MORE to BROWSE - Pages that might be of Interest

Thursday 27 December 2012

The Thursday fun Thought...

For those who have over-indulged:

a few exercises to get in shape for  the 
New Year Celebrations....

LOL :-)

Wednesday 26 December 2012

I saw....

.... One Ship - a-sailing in..... 
Approaching England’s North Devon Coast Captain Jesamiah Acorne is worried. A Royal Navy frigate is trailing in his wake and Sea Witch has a cache of contraband aboard. His instinct is to hoist sail and flee, but he cannot attract attention for his wife, Tiola, is ill and getting worse. She says the sea is affecting her, but Jesamiah has never seen seasickness like this before – is it something else? Something to do with her being a white witch?
Like an approaching storm, his worries get deeper, darker, and more sinister. Unpleasant ruffians are looking for a list of traitors’ names, Tiola’s brother is in jail, and Sir Ailie Doone – the last of the notorious Doones of Exmoor – wants Jesamiah to sail to Cádiz on a secret mission in aid of the Jacobite cause.
Except, being captured by the Spanish and meeting with an old friend, the beautiful English spy, Francesca, is not part of Jesamiah’s plan. Once again he is in danger of losing his fidelity, his freedom - and maybe even his life.
Tiola meanwhile has her own fears to face. Why is the ethereal spirit of the sea, Tethys,  determined to have Jesamiah for her own? To save him, Tiola must find a way to recall her previous lives and discover why events of the past are influencing those of the present why the ripples in time are echoing in the ripples in the sand.

Available to order in book form soon!

Watch the Trailer

Sunday 23 December 2012

something for Christmas Sunday...

 Yo Ho Ho!
from me and my pirate!

Thursday 20 December 2012

The Thursday (Mid-Winter) Thought

I know it is a day early (Winter Solstice is tomorrow, 21st December) but as this is my usual Thursday Thought spot...

Bright Blessings to all my Pagan  Friends 
for the Mid-Winter Solstice 

May the moon light your path
May all shadows fall behind you.

(no idea where the image came from - I "borrowed" it from someone, who "borrowed" it from someone else who .....

For those interested, my fourth Sea Witch Voyage 
Ripples In The Sand
is now available on Kindle 
( in book form ready for pre-order )

Thursday 13 December 2012

The Thursday fun Thought

Says it all really.... 

says she after a week of pulling my hair out over editing the proof-reader's edit of Ripples In The Sand

(morale: stick to the editor/s you know. Don't get a new, unknown to you, editor just as you are ready to publish.)

Tuesday 11 December 2012

The Fantastic Blog Hop!

I am taking part in Amy Bruno's Passages to the Past December Blog Hop - which involves a chance to win one (or more) fabulous prizes!

So what is a blog hop?

It's a chance to view historical authors' blogs with easy one-click links, to enter to win an Amazon or Barnes & Noble gift card, and to win more historical novels
than you can shake your quill pen at!

Amy says:
"What better way to celebrate the holidays than by giving away Historical Fiction goodness?!  
The Historical Holiday Blog Hop will run from December 10 - 17 and in addition several grand prizes, there are over 30 blogs that will be running their own amazing giveaways, so be sure to see the linky list at the bottom of this post to see who is participating!  
I would like to thank the authors (and one publisher) who so graciously and generously contributed a book (or four) to the grand prizes. I can't tell you how appreciative I am for the fantastic response to the blog hop - you are all so amazing!"

my contribution to the blog hop was to run a competition and I was thrilled with the number of entries - thank you everyone! 

For the full prize giveaway list: CLICK HERE

and the winner - picked at random by my husband was:
Susan - congratulations!
click here for her blogspot

Tuesday 4 December 2012

Celebrate my Pirate's Birthday!

On December 4th 1693 a baby was born - he grew up to become 
Captain Jesamiah Acorne.

Jesamiah is only a fictional character, of course, created by me on a Dorset beach in the last week of October several years ago, but I decided on his fictional birthday because the scene written below had been a vivid dream (I know it sounds cliched, but it's the truth).

It was one of those dreams where I saw every detail in vivid clarity, and heard every word... including Jesamiah grumbling: “Fine bloody way to spend a birthday.”

I was annoyed, however, to have woken up - thus missing the next bit. Thank goodness I am a writer... I got up and sitting at my PC in my nightdress and dressing gown wrote the scene as I had "seen" it... and added the "what happened next".

And so, in honour of Jesamiah's birthday I am sharing his birthday (mis)adventures.

