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Wednesday 17 December 2014

You Are Invited To A Party!

The Christmas Season  (whatever your belief or religion)
 is the time for merry-making and parties…
So come and join some wonderful authors (and their characters)
for an Online Virtual Party!

Browse through a variety of Blogs (hopping forward to the next one on the list)
for a veritable feast of entertainment!
(And just as with any good party, you’ll find
a few giveaway prizes along the way!)

For my contribution I thought I’d talk about a scene in the third of my Sea Witch Voyages (pirate-based nautical adventures with a touch of fantasy – written for fun and hopefully read for fun!) Bring It Close.

The story mainly centres around that dastardly scallywag Blackbeard – one of the things I love about writing my Sea Witch Voyages is the opportunity to ‘play’ with history. For Bring It Close my nautical hero – Captain Jesamiah Acorne – is the one responsible for bringing Blackbeard to justice, the final battle between Navy and Pirate was all Jesamiah’s doing…in fiction that is. In reality he had nothing to do with it, of course, (shh don’t let on, Jesamiah doesn’t actually exist….!) But as he says in the novel when the names of those participating in ending Blackbeard’s infamous career are about to be added to the logbook… “Don’t you put my name in that! I don’t want to be held accountable…” Which is why you will not read 'Captain Jesamiah Acorne' in any of today’s preserved documents.

Williamsburg Gaol
Blackbeard himself (also known as Edward Teach or Thatch) was killed at that final encounter but several of his crew were taken to the gaol at Williamsburg, Virginia, where they were tried and hanged.

I had the huge good fortune to visit Colonial Williamsburg a few years ago so had a first-hand chance to visit the gaol, courthouse and surrounding area. Even more fortunate, I stayed at Newport House a superb B & B  and the only one in Williamsburg with 18th Century History as its central theme….Where the real colonial adventure begins. The owner (and host) John F Millar is not merely a fine Innkeeper, but he is an author and historic sailing ship designer. His charming and beautiful wife, Cathy, keeps bees and a fantastic historical-feel garden…and has kindly given me permission to reproduce a few fantastic photos… read on!

Newport House
Newport House also boasts a fabulous ballroom and hosts Colonial Dancing (known as English Country Dancing) 

Dancing at Newport House
I was lucky enough to be staying there when a dance was scheduled – and what a fantastic evening it was! I didn’t get a chance to dance (my arthritic knees were a problem even a couple of years ago) but I wrote copious notes because I just knew I had to include a Ball in Bring It Close. As I sat watching and writing I could plainly hear Jesamiah grumbling … and below is the result of that wonderful evening with John and Cathy and their guests.

It is not a Christmas scene – but I had a ball writing about a ball!

