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Tuesday 24 February 2015

A Versatile Blogger

I have been gifted with this:

... courtesy of a fab lady  Elaine Cougler (do visit her blog when you've finished reading mine!) So without much more ado I shall accept, make my thank you speech and comply by the rules.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 
The Versatile Blogger Award Rules:
  1. Display the Award Certificate (cut and paste it from my post) - DONE
  2. Write a post and link back to the blogger who nominated you - DONE (see above
  3. Post seven  interesting things about yourself -- DONE (read on
  4. Nominate up to fifteen other bloggers (and why you've nominated them) - DONE (read on)
  5. Inform them of their nomination  (probably via comment on their blog unless you have their email!)  -  DONE
Task One

Task Two 

Write a post

Often these Bloggy type awards can be a tad daunting, that's because one of the rules is to pass on the baton (or should that be wireless keyboard?) You want to be nice to nice bloggers by saying "Hey I think you deserve this!" but you also know they are probably incredibly busy and do not have time for faffing about finding the next bloggers to follow on.

Well yes, because I accepted the honour of becoming A Versatile Blogger I've spent most of the day, therefore, faffing about. And I've thoroughly enjoyed it! I've had a wonderful day browsing some of my favourite blogs, immersing myself in some fascinating - and diverse - articles.  From Rome to a switch to short-story writing via Sweden and A Wonderful Life - please click the links below and have an enjoyable read and find new blogs and new friends into the bargain! (but don't forget to vote for Sea Witch first!) 

Task Three:

Seven things about myself:
  1. I have just discovered Game of Thrones. OK I know, I'm late to the party, but it was on Sky here in the UK and I don't watch Sky. So I rented the first four episodes from Amazon's Lovefilm and was hooked from the start. Possibly too violent and sexual for some though. Rated 18 for a reason.
  2. I like Tia Maria Coffee with Devon cream on top. Oh gosh its gorgeous! Even when the cream doesn't float.
  3. I traipse into the Orchard of a morning in my wellies, nightdress and dressing gown to let the hens, ducks and goose out. Aw c'mon you don't expect me to be dressed before 8.30 a.m. do you?
  4. I have a companion in my study. Mab the cat has taken to sleeping on the chair. Only problem the blanket on it is black and white. She's black and white. I've accidentally sat on her a couple of times.
  5. We are not alone. We have at least one spirit in the house and one in the dairy. Nice 'people' who love this eighteenth century farmhouse I live in as much as I do.
  6. Devon cheese. Devon Blue and Taw Valley Cheddar. Oh boy. Delicious. We have a fantastic cheese shop in South Molton. Mmm. Mm!
  7. I'm getting over being frightened of spiders. Well, living in the country I haven't much choice have I? One ambled across my desk the other day. I just said 'hello' and let it amble. Ok OK it was about as big as my little finger thumbnail. I probably wouldn't have been as calm had it been as big as a coffee-mug coster (as they are here in Devon.)

