WHAT THREE THINGS?

By Helen Hollick

Hello Marian, thank you for inviting me onto your blog. You asked me to tell you and your readers about the books I write. Where to start!

I used to write straight historical fiction: my first Pendragon’s Banner Trilogy was about King Arthur with a setting in Roman Britain in the 5th to 6th centuries. These were originally published back in the early 1990s – so I’ve been writing for a lo-o-ong while now! My intention for the trilogy was to strip away all the myth and magic of then Medieval Christian-based tales and write the books as ‘what might have happened’. Not for me the familiar ‘love triangle’, there is no Lancelot in my story, no Holy Grail, no Merlin either. I saw Arthur as an ambitious but capable war lord, Gwenhwyfar (Guinevere) as an equally capable woman. They love each other but are two people with intelligent minds – and firm ideas which often clash. I used the earlier Welsh legends, which are far more interesting and very different from the later Medieval tales.

Following these, I moved to the 11th century and the events that led to the Battle Of Hastings in 1066. I am a firm supporter of King Harold II, so this story is written from the English point of view – stripped of all the Norman propaganda. The other book is the story of Emma of Normandy – Queen Emma of Anglo-Saxon England. She was married to Æthelred the Unready and then to King Cnut. One of her sons was Edward the Confessor, so a prequel story to the people involved in the subsequent Norman Conquest of England.

I turned to crime during the months of lockdown – fictionally, that is. I branched out into writing cozy mysteries. My Jan Christopher Series are quick read novellas set in the 1970s against the background of my years of working as a library assistant – with the twist of a murder mystery included. There are two in the series published so far, I plan more!

My favourites, however, are the Sea Witch Voyages. I wrote the first, Sea Witch back in 2005/6 when I wanted to read something as good as the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie – but for adults (with some adult content, some adult scenes and language, and some violence.) I couldn’t find what I wanted to read so I wrote it myself. I have just published the sixth in the series, Gallows Wake, with a short read novella prequel, When The Mermaid Sings as a bonus read.

So, three things that I care passionately about in my writing?

1) My Characters. I fell hopelessly in love with ‘my’ Arthur, mind you, I was in that man’s mind for more than ten years (it took me that long to write what eventually became The Kingmaking and half of Pendragon’s Banner!) I am even more in love with my pirate (well, ex-pirate now,) Captain Jesamiah Acorne.  Funnily enough, I did notice, a while ago, when looking through bits of The Kingmaking, just how alike Arthur and Jesamiah are! They are both rough, tough guys. Both formidable when angry, but quick to laugh, both determined, both loyal in their own way – both would willingly die for the woman they love, even though tempers often flare between them. Honour is important for both of them – although both are also ruthless when needs must. They both have a solid, reliable friend and I wanted to portray them both as men who cared, who hurt when their hearts were broken and who drowned their sorrows …

2) I care about creating a feeling of believability. ‘Harold’ and ‘Emma’ both had a lot of historical fact to base the outline of the stories on: history tells us that this, this and this happened, and when and where it happened. The novelist has to decide (OK, make up) the whys and hows. For ‘Arthur’ there is nothing to go on – let’s face the truth, King Arthur did not exist (although he might have been an amalgamation of several notable post-Roman war lords.) So for the ‘facts’ I researched post-Roman Britain and used what little we do know as the basis for my trilogy. I also extensively used my knowledge of horses.

For ‘Jesamiah’ some of the elements in the Voyages are supernatural or fantasy – the love of Jesamiah’s life is Tiola, a White Witch, a Wise Woman of Craft. To balance the ‘made-up’ bits I was as careful as I could be to get the ‘real’ bits right, in particular the sailing scenes aboard Sea Witch. I also used quite a bit of factual history from the early 1700s – although some I did ‘bend’ a little to suit my timeline (but I mention what I changed in my author’s notes.) I have absolutely no knowledge of sailing Tall Ships, though. Fortunately there are a lot of good books to use for research and I have a wonderful friend in the author James L. Nelson who checks my sailing scenes for me – and doesn’t laugh too loudly at my bloopers!

