The Blow

The Blow

An excerpt from Chapter 23 of the new novel. The girls (disguised as boys) are sailing on Captain Swiftfoot Darkrunner’s frigate Velocity. Erin is known to captain and crew as Aaron Spotsworth; Sophie, as Michael Claude. The day after they’ve been promoted to midshipmen, the ship enters a terrible storm. Mr. MacLeish is the boatswain.

“Well done, Mr. McLeish,” Darkrunner told him.

“Oh, thank you, sir.”

“Is there anything you need?” Captain Darkrunner asked.

“Only a dozen more sailors, Sir,” MacLeish said. “But we’ll do with the ones we have. I don’t wish to give them airs, but they’re the best I’ve ‘ad the honor to sail with.”

“Good man, Mr. MacLeish,” said the captain. “But if you have a deck hand to spare, I think we need two more hands at the wheel. I fear Mr. Short won’t be able to hold her steady alone through his watch.”

“Aye, Sir.” Mr. MacLeish said before descending the companionway.

Erin shielded her eyes from the rain as she watched two men trim the foresail above. “It’s amazing they can hang on in this weather.”

“Sadly, not all do,” he said staring off at the ragged gray clouds advancing from the north. “A boy not much older than you was struck by a loose boom a fortnight ago and plunged to his death right where you’re standing.”

Erin quickly shifted from the spot and searched the boards for signs of blood.

“It was  appalling to see the lad splayed out like a broken doll.” The captain hesitated a moment before he was able to continue. “He was French — a prisoner shipmate of Mr. Petit’s until they joined the mutiny. Poor Petit scrubbed the deck furiously for an hour, sobbing like a child.”

Erin felt frozen where she stood.  She felt uneasy staring down, but didn’t want to look  up into the captain’s face.

“I’m sorry, Mr. Spotsworth,” the captain said swiping his hand across his eyes. “I didn’t mean to burden you with my woes.”

“Oh, no, sir,” Erin said lifting her eyes. “It’s quite alright. I know how awful it is to lose a friend.”

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The Chaser and the Gig

The Chaser and the GigIn this photo are the chaser and the gig of the Lady Washington out at sea. The are NOT, as they would be to landsmen, a canon and a boat. They have different names to sailors.

Nearly everything has is different name at sea. The bathroom is the head. The floor is the deck. Walls are bulkheads. A stairway is a companionway. And people are often known by their title and their jobs rather than their names. A senior officer is addressed, Sir; a junior one, Mister. At least in the stories of 1720, the time period I’m currently writing about.

This blog entry is by way of explaining – at least to myself in this log – that there is an explanation why my story has progressed only slightly since my last entry. I have had to spend several weeks more than I already have in learning not just the parts of the ship, but the language of its inhabitants of three hundred years ago. I must say, it’s been more fun than work. Here are the books I’ve studied:

The 24-gun frigate Pandora by John McKay and Ron Coleman (2003)
The Reverse of the Medal by Patrick Obrian (1986)
Two Years Before the Mast by Richard Dana  (1840)
A General History of the Pyrates by Danial Defoe (1724)
Henry IV Part I by William Shakespeare (1597)

The first two are sources for nautical terminology and war at sea. The third is about the duties of the the sailors. The fourth is about the language of the 1720’s and the lives of pirates (written by the author Robinson Crusoe).  And the last for the flamboyance and immediacy I wished to breath into some of the characters. I’ve used my Nook Tablet to search these books. And the audio of the last for flavor.

Now I will resume once again – with better footing – to assemble those words forged long ago into a story yet to come. Hopefully at a faster pace now. I’m hoping to finish the draft by the end of summer.

And by the way, unlike the heaps of useless stuff we landlubbers surround ourselves with, nearly everything is vital on a ship of war. Though small by comparison to the cannons that provided broadsides, the little chasers bolted to the stern were used at the most desperate moment when an enemy came “under the stern,” as was the term. This was the moment when the foe could, in one shot, render the boat unable to maneuver by shooting the way it’s rudder which is just to the right and beneath the chaser. Without the rudder, the enemy could simply sail back and forth pouring fire into the bow and stern with impunity.

The importance of the boat, in that case, would be elevated as it was the only means of escape save death or surrender. That’s why before the action began, the men tied the boats together in a chain and pulled them into a battle well below the level of fire.

Current Word Count 43,266

Chapter 18 – The Race for Sugar Bowl Island

Erin’s eyes sprang open from a dream of counting. All was black save a flickering slice of yellow light. She was swaying. Something thumped on the roof. Something hissed against the walls. There were bells. Her mind was still counting them from the dream. Three bells … four bells … five bells.

The truth fell on her like a stone on her chest.  It was the middle of the night. The roof was a deck. The walls were a wooden hull slicing through the Deep Blue Sea. She was swinging in a hammock.  In the belly of a pirate ship scudding toward Sugar Bowl Island. To save another pirate ship from being blown to splinters. The year was 1720.

Erin was three hundred years from home.

Current Word Count: 42, 411

From Chapter Twelve of the new novel

As the girls entered the building, Erin was struck by the enormity of the lobby and everything in it.

The room was the size of Central Train Station. Forty-feet above the floor, the ceiling was a backlit blue-glass dome supported by thick brass arches. On each of the side walls hung a huge steel clock with giant brass gears that turned at various speeds. High on the wall ahead was mounted an enormous glass map of the world with brass continents. Blue neon tubes radiated from Xdom across the amber oceans to the great ports of the world. Beneath the map, was a steel-clad reception desk.  Behind it, a line of tall, powerfully built guards paced menacingly in their black suits. Their keen eyes shifted quickly amongst the visitors milling about the room and scattered among the chairs of the waiting area.

The room gave Erin a chill, which she believed was intentional. The high ceiling and the big men would naturally make the visitors feel small. Standing between the huge clocks gave the impression that the company’s time was more important than the minutes tracked by the visitors’ little watches. And the massive world map with its glowing tendrils spreading across the vast globe made the company seem like a planetary spider.

Erin drifted toward a placard marked “History of X Energy.” Perhaps it could tell them what had happened to their beautiful city. But before she reached it, she was stopped by Monique’s exclamation.

“Oh, my Gosh, it’s THEM!”

Erin turned back toward the reception counter where the guards stared back at the girls like hawks on a wire eyeing a couple of mice.

She turned her attention to two extraordinary men moving toward Monique and Erin.

Monique was right. It was THEM.

Current Word Count: 27,077