Tag Archives: pirates

An Angry Rant from a (Very) Dissatisfied Customer

14 Jan

Hey Bell Media! And The Source! And Apple! Well actually, here’s a call out to Mr. George Cope , CEO of Bell Media Canada, and Mr. Tim Cook , present CEO of Apple. (You gentlemen DO have a Google alert set up on your names and companies, right?) You look like very nice men and obviously you are both very savvy computer/tech/ business guys to have gotten where you are, so I’m hoping you will see past my “mad” in this rant, and take notice of my complaint therein. This may be of some interest to you ….

Here’s the scoop: I am a confirmed PC user who over the past 2 years has been slowly converting to Apple, via my iphone (gift from the kids), and MacPro laptop (gift from Hot Stuff Hubby). All through this past Christmas, I was receiving emails from The Source (and I’m not gonna link that, ‘cause I’m mad at The Source, too, so won’t be sending any readers to that site via ‘the Source’s’ link!). Anyhoo, the emails were advertising the Apple 16 GB ipad mini 3 (in the new color of gold, no less) for $99! My books to this point had been available exclusively on Amazon, but I was toying with the idea of also putting them in Apple’s online store, intending to write my next book directly on my ipad mini.

I tried to order one online. Nope. Stores only.

I phoned my local ‘The Source’ store (2 of them, actually) only to be told that the special was only for a handful of select stores in all of Canada (and we’re a damn big country). However, I was told that I could have my local store order one in, as long as I agreed to sign a 2 year contract with Bell for the device. Hell, yessiree, I’ll do that!

Three weeks later, (yesterday actually) I got the call from a very nice employee at ‘The Source’ store, telling me my ipad mini 3 had arrived and that I should come on down to sign up for the Bell contract. Now, apart from my job as a writer, my day job is that of a self-employed sole charge physiotherapist in a busy clinic. This means that I had to clear my schedule of patients for a one and a half hour slot (mucho lost income) to go do this. No matter. I wanted the mini. No more lugging the comparatively HEAVY Macbook Pro around on holidays with me so I could continue to write whilst away.

Well, jumping to the conclusion of this sad story, after several attempts, the nice man at The Source was unable to get me signed up. He put in a call to some kind of Help line and was told that he would be unable to sign me up for a contract with Bell because I had not had a cellular contract with Bell within the last 90 days.

HUH???

Well, says I, I have NEVER had a cellular contract with Bell, let alone within the last 90 days, but hey, that’s why I’m here – I WANT to become a Bell customer and I’m fricking frothing at the mouth to sign a 2 year contract with them so I can have my wonderful, light-as-a-feather, portable-as-hell ipad mini 3.

C’mon, C’MON, GIVE ME THE CONTRACT – WHERE DO I SIGN??

Help line guy says, yeah you can sign her up but only for the full purchase price of the mini 3 – an outrageous sum of just pennies under $600 CAD). Not available no way, no how, for the advertised price of $99. And apparently ‘The Source’ is only allowed to sell Apple products in conjunction with Bell contracts.

Besides seeming to me, to be just short of a fraudulent marketing ploy (as there was no disclaimer or restrictions policy outlined anywhere other than to say “see local store for details”), this is an EPIC MARKETING FAILURE. Not only did Apple and The Source and Bell fail to make a sale (albeit a small one, but still…) but they now have an unhappy customer who writes. And blogs. And who has followers who will share. (You will, right?)

Now I want to compare this to Apple’s biggest competitor, AMAZON and the amazing marketing move of Jeff Bezos . Amazon has sold its tablets AT COST to customers, who then become Amazon converts and buy a bazillion dollars worth of stuff from Amazon, more than making up for the mark-up loss incurred with the sale of the tablet.

PURE. MARKETING. GENIUS.

(Hey Jeff, if you’re reading this, feel free to leave a comment!)

Just thought I’d share this tip with you Bell Media, The Source, and Apple. Give it some thought.

