Christmas Tizzy...



****


I was planning on writing an interesting article for today - 22nd December, about... well, something, for the Winter Solstice.


I was planning on doing a lot of things, in fact, but there's a quote that goes something like "Best laid plans of mice and men" (OK badly quoted, I haven't got time to look it up).

But things went awry yesterday (21st December) I started off fine: got up, went to let the ducks and goose out of their night-time fox-proof house. Got hissed at by Goosey (who might be a gander we're not sure)


and braved the perils of a steep-sloped orchard which has a path that more resembles a mud-slide.
There are several 'overfllow' paths running down the orchard, where the incessant rain (it has hardly stopped since June!) finds its own route down the hill. The ducks love these as they rootle about in the wet finding all sorts of interesting things to eat. All fine and dandy but my orchard is criss-crossed by various duck-rootled runs! Maybe the grass will grow back next spring...

So jobs done. I settle down to write.
I'm stuck on one of the last chapters of the next Sea Witch Voyage, On The Account. It isn't working too well.
Then I had a thought (gasps of horror from you all?)

Where did I put that small, but costly, Christmas presents  I bought from e-bay for my daughter Kathy?
It isn't her main pressie, just an extra, but  something I know she'll like.

So I started searching. I remembered it arriving and opening it - and hastily stuffing it somewhere as said daughter has a habit of popping into my study unannounced - fine usually, but not when you are inspecting Christmas stuff!

So I hastily hid it.

I vaguely remembered moving it to somewhere else after she had gone.
But where?


Half a day later I still hadn't found it, and by then the stress levels had risen along with the blood pressure and the aching arthritic knees (from having to bend and/or climb to look in possible hiding places)

All not helped and extremely hindered by my poor sight. Which is starting to get me down.
It is SO frustrating not being able to SEE clearly. I miss typos when writing, so have to read everything slowly several times - including e-mails, so even the shortest communication takes me twice as long to compose. Christmas Cards? I sent e-ones to most people this year because it is very difficult looking at addresses in my address book and copying them out.  My handwriting has never been good at the best of times, now it is ragged, untidy AND slopes downward.


(so if you are expecting a Christmas Card from me - check your inbox for a Jacquie Lawson e-card)

I kept telling myself not to get worked up. It wasn't an important pressie (the important one is a set of show jumps - not giving the game away, Kathy knows they are coming after Christmas).

Consequently, for the rest of the day I couldn't relax. I could have gone for a walk - pouring (and I mean pouring!) rain and  pleasant walks don't match.

I went on ebay and re-ordered the item. It'll not be here for Christmas but it will make a New Year or Twelfth Night gift.

By evening (having given up trying to get that chapter to go right) I turned the computer off and went to pitch my wits on Quiz Night on TV - University Challenge and Only Connect. Scored 0 for Only Connect (as per usual) and 15 for U.C.  Yay!

A typical expression for Only Connect Questions... 
Bed time. Read a chapter (again with difficulty, reading, unfortunately, is now not the pleasure it used to be unless I have a book on Kindle - but e-books are not the same are they?)
Lights out. I listened to the wind groaning and moaning, heard the Tarka Line train go clickety-clacking by along the Taw Valley, heading for Umberleigh station.

And I had a thought! (Yes! Another one!)
The Christms Box! Where I put all the little silly things that I gather during the year as extra stocking fillers.... on goes the light. Down comes the box from on top f the wadrobe.


THAT's where I hid it!!!

No, its not the end of the story. I should have felt calm, pleased - mission accomplished. Nope. I lay there half the night worrying about "Why didn't I think of the Chrstmas Box in the first place? How could I possibly have forgotten about the Christmas Box?"


The only consoling thought: if you're remembering that you've forgotten it probably isn't dementia. Its just quietly going bonkers.... but then I am over 60 and a natural blonde, so there isn't much hope for me really is there? *laugh*



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Brightest Blessings for the Winter Solstice
 and Merry Christmas to you all... 


 (if you've lost it, look in the box on top of the wardrobe!)

HOW I FELL INTO CRIME


Please welcome my Tuesday Talk guest - 
Fay Sampson...

This year sees the publication of my 50th book – The Wounded Thorn (Severn House). It comes with some astonishment to find that this is also my 10th crime novel.

I never set out to write crime fiction. One of my hobbies – or should I call it an addiction? – is researching my family history. It’s not just all those fascinating human stories I’ve uncovered, it’s the process of doing the research. 

I’ll never forget the shiver that went down my spine the first time I saw the cross my great-great-great-grandmother had made in the marriage register, or the horror with which I thought I saw the churchwarden’s accounts compiled by my ancestor crumbling on to the desk, only to realise it was the sand with which he had blotted the page. Or the day Kashinda Fulford threw open the lid of a chest in the hall of Great Fulford stuffed with documents going back to Tudor times, and more or less said, “Help yourself”.