Task Four:
I nominate

  1. Alison Morton Because this is a place to go for everything Roman. Alison knows her stuff! (Her Roma Nova series is also pretty good! :-) "Superficially, Lupercalia looks like a mob of  scantily clad young men of rank, running around the posh part of the city, full of sauce and whipping people, especially young women – sounds very student-like… But this was a quintessential Roman rite and significant on many levels to Romans for a thousand years."
  2. Richard Abbott  Because he reviews for HNS Indie and he supports indie writers (and his blog isn't bad either!) "For the Mad Reviewer 2014 Reading Challenge I signed up for the Slightly Sane category – 26 books during the course of the year."
  3. Anna Belfrage Because she writes about so many versatile things and I enjoy reading them.  "Every now and then, I sit down to have a serious one-to-one chat with yours truly. Okay, so the conversation is generally one-sided, as I haven’t progressed to doing different voices for different sides of my personality, but the purpose of these little tete-a-tetes is to remind myself why I write.
  4. Joanna  Barnden I met Joanna while doing my 'author bit' at Battle Abbey for the annual Battle of Hastings Bash (re-enactment). She was a delight to talk to and I'm always happy to support interesting writers. "Why write historical fiction? All my life I’ve been fascinated by the past. I remember as a child visiting Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh and standing over the (presumably re-touched) bloodstain where David Rizzio was murdered by Lord Darnley and being forcibly struck by the reality of standing on the same spot."
  5. Janis Pegrum Smith because I agree with her - It's A Wonderful Life :  "I have made it a ritual to watch the movie 'It's A Wonderful Life' at some point in the run up to Christmas".  
  6. Jessica Talbot  because I enjoyed her book Picaflor and her blog reminds me that being far from home is nice, but being home is even nicer! "This site is for writers, storytellers and people who have a story to tell. I think there is a need for a place to share stories and to feel connected through the experiences we share living in countries far from our birth places."
  7. Caz Greenham because her books about Eric the Seagull are fun and she lives in Devon. 'Nuff said! "If I’m not writing about Eric Seagull ‘Storyteller’ then you can find me paddling along the seashore or dipping my toes in rock pools."
  8. Carol McGrath because she is an admirer and fan of Harold II who died in 1066 killed in Battle seven miles from Hastings. Any fan of Harold's is worth following!  "It’s 1075. Eighteen-year-old Gunnhild, King Harold’s daughter, is living in a nunnery. She has no wish to be a nun: she is a princess and would rather wed a knight and have the life a princess should. So when Count Alan offers to elope with her, she accepts. But does he love her, or does he just want the lands that she will inherit?"
  9. Katherine Bone because she likes pirates and writes about pirates. Couldn't be a better reason! "Shoutin’ from the top of the mizzen, me hearties! Sails on the horizon!"
  10. Loretta Livingstone because she's a lovely lady. "Some of you may have noticed that my writing has taken an unexpected turn. I went for a wander in Writing Woods, took a different turning than usual and ended up down Short Story Lane."

Task Five
Will carry out as soon as this is posted.

Thanks for dropping by
and thanks for being versatile readers and friends!

I was

Monday 16 February 2015

We're off to Australia for the HNSA Conference!

On the weekend of 20-22 March 2015, the Historical Novel Society Australasia (HNSA) is holding its inaugural conference at the historic Balmain Town Hall, Sydney, exploring the theme of ‘The Historical Novel in Peace and War’. The conference will be a celebration of the historical fiction genre in a weekend of talks, panels, debates, book launches and readings.

Balmain Town Hall
The two day informative and interactive weekend program on 21-22 March will showcase forty speakers discussing craft, research, inspiration, publishing, social media and personal histories. Among these are internationally acclaimed historical novelists such as Kate Forsyth, Colin Falconer, Felicity Pulman, Toni Jordan, Juliet Marillier, Sophie Masson and Jesse Blackadder.

Kate Forsyth is our Conference patron. She wrote her first novel at the age of seven, and is now the award-winning and internationally bestselling author of more than twenty books for both adults and children.
Kate Forsyth
Her interests include fantasy, and the weaving of fairy-tales with history. She is best known for her historical novel Bitter Greens, which interweaves a retelling of the Rapunzel fairy tale with the true life story of the woman who first told the tale, the 17th century French writer Charlotte-Rose de Caumont de La Force.
Kate is currently undertaking a doctorate in fairy-tale retelling at the University of Technology, Sydney.

Conference Program 21-22 March 2015

Day One hosts five interesting and varied panel discussions. In the first of two sessions exploring personal histories, Linda Funnell will interview Peter Corris and Sulari Gentill on the inspiration for their novels and their careers. Linda has over thirty years’ experience in the book publishing industry, including roles as a publisher, editor and literary agent. Peter Corris is credited with reviving the fully-fledged Australian crime novel but he is also a talented historical novelist and will enlighten us on why he finds this genre so appealing.  Sulari Gentill’s first novel was short listed for the 2008 NSW Genre Fiction Award.

