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Tuesday, 28 January 2014

The Hat and Me

Helen Hart (standing) for the final Q & A session
I spent the weekend in Bristol (UK) in the company of quite a few very lovely SilverWood Books Ltd authors.
Helen Hart (of SilverWood) and her fabulous team Joanna, Emily, and husband Adrian Hart, had organised an author event at Foyles, Cabot Circus 

Joanna talking to Lucienne Boyce
The ‘do’ was a sell-out – and when I arrived along with author Wendy Percival, her husband Brian (who had very kindly driven us up from Devon), and writer Paul Connolly we found the upstairs function room and coffee cafĂ© already full of people.

Helen Hart had invited her authors along a little earlier than the official start of the event as a ‘meet and greet’ opportunity, complete with wine or fruit juice.
Now how many other self-funded assisted publishing companies do this? Come to that, how many mainstream publishing houses!

Anna Belfrage chats to David Ebsworth
It was such fun to meet authors I knew only from Facebook, Twitter and various Blogs : Anna Belfrage, Alison Morton, Ed Hancox – and to say hello to those I already knew, David Ebsworth, Lucienne Boyce, Debbie Young, Peter St John… 
Robb Norton, the Foyles event manager was so welcoming and friendly – it was an utter delight to spend the time from 4-7 pm in a bookstore. This is what book shops are all about. Books, chatter, authors, sharing information, books, meeting readers, books…

Once the event proper kicked off there was a host of informative and interesting speakers on a range of diverse subjects from Ali Reynolds on why editing is important to Jake Wittlin on audio books, via several exciting readings by authors from their books – David Williams and John Rigg and Jason Brown.

Two things amused me: one was several people came up to me to say they recognised me by my hat – it is a sobering thought that your hat is more famous than you are!

And in case you are wondering, I wear a hat because I have an eye problem. Too much light means my vision turns misty, so I find that a brimmed hat really helps. I’m collecting quite a collection of elegant headwear!

A selection of Helen's Famous Hats! 

(The Hat with David Ebsworth & Debbie Young)

Julian Stockwin - and The Hat
The other thing that totally amazed me: Emily, who has recently started working for SilverWood while Sarah Newman is off on maternity leave, lived in Devon several years ago. 
In a village.
Guess which one? 
The village I live in! Talk about coincidence!

After the event us authors wended our jolly way across the piazza to a local restaurant where we ate a delightful meal while being entertained between courses by readings by yet more SilverWood authors 
(I think there were about 40 of us dining there in all!) 

Authors included :
Chris Holloway
Chris Budd
Graham Jones
Harriet Grace
Mike Wills
Bobbie Coelho
Peter Knight
Sandy Osborne
And Debbie Young reading for Isabel Burt
(plus a couple of the authors already mentioned above also read)

‘But where were you Helen?’ you may ask. ‘Did you not read a short Jesamiah escapade?’

I was meant to, but my sight had completely given up on me because the lighting was rather dim (as it often is in restaurants) so the wonderful David Ebsworth came to my rescue and read the opening passage of the third Sea Witch Voyage - Bring It Close

Dave makes a superb pirate!

Karen Maitland (not a SilverWood author) David Ebsworth -
and another Hat at Gedling Book Fair, Nottingham July 2014
To finish off – and for those who were at the event and would have liked to hear more, here’s the passage he read:

Bring It Close
Trouble follows Jesamiah Acorne like a ship’s wake….