Chapter Twenty Two
December 4th – 1716

With the onset of dusk, all the miscreants of Cape Town made their way to the brothels and drinking houses – all those who had no decent home to go to, which in this fleapit, was the majority. Jesamiah among them. It was the third day of December, tomorrow was his birthday he was entitled to celebrate. 
The noise from the tavern below was increasing but he was too busily occupied with Aloette to notice the rowdiness. “That was good,” he said. Breathing hard and withdrawing from her, he leant across the bed for the bottle he had left on the floor, the sweat gleaming on his naked body. He took a long swig, offered it to her. She shook her head.
“You have it, my prince, you need to get your strength back for next time.”
Jesamiah grinned, saluted her a toast. There was to be a next time then? Do anything for a handful of silver, these Cape Town strumpets. From the room next door – the walls were only thin planks of cheap timber, plastered over and painted in pink-tinted lime-wash – came the rhythmic protest of a creaking bed, a girl’s giggling and a man’s grunting. Another couple doing what Jesamiah was doing, along with half the sailors ashore from their ships. Rue was somewhere down the corridor with a redhead.
“We have the entire night,” Aloette said, her voice low and purring.
“You have paid me, have you not?” she added with a coquettish smile, while trickling her fingers over his nakedness, her broken nails tracing the patterns of the acorn tattooed to the left of his chest and the mermaid on his left forearm. Doing as she suggested, he drank; with most of the bottle already consumed and his desire for a woman sated, was asleep before he had emptied it.

He awoke to find the candles had burnt low – several were out, the stubs a congealed mess of molten wax. The hubbub downstairs was less rowdy, the sounds in the street beyond the window quieter. The only noise from the room next door was a man’s snoring. The early hours, then. He groaned, half pleasure, half headache and rolled across the bed his arm seeking the warmth and delight of the girl. Grunted, annoyed to find her gone. He opened his eyes properly, looking for her. The shabby room was empty, her side of the bed quite cold, her clothes missing.
“Bitch,” he muttered as he lurched from the bed, fumbled for, and almost filled, the chamber pot, and retrieved his shirt, breeches, stockings and boots. Most of his clothes were scattered over the floor; he vaguely remembered being in an eager hurry last night. He ensured his pistol and cutlass were where he had left them, looked for his coin purse in his coat pocket. The money was gone, he would have been surprised to find it had not, but his weapons were untouched. The coins did not matter there had only been five or six shillings anyway, and he kept a few gold doubloons sewn discreetly inside his waist sash. He could always filch some more silver when he had need of it.

Rather unsteadily he dressed, found his waistcoat under the bed; wound the sash around his waist, satisfying himself that the gold was where it should be, and fastened the leather belt from which hung a cartridge pouch containing shot and powder, and his knife. He pushed his pistol through his belt, checking it was loaded, and buckled his baldric slantwise across from his right shoulder, more irritated to discover that the girl had also taken the second bottle of rum.
Grumbling at the dishonesty of women, he set his three-cornered hat firmly on his head, tossed his long coat over his arm and unlatched the door. Met face to face with the barrel of a pistol. No time to draw and cock his own weapon; he swung aside, attempted to slam the door – the man fired, the acrid smell of powder and the sharp sound of the shot reverberating into the room.

Jesamiah reeled, somehow managed to ram the door shut with his boot, slapped the bolt home. Dropping his coat, breathing heavily, aware of a searing pain below his left shoulder and the sticky feel of trickling blood, he dragged a chair across the door, ramming it beneath the latch. He winced, slid his hand inside his shirt and pulled it away to discover blood on his fingers. He felt at the back, nothing; the lead had not gone clean through then. Damn.

He could not think about it now, there were more pressing matters to consider. He ran to the window, grabbing at the catch to the slatted wooden shutter. The thing was stuck, rusted solid. He pulled at it, swore again, spun around frantically looking for something he could use to smash his way out. The door was splintering as an axe struck through the flimsy panels, revealing more faces. He drew his pistol, cocked the hammer home, hearing the necessary double click and as the door burst open, aimed, fired. One shot. One dead man. He was looking at four more very alive men with swords and pistols. Submitting, he stuffed his now useless pistol back into his belt and resigned to fate, held his hands up in surrender.

