The Art of Deception 12 #wewriwar #amwriting

The Art of Deception

or Pride and Extreme Prejudice


Welcome to Weekend Writing Warriors. This week I continue another book, that will now won’t come out via booktrope (they’re shutting down). It’s a spy story set in late Georgian England, the year before Trafalgar. We’re following Roderick, Lord Fitzpatrick for the moment. Last week described the immediate consequences of his practical abolitionism. He’s in New York this week, having fled Washington. Unfortunately the British consul has decamped with a local beauty and instead of taking his ease while waiting the monthly packet, he is pressed into service. He’s also been landed dab in the middle of a diplomatic crisis brought about by an overzealous Captain. He’s dressing down a midshipsman in this section.


“What was your Captain thinking? Assuming he is capable of thought. Chasing a merchantman into New York harbour and then firing on her; let alone killing the helmsman – a Mr Pierce. There were riots in the streets yesterday.”

“She didn’t stop when we hailed her … the ball hit a different ship, the sloop Richard.”

Roderick rose and escorted the young sailor to the front window of the British Consul’s house in Brooklyn; the tip of Manhattan was visible, across the river, “Do you see that? The battery … the blasted Jonathans are rebuilding it … all the harbour defences … it’s now only a matter of time before we’re at war.”

The midshipman nodded, “How many guns?”

Roderick said, “It’s in the letter ;I know he won’t but I’m demanding that Captain Whitby leave; he’s causing more harm to the crown by stopping ships than the contraband he confiscates could ever do; you’re already banned from resupplying in any United States port.”

“Halifax isn’t far.”

Roderick quietly ground his teeth in frustration, “Why couldn’t the admiralty see that they were driving the American’s straight into the willing arms of the French? “

Please see the other talented writers in Weekend Writing Warriors.

The date is shifted, but they are discussing the Leander affair. The British Navy stationed two warships outside New York harbor and intercepted American merchant ships. The ships were searched for contraband and often taken to Halifax as prizes. Eventually even the tax-averse Democratic-Republicans had to rebuild the navy and chase them away. Roderick is right, war with the Americans was only a matter of time after that.

Booktrope shuts it’s doors May 31. This opens a whole slew of questions, including whether to return to an earlier pen-name (R. Harrison being dead common.) It also means that come June 1, the current version of “The curious profession of dr Craven.” will be unavailable. I will get the rights back without trouble.

I’ve also released a sweet regency romance, Miss DeVere Miss_devere_1 This is a fun read, and unlike “The curious profession of dr craven THE CURIOUS PROFESSION FINAL” seems to not carry a curse. However, Dr Craven is on sale this week.

Frankenkitty is available.
Frankenkitty What happens when teenagers get to play with Dr Frankenstien’s lab notebooks, a few odd chemicals and a great big whopping coil? Mayhem, and possibly an invitation to the Transylvanian Neuroscience Summer School.

Fort Pulaski, shown as the cover image, is a third generation coastal defense fort. I don’t have any pictures of Battery Park or Fort McHenry in Baltimore, which are second generation forts built at the time of the story.

Get Free Stuff and try out my landing page. There are three free complete short stories (including an ARC for Frankenkitty) available after you’ve gone through the hoops.

A Formulaic Romance, Chapter 5. #amwriting #wip #romancenovel #fridayreads

Mr Oliver or Harding or whatever has his revenge in this chapter. Armed with a barely legal warrant, he and General Byng search the hall, trashing it in the process. To make matters worse, George’s fiancee shows up. She’s worried about him and brings along his mother, the redoubtable Lady Beddlington.  Lady Beddlington does not approve of Rachel.

It continues from the previous chapter, or you can start from the beginning.

My co-author Amelia and I often put the beginnings of books on my, now our, blog. They don’t always make it to the end, but it’s helpful for our writing. This is another Regency Romance. This time without grave robbing or financial dealing and legal chicanery.


George’s confidence about seeing the last of Mr Oliver was sadly misplaced. The door knocker banged early in the morning, echoing through the house. Mr Brindle hurried to answer.

A man in a General’s uniform spoke, “Took you long enough.” He stood with a small squad of men and more importantly, Mr Oliver.


“Call your master.”

“As you desire. Would you care to wait in the hall?”

“No. We’ll stay here.”

“As you wish. I shall summon Lord Hartshorne.” Mr Brindle turned and entered the building. Unfortunately it meant that he missed seeing the General motion to his soldiers. The squad double-timed as they placed guards at all of the doors and in places where they could watch the ground floor windows.

A minute later Mr Brindle shuffled into the parlour where Rachel was breakfasting, “Ma’am.”


“There are some gentlemen at the front door, Ma’am.”

“What about them?”

“They desire to see Lord Hartshorne, and I thought it best if you were aware. It might … be useful to have you there.”

A bleary-eyed and hastily dressed Rupert stumbled outside fifteen minutes later followed by Rachel and George. “Good morning General Byng,” he said, “What brings you to Oulten Hall so early on such a fine day?”

