Pieces of Artyx

Artyx cover

First time author Jennifer Early shares the scoop on her debut novel Pieces of Artyx, one of a five book fantasy series that follows a set of siblings whose main agenda is stopping their powerful sister’s takeover of their own world. Unique creatures and a creative atmosphere will draw readers in to explore the journey of Artyx and Aylus.

Interviewer: Christy Campbell

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Tell us about your new book release Pieces of Artyx: The Forged Journey. Sounds exciting!

It’s quite exciting since it’s my first published work. I started writing it, finally, about three years ago when my son was born. However the story itself has been simmering inside my head since I was a teenager.

Pieces of Artyx is the first in a series of five books. I’m actually in the middle of writing the fourth one. It’s the beginning of a journey of my main characters Artyx and Aylus who set forth to stop their older sister from dominating their world. Dubbing herself Empiralin Emzala, she endeavors to conquer all in order to accomplish another purpose. Along the way you get to experience the world of different creatures and landscapes that I’ve crafted. I’ve written this story to be casual for the reader and to be able to relate to the characters easily.

The premise is interesting. What inspired you to write for the fantasy genre?

Magic, mythical creatures, epic wars, and mythology make everything more interesting. Creating a different world filled with wondrous places is fun. A lot of fantasy stories have your run of the mill dragons and other creatures that are easily recognizable. But I love making new creatures, often with a twist of horror. You can pretty much make anything when you have magic and a great imagination.

I also enjoy the challenge of making the unreal real. That’s the heart of fantasy; to fabricate a whole world immersed in magic that can be seen clearly by the reader. When you can add humans and their real life problems to the mix and make it believable, that’s a part of why I love writing for the fantasy genre.

As writers, our dream is to see our work out there for all the literary world to see. How did your vision of being an author become a reality?

For me, as a writer, I think my dream of becoming an author will only have been fulfilled when a lot of people have read my work. To share my stories is the primary reason for writing. So far, I don’t think I’ve been successful enough to truly say that my vision of becoming an author has come true despite having been published.

What were your first thoughts when you finished that final page–i.e. mission accomplished?

Is it really done?” I think I was in shock when I finished. I never really thought I would finish because the story had been in my head for so long. I first conceived of it years before but one thing or another came along to keep me from doing it.

I think a lot of first time authors feel that way too. When you have been planning a novel and writing it off and on for so long, it seems unreal that it’s actually done. Of course, next I felt relieved. That weight had been lifted off of me and put into text.

Based on your own writing experience, what do you think is the most difficult part of creating a story?

Creating the world itself. As with most fantasy you have to start from scratch and plot out where the cities are, who the people are, the economics, trade, government structures, etc. You don’t realize what’s involved until you’re actually going through to make the world. There is so much detail involved to make it seem realistic.

My hard drive is filled with files that I’ve called “indexes”. Indexes and files for magic, flora, fauna, gods and goddesses, creatures, immortals, and races of people. Not to mention the notes for the plot, cities and time lines. It’s all very extraneous to keep everything in order and making sure it’s consistent.

In contrast, what was the easiest?

The characters I put in the story were the easiest to create for the most part. I’m an artist too so when I need to make a character I start by drawing him/her. I usually make notes on the side for their name and traits. It’s honestly my favorite part of the process. I’m a pretty visual person so I like to be able to see the character, place or thing before I write about it. I have a three ring binder full of characters, maps and the like.

Who are your biggest supporters when it comes to fulfilling such a fantastic goal?

My husband. He’s very supportive in all my endeavors. Without his support I don’t think I would have been able to write in the first place. He makes me feel like I can do anything. There’s also my best friend. I call her the spirit and foundation of my imagination. One of the things we’d do when we were starting to think of stories was plan out plot for books and stories. She’s the one who inspired my want to write in the first place.

Is there anything in your educational background that contributed to writing and publishing your first novel?

