Saturday, 31 January 2015

The second Edition of Betty Ownsbey's biography of Lewis Thornton Powell is now out on Amazon  and Barnes & Noble.

Monday, 26 January 2015

Digital Artwork

Here are the layers I used to create my book cover.  I wanted to convey Leigh's desperation and pain when coming through time, and the stormy skies and trio of lightning orbs, and of course, the face of Lewis Powell.

If you want to learn more about Lewis Thornton Powell,  visit his official website here.

Lewis Thornton Powell Website

Book Titles

The title for The Open Doorway was probably about the fifth I'd considered.    The original title being Child of the South.    I hummed and hawed my way through a few more, each increasingly complicated, contrived or obscure.   The biggest mistake I think I made was asking too many people their opinion, or likes and dislikes, which had me running in circles and coming up with zero.

In the end, I think the author has to please themselves and go with what their gut instinct tells them. The Open Doorway is relevant as the novel goes on, and fulfils exactly what I wanted to convey in both theme and mysticism.    I believe it took me until the final draft to finally make up my mind....but being  a Libran, that's not surprising.

Sunday, 25 January 2015


People often ask, are your characters a part of yourself?    As a writer, I guess it would be too easy to place yourself in a character or characters, though it can't be denied that many of my characters are products of both my experience in life and inspired by the people I've met along the way.

Leigh McFadden Boswell is inspired by a girl I once knew at school who was very beautiful, but very shy.    I remember how tall she was, willowy, and with a very gentle, tolerant nature.   I remember too, wondering how someone so lovely wasn't able to choose any boy in the school as her date.  Being only around 14 or 15, I had yet to learn that looks alone are no guarantee of popularity and that what is inside really does matter.

Daniel Boswell is a product of several people I've known in my life.  In the words of the great, late J M Barrie, I just took them all, rubbed them together to light the fire.   All his vile crassness once lived and breathed and probably still does.

David Othello.  Again, several people I've known in my life.   All his little sayings and peccadilloes are  real life traits and expressions from real people.

Minnie Chandler, Earl and Charlotta Chandler, Toby and William Stevens, have no particular inspiration.   Somehow, they just acquired a life of their own and developed in writing.

Lewis Powell, is a bit of an enigma wrapped in a riddle and bringing him to life was particularly difficult at first.   Literature has him written in so many forms, from dumb villain  to homosexual obsessed with John Wilkes Booth to country boy bumpkin.   The truth, I believe, is much more complex and unexpected.    Thanks to several historians, in particular Powell's biographer, Betty Ownsbey, he emerges is an intelligent, reasonably educated young man from a good family, who was inherently compassionate and sensitive, kind and well mannered, with a passionate nature and hot headed temper.   All traits that make you wonder all the more how it all went so spectacularly wrong. Obviously, I had to use my own instincts, all the minutiae I'd collated about him and how I felt he might have been to put flesh on his bones.

The Bransons.   Very little is known about them personality wise.   Again, what little I'd read about them, formed them into people for me, and I found visualisation techniques particularly helpful.   Also, some dialogue accredited to them gives some insight into the type of people they might have been.