And then there are the “brick walls”, those seemingly insurmountable problems when the usual lines of research run out. In another incarnation I was a maths teacher. I love solving problems. With family history, there is that feeling of triumph when you follow a hunch down an unconventional route and come up with the answer.

So that is what In the Blood was going to be about: Suzie Fewings pursuing her ancestors and sharing some of the colourful experiences which had happened in the course of research. Yet, without my consciously planning it, dark deeds in the past were paralleled by dark deeds in the present, possibly involving her teenage son. Before I knew what was happening, I had a crime novel on my hands. And my publishers didn’t want it to be a one-off, so the Suzie Fewings series was born.

That was surprising enough. I don’t read a lot of crime fiction. There are evenings when I look at the TV schedules and think that there must be more to life than crime series. But the crime writers I do get hooked on have another dimension to their writing. I particularly love the novels of Tony Hillerman about two Navajo cops. There is a crime to be solved, of course, but there is also a richness of knowledge and understanding of Navajo culture, beliefs and sacred ceremonies. Ngaio Marsh and Dorothy Sayers add their own layers of personal interest and colourful settings to enrich their crime stories.

So for me, the “other dimension” of the Suzie Fewings novels was family history research. I hoped that whoever read the books would not only enjoy the story, but gain some insights which might aid their own research. There is an appendix giving the sources I used. It also shows the parallels between features of the fictitious villages and towns and similar things in the real ones where I gained my inspiration.

I’d surprised myself already by finding myself working in this genre. But another surprise was waiting for me. Out of the blue, Lion, who had published many of my children’s books, contacted me to ask if I would write a crime series for them. I said, rather plaintively to my agent, “I never intended to be a crime writer,” to which she replied heartlessly, “You’re a natural.”

So here I was, committed to writing not one but two crime novels a year.

But before I could embark on the new series for Lion I had to discover what my “extra dimension” in these would be.

Right from the start, from the very first children’s book I wrote, my principal inspiration has been place. I don’t start with the idea for a story and think, “Where shall I set this?” Rather, there are places which grab me with their evocative setting and I think, “What could happen here?” I was pleased with a reviewer who once wrote that the setting became the prime mover of the story.


In the course of a long writing career I had fallen in love with the Celtic culture of post-Roman Britain and its parallel in Ireland. In pursuit of Celtic saints I had travelled to remote and beautiful parts of the British Isles. I determined that these would provide the settings for the Aidan Mysteries and that stories from more than a thousand years ago would be entwined with the modern crime. I chose for the first book the evocative healing hermitage at Pennant Melangell, where the road runs out in the mountains of Powys. I was delighted when The Hunted Hare won the CRT Award for Fiction Book of the Year.

As with The Hunted Hare, so in this 50th book, The Wounded Thorn, my new amateur sleuths Hilary and Veronica find themselves caught up in unexpected violence in one of the most sacred places in Britain, Glastonbury.

Wearyall Thorn
I have sometimes found it necessary in my Author’s Note to apologise to the good people of the places I have used as my setting for the havoc I have wrought upon their holy places. Setting fire to the church at Pennant Melangell, blowing up a part of Glastonbury, not to mention the individual bloodshed. But sacred places have never been immune to violence. Indeed, they have often attracted it. Vikings raided the monastery on Lindisfarne and slaughtered the monks. The last abbot of Glastonbury Abbey was hanged on Glastonbury Tor. Thomas à Becket was murdered in his own cathedral. These realities grab our imagination. It is the shocking contrast between the holy and the deeply profane. A Christianity which recognises only the peaceful and reverent uses of these spaces is flying in the face of the facts.

The British Isles are rich in such sites. I recently celebrated my 80th birthday at Avebury – at the only B&B in the world where you can wake up in the middle of a Neolithic stone circle. It was a holiday, not a working trip. I put my notebook away and led the family on a walk around that whole sacred landscape – the West Kennet stone avenue, the burial chamber in West Kennet Long Barrow, Silbury Hill, finishing up with champagne in the stone circle.


Avebury  Toast
Definitely no plans to write a book set there.
And yet ... watch this space.
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All Aboard the Book Ark!

THE BOOK ARK II

If you haven’t read The Book Ark I (Black on White) you’ve missed a rare treat.
If you have read it – you’ve an even bigger treat in store as author, Janis Pegrum Smith, has just released the second in the series – Children of the Universe.




AND (yep, there’s an and!) fans of my very own loveable rogue, Jesamiah Acorne (Captain) will be in for a double treat as he has a guest appearance in this second book.