“Nothing good My Lord. Information has been laid that you are in possession of a large amount of explosive material. Unauthorized and illegal possession, I might add.”

Rupert scanned the men who remained in front. Mr Oliver was grinning. Rupert said, “Stuff and nonsense.”

“We shall see. Put it to the test with a search. Can’t have the revolutionaries getting their grubby hands on explosives. Bad enough if they have pitchforks and shotguns.”

“No you won’t.”

“I’m afraid this.” General Byng produced a sheet of paper that was adorned with a seal, “this is a search warrant. Not that we need it, but best to obey the formalities. Stand aside, Sir, while we search your dwelling.”

George demanded, “Let me see it.”

General Byng nodded to a soldier and with that, the man carried the document to him. George scanned it. “It’s not legal. Sir John should-”

Legal or not, George’s pronouncement had little effect. General Byng nodded to his command and was followed by the men when he charged inside. Mr Oliver gave George a slight bow, smiled at Rachel and followed. The men made their way from room to room, leaving little intact. The stuffed animals, mostly intact, joined piles of books, papers and journals in haphazard chaos on the floor in the library. The destruction was near total. Only the skeleton in the corner stood, though he was shorn of his drapery.

One of the soldiers said to General Byng, “Not here, Sir.”

“Next room then.”

Seizing Rupert’s small sample of sodium from the shelf in the parlour, one of the men dumped the oil on the floor. Thinking it valuable, he put the metal in his pocket. He then discovered the hard way, when his trousers caught fire, that sodium was not to be held close to delicate areas[1]. Heading off their intention to quench the fire with a jug of water, Rupert managed to retrieve the metal before either the trousers or the man was burned too badly.

Rupert interrupted General Byng, “If you would tell me what you are looking for, I might save this destruction.”

“We’ll known when we find it.”

“So the destruction is the purpose of this search?”

“You might say that, but I’ll deny it.” There being little else to tear apart, they moved on to the next room. Screams echoed up from downstairs. Rupert’s cook defended her domain with more ferocity than her looks suggested.

Eventually the path of destruction wended its way to the Rupert’s workshop. Rupert stood in the door, blocking it. “No. Please. There are things in here that.’

His objections were of little avail. His next words, “Are dangerous if not handled right,” were ignored.

General Byng laughed, “Move him aside, Lad’s. If it’s not here, then he’s clean.”

Rupert struggled against the two men who held him while the rest filed in and started tearing his laboratory apart.

Meanwhile, Mr Oliver sidled up to George and Rachel. He drew a quiet breath, and expressed his unctuous concern, “Would have been cheaper to settle you know. Easier.”

“Never. You’ll hear from my solicitor, and Lord Hartshorne’s one.”

“Fat lot of good that’ll do you. M’Lord. I have Lord Sidmouth’s ear. The shining golden boy who can do no wrong, I am. Especially when there are so many dangerous reformers loose in the countryside.”

Rachel spat, “At least for the moment.”

Mr Oliver gave her a stiff bow. “That’s all it will take. Ma’am.”

An explosion, followed by screams, interrupted their conversation. Not that it was a flowing or enjoyable one in any case. One of the soldiers found a small box, labelled, “Explosive, do not disturb.”

It contained samples of Oxymuriate of Potash mixed with flowers of Sulphur, and various similar fulminating or detonating mixtures. Chemicals that would ignite or explode with little provocation.

He shouted, “Here Sir, we’ve got it,” to General Byng.

“Open it and see.”

Rupert tried one last time to intervene for their safety. He shouted, “Please don’t. It contains sample detonators. A long term study of their stability. They could.”

It was too late. The soldier opened the box and picked up one of the fulminates. It still worked three years after Rupert had made it. Unfortunately, it was more sensitive than the original preparation and blew the man’s hand to shreds when he handled it roughly and held it up.

Years of war had inured General Byng to wounds and screams. He turned to the men holding Rupert and said, “He’s under arrest. We’ve found what we need.” Then he turned to the others and said, “See what you can do for poor Lewis, and have that man be quiet. Poor discipline.”

The men frog-marched Rupert off to await his trial. Red drops of blood showed where Lewis walked as he limped after them.

Rachel looked at the destruction, watched the men escort Rupert off, and started to sob. Quietly, but definitely.

George patted her, perhaps too familiarly, on the back and then said, “I’ll follow them. See what I can do. Habeas Corpus is still in effect, despite what General Byng says. I’ll find a magistrate.”

“You will?”

“Yes, now dry those tears. Keep busy and try not to worry. You know and I know this was a low attempt at revenge. It will be fine. Worse comes to worse, I’ll send an express to the General’s cousin Poodle. He’s well connected, something to do with the F.O.”

Rachel nodded her agreement. George headed for the stables, which consistent with his statement about revenge, were untouched. Even though they’d be an excellent place to store explosive compounds or gunpowder.