I have a Bachelors degree in Computer Animation which is a very creative degree and requires a lot of imagination. In a lot of ways it helped me to think differently and outside the box. If I did have an idea my next thought would be to ask myself if it can be done another way. It also required a lot of research so it gave me the skills I needed to find any information for my story.

Are there any favorite authors who influenced you to explore the world of fiction writing?

J.K. Rowling, J.R.R. Tolkien, Peter S. Beagle. These authors mean so much to me in that I feel like they are the heart of the fantasy genre. Their stories are so vividly real in their characters and settings in different ways whether it be a casual or formal way of storytelling.

Tell us what you like to do in your spare time when you aren’t parked in front of that trusty computer.

Primarily I’m a stay at home mother, so my main job is looking after my three year old son. He is full of monstrous amounts of energy so he keeps me busy. Lately I’ve been reading The Hobbit to him. I hope to instill a love for reading and writing in him. He started to read simple words a couple months ago so I think I’m doing something right! And as a mother I love to bake.

Other than that as I’ve mentioned earlier I draw. I’ll sketch my ideas with a mechanical pencil then pull it onto my iPad to create the finished work. Reading is also one of my favorite things to do.

Where can readers learn more about Jennifer Early and Pieces of Artyx?

My author’s Facebook page is: https://www.facebook.com/JAEarlyAuthor?ref=hl

I set up a blog recently about my book and my writing: https://jaearlyauthor.wordpress.com/

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The White Horseman

Graydoncover

Ancient artifacts, mad sorcerers and the prophecy of a human child makes for an intriguing, compelling fantasy tale in J.S. Graydon’s first published novel The White Horseman. Saving the world is no easy feat for one human child amidst a war of destruction when one powerful messenger is summoned by the enemy: The Horseman, who will bring forth a message of apocalyptic warnings: the world of humanity will end. With the right combination of magic, wizardry and action packed adventure, Graydon’s debut will surely be a treat to readers of all ages.

Interviewer: Christy Campbell

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Tell us about J.S. Graydon, fantasy young adult author.

I am originally from England. I was raised in a very little village. The same one that is in the book! I had a wonderful childhood there. In the countryside people really do still believe in magical creatures. I truly believed that there were fairies that lived at the bottom of our garden. We had a true white witch that lived less than a mile from us! When you are brought up with such colorful people, it is hard to contain your imagination! I have since moved to southwest Florida which is a fantastic place to live. When I’m not writing, I love to travel.

Tell us about the premise behind your debut novel, The White Horseman.

Good question! The book is about a young boy that gets a chance of a lifetime to join in an adventure that will ultimately save the world. A sorcerer, determined to obtain his place within the immortal realm has begun a chain of events that if not stopped, will bring about the very End of Days itself! His spell would unleash the first of the horseman of the apocalypse: The White Horseman.

The young boy is drawn into situations of magical manipulations and of enchanted forests that are not rooted in place. He encounters wondrous creatures drawn from the myths and legends of ancient lore such as centaurs, hobgoblins, elves, and celestial beings that intervene to try to stop an ancient evil from rising again.

But while the good try to repair the damage before it’s too late, there are others that plot to sabotage. Not all those that appear to help the boy are truly what they seem. There are creatures that would love nothing but for the plan to fail. Suspicion runs rampant as it becomes clear that there is a traitor amongst them. They can only hope that they can stop the one person that stands between salvation and hell’s gates before it is too late.

How long have you been writing fiction?

I’ve been writing most of my life. I have tons of unfinished manuscripts and plays that got started but never finished! This story came to me in a dream and it was important to finish it.

What makes your book unique from other fantasy adventures on the bookshelves today?

It’s unique because there are many other programs and television shows that are on the same page (no pun intended) as this novel. For example, the television show Constantine portrays a battle with demons and angels. This is also true within my book. There are celestial forces at play in The White Horseman that will keep you guessing until the end of book! Another example would be Sleepy Hollow: This show follows more closely the ideas that The White Horseman creates. The young man, Ben, is thrust into a magical journey to stop the horseman of the apocalypse from returning to earth.

