The American Civil War – Is Love Dead?

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As a historian, writing historical fiction and romance is fantastic! To agents and editors, it can be a problem. I’m drawn to the past, to Rome, to England during the Regency, to Victorian England in the late 19th century and to the American Civil War. I’ve been told I write in too many eras, that I need one and to stay there.

Nah…<shaking head>

I’ve been discussing pirates and vampires in 1800 England and last week, a journey back further to the times of gladiators in Ancient Rome. Today, I’ll take you to another era I love – The Civil War

150 years ago, this nation was nightmare, wrapped in the claws of the American Civil War. Officially, the War is called The War of the Rebellion. Unofficially, it has a slew of names – Civil War, War of Northern Aggression, War for Southern Independence, War for the Union and many more. Regardless of its title, this conflict is the pivotal point of American History. It defined us as a nation. Point being, we were a new country, a republic in a time where the “civilized world” was still run by monarchies, ie Western Europe, and the all hoped we failed to survive this calamity.

Lincoln understood this concept but it was intangible idea to the American public. We all know this is a War of friends against friends and brother fight brother.

Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind, John Jakes North & South and the movie Cold Mountain have drawn attention of the turmoil but none of these are romances by any means. There is no happy-ever-after. Romance during the War is dead.

Selling a story of the American Civil War is hard. They say nothing new can be done and no body is interested. They also claim Regency is dying and the vampire thrill is gone. Ha! But I believe stories of that are so deep, so mind-bending – the tension, the drama, all the emotions – that there still is the fertile ground to write about and readers who will embrace them.

Therefore, let me introduce you to the opening of my upcoming Civil War novel, The Wicked North and so you how romance during the War of the Rebellion lived on!

The Wicked North

Find out where your enemy is. Get at him as soon as you can, and strike him as hard as you can. And keep moving on!

General U.S. Grant

Virginia, June 1862

Emma Silvers was not afraid to shoot Yankees.

She leveled the .57 caliber Enfield rifle toward the line of blue coats standing before her porch at Rose Hill that evening. She counted ten men, fully-armed and wielding torches. They reeked of wet wool, sweat and gun powder – a noxious mixture with the pink roses surrounding the house. Bile rose in her throat. She swallowed hard.

The officer took a step forward. In the dim light, she couldn’t discern his face though she saw him flinch as she pointed the muzzle at him.

“I want you off my land now,” she demanded, her voice remarkably even despite her pounding heart. At twenty two years and virtually alone, she knew one able-bodied man could easily overwhelm her. With no able men and few slaves remaining, she only had bravado left.

“Now, ma’am,” the Union officer began. He spoke like a gentleman but dressed in blue, he was a farce as far as she was concerned.

Jeremiah, just behind her right shoulder, cocked the hammer on his rifle- a welcomed noise to her ears. Good boy, Emma thought. If the Yankees didn’t believe she was a threat, she hoped the armed slave boy next to her got the message across. She wasn’t allowing any soldiers on her property again.

The rifle felt heavier by the minute, making her muscles ache and she feared she’d drop it. The weapon was foreign to her hands but as the war raged closer to her home, she learned to use it. She wasn’t very good at it but as close as the Yankees were, she was bound to hit one of them. She didn’t want to pull the trigger. The gun’s recoil would knock her off her feet, throwing her aim off. With so few bullets left, she’d hate to lose the shot.

The light streamed out of the open front door across the officer as he stepped onto the porch. She saw his face and the nose of the gun slipped. Jack Fontaine, that good-for-nothing traitor. How dare he come here, especially after what happened last summer. Rage took control and gave her the added strength to pull the muzzle up to his chest as she cocked the trigger.

“Emma, please,” he said softly. He looked at her the same way he had that night months ago, his green eyes glowed like emeralds in the light. She remembered those eyes, those mesmerizing emerald eyes. They were all hers the night she had lost her heart to him. The night he had betrayed her. Her anger flared. No. Not this time. Not again, she vowed. Gritting her teeth, Emma narrowed her gaze.