Q HELEN: So who is the Book Ark Series for Janis? Adults? Children?
A JANIS: Originally, I had the Young Adult market firmly in mind for The Book Ark. The idea was to create an adventure tale, set in the “Realms of Fiction”, involving characters from other books, especially the classics, with the hope of encourage younger readers to seek these books out and become drawn into a love of books. However, I was completely unprepared for how adults would embrace The Book Ark!

The book truly has fans 9 to 90, both male and female. The main protagonist, Josh Ridley, is 19 at the start of the books; I worried a little about younger teens relating to him, though I think his vulnerabilities and the complexities of his life make him accessible and relatable-to by many. I have had lots of emails from adults who have read the novel and are now buying it for all the children they know. There is a definite magic to the story which people who have a love for books really get, and once they have read the book, it is a magic they become passionate about sharing with everyone they know.


Q HELEN: So, tell us about The Book Ark – what is a “Book Ark”? And what / who are the Keepers of the Books? (I believe I’m classed as a Keeper of the Books? Is that right? Wow!)
A JANIS: The Book Ark is a boat, a Dutch Barge to be exact, owned by Josh’s grandfather, ex-librarian, Warwick Ridley. Ostensibly, The Book Ark is a floating second-hand bookshop that gently plies its trade along the canals and waterways, but this is just a front. Really, The Book Ark is exactly what it says, an ark for books, for Warwick Ridley is the “Master of the Books”, leader of an elite force of librarians who police the Realms of Fiction, an alternate universe where every book ever written, really exists; fused into reality by the power of the human imagination. Unfortunately, human storytelling also captured the supernatural creatures of the “Realms of Fantasy”. As we humans told stories of fairies, elves and the like it drew them closer to the Realms of Fiction, slowing their vibration and damaging their ability to wander the universes, as they always had. Once we began committing their stories to books, it turned the blood of those creatures written about to ink, and firmly welded the Realms of Fantasy to the Realms of Fiction. In an attempt to free themselves from this bondage, the Realms of Fantasy creatures fought back in what is called the “Great Scribing Wars”. 

They endeavoured to free themselves by destroying all the human books they could, hence some of the great unaccountable fires of ancient times when libraries like Alexandria were destroyed. It was due to the activity of the supernatural creatures that the librarians of Alexandria first discovered the Realms of Fiction, having followed the saboteurs back through a wormhole. From these first brave librarians crossing over to this alternate realm the fellowship of the “Keepers of the Books” was formed, as it was soon discovered that the Realms of Fiction was an incredibly fragile universe, vulnerable to the machinations of The Realms of Fantasy, and their leader, King Oberon. It could also be easily damaged and destroyed by other “enemies of the book”, for it was realised that at least two copies of a book must exist in our Realms of Fact for its existence to remain stable in the Realms of Fiction. 

If a book is lost completely in physical form, then that land within the Realms of Fiction will disappear altogether. The Book Ark’s real aim is to travel around collecting copies of rare books to ensure the survival of its Realms of Fiction counterpart. It also has a wormhole portal into The Realms of Fiction, via its library steps: as this is what all library steps are really, have you ever noticed how slightly strange they look, these few steps that seem to lead to nowhere, but have an air of being slightly otherworldly, that is because the steps really go on, unseen, into another dimension.

And yes Helen, you are mentioned in the second novel, Children of the Universe as being a onetime Keeper of the Books, due to your library connections. More importantly though, as a writer, you are venerated and worshipped by all your characters as a “Creator”, especially a certain Jesamiah Acorne. 

[Helen: hmmm not sure Jesamiah worships me - rum maybe.... LOL]


Q HELEN: I see – and who or what are the “Inkless”?
A JANIS: The Inkless are a new phenomenon within the Realms of Fiction. With the coming of Project Guttenberg’s digitalisation of the classics in the 1970s, it was noticed that ghost worlds were beginning to appear within the Realms of Fiction, a popular book still in print could counteract the reaction, but lost, forgotten works could transform into a ghostly land.

As e-book technology took off here in our realms, it created what the Keepers term “Inkless” worlds within the Realms of Fiction. Real characters, from printed books, are known as “Inklings” in the Realms of Fiction, as ink flows through their immortal bodies. Our reading and telling of their stories builds the solidity of their existence, and their evolution as characters. The more widely a book is read, the more evolved its characters become, they become aware of themselves, of the Keepers and their administration centre, known as the “Citadel”, within which is the “Hallowed Halls”, where the Keepers reside alongside the spirits of writers who have passed over from the Realms of Fact.