The plots and subplots also make it unique. I just love weaving ideas around each other. There is more than one story being told within the pages of The White Horseman. The characters are complex and each brings to the table a strong personality.

Tell us about the main characters in the book.

Absolutely! Ben is the main character – he is the one that crashes through the protective barrier that hides the guardian world. A prophecy picks Ben to lead a group of local characters in an effort to stop the evil wizard that plans on ruling both worlds. His mentor is Gerhardt – an ancient sorcerer whose knowledge will help guide him on his quest. He is accompanied by some very colorful characters: An elf, a Scotsman, a centaur and a hobgoblin. He also has the unpleasant task of working with a Contrary – a person cursed to live his life backwardly. Not all are as helpful as they could be. Some are not his friends at all but plan to sabotage Ben’s efforts at any cost!

Some of the conflicts in the storyline appear to be ripped from the headlines. Can you elaborate on why you chose to go that route?

Yes that is true. Though this is not a religious book by any stretch of the imagination, it does touch upon problems and issues that the world is having right now. Problems within economies and religion do play into this story as a back drop. The fictional events in the novel play into a version of what people consider being the End of Days. I just took the story a little further and asked myself “what if there was a realm aside from our own that guarded us from this misfortune?”

Did you simply wing it when it came to penning the story or did you work from an outline?

Great question! I had a general idea of what needed to be written but it was mostly written free style. I had started the story years ago, writing on ledger books – I had tons of them. Eventually I had the task of transferring the written word into a computer. That took some time! The second half of the book was written directly on the computer which definitely sped up the thinking process. Now that the characters are fully formed I plan on using an outline for the second book in the series called the Red Horseman.

What was the most challenging aspect of writing your first book?

Probably it was finishing it! I started writing it many years ago but didn’t have the discipline to finish the novel. There was a two year gap between the first half of the book and the second portion. When I picked up the book the second time around I enjoyed the characters so much that I knew that I needed to knuckle down and finish it!

Also, originally I would go back and re-read the chapter in an effort to ‘fine tune’ it. This led to me slowing down and feeling that the chapter was stale. The second time around I just barreled forward and ironed out the small details much later. This allowed me to work quicker and keep the story fresh in my mind.

Which character did you find the most difficult to portray?

The most challenging character was writing in the Contrary. The Contrary is a person born of both the human world and the world of Wode Uplands. It is a highly unusual aberration. Because the Contrary is born of both worlds he is cursed to forever live his life backwards. I must say that trying to clearly write about a man that must live his life in reverse was difficult at best but he is a very important piece in the puzzle between the two worlds. The Contrary in essence becomes like a bridge that can see into both realms. His place in the book is a vital one.

Are you an avid reader of any particular genres/titles?

Yes, yes, yes! I love to read. I will read anything. Cereal boxes, ingredient lists, magazines, books, you name it! I caught the reading bug very early in life and I believe I’ve read hundreds of books. I love young adult and fantasy books, but I relish a good mystery or thriller too! Imagination is such a wonderful tool that the mind has. Mine works on overtime. In all the hundreds of stories I’ve read or written my mind conjures up new environments and colorful scenery each time.

Tell us what’s in store for fans of J.S. Graydon?

I plan to continue writing. The White Horseman is the first in a series of five books. I have already started work on the second book, The Red Horseman. I would love to get everyone’s thoughts and reviews on the book. I’m sure that it will help guide the next books on their way!

Where can readers learn more about you and purchase The White Horseman?

The book is available for purchase immediately. I am currently on Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/White-Horseman-J-S-Graydon-ebook/dp/B00OD00U76/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=8-1&qid=1415595865

and Goodreads.com: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23324262-the-white-horseman

I also have a new website: http://www.jsgraydon.com/. It has just opened but I plan on using it as tool to connect with my readers. I am thrilled to start this new chapter (pun intended) of my life and to be able to share it with others.