Rachel headed for the library. She would start on the books. Unlike many of the servants, she could easily read the titles.


Rachel was standing in the diminishing pile of books, like Dido in the remains of a literary Carthage, when a carriage pulled up outside of the Hall late in the afternoon. While the maids and footmen had repaired much of the damage, the chaos of the morning was still evident when two stylish women strode into the library, leaving their servants to handle the mundane details. The elder of the two, a ferocious looking woman in her middle years, snapped her fingers and said, “Tea,” before she dusted off a chair and sat down, rigid in her disapproval. The other, an elegantly dressed young woman who was close to Rachel’s age, added, “What are you waiting for? Tea. It was a tedious journey and we are in need of refreshment.”

Seeing that the bell pull was still torn from its wire and feeling the desperate need for a change of scene Rachel left them and found Mrs Hobbes. “If it wouldn’t be too much trouble, Mrs Hobbes, our visitors would like tea … in the library. Are there still three cups intact?”

Despite the carnage that lay around them, Mrs Hobbes retained her humour. She smiled when she said, “Not from the best set, Ma’am, but they’ll do for this company.”

“Thank you.” Rachel returned to the library and continued restoring books to their shelves. She picked up the first of several bound notebooks. They were in Rupert’s hand, his laboratory notes; copied gracefully and clearly so that his experiments could be repeated. While she studied them, wondering what he meant by Sal. Nat. or Cinnabar and nitric spirits or for that matter what it meant to reflux, Mrs Hobbes came in with the tea tray. She put it on a table, then quietly bowed to the two women. “Ma’am,” she said to Rachel, “your tea.”

“Thank you Mrs Hobbes.”

Rachel sat across from the two women and poured the tea. “I’ll be mother.”

The older one, her brown hair starting to be streaked with grey, and wearing the minimal bonnet of a dowager on the make, frowned, “A servant, drinking tea with her betters. Rupert must learn to enforce proper deference in his people.”

The other one, much prettier and younger, with blonde hair, an elegant necklace, and a fine lace collar above her muslins added, “Lady Beddlington, I’m sure she could use the refreshment. We must excuse excesses when there has clearly been a cataclysm of no small magnitude. Whatever happened here?”

Rachel inspected them, “Lady Beddlington? George’s mother … and you must be Miss Deacon. I’m Lady Hayforth. I’m so pleased to meet you. We’re soon to be related.”

“We are?”

“I suppose, well with the short time, and … this upset. Rupert hasn’t had time to compose a letter. But”

“Oh My Lord, you’re not engaged to my grandson?”

“We haven’t negotiated the settlements yet, but yes. Rupert offered me his hand, and I accepted the honour … with great pleasure. It’s made both of us so happy.”

Lady Beddlington put her face in her hands. A minute later, when she finally had composed herself, she raised it to confront Rachel and say. “Where is my foolish grandson?”

“And my fiancé for that matter?”

“I wish I could tell you. General Byng’s men searched the Hall this morning. They took Lord Hartshorne away and George followed them to see what he could do.”

“I wish you would not be so familiar with my fiancé Ma’am.”

“I apologize, Miss Deacon, but he asked me to call him that … as a friend.”

“As a friend? Most unsuitable. I shall have to remind my dearest to keep his distance. It’s a besetting sin of his.”

“I’d say it’s charming. May I ask why you’re here? We were hoping to travel to London soon. My cousin, Lord Bromley, expects me.”

“George, I mean Lord Beddlington didn’t say anything about you or you and Lord Hartshorne in his last letter. I can see why.”

“Miss Deacon … as much as I count your fiancé as a friend, he is simply that, a friend.” Only a friend, yes, only a friend. “If you’re concerned, my companion, Miss Holloway can reassure you on that point.”

“You have a companion? Here.”

“Of course. I was on my way to stay with my cousin, for the season, when my carriage broke. Lord Hartshorne graciously,” Not so graciously at first, “offered us shelter.”

“That wretched pile, on the main road, was that your carriage?”

“Unfortunately, yes. I think our plan is to take Lord Hartshorne’s carriage. At least I hope it is, because his is incomparably nicer.” Rachel smiled at the thought.

“Dirty dishes!” Lady Beddlington leaned forward and exploded, “You baggage, you adventuress. Attaching yourself to my grandson. I’ll see that you don’t wed him.”

Rachel bit her tongue to avoid rising to the argument. Instead of giving Lady Beddlington a piece of her mind, she rose, stiffly, and after nodding to her said, “I must see to these books, Ma’am. These,” she pointed at the bound notebooks, “are his laboratory notes. I’m sure he’s most worried about them, and one seems to be missing.”

Eventually, tired of being ignored and of enduring her intended mother-in-law’s sputtering temper, while equally curious about the contents of Lord Hartshorne’s library, Miss Deacon rose. She knelt beside Rachel and said, “May I help?”

