Sunday, June 26, 2016

Helen Hollick - ON THE ACCOUNT, A New Jesamiah Acorne Sea Venture

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.

So, in 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!”)
Me (trying to keep my stomach from shaming me even though the Sea Witch lies at anchor):
“Jesamiah, 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?”

Jesamiah (his fierce countenance suddenly softening):
“What? I’d 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 interview.)

“Now, you 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.”

Jesamiah (scowling):
“No not 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.

“A rich 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…

“I guess 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.

“As it happens, I do return to piracy in On The Account. But for a very good reason – some Barbary pirate scumbags kidnapped my wife…”

Me: “That’s 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.”

Jesamiah (laughs):
“I’m not that keen on an untimely death m’self! But what do you meanyoung man’? That’s downright condescending, Madam. I am a Captain. And I’ll be six and twenty on my next birthday, Fourth December 1719. Presents accepted. Rum preferably.”

Me: “All right, Captain. Just leave your cutlass where it is. You’ve been very forthcoming with me.”
(I notice 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.”
(Touches hat, 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 Wake….
(loosens uncomfortable cravat…. Walks off shouting orders to the crew to prepare to weigh anchor….)
* * *
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.
“Goodspeed, Captain 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

Available NOW from Helen's Author Page on an Amazon near you:

Also, read about "A Pirate and A Pony" on my other blog:

1066 Turned Upside Down (e-book)

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Abu Simbel: Egypt’s Past Magnificence

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:

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

My Review of AURELIA by Alison Morton

A Winner in the True Sense of the Word 


    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 Nova Series, is a Finalist for the 2016 Historical Novel Society Indie Award.
    Furthermore, Aurelia 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 Aurelia.
* * *

Find out Roma Nova news and book progress before everybody else, and take part in giveaways by signing up for Alison's free monthly email newsletter.

Friday, June 3, 2016

KHAMSIN - An Indie B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree

Sometimes, one's day doesn't go so well and we feel down for one reason or another - or for no reason at all (we writers tend to be a susceptible lot). 

A bit listless on this day, I opened my e-mail.

                                      And there it was:

The coveted 
B.R.A.G. Medallion,
awarded to
for Historical Fiction

Khamsin, The Devil Wind of The Nile now joins the ranks of outstanding 
indie authors whose historical fiction novels
have been vetted and approved by the
B.R.A.G. reviewers and judges.

Talk about a shot in the arm. I am a happy camper again!

You can check out and hopefully will even buy these excellent novels by award-winning authors directly through the B.R.A.G. website:

As a reminder, Khamsin as well as its four sequels are now again available from Smashwords, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and Apple's iTunes as an e-book, as well as in paperback from Amazon.

Now, I just keep smiling.

Deliciously “Subtle” - My Review of The Subtlest Soul

 I have to admit I picked up Virginia Cox’ The Subtlest Soul out of curiosity
(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).

Now I know.
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.
Congratulations to Dr. Virginia Cox for an outstanding novel.