Previous editions of the Journal pages

The start of a new year is always filled with excited hope; a feeling which begins to tail off by April, turns to a shrug of "oh well" by July, and is completely gone come October - by which time it doesn't matter because January will soon be here and the whole thing begins again.

Well, this year I'm determined not to allow the excitement and hope to fade. You have to grab your opportunities, sure, but sometimes you have to stun them first with a club. I'm not certain how good my aim is, but I can assure you those opportunities are not going to escape so easily this time.

Sea Witch is being read by a respected publishing house. So far the work is being favourably received, but she is not safely into anchorage yet. So much depends on marketability. Unfortunately, even if a manuscript is thoroughly enjoyed by an editor at a publishers, if there is not a suitable money-making "slot" it will not be accepted. Sadly the days of publishers speculating on an initial small print run are no more. That isn't going to stop me or Sea Witch from sailing into literary adventure is it?

I am also doing some interesting research work for the Rt. Hon. Sir John Nott K.C.B. who recently got in contact as an admirer of my work. A former Defence Secretary in Margaret Thatcher's Government, Sir John has enjoyed a varied and exciting career. He has a fascinating family history which appears to date back to the fourteenth century and possibly beyond. I thoroughly recommend his little book "Mr Wonderful Takes a Cruise" (Ebury Press), a light hearted, often hilarious series of adventures undertaken by Sir John while learning to ballroom dance in preparation for a cruise.

As a pirate fan I am eagerly awaiting the return of Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow with the release of his second Pirates of the Caribbean movie, "Dead Man's Chest". Then there is 'my own' film "1066" which is still under development, and a possible TV documentary about King Harold's burial place. Goodness, when am I going to get time to write?

The month of May 2006 will see my Silver Wedding Anniversary - should we have a party? I'll have to think about that one.

In July 2006, our pony Rosie is due to have her foal.

September 2006 will hopefully see me on a lecture tour in the Netherlands. Whether anyone will actually want to come and hear me talking about King Harold is another matter entirely of course.

Happy New Year Three things that ruin wisdom: ignorance, inaccuracy, forgetfulness
A few days late with the journal. My apologies. Nearing the robust age of 53, I find I am having occasional "senior moments", one of them being I completely forgot it was February.

It is probably a pathetic excuse but there are times when dates and times get confused in my disintegrating menopausal brain cells. I have to think ahead to what we, as a family, will be doing at the weekend. Which centre my daughter will be competing at, for instance, or what day the farrier is coming to shoe the horses.

Meanwhile my thoughts linger several centuries in the past, sailing the oceans with my pirate character, writing what I hope will be a sequel to the first of his adventures. Hopefully more news on that next month! I am also researching the Restoration period of Charles II for Sir John Nott and have a talk on King Harold to prepare. Is it any wonder I'm muddled as to what day it is? What Century it is?

I have been asked to offer some advice about writing. There are common errors which "wannabe" writers can so easily avoid. Read your work through carefully - preferably read it aloud - and look out for over-use of the same word. "Velvet", for instance; velvet sky, soft velvet look of her eyes, velvet touch. All very well if spaced out, but not in the same chapter, and the next chapter, and the next...

The English language is rich and varied; use it to full advantage. Don't use "he" too often, make sure your reader knows which character you are talking about by using his name. Do not have lengthy paragraphs of narrative. Break them up with snippets of conversation - and of course vice-versa. There is nothing more tedious for a reader than lines of "he said, she said."

In my view, these are the three hardest things about writing:  

One. Getting started in the first place. There is always something vastly more important to be doing, such as suddenly realising you haven't cleared out the garden shed for several years. 

Two. When you have got going, it's not always easy to know when to stop. It's important to hook your reader with the very first sentence, keep their attention through the next paragraph, then leave them breathless through each consecutive chapter. So many novice writers, however, fail to give that last exultant leap of pleasure at the end of the work. The crescendo becomes a damp squib.

Yes, loose ends must be tied off, but go out with a bang, leave your reader screaming for more, not closing the book with a slight disappointed sigh and thinking "Is that it?"

Go back and look for the sentence that says it all - quite possibly you've already written it a few pages earlier, before the lengthy and unnecessary summing-up. Seek the one liner, the clincher. Find it, then bravely press the Delete button on everything which follows.

I wrote two alternative finishing chapters for Pendragon's Banner. I went back, read through and realised I was stopping at the wrong place. End it there, with the boy dead and the head of the woman who had killed him rolling down the hillside. Well, that's not quite the actual ending of Pendragon's Banner, but it's near enough.

Oh, and the third hardest thing? Writing your next book. Among all the things I've lost the one I miss the most is my mind
February was a busy month, most of it filled with laughter - one weekend in particular. Somehow I managed to end up organising a light-hearted 'pirate' weekend in Mablethorpe, a small seaside town a few miles north of the well known English pirate haven of Skegness.