“Get away from me, Jack, or I swear to God, I’ll blow a hole through you and send you straight to hell!”

Inside the house, a scream of a babe wailed. Emma instinctively turned. Jack reached for her and she panicked, squeezing the trigger. The rifle exploded, throwing her backwards, pain shot into her shoulder. But instead of hitting the floor, she found herself in Jack’s arms as they wrapped around her, shielding her back from the impact on the wood floor.

The patrol stormed onto the porch, past them and into the house. Lying in his embrace, his body a shield over hers as his troops marched past them, Emma couldn’t breathe. Her eyes wide open. She felt the heat of him around her. The scent of him invaded her senses. Warm, masculine, and spice rolled up into one. She fought the heat in her belly but it was hard as his eyes locked onto hers and his lips only inches away.

She closed her eyes. Behind her, the wailing continued and she heard the thud of soldier boots inside. Her jaw tightened as she opened her eyes and glared at him. “Get off me, Jack.”

******

What times have you heard of as dead but you still write of and why? Share a 250 word section for us.

Available now:

Her Eternal Rogue – AmazonBarnes & Noble, iTunes

Dr. Who…where shall we go today?

So here we have a sculpture by a sculptor of a sculptor making a sculpture based on a painting....   Ever feel like you were born in the wrong time? If so, when in the fabric of history do you fit? Writers can “travel back in time” to weave a story in an era we like.

If you had the chance, where would you land?

As a historian, I have the luxury of loving different periods and the ability to research them, making my stories take the reader back to that era, to taste, smell and hear what it was like to be alive back then. Over the years, many romance novels I read were Regency – the period of dukes and their ladies with all the rituals of the ton. My debut release, Her Eternal Rogue, is a Regency. But today, I’d like to introduce you to another period I love – Ancient Rome.

The Starz series Spartacus and the movie The Gladiator helped fuel my fascination with the Roman Empire. The center of civilization for hundreds of years was Rome and her spreading empire that reached as far north as Great Britain as well as south to northern Africa, covering the bulk of Europe. One of the remaining relics still standing today of that period is the Colosseum in Rome, home of the gladiatorial games. Researching the over 500 years of Roman rule lead to the making of my release set for next April 2014 – Love & Vengeance,  the first in The Gladiatorial Series – a tale of a Roman, sentenced to die as a gladiator, who lives to become champion of the games, tormented by his past, and the woman who saves him.

So come into my world of gladiators and then tell me of which period you like and share a piece with me (500 words max).

Love & Vengeance (excerpt):                              

Rome 108 CE

A menacing growl followed by an earth-shattering scream bellowed above the rafters. The roar of the crowd snapped her back out of the numbness. The applause echoed through the chambers as particles of sand rained through the wood slats in the ceiling.

She was filthy, covered in sweat, blood and grime. What damage could more dirt do? Toes on the dirt floor wiggled as she stared at them. Her hair hung around her face like a curtain, matted with dried blood. Inadvertently, she lifted her hand to tuck one side behind her ear but jerked to a halt, restrained by the iron cuffs around her wrists, bound together with a chain. The same chain connected to the metal collar around her neck. How had she forgotten its weight resting so heavy on her shoulders?

Another scream and the sound of flesh ripping, laughter and clapping became louder above. Fear snaked down her spine and she shuddered.

Gustina sat on the stone ledge, chained with the other miscreants, waiting to be forced up the ramp to the carnage above. If she could just return to the numbness again, where nothing mattered any more. The place she’d escaped to before she’d heard the animals attacking the condemned out there. But she couldn’t silence the roar of the crowds, enjoying the executions as their noontime entertainment. Trembling, she pulled her sluggish legs up, wrapping her joined hands over them, to hold herself as she buried her face in her knees.

***

In the hallway outside the chamber, Marcus stood, flexing his muscles, his arm extended with the metal disk in his hand. It equaled the weight of his sword – a weapon he would not have until it was his turn in the arena. Besides, there was no room in the corridor to swing it, to loosen his arms in preparations for the next fight.