3) I suppose my third passion is for writing the book I want to read. ‘Arthur’ I wrote because I have never liked the later Medieval tales. I could never see Arthur as the sort of king who would go off and leave his country for years (although Richard I, did). Nor could I see Gwenhwyfar as being so stupid as to have an affair with Lancelot (who, actually, I didn’t like anyway.) The familiar tales, I believe, were written as propaganda to get men to go off on Crusade, and to justify Richard I, the Lionheart’s obsessions.

‘Harold’ and ‘Emma’, were the same, I wanted to write their stories as they ought to have been written. As for Jesamiah, well, he’s entirely made up, but as I said earlier, I wanted to immerse myself in a swashbuckling, enjoyable and engrossing adult nautical adventure … I didn’t expect that first Voyage, however, to turn out to be such a successful series!

Choose an excerpt or two to illustrates one of your three topics.

1a. From The Kingmaking

With a short, exasperated sigh, Cei strode over to the drunkard. As he was about to shake the man’s shoulder, he broke into a chuckle. Ah no, the poor tavern keeper could not give this one to the street.

Roused by Cei’s persistent nudging, Arthur staggered unsteadily to his feet.

It was only a short journey to the palace but, hampered as he was by the almost dead weight of his companion, it took Cei a while to reach their assigned rooms, where, laughing, he waved Arthur’s sleepy servant aside. “Go back to your bed, I shall tend your master.” He seated Arthur on the bed and pulled off his boots. “An enjoyable evening, I assume. Trust you to spoil it by getting yourself over full of wine.”

1b. Excerpt from Sea Witch, the first Voyage

Waking several hours into the fore noon to a thundering headache, Jesamiah staggered to his feet. He tottered to the  door, peered out, squinting at the brightness of the morning sun.

Rue stepped forward offering a pewter tankard. “Drink this.”

Hesitant, Jesamiah took it wrinkled his nose at the foul looking liquid. “What is it?”

“Old French recipe. Brandy, ground garlic with ’alf a pint of ale. Deux œufs – fresh-laid is that cackle fruit – a pinch of gunpowder and melted pork lard.”

Jesamiah sniffed again at the concoction. He poked a finger into it and picked out a piece of floating egg shell. “I don’t care for raw eggs.”

“Just drink it.”

Doubtful, Jesamiah raised it to his mouth. Changing his mind, offered it back.  “Later perhaps.”

“Écoute mon gars,”  Rue said finally losing patience. “Look, my friend, you lead us like the brilliant captain you are or we leave you ’ere in this God-forgotten emptiness, with as many bottles of rum as you please.”

Jesamiah looked from Rue to the tankard. Hesitant, he raised it to his lips. “It smells foul.”

The fouler the medicine, the quicker the cure, or so ma mere used to say.”

“What was she? The village poisoner?”

Both these scenes get across to the reader that the men have good, reliable friends, and that broken hearts can be dulled by drink, but not mended. The mending, of course, comes later in the stories!

THE VOYAGES

SEA WITCH   Voyage one

PIRATE CODE  Voyage two

BRING IT CLOSE  Voyage three

RIPPLES IN THE SAND  Voyage four

ON THE ACCOUNT  Voyage five

WHEN THE MERMAID SINGS  A prequel to the series

(short-read novella)

And just published…

GALLOWS WAKE

The Sixth Voyage of Captain Jesamiah Acorne

By Helen Hollick

Where the Past haunts the future…

Damage to her mast means Sea Witch has to be repaired, but the nearest shipyard is at Gibraltar. Unfortunately for Captain Jesamiah Acorne, several men he does not want to meet are also there, among them, Captain Edward Vernon of the Royal Navy, who would rather see Jesamiah hang.

Then there is the spy, Richie Tearle, and manipulative Ascham Doone who has dubious plans of his own. Plans that involve Jesamiah, who, beyond unravelling the puzzle of a dead person who may not be dead, has a priority concern regarding the wellbeing of his pregnant wife, the white witch, Tiola.

Forced to sail to England without Jesamiah, Tiola must keep herself and others close to her safe, but memories of the past, and the shadow of the gallows haunt her. Dreams disturb her, like a discordant lament at a wake.