The characters worship their writers as their Creators, for what is a writer if not the god of his created worlds? The Inkless have none of this structure; as the self-publishing market exploded, the Realms of Fiction became inundated with new worlds which do not recognise the Keeper’s authority. There are huge issues with fan fiction conflicting with the original characters they are based upon, and frightening, underdeveloped, poorly written, zombie characters.

Worst of all, King Oberon and the creatures from the Realms of Fantasy soon saw that this electronic technology was creating light, Inkless characters – free spirits in the manner they had once been. They came to believe that if the Realms of Fiction could be turned into a completely Inkless state then through this they could achieve their long-held dream of the “Great Freedom”, and once more be free.

To this end they tracked down the main proponent of e-books in the Realms of Fact, Zelda Lovelace, of Lovelace Technologies. Zelda has a vision to rid the world of the physical book and hold the world’s library on a database no bigger than a grain of sand. She also just happens to be Warwick Ridley’s ex-wife, and Josh’s Grandmother.

Q HELEN : The Realms of Fact v The Realms of Fiction…? Are they other worlds? Tell us more!
A JANIS : The Realms of Fact are our own, human reality; The Realms of Fiction are an alternate reality created from our threads of consciousness through the telling and retelling – reading and rereading of stories.

Our minds have projected the worlds and characters of fiction into existence within another dimension; it is also the place where the spirits of dead writers go, to preside over their creations. The Realms of Fantasy is the timeless dimension inhabited by the supernatural creatures, fairies, elves, dragons and the like – it was once a place of light, high vibration which allowed the creatures to travel the multiverse unhindered, but now it is firmly welded to the Realms of Fiction.

 I don’t think it will be giving too much away if I say “Yes” to the question of “are there any other worlds?” The third book in the series, Enemies of the Book, (out in 2016) will involve the “Realms of Non-Fiction”, and the fourth book will be called The Keepers of Time, which hints at another element at play.

The Book Ark is a multi-dimensional, multi-faceted concept which has endless possibilities when it comes to storylines, which is what makes it so exciting, not only for my readers but for me as the writer too. I envisage the future books will take us on ever-expanding, amazing adventures. I base all of the science within the books upon current theory, so it is all theoretically possible; in fact the more I delve into the research for the books, the more I find evidence that the Realms of Fiction could really exist, which can set the spine tingling. Readers have told me that their imaginations readily accept my fantastical creation and they find the fact that one could pop up a set of library steps and emerge within this alternate universe completely believable… well, let’s face it, it is every reader’s dream, is it not?


Q HELEN : And the main “Goodies” are?
A JANIS : Goody wise, there are lots – Josh Ridley, and his grandfather Warwick, plus the Keepers of the Books and their ancestors, the “High Council of Bookmen”, which is made up from spirits of the Masters of the Books who have gone before. Warwick likes to think of the Keepers as the Jedi’s of the book world. Then, there are all the characters who help along the way. I can’t fail to mention Captain Grandad and the other residents of the Land of Happiness who are from a book Warwick wrote to encapsulate the one magical summer he spent with Josh when he was eight years old, the only time they had met. By creating a fictional children’s book about them it also created a permanent, eight-year-old version of Josh, who is known as Little Josh. There is also Oriole, the granddaughter of one of Warwick’s oldest friends, who befriends Josh in the first book, and is inescapably drawn into the adventure.

Q HELEN: And the dastardly “Baddies”?

A JANIS: Well, an extra complexity of The Book Ark’s multifaceted plot is that there are many tiers of baddy. The Book Ark is basically a story of war and, as in any war who the bad guy is very much depends upon which side you are on. Unless you are an ardent fan of calculus and e-books, then Zelda is the main antagonist, in league with King Oberon seeking the Great Freedom for his fairy-tale subjects. There are also the “sniffers”, remotely controlled, robotic spies who patrol the Realms of Fiction, controlled by elves deep within the bowels of Oberon’s castle. Then, there is the ongoing feud between Captain Grandad and Long John Silver in the first two books; in this, Long John Silver is most definitely the bad guy! There are also a lot of personal feuds raging between the characters, so there are often a lot of tensions between those who are supposed to be on the same side. The complexities of the relationships and the plots allow for an extremely dynamic range of interactions, just as in real life, and these relationships will evolve throughout the series of novels, ensuring that the reader is always kept on their toes at every turn of the plot.


Q HELEN: OK so here’s the question all my readers and followers want to know… What has that charmer of a rogue pirate Captain Jesamiah Acorne got to do with all this?
A JANIS : Ah, Captain Jesamiah Acorne. When the dear Captain’s Creator, your good self, Helen, read the first Book Ark novel, Black on White, she was so enchanted with the concept that she enquired as to if her character could possibly appear in the sequel. Well, before I could get over the incredible compliment a fellow author was paying me by wishing to see her creation included within my story of all things fictional, Jesamiah had “jumped ship” as it were and I found he had taken up residence within my imagination.