Bring It Close - the Third Sea Witch Voyage

(Chapter 31 – abridged)
Virginia 1718

The shoes were too small and the wig was itching. Jesamiah had already found two fleas in it. A few young ladies had fluttered their fans and eyelashes at him, but his scowl had soon sent them scurrying in search of more sociable company.
By the look of her, Alicia was having the time of her life; two hours into the evening she had partaken of every dance and openly flirted with every young man present. Only one of the dances so far, Jesamiah noted, had been with Samuel Trent. He was busy talking to various men of wealth and connection. Attempting to raise money in order to buy la Sorenta, Jesamiah assumed. Good luck to him. Maybe if there was a decent figure offered he may consider the proposal. Four thousand pounds sterling would be about right. And it would have to be cash, not the tobacco barter based on what was available or the value of next year’s tobacco crop. Hard, solid cash. It would not be easy for Trent to raise it. Only wealthy men had access to that sort of financial resource. And pirates.
That was another thing rankling him; Governor Spotswood’s regulations against piracy. He’d had to ride into Urbanna to register his presence with the Constable. He hated riding, his legs were made for the sea not for sitting astride a fat-rumped cob. He’d had to sign his name and swear to God, with one hand on the Bible, that he had accepted amnesty and committed no offence of theft or murder on the High Seas or waterways below the low tide mark after the month of July. Both the signing and the ride had been a humiliating experience.
He glanced at Alicia, poised and elegant as she joined hands with her present partner to lead out and turn single. What was this dance? Something like, Swinny was Tall the musicians had said. No, that was the previous one, a new dance apparently. There had been a lot of laughter and a few stumbling feet from those unfamiliar with the steps. Alicia had known it perfectly. How did she learn these dances? Who had taught her? The questions were piling into Jesamiah’s head. She looked exquisite in a scarlet silk gown edged with black lace. Knowing her as intimately as he did, Jesamiah guessed the colours matched all the way down to her skin. With her honey-coloured hair piled in an elaborate creation of curls and ringlets, and rubies dripping from ears, throat and fingers, she was the most stunning woman present. But then, most of the others were either over forty or giggling girls who had never been kissed.
He removed another glass of champagne from a servant’s tray. “Who the heck was Swinny?” he asked. “And is he tall?”
The black servant shook her head, bewildered, not understanding for he had got the title wrong. Jesamiah shrugged, emptied the glass, exchanged it for another full one.
The dancing and hubbub of chatter slithered to a ragged halt, the orchestra’s enraptured violinist screeching a few notes alone until he realised his colleagues had ceased playing.
“Well,” Jesamiah mumbled into the sudden silence, resisting the urge to spit on the polished ballroom floor. “Alexander Spotswood himself. Lieutenant Governor of Virginia has graced us with his presence.”
Opinion was divided regarding the Governor’s popularity and the uncomfortable pause while he stood a yard inside the entrance removing his hat, cloak and gloves was noticeable. Being at the head of the dance and near the entrance, Alicia was the first to sink into an elegant curtsey, her reminder of etiquette rippling through the crowded room like the crest of a rolling wave. As Spotswood walked further in, nodding a greeting here and there, several men failed to acknowledge him, a few clergymen and Virginia Burgesses going so far as to turn their backs. Unperturbed, Spotswood disappeared into a side room where the gentlemen were playing cards or billiards and the underlying atmosphere in the ballroom almost immediately lost its chilled air of tension. Dancers and spectators began to smile and chat again; the orchestra resumed their lively tune and soon the room was again vibrating with tapping feet and clapping hands.
“Are thee not dancin’, Sir?” A middle-aged woman with three daughters in tow had to repeat her question twice before Jesamiah realised she was talking to him. “There are more men than girls here; always so of course. ‘Tis a pity the young ladies must sit out and not be permitted to show their figures to best advantage. Do thee not agree?”
The young ladies she spoke of were tolerably pretty and Jesamiah should have answered politely, but his mood had been rapidly blackening with every tedious minute – and was this sling around his neck supporting his injured arm not an obvious reason why he did not dance?
“In my experience, Ma’am,” he said, “the only way a girl’s figure can be seen to best advantage is when she is stripped naked and moaning in ecstasy beneath me.”
As a method of halting a conversation it worked most efficiently.
Want more? Well why not....

I could so picture Jesamiah grumbling and being rude – hating every minute of having to dress like a peacock and (supposedly) behave himself. He is more at home aboard the Sea Witch, dressed in his favourite mole-skin breeches and faded old buckram coat…

Cathy Millar in an email said:

It is a custom, at least here in the US, to finish an English Country Dance with a waltz. The dance and waltz hold were not very popular in the 18th cent as thought too scandalous. At our balls, the final dance is the only time partners hold each other in such a manner.” And here she is with John:
The Last Waltz
I hope you enjoyed that little excerpt… 
now, why not waltz on to the next person in our Blog Hop… 
just follow the links below...

Christmas Bonus!
(Giveaway Competition Closed)

the lucky winner of one of my novels was...
Rosie Amber
and thank you to everyone who took part!

See all my books here:

or buy direct from

Thank you for joining our party
now follow on to the 
next enjoyable entertainment…
(the Blog Hop Party Starts on 20th December UK time - 
so some links might not be 'live') 

