To open, a reminder. I will be at the Battle of Hastings annual re-enactment at Battle in Sussex UK on the 10th and 11th of October. You'll find me in the English Heritage tent down on the field from 11 a.m.
More head-enlarging reviews have been coming in for Bring It Close
- and I was worrying about the book's slow start last month! A couple of people have said how they preferred Bring It Close
to the second novel in the series, Pirate Code
, and I welcome their constructive criticism. I had trouble getting Code
to flow as I wanted it to. Parts of the story were essential for setting up the plot for Bring It Close,
and also some of Voyage Five - On the Account
, but the main comments about Pirate Code
seem to be that a few scenes were somewhat unpleasant, especially for my poor Jesamiah - a flogging scene, references to torture etc. I needed to make them horrible enough to ensure Jes's fear was believable; a mere beating-up wouldn't particularly bother him.
The horrible method of torture that I describe, by the way, I got from the Torrington Museum in Devon UK. It was not my invention! This particularly obnoxious method was apparently used during the English Civil War period - yuck. So now you'll have to read Pirate Code
to discover what I am talking about, eh?
I also needed to develop Jesamiah's bond with Tiola, so my hero enduring her punishment of flogging seemed ideal. Without giving too much away, Jesamiah's heroic if somewhat rash action will have repercussions in future books because Tiola's soul has now merged with his.
Incidentally, stripping her top half bare and flogging a woman in public for the "crime" of adultery was a common punishment in the early 18th Century. Funny how it was often only the young women who were sentenced to this particular form of abuse though. It always proved to be a popular entertainment. But then, hangings, executions, floggings in general and other such ghoulish punishments were equally regarded as a spectator sport. Nowadays we tend gravitate towards violent movies, sexual scandal, and are fascinated by car crashes.
In hindsight I would perhaps write a few of Pirate Code's
scenes differently, but hopefully Bring It Close
has balanced things out a little. Several characters from Code
will be re-appearing in future books - getting Jesamiah into yet more trouble of course.
A comment from a reader has set me thinking though. Are we beginning to accept, and expect, unpleasant scenes of violence, bad language, sex and so on in books, as we seem to be doing in movies? I was watching the James Bond movie "Casino Royale" the other evening. One particular torture scene involving spherical parts of the male anatomy was extremely nasty - I could imagine the majority of men watching were cringing. Is it worse to read these sort of scenes or to watch them in a movie?
Movies often consist of exaggerated drama. Books we tend to believe more, but that, of course, is the art of the writer - to make a novel believable. I did find that in the first draft of Pirate Code
I had portrayed nearly all Jesamiah's enemies as utterly ghastly people, but a first draft is precisely that, a rough draft. The characters are not formed, their voices have not properly materialised - another reason for editing, to sort out what works with a character and what does not.
Let me categorically add that I do not, in real life, view men as I depict them in my novels. I haven't yet met a man as horrible as Blackbeard or one who is as fascinating or gorgeous as my heroes, Arthur and Jesamiah in particular (with apologies to my husband and webmaster!) Part of the "fun" of writing is deliberately escaping the real world and portraying the bad guys as very bad, and the good guys as delectable rogues. Yes, my characters are "real" to me, but they exist in the mind-world of Vivid Imagination.
I was aware that in my novel Harold the King
, though, the balance between good and bad was a little too black and white; I did not include many of Harold Godwineson's flaws or Duke William's attributes. Perhaps I should have done, except that I found it impossible to think of anything I actually liked about William.
If you want to add your own views to this line of thought of mine please go to my Muse and Views
blogspot or e-mail me using the Contact button above. I look forward to reading your comments.
I had a great time at the Nottingham New Writers' Book Festival. Thank you to everyone who came along and helped to make the day the great success it was. I met up with e-magazine editor Jason O'Keefe who produces an on-line magazine The Re-enactor. Jason is to publish two articles about my books - Sea Witch
this month and then Harold the King
the UK movie next month, so do visit his website and join up for this monthly ezine, especially if you are interested in history and re-enacting - and it is free!
My Kathy has undertaken a new venture, she is learning to ride side-saddle, and very elegant she looks too. As soon as I get a few decent photographs I'll ask my webmaster (very nicely) to put one onto the gallery.
Thank you to Mr Webmaster for accompanying me to the Waltham Forest Dyslexia Association's
20th anniversary celebration dinner. It was wonderful to meet up with the many old friends who were so helpful and supportive during those first years when I discovered that Kathy was severely dyslexic. I was Chair of the Association for four years and I am pleased with the things my committee achieved: teachers' awareness courses, the Saturday Club and a good working relationship with the head of Special Needs, who is now retired and remaining a good friend.
Those years struggling with an education system that did little to support dyslexic children were often a nightmare for me and Kathy, but we survived and she has grown up into a beautiful, caring young lady. She still struggles to read, spell, tell the time, add up, fill in forms, write cheques, use the telephone. but fortunately horses care little about any of those.
My philosophy has always been "find your gift and go for it." The one sad thing about Kathy's dyslexia is that she cannot read books, and has never been able to lose herself in a novel's world of imagination. She has not even been able to read my books, which is why I so greatly appreciate her help and enthusiasm with my writing - especially when she dresses up in pirate costume for various events!
Dyslexic or not - I am very proud of her.
Why do writers write? Because it isn't there.