Maurice de Vlaminck Painting

I’m at the Willamette Writers Conference in Portland, OR this weekend pitching my new book. I must say the more editors I know, the more I like them. Publishers, bless them all, love numbers. Editors love words. They are the gardeners of books.

*Painting by Maurice de Vlaminck.

Editing Help from Brooke Wolff

Edit with Red2

I would like to acknowledge the professional editing help of Los Angeles writer/editor Brooke Wolff. I sent Brooke the entire manuscript of my pirate novel a month ago. Two weeks later she had finished the edit and returned it to me with enough red marks to keep me from making a fool of myself when I send the manuscript out to agents and publishers. In addition we had a ninety minute phone call to discuss certain aspects of character development, continuity and most especially how to more finely tune the book to my audience. Brooke felt the two main characters need to be two years older.

She was absolutely right. The story began as a middle grade novel. As I wrote, however, it morphed toward being young adult. What had happened was the characters began to act more maturely due to the circumstances of being with two boys their age on a pirate ship 300 years from home. At this point I could have stopped my forward progress and gone back to the beginning. But on the advice of experience, I worried I would lose momentum and possibly even the heart to finish it. So I kept going.

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From the new time travel manuscript

Sea Battle

With Sophie sleeping comfortably, Erin decided to venture above for the first time since the battle. The deck was bathed in bright, tropical sunlight. The Mansions of Night was on a port tack heading west south-west several hundred yards behind Velocity.

Erin found Mera at the stern rail watching a lone British frigate following from halfway to the horizon.

“That’s Insuperable,” Mera said solemnly. “She was on our heels when we left Sugar Bowl Bay. We’ve put three miles on her since.”

“I’m surprised your mom doesn’t join with Velocity and attack. It’s two to one.”

“Mother thinks Triumph and Lucy B are just over the rim, or they wouldn’t risk stalking us. Lucy B has jib damage and Triumph is holed below the water line. When they’ve made repairs, they’ll likely start closing on us. They’ve more sail than our ships.”

Erin stared across the heaving sea imagining the three frigates drawing closer every day until their twenty-four pound “bruisers”, as Jennie called the British cannons, could “punch us through at thousand yards.” Nell and Darkrunner would certainly turn and attack, as they had before. But there would be no surprise this time. Just smashing long shots followed by a broadside brawl which Jenny didn’t believe the pirate ships could long stand.

“Don’t fret too much,” Mera said watching Erin’s face. “We’ve still got the best captains on the Deep Blue Sea.”

Erin tried her best to smile, but couldn’t help but worry at the odds.

[Thanks to Chris Hunt for providing reference to image:  Battle of Quiberon Bay: the Day After (Richard Wright 1760)]

research on the action sequence of firing a cannon

Gun Drill aboard USS Constitution

I am at the scene in my pirate novel where my heroines, who have just been made midshipmen (yes, midshipmen), need to be trained in how to fire cannons called 12-pounders.

As I mentioned before I’ve read several of the Master and Commander book series by Patrick O’Brian. There is a detailed description in the fourth chapter of the book by that title. But even after having read it several times, I still found it difficult to visualize what the mechanisms looked like and exactly how the crew performed their tasks. The best representation I found was a youtube video of the crew of the USS Constitution running through the identical drill. The ship is of a later date than my Velocity, and the cannon is a 24-pounder, but the process is exactly as O’Brian describes it. Cannon technology didn’t significantly change until the advent of the breech loaders in the mid-nineteenth century. Click on the image below to see the video.

A change in direction









I’ve decided to take a change in direction in chosing my next piece.  Having completed the first novel in the Inventors’ Daughter Series and written an extensive chapter-by-chapter outline of  the second, I feel confident that I can take a haitus and return to the series when I am ready.  This feels natural to me, as I try to rotate my crops between whimsical and serious works.

In the meantime, I’m going to write a 5000-10,000 word story about myself and my friends when we were seventeen and eighteen.  It’s a sad story I’ve wanted to tell for many years now and feel I am now able to tell it truthfully.

A passage on a tall ship

Lady Washington Passage HalfTomorrow, my friend Tom Ormbrek and I are sailing an eighty-mile passage from Ilwaco, Washington at the mouth of the Columbia River to Westport, Washington at the mouth of Grays Harbor.  We’ll leave at three in the afternoon and arrive at seven in the morning. Or nine, or noon depending on the wind and the seas.

We will sail on The Lady Washington, the official ship of the State of Washington.  It also happens to be the ship used in The Pirates of the Caribbeanand and many other films.  Johnny Depp, Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom stood upon it many a time.

Tom is a good friend and a very astute fellow from a lively, intelligent family.  His brother knows everything there is to know about old films.  And his other siblings are equally interesting.  His niece Layla is a writer.  His mother Virginia is wonderful women of about ninety who remembers much more than I’ve forgotten.    Tom is a tin bender, as he describes himself.  He’s a union man, making his living creating parts for Boeing aircraft.  And an expert on Northwest and general  American history, Mark Twain, the gold rush, etc.  Tom eschews commercial television in favor of PBS and C-SPAN.  And he plays a wicked harmonica.

I am going to see what life was like on a two-hundred year old ship.  The Lady Washington is a replica of one by the same name that sailed the Pacific long ago.  I want to sail on the closest thing I can to a real pirate ship as background for a children’s novel I am currently writing.

I’ll try to post from the trip, if technology allows.

So, yar!