1. Helen Hollick : You are Cordially Invited to a Ball (plus a giveaway prize) 
2. Alison Morton : Saturnalia surprise - a winter party tale (plus a giveaway prize) - CLICK HERE to go to this Blog
3. Andrea Zuvich : No Christmas For You! The Holiday Under Cromwell - CLICK HERE to go to this Blog
4. Ann Swinfen : Christmas 1586 – Burbage’s Company of Players Celebrates - CLICK HERE to go to this Blog
5. Anna Belfrage :  All I want for Christmas - (plus a giveaway prize) CLICK HERE to go to this Blog
6. Carol Cooper : How To Be A Party Animal - CLICK HERE to go to this Blog
7. Clare Flynn :  A German American Christmas - CLICK HERE to go to this Blog
8. Debbie Young :  Good Christmas Housekeeping - (plus a giveaway prize)  CLICK HERE to go to this Blog
9. Derek Birks :  The Lord of Misrule - A Medieval Christmas Recipe for Trouble - CLICK HERE to go to this Blog
10. Edward James : An Accidental Virgin and An Uninvited Guest -  CLICK HERE  and - CLICK HERE to go to this Blog  
11. Fenella J. Miller : Christmas on the Home front (plus a giveaway prize) - CLICK HERE to go to this Blog
12. J. L. Oakley :  Christmas Time in the Mountains 1907 (plus a giveaway prize) - CLICK HERE to go to this Blog
13. Jude Knight : Christmas at Avery Hall in the Year of Our Lord 1804 - CLICK HERE to go to this Blog
14. Julian Stockwin: Join the Party - CLICK HERE to go to this Blog  
15. Juliet Greenwood : Christmas 1914 on the Home Front (plus a giveaway) - CLICK HERE to go to this Blog
16. Lauren Johnson :  Farewell Advent, Christmas is come - Early Tudor Festive Feasts - CLICK HERE to go to this Blog
17. Lindsay Downs  O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree  - (plus a giveaway prize) CLICK HERE to go to this blog
18. Lucienne Boyce :  A Victory Celebration - CLICK HERE to go to this Blog
19. Nancy Bilyeau :  Christmas After the Priory (plus a giveaway prize) - CLICK HERE to go to this Blog
20. Nicola Moxey : The Feast of the Epiphany, 1182 - CLICK HERE to go to this Blog
21. Peter St John:  Dummy’s Birthday - CLICK HERE to go to this Blog
22. Regina Jeffers : Celebrating a Regency Christmas  (plus a giveaway prize) - CLICK HERE to go to this Blog
23. Richard Abbott : The Hunt – Feasting at Ugarit - CLICK HERE to go to this Blog
24. Saralee Etter : Christmas Pudding -- Part of the Christmas Feast - CLICK HERE to go to this Blog
25. Stephen Oram : Living in your dystopia: you need a festival of enhancement… (plus a giveaway prize) - CLICK HERE to go to this Blog
26. Suzanne Adair :The British Legion Parties Down for Yule 1780 - (plus a giveaway prize )  CLICK HERE to go to this Blog

Thank you for joining us and...

... to you all!

Are you on Twitter? 
Could you cut and paste the Tweet below please? 
Thank you! 

Great Fun! A #winterparty #bloghop 26 fab authors share interesting articles AND some #giveaway #prizes!



  1. I love the dance sequence in the story above and how you connected it to your experience at Newport House.

  2. Took me back to Wiiliamsburg which I visited many years ago, though not as long ago as Jesamiah. Thank you, Helen, and happy Christmas.

    1. I love Williamsburg! I've been there twice and looking forward to another visit on 4th July 2015!

  3. This blog hop is a really great idea and I do love a pirate. Sharing your post. Found you on Juliet Greenwoods blog. Rosie Amber

    1. Thank you Rosie Amber - thank you for visiting my Blog and lovely to 'meet' you! Blog Hops are a lot of work to organise but worth it because they can be such fun!

  4. Thanks Helen - what a delightful swine Jesamiah is! There's always something roguishly charming about a man who won't behave as he ought, isn't there? I worked at a ball in Williamsburg a couple of years ago - it was an amazing experience. Nice being transported back there in you work.

    1. Jesamiah IS a charmer of a rogue. I love him dearly because he can be so unpredictable : quick to laugh, formidable when angry.... and oh SO handsome! LOL

  5. I loved your description of the dancing. I can only regret I couldn't have danced too...a very delightful Article.
    Marilyn Watson

    1. Thank you Marilyn - I wonder if I would have ignored my painful knees if I'd been there and Jesamiah had asked me to dance? Mind you, not sure a dance with him when he's in one of his grumpy moods would be a good idea! :-D

  6. I quite agree that one thing historical fiction is good for is having fun with history!

  7. Cripes, keep calm (if'n yew can) an' read Helen Hollick. Merry Christmas...!

  8. Shame we don't indulge in such dancing style still! Merry Christmas, Helen. Have tweeted your post. I look forward to dropping in on the other authors, too. :-)

    1. I so agree Wendy! Apart from the elegance the 'sex appeal' is far greater!

  9. Ahhh, Jesamiah... You do know I'm suffering from withdrawal symptoms, don't you?

  10. Have tweeted your link. !!

    What a lovely post - I enjoyed meeting up with Jesamiah again ...Merry Christmas..