He came under strict instructions that he was only on short-term loan, and to behave himself as it was a book aimed at young adults. I did of course fall completely for his devilish charms, what woman could not... though his rum ration was kept to a minimum, as we had work to do. I think one of the strangest occurrences was that Helen reported suffering with a little writer’s block at this time, it was really like Jesamiah was absent from her imagination whilst appearing in mine. I am glad to say that, as much as I enjoyed the Captain’s visit, it wasn’t too long before I sent him safely back to his Creator. 
[Helen: He took his time getting back though ...probably stopped off at a few taverns along the way...]

Jesamiah’s part is a small but key element to the plot of Children of the Universe. I was very pleased with his appearance in the novel, though completely underestimated how tough it would be to work with another author’s character. Handing over the draft for Helen’s approval was an extremely nerve-racking experience, but luckily she loved the Captain’s part in the adventure. When I wrote the initial novel, my husband and I would joke that other authors would love it so much that they would ask for their characters to be included in future episodes, little did we know that it would actually happen, and so quickly! Because of copyright laws, I am limited to using books and characters who are deemed copyright free and in the public domain. As much as I would love to use a wealth of books to draw from, unfortunately this would involve legalities and royalty rights which, as an indie author, I am not in a position to get involved with at the moment, though I do hope that as the books grow in popularity more authors might approach me, as Helen did. All I know is I am extremely honoured and proud to have Captain Jesamiah Acorne as The Book Ark’s first guest character, and I really hope that his fans enjoy his appearance within my book.

Q HELEN: Can Book II be read without Book I – or is it best to start at the beginning?
A JANIS: The Book Ark is a true series, page one of Children of the Universe picks straight up from where Black on White ended; as Enemies of the Book will from the second book – so, you really need to start with book one. As you can see from my lengthy explanations above, the plot is so complex that you need to build your knowledge as the books progress to understand the full complexities of what is going on. That said, I have endeavoured to place subtle memory jogs for readers, here and there, as I am fully aware that it may be over a year since they read the last book. I also think that they are books that stand up to a number of rereads, as there are subtle little details that can be missed on the first read.

Q HELEN: How long do you plan the series to go on for?
A JANIS: A good question. How long is a piece of string? Initially, I planned out eight novels, I think I am now looking at ten firm plots, but the possibilities are endless. Because of the interdimensional nature of the book, not to mention the time travel element that will come out in later novels, I can envisage me writing Book Ark novels for as long as there are readers for them. They are also great fun to write, with their sweeping adventurescapes, huge array of characters and gentle humour. Readers of the first instalment inundated me with suggestions that it should be made into a movie, if only it were that simple. Although I am an indie writer by choice, I do feel I would like to find a conventional publisher for The Book Ark series, it is a fantastical story and I feel it deserves a much bigger distribution and world stage than I can’t give it on my own. As for a movie, well my ultimate dream would be for Tim Burton to pick it up as a potential film project, and if anyone knows Alan Rickman, I am desperate for him to voice the part of Argos, the talking dog, as it is his voice I hear every time I write the laconic hound’s words.

Q HELEN: Final question…. Where do we get the book…..!
A JANIS: Amazon, is the answer to that question. Both The Book Ark I: Black on White and The Book Ark II: Children of the Universe are available now in paperback and on Kindle, with the third in the series coming out towards the end of 2016. A quick note about the cover for Children of the Universe: the cover photo is an actual image taken by the Hubble Telescope of the Orion Nebula. I had to seek NASA’s permission to use it. Believe me, emailing NASA and getting an email from them back is beyond cool!


WHAT THE BOOK ARK I: BLACK ON WHITE IS ABOUT:

When nineteen-year-old, bookworm Joshua Ridley inherits his grandfather's floating second-hand bookshop it proves to be the perfect escape from his extremely miserable home life, but little does he know how it will completely change his life, for ever.

Aboard The Book Ark Josh discovers a wormhole into the Realms of Fiction, an alternate universe where every book that has ever been written really exists. An elite band of Realms of Fact librarians are the peacekeepers there, amongst the Inklings, as the characters are known, and it transpires that Josh’s grandfather, Warwick Ridley, is their leader, the highly revered Master of the Books. Although a wondrous place, beyond Josh’s wildest dreams, he soon finds that the Realms of Fiction are in crisis as e-book technology threatens its existence through the appearance of the Inkless. Ironically, it is Josh's evil grandmother and the rest of his family who are the driving force behind this growing e-book phenomenon, via the family IT business he has fled.