Saturday, 17 January 2015

There was, and has been, much speculation about Lewis Thornton Powell.   At the time of his incarceration and trial, he gave very little away about himself, and one must wonder how someone so young could be so staunch and resolved at such a trying time.   There were mixed reports about his cowardice, bravery, dignity and brutality.   Some wrote of him as a mindless uneducated brute, incapable of thinking for himself and easily led.   Others reported of  his dignity and calm, his unshakable strength of character and admirable courage.   He was tall, handsome and imposing, with a magnetic aura that was not lost on either male or female.   His candor and bearing won the admiration of his prison guards and his defense attorney, W. E Doster,  claimed he would sit still as a statue in the courtroom and smile as one who fears no earthly terrors.  The truth, though, was somewhat different.
Powell aged 12
In his cell, away from the public eye, Powell was  just as emotionally battered as his fellow prisoners.   He wept with regret at what he'd done, and those he'd hurt, and this stress became physically manifest in the chronic constipation that he suffered for nearly 6 weeks.  It was reported that he had no bowel movement from April 29th to June 2nd.  To add to his suffering, he was forced, along with the other male prisoners,  to wear a heavy, padded hood, which must have been suffocating in the searing summer  heat.  Being deprived of his sight for hours and hours at a time  must have given him much introspection and who knows what went through his mind during that tortuous period.
History notes without exception that Powell was a brave soldier, an inherently compassionate person, well brought up, educated and raised in a loving though strict family.   Four years of civil war must have have taken its toll on him, and who knows what his mind set was by the time he fell in with John Wilkes Booth.   It might be argued that his part in the assassination brought him what he deserved, and it's safe to assume that Powell himself was the first to admit that he deserved to die for what he'd done.   In fact, more than once he stated that he was ready to die and wished to do so.  He is recorded as stating
 'My course is run.  I know now how foolish, vain and wholly useless it is and must have been, and were I set at liberty this morning, I should hope to be dead by sunset.'
Powell also pleaded for the life of Mary Surratt.   He was adamant she was innocent, telling Reverend Gillette that 'men do not make war on women.'   In a last desperate effort to save her life, he made a statement to Captain Christian Rath, 'If I had two lives to give,  I'd give one gladly to save Mrs Surratt.'   Despite a statement made by Powell and sent to the War Department in a bid to save Mary Surratt, it was in vain and she died beside Powell on the gallows.
Powell had very few personal effects with him on the day of his execution.   A penknife and a bible, in which he had pressed some wild flowers from the prison grounds.   The bible was given to Reverend Gillette with the request that it be sent to his family in Florida.   It never arrived.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Chapter Excerpt.  2.

Leigh turned at the sound of cheering soldiers to see the peach and apple trees go up, each one stoked with a bundle of hay and straw kindling soaked in lamp oil.  They went up fiercely in the frosty air  like  row upon row of burning martyrs.   The flames leapt to the pretty gazebo where Earl and Charlotta had spent so many sultry summers a life time ago, and burned it down to nothing within minutes.
A group of  soldiers rode their horses through the vegetable garden,  tearing up the ground, pulling down the fences and throwing them into the nearest conflagration.   She heard a shot ring out in the direction of the woods, and suspected that the cow was dead. 
This pointless destruction caused Leigh  to turn back to the  Captain, her eyes narrowed with loathing.   ‘Where’s your humanity?  Can’t you control these men!’
He didn’t deign to answer, merely stared back at her for a moment and then slowly turned his horse away.   When the wagons were loaded,  the group started to move off.   Leigh ran after them, placing her hands on the wooden sides of the wagon holding Minnie.  The other woman leaned across and tried to take her hand, but the jolting of the wagon only allowed them to touch each other’s fingertips.  Minnie was bleeding from her right ear and her lip was red and split.
‘Baltimore!’ Leigh yelled at her.   ‘Sixteen North Eutaw Street.   Maggie Branson!’
Minnie nodded, and two fat tears sprang from her eyes.   Leigh clung desperately to the wagon in a last ditch attempt to comfort Minnie.   Her long skirts caught under her feet and she tripped and fell, wrenching her ankle and crying out in agony.  Then the cavalry spurred on and Minnie was gone. 
Leigh sat in a crumpled heap on the frosty ground, nursing her twisted ankle and stared after them until they disappeared from view.

EARL still stood on the veranda when Leigh finally turned limping to the house.   Her ankle throbbed and she winced with each step.   As she approached, he pulled up the old mahogany rocker and sat down like a sleepwalker, staring with rapt attention at the burning barn and outbuildings.   
            For the first time she noticed he was wearing his nightshirt beneath a long black greatcoat.   It was reaching midday and already it felt colder and looked darker.    The heat from the flames felt scorching but still Leigh shivered.  ‘Earl?’
            He gave a great sigh, then turned to look at her.   ‘They’ve been doing this for months,’ he whispered.  ‘All along the Shenandoah Valley.  Sheridan’s men.  This is all in retaliation for the damage done by Mosby to the Union. I’ve been supplying his rangers with bloodstock and corn.   I guess I had to pay for it sooner or later.’

            ‘It’s over now, Earl.  They’ve gone.’