“Thank you, I’d love help. I’ve been sorting the books by author.” She pointed to the piles, “It’s a long process.”

“I see.” Miss Deacon picked up the ill-fated volume of Kant’s critique. “This is in the original German. I received Geo- Lord Beddlington’s answers to my questions. Most insightful. I didn’t know he had it in him, not to mention that he could read academic German … what are you sniggering at?”

“Nothing. He and Rupert, um, they worked together on your questions.”

“Oh. At least he was improving his mind.”

Lady Beddlington fiddled with her reticule, pulled out her fan, opened it and fanned herself, then shut it with an echoing snap. “Cha- Miss Deacon, I am distressed sitting here. Escort me to my room. I have a headache.”

“Yes, Lady Beddlington,” Charity started to rise, but Rachel was quicker. She curtsied, “My Lady, let me call my companion, Miss Holloway.  She’s an excellent nurse and very skilled at relieving headaches.” Poor Lucy. Lady Beddlington started to object, so Rachel continued, “I should so much like to know Miss Deacon better.”

“Maybe you’re right … Miss Deacon do not over tax yourself. Remember you’re not strong.”

“Yes, Ma’am.”

“If you’ll let me assist you.” Rachel added, “I’ll help you to the hallway and we’ll find my companion.”

A few minutes later, having safely delivered Lady Beddlington to Lucy’s care, Rachel returned. She asked, “What did Lady Beddlington mean by ‘you’re not strong?’ You seem healthy to me.”

“I don’t know. Maybe she thinks Geor- Lord Beddlington would enjoy a languid wife.”

“The George,” Rachel saw Miss Deacon stiffen, “The George I know wouldn’t. Let’s not pull caps, we should be cater-cousins. May I call you Charity? Much nicer name than mine, Rachel.”

“Ewe may.”

“Thank you.”

“I punned just then. Did you catch it?” Charity saw from Rachel’s confused expression that she didn’t. “The word Rachel means ewe, or ewe-lamb.”

Once the joke was explained to her, Rachel laughed, “I’m even gladder now that my father didn’t pick Delilah or Jael. No scholar, He just read the Old Testament to find one he liked – thought it would demonstrate his piety. Not that he really had any.”

“Delilah’s queen of the night and Jael mountain goat.”

“Then I guess Rachel’s not too bad of a name. Charity, at least that’s an English word.”

“Don’t you know Hebrew?”

“No. My education rose to Fordyce’s sermons and the house books. No more.”

“Poor girl. I’m helping George, my George, to remedy the defects in his education. Would you like to join us?”

“Very much.”


Supper was over by the time George and Rupert returned from General Byng’s camp. They stumbled into the front parlour, tired and dishevelled. Definitely in need of a restorative brandy, or two, or maybe three.

George was the first to speak, “Charity?”

“I was worried, you didn’t write.”

“I did, and we were planning to return to the village soon. Sorry if I missed a day or two with the excitement, but you mustn’t worry.”

“Four days.”

“That can’t be. I just sent you my answers to your questions about Kant’s philosophy.”

“Your answers? I heard that Lord Hartshorne helped you, practically wrote the answers for you.”

Lady Beddlington added her mite as well, “Your conduct has been most unsatisfactory, George. The Hall a mess and I find my grandson engaged to be married to an adventuress.”

“She’s not an adventuress, Mother. She’s a,” he caught himself before he said lovely, “well-behaved young woman who will be a credit to our family.”

“I’m surprised and upset. Why Miss Deacon could be within her rights … I mean keeping such low company and encouraging your nephew.”

George could see Rachel’s face whiten at the implied insults. Rupert missed it. Still he said the right things, “I say, you’ve done a fantastic job putting things to right Rachel. It can’t have been easy.”

“It wasn’t, but you really should thank Miss Holloway and Mrs Hobbes. I put books away in the library, with Charity’s help.”

Charity smiled at Rupert, “What an impressive collection you have, and they were read, the spines cracked.”

“Of course, what good’s a book if you don’t read it?”

“That reminds me,” Rachel said, “It looked like one of your notebooks was missing. I found a volume 8 and volume 10, but no volume 9.”

“Really? That’s odd. Must have been misplaced. Look for it in the morning. George, I know it’s not done, but I feel the need of something stronger than tea. Then if Miss Holloway and Lady Hayforth are able to accompany us, I should like to look at the stars. There were some moments today when I wasn’t sure I’d see them again.”

George laughed, “Gas, O yea of little faith, trust your Uncle Beddlington to fix things. I won’t say no to that restorative.”

Charity’s gaze glanced from Rupert to George to Rachel and then back to Rupert. “I’d like to see the stars too.”

[1] A friend of mine at university did this. He thought a small amount of sodium, ‘borrowed’ from his organic synthesis lab, would be useful for a prank. He was OK. Needed a new set of trousers, though.


Edna St. Vincent Millay, 1892 – 1950

I had forgotten how the frogs must sound
After a year of silence, else I think
I should not so have ventured forth alone
At dusk upon this unfrequented road.