“You’ve got me fair and square, mates.” Nodding at the rumpled bed, added, “You must have paid her more handsomely than I did.”
“Jesamiah Acorne,” the one with the fancy sword said, waving it uncomfortably close to Jesamiah’s belly, his face crinkled into a leering snarl. “I am authorised to place you under arrest for acts of piracy committed against His Majesty King George and certain private parties. Crimes for which you shall hang.”
“Oh aye? It is a long way between here and the gallows, lads.” Jesamiah said with a tilt to his head and a calm smile. “Am I not entitled to a trial? The good citizens of Cape Town enjoy a good trial.”
“As they enjoy a good hanging.” One of the pistols was shoved nearer Jesamiah’s chest. “Judge, jury and rope are ready and waiting for the pleasure of your company. As we await the pleasure of our reward.” The pistol barrel prodded Jesamiah’s sternum, none too gently.

He frowned. What reward?
The hammer cocked. One click. Two. “One hundred and fifty beautiful gold pieces to him who delivers you into His Majesty’s custody.”
“We figured we’d split it a’tween us.”
Only one hundred and fifty? Jesamiah was unsure whether to laugh or feel insulted.
A long blink of silence and a frozen stillness; a waiting for one man to move before the other.
“I am afraid you may have need to figure again, mates.” Jesamiah finally said with a grin, “I’m not in the frame of mind to oblige helping you in your grand scheme of things.” He kicked out, hard and sudden, catching the startled pistol holder in the crotch, sending him sinking, groaning and clutching at himself to the bare floorboards. Falling forward, Jesamiah rolled, grabbing for the dropped pistol as he rose, fired. The man nearest the door yelped, blood pouring from where an ear lobe had been. And within seconds the room had became a vicious brawl.
Ducking low Jesamiah drew his cutlass and slashed at the nearest pair of legs, avoided a punch, took a kick in his ribs. He felt something crack, a sharp hurt, crumpled, wincing, knocking the chamber pot over as he fell, but was up on his feet again, dodging another blow, taking a punch to the jaw that sent him staggering.
A man lunged, caught Jesamiah off balance. Almost at the same moment another pistol fired, the shot thumping into his midriff – the two blows combined sending him toppling backwards, hard and fast against the window shutter. Thin and rotten, the wooden frame gave way and with a yip of surprise Jesamiah fell through, tumbling into the early morning quiet of the street below. He lay a moment, winded and disorientated.

Gathering his wits, glancing upwards at the furious faces peering down at him, he was on his feet and off, running into the night, darting and weaving along the narrow, dim-lit alleyway as if he were a hare with the Hounds of Hell chasing after him. A musket shot whistled past his ear, he swerved, kept running, aware, with sharp curses rattling in his panting breath, that he was being followed. Damn them! They had been expecting him to make a run for it, had posted men outside. Dodging to the left behind some piled crates stinking of fish he flattened himself into the shadows, took the opportunity to get his bearings and breath back. He ran his left hand across his waist. Chuckled. No wonder the pistol ball had packed such a thump; it had met with one of his gold pieces! He would find a coin-shaped bruise there come daylight. Funny, the rest of the pain was not registering; he had a lead ball in his shoulder but could not feel it. Frowned, looked down at his right arm, saw a ragged shirt, sodden with blood dripping profusely from the torn skin beneath.
He grimaced.
Must have caught himself on the wood and glass as he crashed through the window, regretted looking. Now he had seen it his arm felt as though it were ablaze with searing fire. 

Running footsteps, shouting voices and flickering torches coming towards him. He would have to move. He tried to run, his legs feeling suddenly odd, his vision blurring. He
stumbled, fell to one knee. Leaning on his cutlass – incredibly, still clasped in his right hand at the end of the bloody mess that was now his arm – he scrambled up, kept himself going by willpower alone, aware his blood was draining out of him like water leaking from a spout. He clamped his left hand across his forearm, ignoring the protest from the wound in his shoulder. If he did not find a safe hiding place soon, tend to this, he might well bleed to death. Could he reach the Inheritance? He cursed, realising he was running in the wrong direction, heading uphill away from the harbour. Aside, these were not fools; they would have had the savvy to put a watch on his ship.