Oh, and if any of you afore-mentioned three want to make amends and make the $99 purchase with 2 year contract happen for me, well, I’m willing to bury the hatchet. And I’d blog about that, too.

In the meantime, I’m feeling as snarly and revengeful about this whole thing as Mrs. Hanley was when she made her infamous stew, which revolted some readers (“Eeww! I can’t believe she did that!”), and enthralled others (“OMG! I just LOVE Mrs. Hanley and this story! I can’t believe she did that!”).

The stew scene is in Chapter 73 in QUINTSPINNER – A PIRATE’S QUEST.

Quintspinner - A Pirate's Quest

Quintspinner – A Pirate’s Quest

 

For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, why not buy the book? (C’mon, you KNOW the suspense and the curiosity is now gonna drive you crazy, don’cha?)

It’s $.99. On Amazon everywhere.

That’s 99 cents, not even $99 (dollars) like the mystical, non-accessable-to-me-ipad mini 3 offer. And I bet you’re gonna LOVE Mrs. Hanley’s stew scene!

There. I feel (slightly) better now. I’m going to charge up my little ASUS PC netbook (which is pretty portable and which has a wonderfully responsive keyboard) and then I’m off to compare Amazon tablets because I have a reading/writing holiday coming up …. Thanks for listening.

 

Work, Work, Work … (or “Getting Research Material For Your Novel – Part One”)

25 Sep

Hiya! Those of you who follow me on Facebook, Twitter, here on this blog, or who have read my novels in my Quintspinner series (you’re my – ahem –  favorites by the way) will know that the series is set in the historical setting of the West Indies of the early 1700’s.

Tropical sunset - Romance at its best.

Tropical sunset – Romance at its best.

Tropical islands. Shipwrecks. Pirates.

All of those things that bring to mind to romance and excitement of Pirates of the Caribbean or of the old Errol Flynn movies.

 
When I considered writing the series, that’s about all that I had in mind. I didn’t realize that the historical genre is considered by many in the writing sphere to be one of the hardest genres to write in, as it requires not only a great story and captivating characters, but also an accurate portrayal of life in the time era in which the writer has chosen to set his/her story. And what did a prairie girl like me know about sailing the seven seas? Well mostly that I liked being on the water and that I wasn’t particularly prone to sea sickness. However, it did soon occur to me that I had had more than just a few real-life adventures of my own to draw from, and since I am frequently asked about such events, I’m going to share these stories in a mini-series right here!

 
ADVENTURE #1 – THE ORCA ENCOUNTER (Or “A Whale of An Adventure!”)

 
“Whale Watching off the Sunny Coast of Vancouver Island” the glossy brochure proclaimed. I thought that sounded like the perfect blend of holiday and excitement, and of course, it promised to provide the mandatory (in my mind) educational component. Our family of eight and a friend of my stepson’s were all going to be on Vancouver Island for a week in July, and I was looking for quality ways to spend our time there.

 
“Quality,” in my mind, meant something new and different, usually something that the kids would never have done on their own. Whale watching from a dinghy seemed to fit the bill.

 
Pods of Orcas, commonly known as “Killer whales,” swam around the tip of Vancouver Island, a few miles off shore, every summer, and enterprising sailors turned the opportunity into a summer tourist bonanza. Pictures in the brochure showed a boat tethered at the pier, full of smiling people looking up at the camera — it certainly was no action shot, but it was something that all of us could do together, given that there was a wide range in the children’s age from eight to sixteen.

 

 
My sons groaned and rolled their eyes when I handed out the tickets. “Do we have to do this?” they whined, “Couldn’t we just meet you back here in a couple of hours? What fun is sitting in a smelly boat all afternoon going to be? I betcha’ it’ll stink like rotting fish. You won’t like that, Mom. And look, it doesn’t even look like there’s enough room in it to get up and move around.”

