Travel Tuesday – Naples

10552354_10152667745743326_4737772866081198452_nEveryone told me Italy was beautiful…well, except for Naples. They said Naples was dirty and there were lots of homeless people and pickpockets. They said enjoy every other city, but don’t expect too much from Naples. Upon my arrival at the Port of Napoli, I thought it beautiful, but perhaps close up, they were right. Let’s go see.



10698655_10152737696888326_2086937737908643215_n10411427_10152737697253326_5413339629926071516_nI crossed the street from the port into the city, which is an adventure in itself with tiny cars and motor scooters whizzing by you. Don’t stop walking or you’ll get run over. Just walk. Keep walking. Don’t hesitate. The first site we saw upon surviving crossing the street was an old castle. It was cool.







10687093_10152737698703326_2207944858881540299_nWe entered a mall. Yes, this picture is the inside of the local mall. It’s what you get when you mix ancient architecture with capitalism. Upon exiting the mall, we took the funicular up to the top of a hill. We followed some signs through cobblestone streets toward a castle. We met a nice man named Giuseppe who was walking back to work following his lunch. He is a fourth generation cameo maker, so we stopped by his shop and met his brother and admired the work they do. We then walked up to the next block and came upon this sight of the city with Mt. Vesuvius in the background. Wow.


You’ve got to be kidding me. It was magnificent. How could anyone ever scoff at the beauty that is Napoli? Down in the city, every building is ornate and there are statues everywhere. It was like walking around the set of a Roman movie. Up in the hills, the people were awesome and the views were stunning.


















There’s nothing better to break up a long day of sightseeing than FOOD! That was the best part. Apparently, this is the city where pizza was invented. I could live here. Calamari, bruschetta, prosciutto, oh, Napoli has stolen my heart.



Saturday Snippet – In Exchange for Your Freedom

Leeds_Maidstone_Fairfax_Doublet_1648In celebration of the release on October 31st of the fourth book in the Culpepper Saga, “Culpepper’s Rebellion,” we’re spending the next few Saturdays re-living moments from the first three books. In the second book, “John Culpepper the Merchant,” John finds himself mostly in Virginia, while at home in England, a deadly civil war has begun. His brother Thomas has been promoted to colonel in the king’s army. In this snippet, Thomas is fighting in his own backyard against General Fairfax of the parliamentarian army. Thomas’s wife and children could probably here the cannons from their house. The photo is the leather doublet General Fairfax wore in the battle. It has been preserved and is on display at Leeds Castle.



The Merchant ebookWhen the afternoon grew late, the heavens opened up and heavy rains fell on Maidstone, but that did not stop Fairfax’s advance. His troops attacked Thomas’s army from behind. Their powder had become wet in the storm so they couldn’t use their muskets, but they fought with their longbows and swords. Fairfax’s men pushed Thomas’s soldiers back street by street, inch by inch. Lightning flashed as the royalists fought near Gabriel’s Hill. Thunder pounded their ears as they were moved back further to Week Street.

By the time evening turned to night, Thomas and his men had been pushed back to St. Faith’s Churchyard. They fought among massive oaks and tombstones, often not knowing which sounds were thunder and which were cannon fire. Thomas’s men held their ground.

As midnight fell, the fighting died down and Thomas’s men found shelter inside the church. The thunderstorm had flooded the cemetery and the torrents had seeped under the door of the church, covering the floor in inches of rainwater. The soldiers lay on the pews, wondering what they would do come morning. They were tired. They were cold and wet. They didn’t know how they would escape from the church that had now become a prison since Fairfax’s army had the building surrounded. What was left of their ammunition was wet and useless.

In the wee hours of the morning, the storms subsided, and the two armies sat in silence until the night gave way to the soft light of early morning. Thomas looked out the window and saw Fairfax, dressed in black, gallop onto the scene on his white horse. Fairfax spoke to a soldier, and though Thomas couldn’t make out their words, he could tell by Fairfax’s gestures that he was instructing the man to allow the royalist soldiers to emerge from the church and then send them home.

Thomas understood the move. Fairfax only wanted to capture the town; he didn’t want to be responsible for a thousand prisoners. Thomas instructed his men to wave a white flag and surrender. He needed them to stay alive to fight another day. Staying holed up in this church with no ammunition would not win the war. They had to keep their eyes on the larger prize.

One of the men cracked open the church door and stuck a white cloth through the opening, waving it at Fairfax’s man. Slowly, the soldiers exited, arms behind their heads.

Fairfax had won Maidstone.

Since St. Faith’s Church was flooded, the prisoners, under the shadow of muskets and swords, were commanded to walk single file up the hill to All Saints Church, where Fairfax’s men would catalog their names and release them, making them promise to lay down their arms and return home.