 

The Grove of the Sun

The Grove of the Sun

A fantasy tale about redemption combined with beautiful artistry and complex characters draws readers into the novel The Grove of the Sun by author Parvathi Ramkumar. A magical journey that revolves around one character’s desire to save his land and his personal struggles while doing so. Fantasy lovers will enjoy stretching their imaginations in this intriguing tale.

Interviewer: Christy Campbell

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Tell us a little bit about Parvathi Ramkumar, and how long you’ve been writing.

I’m an author and freelance journalist, as well as a professional book reviewer for a major newspaper in India. I’ve been writing for over twenty years, I began when I was seven. It’s always been a passion.

How would you describe the synopsis of The Grove of the Sun?

The Grove of the Sun is a poetic tale of magic, Order and Chaos, and one man’s discovery that the life he was taught to believe was true might be an illusion.

What kind of books do you like to read?

I like a variety of genres, and my tastes in reading are pretty eclectic. I do have a particular liking for fantasy and science fiction, though.

Is The Grove of the Sun your first book?

It’s the first book I’ve published, yes.

What was the inspiration for the subject matter?

It was inspired by a strange and vivid dream I had many years ago. Some of the setting for the book and part of the plot came from that dream.

How long did it take you to research and write The Grove of the Sun?

A little over seven years. It was a little longer than I’d initially anticipated, and there was so much I needed to know and work on.

Whereabouts did you research for the novel?

A lot of the subject matter came from Indian myths, and I also did some research on esoteric themes for the presentation of Order and Chaos in the book.

How would you describe your protagonist?

Ildanis? He’s lighthearted and warm, with a streak of ingenuity that often leads him to situations he’d love to avoid.

What’s your prime motivation when you write a novel?

To tell a story. I love creating worlds and characters, and I love putting them all together to weave a tale.

Do you have any writer’s habits that are a must when you sit down to write?

Well, I do prefer silence. Also, my desk has to be neat, just so. Anything out of place is terribly disturbing, even that pencil right there in the corner where it shouldn’t be.

Do you like to dabble in other genres?

Yes, I find literature and poetry fascinating. As well as children’s fiction and magic realism.

What next on your plate?       

I’m working on a couple more books, including a children’s book.

Where can readers find out more about you and your novels?

My website, www.parvathiramkumar.com, has more about me and my work, and I’ve created a Facebook page for my book, www.facebook.com/thegroveofthesun. I’m also active on Goodreads.

 

 

The Witch’s Hand

The Witch's Hand

There’s no question that people have had a fascination throughout history with fantasy, magic, and the supernatural. In her new book, The Witch’s Hand, author Wendy Joseph demonstrates that she’s adept at stitching all three together against a compelling – and terrifying – backdrop. We also have it on good authority that she has performed on stage and in film, been chased by pirates and typhoons, can splice a 12-strand line, and can even say “Argh!” in six languages.

Interviewer: Christina Hamlett

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Q: What was your inspiration to develop your plot about a witch, an unwilling apprentice, and a flawed Crusader with PTSD?

A: The Witch’s Hand started with a vision in 1985, that of a hand, suffused with light and emanating power. What did that suggest? Magic, witchcraft. When and where was the heyday of witches? Medieval France—they reputedly burned more witches than any other country. How could I make a really good story out of this? Nothing is worth writing unless it’s a good story. How about a powerful witch who wanted to do humanity some good, but was rebuffed? How about an apprentice who is scared of her own powers and doesn’t want to be a witch? Who could help her? Somebody unlikely. Everything in the story came out of this.

Q: You’ve indicated that The Witch’s Hand is “the thinking person’s sword and sorcery.”

A: I wanted to not just tell a good story, but give the tale more depth and philosophical meaning than the usual hero-must-conquer-the-evil-sorcerer-and-save-the-princess saga, with 3-D characters, not just the good guys and the bad guys. I wanted to look into the deeper parts of people’s motivations and mental processes, and raise questions of right and wrong and how to choose between them. I wanted to take an accurate look at the Church’s good and bad sides, at everybody’s good and bad sides. So Jettaret struggles with his moral demons and quotes medieval scholars and Malaxia justifies her actions as working toward a greater good. How does one successfully deal with power like hers?