Monday, 12 January 2015

The Open Doorway  -  Chapter Excerpt

THE President’s Birthday celebration  was held in the grand ballroom of the White House on February 12th.    Leigh had asked Walter, her violinist from the Metropolitan, to play for her, and they spent three days rehearsing on the empty stage at the theatre.   
She decided to dance something upbeat and coquettish, along the lines of  Kitri’s fan solo from Don Quixote.   She hummed the basic melody to Walter,  and between them they came up with a seven minute set piece  they both liked. 
The night of the event, in a small private salon set aside for "Madame Rosalie",  Hettie dressed Leigh’s hair in a Spanish style, tied back severely and secured with fine net embellished with camelia and ivy and smoothed flat and shining.
‘Miss Leigh, I ain’t never seen a dress to pretty. All them shades of reds and yellows and burnt orange.  It’s like a sunset!’
            Leigh looked at herself critically in the changing room pier glass, turning this way and that, smoothing down the tight red satin basque and testing her shoes against the hard wood floor.
            ‘The puffed sleeves could have been bigger.’
            ‘Oh, no… it’s just perfect.  Even them saffron pantalets!’
            ‘They’re just for modesty with this shorter skirt. When I jump and turn I can’t flash my thighs at the President!’  Leigh snapped open her black silk fan. ‘Will this quince jelly hold my hair?’
            ‘Sure it will.  Did you use that recipe I gave you to stop the sweating under your arms?’
            ‘Coconut oil, cornstarch and baking powder?’
            ‘That’s the one.   It’ll keep you dry. What time you performing?’
            ‘Nine thirty, or thereabouts.  Hell, I’m nervous!’
            After what seemed an age, the call came, and Walter, dressed in  hired  formal dinner attire, led the way followed by Leigh wearing a long black silk cape over her costume with Hettie trotting behind.    Leigh heard her name being announced, and cringed inwardly as she always did at being called Madame Rosalie.  
Walter took his place to one side of large dance floor where Abraham Lincoln and his wife, Mary, were seated with all the pomp and ceremony befitting the occasion at the head of the long dinner table at one end of the room.   As Hettie slipped the cape from Leigh’s shoulders, a collective gasp went up from the hundreds watching her.   She swept forwards a few steps with an imperious confidence she didn’t feel, stopping several yards from the table, then raised her eyes.
            Lincoln was dressed in black with a crisp white shirt and white kid gloves.  Lank of body with the sharp angular features so like all the images and statues Leigh had ever seen, he was surreal to
her; like an eighth wonder of the world.  Totally in awe, Leigh remained immobile, her right leg in front, her left gracefully pointed behind,  both arms suspended in mid air at her sides.  
His eyes held her, and in that moment she understood why a whole nation followed him.    Yet, this flesh and blood face looked bone weary.  It spoke to her of sleepless nights, decisions made in Hell and a preternatural inner fire burning too fast for that body to sustain.  
            Her eyes flicked to Mary Lincoln, a short plump woman with a doughy unhealthy complexion.  She wore a gown of white silk beneath silver lace, and though she smiled her eyes were cold, and Leigh felt the scrutiny and wondered at it.  Mrs Lincoln’s brown hair held a jasmine blossom headdress, and she wore pearls around neck and wrists and cooled herself with a feather trimmed fan.  The soft hum of voices in the room lessened to silence, the anticipation acute.
            Leigh stepped back, and glanced at Walter then bowed her head to the president, and snapped open her fan.  Beneath her feet, she felt the solid yet reassuring wooden floor.   She knew it would jar her bones, and make her jumps harder, but at least it wouldn’t catch her feet en pointe as carpet would.   She was vaguely aware of a multitude behind and around her; a homogenous mass of watered silks and dark dinner dress and uniforms.  Then Walter was striking up the opening of Kitri’s music and Leigh began to dance.  
            Everything she had ever learned, all her training, her years of agony and ecstasy of mind and body, her sense of failure and her dogged determination, now condensed into this single fatalistic performance.   Adrenalin surged and she did the highest kicks, the most powerful jetes,  and whirled across the dance floor like a small volcanic ball of energy.   As the Moreno Dance began, incredibly, she heard the group of musicians at the back of the room, the Marine Band, hired to play for this vast crowd, take up the beat and tempo and add their improvised support to Walter’s soaring strings.   
As the piece came to its close and the rhythm built in tempo she prepared herself to execute the ten fouette’s she’d rehearsed with Walter. 
With each spin, she spotted on the president, coming to finish facing his table, kneeling on one knee, left hand on hip, her fan and head held high and huge grin on her face.  She watched the seamed face return her smile and as she rose the thunder of applause was deafening.   Leigh curtseyed long and deep to the Lincolns.  
Mary was sour faced, but her husband stood and applauded with the rest of the room.    Leigh turned  to left and right, careful not to turn her back to the presidential table.      Then the crowds parted to let her leave.    Her job was done.
            Hettie beamed at her, waited until she got her breath then said, ‘You ain’t like nothing they ever saw.’
            I can’t believe I just danced for Abraham Lincoln.
            She sank onto a chair as Hettie removed her shoes.  ‘Oh, Jeez, your feet are bleeding!’
            ‘It’s that floor.  No give in it.  I’ll pay for this tomorrow.’
            ‘It’s only a little from your toenails, but it’s stained your slippers.’
            ‘I should have used more lamb’s wool.’
            Hettie wiped the blood away with her handkerchief.  ‘You sure got beat up feet.’
            Leigh laughed.  ‘I know.  Help me get into my gown.’
            Leigh’s dress was specially made for this event; a peachy pink silk skirt gathered up in six places over a ruffled net underskirt of pale butter yellow with flounces of cream lace at each gather. 
The large puffed sleeves had lace flounces at the elbow and the d├ęcolletage was low and exposed the gentle swell of  her breasts.  Hettie helped her slip on a pair of gold  earbobs and handed her a pair of cream lace gloves and matching fan.
            ‘You look beautiful,’ she said.
             ‘I’d sell my soul to just go back to the hotel.’
            ‘I’m sticking to you like glue,’ Hettie said.  ‘I ain’t missing this for the world.’
            ‘All those people,’ Leigh said.   ‘They look like dignitaries.’
            ‘Hey, those people out there?’ Hettie winked at her.  ‘They all take a crap like everyone else!’
            Leigh smiled.  ‘I guess they do.’
            ‘But you, Madame Rosalie, are the toast of the President’s Birthday Ball.’
            Leigh tried to muster some enthusiasm.  ‘Do you suppose they have a back door we could sneak out of?’