Not quite the same romantic-sounding name as Port Royal, Nassau or Tortuga I grant, but if the cold, grey North Sea and the windswept Lincolnshire coast was good enough for the Vikings, the original pirates, I suppose it was good enough for us.

"Us" was a group of UK-based "Pirates of the Caribbean" devotees from one of the smaller but great fun website message-boards. We wanted to meet up, fancied a weekend away, and as I happen to know the proprietors of a nice little guest house called the Ramblers Hotel in Lincolnshire, it was the obvious choice.

We had a treasure hunt, talked and laughed, watched a film and had a wonderful dinner - all in pirate costume of course.

The most surreal thing happened. Whilst preparing for dinner, a knock came at my bedroom door and in strolled an almost perfect Captain Jack Sparrow look-alike. "Helen" he said, "can I borrow your eye-liner please?" I doubt I will ever forget the moment when, for an instant, I thought the real Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) was standing there! Sigh.

Avian (bird) 'flu, on our doorstep in France, has my family worried. Will our hens and ducks be all right? So far they have survived attacks by foxes, wandering off, being marooned all night and being used as a football by horses. Poor Dobby; it really is not a good idea to attempt to lay an egg in the middle of a field where horses are grazing. Not when something spooks them and they decide to re-create the Charge of the Light Brigade. She got a bit flattened, quite a bit ruffled and very indignant.

We do not really have the facilities to keep our chickens indoors for several months - and what about the three ducks? At the moment they are disgruntled because the pond is frozen over. Or their chagrin could be caused by the fact that we chuckle as they go skidding across the surface, quacking and flapping like mad.

My husband, Ron, keeps homing pigeons. Are we going to be able to race this year? Mind you I reckon we must have the only pigeons in England who are shortsighted and need a road map to find their way home. I suppose we will just have to wait and see what happens, and possibly vaccinate. Until then, with typical British fortitude, we shall all keep a stiff upper beak.

I never realised when I began writing professionally that I would receive so much pleasure from my books - not just from the novels themselves, but from the many new and fantastic friends I have made because of them. People who are King Arthur fans, wishing to read more of what he might have been like; people who regret England passing into Norman hands in 1066 and who weep at the end of my story Harold the King.

Also those who enjoy the ultimate fantasy of the eighteenth century, the Golden Age of Piracy. I do so appreciate your friendship and support. Thank you. Now, bring me that horizon!

I have so much news to tell.

The publishing industry, understandably, tends to concentrate on books that will sell in their thousands. Sadly that usually means an author's back list tends to become forgotten. Publishing Houses are only interested in their latest releases - particularly in the scoop of the newest passing-phase celebrity superstar.

All well and good, it is perhaps interesting to know the intimate details of Miss 'X', Mr 'Y' and Sir 'Z' but I am concerned that ordinary books - the "darn good read" which sell steadily but only as a few a month, will soon disappear. We will be left with a plethora of the Booker Prize Winners, ghost-written autobiographies and Harry Potter look-alikes.

Because they are not making oodles of money from my books, my previous publisher has decided not to re-print the Pendragon's Banner Trilogy and Harold the King , which is highly frustrating as I have so many people e-mailing me asking from where they can obtain copies.

Fear not, a solution is upon us!

I have taken the enormous step of deciding to self-publish. It will either be the wisest or the stupidest thing I have ever done, but it will mean my books will remain in print for as long as I want them to be. The new editions, with new covers and ISBN numbers will, I hope, be available from mid-May through any on-line bookseller, Amazon for instance, or via any bookshop who will be able to order copies for you.

Watch this space for up-to-date information.

However, the excitement does not end there. I have also decided to self-publish my pirate historical fantasy adventure Sea Witch. I am busy doing a final proof read and she will, if all goes to plan, be setting sail in early May 2006. I will inform everyone on my mailing list as soon as I have a launch date so you can put your order in for the first voyage of my pirate rogue, Jesamiah Acorne and his lovely bewitching girlfriend Tiola.

If you are not on the list, and would like to be included, e-mail me using the Contact button above.

I am enjoying the production of a book, having control over the cover design and text layout for instance, although there are drawbacks and potential pitfalls. Even the most experienced writer needs an editor to discuss how the story flows, and a copy-editor to correct grammar, spelling, continuity etc. You must be careful. There are a few good self-publishing companies, but many are "cowboys" who promise the earth and deliver a pile of manure. You must make extensive enquiries and read the small print. Self-publishing does not necessarily provide the professionals you need to produce a good, enjoyable novel, nor is marketing always included.

In addition to the cost of printing, graphic design and initial set-up, you will need to purchase books for yourself if going print-on-demand, which means that books are printed as-and-when ordered, instead of being printed in one grand edition and then stored in a warehouse - or your garage!