In Session Two, Jean Bedford, Isolde Martyn, Johanna Nicolls, Juliet Marillier and Craig Cliff will discuss why they chose a particular era as a setting for their novels, and what research they undertake to bring past times to life in Tall Tales and True: How Storytellers Imagine History.

Session Three, Can CYA fiction compete with werewolves, vampires and zombies, introduces a panel of award winning CYA authors including Sophie Masson, Belinda Murrell, Sherryl Clark, Pamela Rusby and Goldie Alexander who will explore how historical fiction can captivate the imaginations of young readers

In War Torn Worlds, Vashti Farrer, Nicole Alexander, Toni Jordan, Kim Kelly and Sophie Masson discuss why war inspires their fiction, and the challenge they face in depicting characters who must overcome, or succumb to, the turbulence of war.

Day One conclude with a ‘First Pages’ competition where aspiring historical novelists will have their submissions read aloud to industry experts: Irina Dunn, Louise Thurtell and Alison Green.

Day Two continues with the second ‘personal history’ session where Kelly Gardiner, author of Goddess, will interview Toni Jordan and Posie Graeme-Evans. Posie is not only a talented historical novelist but has been a TV executive and producer. Toni’s Nine Days gained world attention when it was recommended by the Richard and Judy Book Club in the UK.

In What is it about the Tudors? Natalie Grueninger, Wendy J Dunn, Barbara Gaskell Denvil and Jane Caro will explore the world’s appetite for historical fiction set in Tudor times.

In Intrigue, Mystery, Fantasy and Timeslip, Posie Graeme-Evans, Kate Forsyth, Sulari Gentill, Belinda Murrell and Felicity Pulman enlighten us as to why readers are drawn to tales of characters who travel across time, or enjoy a blend of genres.

The Path Less Travelled is chaired by ‘hybrid’ author, Elisabeth Storrs, who discusses how and why Prue Batten, GS Johnston, Goldie Alexander and Felicity Pulman chose to go off the beaten track to find their readership.

In Pathways to Publication, Irina Dunn talks to agent Tara Wynne and publishers Alison Green and Louise Thurtell on the expectations of agents and publishers when looking for the next big thing in historical fiction. 
And you will not want to miss out on our concluding In Bed with History panel where Kate Forsyth, Colin Falconer and Jesse Blackadder will read some of their saucier excerpts!

Social Events

The opening night reception will be held at the prestigious State Library of NSW on Friday 20 March where attendees will celebrate the launch of Felicity Pulman’s Unholy Alliance. There will also be a lively round table debate in which Kelly Gardiner will moderate a discussion between Rachel Le Rossignol, Gillian Polack, Jesse Blackadder and Deborah Challinor on the topic: ‘What can historical novelists and historians learn from each other?’

At the conference dinner on Saturday 21 March, attendees will have opportunities to mingle with leading authors and join us for the launch of Sherryl Clark’s, Do You Dare – Jimmy’s War, and listen to our after-dinner speaker, Kate Forsyth.

Super Sessions

There are three skills-based super sessions that are being run concurrently with the main conference program. Manuscript assessments will be conducted by industry expert, Irina Dunn. Dr Gillian Polack is offering two small group workshops focussed on how to weave research into compelling and authentic historical fiction. The third session will focus on how to use social media to build an author platform with author Elisabeth Storrs and review blogger, Margaret Bates. In addition to the super sessions, the HNSA is pleased to be partnering with Swinburne University of Technology to provide the opportunity to submit an academic paper to a special edition of The Australian Journal of Crime Fiction on the theme ‘Phryne Fisher and Other Fantasies: The Female Detective in History’.

Free Book Offers
The HNSA is offering some great deals! The first forty ticket holders to purchase a Standard Whole Conference Ticket will receive a free copy of either The Lace Balcony  by Johanna Nicholls, The King’s Shadow  by Barbara Gaskell Denvil, The Island House  by Posie Graeme-Evans or My Holocaust Story: Hanna by Goldie Alexander. The first fifty fully paid ticket holders to the conference dinner will receive a free copy of Sherryl Clark’s, Do You Dare – Jimmy’s War. And all ticket holders to the opening night reception will receive a free e-book bundle of Felicity Pulman’s Janna Chronicles!