As the evidence mounts to prove that Warwick Ridley may not be dead after all, but kidnapped, Josh sets out to find him, with the help of a host of Inklings. Trailed by law-enforcing Keepers who claim Josh is in the realms illegally, and stalked by the dread sniffers, Josh finds himself caught up in a fantastical adventure across the Realms of Fiction and the neighbouring Realms of Fantasy. War between the Inklings and the Inkless looms, a war, fuelled by King Oberon and his supernatural subjects and feared to be even greater than the Scribing Wars of ancient times, time is running out for Josh and his newfound friends, but if Josh can find his grandfather there may just be hope for the Realms of Fiction.

It is a story of new versus old; it is a story of books, but most of all it is the story of a boy who really misses his grandad.


Jesamiah Extract:

Jesamiah threw his head back and laughed heartily before he shared his joke, ‘You stand upon my ship, with four fancily-clad dandies, and a group of young swabs behind you and dare to give me orders? I, the Captain, who has a crew of cutthroat desperados at my command, all of whom will cut you to ribbons where you stand at a mere click of my fingers?’
‘I am the Master of the Books, as a character you know that I and the Keepers are the law in these realms.’
‘Pirate,’ said Jesamiah cockily, pointing to himself, ‘t’ain’t in my character to heed no law, not even Keeper law.’
‘It may or may not be apparent to you, Jesamiah, but I am well acquainted with your Creator who will not be at all impressed with your refusal to comply with my wishes. She was once a Keeper herself, and, although she hung up her cloak some years ago, I could arrange for her to be here in a trice. She would not take kindly to your disregard of Keeper law, I believe,’ threatened Warwick.
‘My creator writes me as I am, she wouldn’t expect me to bow when it comes to authority.’
The Musketeers were feeling the tension, soldiers to the core they drew their muskets and cocked them. Suddenly, the Sea Witch’s crew did the same – well those with guns did – the rest drew cutlasses and all manner of wicked-looking weapons, their eyes full of murder, and expressions that said they would heartily enjoy the deed as they delivered it.
‘We’re all going to die,’ wailed Tallulah, quietly, as the young Keepers found themselves in the middle of this standoff. Josh tried to look as warlike as he could, but it was difficult with just a stick to defend oneself with. He was desperately trying to remember some of the moves that they had been taught, when someone fired a pistol shot at his grandfather.
Warwick did not flinch in the slightest as the shot rang past his ear and lodged itself in the mast beside him. In less than a heartbeat Porthos fired at the assailant and a pirate fell from the rigging with a resounding splat on the deck nearby.


‘Good shot,’ declared Jesamiah, smiling from ear to ear, suddenly looking like a man greatly relieved...

MY PREVIOUS POSTS :  HOLIDAY HISTORICALS  
 and AT HOME FOR CHRISTMAS (Indie BRAG blog hop) 

HOLIDAY HISTORIES...



Join a selection of eight fabulous authors 
over the next eight days for our 
Holiday Historical Fiction Blowout!
Dec 1st - 8th
A different author every day 
and a chance to buy some e-books for  only 99p / 99c each
(limited offer for the tour only)
That's eight books for under £8/$8

My contribution for December 5th
     let's go somewhere HOT...
         how about...?
            The Caribbean...
               The Early 18th Century...
                   At Sea... With Pirates?




So what was so 'golden' about the Golden Age of Piracy? Apart from the plundered loot - gold, silver and other valuables, not a lot really. It is one of those rather daft sayings like "The Glorious War" or "The Swinging Sixties" (war is never glorious and were the sixties really swinging?)

Piracy, let's face it, was the terrorism of the eighteenth century (still is, come to that - piracy has never gone away!)


Buy Sea Witch - special offer 99c/99p
On the other hand, maybe we only believe that pirates were ruthless killers who tortured and terrorised because these are the only ones we know about? The only ones reported in the newspapers of the day. Similar to modern news on TV or in the papers, it is always the doom and gloom that gets reported. Nice pirates were not newsworthy, nasty ones were. And rich merchants were getting poorer because of pirates, so for the ordinary person, who didn't much like the greed of the rich merchants pirates were very popular. They stole from the rich... so who cared? Don't we feel a little bit the same even now? Sir Mon E Bags gets burgled. No one is hurt but Lady Mon E Bags has had her precious diamonds nicked. Well, so what? She's insured isn't she? 

