Monday, July 31, 2017

John Surratt Jr.- The-Lincoln Assassination Conspirator Who Got Away

What on earth caused John Surratt, Jr., former Roman Catholic seminary student, to get involved with John Wilkes Booth’s insane plots against President Abraham Lincoln?
Not having left any diaries behind, John took his reasons, his hopes and his fears to his grave in 1916. But from what we know of his devotion to the South, his desire to make his late father proud, and his need to be a war hero, we can draw up a believable picture of what made John tick.

John Wilkes Booth recruited a small group of confederates whose paths never would have crossed if it weren’t for their devotion to him, and to The Cause. John met Booth through Dr. Samuel Mudd, whose name went down in infamy as the doctor who set Booth’s broken leg on the night of the assassination. The handsome charismatic actor charmed everyone, male and female, and John Surratt was no exception. When Booth and his cohorts began visiting the Surratt boarding house to discuss abducting the president in exchange for prisoners of war, John and his mother Mary became loyal followers, eager to do his bidding. The group consisted of David Herold, Lewis Powell, George Atzerodt, Samuel Arnold, Michael O’Laughlin, Mary Surratt and John. Each had their separate talents and purposes to aid the plot—which failed not once, but five times.
Two days after General Lee’s surrender, President Lincoln appeared at a second-story White House window and spoke to an adoring, jubilant crowd. Booth happened to be standing there among the well-wishers. When Lincoln promised blacks the vote, Booth decided abduction would no longer be adequate. The only way to avenge the South was assassination—not just of the president, but the other heads of state, Vice President Johnson, Secretary of War Stanton, and Secretary of State Seward. Booth’s group met at a hotel to discuss the details. But one mystery will forever be enshrouded by the shadows of time—did Mrs. Surratt and John know of the assassination plot?
The essential question of John Surratt’s story is: where was he on April 14, 1865, the night Booth shot President Lincoln? In Surratt’s 1867 trial for Lincoln’s murder, the federal prosecutors maintained that he was in Washington City all day and well into the evening, helping Booth set up the assassination. In front of Ford’s Theater, it was John who called off the time every ten minutes, his announcements relayed down the road by other unnamed accomplices to David Herold near Lafayette Park. Herold then coordinated Powell’s attacks on Seward and O’Laughlin’s on Secretary Stanton to correspond with Booth’s assault on Lincoln.
But John Surratt’s defense team insisted that he was not in Washington that fateful April 14. He was in Elmira, New York, allegedly checking up on the numbers of Confederate prisoners of war held at Elmira prison for a possible exchange. Railroad employees attested that existing schedules and bridge washouts made it impossible for John to get from Elmira to Baltimore, much less Washington, in less than a day and a half or two days.
Both sides claimed the other’s witnesses were lying, then produced new witnesses to verify the integrity of their own deponents.
In fact, John was involved in two attempts to kill Lincoln and his cabinet that April week. The first, on April 13, saw Booth assign John to kill Vice President Johnson in the original plot hastily hatched that evening. That plot failed when the Lincolns didn’t appear at the theater.
But on April 14, the Lincolns invited General Ulysses Grant and his wife to Ford’s for the evening performance, making Grant a perfect target for assassination. Unfortunately for the assassins, a glitch developed in the plan. The Grants declined the presidential solicitation and left Washington. Booth saw the Grants leave. Indeed, he had ridden up to the Grants’ carriage and peered menacingly inside as they rode down Pennsylvania Avenue, headed for the railroad station.
As Booth saw half of his reason for killing the president on April 14 disappear, he providentially ran into John on the street and ordered him to follow Grant and kill him on the train that night. Hence John had plenty of time to arrive in Washington on the 13th and plenty of time to get to the Canadian border the night of the 14th, regardless of the state of the tracks or rail schedules. Barring a train wreck, he was ahead of all delays that man or nature might dream up.
John’s role as Booth’s right-hand man was too important to consign him merely to call out times on a clock. Obviously, as General Grant lived a long productive life as commander of the U.S. Army and President of the United States, John failed in his assigned task.
He boarded the train and walked past Grant, so close John brushed against him. But it wasn’t meant to be. John later collapsed, physically and emotionally exhausted—and greatly relieved.
          His dilemma—whether to carry out this deed for his love of the South, or back out and be branded a coward, but live free from sin—consumed his thoughts, prayers and dreams throughout this part of his life.
          John fled the country after the assassination, and heard second-hand that his mother had been hanged, along with Herold, Atzerodt, and Powell. Booth was already dead, trapped and shot in a barn, the final stop on his escape route.
          John was eventually seized in Alexandria, Egypt and brought back to the U.S. to face trial, after which he was acquitted. He’d never achieved his wish of being a famous war hero. He’s a rather obscure historical figure, known only to Lincoln assassination devotees. But he wasn't a would-be hero; he was a young man devoted to his beloved country, but emotionally torn. On one level, avenging the South was a noble deed. But deep down, his fear of God’s wrath prevailed.
          A backwoods Maryland boy came of age during the Civil War, starting out as a courier, and becomes embroiled in one of the most notorious plots in American history.