So why not register for the HNSA Conference. 
There are some great free book offers, 
and also the chance to dine with an author. 
You can buy tickets here!

More information about the conference program and speakers can be found at

Help us spread the word about the conference. Here’s a tweet you could use:

Register for #HNSA2015 Conference for some great #historicalfiction and #giveaways!

Follow us on Twitter @hnsaustralasia 

Join our mailing list to obtain advance notice of all our announcements.

Helen: I would like to add my personal thanks 
to everyone involved with organising and 
supporting this event

Friday 13 February 2015

A Spicy Excerpt From Sea Witch for St Valentine's Day

WARNING: Contains Some Adult Content

Captain Jesamiah Acorne is not really a red roses and box of chocolates type of guy (well what ex-pirate is?) and he's certainly never left me a rose or chocolates on my desk!

The scene below is one of the first I thought of when mulling over the possibility of writing a pirate-based nautical adventure for adult readers. I very clearly saw Jesamiah as a man who was one for the ladies... but then he was to eventually meet Tiola, the love of his life. (He has his lapses -  usually only when he thinks she has dumped him though.)

The year is 1716, September
Jesamiah's ship has been wrecked and he has come up with a brilliant idea of how to replace it - by stealing one from Phillipe Mereno, his half-brother who now owns their dead father's plantation in Virginia. The plan has an extra bite to it... as children Phillipe used to bully Jesamiah. Here's a chance for revenge. Only the revenge turns out to be far sweeter than Jesamiah thought!

Disguised as a Spaniard (he is half Spanish) Jesamiah and his French second-mate, Rue, gate-crash a christening party....

The vague plan was to arrive at the house unannounced as merchants, one Spanish, one French, with the offer of an enticing business proposition. Jesamiah was banking on the fact that after all these years his brother would not recognise him. Phillipe would not see beyond what he was supposed to see – a dark-haired, bearded Spaniard who spoke very poor English. Men rarely noticed what was under their noses, not seeing what they did not expect to see. The easiest way to conceal something? Set it in plain sight. All it needed to make a man slide his gaze over you without seeing who he was looking at, was nerve. And since leaving this place, Jesamiah had acquired nerve by the shipload.
To Rue’s mind the plan was the stupidest thing he had ever heard, outside of poking a sleeping cobra with a stick. He appreciated they could not take the ship straight away, for the jetty was busy with slaves loading tobacco. They would have to wait for nightfall when work finished, creep aboard, slip her moorings and quietly sail down river – with only eight of them, the last thing they wanted was a fight. To walk direct into the lion’s den, though? Well, that fellow Daniel in the Bible might have tried it, but Rue would rather err on the side of caution. There again, Jesamiah was never a cautious man.

Dozing, hidden in a tumbledown barn, they waited until dark when the house became filled with light and noise and people. Carriages by the dozen, women dressed in satin and silk, the men as elaborate in powdered wigs and embroidered waistcoats. A lavish evening, where the opportunity to flaunt what you had, or purported to have, was displayed in full.

For all his bravado, the first person they met, aside from footmen and servants, was Phillipe. Jesamiah had not expected that, had assumed they would be shouldered aside into some unobtrusive corner and forgotten. He felt his palms go sticky with sweat, his throat run dry. His heart was leaping in his chest as if dancing a jig there. All the memories flooded back. All those endured cruelties. Mereno approached, a questioning expression on his face. He glanced at the Spaniard, swivelled his attention to the Frenchman who was making a courteous bow and relating the reason for the intrusion in an exaggerated French accent. Intrigued, the lure of wealth being dangled, Phillipe listened.
Jesamiah relaxed, the first hurdle cleared, he had not been recognised. Now all he had to do was keep reminding himself he was a man grown, not a child afraid of his elder brother.