The eighteenth century is also 'famous' for the start of the African Slave Trade when thousands were transported, against their will, often tortured and murdered; those poor souls who died in appalling conditions in transit across the Atlantic. Many of our huge companies today were founded on the money made by the rich who owned lucrative plantations in the Caribbean and the Colonies - the cotton mill owners, the sugar and its off-shoot, rum, producers; the tobacco industry... Is the way they made their money really any worse than those chaps who found themselves a boat and sailed the Caribbean or the African coast in search of an easy-come fortune?

Not all pirates were as evil as the infamous (mentally deranged I'm sure) Blackbeard. He even shot members of his own crew! Most pirates didn't want a fight. All they wanted was the loot - and the easier they could get it the better. They would cruise the seas, spot a likely-looking vessel and attack with a lot of noise and a lot of threatening behaviour, but often, not much else. The ideal was for their prey to be so frightened the Chase would heave-to and surrender: "take our gold but don't harm us". Which is how most of these robberies took place.

Modern day equivalent would be for a balaclava-wearing guy dashing into a bank waving a toy pistol shouting a lot and running off with a bag full of hastily-grabbed banknotes. (Or maybe bankers swindling us and their banks out of the (we thought) safely stored savings? What's worse, robbery by bravado or robbery by  bankers' stealth and fraud? I say the latter.)

Most pirates did not get rich. Most spent their few gold and silver pieces in the nearest tavern on booze and buxom wenches. The idea of buried treasure, is, sadly, a myth.

So why do we like pirates and pirate stories? Errol Flynn, Johnny Depp's Jack Sparrow.. .my own Jesamiah Acorne?


Well, I think the 'Golden Age' was bright and shiny because it was an age of derring-do, of adventure and High Sea drama. Where every day, every hour, could be your last. Where the life aboard a pirate ship was the only freedom these men (and women!) could find for themselves; where a few adventurous souls fought back against the wealthy - the merchants, the East India Company, the politicians and big-wigs of the day. Where ordinary people thought of pirates as brave heroes and where, if you were a pirate and if you were lucky you might be able to make a fortune. And if you didn't, well life was short, but as a pirate it could at least be a merry one!
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I wrote Sea Witch as a swashbuckling adventure with a dash of believable fantasy thrown in for good measure. I wanted to read a book that had the same fun and action as Errol Flynn and Johnny Depp - a sailor's yarn about pirates. With gold-tinted glamour seen through very rosy-tinted glasses. A charmer of a rogue for the lead, a beautiful woman for his lover - and James Bond / IndianaJone style adventures for the plot; where, for my protagonist, Captain Jesamiah Acorne, trouble follows him like a ship's wake.... You know he'll get out of it (as Bond, Indians Jones et al always do) but the fun is discovering how he gets out of it! Therein lies the adventure!


Here's how the first Voyage of the Series, Sea Witch, begins:

Mermaid was moving fast, the ship bowling along with her sails filled, the canvas billowing, cordage creaking and straining. She climbed over the next wave, her bow lifting to linger a moment before swooping down into another deluge of spray. Completing the see-saw movement her stern soared high as the roller trundled beneath her keel. The wind smelt of hot, dry and dusty land, of jungle and grass savannah. Of Africa.

The look out, clad in an old shirt and sailor's breeches was perched high in the crosstrees, one hundred and thirty feet above the deck. Excited, he pointed to the horizon. "Over there Jesamiah, that's where I saw 'er. I swear I saw a sail!"

With the ease of years of practice, Jesamiah Acorne stepped from the rigging on to the narrow platform that swayed with the lift and plunge of the ship. He hooked his arm through a t'gallant shroud and brought his telescope to his eye, scanned the ocean. Nothing. Nothing except a flat expanse of blue emptiness going on, unbroken, for twenty miles. And beyond that? Another twenty, and another. These were the waters of the Gulf of Guinea, the huge stretch of sea beneath the bulb of land where the trade wealth of West Africa was turned into fat profit: gold, ivory and slaves. The African coast, where merchants found their plentiful supply of human misery and where an entire ship's crew could be wiped out by fever within a week. Where pirates hunted in search of easy prey.

The crew of the Mermaid were not interested in slavers or the foetid coast. Their rough-voiced, ragged-faced Captain, Malachias Taylor, had more lucrative things in mind - the sighting of another ship, preferably a full-laden, poorly manned merchantman with a rich cargo worth plundering. "What can y'see?" he shouted from the deck, squinting upwards at his quartermaster, the relentless sun dazzling his eyes. His second-in-command, Jesamiah, like his father before him, was one of the best seamen Taylor knew.

"Nothing! If young Daniel here did see a sail he has better sight than I 'ave," Jesamiah called down, the frustration clear in his voice. All the same, he studied the sea again with the telescope.