I am waylaid by Beauty. Who will walk
Between me and the crying of the frogs?
Oh, savage Beauty, suffer me to pass,
That am a timid woman, on her way
From one house to another!


The Power of the Dog

Rudyard Kipling, 1865 – 1936

There is sorrow enough in the natural way
From men and women to fill our day;
And when we are certain of sorrow in store,
Why do we always arrange for more?
Brothers and Sisters, I bid you beware
Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.


Buy a pup and your money will buy
Love unflinching that cannot lie—
Perfect passion and worship fed
By a kick in the ribs or a pat on the head.
Nevertheless it is hardly fair
To risk your heart for a dog to tear.


When the fourteen years which Nature permits
Are closing in asthma, or tumour, or fits,
And the vet’s unspoken prescription runs
To lethal chambers or loaded guns,
Then you will find—it’s your own affair—
But … you’ve given your heart to a dog to tear.


When the body that lived at your single will,
With its whimper of welcome, is stilled (how still!).
When the spirit that answered your every mood
Is gone—wherever it goes—for good,
You will discover how much you care,
And will give your heart to a dog to tear.


We’ve sorrow enough in the natural way,
When it comes to burying Christian clay.
Our loves are not given, but only lent,
At compound interest of cent per cent.
Though it is not always the case, I believe,
That the longer we’ve kept ’em, the more do we grieve:
For, when debts are payable, right or wrong,
A short-time loan is as bad as a long—
So why in—Heaven (before we are there)
Should we give our hearts to a dog to tear?


Easter, 1916

W. B. Yeats, 1865 – 1939

I have met them at close of day
Coming with vivid faces
From counter or desk among grey
Eighteenth-century houses.
I have passed with a nod of the head
Or polite meaningless words,
Or have lingered awhile and said
Polite meaningless words,
And thought before I had done
Of a mocking tale or a gibe
To please a companion
Around the fire at the club,
Being certain that they and I
But lived where motley is worn:
All changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.

That woman’s days were spent
In ignorant good-will,
Her nights in argument
Until her voice grew shrill.
What voice more sweet than hers
When, young and beautiful,
She rode to harriers?
This man had kept a school
And rode our wingèd horse;
This other his helper and friend
Was coming into his force;
He might have won fame in the end,
So sensitive his nature seemed,
So daring and sweet his thought.
This other man I had dreamed
A drunken, vainglorious lout.
He had done most bitter wrong
To some who are near my heart,
Yet I number him in the song;
He, too, has resigned his part
In the casual comedy;
He, too, has been changed in his turn,
Transformed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.

Hearts with one purpose alone
Through summer and winter seem
Enchanted to a stone
To trouble the living stream.
The horse that comes from the road,
The rider, the birds that range
From cloud to tumbling cloud,
Minute by minute they change;
A shadow of cloud on the stream
Changes minute by minute;
A horse-hoof slides on the brim,
And a horse plashes within it;
The long-legged moor-hens dive,
And hens to moor-cocks call;
Minute to minute they live;
The stone’s in the midst of all.

Too long a sacrifice
Can make a stone of the heart.
O when may it suffice?
That is Heaven’s part, our part
To murmur name upon name,
As a mother names her child
When sleep at last has come
On limbs that had run wild.
What is it but nightfall?
No, no, not night but death;
Was it needless death after all?
For England may keep faith
For all that is done and said.
We know their dream; enough
To know they dreamed and are dead;
And what if excess of love
Bewildered them till they died?
I write it out in a verse —
MacDonagh and MacBride
And Connolly and Pearse
Now and in time to be,
Wherever green is worn,
Are changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.

The picture is the muzzle of an American Civil War rifled cannon. There’s a connection between the Irish brigades that fought for the Union and the resurgence of Irish nationalism in the late 19th century. More than a few veterans decided they should apply their hard-earned skills back home.

Of Love: A Sonnet

Robert Herrick, 1591 – 1674

How love came in I do not know,
Whether by the eye, or ear, or no;
Or whether with the soul it came
(At first) infused with the same;
Whether in part ’tis here or there,
Or, like the soul, whole everywhere,
This troubles me: but I as well
As any other this can tell:
That when from hence she does depart
The outlet then is from the heart.

One of his more contemplative poems. The photo, of Tybee Island Lighthouse, is near where I spent my 34th wedding anniversary.

The Curious Profession of Dr Craven. #Mondayblogs #free #romance

FREE TODAY (4/25/16) 0.99 the rest of the week.

For a taste, here’s chapter 1. Anyone know where I found the names Garth and Craven, and why I might have chosen them? (A prize for the first correct answer!)

The Resurrection Men.

The vicar intoned the familiar words from the Book of Common Prayer while the family mourned their loss. She died quickly, almost overnight, and now being placed in the family crypt.