“Fine bloody way to spend a birthday,” he grumbled, stumbled again, leant against a wall, head back, breathing heavily. He closed his eyes, let the world of these dark, slum alleyways of Cape Town spin by a few times. Feeling the first signs of consciousness beginning to ebb away, desperate, he murmured, “In the name of all that is good, someone help me!”
His vision blurring, walking – staggering, he no longer had the strength to run – he reached the end of the sewage-stinking alley, turned right then left, the agony of his arm and shoulder tearing through him. Men coming towards him. Where were they all appearing from? He side-stepped into a passageway, swore colourfully and explicitly as an arm caught at his waist, spiralling him inward towards the unlit darkness of a sheltering wall. He tried to kick out, to lift the cutlass clutched in his right hand but all strength was leaving him, seeping away with his pumping blood. He almost fell, but a woman’s arm was holding him upright. Her fragrant smell of summer meadows and flowers filled his nostrils. Her voice, urgent, in his ear.
“I can help. Do not struggle.” Deftly she turned him so his back was against the wall, her body pressing close into his to hold him upright as much as to shield him.
“Put your left arm around me – quick man! Do it!”
Bizarrely he still wore his hat. She reached up tipped it forward to hide his eyes, and then her lips were over his mouth kissing him, her palms flat against his chest as torches flared and the sound of heavy boots approached.
With one hand she brought Jesamiah’s head down burying his face in the mass of her black hair. She half turned, glowered at the two men who had paused to watch.

In a clipped uneducated accent, she snarled, “Go pay fer yer own pleasure, ye poxed curs! I be busy.” And she turned her head, her mouth seeking for Jesamiah’s again, her hand starting to hitch up her skirts.
Grinning, the men moved off, one of them lewdly fumbling at himself.
Bewildered, feeling wretched, Jesamiah moaned. This woman, a beautiful young woman, had come from nowhere, grabbed him, and was kissing him in a public alleyway. Yet when she had turned and bawled she was busy her features had blurred, her immaculate appearance had become ragged, greasy and smutty. He shook his head confused, felt the dizziness churn through him. His legs buckling, blackness rushing in, he began to
slide down the wall.
He was heavy. Attempting to hold him up, she eased her arm further around his waist and half pushing, half dragging him, she turned in through a low, unlit doorway. Inside, the passageway was dark, a feeble light showing from the head of a steep flight of wooden stairs. She let him sink to the floor in a crumpled heap, shut the door and slammed a bar across to secure it. Heaving him upright, pushed him up the stairs, his feet stumbling over
most of them.

“Jenna!” she called, urgent, “Jenna, come help!”
From the top of the stairs the light increased as a curtain was drawn back, its rings scraping on the wooden pole, a frowning, sleep-mottled face appeared. “Now what scrawny misfit have you brought home, girl?” The woman, dressed in night apparel, her hair twisted and tied in strips of torn rags advanced downward. “Lord, child! Can you not learn to leave injured tomcats to their own devices?”
Nonetheless, she helped carry Jesamiah into the first floor room, the
place filled with the pleasant aroma of herbs and coffee.
“Put him on the table,” Tiola gasped, nodding her head at Jenna who swept lengths of material and sewing paraphernalia to the floor. His face was drained of colour, a low moan escaped his lips as he slid into unconsciousness.

What happens next?
Sorry, you’ll have to read the book!

 Available now:

contact Helen if you would like postcards of the covers or signed bookplates to put in your books!

And if you are interested in the detail of Jesamiah's birth....

Coming VERY soon...

Voyage Four
Ripples In the Sand ....
... the nautical adventure continues

As a special birthday treat - see an animates version of the cover:
click HERE

Win a hot off the press copy of Ripples In The Sand -
the winner was Mary Tod

Entries close 9pm midnight 9th December, winner will be notified by e-mail.

Thursday 29 November 2012

The Thursday (Fun) Thought

Stolen from my friend Vara on Facebook - who no doubt stole it from someone else... who stole it from....

well, you get the picture! :-)

Tuesday 27 November 2012

Reviewing the Reviewers’ Reviews. (Tuesday Talk)

The subject of “reviews” or rather, Amazon Comments, came up the other day. (I think on Facebook, can’t remember where.) The gist was: how useful are these Amazon reviews?

I personally take little notice of the 5 star and 1 star comments, the 5’s can often be “friends and family”, the 1’s are usually troll-ish rants. I look at the 4 stars first, and I  usually only award 4 stars for my own comments – the 5’s, as far as I’m concerned, are the outstanding novels that I will want to read again and again, my favourites, while the 4 stars are the darn good reads.

I will also state here that I am more than happy to get 4 star reviews for my books (though I do like the 5 stars! LOL)

Out of curiosity I decided to look at the reviews for my first novel The Kingmaking which I originally had accepted for publication nearly twenty years ago. Partly, I wish I hadn’t as the one star rants from the US “reviewers” are a bit hurtful, but I swallowed that down and read through objectively.