Beyond two false ivory teeth, there was no lingering sign of damage to Phillipe’s face. That battering Jesamiah had finally found the courage to give him had been superficial then. Pity.
Monsieur, my deepest apologies,” Rue concluded, indicating Jesamiah who removed his three-cornered hat and swept an elaborate bow; “my partner, Señor José Menéndez de Avilés and I, ‘ad we known of your preoccupation, we would not ‘ave interrupted such an occasion.” For good measure Rue added a generous portion of flattery, and Phillipe preened to it.
“My dear fellow,” he chortled, “what you outline is of interest to me. I am, as you rightly presume, heartily sick of my profits falling into some government official’s pocket. Any venture that can retain the balance to my side of the account book I shall willingly listen to, but not this evening!” He slapped Rue’s shoulder, cast another suspicious polite smile at Jesamiah. He did not trust Spaniards.
Gesturing towards the crowd of invited guests Phillipe offered, “Please, take your fill of what you require and enjoy. You are welcome to remain the night, and on the morrow we will talk. What say you?”
Politely blustering a mild protest that they would not dare presume upon such generous hospitality – Rue eagerly accepted.

“What have you named the child?” Jesamiah asked in Spanish, doubting Phillipe would recognise his voice. When he had left it had barely broken, had still been high-pitched. Now, his vocal chords had a deep, husky timbre that could resonate quietly, or bellow at full roar when aboard ship. As for Spanish, his mother had taught him the language and to honour her memory he had never forgotten it.
Translating, Rue added, “My friend understands Anglais, but ‘e finds it somewhat embarrassing to mispronounce many of your more difficult words.”

Assuming this Spanish gentleman to be an imbecile, Phillipe regarded the tall, bearded man who stood casually with his left hand resting on the hilt of a cutlass. In deference to supposedly being a reputable sea-merchant Jesamiah had tied his tumble of hair into a neat tail at the nape of his neck. All else was the same, except he had tucked his pistol beneath his coat. There were, after all, ladies present.
Answering disdainfully, speaking loud and slow, not liking this foreigner, Phillipe intoned slow and succinct: “My son is named for my father and myself, Charles Phillip.”
Jesamiah’s loathing peaked; he clenched his fists, the need to lash out difficult to control. How dare this bastard soil the name of their father by linking it to his own? He turned away quickly, pretending interest in a group of ladies who were fluttering their fans and eyelashes at him. A handsome man, he was already creating a stir. Out of the corner of his eye Jesamiah caught one of the ladies staring at him. He turned his head to gaze at her. Blonde, a porcelain face, slender waist, generous bosom. As his stare met hers she coloured, looked quickly away and paid elaborate attention to what the woman beside her was saying.

His heart beating with a mixture of anger and fear, Jesamiah resorted to pricking his brother with insults. In faltering English he said, “Ah, Carlos, a good Spanish name.”
“As it is also a fine English name,” Phillipe retaliated, offended.
Throwing his hands in the air Rue was laughing, easing the sudden flare of sparked tension. “And I claim it also, un nom français, n’est-ce pas?”
An embarrassing pause.

“Ah! There be my wife!” Phillipe declared, glad of the interruption. He had a house full of important guests whom he needed desperately to impress, wanted nothing to go wrong this evening. He beckoned to her with a quick flourish of a single raised finger.
Excusing herself from her companion, the blonde woman walked slowly towards the three men, her fan fluttering, her body graceful in the rouched, close-fitting silk of a red and saffron gown.
“Allow me to introduce Madam Alicia Mereno. My dear, Monsieur Claude de la Rue and Señor Menéndez de Avilés.” He stumbled over the Spanish pronunciation. “They have come with a proposition to double the fortune I already possess.”
The woman curtsied, demure and elegant. Much of the fortune was hers, generated by the profitable Barbados sugar plantation she had inherited from her first husband. Phillipe had already squandered his.
“So you have not come to sample the food spread along the buffet table?” she exclaimed. “I swear, there is sufficient to feed the entire Colony!”
Jesamiah thought her the prettiest thing he had ever seen, but then, he always had. As her eyes, with their long, curled lashes swept up to directly meet his, she knew he had recognised her. As she had him.

