Helen Hollick’s SEA WITCH VOYAGES series
is a pirate-based adventure fantasy. A fine blend of Sharpe, Hornblower and
Indiana Jones all stowed on one fine three-mast square rig .
As one reviewer (the noted historical fiction author, Sharon Kay Penman)states so to the point:
"In the sexiest pirate contest,
Captain Jesamiah Acorne gives Johnny Depp's Jack Sparrow a run for his money."
I happen to know how much author Helen
Hollick adores her handsome pirate; a charming rogue who is tough to dislike
even by landlubbers.
order to dig a little deeper into his psyche, I asked to be allowed onboard the Sea Witch to speak with Jesamiah Acorne himself - knowing full well he is prone to fib a little when it suits his cause. (Laugh from Helen… “A
little? That’s an understatement!”)
to keep my stomach from shaming me even though the Sea Witch lies at anchor):
in your fourth voyage, Ripples In The Sand, Tiola, the love of your life, must resort to her secret powers
to save you both from doom and death. Is she still part of this new, fifth
venture of yours, On The Account?”
sail without her? Never! Well, probably never. Assuming she wants to come with
me, of course. I get the feeling she could cheerfully drown me sometimes (grin).
I’d probably deserve it! Sometimes. I do have some doubts during my latest
Voyage though (On The Account). Jealous doubts. Tiola’s a beautiful woman and
I’m not too keen on her over-friendliness to someone who joins us aboard Sea Witch - that’s the other love of my
life: my ship.”
Me: “Ah, yes,
of course: Your beloved Sea Witch.” (If I let him, he’ll be giving me a lot of
bilge talk. So, I quickly try to change the subject back to the purpose of my
don’t have to answer this. But with the relentless sea and your even more
unrelenting enemies, do you regret having given up your piratical ways? Now,
don’t bristle! You know, at heart you are a bona fide pirate. One with some
scruples, I admit. Still, you did prey on innocent merchant ships plying the
Caribbean, cheating them out of making an honest living, sometimes having sent them
to a watery grave.”
me…. I wouldn’t do that….I might steal a few things, a hold full of rum kegs,
gold and silver from the Spanish, some rum, hogsheads of tobacco… did I mention
rum? Us seafaring Brethren of the Coast we got a bad name because of scoundrels
like Blackbeard and Charles Vane. We’re just honest seafarers trying to make an
honest living stealing things from those overladen merchants. Doing ‘em a
favour really. They’re such poor sailors most of ‘em would never make it across
the Atlantic. We help ‘em out by lightening their load.
“Did you know
most pirates don’t want a fight? When we’re on a Chase we make a lot of noise,
shouting, firing our cannons and pistols, waving our cutlasses and all that, but
most of it is bluster. If the Prize surrenders peacefully, we liberate their
cargo and sail off. No one gets hurt. Least of all us. I suppose not all
pirates are like this though. There are a few vicious ones.
Moghul ship was plundered in the Araby sea a few years ago now. On its way to
Mecca, carryin’ the Sultan’s family (or whatever he was called.) His wives,
daughters, grandmother, mother, aunts… The men were brutally killed, the women,
even the old and young were repeatedly violated. Those who weren’t slaughtered
killed themselves as the Muslim women regard it as a sin to be touched in that
way by a man who ain’t their ‘usband. I don’t ‘old with that sort of piracy.
Men, sailors, aye, they know what to expect, know how to fight back, but women
and children? No, I don’t ‘old with that…
those rich, fat merchants sitting on their rumps in their fancy ‘ouses don’t
approve of any of us though. They ain’t got no sympathy for ordinary folk,
specially not for the poor. Did you know these pompous asses even hang women
and children for as a little as poachin’ a rabbit or stealing a loaf of bread? Black
Africans are forced into slavery, a woman can be stripped naked and flogged in
public for adultery (nothing happens to the men – so far as I knew its takes
two to …. well, you know). It’s a tough life in the early eighteenth century.