You need copies to sell, review copies to send out, and you need to know how to contact the media. All this can be costly, time-consuming and possibly disappointing. First-time authors, particularly self-published authors, are very often overlooked by reviewers and bookstores. Sales will probably not be in their hundreds.

Self-publishing is not necessarily vanity publishing. It is becoming respectable and book sellers, the media and even publishers are beginning to take notice. Why? Because established authors like myself and frustrated first-time writers who have a huge talent but cannot get beyond the slush-pile of a lesser editor's desk are fed up with being side-lined.

I said above that I was concerned there may soon be no darn good books to read. My concern is not for the ordinary books, the steady sales, but the 'round peg' novels that do not fit into a publisher's rigid 'square hole' - the ones that may not make thousands of pounds or dollars or euros in their first month of sale.

We will be publishing them ourselves. Who needs Publishing Houses, or agents who take three to five months to get around to glancing at your synopsis and rarely bother to acknowledge your hopeful, eager enthusiasm?

Nothing may come of my venture. Sea Witch might set sail and sink without trace. So what? I am enjoying myself! The road to success is always under construction
Where do I start?

Sea Witch is to be launched on May 13th at my local Ottakers bookshop in Walthamstow, North East London, with her official publication date on June 1st. The cover is now up on my home page - I am thrilled with it. If you live within travelling distance of London and would like to come along to Ottakers you will be more than welcome. Details are on the Index page under Dates for your Diary. If all goes to plan, Captain Jesamiah Acorne will be there in person, courtesy of a good friend of mine, Paul, who is a dab hand at dressing up as a pirate. He does a wonderful Jack Sparrow impersonation, I can't wait to see him as Jesamiah! My daughter Kathy has also been creating a pirate costume for herself; she is most disappointed that I will not allow her to walk around the shopping centre with my real cutlass at her hip. I wonder how long it would be before she was arrested for carrying a dangerous weapon?

What is it about pirates that brings the child out in all of us? The romance? The adventure? In reality they were a dreadful lot, murderers and thieves. Rarely washing, riddled with syphilis. Usually drunk. The Sweet Trade, On the Account - a short but merry life. Perhaps it is their freedom we envy.

Sea Witch is swashbuckling adventure, blended with fantasy and romance, a Sailor's Yarn. As the quote on the cover says "In the Sexiest Pirate contest, Jesamiah Acorne gives Johnny Depp's Jack Sparrow a run for his money" (Sharon Penman). Sea Witch is most definitely not for younger readers. It is for adults - very much an 18 certificate.

If you would like to e-mail Captain Acorne he has his own address: Jesamiah@HelenHollick.net. I cannot guarantee a prompt answer, however. He is a very busy pirate, with all that plundering and pillaging - and other things - to do.

I have plans for at least seven more voyages in the Sea Witch Chronicles, so watch this space. I cannot believe after all this while my Jesamiah is about to set sail. So far, I am thoroughly enjoying the experience of self-publishing. BookForce UK have looked after me very well and I can heartily recommend them. There are pitfalls to producing your own books, but then mainstream publishing is not always "plain sailing" either.

In addition to Sea Witch BookForce UK will also be publishing my Arthurian Trilogy and Harold the King. All four will have new covers and ISBN numbers. As soon as the details are available they will be on my home page. The trilogy will be a second edition as I am taking this opportunity to slightly edit all three books. I wrote The Kingmaking thirteen years ago, I like to think my style has improved since then, so a few "tweaks and twiddles" will not come amiss.

All of these books will be available after May 13th from any good bookstore, or order direct from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com. Click on the relevant icon below. Hopefully you will be able to pre-order by the 7th of May. For those of you who would like a signed copy I will shortly be having signed bookplates available that can be inserted. I am not sure of the cost yet, but any profit will go to charity. I do not believe, as with some authors or celebrities, in charging for my scrawled autograph.
The end of May will also see my Silver Wedding anniversary and it is not long until our Welsh pony, Cygnus Tudor Rose, foals. She has a distinct waddle now and it is wonderful to see the foal kicking. Kathy and I are convinced it is a colt. I want to call him Jesamiah or Acorne of course. I doubt Kathy will agree, although I am officially sponsoring her show jumping this year. She has new saddlecloths and rugs embroidered with www.helenhollick.net all in "Jesamiah Blue", the colour of the blue ribbons my pirate wears.

Other news: My book tour of the Netherlands has been finalised for September 2006 and April 2007 and some time soon I will be taking part in a BBC TV documentary about the life of King Harold. Life is suddenly becoming very busy and exciting! Beware of pirates - danger lurks in their smiles
Well, Self Publish is certainly an experience, one that, so far, seems to be going well.

