It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare, it is because we do not dare that they are difficult. - Seneca

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Get a sneek peak at Sea Witch by Helen Hollick! *CONTEST*


Sea Witch by Helen Hollick


The Caribbean, a Pirate… and a White Witch. Sea Witch will probably be the best pirate story you have read since "Frenchman’s Creek". Pirates will be the number one genre interest with the hugely successful movie "Pirates of the Caribbean – The Curse of the Black Pearl". Johnny Depp’s exciting creation of Captain Jack Sparrow puts the subject of pirates firmly back into everyone’s imagination.

But if Jack Sparrow is the Captain of that particular ship, then my creation of Jesamiah Acorne, with his humour, cheek, sheer heroism – and his trademark fluttering blue ribbons – is most assuredly the First Mate.

The Time: The Golden Age of Piracy - 1716.
The Place: The Pirate Round - from the South African Coast to the sun drenched Islands of the Caribbean.

Escaping the bullying of his elder half brother, from the age of fifteen Jesamiah Acorne has been a pirate with only two loves - his ship and his freedom. But his life is to change when he and his crewmates unsuccessfully attack a merchant ship off the coast of South Africa.

He is to meet Tiola Oldstagh an insignificant girl, or so he assumes - until she rescues him from a vicious attack, and almost certain death, by pirate hunters. And then he discovers what she really is; a healer, a midwife - and a white witch. Her name, an anagram of "all that is good."

Tiola and Jesamiah become lovers, but the wealthy Stefan van Overstratten, a Cape Town Dutchman, also wants Tiola as his wife and Jesamiah's jealous brother, Phillipe Mereno, is determined to seek revenge for resentments of the past, a stolen ship and the insult of being cuckolded in his own home.

When the call of the sea and an opportunity to commandeer a beautiful ship – the Sea Witch - is put in Jesamiah's path he must make a choice between his life as a pirate or his love for Tiola. He wants both, but Mereno and van Overstratten want him dead.

In trouble, imprisoned in the darkness and stench that is the lowest part of his brother's ship, can Tiola with her gift of Craft, and the aid of his loyal crew, save him?

Using all her skills Tiola must conjure up a wind to rescue her lover, but first she must brave the darkness of the ocean depths and confront the supernatural being, Tethys, the Spirit of the Sea, an elemental who will stop at nothing to claim Jesamiah Acorne’s soul and bones as a trophy.



Excerpt from Sea Witch:

In the depths, in the abyss of darkness at the very bottom of the oceans Tethys stirred.She was the soul of the sea, the spirit of the waves and was capable,as the mood took her, of benign complaisance or malicious rage. She was without form or solidity yet she saw, heard, and became aware of everything within her jurisdiction. And she ruled her water realm with unchallenged power and a terrible omnipotence.

At Sea~ § Chapter 1


Mermaid was moving fast, the ship bowling along with her sails filled, the canvas billowing, cordage creaking and straining. She climbed over the next wave, her bow lifting to linger a moment before swooping down into another deluge of spray. Completing the seesaw movement her stern soared high as the roller trundled beneath her keel. The wind smelt of hot, dry and dusty land, of jungle and grass savannah. Of Africa.

The look out, clad in an old shirt and sailor's breeches was perched high in the crosstrees, one hundred and thirty feet above the deck. Excited, he pointed to the horizon. "Over there Jesamiah, that's where I saw 'er. I swear I saw a sail!"

With the ease of years of practice, Jesamiah Acorne stepped from the rigging on to the narrow platform that swayed with the lift and plunge of the ship. He hooked his arm through a t'gallant shroud and brought his telescope to his eye, scanned the ocean. Nothing. Nothing except a flat expanse of blue emptiness going on, unbroken, for twenty miles. And beyond that? Another twenty, and another.

These were the waters of the Gulf of Guinea, the huge stretch of sea beneath the bulb of land where the trade wealth of West Africa was turned into fat profit: gold, ivory and slaves. The African coast, where merchants found their plentiful supply of human misery and where an entire ship's crew could be wiped out by fever within a week. Where pirates hunted in search of easy prey.

The crew of the Mermaid were not interested in slavers or the foetid coast. Their rough-voiced, ragged-faced Captain, Malachias Taylor, had more lucrative things in mind - the sighting of another ship, preferably a full-laden, poorly manned merchantman with a rich cargo worth plundering.