Nassau, the Bahamas
October 1718

Jesamiah Acorne, four and twenty years old, Captain of the Sea Witch, sat with his hands cradled around an almost empty tankard of rum, staring blankly at the drips of candle-wax that had hardened into intricate patterns down the sides of a green glass bottle. The candle itself was smoking and leaning to one side as if drunk. As drunk as Jesamiah.
For maybe ten seconds he did not notice the two grim-faced, shabby ruffians sit down on the bench opposite him. One of them reached forward and snuffed out the guttering flame, pushed the bottle aside. Jesamiah looked up, stared at them as vacantly as he had been staring at the congealed rivers of wax.
One of the men, the one wearing a battered three-corner felt hat and a gold hoop earring that dangled from his left earlobe, leant his arms on the table, linking his tar and gunpowder-grimed fingers together. The other, a red-haired man with a beard like a weather-worn, abandoned bird’s nest, eased a dagger from the sheath on his belt and began cleaning his split and broken nails with its tip.
“We’ve been lookin’ fer you, Acorne,” the man with the earring said.
“Found me then, ain’t yer,” Jesamiah drawled. He dropped his usual educated accent and spoke in the clipped speech of a common foremast jack. He was a good mimic, had a natural talent to pick up languages and tonal cadences. Also knew when to play the simpleton or a gentleman.
He drained his tankard, held it high and whistled for Never-Say-No Nan, a wench built like a Spanish galleon and whose charms kept her as busy as a barber’s chair.
She ambled over to Jesamiah, the top half of her partially exposed, and extremely ample bosoms wobbling close to his face as she poured more rum. 
“What about your friends?” she asked, nodding in their direction.
“Ain’t no friends of mine,” Jesamiah answered lifting his tankard to sample the replenished liquor.
The man with the earring jerked his head, indicating she was to be gone. Nan sniffed haughtily and swept away, her deep-rumbled laughter drifting behind as another man gained her attention by pinching her broad backside.
“Or to be more accurate, Acorne, Teach ‘as been lookin’ for yer.”
Half shrugging, Jesamiah made a fair pretence at nonchalance. “I ain’t exactly been ‘iding, Gibbens. I’ve been openly anchored ‘ere in Nassau ‘arbour for several weeks.”
Since August in fact, apart from a brief excursion to Hispaniola - which Jesamiah was attempting to set behind him and forget about. Hence the rum.
“Aye, we ‘eard as ‘ow thee’ve signed for amnesty and put yer piece into Governor Rogers’ ‘and,” Gibbens sneered, making an accompanying crude and explicit gesture near his crotch.
“Given up piracy?” Red Beard – Rufus - scoffed as he hoiked tobacco spittle into his mouth and gobbed it to the floor. “Gone soft ‘ave thee? Barrel run dry, ‘as it? Lost yer balls, eh?” Added with malice, “Edward Teach weren’t interested in fairy-tale government amnesties, nor ‘ollow pardons.” He drove his dagger into the wooden table where it quivered as menacing as the man who owned it. 
That’s not what I’ve heard, Jesamiah thought but said nothing. He had no intention of going anywhere near Edward Teach, better known as Blackbeard, though Black Heart would be as appropriate. Even the scum and miscreants who roamed the seas of the Caribbean in search of easy loot and plunder avoided the brute of a pirate who was Blackbeard.
Aside, Jesamiah was no longer a pirate. As Gibbens had said, he had signed his name in Governor Rogers’ leather-bound book and accepted His Majesty King George’s royal pardon. Which was why he had nothing better to do than sit here in this tavern drinking rum. Piracy, plundering, pillaging, none of that was for him, not now. Now, Jesamiah Acorne, Captain of the Sea Witch, had a woman he was about to marry, a substantial fortune that he could start using if only he knew what to spend it on, and the dubious reputation of becoming a respectable man of leisure. 
He was also bored.
“You owe him, Acorne,” Rufus said. “Teach wants the debt paid.”
Jesamiah raised the tankard to his mouth pretending to drink. He had been drunk but he had become stone sober the moment these ruffians sat down at the table. Only he was not going to let them know it; safer to pretend otherwise, for Gibbens, Teach’s boatswain, and Rufus were trouble. Anyone who willingly sailed with Teach was either as crazed as a man who had quenched his thirst with salt water, or had brains boiled dry by the sun. In the case of these two dregs both instances applied. They were lunk-heads who punched first and asked questions after. If they assumed Jesamiah was drunk they were less likely to err on the side of caution.
Two more men slithered from the smoke-grimed shadows and sauntered up to stand behind Jesamiah. He could smell the nauseating stink of their unwashed bodies and the badness of their breath. He winced as one of them prolifically farted.
Gibbens sneered, showing a ragged half set of black teeth. “Our Cap’n wants what you owe, Acorne. You sank our ship. You’ll be payin’ us for ‘er. One way or t’other.” He nodded, a single discreet movement towards the two men behind Jesamiah – and all hell broke loose.
As one of them went to grab at his shoulder Jesamiah was coming to his feet, his right hand drawing the cutlass at his left hip, slung from a bronze-buckled strap aslant across his chest. The bench he had been sitting on tipped over, and his left hand lifted the table, crashing it onto Rufus and Gibbens who were a heartbeat too late in reacting. 
Jesamiah’s reflexes were honed to a quick and precise speed. Half turning to his right in one fluid movement, he swung the cutlass upward and slashed the face of one of the men behind. Blood fountained in a gush of sticky red accompanied by a cry of pain and protest. He continued the turn, the blade, reaching the end of its arc, came down and forward again through the weight of its own momentum, amputating the arm of the second man as efficiently as a hot knife goes through butter.
Stepping aside to wipe the blood from his weapon on the coat of one of the fallen men, Jesamiah dipped his head in acknowledgement to Gibbens and Rufus, who were scrambling, furious, from where they had been pinned behind the table.
“Tell Teach if he wants to speak to me he’ll ‘ave to come in person. I don’t deal with his monkeys.” Jesamiah sheathed the cutlass, bent to retrieve his hat from where it had fallen and, flipping a coin towards Nan, sauntered from the tavern as if nothing had happened.
Want more - sorry, you'll have to buy the book!

* * * 
I’m looking forward to the next SilverWood event in September – should be good!

Read a couple more accounts of the event (and call back soon as there might be more links to add)

Indie Authors United  (Alison very kindly donated a few of the photos above ... well OK I stole them! :-) 

Ron The Hat & movie director Robin Jacob
Actor Mark Lester - and My Hat

List of links:

SilverWood Books Ltd
SilverWood on Facebok  and  @SilverWoodBooks on  Twitter 
Foyles, Cabot Circus, Bristol
Wendy Percival
Anna Belfrage
Alison Morton
Ed Hancox
David Ebsworth
Lucienne Boyce
Debbie Young
Peter St John
Paul Connolly
Ali Reynolds
Jake Wittlin 
David Williams (link to be added)
John Rigg
Jason Brown
Adrian Hart 
Chris Holloway
Chris Budd 
Graham Jones (link to be added)
Harriet Grace
Mike Wills on Facebook
Bobbie Coelho
Peter Knight
Sandy Osborne

Isabel Burt

(note to authors mentioned: if you'd prefer a different link, please let me know - email me  or if I've missed you out.... ditto!) 

and Cpt Jesamiah Acorne's hat!


  1. Happy to let you have the photos, Helen. You wear hats with great style!

  2. thank you Alison - flattery will get you everywhere LOL!

  3. I'm quite envious of people who can wear hats, Helen. I always think they add a little je ne sais quoi! And very much the garb of The Writer! ;-)

    1. In 2011, when I first realised I had this problem I just wore sun-shields, but they didn't look very elegant or flattering and I kept getting comments about being a croupier o tennis player - so I started looking for nice hats. I'm pleased to say there are one or two great hat shops in Barnstaple!


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