Christians and convicts. What a surly lot. But it was an easy way to feed the vast array of beasts the Empire kept to compete in the games. Did he ever feel sad for the poor souls about to perish by their claws? No. Nor did he mourn the loss of life at the end of his sword.

He was one of the rare attractions people paid to see. He was gladiator. And he soon would be victor of all he opposed on the sands. Marcus’ victories gave him the privileges and money he wanted – as long as it remained wine and women. But not his freedom. Not what he had lost to the Romans. No, the only way to gain that came by victory in the arena and in front of the Emperor. And to earn that opportunity, he’d kill whomever they placed before him.

He closed his eyes as the screams filtered downward. His soul heard them and his body tingled with the smell of blood and dirt. Breathing in the welcoming atmosphere, he exhaled and opened his lids to look straight into the captives’ chamber.

He found her. Sitting, hunched on the small ledge, draped in chain and metal bands, her head down. But when she looked up, through all the muck and grime, her pale blue eyes shined, sparkling and bright. Her unmarred face was a rarity amongst captives dragged to this place, usually after rough treatment prior. He noticed her high cheekbones, a small nose, narrow chin but ripe mouth. Her eyes locked on him and his mouth went dry. When her tongue licked her lips, his body tightened.

He had to have her. Period. Regardless if she was a convict, runaway or Christian, he wanted her.

A guard butted past him, into the room and yanked the chain, pulling all the captives up. Many moaned, some pleaded. She didn’t. She stood straight, pushing her shoulders back, waiting at the end of the line. Her eyes locked on his until the guard turned chain in hand to lead them out.

Marcus stepped back. Instantly, his hand went to his stomach guard and pulled the narrowed pick-knife out of its hidden sheath. As the captives stumbled past him, he extended his foot, causing her to trip. She fell into his grasp. His free hand placed the knife into the lock and with a twist, it opened. His hand covered it to deaden the noise as his other arm encircled her tiny waist and pulled her against him.

“Not a sound,” he whispered. He shoved her to the wall, his massive body hiding hers as he flexed his limbs. The guard stopped at the sound of the loose chain but didn’t look far when he saw the gladiator’s well-muscled body. Marcus glanced at him over his shoulder and gave the man a nod. His status as a victorious gladiator allowed some privilege. The guard shrugged and moved on. The frightened woman gasped for air and shook with fear.

Quickly he lifted her. She was light, lighter than his sword but he knew that couldn’t be. In a swift move, he turned. Next to the doorway sat a covered alcove. He dropped her in it.

“You’ll be safe here.” He looked her over. Her wide eyes, full of fear and mistrust, returned his gaze but she said nothing. He heard the gong of his master calling him – he fought next, after the final execution. “Remain here. I will be back for you.” He touched her cheek, his bulky hand swallowed half her face. Her skin was soft, like silk. Back in the days when he wore silk… He banked the anger. With a final nod to her, he left. He knew she’d be there when he returned.

To leave meant death.

 

To be released April 2014

 

There be pirates ahead!!

Pirate ship

Oh, to be a pirate captain…

Captain Jack Sparrow had a ship – until it was taken. Captain, no Admiral, Barbossa had a ship and a rather large cabin with the crew sleeping on the lower decks. Pirate captains were lords of their ships, in control forever….

But were they?

In research for Her Eternal Rogue, I found interesting facts about pirates and their command structure. In many respects, they were the most democratic criminals on the seas.

Their ships – pirate ships may have started with the ships we view in Pirates of the Caribbean. The ships mostly were ‘taken’ on raids. One of the better places to steal them was off the African coast during the slave trade era. If pirates stole a slave ship, if it had natives bound for the slavery, they might release them but many sold them or allowed them to “take account” and become a fellow pirate.