FORASMUCH as it hath pleased Almighty God of his great mercy to take unto himself the soul of our dear sister here departed, we therefore commit her body to the ground; earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust; in sure and certain hope of the Resurrection to eternal life, through our Lord Jesus Christ; who shall change our vile body, that it may be like unto his glorious body, according to the mighty working, whereby he is able to subdue all things to himself.

That night, the four resurrection men met the verger in the dark churchyard. They carried shaded lanterns and intended to retrieve the ‘vile body’ before it became too vile for their client to use. They wore scarves over their faces to mask their identity. Grave robbing, while technically just a misdemeanour, was a serious offense so they made sure to leave nothing to chance. Still, the money they earned was good, and the likelihood that they would be caught was small.

Elias, the verger, pocketed the four crowns the oldest resurrection man had given him. Then he led them to the Patterson family crypt and put the key in the lock on the barred, iron gate and gave it a turn. He pushed on the gate, and as it creaked open, he turned and said to the resurrection men, “She was just put in here this morning. Should be fresh.”

“That’s what the doctor wants.”

“Take care, this hasn’t been a quiet one.”

“What do you mean?”

“I thought I’d heard noises.” They all listened and other than the distant “goo-de-who” of an owl it was quiet.

“Elias, you daft bugger. You’ll have us jumping out of our skins. Which one is it?”

Elias led them to the newest coffin. There hadn’t been time to etch a metal plaque for its occupant. A temporary paper label attached to the top said, Cecelia Jane Garth 1790-1810. Resting in Peace with the Lord.

He pointed, “That’s her. The poor lass, she was just engaged to a rich suitor. She faded so quickly, and even Sir William Knighton couldn’t save her. One day she was happy, and then she was gone.”

Then he anxiously looked at the four resurrection men, “Do I have to watch?”

“Nay, man. Not if you don’t want. Why don’t you keep an eye out for the curate?”

Elias stood at the door to the crypt and kept watch while the resurrection men pulled the coffin off its shelf and lowered it to the floor. They opened it and gazed at the contents.

“Aye, Dad,” the youngest said, “She was a beauty. Pity to anatomize her.”

“That’s how we stand the nonsense, Lad. Up with her, and careful. The doctor wants them unblemished.”

“She’s not stiff, and a touch warm.”

“Maybe she’s not as fresh as Elias said. Starting to rot mayhaps.” The senior resurrection man turned to the verger and said, “Elias, are you sure this is the one?”

Elias looked, “That’s her. Miss Cecelia Garth. God rest her soul.”

The four resurrection men stretched her body on the hard ground of the crypt. It was wrapped in a winding sheet for burial, with ties to bind her legs and arms together. A bandage around her head held her mouth shut. Then they put rocks in the casket, resealed it, and replaced it in the crypt. In the process, the paper label ended up on the inside of the casket.

Then they carried her out of the crypt and into the dark churchyard.

The gate creaked again as Elias shut it. There was a faint gasp at the same time as he turned the key in the lock.

“Did you hear that, Da?” the youngest resurrection man asked, shocked at the noise.

Elias said, “That’s what I mean. She hasn’t been a quiet corpse.”

Jonas, the eldest resurrection man, spat and then said, “What a lot of superstitious buggers you are. It’s just the wind.”

Together they carried the body to a waiting cart. It was tied to the kissing gate at the church, and the sorry looking excuse for a horse waited patiently to take up his labours. Since the body had been a beautiful young woman, they carefully laid it in the back. They pulled a blanket over it and then covered that with straw. It wasn’t often they encountered the watch, but it was just as well to be prepared. They hopped onto the cart, and Jonas held the horse. They clumped off into the night at the fastest pace the horse could manage.




Elias pulled the four crowns from his pocket and carefully examined them. The pound they summed to, equivalent to almost half a month’s work was a welcome addition to his meagre wages.

He said, “Just hope I don’t get caught,” to the wind that was whistling in from the dark of the night. He pulled the gate to the graveyard shut with a loud creak, then latched and locked it. The noise seemed to echo forever in the distance so he listened for the footsteps that would presage a hue and cry. All he heard was that bloody owl.




“Dad,” the youngest resurrection man said, “where are we bound?”

“We’ll drop these two lads off at the Red Lion. Then you and I shall take the young miss to her final destination.”

“Jonas, you said.”

“Now shut your gob. I’ll pay thee. No reason to risk us all getting run in by the watch. Now is there?”

“Reckon not. Still, we should be there when you meet the anatomist. How do we know you’re not trimming us over the price?”

“Listen Lads, the less you know, the safer you are and the safer he is. The safer we all are. I’m only taking my boy because I need his muscle. Gettin’ old. ‘Sides which, he’s family and we’ll both hang together, any road.”

“It’s not a hanging offense, is it?”

“No, but it’s a fine and prison if we’re caught.” While not technically a death sentence, a long stay in prison wasn’t exactly good for the health. Scanty, poor quality food and the lack of light or ventilation in a crowded building tended to eliminate prison overcrowding.