On  for this novel I’ve got (at time of writing this article) six 1 star comments and twenty-six 5 stars. In the UK I have seven 5’s  and one 4 – that’s all. (Hmm no trolls in the UK?) What struck me, though - outside of the fact that these people obviously did not like the book (fair enough, each to their own) -  was the uselessness of these lower star rants because most of these reviewers had completely missed the point about the novel: I deliberately set out to portray King Arthur as a non-Christian goody-goody, and to not stick to the more familiar traditional tales.

This seems to have been less understood in the US than the UK – perhaps UK readers are more open to change? I do also think that UK readers are not so squeamish about violence in historical fiction, be it on the battlefield or towards women. I have had American readers’ comments that state, “The battles were too realistic and descriptive.” While another comment could proclaim, “Hollick knows nothing of battles, she has no sense of what a real battle was like.” (Er… has anyone got a real idea of what battles in the Dark Ages were like?)

I have also found that American readers are not too keen on scenes of rape or the fact that women in the past were often wedded (and bedded) at twelve or thirteen years of age. Perhaps a UK reader’s perspective of history is more ingrained in us then some American readers?
UK readers also do not seem so bothered about the pedantics of whether a comma is in the right place or not, nor do we seem too affected by Point of View Changes. Is this because our use of English English is somewhat different from American English I wonder?

Here are a few examples of the differences of opinion:

“…We learn that Arthur isn't a great military leader, doesn't have much of a sense of honor, drinks a lot, and is a horrible womanizer.”


“Most frustrating for the reader with some knowledge of the Arthurian tradition is the way in which this tradition has been utterly abandoned, then replaced with nothing of real value. The spiritual Arthur, the chivalric Arthur, the noble Arthur, the sleeping Arthur whose legend inspires hope for the British people are all gone. In their place is a greedy warlord who aspires to little more than women, power, booze, and, did I mention, women?
The only saving grace in this story is that this Arthur is probably closer to the historical figure (if he actually existed) than most of the fictions we enjoy today. But beyond supposition, there's little evidence that establishes this version over those it seeks to replace. There's nothing gained by supplanting an inspiring fictional character with one who may be closer to the texture of the warlords who lived in fifth and sixth century Britain without, at least, some evidence that the new version is reasonably accurate.”


“There is no legend here, no vision. Power and money alone don't last. Hollicks' Arthur is nothing but another petty warlord, no different from any of history's other petty, brutal, unremembered warlords. The kind of lord no person in their right mind would follow once the gold runs out. Of course it's the author's right to spin such a tale - however, it rather misses the point of the Arthurian legends altogether.”

These reviewers /commenters have missed the point that
a) I researched and used the early Welsh legends of Arthur – which depict him as a rough, tough, not very likeable warlord (yes, complete with hitting women!)
b) Have missed the point that the Dark Ages were not nice times. Women got raped. Men went drinking and whoring. That’s the nitty-gritty truth of history folks.

Other readers thought the complete opposite of the above. As in:

“I much prefer this "real" Arthur to the "fairy tale" Arthur. What I like about historical fiction is that the people you read about were actually living, breathing human beings and that makes it so much easier to relate to their shortcomings or concerns or emotions. The Kingmaking was a fabulous novel, hard to put down and now on my list of all-time favorites! Helen Hollick's writing is fantastic and I am very much looking forward to reading the next two in the series!”


“Helen Hollick has refused to be constrained by the stereotypical Arthur we all know through legend - and of course TV! She has created a very different man and we get to know him, his life and loves, warts and all. This Arthur is very human and not always the good guy. This is a fascinating book. I'm now reading the second one of the trilogy. It's great fun getting to know all the characters and learn about their lives in 5th Century Britain. Thanks Helen!”


“Personally I found the book very refreshing and forward looking, if that can be said about a book that covers a period of time well over a thousand years ago. It coincided closely with my own feelings on what the Arthurian period may have been like. The book was certainly a million miles away from the Hollywood image of the period.”

So  are these reviews a balanced blend of differing opinions, or biased rants bordering on being nasty because I have dared to depict Arthur in a different light than the more normal Christian almost saint-like king? Are the opposing views useful or not? I suppose it depends on how you personally think of Arthur, and the content of my novel. If you prefer the chivalric king who would shudder at even a mild swear-word – and a reader who abhors even a hint of violence against women, then no, my books are not for you.

I have actually received hate-mail from American readers who have been less than pleasant with their choice of (very rude) words because my Arthur is not a Christian. (Mail from Good Christian People, I might add. As a Pagan I don’t particularly mind being assigned to Hell or threatened by the wrath of God though; I don’t believe in Hell or God.)