"What can y'see?" he shouted from the deck, squinting upwards at his quartermaster, the relentless sun dazzling his eyes. His second-in-command, Jesamiah, like his father before him, was one of the best seamen Taylor knew.

"Nothing! If young Daniel here did see a sail he has better sight than I 'ave," Jesamiah called down, the frustration clear in his voice. All the same, he studied the sea again with the telescope. Jesamiah Acorne. Quick to smile, formidable when angered. Tall, tanned, with strong arms and a seaman's tar-stained and callused hands. His black hair fell as an untidy chaos of natural curls to his shoulders, laced into it, lengths of blue ribbon which streamed about his face in the wind, the whipping ends stinging his cheeks. The ladies ashore thought them a wonderful prize when he occasionally offered one as a keepsake.

If there was a ship, Daniel would only have glimpsed her highest sails, the topgallants; the rest of her would still be hull down, unseen below the curve of the horizon. "I think you had too much rum last night, my lad," Jesamiah grinned. "Your eyes are playing tricks on you."

Young Daniel was adamant. "I saw her I say. I'll wager m'next wedge of baccy I did!""You know

I cannot abide the stuff," Jesamiah chuckled good-natured as he stretched out his arm to ruffle the lad's mop of hair. He had turned his back on anything to do with tobacco - except stealing it - seven years ago when his elder brother had thrown him off their dead father's plantation, with the threat he would hang if ever he returned. But then, Phillipe Mereno was only a half brother and he had always been a cheat and a bully. One day, for the misery of his childhood, Jesamiah would find the opportunity to go back and finish beating the bastard to a pulp.

Out of habit he touched the gold charm dangling from his right earlobe: an acorn, to match the signet ring he had worn since early youth. Presents from his Spanish mother, God rest her soul. She had always thought the acorn, the fruit of the solid and dependable oak tree to be lucky. It had been the first word to come to mind when he had needed a new name in a hurry. Acorne, with an "e" to make the name unique, and his own.

About to shut the telescope a flash caught his eye and Jesamiah whisked the bring-it-close upwards again. The sun reflecting on something?

"Wait… Damn it, Daniel - I've got her!" The sudden enthusiasm carried in an eager flurry as he shouted down to the deck, his words greeted by a hollered cheer from the rag-tag of men who made the Mermaid's crew.

Even the usually dour-faced Malachias Taylor managed a smile. "Probably a slaver," he muttered, "but we'll set all sail an' pay her a visit." His gap-toothed smile broadened into a grin. "She might be wantin' company, eh lads?"

Aye she might, but not the sort of company the Mermaid would be offering. Respectable traders and East India merchantmen did not care for pirates.

Half an hour. Three-quarters. The sand trickled through the half-hour glass as if it were sticky with tar, and although the Mermaid was under full sail the distance between the two ships seemed to take an interminable time to lessen. Each man was trying to pretend he did not care whether they were on to a possible Prize or not, but for all that, finding a variety of excuses to be up on deck or clambering about the rigging. In the end Jesamiah put a stop to it, cursing them for the dregs they were.

"Looking ain't going to bring us closer to a Chase any the quicker!" he barked, resisting the temptation to have yet another squint through the telescope for himself. "Cease this 'opping about as if you've an army of ants crawling up yer backsides! We stay on this course and make out we're minding our own business. We ain't interested in her, savvy?" All the same, he touched his gold earring for luck.

From his high vantage point Daniel finally put them out of their misery. "On deck there! She's a trader!" he shouted. "A dirty great, huge, East Indiaman - God's breath, would you believe it? There's something smaller following in her wake." He cursed again and spat chewed tobacco into the sea. "We wait all this damned time, then get two Chases at once!"

The Captain climbed aloft himself, a satisfied smile spread over his weatherworn face as he lifted the telescope to his eye. The Indiaman must have been keeping lookout too, for as he watched she showed her identity, the tri-coloured Dutch ensign clearly hoisted to her main mast. Britain was not at war with the Dutch. A minor fact which did not perturb Taylor in the slightest.

Privateering during periods of declared war was legal, providing the captain carried a Letter of Marque giving him government permission to harass enemy ships. Naturally, Captain Taylor possessed his formal letter, and naturally, he preyed on any Spanish or French enemy ship daring to show a sail over the horizon. He saw no reason to ignore everything else also coming within range of his cannon though, British or Dutch ships included. Now that was not privateering, but piracy - a crime punished by the death penalty of hanging.