There have been a few minor hiccups but nothing drastic, and far worse happened in mainstream publishing. The 300-odd errors in The Kingmaking, and the USA version printed from the uncorrected proof. "Writing, I like. It's the paperwork I cannot stand", to borrow a well-known saying.

I have had jurisdiction over the layout, the font and the cover. All final decisions have been my own, again unlike mainstream, where I had to put up with some hideous covers. So, I am all set for Sea Witch's official publication day - the 1st of June 2006. It has it's slot on Amazon and other on-line bookstores, complete with the cover image. Harold the King is also now available to buy, with a stunning new front cover.

Now all I have to do is get on and finish Pirate Code, the second voyage of Cpt Jesamiah Acorne. My sincere thanks to www.keeptothecode.com, the official Disney Pirates of the Caribbean fan site. They posted a lovely spread about Sea Witch and ran a competition. Winners, your prize is on it's way.

The launch at my local bookstore, Ottakars of Walthamstow in north London went well. Totally amazing; myself and two pirates walking through an indoor shopping centre and not one person bats an eyelid. Either Walthamstow is well used to pirates, or it is a case of our stiff British reserve!

Paul dressed up as Jesamiah and did a fantastic job, either threatening a few people with his cutlass and making them walk the plank to the table where I was signing books, or being utterly charming and kissing ladies' hands. He played my Jes so well - the rogue!

My daughter Kathy was Cutless Kate, so named because I would not allow her to use my cutlass. Click here to see a picture of the three of us. She so enjoyed dressing up as a pirate she wanted to wear her costume again the following Saturday. Hmm. Not entirely appropriate for a family wedding, methinks. Especially as she was Maid of Honour.

We are under drought restrictions here in South East England. Needless to say, the last few weeks it has virtually not stopped raining; we have even had impressive thunderstorms.

A line from the soon to be released Pirates of the Caribbean movie Dead Man's Chest, starring Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightly, has Jack Sparrow prancing about on the deck of the Black Pearl jeering to Davy Jones, who is after claiming his soul; "I've got a jar of d.i.r.t. - I've got a jar of d.i.r.t." Well here in London I can go one better than you Cpt Sparrow. "I've got a bootfull of m.u.d. - I've got a bootfull of m.u.d!"

Our pony, Rosie, is enormous - but then she does only have three or so weeks to go until she foals. At the moment it looks like she is expecting twins. Thank goodness for modern technology. Scanning has shown there is only one in there. I am trying to persuade Kathy that if it's a colt she should call him Acorne. So far I am not making much headway. 

I am now settled into my new study, which was previously our front room. Finally getting fed up with only a corner in the dining room, and having (seemingly) the world and his wife tramp through while I was trying to write, I moved to the front end of the house. My own big room, with all my books, posters, pictures, trinkets and treasures. A settee with a fur throw, complete with two sleeping cats, a TV in the corner and a nice big desk. The only problem, I now spend hours looking out of the window to see if anything interesting is happening in the street. Sad to say, there rarely is.

Oh well, I suppose I could always do some writing instead. When I start a book it's like falling in love. Towards the end, that love is obsessive and exclusive.
A sad newsletter.

Our foal was born on Midsummer's Day, seemingly strong and healthy. Sadly, he lived only a few days - he needed to undergo emergency surgery which he did not survive. He was born with a perforated bladder, the symptoms not showing until it was too late. Such a lovely little chap - the days he had were days in the sun, a short but very happy life.

We named him Springwillow Midsummer Acorne, or Mac for short. We are obviously devastated, but the mare, Rosie, is fine. Animals accept these things so much better than we do. We'll try again for another foal. Nature's way; tragedies happen but life goes on. Thank you to those who have sent such kind words. We very much appreciate your support.

Publication date for Sea Witch has come and gone, and sales are building. Amazon.com did not help a slow start by mislaying some early orders. If you ordered a copy and it still has not come, please cancel that order and immediately re-order. My apologies for the inconvenience. Amazon (.com and .co.uk) also seem to be having a problem with posting readers' reviews which is annoying. If you have the patience and have read and enjoyed Sea Witch, or any of my books come to that, please could you attempt to add a review? It all helps with sales. How am I doing at this marketing lark? It's a rapid learning curve, I can tell you!

I have been nominated for an award: The Flying Dutchman Award for Pirattitude. It seems going pirate and freelance, making my agent walk the plank and firing a broadside at mainstream publishing has earned me some admirers. The awards are decided in the Spring. Watch this space.

Several of my friends, as first time authors, have written good novels but have had no luck in finding a publisher. One has decided to self publish, the others may well go the same way. A memorable reject slip praised one of my novels most highly: "It has good characterisation, is well written, absorbing and exciting, I enjoyed it. I am sure it will do well... but it is not for us."