But is this the past calling, or the future?

From the first review of Gallows Wake:

“Hollick’s writing is crisp and clear, and her ear for dialogue and ability to reveal character in a few brief sentences is enviable. While several of the characters in Gallows Wake have returned from previous books, I felt no need to have read those books to understand them. The paranormal side of the story—Tiola is a white witch, with powers of precognition and more, and one of the characters is not quite human—blends with the story beautifully, handled so matter-of-factly. This is simply Jesamiah’s reality, and he accepts it, as does the reader.”

Author Marian L. Thorpe.

BUY LINKS:

Amazon Author Page (Universal link)https://viewauthor.at/HelenHollick

Where you will find the entire series waiting at anchor in your nearest Amazon harbour – do come aboard and share Jesamiah’s derring-do nautical adventures!

(available Kindle, Kindle Unlimited and in paperback)

Or order a paperback copy from your local bookstore!

ABOUT HELEN HOLLICK

First accepted for traditional publication in 1993, Helen became a USA Today Bestseller with her historical novel, The Forever Queen (titled A Hollow Crown in the UK) with the sequel, Harold the King (US: I Am The Chosen King) being novels that explore the events that led to the Battle of Hastings in 1066. Her Pendragon’s Banner Trilogy is a fifth-century version of the Arthurian legend, and she writes a nautical adventure/fantasy series, The Sea Witch Voyages. She is now also branching out into the quick read novella, ‘Cosy Mystery’ genre with her Jan Christopher Murder Mysteries, set in the 1970s, with the first in the series, A Mirror Murder incorporating her, often hilarious, memories of working as a library assistant.

Her non-fiction books are Pirates: Truth and Tales and Life of A Smuggler. She lives with her family in an eighteenth-century farmhouse in North Devon and occasionally gets time to write…

Website: www.helenhollick.net

Newsletter Subscription: http://tinyletter.com/HelenHollick

Blog: www.ofhistoryandkings.blogspot.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/HelenHollick Twitter: @HelenHollick https://twitter.com/HelenHollick

Writing for Effect: A Dialogue with Jamie Tremain

Jamie Tremain: aka Liz Lindsay and Pam Blance

Currently, Jamie Tremain has two series. The Dorothy Dennehy Mystery series is in the mystery/crime genre revolving around a female private investigator, Dorothy Dennehy.  The story is set in Portland, Oregon. Her office is aboard a houseboat, ‘The Private, Aye?’, moored in the Willamette River. She has a solid circle of family and friends who assist in her cases.  By the time we’d written the second book, we realized what we seemed to enjoy from writing this series, and Grant’s Crossing, is the building of character dynamics and relationships with one another.

Grant’s Crossing is our second series and is a mystery/amateur sleuth series. It might have cozy ‘overtones’ but doesn’t classify as a cozy.

It’s set in rural Ontario. We have two main characters, Alysha – owner of the home, and Dianne – a resident, and the story is told from each of their POV in first person. The setting is an old farmhouse converted to house 8 retired seniors in a guest-home type environment. 

As mentioned above, we feel our strength, and passion, in these stories has evolved to focus on character relationships, to show what life can do to all of us and how we cope or carry on. We’ve been successful based on comments and feedback received from readers.


Emotion of Characters, Witty Dialogue, and Diversity are the three topics we’ve chosen. They dovetail into each other as we build stories that portray life experiences on different levels a reader can relate to, while still providing a crime or mystery to solve.


Emotions of Characters – The Goal to build relationships built on human experiences common to readers.

These are two scenes from Lightning Strike, the second book in our Dorothy Dennehy Mystery series. Our protagonist, P.I. Dorothy Dennehy has learned her fiancé, Paul, has been murdered.  The first scene is her father, Max, trying to comfort her, and the second scene is Dorothy waking up from a dream the day of Paul’s funeral.

“Why did you change your clothes? she asked, wondering why his casual jeans and sneakers had disappeared. Now he wore his best corporate attire. Perfect tie and polished shoes.

“I had to change, Dee. You know what today is. Have to look my best.”