Q: What was your primary attraction to this genre?

A: The genre came along because of the nature and setting of the story. I don’t intentionally write in any genre. The story is first, and if it happens to be a murder mystery with a film noir detective, then it’s in that genre.

Q: Were you a voracious reader as an adolescent and teen?

A: Voracious? I was insatiable! I have loved words from my first reading lesson in the first grade. When Mrs. Sechler pointed to the big black letters on the big white poster board and said “Look. L-O-O-K,” I sat up straight and knew This Was Important. And it’s been important ever since. Every time we ordered Scholastic Books in elementary school, I would get seven or eight when everyone else was getting one or two. In junior high I read the Norse Eddas. In high school I read Don Quixote, War and Peace, and Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Hamlet, and King Lear. Biography was fascinating then and now; I read bios of Madame Curie and George Washington Carver, people who had to overcome great odds to achieve what they did.

Q: Tell us about the research that went into crafting the magical elements and historical backdrop for The Witch’s Hand in order to stitch them into a plausible and compelling tableau.

A: Ah, historical research in France! Getting picked up by men with questionable motives at the Gare de Lyon in Paris, then tossing them out of hotel windows—I had to work, after all—having visions of the Virgin at 3 am after sleepless nights in a furied frenzy of composition, walking the ground my characters walked, catching up on medieval French history at every tiny local museum, many of which had an astounding amount of information, and scoring a coup-de-grace with the discovery of a twenty volume collection of medieval legends and tales. How exactly did they make brooms and wooden pitchforks in 1206? What kind of locks and keys did they have, and how big exactly were they? What kind of crops did they plant in the Auvergne region, and when? And on and on. Know where the phrase “to point the finger” at a criminal to identify him came from? A long time ago, a robber murdered a man and cut him into pieces, then continued down the road to an inn. The severed finger of the victim inched its way down the road after the murderer, leaving a bloody trail, went inside and pointed at him. The authorities followed the bloody trail, found the victim, and nabbed the murderer.

And while ensconced in a hotel near the Louvre to consolidate my research, I luxuriated in the knowledge that I was playing American expatriate writer in Paris, like Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Gertie Stein, et al. Yum. The poor cleaning girl wanted to come in and vacuum—she was under pressure from the dragon lady manager—but I had papers carefully strewn over everything and wouldn’t let her. Finally I opened the door and pointed to a space about one foot square. “Vacuum there.”

I studied up on Tarot and other medieval occult fields, grabbing every book I could find on medieval magic and devouring it. I even attended a contemporary witch’s gathering, complete with boiling cauldron and magical chants. This was on April 30, 1986, four days after the Chernobyl nuclear plant blew. It was sending a plume of radioactive particles north toward the pole, which were expected to come down over Canada and the US. So the chants were in the vein of “Go back! Go away! Begone!” And the next day the plume started to turn around and head back toward Chernobyl. I am not a practitioner of or believer in magic but that was a “Whoa!” moment. At any rate, I got a feel for how witches view the magical arts.

Q: How has technology impacted how, when and where you write?

A: In 1985 I wrote the first draft of The Witch’s Hand longhand, on several 6”x9” notepads, working through the night for several nights. I later typed it up on an electric typewriter reluctantly, not being the world’s greatest typist; my reading is fine but my typing is dyslexic. Finally computers with autocorrect programs came along and I don’t mind typing anymore. I have no set time for writing, but I used to work on The Witch’s Hand early in the morning. I don’t get up early anymore.

Q: How long did The Witch’s Hand take you to write from start to finish?

A: Twenty-five years. It’s a long time to give birth. It staggered and stopped and picked up again throughout the process.

Q: Do you prefer to work from an outline or let your muse guide you from one chapter to the next?

A: I get the ending clear as soon as I have the beginning down, then the fun part is deciding how to get from one to the other. I don’t use an outline as I don’t want the story to be too tied down to going in one direction in case it doesn’t work. Sometimes I work from scribbled notes.