Thomas stayed with his men but remained silent at the back of the line, his head bowed, his eyes meeting no one’s. At All Saints Church, Thomas stood in the kaleidoscope of sunny colors blazing through the stained-glass windows and gazed down at his uncle Alexander’s tomb. He was certain his men had fought a brave battle, but as he stared at the tomb, he wondered if he could have done more. His men were before him, lined up like cattle ready to go to slaughter. He felt their fate was even worse than death, for they were giving up their pride and their king.

Perhaps he was being hard on himself. Perhaps he was just tired. After all, he had not felt the comfort of a soft bed for the last forty-eight hours.

After staring at his uncle’s tomb for more than an hour and listening to his soldier’s names being taken at the front of the line, Thomas decided to follow in his uncle’s footsteps. They could take his name on this day. They could take his arms and his horse. They could disband his men, but they would never take his spirit nor his ambition to see the king back on the throne. He would live to see these men with their ink pots and quills beheaded for treason. He would fight for his king until his final breath. Today was not the end. In fact, today was a new beginning.

When he was the only soldier left in the church, he raised his head and stepped away from his uncle’s tomb. He marched to the table set up near the door and looked down at the soldier sitting behind it. He found himself gazing into the eyes of General Thomas Fairfax.

“Well, Colonel Thomas Culpepper, do you claim command of these men?”

“No, these are George Goring’s men. I am only here to serve.”

“Goring? That traitor? It seems you have chosen to serve the wrong side.”

“When all is said and done, we’ll see if that is true, but I suspect you’re mistaken.”

Fairfax sighed and scribbled Thomas’s name on the paper in front of him. He spoke without looking up at Thomas. “Colonel Culpepper, in exchange for your freedom on this day, you are to lay down your arms and return to your home. Do you understand?”

“I understand,” Thomas lied without a flinch.

“Then you are free to go,” Fairfax said.

Thomas didn’t move.

Fairfax looked up.

Thomas said, “I hope you know what you’re doing, Thomas Fairfax. It will be a great shame when we change places and you’re forced to give up your talents as a competent military leader, only to find your head on a spike next to Cromwell’s.”

Fairfax narrowed his eyes. “Is that a threat, Culpepper?”

“No, just an observation.”

A bead of sweat appeared on the general’s forehead. He looked around at his own men loitering in the church. “We are finished here.”


The first three books in the Culpepper Saga are available in paperback and Kindle at Amazon.

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52 Ancestors #41 – On This Day in 1904 – Lucy Ann Rackley Pickett

On This Day in 1904 Lucy Ann Rackley Pickett died at the age of 70.

pickett lucy ann rackley obeliskLucy was my 3rd great grandmother on my dad’s side. She was born in Choctaw, Alabama 6 Aug 1834 to Anthony Rackley and Julia Johnson. She was the baby of six children, with three sisters and two brothers.

She gave birth to a daughter in 1859 and another in 1860, but the records I have say she didn’t marry until 1860. It wasn’t unusual for the time to only have a ceremony when a traveling minister came through town, or it could have been that the wedding certificate wasn’t filed until 1860. Either way, she married Robert Theodore Pickett and the two had four girls followed by five boys in Alabama, one being my 2nd great grandfather Joseph Lawson Pickett. Sometime after the 1880 census, the family moved to Mississippi. Lucy’s mother had died in 1860 and her father lived with her until his death in 1880. That may have been the tipping point of leaving Alabama. The family was in MS by 1891 when the youngest daughter married there.

Lucy died in Mississippi 8 Oct 1904 at the age of 70. Her husband died a year later 17 Aug 1905.

They are laid to rest at Pleasant Hill United Methodist Cemetery in Zero, Lauderdale County, MS.

pickett lucy ann rackley

Easy as Pie Virtual Book Tour

imagesDo you have a new book coming out? Try a virtual book tour. I actually fibbed a bit about the easy-as-pie part, but hey, nothing worth doing is ever easy, is it?

Even if you’re traditionally published, publishers don’t support book tours anymore. So, a writer is left with two options: 1) schedule events and signings yourself or 2) do a virtual tour. Either way is a lot of work, but the virtual tour is far less expensive. You can pay someone to put it together for you, but remember, nobody cares more for your work than you do. You will be much more passionate and energetic about promoting your tour than anyone else on the planet. That being said, if you’d like to put together your own tour, here’s what you need:

  • Preparedness
  • Organization
  • Communication

Ask everyone you know who has a blog and has the kind of customers you could entertain. Don’t ask the guy who writes the auto repair blog to host your chick lit book. You don’t need a lot of blog hosts, only enough to fill a week or two – maybe eight or ten sites. Don’t bother blogging on weekends. Most people blog Monday through Friday. Fill in any holes with Release Parties on Facebook and Live Twitter Events.