She awoke with a cry on her lips and a breaking heart. As the dream’s images fluttered away, she sighed. “You always looked your best, my love. I miss you so much and today will be the hardest day I’ve lived through.”

Marian’s thoughts:

Dreaming of lost loved ones is a common human experience. Dreams, too, often have hidden meanings. If I read into the scene that Paul’s message to Dee is that she must put on her ‘best’ today: best clothes, best front, best control – to change her real feelings to get her through this hardest day – would I be reading something into it you didn’t mean?

Jamie Tremain:

We think you’ve reacted as we intended. And without “knowing” our character Dorothy, this is even more true because she is a strong and independent woman, but the death of Paul has knocked her off her feet, and in addition to his funeral she knows that she, as a private investigator, is going to do her best to solve his murder. So, control of her emotions is paramount to her staying level-headed. Her grief will be put on hold. And Paul would have known that, as well.


Dialogue – The Goal to bring humour at times, but to always show that our characters are “human”, subject, for example, to petty backbiting, or one-upping.

We have fun with some characters’ dialogue scenes. This is from Resort to Murder, the second book in our Grant’s Crossing series. Our characters, most retired, live together in a small retirement “guest” home – Leven Lodge. Mealtimes can be lively due to their various personalities.

Rose changed the subject. “Anyway, I hope the investigation wraps up soon so the spa can reopen. I’m anxious to try out some of the services they offer.”

“Maybe they can do something about those wrinkles,” sniped Minnie.

“At least I know what a spa is for,” retorted Rose.

I settled back to watch the show, but Nina broke things up. “Now ladies. Let’s not bicker. Life’s too short. I’d hoped to make use of the spa while I’m here as well, but if it doesn’t work out, c’est la vie. That’s French you know.” The barb hit its mark with Minnie.

“Well kiss my derriere. That’s French too.” Minnie smirked. Then she exited the room. I noticed Lily’s small grin as she watched our wicked witch’s departure.

I had a feeling breakfast congeniality was done.

Marian’s response: 

Writing ‘gurus’ often say that no dialogue tags other than ‘said’ and ‘asked’ should be used. (Not that I agree with it!) Here you’ve used a variety of other tags and descriptors. Can you expand on why you chose them?

Jamie Tremain:

When we were traditionally published with our first 2 books, we had an amazing editor. Her opinion favoured avoiding the overuse of ‘said’ and it stuck with us. Not that there is anything wrong with ‘said’, but I (Liz) recently read a book, where about ten consecutive pieces of dialogue were tagged with ‘said’, and I found it boring, as if the writer couldn’t find something more descriptive to use. Balance is key, because to overuse any tag runs the risk of reader turn-off.

The narrator and Lily both seem a little detached from the bickering. You convey this both through the use of ‘watch’ and the fact that neither speaks. Were those conscious choices?

Jamie Tremain:

Definitely on Lily’s part, yes. She is an introvert, overshadowed by her extroverted twin sister. As for the narrator, yes as well. She enjoys being a bystander during these exchanges, although she has been known to stir the pot when it suits her.


Diversity – The Goal to have diversity in various forms, woven into a story so that it’s done in a way to make it seem natural and not because we have to tick boxes.

Without really intending to, we find our Grant’s Crossing series has touched on several areas of diversity, most done in subtle ways, to hopefully show diversity is taken for granted, and not a big deal to be fussed about. We’ve touched on Aboriginal issues, mental health, have had a gay character, and, aging is a general theme throughout. We, as writers, hope it’s a reflection of ourselves, that diversity is, and should be, a natural part of life’s fabric.

The example concerns a new couple, Sasitha and Bachan Patel, who have taken up residence in Leven Lodge – from the third book in the series, Acting Off-Script. It’s a small town in rural Ontario, with little familiarity of East Indian customs.

I decided to ask about a question I had. “I noticed you’ve placed some beautiful small candles in the front room. Are they for a special occasion?”

Sasitha beamed. “Oh yes, my friend. These are for celebrating Diwali. So important for us.”

“Festival of Lights,” interjected Bashan. “Lighting these candles, for us, means we are getting rid of the darkness. The darkness can be meaning bad vices, such as greed.”