You take what you can, give nothing back.
happens, I do return to piracy in On The Account. But for a very good
reason – some Barbary pirate scumbags kidnapped my wife…”
terrible.But for now, I must ask
you to calm down, young man. I didn’t mean to offend. You see, none of your
loyal followers want to have you meet an untimely death. Promise us you’ll not
take undue chances, even now fighting for justice.”
“I’m not that
keen on an untimely death m’self!But what do you mean ‘young
man’? That’s downright condescending, Madam. I ama Captain. And I’ll be six and twenty on my next birthday, Fourth December 1719. Presents accepted. Rum preferably.”
right, Captain. Just leave your cutlass where it is. You’ve been very
forthcoming with me.”
he fidgets, his eyes roam up the spars, then down to his furled sails, with a
nod here and there to the motly crew standing by). I sigh, “The Sea Witch is dancing around her anchor
rode like a cobbled horse, and your nose is twitching like a bloodhound’s on a
fresh scent. I realize it’s time to let you go, Jesamiah Acorne, you inimitable
handsome rogue. Godspeed, and may you sail straight into the hearts of those
who love you.”
Jesamiah:“Thank ‘ee kindly ma’am. Yes, it’s time for you to leave.”
gives a slight bow).
“I’ve got to
set sail for my next adventure – or at least I have to supervise the Wench
writing it. I’m a tad concerned as the sixth Voyage is to be called Gallows
uncomfortable cravat…. Walks off shouting orders to the crew to prepare to
* * *
He leaves me standing
on his deck like an empty keg of rum and motions to a sailor who pushes me not too
gently toward the entry port where a swinging rope ladder dangles. It hadn’t
seemed that high when I clawed my way up just an hour ago. To gather up my
courage, I take a last glance back at Jesamiah. He was making his way up to the
wheel swaggering a bit as if to balance himself against the swell. I knew it
was to show off his youth and his strength to this meddlin’ old gal. Somehow
though, I feel I will meet up with him again; unless I broke my neck slithering down the slimy ladder into the waiting skiff.
Jesamiah Acorne; may you be in time to save Tiola, and yourself.”
* * *
In case you missed the
previous four books, they are: Voyage One - SEA WITCH (also available for Kindle in Italian) Voyage Two - PIRATE CODE Voyage Three - BRING IT CLOSE Voyage Four - RIPPLES IN THE SAND
In his colorful blog, Jefffrey Hagenmeier, an avid world traveler, brings us photographs and the story of the magnificent Abu Simbel temple complex (note the enormous size compared to the people in the foreground).
(photo: Jeffrey Hagenmeier)
To me, the story of the temple's reconstruction on higher ground is doubly significant as this wonder of ancient art was almost lost to the depths of Lake Nasser when the Egyptian Aswan Dam was constructed.
It makes me wonder whether the filling of the huge Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam catch basin will cause ancient treasures to be lost, or future lives to be enhanced,
(as speculated in The Nile Conspiracy, Book 5 of my Legends of the Winged Scarab series).
You can read Jeffrey Hagenmeier's entire article and see his great photos here:
Starting a series with Book 4 may not always be a
good thing – except when the content is laid out by a writer like Alison
Morton. No wonder, Aurelia, Book 4 of the Roma NovaSeries, is a Finalist for the 2016 Historical
Novel Society Indie Award.
is a B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree for
excellence in writing. (“Honoree” having nothing to do with “honorable mention.”
This is the real deal.)
While there was plenty of action, the language flowed easily
yet was intelligent; it didn’t need grisly detail or expletives to make you sit
up a little straighter and hold your breath, wondering what was to come next.
Toward the end, I actually became worried I might run out of pages before the
story ended – I did not. But I was sorry to have come to the end of such an
interesting speculative fiction premise.
Thank you, Alison Morton, for the enjoyable hours I spent reading
I have to admit I picked up Virginia Cox’ The Subtlest Soul out
(and perhaps a little envy).
We had both been shortlisted for the HNS
2014 Indie Award for Best Historical Fiction. So, I wondered, what made Dr. Cox’
book stand out for the judges among the many great submissions (all of which
are worth reading).