The wagon pulled up to the pub, and the two unnecessary resurrection men jumped down. Jonas passed them a crown each, “More for you tomorrow after I’ve been paid. Now keep your blubbers shut.”

An hour later, Jonas pulled the wagon up in front of the old tithing barn in Streatham and tied it to a hitching post. An ancient building left over from the dissolution of the Abbey under King Henry; the barn was a massive stone building with high narrow windows that discouraged the curious. The tall arched roof still kept the rain out, at least most of it. While it was far enough from the centre of the village to avoid prying eyes, it was also slowly falling into disrepair. Dr. Richard Craven used it for his private laboratory.

The massive door squeaked as he opened it and greeted them, “Jonas, what have you for me tonight?”

“Just what you wanted, a young woman, fresh.”

“Excellent. Now bring her inside.”

“You’ll be paying me now. Like we agreed?”

“Ten pounds. I have it here.” Dr. Craven pulled a note from his coat pocket.

“Ten, nay man, twenty.”

“Twenty? You said ten before.”

“Twenty or we take her straight back.” Twenty pounds was almost a year’s wages for a skilled labourer.

Dr. Craven was in no place to argue. He needed a woman to continue his studies, and there she was almost close enough to touch. She was just another cadaver, on her way to returning to the common clay.

“Twenty it is, you rogue.” He handed Jonas two banknotes.

Jonas nodded to his son, “Bring her lad.”

The boy uncovered their cargo and shouted, “she’s moved Da’. She’s moved.”

“Nonsense boy. Must have been shifted by the roads. Now stop yer yammering and bring her in.”

“Da’ alone, by myself?”

“She’s a light one. Not like some of them.”

Light or not, a body is hard to carry one handed. The boy staggered under the weight. He followed his father inside with the good doctor. Once there, he asked, “Dad, can you help?”

Together they laid her out on the cold stone floor.

Dr. Craven inspected the body, gave it a sniff, and then nodded. “She looks to be in good shape. Smells fresh. Did you want the winding cloths?”

“Of course, and it has been thirsty work. Bringing her here. Deuced thirsty.”

The doctor sighed, “I’ll get the brandy for you.”

Then he walked to the far end of the barn where he kept a small store of run French brandy. Jonas, a man with a nose for the spirits that was only matched by his capacity for imbibing them, followed him. The dark shadows hid the debris of the doctor’s studies, the prepared examples, the bottles of preserved organs, and the strange retorts of his research from their view. A chorus of squeaking rats from the cages at the far end of the building only added to the atmosphere. What little Jonas could see through the flickering candlelight was disturbing enough, even for a hardened resurrection man.

Jonas tugged on Dr. Craven’s sleeve, “You will take the brandy from the right cask, won’t you? Not one of these odd spirits and poisons?”

The doctor laughed, “Of course, I need a dram myself. It’s been a cold night.”

In the meantime, the boy undid the bandage that held the woman’s jaw shut tight. As he pulled it off her, her mouth opened and she gasped for air.

He ran to his father and the doctor, shouting, “I tell you, Doctor, she’s alive!”

Jonas and the doctor walked back to him, carrying a decanter of the brandy with them.

Dr. Craven said, “Can’t be, Lad. That must have been gas escaping from the body. They do that, you know, as they decompose.”

The elder resurrection man nodded, “I’ve seen it before, many times.”

“So have I Dad, but this wasn’t that. She gasped for breath when I undid the bandage.”

Dr. Craven said, “I’ll prove she’s dead. Put her on the table.”

The resurrection men lifted the body from the floor and put it on the examining table. It having once been a delicate young female, they were gentler with it than they were usually. The doctor gave his hands a quick rinse. Something he did more for superstition than any rational basis, and then he proceeded to examine the body.

“She is warmer than I’d expect. The decomposition must be advancing rapidly. I’ll need that ice.” He paused. It, no not it, she breathed. It was a gasp, a weak one at that, but a breath.

“Brandy!” He shouted, “and be quick about it, man. She’s alive.”

The youngest resurrection man ran for the decanter and returned as fast as he could. “Here, sir.”

The doctor took some and moistened the woman’s lips with it. She gasped again and stirred. “She’s cold, bring a blanket and a warm brick.” He immediately unwrapped the winding bandages from her body and untied the bindings on her legs and arms. “Come man, rub her legs. We must get the blood flowing.”

Between the warmth, the brandy, and the commotion, the woman’s eyes suddenly opened, and she sat up. She saw this handsome dark-haired man looking at her. His concern for her was evident in his face.

“Is this Heaven?”

“No. England.”

“Close enough.” Then she lay back and closed her eyes again.

The Art of Deception 11 #wewriwar #amwriting

The Art of Deception

or Pride and Extreme Prejudice


Welcome to Weekend Writing Warriors. This week I continue another book, that will eventually come out via booktrope. It’s a spy story set in late Georgian England, the year before Trafalgar Last week, Roderick Lord Fiztpatrick’s story continued. He proposed to demonstrate some practical abolition. This week describes the immediate consequences of his actions.