  11. Very much enjoyed meeting Jesamiah - very vivid and entertaining - I look forward to meeting him again

  12. I hope my comment goes through this time.

    It's such a small world. John Millar helped me "design" the brig The Gloria Maria in my first book, Paper Woman. He's a wonderful fellow.

    1. Yes it got through! Huzzah! And WHAT a coincidence regarding John! He designed and built the replica of HMS Rose (which is now HMS Surprise of course) - and the ship I use as a template for Sea Witch.

  13. Tee hee - I'd have loved to have seen the mother's face :D Thank you so much for organising this blog hop, Helen - I'm having a ball reading everything!

    1. LOL - Read the book to find out what happened next :-) (trouble for Jesamiah - but then, trouble follows him like a ship's wake!)

  14. Great stuff Helen, I had a lot of fun reading about this. I can anticipate having to get better acquainted with Jesamiah in the New Year

    1. And Jesamiah is looking forward to meeting you Richard!

  15. Thanks so much for sharing. Enjoyed the posting immensely!

  16. The costumes for those early days were beautiful, but they required an awful amount of under layers of garments.

    1. At least laundry was fairly easy Gladys... it was the undergarments that were frequently washed (the 'linen') not the fancy layers (which I assumed were just sponged down by hand) To the people living then we would be considered quite dirty as we wear our top garments almost next to our skin.

  17. I love your gritty, humorous style! " Jesamiah had already found two fleas in it." grabbed my attention!Merry Christmas!

    1. Thanks Denise - I hope your attention was grabbed enough to want to read the books? (Sea Witch is the first in the series)

  18. I agree with Denise, the fleas set the tone perfectly! Great fun, and a nice alternative to the idealised Austenesque image that so many of us have of this kind of event. Looking forward to reading more about Jesemiah over Christmas!

    1. Thanks Debbie - as for Jesamiah... just remember to hide the rum!

  19. Nice excerpt

    bn100candg at hotmail dot com

  20. I loved this extract and yes it makes me want to read on.

  21. Jesamiah sounds a bit crude for such a ball, but he did control the urge to spit. It sounds great!

    1. Yes Jesamiah can be crude.... but then, he IS a pirate! :-) (and a complete fish out of water at the ball) Thanks Debra!

  22. Yes, Jesamiah know how to put a stop to a matchmaking mother. Wonder what he'd say nowadays to a telemarketer?

    1. Oh he would do as I do... string them along. I've kept a telesales persn talking for ages by pretending to be interested. I can just imagine Jesamiah saying something like: "does it work aboard a ship?" or "Yes I really need double glazing... do you deliver by boat?" LOL

  23. Great fun, Helen! It reminded me of visiting Williamsburg when I was a child, during one of the periods when I was living in the States - on the Chesapeake Bay, where I had my own sailboat and we often saw tall ships. I found Williamsburg fascinating, especially the clothes and the crafts. It was at the time when I was becoming engrossed in history, and I can see how it would have a similar effect on you, even as an adult.

    1. I am so looking forward to going back to Williamsburg in July 2015 Ann! Especially as I'll be there for 4th July!

  24. Enjoyed the extract (and the rest of the Blog Hop). I have just read Sea Witch and want to read the rest of the series, if only to find out if you treat Jesamiah a bit better - he seems to have spent most of that book injured!

    1. LOL - well as I always say, Trouble follows Jesamiah like a ship's wake, so he does have a few ups and downs. But that's fictional heroes for you! :-)

  25. Is it ok that I picture Colin O'Donoghue (who plays Killian Jones - or "Hook" -in "Once Upon A Time") as Jesamiah? If ever there was a dashing rogue pirate it's Colin O'Donoghue! Not to typecast or anything but....he would do Jesamiah - and YOU! - proud!

    1. Ooh.... eye candy for New Year's Eve! *drool* I'd say the only difference between Colin O'Donoghue and Jesamiah Acorne is the eye colour - Jesamiah has dark eyes.
      One reason I don't want Jesamiah's face portrayed on my covers or trailers is that once there's a face that is how readers will see him - I'd prefer to let everyone see him for themselves. As long as they see him as a dishy handsome rogue that is! :-)


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