As interesting are the opposing views of my writing. These vary from:

“…. the tortured prose that suffuses most of Ms. Hollick's narrative …. prose that leaves the battlefield strewn with thousands of innocent and irrelevant descriptive phrases where simple and direct depictions of action could better help the reader to understand what is happening and why it's important.


"The Kingmaking is boring. It's like watching mediocre actors in a familiar story; we know the archetypes and the basic plot, but it's all written in a way that Hollick seems to think it should be written rather than with any actual effort behind it.”

Well yes, I did write it as I thought it should be written… isn’t that what individual authors do? It would be boring if we all wrote the same way wouldn’t it?

And on my accuracy of history, apparently I have no knowledge of the period:

“Without sufficient knowledge of the historical period, very little awareness of the warrior culture of which she would write, possessing unrefined writing skills, but with an apparently strong desire to explore the love story of Arthur and Gwenhwyfar (that's Guinevere to most of the rest of us), an inexperienced author bit off more than she was ready to chew. The result, unfortunately, was "The Kingmaking".

On the other hand:

“It was a rather fast read because it was action packed. I felt like this Arthur and Guinevere could really have existed. It's a novel set in the Dark Ages and remains faithful to the times, not the romanticized idea of King Arthur's Camelot. I recommend this book to anyone interested in Arthurian literature or historical fiction. It's not really a romance novel, as it has more battle and action than historical romance does. It's a highly enjoyable read.”


“Don't read this book (or any of the trilogy) expecting a tale of mystery, magic and Merlin. Rather a historian's view of what the real Arthur and Britain in the post-Roman, pre-Saxon age might have been like. This is a time when Rome has deserted the British and the English are only just arriving from 'Germany' bringing with them upheaval and a constant struggle for power. A time when 1000 soldiers is considered a major force and tribal and ethnic loyalties are constantly shifting. As in real life many people are looking to the past and the glory of Rome while others want to look to the future. Not as clear a distinction as it sounds. Dirt, death, tragedy and a nicely dispassionate view of life and death keeps the books rocking along even though they are quite substantial. I did manage to put it down but it did certainly keep me popping back as often as possible.”

A historian well versed in this period praised me in a review for the Historical Novel Society for my historical detail being superbly accurate, so I suppose the consensus of opinion is – reviews are not necessarily useful or helpful, because different readers have vastly different perspectives. Which is a good thing, because it would disastrous for Imaginative Fiction if all books - and the subsequent opinions of them - were all the same!

Meanwhile – if you’d like to add a comment about the Kingmaking (or any of my novels) onto Amazon, please do… as long as it’s a nice one LOL

My Amazon Author Page 

The Kingmaking available at an Amazon store near you: 
(US publisher Sourcebooks Inc)
(UK publisher Silverwood Books)
Originally published by William Heinemann. 

Full details of the Pendragon's Banner Trilogy HERE

soon to be published in German by Sadwolf

Thursday 22 November 2012

Thanksgiving Day USA (the Thursday Thought)

With all best wishes to the 
United States of America 
for a 
Happy and Peaceful 

we do not celebrate Thanksgiving here in the UK - but everyone, everywhere in the world should find the time for a quiet moment of thought and be thankful for something, no matter how small, how apparently unimportant.

Even when things seem at their bleakest there is still something to be thankful for - your health, your friends, the sun that shines, the plants that grow...

Thank you, Great Spirit for all the wonderful people in my life; 
those I have met, and those I have yet to meet.

Thursday 15 November 2012

To writers everywhere.... (The Thursday Thought)

Notice to all writers .....

(OK yes, I know...
                this includes me.... :)

Tuesday 13 November 2012

For Those In Peril On The Sea - Tuesday Talk

The Tragedy of the Bounty

There are, probably, three Tall Ships that are the most well known: The Cutty Sark, the Victory, and the Bounty - famed for the Mutiny on the Bounty.

Tragically, Bounty was lost at sea during the onslaught of hurricane Sandy. Bounty began taking on water on Sunday 28th October and lost power about 90 miles off the N.C. coast. Apparently the ship was taking on two feet of water an hour, when the crew abandoned her she had about ten feet of water on board.
The Captain remains missing. 

I wanted to write something as a tribute to Bounty's loss and for the members of her crew who drowned - not especially for the ship, as so much tragedy, destruction and death occurred because of the hurricane, but because my thoughts kept turning, again and again, to the hundreds (thousands perhaps?) of sailors who were lost at sea during the age of sail.