The tall, stately ships like merchants or the British Navy used, could be taken. But once in pirate hands, the ships themselves were modified – they ‘flattened’ the top deck so no one was higher’ above the rest and left more open for maneuvers. The captain could take the largest cabin but it wasn’t just his alone most of the time. No one claimed one cabin as theirs alone – they often shared. The lower decks were opened to store more swag and bounties. Many pirates, after a successful raid, once on land, sold their wares and used the money on rum and women. The majority spent all their riches at once and thus had to go back to sea to raid another ship or coastal town.

If pirates stole a slave ship, if it had natives bound for the slavery, they might release them but many sold them or allowed them to “take account” and become a fellow pirate. The slave ship’s crew were either shipwrecked with no supplies, or allowed to become a pirate. The crew’s attitudes about their captain, if he was despised, the pirates had been known to help the man seek his redemption – by death.

In the world of piracy, a man – or woman – race held no meaning to rank. Anyone with the nerve, guts and fortitude, could be a pirate and perhaps rise through the ranks. As to status of captain, that role was taken by whoever could win the title. And it wasn’t a secure position. To be captain, you had to have the skills to lead, the ability to keep the peace of your crew, keep your crew (as pirates were not committed to a specific captain or ship – they went wherever they could make the large amounts of money).

In Her Eternal Rogue, Alexander remains captain because he is a vampire and his crew follows him, even though they fear him, due to his vampiric strength which aids them on successful raids.

 

From Her Eternal Rogue – Aboard The Lily….

 

“So,” the Scotsman began. “When will ye tell the lassie she’s gonnae home?”

Alexander looked at him hard and poured himself another glass. “I’ll not be goin’ close to any British port with a damaged ship…”

“Ach, I see,” the Scotsman speculated. “So, you thinkin’ about keepin’ her fer yerself, then?”

“No,” Alexander answered too quickly, downing a gulp. An absurd thought, he knew, but so tempting.

“Well,” Ian continued. “Wi’ her stayin’ here, that’ll leave many tae believe we’re cursed wi’ a woman onboard and no charges lifted.”

Alexander laughed. Cursed by having a woman onboard? He’d tell them about curses…

“Fine, put her in the aft cabin till we’re through with…”

“Capt’n, ye cannae be placin’ her there,” Ian scolded, sounding like a father reprimanding his son. “Be pirates on this ship, sair, and puttin’ her there is more or less tellin’ the boys she’s fer sharin’.”

“What would you have me do?” Alexander barked. When Ian didn’t respond, Alexander downed another gulp. “Keep her where she is?”

“Aye.”

“Fine, then I’ll sleep in the aft cabin.”

“Capt’n,” Ian said quietly. “Ye cannae be doin’ that either.”

Alexander glared at the glass in front of him. Damn, the man was right. Pirate ships had no assigned quarters. Sleeping areas were open to all. But on The Lily, Alexander’s curse and the pirates’ fear of it, enabled him to claim the larger cabin exclusively. But he was furious at having to house the English aristocrat there. Too far below her station when he’d lived in England, he would have been denied access to her but here… He shook his head. He and his crew had a reward for her safe return, and he had to remember that. Ah yes, the reward. A clean slate—for the moment. A few months with no law in pursuit, leaving them open to rob whomever they wanted. A laugh but one both sides held for the British navy remained heavily occupied across the ocean with the French, too busy to chase every pirate on the seas.

Sharing quarters with her, being so close to her, was too dangerous for them both. Her body was designed to entice any man to wanton desires. A temptation he couldn’t ignore since he’d kissed her the first time he saw her. Truly decadent on his part, but piracy did allow deviations to any plan. He’d wanted to kiss those ruby lips, to invade her mouth and, as he’d plunged his tongue into her, she’d tasted sweet, like strawberries and cream. Everything about her made him want to bury himself deep inside her. He downed another mouthful of rum. He feared if he was alone with her for too long, he’d lose all his control. He’d never love her. The idea of him ever loving a woman had been squashed that night years ago. But lust remained…

No, he thought, she had to go and soon.

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