreants and thugs, for she’s a thief of the highest order…she’s stolen his heart.

Available in paperback, ebook, and audiobook formats at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other fine booksellers.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

No need to weep, readers, because I got your back with this friendly public service announcement . . .

Brentwood's Ward is now available! Today's the day! Woot! Woot!

Okay, so maybe I used an excessive amount of exclamation points but doggone if I'm not whoopin' it up as much as I was last night. And you can join the party, too. Just pop on over to Amazon and snatch up your copy, either in paperback, eBook, or audiobook.
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