From what I knew of the Patels, greed was a foreign concept to this generous and kind-hearted couple.

Marian’s thoughts:

You have subtly captured the rhythmic speech patterns of West Asian immigrants speaking English. Did you worry about being accused of stereotyping in the name of diversity?

Jamie Tremain:

The Patels are my (Liz) characters and have been modelled after a former co-worker, whom I am very fond of.  The speech patterns were part of everyday work life. Honestly, if a reader feels this is stereotyping, then, with respect, that would be an inaccurate assumption.  Earlier in the book, the Patels give an account of how they came from India, lived in Scarborough, and ended up in Grant’s Crossing. We thought having a retired married couple, who happened to be East Indian, would be an interesting dynamic to add to the mix of characters living at Leven Lodge.

Was the use of ‘foreign’ in the last line purposeful? To me it creates an effective dissonance between the idea of ‘foreigner’ and how we all share universal human attributes and concepts.

Jamie Tremain:

That’s an interesting observation, Marian. It wasn’t intentional, but we agree with your assessment of its use.


One final question from Marian:

You strive to show character relationships, ‘to show what life can do to all of us and how we cope or carry on’. Author intent and reader interpretation can be very close, or it can be very far apart. Art is a tension between the creator(s) and the ‘consumer’, the person experiencing it. Have you had feedback from people whose interpretation was far from what you intended?  If so, how did you handle it? (And if not, how would you handle it?)

Jamie Tremain:

We’ve been told our character relationships are a focal point of both series, and so we now make a conscious effort to create life situations for our characters that most people could relate to at various times in their lives – aside from finding murdered bodies, of course!

The most feedback we received was when we “killed” Paul in the second book of our Dorothy Dennehy Mystery series. Readers who had enjoyed the first book were dismayed, and even a little angry, that we’d dispatched him. We didn’t expect the level of disappointment but were gratified in a way because it showed readers connected with the character. And it made us realize that a mystery is not just about the crime to be solved, but it’s about the characters. So having the strong feedback about killing Paul was valuable.

Every reader has their own viewpoint and interpretation on what they read. We’ll continue to create scenarios we hope are relatable and always welcome feedback, be it positive or not, on how we’ve tried to portray relationship dynamics. We may be the author, but we can always learn from our readers, as well.


Links:

Web: http://www.jamietremain.ca/   

Blog : https://jamietremain.blogspot.com/

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.ca/Jamie-Tremain/e/B06X1FFCCF/ref=dp_byline_cont_pop_ebooks_1

Books2Read :  https://books2read.com/ap/nObabJ/Jamie-Tremain

Facebook:   https://www.facebook.com/jamietremainwrites

Email: jamietremainjt@yahoo.com


Would you like to be part of this series? Authors published or unpublished are welcome – leave a comment and I’ll get back to you.

Offerings

Midwinter’s eve, and the fire burned high. Food had been shared, and beer, and for once the sheep were unguarded, the fire and songs thought to be enough to dissuade the wolves. We sat with Fél and Kaisa and Aetyl, and beside me Audo and his three dogs. His brindle bitch, who had taken a liking to me, lay with her head on my feet.

Kaisa had instructed me in the expectations for tonight: come newly washed and in clean clothes, and bring something to give to the fire. The more precious, the better. The sun must be honoured, she said.

I had struggled to find something to bring. Audo sat with an ermine skin on his lap, his gift to the sun. My most precious possession was Colm’s history of the Empire, and I certainly wasn’t sacrificing that. Cillian had devised a solution for himself: a poem, written on a small piece of his carefully rationed paper. In the end, I gave an arrow, one of the small ones from the bird bow that had kept us fed on our journey across the mountains.

One by one, people rose to throw their offering to the fire, the men first. When they were finished, the women gave their gifts, and finally, me. Drumbeats had sounded throughout, and now the men began to sing. Audo, on one side of me, growled the words, not keeping time, but Cillian sang true. When did he learn the words? His singing voice was light, but clearly trained: Dagney’s hand there, I thought.