Q: Have your characters ever done anything that surprised you?

A: Alberge was supposed to only play a minor role; introducing him as Jettaret’s former comrade-in-arms was to help flesh out Jettaret’s background, nothing more. But I walked into the inn and there he was, a total rascal, and I knew I wasn’t going to able to drop Alberge after only one scene.

Q: Did you allow anyone to read your chapters in progress or did you make them wait until the project was completed?

A: Nobody reads my stuff until it’s done. I don’t need somebody else’s mind messing up my work. As a matter of fact, I don’t like anyone messing with it after it’s done.

Q: Who’s your favorite character in the book and what aspects of his/her personality are a reflection of your personal hopes, fears and dreams?

A: Alberge is the character I most wish were real, because if he were, I’d run off with him. Have an attraction to rascals. I gave Alberge my sense of humor. After the story ends, I figure he dies in the gutter in Paris, but trust that won’t be my fate. I write seeing through the character’s eyes, or looking just over his/her shoulder. Everything they do is real to me. I worked out the swordfights by playing both combatants; I have swordplay training. I try to make all the characters 3-D, with a sympathetic side to even the worst ones. And if you’ve done your job right, the characters will resonate with the audience.

Q: What do you hope this book will accomplish?

A: I want people to read it, enjoy the story, love the characters, and think about some of the problems presented as they pertain to the reader’s life. Oh, and a few million copies sold, a movie, ballet and opera produced wouldn’t be bad, either.

Q: If Hollywood came calling, who would be your dream cast for a film adaptation?

A: I’d go back to Faye Dunaway’s Milady in Lester’s The Three (and Four) Musketeers for Malaxia, or Angelina Jolie today. There are a lot of good actors for Jettaret, but I’d want one that can do the pathos as well as the swashbuckling. Liana needs to have her feet on the ground and be scared and strong at the same time. Alberge needs a basso growl, and he’s short, stumpy and lame, but built like a blacksmith on top.

Q: In your personal life, you’re certainly no stranger to pulse-pounding, globetrotting adventures. Please share a few of these with us, along with the takeaway lessons that you believe best prepared you for the drama, uncertainties and euphoria of a writing career.

A: Somali pirates chased my ship in 2010. Here’s my report from my Sea Log, with some info on life at sea, the pirate chase, and a treatment of it in poetry. It’s a little long, but I didn’t know when to say “cut.”

We discuss pirate attack the same way you’d talk about bad traffic on the freeway. The ship has numerous barriers and obstacles to prevent pirates from successfully storming the ship, and you will understand if I don’t tell you what they are. We did one pirate drill, which essentially is to circle the wagons and wait for the cavalry. At the PA announcement, “Alamo, Alamo, Alamo,” we go to a secure room, and I’m not saying where that is either, with extra food, water, and a radio, and call the nearest coalition warship. Somebody aboard wondered why they chose a call word to get us to safety from a battle where everybody died.

Too many liability issues if we shoot back ourselves, though many would like to. I’d love to get one of the Lady Washington’s cannon off at them. We are trying to get Uncle Sam to give us, the US flagged commercial ships, a military unit aboard for protection, as the Military Sealift Command ships have (they are military cargo ships owned by the Navy but crewed by civilians). There is a Natl. Guard unit on those ships; during WWII the civilian Liberty ships that delivered cargo carried Naval Armed Guard units. If the war on terror is truly a war, shouldn’t we have the necessary protection against terrorists? The shipping companies don’t want to spend the money for armed private security units.

But pirates are nothing compared to what my dad went through in WWII; he had one ship torpedoed out from under him before Pearl Harbor, then on the Murmansk Run in ’42 he ran a 24/7 gauntlet against mines, submarines, air attack and icebergs. He came through all without a scratch. I have his Merchant Marine dogtag from then, and figure if that doesn’t bring us luck, nothing will.