As a HUGE Lincoln assassination buff, I've read numerous books about the subject, and wrote my own, A NECESSARY END, about Booth's insane plot to murder the president with a paranormal twist. 

One of my favorite books on the subject is BACKSTAGE AT THE LINCOLN ASSASSINATION, about how the tragedy affected the actors and everyone associated with the Play "Our American Cousin" at  Ford's Theater that night. 


Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Meet Linda McLaughlin and Lily of LILY AND THE GAMBLER for our #AuthorLove Exchange

Linda and I have hosted each other many times. She grew up with a love of history, so it’s only natural that she sets most of her books in the past. A native of Pittsburgh, she now lives in Southern California. She loves transporting her readers into the past where her characters learn that, in the journey of life, love is the sweetest reward. Linda also writes steamy to erotic romance under the name Lyndi Lamont, and is one half of the writing team of Lyn O'Farrell. 

A few words from Linda

I'ms giving away a $25 Amazon gift card. Enter the Rafflecopter at the end of the blog post to subscribe to my email list for five chances to win!

Thanks so much for hosting me today, Diana! I’m so thrilled about my latest release, a Western romance set in the California Gold Country, specifically Grass Valley, 1868. My husband and I visited the area some years ago and I fell in love with it. Grass Valley was especially interesting to me because of the large Cornish population in the 19th century. This area had deep gold veins that couldn’t be panned. Cornish miners were encouraged to come because of their experience in the tin mines of Cornwall, which were petering out. To this day, the Cornish pasty is a local treat, and the city still celebrates a Cornish Christmas.

A shorter, sexier version of this story was previously published by Amber Quill Press. When I got the rights back, I realized I now had the opportunity to tell the tale as I’d originally intended, as a sensual romance. It was fun to revisit Lily and King’s world and spend time with them again. They are two of my favorite characters. I hope readers will agree.


Respectability is in the eye of the beholder. Or so Lily Penhallow hopes when she assumes the guise of the widow Albright. She has learned the price of flaunting convention and is determined to obey society's rules from now on. After her lover, Nigel Albright, was killed in a duel over a card game, Lily dons widow’s weeds and travels to Grass Valley, California where she plans to marry the man her uncle works for, a respectable mine owner named Hugh Ogilvie. Then, on the riverboat from San Francisco, she meets Creighton 'King' Callaway, a professional gambler, just the kind of man she should avoid.

King believes that since life is a gamble, there's no point in planning for the future. You have to trust Lady Luck. After meeting Lily, King knows he has found his Queen of Hearts. But can he convince her to pass up a sober businessman for a foot-loose card sharp?

Only Lady Luck knows for sure...

(Previously published in a shortened version by Amber Quill Press)


Lily smiled at him. “That was quite a trick. Do you tell fortunes, too?”

“As a matter of fact, I do. Is the lady interested?”

“Perhaps,” she said, aware he was flirting with her again and annoyed with herself because she was enjoying it. “There should be a deck of cards here somewhere.”

“No cards required. Just let me see your palm.”

Unable to stop herself, Lily stripped off her gloves and let him take her hand. He held it in his left hand, and with his right index finger, traced the lines on her palm. Shivers ran up her arm at each caressing touch. His scent, a mixture of bay rum, male musk, and a faint hint of tobacco, overwhelmed her.

“What do you see?” she asked, her voice suddenly breathless.

“Health and long life.”

“What, no handsome stranger?” she joked.

He raised his head and stared into her eyes. “Oh, yes, I see romance ahead for you. With a dark haired fellow. But he isn’t a stranger.”

For what seemed an age, she stared into his green-gold eyes while her pulse quickened and warmth stole through her veins. It would be so easy to surrender to the feelings he evoked.

“I also see a fork in the road ahead,” he added softly. “You have a decision to make. A very important decision.”

She snatched her hand away, knowing she couldn’t afford to be distracted by him. It wasn’t as if he had made her any promises. “I think you need to practice your fortune-telling skills, Mr. Callaway.”