While other reviewers here already told some
of the plot, I am going to talk about the language: Delicious – and subtle, as the word was used during the
Renaissance, the age that produced Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Dante and ah, let’s
not forget the Borgias and Machiavelli.
Subtle then meant to be clever, insinuating, shrewd,
artful, tricky and, last but not least, devious. That perfectly fits the handsome
young narrator (hence, the title). Of low birth, he compensates by being a bit vain
and “subtly” squirms his way into the graces of the powerful but murderous
elite. While some of his actions stem from revenge against the murderer of his
family, it appears he becomes accustomed to favors bestowed upon him – even though
his duplicity leads him into more treachery and great danger.
But it is the language used for young Matteo de
Fermo to tell his story. His words burble along like a tranquil brook. Then, before
you know it, you are in the midst of the most horrendous battles, ghastly
murders, and lusty whoring. Young Matteo talks about it all seemingly devoid of
remorse over his actions. The “subtlety” of Ms. Cox’ language made me chuckle quite
a few times – how very Machiavellian!
No wonder, “The Subtlest Soul” was the winner. Deservedly,
the book also received the hard-to-come-by B.R.A.G. Medallion.
to Dr. Virginia Cox for an outstanding novel.
Since I showcased the versatility of one of my fellow writers in my previous post, I thought I'd give you a taste of my own "other" writings which have nothing to do with my historical fiction novel, nor its archaeological thriller/action-adventure sequels. This one is short, it's different, and
May 29 - June 2
Check it out and enjoy the short-lived dreams/delusions of a spinster
This writer isn't afraid to think (and write) outside the box -
or better said, outside his usual genre.
Christoph Fischer tells us about this newest venture:
I’ve recently contributed two short stories
to Punk Rocker, the much anticipated sequel to “L.A. Punk Rocker” by top
author Brenda Perlin’s best-selling punk anthology.
I'm so proud that my stories have been
chosen for this.” LA Punk Rocker” was one of my favourite reading pleasures
last year and brought back a lot of livid memories of those exciting times.
Many people were surprised when I told them
about my involvement in the new project. You – a punk? Never! You are always so ‘clean cut’…
Well, maybe now I am (I couldn’t possibly
comment). Back then, I was young and rebellious.
Nena for example was part of a New Wave of
German artists that changed the music landscape of my youth. Visage, The Clash,
The Cure, P.I.L. – they were the air that we breathed.
Outrageous and provocative hair and
fashion, uncompromising attitudes and a hunger to live… I’m glad I was able to
witness it all, even if I wasn’t the Full Monty…
Punk Rocker is a collection of short
stories from those who were there, in the early days of Punk and New Wave. Hard
core musical anarchists who saw it all, heard it all, did it all - and survived
to tell their stories.
Along with Brenda and the West Coast punks,
Punk Rocker features rebels, writers, commentators and street kids from all
over America – talking about the music, the fashion, the attitude, the passion,
the lifestyle and, of course, the bands who made it all happen.
Meet people who discovered punk’s new dawn
– and those who were there for its sunset, in the ramshackle mausoleum of the
Backstage, in the clubs, in the gigs, in
hotel rooms with the band, on the streets –Brenda was there. She saw it all.
And so did her friends.
If you want to know how I fit into the
picture – I won’t tell you here. Read the book ;-)
This is an interview with
Christoph about Punk Rocker:
How did you get involved in the
PUNK ROCKER project?
I’m a huge fan of Brenda Perlin’s writing, and downloaded L.A.
Punk Rocker as soon as it was released. The book unexpectedly stirred a lot of
forgotten memories and latent emotions in me.
This was still going on when I
saw her call for entries to the sequel a few months ago. I couldn’t help myself
and composed two stories. I am over the moon that they were selected for the
Without giving too much away,
tell us about your short story for the anthology.
One is about my admiration for punks,
rockers and all who dared to be different and speak up. The other one is about
a wicked night I had in my student days, also in the company of Punks. They are
Can you explain what Punk means
to you? Do you have any more memories you would like to share with us?