What do publishers want for goodness sake? Ah, but then, this hopeful author is not a footballer or a celebrity chef, nor is she a buxom young blonde with her assets in.. er.. a place that is not her head. I know it sounds cynical, but if she was, she would be accepted immediately. Publishers have a business to run, I appreciate they need to make money, but is the cost becoming too high? Where are all the darn good reads? The books that are not immediate best-seller status but are a steady, long-term sell? Books that become everlasting old favourites. With no disrespect to the footballers and blonde haired, blue eyed celebrities - their biographies (ghost written, of course) will not be on my bookshelves now, let alone in five, ten years time, whereas my favourite authors have, and will retain, pride of place. If publishers are not interested in well-written novels, what future is there for new authors? I just hope companies such as BookForce UK manage to tear down the existing barrier of literary snobbery. Self Publish is not necessarily Vanity Publish - there is a difference. Good authors have a choice: remain sidelined and unpublished or self publish. As a reader, frankly, I do not give a cracked pot for whether a book is mainstream or self published. It is about time reviewers and the media woke up to this fact as well. All I am interested in is a good, well-written, exciting and engrossing novel. Pity the mainstream publishers aren't.

I now have some self-adhesive bookplates for Sea Witch which I can sign and send to my readers. If you require one please e-mail using the Contact button above. At the moment, for 2006, these will be free of charge, but should I reach the dizzy heights of best-seller ranking, I may have to demand a ransom of a few pieces-of-eight to cover costs. I hope to also have bookplates for my historical novels as soon as possible. Request a bookplate for Sea Witch before the end of September 2006 and you will also receive one of Jesamiah's blue ribbons.

Several people have asked me about these blue ribbons. Have you noticed the ribbon on my home page? "What is the significance of this blue ribbon?" they say. I suggest you read Sea Witch and find out.

Here my story ends; I fancy I am still in the orchard, with my friends, standing under the apple trees
The person who invents a clock that puts thirty-six hours into a twenty-four hour day will be rich beyond comparison. Where does the time go? I have had to make a list of "things to do" as I just cannot keep up with everything. So far I've managed to cross one item off, and that was "get to bed before 1.30 a.m".

Sea Witch is doing fantastically well. Keep To The Code have been featuring a mass read-along, where several of the message board members are reading a few chapters and then discussing their thoughts, impressions etc. I have a sneaky suspicion the participants will be reading beyond the agreed two chapters at a time though. What has really left me totally gob-smacked are the several e-mails I have received from Jack Sparrow fans saying they think my Jesamiah is even better than Jack because he has more depth to his character. To be fair, the Pirates of the Caribbean movies are aimed at a family audience, and movies rarely embrace characterisation.Sea Witch and Jesamiah are for adults, and being in book form can elaborate on thoughts, actions and motivations, whereas a film has to be geared towards action and dialogue. All the same. 

In Sea Witch I have added a few small tributes to Johnny Depp as a personal way of saying thank you for his creation of Jack Sparrow. What are they? Ah, that would be telling.  And, although I have been asked several times, I am not giving anything away about Jesamiah's blue ribbons. You will have to read the book. Sorry.

Several photographs of interest are not of sufficient quality to be included in my website gallery, but I would like to share them with you as they have a special memory or meaning. So, click here for my personal photo album. There is nothing fancy, nothing edited; What You See Is What You Get as they say. As and when I have anything worth sharing I will be adding to the album, so take a look occasionally if you so wish.

I have added several new pages to the site. For those who have read Sea Witch, click on the blue ribbon on the Homepage for a preview of Book Two, Pirate Code - but be warned, it's a spoiler page.

The links to other websites page has been updated; I take the view that anyone who is kind enough to link their site to mine deserves a reciprocated courtesy.

There is a new reader's reviews page. Reviews from the media are all very well, but what about the real readers, the real people, who read books for pleasure not just to make some clever comment on the pages of a newspaper?

If you would like to send me your review of any of my books please feel free to do so. At my Webmaster's discretion, and possibly in an abridged version, they will be added in. All views will be considered - which means I will include constructive criticism as well as praise. As long as you can give a reason why you did not like something, your comments will be added.

Please note, however, this is not a message board. I cannot include correspondence or a "right to reply". Comments can be sent to me using the Contact button above.

I respect my readers and if you have a valid point I will consider it. This is especially important with a planned series such as the Sea Witch Chronicles. To be a success I have to ensure the stories go from strength to strength. To do so I must listen to the feedback I receive. So far, everyone has fallen in love with Jesamiah and wants to take him home. Well, that's fine. Just remember to hide the rum first. There is no point in climbing mountains if you never stop to admire the view.
A quick reminder to start: September 19th is International Talk Like A Pirate Day - Arrr!