The British Minister was summoned to the President’s House the next morning; Captain Lewis met him, and he was not pleased.

“Where is Lord Fitzpatrick?”

“Lord Fitzpatrick, may I enquire why you wish to see him?”

“Someone burned down the slave pens at the Yellow House; thousands of dollars of property has gone missing, vanished into the night.”

“It has … What possibly could this have to do with him?”

“One of the chattel who disappeared was the wife of his servant; Mr Jefferson wanted her out of the President’s House; we also found the remains of a phosphorus jar … it was used to start the fire.”

“Indeed, I still fail to see how that is relevant,” Mr Merry was a master of obtuseness. It stood him in good stead, especially in times like these.

“Isn’t it obvious?”

Mr Merry stared at him, and completely missed his point; again he said deliberately, as he was being annoyingly obtuse and enjoying it, “That reminds me, we’re looking for a housekeeper … you wouldn’t know of one who is available?”


Please see the other talented writers in Weekend Writing Warriors.

Both Robey’s Tavern and the ‘Yellow House’ were notorious examples of slave pens. They were roughly located where the FAA offices and/or the Air and Space Museum are today and were in plain sight of both the White House and the Capitol building. While the white Southerner’s claimed that slavery was natural and good, a real benefit to mankind, it is interesting to note that the documentation about its practice is sketchy at best. Even the ‘fire breathers’ weren’t proud of it in the end.

On a non-literary note, one of my students, Brendan Benshoof, just defended his Ph.D. Tuesday. It’s been a flurry of activity (to be honest, a blizzard of activity) getting the last little bits of papers and dissertation complete before he takes off for a job at Google.

I’ve also released a sweet regency romance, Miss DeVere Miss_devere_1 This is a fun read, and unlike “The curious profession of dr craven THE CURIOUS PROFESSION FINAL” seems to not carry a curse. However, Dr Craven is on sale this week.

Frankenkitty is available.
Frankenkitty> What happens when teenagers get to play with Dr Frankenstien’s lab notebooks, a few odd chemicals and a great big whopping coil? Mayhem, and possibly an invitation to the Transylvanian Neuroscience Summer School.

Get Free Stuff and try out my landing page. There are three free complete short stories (including an ARC for Frankenkitty) available after you’ve gone through the hoops.

Long term review of the Opteka 500mm lens

About a year ago i purchased one of these lenses to take pictures of wildlife. opteka

I now have enough experience to write a review.



Good points:

  • Inexpensive. $140 on Amazon. A “real” Nikon lens can run into the thousands.
  • Works. It does what it says. It will bring things into close focus. Including things you don’t want to get too close to.
  • Small, light and maneuverable A conventional telephoto lens is much longer and heavier.
  • Close focus You can focus on surprisingly close objects. This makes it great for taking pictures of things that don’t appreciate humans getting up close and personal.

Bad points:

  • Weakly coupled to the camera. Everything is manual, including exposure.
  • No autofocus. This limits its use in rapidly changing situations. Following a moving bird for example.
  • Paper-thin focus. Be prepared to take several photos to get the focus right
  • Infinity is not set at infinity on the lens. Don’t assume the stars are in focus.
  • The 2x extender leads to barrel distortions.

I generally use it with a fast shutter exposure (1/4000 s) to avoid blur and then control the exposure with the camera’s “film speed” setting. In bright light that’s about 2000ASA. In dim light, you may have to play around.

It’s also critical to make sure that the T-mount is firmly screwed into the lens. If it comes loose you won’t be able to focus.
This picture shows what I mean by paper thin focus:
Note that I’ve focused on one wing of the butterfly and the other wing is completely out of focus.

This picture of an alligator and heron show the same effect at a longer distance.

It should look like this:

It can be an advantage to have a thin focus. The bird is clear and the reeds have disappeared.

It’s great for taking pictures of things that aren’t moving too quickly, like this female cardinal.

And you can get some great effects:

In summary, you get what you pay for. It works. There are several things that could be better, but you have to fork over the cash. I wouldn’t use it for rapidly changing things like sports or moving creatures. But if you have the time to focus and remember to take several shots, it’s a great little lens.

Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore (Sonnet 60)

William Shakespeare, 1564 – 1616

Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore,
So do our minutes hasten to their end;
Each changing place with that which goes before,
In sequent toil all forwards do contend.
Nativity, once in the main of light,
Crawls to maturity, wherewith being crown’d,
Crooked eclipses ‘gainst his glory fight,
And Time that gave doth now his gift confound.
Time doth transfix the flourish set on youth
And delves the parallels in beauty’s brow,
Feeds on the rarities of nature’s truth,
And nothing stands but for his scythe to mow:
And yet to times in hope, my verse shall stand,
Praising thy worth, despite his cruel hand.

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