Producing a Spanish doubloon from his waistcoat pocket, Jesamiah let its gold twinkle a moment in the flickering light of the many candles in wall sconces and candelabra. “Alas, nothing to offer I have upon me, for the child in a gift.” Deliberately he spoke in very bad English, muddling the tenses and structure, keeping his voice low and deep. “Were I be honourable to place in his crib, this?” At Phillipe’s frowned hesitation added, with a placating bow, “A son, my own, I have in Spain. Two years, soon, will he be.”
“The child will be sleeping,” Phillipe answered curtly, not attempting politeness, not caring for this black-haired stranger to intrude.
“Phillipe,” Alicia Mereno interjected, sliding her arm through her husband’s, “this is the first gentleman who has expressed a wish to see my darling boy. I am flattered.” She smiled alluringly at her husband who about to again say no, was distracted by a group of plantation owners seeking his immediate appearance at the card tables.
Her face flushing, Mrs Mereno conducted the Spanish gentleman up the stairs to the nursery, after Jesamiah had handed Rue his hat.
“Look after this for me,” he had said amiably in Spanish, muttering, quieter in English, “and keep sharp.”
Rue had frowned at him. They had awoken the snake, was that not enough? Ought they not be gone before the thing started spitting venom?

The child’s nurse, dozing in a chair, started guiltily awake as they entered. With a reprimand Alicia sent her away on the pretext of fetching her mistress a shawl. It was a long walk from the nursery to her bedchamber – the length of the house and a flight of stairs – would take at least ten minutes; fifteen or even twenty if the woman dawdled as she was sure to. Alicia had not met a servant yet who hurried.
“Well, you have found a lucky landing for your feet Arabella, my dear.” Jesamiah said, shedding the Spanish accent and folding his arms, leaning insolently against the closed door. “I wonder, does your husband know you were once a Port Royal harlot?”
“Of course he does not!” she snapped, hiding the anxiety that because of Jesamiah he may be about to find out. “And I would thank you to call me Alicia. I have not used Arabella these past many years.”
“Not since you married your first rich conquest, eh?”
She tilted her head, chin defiant. “What of it? He was an old man,  I brought spring into his life.”
“And his bed I warrant. Poor beggar. What did he die of? Exhaustion, or the pox?”

The insult stung. Alicia crossed the few yards between them and slapped his face. “As I recall,” she said acidly, “you owe me for a night’s pleasure. You left in a hurry when the militia came searching for the crew of a pirate ship anchored in the harbour.”
He remembered it well. “We had to fight our way back aboard; escaped without our breeches.” He tapped his fingernail against two gold-capped teeth. “I had to get these fitted, thanks to that brawl – and because of the interruption it was only half a night of pleasure.” With his callused forefinger he stroked her cheek. “I suppose you would not be knowing who betrayed us?” He ran the finger lower, across the swell of her breasts, leaned closer, whispered, his voice huskier than usual, seductive, “Was it you, my pretty?”

Indignant, she slapped him again. “And why would I? Because you left in a hurry I never got paid!”
Smiling, Jesamiah produced the gold coin intended for the child, tucked it deep into her cleavage. “Will this settle the debt?”
Stepping past her he walked to the inner room where the boy slept, gazed down at his nephew, said over his shoulder in a lowered voice, “Do not get me wrong, sweetheart, I admire your enterprise. Good luck to you.”
Behind him, holding an oil lamp high to illuminate the dim-lit room, Alicia answered in a curt whisper. “I do not need or require your patronising luck, Jesamiah Acorne.”
“I am sure you do not. You seem to be managing quite well without it.”
Delicately, Jesamiah folded aside the top cover hiding part of the baby’s face. He had his grandfather’s nose and chin.
Unable to hold her anxiety any longer Alicia hissed, “Why are you here? To expose me?” Her head tilted upward, only the rise and fall of her bosom betrayed her agitation. “I can as easily endanger you. In these parts a pirate is treated with a great deal more contempt than a one-time, now very rich, whore.”
“I assure you I was unaware of your presence or your marriage. I came on business, nothing more.” Jesamiah looked directly at her, “Ensure your son grows to be a good man, Alicia. One bully in the family is quite sufficient.”
He walked past her into the stronger light of the outer room, the woman following, setting the lamp down on a table, her expression puzzled. “You know Phillipe?” she asked.
Interesting. She knew of whom he spoke when he talked of bullies.