Hettie took her arm and led her firmly from the room.
Book Cover Design and Concept

The book cover was designed and created by myself.   Prior to writing the novel, I'd planned to hire a graphic artist and had a rough idea of what I wanted for the cover.   As time went on, and without the means to actually pay someone to design and execute the graphic artwork, I decided to do it myself.

I'd tinkered around on Photoshop for years, so had some idea how things worked, but when it came to creating a professional book cover, I realised that I had to up the ante, so took myself off to You Tube and watched  hours and hours of PS tutorials until I was good enough to produce the artwork that I needed.   I did this with the invaluable resources found at Deviant Art  and before long I also acquired work doing other people's book covers.  Dark Heart

After many drafts, dozens of layers and configurations I came up with the cover you see now.   The fields of Gettysburg, the three lightning orbs that open the time portal,  the image of Lewis Powell, and the russet haired heroine, Leigh, kneeling beneath the onslaught of the storm around her.

There are many people to thank for the genesis and creation of this novel.  

Betty Ownsbey - Author and historian and official biographer of Lewis Thornton Powell, and with whom I became very good friends over the course of the two years it took me to research The Open Doorway.   Her generosity and endless knowledge steered me safely through the turbulence of American Civil War life and times, and the life of Powell, correcting me on Victorian manners and etiquette, clothing and expressions.   I'm eternally grateful to her for sharing all her research and information with me.  Biography of Lewis Powell

Barry Cauchon and John Elliot - who very kindly helped me with vital information about the final hours of the conspirators  from cell dimensions to scaffold facts, and all that I needed to know about the Old Arsenal Penitentiary.

To Roger Norton and his wonderfully informative Civil War discussion forum, the Lincoln  Discussion Symposium.

Dave Taylor at Boothiebarn for so much information on his wonderful site.

To my partner, Steve, who gave me the ending to the novel, many ideas and constructive criticism and put up with me writing non-stop for hours amid rants and much perjorative on the anguish and traumas of writing, proofreading and editing.

To Olive, my dear friend, who took the time and trouble to print off and proof read my first draft.

To Jenny and Joan, for believing and helping me with special research.

To my daughter for encouragement and love.

To my  mother, Josephine Marina, for getting me onto the planet in the first place.  This book is dedicated to her.

Saturday, 10 January 2015

"I saw good and evil on the battlefield, kindness and cruelty, dark and light. Before the war, I didn’t know just how much darkness there was."
Lewis Powell, The Open Doorway.

God, I wish I were a man. What a shit time to come through as a woman!
Leigh Boswell. The Open Doorway.

‘But sometimes… oh, sometimes they come into our lives to hand us somethin’ no one else can. Sometimes… they come into our lives to give us a lil’ magic.’
Minnie Chandler - The Open Doorway.