We do not know who most of them were - nor do we know how, when, why, or where they died. I assume somewhere there are logbooks of ships that set sail never to return, and there have been occasional wrecks found.

UK TV didn't seem to think the matter of the Bounty's loss  important enough for our news bulletins, and I do not read newspapers and so I discovered the loss somewhat late in the history of the Storm. 

This may be fanciful, but when I read of the Bounty on Facebook, my soul wept for all the widows of past sailors. I heard a joint cry of grief from all those voices from the past. I do not know why, but I have an affinity with the sea - for my own novels the Sea Witch Voyages I just seem to "know" a lot of the nautical information. My paternal ancestors came from  the English shipping port of Bristol (genealogy traced back to the mid 1600's) and maybe a previous incarnation has connections with the sea, who knows the reason - I love Tall Ships, end of story. 

Today, we owe a lot to those intrepid men who set out to discover the world, to carry goods for trade, to fight for their Country's freedom - not just the known names; Drake, Columbus, Dampier, Cook, Darwin et al, but the unknown captains and crew who never came back.
My respect to you all, and may your souls rest at peace in the realm of the sea.

Possibly a unique picture of a Tall Ship's last moments.
 the tragic sinking: photo taken by the US Coast Guard 

This article was written by my good friend John F. Millar of Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia, he has kindly granted me permission to reproduce it here. Thank you John.

BOUNTY Reminiscences   

                                           by John Fitzhugh Millar

   Many Hampton Roads residents will remember fondly the jaunty blue Tall Ship Bounty, which was present here for many Harborfests and for last summer’s Operation Sail. She will now never return, but local artist Bob Holland painted a lovely portrait of her, from which prints are available.
   Bounty was built for MGM Films in 1960 at Lunenburg, Nova Scotia in the same shipyard that built my own ship, the 24-gun Revolutionary War frigate Rose, in 1969 – another frequent participant in Harborfest until she moved to San Diego in 2002 to star in the Russell Crowe film Master & Commander: to the Far Side of the World. By amazing coincidence, the original Rose (built 1756) and the original Bounty (built 1784) were produced by the same shipbuilder, Hugh Blaydes, at Hull, Yorkshire.

   MGM was worried about the comfort of Marlon Brando and the other stars involved in filming Mutiny on the Bounty on location off Tahiti. The only way they could incorporate all the air-conditioning equipment they felt they needed was to make Bounty over a third again as big as the original ship – so much for authenticity! Bounty also appeared in other movies, including Treasure Island, the Monty Python pirate film Yellowbeard, and Pirates of the Caribbean II.
   Bounty spent many profitable years after the Brando movie open to the public at Saint Petersburg, Florida. After Ted Turner had purchased MGM, he decided to use the then deteriorating Bounty as a giant tax write-off by donating her to the city of Fall River, Massachusetts.
   Early in 1994, Richard Bailey, captain of the Rose, received a telephone call from an official at Warner Brothers, wanting to know if Rose would be available for filming a re-make of the Errol Flynn film Captain Blood, and whether Bailey could recommend a second ship representing the same period. Rose would be available, but Bounty was in such rotten condition that she could not safely cross the harbor, let alone go to sea. “We’re sending you by Fedex a certified check for $750, 000,” said the official. “Get her repaired.” Bounty had been built of seasoned New Jersey oak, which explains how she had lasted so long. Several months later, Bailey telephoned the official in California to report that the work (mostly replacing the topsides) had been completed, and to ask where and when the company needed the two ships. “Oh, you spent all that money, huh?” said the official. “We were unable to find an actor who could match Errol Flynn, so the movie is cancelled.”