“I know him. I’ve known him a long time. All my life in fact.” From the far side of the room, Jesamiah shrugged, looked at her. “Although he has not realised he knows me.” He spread his hands, apologetic, defiant. “I am his legitimate half-brother. I’m a Mereno, we share the same father.”
Her hand flying to her mouth, Alicia gasped. “I had no idea!”
“Nor would you.” Jesamiah tossed an ironic laugh into the air. “That makes you my sister-in-law. How quaint.”
She did not return his amusement. Did not truly know whether to believe him or not, but, yes, there was a similarity about the angle of the jaw, the slant of the eye. The same self-assured arrogance?
“He has never spoken of a brother.”
“We were not exactly friends.” In two strides Jesamiah crossed the room, stood before her his finger beneath her chin tipping it upward. Her eyes had the bluest sparkle. “You keep silent about my identity, Ma’am, and so shall I about yours. If not…” He let the implication fall like a dropped cannon ball.

He smelt of the sea. Of tar and hemp; of leather, molassed rum and masculine sweat. Of the carefree life she used to know, and occasionally missed. “You promised me the moon, Jesamiah, and I believed you would give it to me. I so loved you.”
“I’m a pirate, pirates never speak the truth. I thought you knew that.” His finger was still beneath her chin. She really was very beautiful. He tipped her head higher, dipped his own and put his lips to hers in an intimate kiss. One which she as passionately returned.
As he pressed his body against hers, she twined her arms around his neck, her breath quickening, needing him as much as he suddenly wanted her. Tugging at the lacings of her bodice he cursed beneath his breath to find tightly strapped whalebone stays penning her breasts. Unbuttoning his breeches, he pushed her against the door and lifted her skirts, fumbling beneath the layers of lace-edged, under-petticoats, running his hand up the silk of her stocking, over the tie of the garter and along the smoothness of her inner thigh. Her urgency for him to enter her as demanding and insistent as his own, he slid in easily, his hands on her buttocks, his mouth covering hers, silencing her gasp as he thrust hard. He was so ready it was done and finished quickly. The door rattled. Alicia squeaked, alarmed, her hands pushed him away to straighten her gown, her face flushing crimson.
Hastily making himself respectable, Jesamiah indicated she could move away from the door, said as the nurse entered, “You have a fine son, Señora.” He fell back into his role of a Spaniard. “I wish him the same fortune in life as his grandfather had.”
Smiling a polite goodnight at the nurse, he took the shawl and draping it around Alicia’s shoulders, gestured for her to precede him from the room. Surreptitiously patted her backside as she swept by.

 If you enjoyed that saucy extract
or have read the whole book 
(or even the entire series!) 

please do leave a comment on Amazon -
it really DOES help push up my ranking!

Find out more about the Sea Witch Voyages and for links to purchase from Amazon. click HERE

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Better than chocs & roses? A #Valentine romp with a #pirate! (for grown-ups only) via @HelenHollck #SeaWitch  

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Winner of the Giveaway was
Ginger Dawn

Tuesday 10 February 2015


Don't panic, I haven't had thieves!
But I do have a lovely lady here 
to talk about her historical novel... 

 Please welcome    Sheila Dalton

First of all, a big thank you to Helen for inviting me to post on her blog. [my pleasure] I’d like to tell you about how my new novel (my first historical), Stolen, came to be. Though hard to pinpoint its origins exactly, it was triggered by trips to both Morocco and Devon, England.

I was born in England, and, when I was a child, Devon was one of the areas both my mother and I loved. Something about the moors, the wild ponies, even Dartmoor Prison with its forbidding granite walls, fired my imagination. In 2010, my husband and I visited a friend from my university days in Newton Abbot. While there, she took us on a tour of the pirate caves and coves. It was fascinating to learn how much pirate activity there was in this area in the 1600’s. I spent a lot of time in Newton Abbot’s wonderful old library, perusing their local history collection.