"Show British colours, let her think we're friendly," he called down. He winked at Daniel. "We take the trader, put a scratch crew aboard then think about chasing after the other one as well, eh? What say you, young Wickersley?"

Daniel grinned a half-moon smile at Taylor, a fairer, more profitable captain than his previous one aboard an English Royal Navy frigate. "Aye sir, sounds good t'me!"

Jesamiah was waiting for orders, fingers curled loosely around the hilt of a cutlass slung from a leather baldric worn aslant across his faded waistcoat, the strap concealing a rough-patched, blood-stained hole where some while ago a pistol's lead shot had penetrated. He wore canvas breeches as soft and comfortable as moleskin, knee-high boots and a cotton shirt that had once been white but was now a dirty grey. One cuff was beginning to fray into a ragged edge. He stood, his other hand fiddling with his blue ribbons, legs straddled, balancing against the rise and fall of the ship.

Taylor slid, hand over hand down the backstay; watching him Jesamiah ran his finger and thumb across the moustache trailing each side of his mouth into a beard trimmed close along his jaw. He lifted his chin slightly as Taylor's feet touched the deck. The Captain nodded at his second-in-command.

"If you please, Mr. Acorne."

Acknowledging, Jesamiah paused, knowing the crew of eighty rogues were set to jump at his command. He held them a moment… "All hands! Clear for action!"

A whoop of delight, a scuffing patter of bare feet on the sun-hot deck, the tarred caulking sticky between the boards, the men scattering in various directions to ready the ship for fighting. A task they could do day or night, drunk or sober.

As captain of a pirate ship Taylor only held unquestionable command when it came to the engagement of an enemy ship. At other times decisions were made by discussion and a vote. And if a captain got it wrong too often? The crew simply elected another one.

Taylor was safe. He was skilled at piracy, his achievements obvious by his long standing as master of the Mermaid over a contented crew.

"Make ready the guns," he called to Jesamiah, "but don't run out yet. Keep some of the crew out o' sight, too. I want this Dutchman thinkin' we're a poorly manned merchant, no threat, for as long as possible."

Jesamiah grinned, the light of easy laughter darting into his face. He wanted that too. The easier the chase, and the fight at the end of it, the better.

He had no fear of dying for everyone had to go some day. Hoped when his turn came it would be quick and painless, for it was the long, drawn-out agony he and any pirate, any man, dreaded. But today? This fine, clear blue day was not a day for dying. This was a day for taking treasure!

Ooh! Exciting! H J
More tomorrow!


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AND …. A COMPETITION:


Win a signed copy of BRING IT CLOSE – Featuring Blackbeard! How you ask? Well its real simple, leave the correct answer to the question below on any of the posts featuring Helen Hollick and you will be in the running for a chance to win a signed copy of Bring it Close!


The winner will be picked at random once the SPOTLIGHT wraps up on October 1st!


Question- What is Jesamiah’s lucky charm?



And don't forget to check back with us to find our MORE about Helen and her best selling books!!! You don't want to miss a single minute!

4 comments:

Helen said...

Ooh, that reads well doesn't it? Thanks Andrea & Corrina for the hard work you've put into this Sea Witch week - Jesamiah & I very much appreciate it.
Don't we Jes?
"Ay? What was that?"
We appreciate this Sea Witch week that Andrea & Corrina have put together for us.
(suddenly looks interested)"Andrea and Corrina? Wenches?" (grins) "Sure do!"

(sigh) what would you do with him?

Helen said...

LOL the captcha for that last post was mirumm!

booklover0226 said...

OOOOHHH - don't stop now! Wow, I'm so ready to read this.

The answer is Jesamiah’s lucky charm is a gold acorn earring.

Thanks,
Tracey D
booklover0226 at gmail dot com

Hywela Lyn said...

Hi - I'm late coming in to comment, although I've really enjoyed following Helen this week and did mean to comment before.

I loved, loved Sea Witch!and it made me a fan of Jes's (of course) I'm probably too late with the contest, but I think the answer is a gold acorn earring!

All the best Helen and Jers, long may you sail the seas together and I'm looking forward to the next book;.

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