Bad news from off of Cameroon, West Africa: The Northern Star, a 7,000 ton ship, was attacked by pirates near midnight Monday night. Twenty armed pirates in three boats came aboard, stole cash and computers, smashed all the communication equipment on the bridge, and took the Capt. and Chief Engineer with them as hostages when they left. No word on a ransom demand. All the other crew are apparently safe. Don’t know what flag she was.

5/26/10

Out into the Gulf of Aden. Commencing pirate watches tonight. I’m on as rover on deck from 00:00 to 04:00, after my regular 20:00 to 24:00 watch. Watch out, bad guys, Bloody Wendy is waiting. Grabbing some sack time so I’ll last through the night, then up again for my 08:00 to 12:00 watch. One warship was nearby

Leaving Colombo, Sri Lanka—Call out was 00:30 for 01:00 departure, after a long day and twenty minutes lying down but not sleeping. We stood to and waited. And waited. Didn’t get away till about 05:00, off watch at 06:00. Enough time to get cleaned up and lie down for another twenty minutes before bridge watch at 07:45. Third Mate had had the same hours so we pulled down all the window sun shades to spare our bloodshot eyes from the cheery morning light. No OT today; everyone catching up on sleep.

Flash! Zombies Take Over Ship!

Mindless maniacs sail ship in great circle off the coast of Sri Lanka, as long dead creatures rise up out of the sea, and with zombie riders, slosh ashore to steal popcorn and spread green slime around! Stay tuned!

6/19/10

Sat., 09:15. Off of Oman. Rough and choppy, many whitecaps. 40 kt. wind on the bow, a little to port. White water and spray over the forward port side; spray arcs up over the containers to starboard, sun catches it and makes rainbows.

I thought nobody in their right mind would be out in a small boat in this stuff. But then pirates aren’t in their right minds.

02:30. It was a very warm night/early morning on pirate watch, and I was on roving patrol on deck. We carry a hand held supercharged searchlight known as the Ronnie Ray-Gun, after the late president, and I was also armed with a radio, a knife, a Leatherman multiplex, a small flashlight and my keys. Those pirates better not mess with me. Got up to the bow where there was a bit of a wafting wind, and wanted to cool off, so I laid down, unbuttoned my shirt and let God admire His handiwork. Felt a bit like the Little Mermaid, or like pirate Mary Read, who, disguised as a man, killed another man in a duel. As he lay dying, she ripped her blouse open so he could see, to add insult to fatal injury, that the man who had killed him was a woman.

This is Pirate Central, where the Gulf of Aden joins the Red Sea, from about 12°12.5’ N., 45°47.5’ E., to 13°08.4’ N., 43°05.9’ E., between Somalia and Yemen. Collected some Genuine Pirate Water up on the bow at 12°24’ N., 44°16’ E., and put it in a bottle. Maybe I can sell it on E-Bay.

On the bridge, looking at our computer chart with AIS ship names and positions on it. Big cluster of ships ahead, so dense you can’t read the names. Feels like we’re at the back of the pack in the Indy 500. Shipping lanes are marked on the charts here so the pirates know where we’ll be. Still no sign of any. EU warship out of sight broad to port, six miles out; visibility poor, lots of haze. British by the sound of their radio calls. Nice to know they’re out there. Two choppers flew by as well.

16:00 to 20:00 pirate watch. It’s Rhonda’s 43rd birthday so I took her watch. Over an hour’s time, half a dozen very small launches, in ones and twos, sped toward us and tried to keep pace. None could, and they all fell away. There were two or three guys in each boat, no room for more, or for any artillery bigger than a shotgun; more then that and the recoil would capsize them. I was told they were fishermen. Fishermen? Drug runners? Or pirate scouts? They didn’t look like fishing boats; no room for any real gear or fish. The fishing boats around here are bigger, enough for five or six guys and a reasonably sizable catch, thirty feet long at least. These were much smaller. And if they were fishing boats, I’m Prince William.

I called their positions in to the bridge, from the forward catwalk on the bow. It’s between the forward mooring station bulkhead and the first row of containers, you get a good view to port or starboard, and it’s well protected. It was exciting, running back and forth on the catwalk to check both sides, and not scary.