He chuckled. “There’s something else I’d like to practice.” Cupping her chin, he stared at her, his eyes full of half promises. “Oh, hell, I may get my face slapped for this, but…” His hand moved to the back of her neck as he lowered his head and captured her lips in a kiss that stole her breath away.

For a moment, she closed her eyes and gave herself up to the kiss. Then a door slammed somewhere in the house, reminding her of where they were. She pushed him away. “How dare you?” she hissed.

He gave her a lazy grin. “What’s that old saying? Nothing ventured, nothing gained?”

“I think you’d best be going.”

He paused at front door, turned and held her gaze for a moment, then left.

She sighed and leaned against the doorjamb. What had she been thinking to let him kiss her, however briefly?

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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

A NECESSARY END - My Civil War Romance - Booth's Insane Plot to Murder President Lincoln with a Paranormal Twist -- On Sale for Kindle for 99 Cents Till July 22

Dear Readers, 

I'm a HUGE Lincoln buff, always have been. In 2006, I decided to combine my love of Lincoln and the paranormal. I began researching A NECESSARY END, my paranormal twist on John Wilkes Booth's insane plot to assassinate President Lincoln. It contains no fictional characters. 

I joined The Surratt Society, based in Maryland, and attended their conferences and tours. Mary Surratt was one of Booth's conspirators--the motley crew met at her Washington D.C. boarding house to hatch their plot. She was tried, convicted and hanged with three others.  Through the Surratt Society I met several Lincoln/Booth/Civil War experts. One lady I’ll never forget meeting is Marjorie “Peg” Page, who by all accounts except definitive DNA testing, is John Wilkes Booth’s great granddaughter. 

Abraham Lincoln has fascinated me since I was eight years old. I don’t know what got me started, but it might’ve been a book which I still have titled The Life of Abraham Lincoln, Volume 1, written in 1895. When I was in 3rd grade, in the mid-60s (which shows how long I’ve been a Lincoln nut), my teacher asked us to bring a book to school from home, for a show & tell. My mother suggested I bring this Lincoln book, which even in 1966 was in bad shape—yellowed, stiffened strips of Scotch tape barely held the covers to the spine. With the wisdom of an 8-year-old that sadly, all of us outgrow, I demurred, saying, “This old book? She’ll think we’re poor!” My mother corrected me: “No, she’ll think we’re rich. Books like this are rare.” Then she proceeded to tape it up some more. Those 47-year-old Scotch tape fragments adhere to the book’s spine and pages to this day. My teacher, Miss Cohen, was duly impressed. I treasure that book to this day, and it’s one of many on my “Lincoln shelf” which holds books about our murdered president, his wife Mary, his assassin John Wilkes Booth and his family, the “Mad Booths of Maryland” and the conspirators who faced the gallows or years of hard labor because Booth, their charismatic leader, sucked these poor impressionable souls into his insane plot.

After writing 8 historicals set in England and New York City, I wanted to indulge my passion for Lincoln-lore. I began researching in depth about Lincoln’s life, his presidency, his role in the Civil War, and Booth’s plans to first kidnap him, and then to assassinate him. A NECESSARY END combined two genres I’m passionate about—history and paranormal.My trips to Lincoln's home and tomb in Springfield, Illinois, Gettysburg, Ford’s Theater, and the house he died in, Petersen House, brought me close to Mr. Lincoln’s spirit. My travels also acquainted me with Booth’s brother Edwin, the most famous actor of his time, and his unconventional family.  A recording of Edwin’s voice reciting Shakespeare on one of Edison’s wax cylinders still exists.  Click here for Edwin Booth's recording. My paranormal experience includes investigations at several haunted homes, restaurants and graveyards. I’ve never seen a ghost, but I’ve received responses to my questions with my dowsing rods. 

Tragically, we’ll never hear Abraham Lincoln’s voice. But his spirit lives on. In my book, which is fiction--but we all know that novels are fictionalized truths--I gave Booth what was coming to him. He got his justice in real life, but in A NECESSARY END, he also got the paranormal twist he deserves.

And I enjoyed sticking it to him!

I paralleled the Shakespeare play Julius Caesar in this story because in the play, Caesar was known as a tyrant to the Senators, who feared losing their power, as Booth feared losing the Confederacy. Booth always considered Lincoln the tyrant, hence his proclamation ‘sic simper tyrannis’ (be it ever to tyrants) when he jumped to the stage after shooting Lincoln.