"The twin soul ain’t here just to make us happy, it here to teach us somethin’. And sometimes, that teachin’ so hard and painful, only our soul mate can hurt us enough to drive the lesson home. It ain’t always about what we want. Sometimes, it’s about what we need."
Minnie Chandler - The Open Doorway.

‘All you’ll do is make a martyr of him and drag yourself and your conspirators to their deaths. Your cause is lost, and your Government clutches at straws. Accept this war is over. You won’t be anybody’s hero!’ 
Leigh Boswell - The Open Doorway

‘I’ve danced at Abraham Lincoln’s birthday bash... I’ve peaked.’
Leigh Boswell - The Open Doorway.

‘Miss Leigh, you best leave well alone. No lady goes chargin’ up to strange gentlemen in the way you doin’. It ain’t fittin’ and could land us both in a heap of trouble. Holy Jebus, she ain’t listenin’ to me!’
Minnie Chandler - The Open Doorway
The inspiration behind The Open Doorway. Lewis Thornton Powell. Lincoln Assassination Conspirator. 1844 - 1865

Time travel hurts. You don't need machines or black holes or event horizons - just Shawnee magic, an electrical storm, and a dose of good old fashioned agony. It’s the summer of 2015, as British dancer, Leigh Boswell, flees her abusive husband, Daniel, on a vacation trip to Gettysburg, USA. If the creepy child she meets at the Devil’s Den isn’t enough to freak her out, the storm the girl summons blasts Leigh into the aftermath of one of America’s bloodiest battles on 3rd July 1863 where, sick and disorientated, she’s helped by a young confederate soldier, Lewis Thornton Powell, whose simple act of compassion has repercussions across two centuries.

In the Federal field hospitals of Old Dorm and Camp Letterman, and the notorious West's Building Prison Hospital in Baltimore, Leigh is taken under the wing of confederate sympathiser, Maggie Branson, and endures the horrors of Civil War nursing as she struggles to adapt in an alien world. Fate and circumstance take her deep into the Virginian countryside where she’s adopted by Daniel's ancestors; the Chandlers, and meets once more with the enigmatic Powell, with whom she seems unable to escape a mutual destiny. Tormented by her knowledge of the future, Leigh is driven to the sprawling metropolis of Washington DC in a desperate bid to alter fate and change history; but as her nightmare unfolds, she finally uncovers the terrible truth about the man she loves.

The Open Doorway is a novel of struggle in adversity, timeless love, and karmic absolution. It pits the past against the future where for everything given in life, a price must be paid; and for everything taken, something wonderful is offered in return.
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Novel Origins

The Open Doorway came into being one late July afternoon in 2012 as I was browsing through the internet pages of a newspaper. I stumbled across a piece about the Lincoln Assassination, complete with photos depicting the execution of the conspirators and their 1865 mugshots. Lewis Powell was someone I’d never even heard of, let alone seen, and that infamous photo of him by Alexander Gardner, shackled and leaning against the iron gun turret of the Saugus made a huge impact on me.
It wasn’t just his model boy looks, nor the contemporary nature of the photo. What spoke to me was the expression on his face and the mixture of defiance, fear and sadness in his eyes which stare out at the observer provoking the question; Who was this person and why did he commit such a heinous crime?
Powell’s fall from grace was a journey of discovery for me, and my research online led me finally to his biographer, Betty Ownsbey. Her excellent book, Alias Paine, chronicles Powell’s life, from his birth into a good family, to his death on the gallows as a traitor to the United States.
In this book, I’ve tried to keep as much as possible to the historical facts as we know them at this time, though I hope the reader will forgive some artistic licence with certain dates and situations.
The Open Doorway is not a book about Powell’s life, but I wanted to create something that depicted him not as a mindless, sub-intelligent brute, but as someone more close to who he probably was.
History notes without exception that Powell was a brave soldier, an inherently compassionate person, well brought up, educated and raised in a loving though strict family. Four years of civil war must have taken its toll on him, and who knows what his mindset was by the time he fell in with John Wilkes Booth. It might be argued that his part in the assassination brought him what he deserved, and it's safe to assume that Powell himself was the first to admit that he deserved to die for what he'd done. In fact, more than once he stated that he was ready to die and wished to do so. He is recorded as stating;
'My course is run. I know now how foolish, vain and wholly useless it is and must have been, and were I set at liberty this morning, I should hope to be dead by sunset.'
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