They didn’t fire at us so technically we weren’t under attack. But were they pirates or drug runners or joyriding fishermen? Why would fishermen do that? Exciting anyway. Chased by pirates!

Pirate Chase off Somalia

Aboard the APL container ship

President Jackson, in the

Gulf of Aden off Somalia,

June 20, 2010

Run, run back,

Oh; no, run the other way,

they’re coming.

How am I going to call

pirate boats approaching from both sides

when they rush us at the same time?

Careful on the catwalk here,

narrow, narrow,

don’t slip, don’t trip,

slips-trips-and-falls-are-the-single-most-

common-cause-of-injury-aboard-ship.

Protected here,

bulkhead this side,

containers that side,

what about RPG attack?

Goddam they’re close.

Bridge, Bow Lookout,

two small vessels approaching

broad to port;

one small vessel approaching

three points to starboard,

Bloody hell these can’t be fishing boats,

vessels approaching rapidly,

Hey this is fun!

Two more vessels

approaching fine to port

Do they have AK-47’s?

Wouldn’t they have used them by now?

Hey the cook said

he’s got something hot for them

if they get below but we’d

all be in the safe room by that time

Hey, we’re getting attacked by pirates!

but is it an attack if

they aren’t shooting at you yet?

Bridge, Bow Lookout,

vessels approaching—

 

But you know something? None of this makes getting a rejection slip any easier. It still stings, and if someone hurts me in an interpersonal relationship, that is just as bad too.

Q: You’re also an accomplished playwright and actor. What aspects of penning theatrical scripts and treading the boards have enhanced your skills as a storyteller and novelist?

A: I wrote The Witch’s Hand as a play first. In play form, you can go straight to the conflict between characters and the characters’ inner conflicts. And you can’t depend on “take two” and CG effects on stage. The drama is there or it isn’t. In play format, scenery can be minimal and that focuses attention on the drama too. It’s the best way to get the bare bones of the story and character down.

Q: What would readers be the most surprised to learn about you?

A: Considering my job as a Merchant Marine deckhand on cargo and military ships, people might be surprised that I am 61, only stand 5’4” and weigh 110 lbs. But I get the job done. I also won a Bad Hemingway contest.

Q: So what’s next on your plate for 2014?

A: Oy! I have several projects in the hopper but work on them is slow. The Diary of Bobbie MacBride, nearly finished, is a War of 1812 swashbuckler. Irish lass Bobbie disguises herself as a boy and hops a ship in search of her Johnnie, who’s been taken by the King’s press gang to fight the war in America. They meet up with pirate Jean Lafitte and—but you’ll have to wait for it.

Of three plays, one is Mr. Jefferson Requests, about the famous dinner in 1790 with Madison, Hamilton and Jefferson in attendance. The Constitution is newly adopted but untested. There is no Bill of Rights. The government is deeply in debt. There is no consensus on where the federal capitol will be.

Nobody took notes at this dinner, but we know that the parties agreed to locate the federal capitol in the South in return for the Southern states, who had paid off their share of the Revolutionary War debts, helping the Northern states pay off theirs. And after that, the three worthies never agreed on anything again.

So how did they get there? And more enticingly, what else did the three greatest minds of the founding fathers talk about? What did they say? Jefferson was in the midst of his affair with Sally Hemings at the time; where do she and her chef brother James fit in?

Ulysses

A grad student in English Lit. is trying to figure out James Joyce’s densely written and enigmatic Ulysses. He is not particularly helped by the novel’s characters, who act out their parts, upbraid and cajole him into fits of rage, frustration and ecstasy.

Mein Kampf

How did Hitler do it, hoodwink a nation, and what were his deepest motives? JJ, a jaded American journalist, becomes a Greek Chorus and the conscience Hitler didn’t have, and confronts him repeatedly as the evil genius plots, manipulates and murders his way to power.

Q: Anything else you’d like to add?

A: Where can I get a winning Lotto ticket?