Caesar’s Senators, Brutus and Cassius among them, conspired to stab Caesar to death on an appointed day. Booth recruited a group of like-minded disciples to aid him in his insane plot, at first to kidnap Lincoln, then to kill him.

By day, Booth was a Confederate spy and courier, taking dangerous missions so that his beloved South could fight the North in the war that tore the nation in two. But in this story, an even darker secret plagues him–he believes he’s the reincarnation of Brutus, the man who slew the tyrant Caesar, and Booth’s destiny in this life is to murder the tyrant who’s ravaged the South—Abraham Lincoln. In obeying the spirit of Brutus, Booth devises a plot to assassinate the tyrant.

I wrote it as a paranormal instead of a straight historical novel  because spirituality was extremely popular in 1865 and all throughout Victorian times. Mary Lincoln was a staunch spiritualist. So stricken with grief after the deaths of her boys Willie and Eddie, she hired mediums such as Nettie Maynard to visit the White House and hold séances in attempts to contact her boys from beyond the grave.

The extent of séances, table-tapping, Ouija boards, Tarot cards, and otherworldly activities in this era fit perfectly with the story I wanted to tell. We could never enter Booth’s head, but his insane behavior begs the question: was he truly haunted by a spirit who drove him to his heinous act that changed history forever?
Or was he simply insane?


And I am Brutus, Marcus Brutus, I; Brutus, my country's friend; know me for Brutus!" Booth declared to the proud reflections in his three facing mirrors.
          The center mirror clouded over. Puzzled, he leaned into it to peer closer. His  reflection faded as if the mirror were clear glass, and another human form took shape, becoming sharper as the mist faded. He was astonished to be looking into the face of a man whose eyes bored into his, pinning him with an unnerving stare. Booth took a step back, glancing to the left, then to the right, but his own reflections were moving right along with him. He focused once more on the stranger in the center, the Roman nose giving the weathered features distinction. He’d seen this face before, but where?
          The head nodded and the hint of a pleased smile curled the thin lips. Without so much as a word, the figure faded into the mirror’s eternal depths, and Booth was once again looking at his own astonished face.
          “Damn you! Who are you?” He pounded the mirror and it wavered, his image jerking back and forth with the moving glass.
          Exasperated, he turned away.
          “I’ll find out who you are if I die doing it.” He twirled around to face the mirror, seeing only his three perplexed reflections.

A NECESSARY END is on sale for 99 cents for Kindle until July 22.

Meet Kay Maree & Read About KITTEN MINE, Romantic Suspense for Readers 18 & Over

Mine series, book 2
by Kay Maree

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Monday, July 3, 2017

Meet Tina Gayle and Read About TAINTED ROSE for our #AuthorLove Exchange

Tina has been a guest of mine here many times, and she gave me a phone tutorial to learn my way around Blogger. This summer we're doing an exchange called #AuthorLove, and Tina is featuring her new romance TAINTED ROSE. Meet Tina and check out her new book.


Her first romantic novel published in 2008, Tina Gayle has written over thirty romantic books under two different pseudonyms. Her novels span several different genres from contemporary to fantasy and sweet to erotic. She enjoys the challenge of drawing a reader into a story and having them travel down the same road as her hero and heroine. Married thirty years, she enjoys spending time with her husband on the golf course. 


Maybelline Beasley enjoys her life in the Silver Leaf 55+ community until her neighbor is murdered. With all eyes point at her as the prime suspect, she struggles with her fear of cops and her attraction to Detective Billy Bob Cooter. Can he save her from the real murderer who’s looking for an escape goat? Or will her second change at love come to an end by a killer’s gun?


Misery warred with anger inside Maybelline’s chest. Attempting to work out some of her frustration, she swept her hand against her car door, slamming it shut. “What the hell am I supposed to do now?”
Luckily, someone higher up must have known she was ready to scream because a blue mini-van turned into her driveway. Recognizing her friend, Charlene behind the wheel, Maybelline waited by the rear of the car for her friend.

“I thought you’d be inside putting your breakfast casseroles in the oven.” Charlene exited her vehicle and walked between the two parked cars. “What’s up?”

Unwilling to repeat the same conversation she’d had with the 911 operator, Maybelline pointed at Rose.

“Holy shit!” Charlene slapped a hand over her mouth.

“I don’t know what’s wrong with her, but she’s not responding no matter how much noise I make.”
“Doris and her precognitive abilities. Damn it. We should have known when she started in this morning about Rose.” Charlene wrapped a comforting arm around Maybelline’s waist. “Do you think she’s dead?”

Read the first chapter of all of Tina’s books at her website.

Contact Tina