Had a wonderful invitation recently, to visit a replica Saxon Manorial Burgh. The Burgh is in its early stages of being built, but the palisade fence is up, the gate-house is partially completed and the Manor Hall itself, oh wow! Rather than me rattle on here go to the Wychurst site for a browse.  For additional pictures, visit my own photo album.

Having enlisted the aid of webmaster Mal as driver and daughter Kathy as bodyguard, off we went to Canterbury. The site was easy to find and everyone so friendly and welcoming. The partially completed Hall was simply fantastic. Several thousand oak shingles hammered into place so far, to do just half the roof. The love and dedication that the workers are putting into this reconstruction is very obvious.

We had a wonderful day; thank you to everyone, especially Kim and Kevin. I am looking forward to going back in a year or two to see what progress has been made. Seeing things like the reconstructed Hall makes writing the details in a novel so much easier - to be able to see for yourself the gloom inside a feasting hall, smell the woodsmoke, see a sun ray dancing down through the smoke-hole.

A couple of fans are researching details for the next book in the Sea Witch Chronicles, Pirate Code. Having read Sea Witch and fallen hook, line and sinker for my charmer of a rogue, Jesamiah, they volunteered to help out. Polly went on a Caribbean Cruise, Tanya is going to Florida and Vicki is spending a week on a tall ship Oh envy! Thank you ladies. The sights, sounds and smells are so important to help bring a story to life.

Woke up weeping the other morning. Silly I know, but I had a vivid dream about Jesamiah, Tiola and another character who will appear in a future book. It was during that half-asleep, half-awake time, when dawn is not quite up and about. I suppose the characters must have been on my mind, but I plainly saw a scene of Jesamiah being chased up the slope of a forest: I could hear and smell the sea, hear his breath panting, the snap of dry twigs beneath his boots. I won't tell you what happened as I can't let cats out of bags can I? Suffice to say, an important character gets killed.

I have dreamt scenes before. In Harold the King, I dreamt the scene of Edyth Swanneck watching some riders pass by on the far side of the River Lea, then I saw her running up the slope of a meadow, her kingfisher-blue cloak fluttering. I dreamt several scenes of the Pendragon's Banner Trilogy but Jesamiah has outshone them all so far. Perhaps it's the pull of the sea and a love of ships that plays out these scenes in my head? Almost like a private movie show. How much, I wonder, are these experiences all a part of an over-active imagination?

Or then again, Jesamiah is so real to me. Is there perhaps something in the idea of a parallel universe? Are the events that are happening there leaking through, and we authors happen to be tuned in to picking them up? It sounds a bit silly I know, but, can anyone explain just how so many scenes manage to write themselves? I set out to do it one way, and it ends up completely different, the words, the action just happens, unrolling in my mind as I type. Now that is spooky, and it's also the difference between a good book and a mediocre one. If the characters become so alive to the author, then they will come just as much alive and real to the reader.

Not sure if having a real pirate around is a good thing though. Heard a small boy walking past my house the other day loudly proclaiming to his mum: "Mummy, that's where the pirates live!" Hmmm.

Beyond reason, comes belief.
Interviews for the press, gallivanting from one end of the Netherlands to the other. Gosh, what a busy and exciting life I lead!

The press interviews were connected to Talk Like A Pirate Day, which involved an interview with LBC News Radio in London UK, where my friend Paul came along in full pirate regalia and wowed everyone in the reception lobby - and on the London Underground. Then my daughter Kathy donned her Cutless Kate outfit for the local press, although technically she's now Got-A-Cutlass Kate.

This week we are going along to her old school to talk about pirates. Hmm, not sure why her school is so thrilled at the prospect, nor why they have invited the press along. Is "ex-pupil turns pirate" really a suitable headline for a school I wonder?

The Netherlands.  I now know the Dutch train system pretty well. Travelled a few hundred miles across Holland and did not see a single windmill in the process! From the west coast to the northeast, down to the southeast, back to the northwest, then onwards to the mid-west. Believe me, a suitcase gets heavy when you're sprinting for a train that should have been on platform 9 but is now somewhere else. You can hear the announcements saying something about the train to Maastricht - with "Maastricht" being the only word you understand. So "thank you" to the kind woman who helped me find the Maastricht train on platform 11 at Utrecht, and "thank you" as well to the even kinder Englishwoman at the Hook of Holland who sorted me out with a train ticket. My grateful appreciation you both.

What a fantastic place Holland is - and what wonderful people. My lecture tour Let's Hear It For Harold was arranged for four different venues: Enschede, Maastricht, Den Haag and Bavel, near Breda.

My sincere thanks to Anda Witsenburg who was my first hostess, she made me so very welcome and introduced me to stroopwaffles. I am now addicted - they are a sort of biscuit; a round waffle-like shell with a sweet filling, delicious hot or cold. Very fattening, very yummy!