Jesamiah Acorne. Quick to smile, formidable when angered. Tall, tanned, with strong arms and a seaman's tar-stained and callused hands. His black hair fell as an untidy chaos of natural curls to his shoulders, laced into it, lengths of blue ribbon which streamed about his face in the wind, the whipping ends stinging his cheeks. The ladies ashore thought them a wonderful prize when he occasionally offered one as a keepsake.

If there was a ship, Daniel would only have glimpsed her highest sails, the topgallants; the rest of her would still be hull down, unseen below the curve of the horizon. "I think you had too much rum last night, my lad," Jesamiah grinned. "Your eyes are playing tricks on you."

Young Daniel was adamant. "I saw her I say. I'll wager m'next wedge of baccy I did!"

"You know I cannot abide the stuff," Jesamiah chuckled good-natured as he stretched out his arm to ruffle the lad's mop of hair. He had turned his back on anything to do with tobacco - except stealing it - seven years ago when his elder brother had thrown him off their dead father's plantation, with the threat he would hang if ever he returned. But then, Phillipe Mereno was only a half brother and he had always been a cheat and a bully. One day, for the misery of his childhood, Jesamiah would find the opportunity to go back and finish beating the bastard to a pulp.

Out of habit he touched the gold charm dangling from his right earlobe: an acorn, to match the signet ring he had worn since early youth. Presents from his Spanish mother, God rest her soul. She had always thought the acorn, the fruit of the solid and dependable oak tree to be lucky. It had been the first word to come to mind when he had needed a new name in a hurry. Acorne, with an "e" to make the name unique, and his own. About to shut the telescope a flash caught his eye and Jesamiah whisked the bring-it-close upwards again. The sun reflecting on something?

"Wait. Damn it, Daniel - I've got her!" The sudden enthusiasm carried in an eager flurry as he shouted down to the deck, his words greeted by a hollered cheer from the rag-tag of men who made the Mermaid's crew.

Even the usually dour-faced Malachias Taylor managed a smile. "Probably a slaver," he muttered, "but we'll set all sail an' pay her a visit." His gap-toothed smile broadened into a grin. "She might be wantin' company, eh lads?"

Aye she might, but not the sort of company the Mermaid would be offering! 

This week ONLY 
(also available on NOOK and KOBO)

visit my Amazon Author Page here
There are seven other fabulous authors 
taking part in the 
Historical Fiction Blowout
- do visit their blogs!

December 1st : A Similar Taste in Books – Linda Banche
Historical Period: Regency
A sweet, traditional Regency romantic comedy novella, but not a retelling of "Pride and Prejudice". 
Website: http://lindabanche.blogspot.com


December 2nd : Kingdom of Rebels –  Derek Birks
Historical Period: Fifteenth Century – the Wars of the Roses
When all hope is gone, only death lies in wait…
Website: www.derekbirks.com


December 3 : Search for the Golden Serpent (Servant of the Gods, Book 1) – Luciana Cavallaro 
Historical period – 600 BCE Ancient Greece
An unwilling participant finds himself entangled in an epic struggle between the gods and his life.
Website: http://www.luccav.com


December 4 : Children of Apollo (Eagles and Dragons – Book I) –Adam Alexander Haviaras
Historical Period:   The Roman Empire, A.D. 202
At the peak of Rome’s might a dragon is born among eagles, an heir to a line both blessed and cursed by the Gods for ages. 
Website: http://eaglesanddragonspublishing.com/ 



December 5 :  Sea Witch (Voyage One) –  Helen Hollick
Historical Period: The Golden Age of Piracy – 1716
Escaping the bullying of his elder half brother, from the age of fifteen Jesamiah Acorne has been a pirate with only two loves - his ship and his freedom. But his life is to change when he and his crewmates unsuccessfully attack a merchant ship off the coast of South Africa…
Blog: www.ofhistoryandkings.blogspot.com


December 6 : INCEPTIO – by Alison Morton
Historic Period: Modern/Roman (alternate history)
Karen Brown, angry and frightened after surviving a kidnap attempt, has a harsh choice - being eliminated by government enforcer or fleeing to mysterious Roma Nova, founded sixteen centuries ago by Roman exiles and ruled by women…
website: http://alison-morton.com


December 7 : Men of the Cross (Battle Scars I) –  Charlene Newcomb
Historical period: Medieval - 12th century
War, political intrigue and passion… heroes… friends and lovers… and the seeds for a new Robin Hood legend await you…
Blog: http://charlenenewcomb.com/


December 8 : Flavia's Secret – by Lindsay Townsend
Historical Period:    Ancient Roman Britain, 206 AD
As the wild mid-winter festival of Saturnalia approaches, many lives will be changed forever.
Website: www.lindsaytownsend.co.uk


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have a very Merry Christmas! 


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