  • Prepare all of your blogs, interviews, excerpts, links, media kits, photos, etc., far in advance and keep them in a folder on your computer desk top. Write blogs on why you wrote the book, when and why you started writing, the era the story took place, even an interview your main character. To make it a little easier on yourself, schedule some blogs to simply be short snippets from the book, or even just the synopsis and your bio. Don’t forget to include buy links with every post!!!!
  • Organize your schedule, along with host information, email addresses, etc. You need this all in one place. Excel spread sheet, anyone?
  • Communication with your hosts is key. Keep all correspondence – Invitation, Response, Follow up, Confirmation, Reminder, and Final Thank You. You’re not being a pest. You’re simply making sure all your hosts are on the same page. You also need to communicate with your audience. I suggest posting the schedule and links on one page (maybe your website?) and direct everyone to that page to see the schedule. Don’t try to update six different sites. That’s too much work.

The secret is to be WAY ahead of yourself. Give yourself at least two months, minimum, to plan. You have blogs to write, promotions to do, organizing and scheduling to accomplish. Don’t squeeze yourself into a corner and get stressed.

Give away freebies to attract readers. You can offer eBooks, gift cards (Amazon will let you email them saving on postage), swag, or you can set up an account and do an official raffle. Rafflecopter is awesome. Rafflecopter allows you to give readers entries for specific actions like following you on Twitter, liking your Facebook page, signing up for your newsletter.

Consider offering an end-of-tour Twitter Chat on one day for one hour with a specific hashtag. Announce it throughout the tour. Invite other authors in your genre to participate, so you can discuss your book with them if you have a roomful of lurkers but no tweeters.

book tour 4banner-elly-book-tourHave some crafty photo-shop-type person make you a banner announcing your tour and post it EVERYWHERE. Here are two I used. One matched my book cover, one matched my website. Notice I put my website as the landing point on both advertisements. That way, I only needed to update sites or links on that one page.

When the tour is over, the hosts thanked, and the giveaways done, clean up your sites. Remove dates from your website and blog, but leave the posts and links up. They will continue to bring business for a long time.

Promote Promote Promote – before – during – and after!!!!!



Lori Crane is a bestselling and award-winning author of historical fiction and the occasional thriller. Her books have climbed to the Kindle Top 100 lists many times, including “Elly Hays” which debuted at #1 in Native American stories. She has also enjoyed a place among her peers in the Top 100 historical fiction authors on Amazon, climbing to #23. She resides in greater Nashville and is a professional musician by night – an indie author by day.

Travel Tuesday – Pisa

Pisa is a 90,000-person town in Tuscany. It’s the capital of the Province of Pisa in central Italy. It’s been around since at least the 5th century BC, so it hosts twenty historic churches, several palaces, and some beautiful bridges, but the thing Pisa is most known for is the Leaning Tower, which is the bell tower of the cathedral. Everyone ventures to the Piazza dei Miracoli (square of miracles) to take the obligatory photos of each other holding up the tower.


If you venture to Pisa, don’t focus on the tower, focus on the tourists. They are a lot more fun!



Nathaniel Bacon from the Culpepper Saga

book 4 nathaniel baconIn lieu of a Saturday Snippet, I’d like to introduce you to the ever handsome and dashing Nathaniel Bacon (photo).


Nathaniel was born in 1647 in England to an aristocratic family. In the early 1670s, he was charged with some phony land dealings and fled to Virginia. Fortunately, he had a few distant cousins already living there. One was the hero of the Culpepper Saga, John Culpepper. The other was Sir William Berkeley, the governor of Virginia, who was married to John’s niece. One big happy family. Berkeley assisted Bacon in obtaining land grants, and being family and all, Berkeley gave Bacon a seat on the Virginia Council in 1675. And all is well.


In the 1670s, the colonists of Virginia fought continuously with the local Indians. The Indians were barbaric and destroyed colonists’ homes and crops and killed their families. The colonists needed some sort of militia to keep their families and property safe, but there were only 6,000 free men in the colony. These were mostly aristocratic men with a combined total of 2,000 indentured servants and 6,000 slaves. Do you really think they were the kind to go do the dirty work of fighting off the Indians? And they certainly didn’t want to arm disgruntled servants and slaves. In typical politician fashion, Berkeley’s only idea was to raise more taxes in hopes that something would work. One of the taxes was the Fort Tax, which was supposed to be used to build forts and to man them to keep a look-out for Indians. The “forts” ended up being nothing more than mud huts and of course were never manned. Berkeley’s colonists were not happy. He had a mess on his hands.