Linda and Dominic in Maastricht treated me to the most delightful meal at the lecture venue at the Hotel-restaurant de L'Emperuer in Maastricht. Linda had taken me for a lovely stroll around town in the afternoon, and we talked pirates most of the time. Linda is from England. Great to have made a new friend so quickly and easily.

Onwards to Den Haag (The Hague). Was reluctant to relocate as I didn't think anyone could top the friendship and welcome I had so far received. I was met by Mr van Iersel, a delightful and charming host. To top everything, there in my room at my host's imposing house was a genuine sea captain's chest of drawers, beautifully painted with a ship and his name on the top.

I truly felt my Captain Acorne was there with me, thoroughly enjoying himself, although as a pirate I think he spent his nights in less, er, moral, company. In the morning Mr van Iersel showed me around Den Haag and took me to the Mauritshuis. How wonderful to see original Rembrandt masterpieces, and the Girl With a Pearl Earring. I was surprised, it is quite a small painting.

Onwards to my final venue, a hotel this time, although Betina & Michael Clarke invited me to a wonderful dinner at their house on Saturday evening. Coincidence? Who can say? Betina did not know my last novel is about the sea and pirates. purely by chance she had booked me into Het Scheepshuys - the Ship House, complete with a huge golden weathervane of a ship in full sail. The present owner so wants to discover more about the ship. Why a ship for instance? Breda is miles from the coast.  So if you know anything about weathervanes or Breda history . please e-mail.

My lectures? Oh, they went down well. I think. I've been invited back again, so I guess they were acceptable. I have nothing to declare except my genius
It is a month for publications.

At last, my Pendragon's Banner trilogy is now re-published, seeing all my novels back in full print. The Kingmaking, Pendragon's Banner and Shadow of the King are now available in new editions, with new covers. Visit my home page and click on any cover for details. My thanks to Jennie Paterson at BookForce UK for all her hard work in getting these three books ready for publication. It has not been an easy task but the results are fantastic. Thank you again to Jennie, the rest of the team, and Tom Bunning Design for the covers.

Also now produced by BookForce under their Discovered Diamond publications, and most suitable for Halloween is the re-issue of Raven Dane's excellent first fantasy novel about vampires, Blood Tears, the first of a trilogy, although there will be others in the Legacy of the Dark Kind series.

Her vampires are not the Dracula-type garlic and stake-through the heart version. These are the Dark Kind who have been alive for thousands of years, put here on Earth for a reason, and following their own code of honour.

Set in the period of World War II, the story revolves around the Dark Kind Prince, Azrar, the commoner sha'ref* Jazriel, and the human girl Khari, who has the gift of "knowing" or mind reading. The characters become involved in a secret "spook" squad of men and women who use their hidden talents to go undercover into Nazi Berlin.

Jazriel is a wonderful creation. Handsome male humans beware, for the Dark Kind only prey on young men. Us ladies are safe, but we could be in danger of falling for Azrar or Jazriel since they are very much in the gorgeous hunk category. A vampire - gorgeous? Believe me, they are of "to fall for" status! If you like reading fantasy, give Blood Tears a try.

[*sha'ref. How to put this delicately for a non-censored site - err; adult personal entertainer?]

The second novel in the series, Blood Lament, will be published in early 2007. It is a terrific roller-coaster read. Raven Dane is new to her craft as an author and is still learning her trade, but her talent is growing and she is, I am certain, on the verge of becoming one of our most exciting and imaginative fantasy writers. If everything goes to plan, Jazriel will join with Captain Jesamiah Acorne for the fourth Sea Witch adventure, provisionally entitled On the Account. Pirates and vampires? Exciting!

Thank you also to Raven and her sister Claire for organising and running a stall at the recent British Fantasy Society Convention in Nottingham, where they promoted Blood Tears and Sea Witch. Sales were not huge but the level of interest was most encouraging. The stall, judging by the photographs, looked fabulous. I hope to be there next year. If anyone has suggestions of similar UK fantasy conventions where we might be welcome with our books, please e-mail me.

BookForce UK are also publishing the books of their 2006 Undiscovered Authors competition winners. I had the pleasure of meeting some of them in London recently at the launch, a lovely evening chatting about "Freelance" publishing with like-minded authors and friends. I hope it becomes an annual event.

Seven months into signing up with BookForce I have not regretted the move. The company is efficient, courteous, and enthusiastic. I heartily recommend them.

If you are considering purchasing any books or any CD's or DVD's from Amazon.co.uk could I ask you to click through via the link on my home page? I get a small commission from all orders - not much, but enough to fund the postage costs of sending free signed bookplates to anyone who requests one. I have adhesive bookplates for Sea Witch and my historical novels. If you would like one please e-mail me using the Contact button above. I make no charge, but I do ask if you could donate a small sum to the charity of your choice. I will need to know what book(s) you want one for, your name and your address.