Aivar rose as the song ended. Everyone quieted. The two boys who became men tonight stepped forward. They both looked tired and a little disoriented: I guessed they had fasted for at least a day. There had been rituals earlier for them, attended only by the village men.

In any other year they would now just be presented to the village as men, but I had something to do, first. Aivar, leaning on his stick, called my name. He and I had spoken a few days earlier about what I should do.

“This village has never had a devanī,” he told me, “but others have. I remember what their vēsturni told me. A blessing from you is all I ask. Will you do that?”

I told him what Cillian and I had discussed. “Very good,” he said.

I rose, the two arrows in my hand, walking to where the two boys waited. At a word from Aivar they both knelt. I kissed each boy on his forehead and placed an arrow in each waiting hand. “The huntress guides your hand,” I told them as I did. Aivar had chosen those words.

The devanī should give her blessing to us all for the new year,” Ivor shouted, as I turned to leave. Other voices joined his. I thought I heard Gret’s among them. Aivar raised his hand.

“We…” He began to cough, a deep, racking cough. He tried again. “We do not ask for what we do not need,” he rasped. “Our men hunt well. If we need the devanī to give luck to a hunt, she will give it at the time. Do not waste the gift.”

Aivar’s edicts could not be disputed. Ivor and his friends quieted. The drumbeats began again, and this time women began to sing, and a few to dance. More beer made the rounds, Cillian, as usual, refusing. In the northern sky, green lights flickered; shadows rose and fell in the firelight. Fél wrapped a fur around himself and Kaisa, holding her against him. “Keep Lena warm,” he told Cillian, “or she’ll have to cuddle Audo, or his dog.” I glanced at Cillian. We had never touched in public.

“Then I better,” he said. I moved close, tucking the fur around us, leaning into him. We listened to the drums.

Ivor walked by, dressed only in a light tunic, spurning the cold. The empty mug in his hand told me what he searched for. He gave us a scornful look. “Devanī,” he said. “Why waste yourself on this man?” One of Audo’s dogs snarled. “Incapable vēsturni and idiots,” Ivor spat. “I will show you what a real man is one day.” He kept walking.

“Be careful of him, Lena,” Fél warned.

“I am,” I assured him. The drumbeats continued, faster; the dancing grew wilder. Under the fur, Cillian’s hand began a gentle caress.

“Shall we go to our bed?” he murmured.

We rose. Fél looked up. “Sleep well,” he said, “when you finally remember to sleep, that is.” Kaisa laughed. “Can we send Aetyl to sleep with her cousins?” I heard him say to her, as we left.

In our hut the fire had burned to coals. Cillian added wood. “Do you need to make tea?”

“I did, earlier.” My mouth was dry. I dropped the fur on the bed. We regarded each other across the space, in the light of the newly blazing fire. “It is a new year,” I said softly. “Don’t you have a fancy to fulfill?”

He crossed the room to me, beginning to smile; not his usual, quickly-gone smile, but one slow and genuine, lighting his whole face. My breath caught. He looks so much younger, I thought, and so beautiful. I saw tenderness in this smile, and vulnerability. He took me in his arms. I raised a hand to his face.

“This is something I haven’t seen before,” I murmured. “Why have you kept such a beautiful smile hidden?”

He turned his head to kiss my fingers. “My one legacy from my mother, I am told,” he said. “As to why, it is just reticence, Lena, like much else about me, long habit.” He bent to kiss me, a long, exploratory kiss. “Perhaps I will have more reason to let it show after tonight.”

I didn’t need to damp down desire now. My hands, low on his back, found his skin. I pulled him closer. Part of my mind noted the ridges of a scar under my fingers, but it wasn’t important. Nothing was, except his lips on mine and his hands, under my tunic now, making me gasp.

“You are very sure?” he asked, his voice low and barely controlled. “Tell me now, if you are not.”

“Yes.” I fought to speak. “Are you?”

“I am.” His mouth came down again, demanding now, insistent. How long has it been for him? I wondered, before I gave myself up to my need, and his. He hesitated once, just for a moment, and then there were only lips and hands and cresting pleasure, and unexpectedly, tears that were not mine.

(c) 2018 Marian L Thorpe

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