Along comes Bacon who would be happy to take care of the Indian problem. He doesn’t speak with the governor about his plans, but after serving copious amounts of brandy at his estate, he was unanimously elected the leader of the new militia. This illegal militia was not approved by Governor Berkeley and could certainly be construed as usurping the governor’s prerogative. Not something one should do in the times.


SirWilliamBerkeley2Berkeley (photo) was pushing seventy years and his actions seem a bit nuts.

First, when he heard about Bacon’s militia, he named Bacon a rebel and took away his seat on the council.

Then he forgave him and gave him his seat back. He told Bacon if he stayed out of trouble for a fortnight, he would grant him the commission to raise a legal militia.

After Bacon went home, Berkeley named Bacon a traitor and sent his men to arrest him. Bacon fled and the two played cat-and-mouse for a few months. Berkeley was being threatened by the militia, bombarded by the colonists, and fighting with the Indians. Afraid for his life, he fled also.

With Berkeley gone, Bacon came back to Jamestown and tried to take back his seat on the council, but the council refused. Berkeley heard of Bacon’s whereabouts and sent his men to arrest Bacon. Bacon spread propaganda about his location – one day he was here with four-hundred men, the next he was there with five-hundred.

Following the rebels burning down the entire city of Jamestown, Berkeley came out of hiding to view the damage. Bacon followed and surrounded the state house with Berkeley in it. Berkeley came out and bared his chest, demanding that Bacon shoot him right now. Bacon refused and the two went inside to discuss terms to an agreement. Berkeley, of course, gave Bacon everything he wanted including command of the Virginia militia.

After Bacon left to begin forming his militia, Berkeley denied ever giving him the commission and again demanded his arrest. He then went back into hiding until this Bacon mess was over. While Berkeley was in hiding, he received word that Bacon had died October 1676 of dysentery and the rebellion was over.

Many think Bacon’s actions were simply to put an end to local Indian problems, but after studying the incident, I’m leaning toward the idea that Bacon’s ego was larger than that. I think he wanted to be the governor of Virginia. He wanted to run the aging Berkeley out of office and take the glory (and the tax money) for himself.

Following the rebellion, Berkeley gathered up the leaders of the militia and hung twenty-three of them. He was summoned to England by the king to answer for his actions. He sailed the following spring, but he became ill on the voyage and died shortly after his arrival in July 1677 – without ever seeing the king.


Culpepper4Bacon’s Rebellion is a huge part of the fourth book in the Culpepper Saga, “Culpepper’s Rebellion.” It will be released October 31, 2015 and will be available in paperback and on Kindle at Amazon.

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52 Ancestors #40 – On This Day – James Otis Burke

I’ve been participating in the “52 Ancestor” challenge all year, following along with the weekly themes and having a great time. BUT…I work out of the country for months at a time and generally write and schedule the blogs in advance. APPARENTLY, someone has dropped the ball in getting the October themes posted. As I type this in the real word today is Sept 24 and I leave for the month of October on Sep 26. I have today and tomorrow to write and schedule October’s ancestry blogs. SO, I’m forced to blog without themes.

I also write a blog called “On This Day,” which takes place on the day of the birth/death/anniversary/etc. of an ancestor, BUT I’ve not posted many “On This Day” blogs this year because I’ve been doing “52 Ancestors.”

Guess we’ll have to combine the two for the month of October.

James Otis Burke and son Jerry BurkeTHEREFORE, I present to you “52 Ancestors” “On This Day in 2003”

James Otis Burke

James Otis Burke (photo with infant son), whom we loving called Uncle Otis died on this day in 2003. He was my grandmother’s younger brother, my great uncle, born 14 Feb 1922 to John Patrick Burke and Mary Elizabeth Howington. He was the middle child of seven children, one who died as an infant. He was born and raised in Little Rock, Newton County, MS. There’s not much in Newton County but farmland, but the city of Meridian isn’t far away.

In 1941 at the age of 19, he served in the United States Army during WWII.

When he returned from the war, he married Luna Marie Arledge and they had three children. One boy and two girls. I remember my mother speaking of her cousins so lovingly. They were products of the 50s generation. I’m sure they spent many nights at the drive-in in town, and I picture them hanging out together just like the “Happy Days” TV show.

Uncle Otis buried his wife in 1990. She died at the age of 66. He never remarried.

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He died on October 1, 2003 at the age of 81 and is buried with his wife at Pleasant Grove Baptist Church Cemetery in Newton County.

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