My daughter is now heavily into pirates. Fancy dress parties abound this time of year, and her pirate costume is creating quite a stir. We both laughed when a new friend asked what she did for a living and she answered: "I'm a pirate." To give him his due, his response was quite calm: "Oh. I've never been out with a pirate before."

I'm not sure how long into the date he realised she was pulling his wooden leg. Three locks that unlock thoughts: drunkenness, trustfulness, love.
As my last newsletter was being posted from here on the 1st of November 2006, I became homeless - or I suppose, to be more accurate, my daughter became bedroomless.

We live(d) in a ground floor maisonette built circa 1910. House sized, but on one level. Upstairs is my very nice neighbour, Huw. Large tip. Always switch off your mobile (cell) phone charger. If not, the bedroom of the upstairs flat could end up in the bedroom of the downstairs flat.

31st October - Halloween night.

6:15 p.m.
I assumed Huw was in as I could hear thumps and bumps. It sounded as if he was moving heavy furniture about. A slight whiff of smoke, a small smell of burning plastic, but the kids had been letting fireworks off in the alleyway beside our flat, so I thought nothing of it.

8:00 p.m.
More thumps and bumps, then an urgent ring on my doorbell. There stands Huw; he hadn't been in at all. He had come home, opened his front door and the updraught had sent the several hours-worth of smouldering carpet, floorboards and floor joists, and our ceiling, into a full whoosh of fire.

Thank you, here, to the young lass who had been passing at the time "trick-or-treating". She saw the smoke gush out of Huw's front door, yelled at him that it was a fire - to shut the door and not go in, then promptly called the fire brigade on her mobile phone. Her prompt action probably saved the whole place from burning down. We don't know who you are, but thank you.

The result was his floor, our ceiling - what was left of it - collapsing down, firemen everywhere until about 1:30 a.m. and two homes written off. Don't worry, everyone is okay. No person or pet animal was harmed. The first thing I grabbed from my daughter's bedroom, as water and smoke poured in from above - a bit like the fires of hell but in reverse, as it were - was the budgie cage. The second thing(s) were her two very expensive show jumping saddles.

The third was rescued by a rather gorgeous fireman teetering on what was left of her rubble-strewn, sodden, smoking, bed. A poster on her wall, a very precious Pirates of the Caribbean Dead Man's Chest poster which had been presented to her by the management at the first showing of the film in our local cinema, because she was the only person wearing full pirate regalia. A treasure indeed!

Looking back, what a bizarre scene. Sadly her many rosettes and photographs may not have the same happy ending, I'm still waiting to hear from the salvage company. Most of those items are irreplaceable.

So, ten days staying in a hotel, and now we have been rehoused while our old home has a huge hole removed, water soaked and smoke permeated walls and floors repaired. The new temporary house, Number 32, is nice. I have my computer, with book two Pirate Code safe. All I need is for British Telecom to sort out activating my Broadband connection - hence my silence if anyone has been trying to e-mail me. I was supposed to have been up and running on the 24th November. I am now, apparently, going to be connected on the 4th of December. My patience is wearing very thin.

BT, I miss the Internet incredibly. Not Google, nor the ability to browse for the information I need - like the best place to buy a replacement bed - I miss my friends. All of you. I have been surviving on "autopilot" these last four weeks, liasing with various insurance guys, packing up and moving house in two days and under horrible smokey conditions, keeping the family morale going, seeing to the horses and pets, making Number 32 into a comfortable home as quickly as possible - but there has been no pit-prop for me.

My dear friends on various message boards, and those who regularly e-mail me, I value you all so highly and I miss communication with you. Your fun and your laughter. Laughter I need most desperately, for the enormity of what has happened is just beginning to sink in. Laughter is the best healer of all, whether for sadness, grief or shock, and I need laughter by the boat load.

And of course I need to get back to my writing and Jesamiah, who has been sitting patiently on a quay-side somewhere in Nassau waiting for my return. Well okay, maybe the more accurate scene, knowing Jesamiah, he's been amusing himself in a place of strictly adult entertainment.

Now that I have a new office - I rescued all my pirate posters and all my books, no worries there - I suppose I'll have to march in and drag him out by the scruff of the neck so we can get on with his next adventure. I suppose I had also better start thinking about Christmas. If my family does not get me a copy of the Dead Man's Chest DVD there will be one very miffed lady here in Walthamstow. Mind you, the insurance hasn't replaced the TV or DVD player yet.

Will post a picture of the "Black Hole of Walthamstow" as soon as I get Internet access.

I did not miss the opportunity to promote Sea Witch by the way. Every fireman got a promotional flier. My goodness, the weird things we do under stress! , and Season's Greeting to you all. From ghoulies and ghosties, And long-legged beasties, And things that go bump in the night, May firemen deliver us.