   Therefore, because of Bailey’s quick thinking, Bounty received a complete rebuilding at no charge that enabled her to start sailing again. Her first voyage was to accompany Rose in the summer of 1995 to historic Louisbourg, Nova Scotia (Canada’s counterpart to Colonial Williamsburg), where thousands of re-enactors had arrived to mark the 250th anniversary of the 1745 capture of Louisbourg by amateur New England soldiers. The two ships contributed greatly to the colorful event there.
    A few years afterwards, businessman Robert Hansen, a wealthy sail-trainee, told Bailey that his week-long experience cruising aboard Rose was the most fun thing he had ever done. Could he buy the Rose? Bailey replied that Rose was not for sale, but he thought that Bounty might be available. Hansen then bought Bounty in 2001, and found that she was leaking badly and that her entire bottom needed to be replaced. With difficulty, she was towed to Maine and the work was done. Hansen founded a non-profit foundation to manage the ship, and developed an educational program out of Greenport, Long Island that took her to many ports over the next few years.
   Historic wooden ships, unless they are built of exotic tropical hardwoods or of epoxy-saturated wood laminates, have a finite life-span of about 10 – 20 years, and then they have to be rebuilt. Bounty eventually faced rebuilding again, so she went to Maine in 2006 for a multi-million-dollar refit. Following that, Bounty was sent on an exciting tour completely around the world, during which she faced periods of intensely fierce weather. Not long after completing her circumnavigation with a crew of about 18, Bounty came to Norfolk and Portsmouth for Operation Sail, and many people saw her depart afterwards under full sail – an impressive sight. She visited nearly all the Operation Sail ports on the East Coast. It was planned to take her on another European tour in 2014.
   With the approach of winter, it was decided to take Bounty to Florida. Robin Walbridge, aged 63, had been Bounty’s captain since her Fall River days. He had taken the ship through many storms over the years, and he thought that skirting hurricane Sandy on a passage to Florida was preferable to facing the storm in Long Island Sound. He reckoned without the huge, confused seas off Cape Hatteras as the hurricane passed the area. The typical waves there were over 20 feet high, and because the hurricane winds had switched around three-quarters of the compass some of the waves combined with others to make monsters as high as 50 feet. The crew, mostly inexperienced, did an admirable job of lowering the upper masts and yards down to the deck to reduce windage, but the ship took on massive amounts of water due to the enormous waves, and soon the two large diesels failed about 90 miles southeast of Cape Hatteras. Walbridge requested a Coast Guard rescue just before daybreak on 29 October, got the crew into survival suits, and launched two large life-rafts. Walbridge and two other crewmembers were swept into the water, and only one of them was recovered alive. The ship herself sank minutes after Coast Guard helicopters arrived.
   Claudene Christian, aged 42, ironically the 5-greats-granddaughter of Fletcher Christian, who had led the mutiny on the original Bounty in April, 1789, was not so fortunate. Her body was recovered by the Coast Guard, and Walbridge remains missing.
   Another copy of Bounty (this time the correct size and correct pumpkin color, not blue) was built in New Zealand in 1979 for the Dino de Laurentiis film. After many years of being based in Sydney, Australia, she is now based in Hong Kong.
   Many Tall Ships will continue to visit Hampton Roads in the coming years, but it will take a long time to erase the positive memory of Bounty’s colorful visits here.

Photo: Cathy Millar, John's wife
  Bounty sailing out of Norfolk at the end of Operation Sail.

Sunday 11 November 2012

In Honour of those who died...

On September 7th 1920, in strictest secrecy four unidentified British bodies were exhumed from temporary battlefield cemeteries at Ypres, Arras, the Asine and the Somme. None of the soldiers who did the digging were told why. 

The bodies were taken by field ambulance to GHQ at St-Pol-sur-Ternoise. There the bodies were draped with the Union Flag. Sentries were posted and Brigadier-General Wyatt and a Colonel Gell selected one body at Random. A French honour guard was selected, who stood by the coffin overnight. In the morning of the 8th a specially designed coffin made of oak from the grounds of Hampton Court was brought and the Unknown Warrior placed inside. On top was placed a Crusaders Sword and a shield on which was inscribed 'A British Warrior who fell in the Great War 1914-1918 For King and Country'. On the 9th of November the Unknown Warrior was taken by horse drawn carriage through Guards of Honour and the sound of tolling bells and bugle calls to the Quayside. There it was saluted by Marechal Foche and loaded onto HMS Verdun bound for Dover.....The coffin stood on the deck covered in wreaths and surrounded by the French Honour Guard. On arrival at Dover the the Unknown Warrior was greeted with a 19 gun salute, normally only reserved for field marshals. He then traveled by special train to Victoria station London. He stayed there overnight and on the morning of the 11th of November he was taken to Westminster Abbey. 

The Idea of the Unknown Soldier was thought of by a Padre called David Railton who had served at the front during the Great War and it was the Union Flag he used as an altar cloth at the front, that had been draped over the coffin. The intention was that all relatives of the 517,773 combatants whose bodies had not been identified could believe that the Unknown Warrior could very well be their lost Husband, Father, Brother or Son.... 

Every year on the 11th of November remember the Unknown Warrior.

originally posted by Stuart MacAllister on his Facebook page (thank you Stuart)