Punk is a lifestyle and an attitude that manifests itself
outwardly in fashion and music and inwardly in a powerful mental state against
the establishment and outdated conventions. I drifted towards the political end
of the spectrum rather the nihilistic one. Every generation needed their rebels
and the punks were ours. I loved them.
What are your favorite Punk
Acts, Albums and Songs?
The Cure, P.I.L.,
Billy Idol and – if I may count her in – Cindy Lauper.
Why type of fiction do you
normally write? Tell us about the concept behind your books?
I write mostly historical fiction, (sometimes heavy)
contemporary dramas and a few thrillers. I’m interested in deeper subjects,
such as Alzheimer's, mental health, wars, displacement and identity.
Tell us about one of your main
characters. What makes them special?
Zacharias Nielsen is an 18year old idealist who leaves the
safety of his family in Denmark to fight for the radical left in the Finnish
Civil War of 1918. He’s special because he leaves material wealth behind to
fight for a better future for all, rather than his own betterment.
Who would you cast to play him
in a movie? Josh Hutchinson (since Ewan McGregor
outgrew the age for the role)
Are you like any of the
characters (and how so)?
I’m a bit like all of my characters, I guess. When I try to
understand them and their actions, some kind of projection can probably not be
helped. Even when they do things I don’t do, they do it like I would be doing
it if I did.
What do you do when you don’t
Walk my dogs, cycle, do yoga, watch comedy TV and read.
What makes you laugh?
Silly comedy programmes, adolescent humour.
Who would you like to invite
Brenda Perlin, Billy Idol and some of the long lost friends from
What would your friends say are
your best and your oddest quality?
Oddest: My taste in music.
What would you chose as those
Oddest: My sleeping pattern
Who are your favourite authors?
Lionel Shriver, Christos Tsiolkas, Khaled Hosseini, Brett Easton
Ellis, Paulette Mahurin, P.C. Zick, Murielle Cyr, Brenda Perlin, John Dolan,
Tony Gilbert, Ian Hutson, Richard Yates, Anne Tyler…
What is your favourite book?
What book are you currently
reading and in what format (e-book/paperback/hardcover)?
“Lights of Polaris” by Melodie Ramone – e-book. It‘s brilliant!
What are you working on
I’m working on a silly murder mystery set in the UK countryside.
I’m also involved in a charity project for a No-Kill Shelter: The Santa Paula
Animal Rescue Centre.
My novel: “African August” will be part of a box set in
aid of the shelter. The story revolves around a young banker and his adventures
in Uganda. It is based on some of my travel experiences on the continent.
CHRISTOPH FISCHER - Short Biography:
Christoph Fischer was born in Germany, near the Austrian border,
as the son of a Sudeten-German father and a Bavarian mother. Not a full local
in the eyes and ears of his peers he developed an ambiguous sense of belonging
and home in Bavaria. He moved to Hamburg in pursuit of his studies and to lead
a life of literary indulgence. After a few years he moved on to the UK where he
now lives in a small town in West Wales. He and his partner have three Labradoodles
to complete their family.
Christoph worked for the British Film Institute, in Libraries,
Museums and for an airline. The Luck of The Weissensteiners was published in
November 2012; Sebastian in May 2013 and The Black Eagle Inn in October 2013
– which completes his Three Nations Trilogy.
Time to Let Go, his first
contemporary work was published in May 2014, and Conditions, another
contemporary novel, in October 2014. The sequel Conditioned was published in
October 2015. His medical thriller The Healer was released in January 2015
and his second thriller The Gamblers in June 2015.
He published two more
historical novels In Search of a Revolution in March 2015 and Ludwika in
Christoph has written several other novels which are in the later
stages of editing and finalisation.
* * *
Thank you, Christoph, for this great interview and for giving us a glimpse into your next project; or should I say, projects. Since I have known you (originally as a long-suffering reviewer of my own books) you have come out swinging - and winning - establishing yourself as a prolific writer of historical fiction (when you are not punk rocking).