On a later trip, my husband and I went to visit an American friend who worked for the U.S. Embassy in Rabat, Morocco. She took us to Meknes, to visit the underground dungeons where the Christian slaves were once kept. Unfortunately, the dungeons were closed to visitors that day, but those small holes in the earth to let in air and light - the only part of the dungeons visible -  stayed in my mind.  When I returned to Canada, I started reading about the Christian slave trade and learned that some of the raids by the Barbary Corsairs took place in the 1600’s along the same part of the coast I had recently visited in Devon.

Reading about the seventeenth century was an eye-opener. It was the era of exploration and colonization, when both the black and white slave trades flourished, if such a word can be used for this horrendous business, and new settlements were opening up in the U.S., Canada and the Caribbean. Different races were meeting each other for the first time, and the results were often far from harmonious. It was also considered the Golden Age of Piracy. As I read, what struck me very strongly was how rough the era was, how badly people treated each other, everywhere, it seemed.

Slavery as we know it was only part of it. There were vagrancy laws in England that meant a beggar or homeless person could be arrested and sent to the colonies as an indentured servant - a position they might remain in until death. Indentured servants were sometimes treated even worse than slaves, because they were not considered as valuable. A slave was an investment for life. An indentured servant was deemed expendable. Many died in transit, or after only a few years of hard labour and terrible living conditions. Because what interests me in historical fiction (of which I am a huge fan) are the personal stories of the ‘little people’ caught in the maelstrom, I began thinking about what it might be like to live in an era as complex and difficult as the seventeenth century, when ‘man’s inhumanity to man’ was so much in evidence.

What would it be like to be an innocent, idealistic young woman who comes home from market to find her village destroyed, her parents gone? What would it be like to discover the cruelty in your own country towards the ‘disadvantaged’? I thought it might shock a sheltered young person to her core. I also pondered how someone struggling to survive in such an environment could be confronted with moral dilemmas that could damage her self-regard.

My heroine, Lizbet Warren, is not a saint. She does what she must to survive, but she is intelligent and self-reflective enough that her choices trouble her. She is incredibly strong, a fighter who is dedicated to helping her abducted parents. However, as a lone woman her choices are severely limited, and life inevitably gets in the way of her efforts. She is also very human, in that she is drawn to strong, dominant men even though she clearly sees their flaws. She is quite a complex creature, but no more than many of us, then or now, I’m sure.

Because I am new to the genre, I can only hope I’ve done justice to the historical material. I’m a researcher and editor by trade, so doing the background reading came naturally to me. I tinkered a bit with historical facts, but tried to be true to the tone and feeling of the age, as I interpreted it.
Now it is up to readers to judge whether Lizbet’s story is a tale well-told.

Devon, England, 1633: 
Lizbet Warren’s parents are captured by Barbary Corsairs and carried off to the slave markets in Morocco. Desperate to help them, Lizbet sets out for London with the only other survivor of the raid, the red-haired orphan, Elinor. The unlikely pair are soon separated, and Lizbet is rescued from a public whipping by a mysterious French privateer, Jean Vallée, who takes her to his Manor House in Dorchester where he keeps her under lock and key.
Later, Lizbet is captured at sea by the pirate Gentleman Jake, and forced to join his crew. She forms complex bonds with both of her captors; but never forgets her parents and uses all her skills to enlist the aid of these men to find them.
Her quest leads her to the fabled courts and harems of Morocco and the tropical paradise of Barbados.
Rich in historical detail and based on true events, Stolen is the story of a brave but endearingly human young woman who perseveres in the face of incredible odds to establish her place in a new world. It is also the story of friendship, the mother-daughter bond, the complexities of consent and love - and a daring rescue.

[Helen: looks good doesn't it? Mind you Devon AND pirates? This sort of story is bound to be a must read for me! :-) ]
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