 
“Attendance is not optional,” I replied, “These are not ordinary whales, you know. These are Orcas.”

 
“Yeah, but there’s no guarantee we’ll even see any,” my son pointed out, “It says so in this stupid pamphlet right here.” And he stabbed his finger at it.

 
“I don’t see why we had to get up so early just to come here,” my stepson complained, “when we’re just going to fall back asleep during the boat ride anyway.”

 
“If nothing else, time together in this small, smelly boat will allow all of us to bond, my darlings,” I replied with a tight smile, hoping that the look in my eyes would tell them that the discussion had ended.

 
At the dock, the oversized Zodiac raft looked safe enough. It was no more than a glorified dinghy with a couple of small motors attached to the back and four wooden seats spanning its width. We were fitted with bright orange full-body life preserver suits by the “captain” and his helper.

The family gathered to embark on "Whale Watching. " The body language just screams "excitement " doesn't it?

The family gathered to embark on Whale Watching.
The body language just screams “excitement”, doesn’t it?

“Phew!” my daughter gasped, “These smell worse than the boat, and they are way too hot!” She pulled hers off her shoulders and peeled it down to her waist.

 
“No one goes,” the captain bellowed, “until everyone has their suits on, right up to the last snap and zipper!” My daughter reluctantly pulled hers up again.

 
“Thank God, no one will see us in these things,” my stepdaughter, pouted.

 
This “Whale Watching” expedition was quickly turning into a teenager’s nightmare – being forced to wear really uncool clothes, having a crabby guy in charge who yelled at them, and having absolutely nothing to do but sit still, crammed together shoulder to shoulder while listening to him for the next two hours.

 
The nine of us, as well as three strangers, climbed into the boat, all decked out in the snazzy, tangerine full-body life preserver suits. We joked about being “astronauts” and “Pillsbury Dough boys in Hallowe’en costumes,” and the boys jostled for the outside seats on the benches.

 
Outside the harbour, the captain opened up the motors and we tore into the ocean waves, all of us bouncing wildly about in the boat. This part of the ride was exhilarating enough that even my teenagers, who were usually too “cool” to get excited about much, hung on for dear life.

 
We were about a half an hour into our boat ride, with the shoreline having disappeared from sight, when our captain yelled, “There they are!” He pointed to the ocean horizon where we could just make out several spouting geysers amid tiny points of black dorsal fins.

 
He carefully maneuvered our boat through the four-foot waves, to a spot just ahead of the traveling pod and then killed the motor. He explained that it was provincial law that boats had to maintain a certain distance from all known marine life when their motors were running. Sitting with “dead” motors allowed us to be legally closer to the whales.

 
Even the boys were paying attention now. One Orca surfaced about 20 feet from our boat, spouted and dove. Everyone in the boat cheered with excitement. Even from 20 feet away the Orcas looked enormous.

Whale #2
It dawned on me that Orcas were fierce carnivorous predators, known to hunt in packs, and here we were, sitting a mere two and a half feet above the ocean’s surface in an inflatable boat!

Without warning, our boat shuddered and the starboard side shot out of the water. Grabbing the seats to keep ourselves from sliding sideways, we screamed as a mountainous wall of glistening black dorsal fin rose out of the water, tilting our boat and pushing the starboard side even higher.

One second later, a waterfall of freezing ocean water crashed down upon us, nearly swamping our boat, as the huge Orca spouted and then dove under the boat, bumping it again as it passed beneath.

“BAIL! For God’s sake, BAIL!” the captain roared at us, and we desperately grabbed for the plastic containers tied to the seats. Ocean water sloshed up to our knees. The captain started the motors and we bailed as fast as we could.

He steered the boat back in the direction that we had come from and we roared away from the spot. We were all still shaking from the adrenaline rush when, a few moments later, the motors whined, sputtered, and died.

“Oh no! We’ve sucked in kelp! The motors are plugged!” the captain yelled. He radioed our position to the coast guard while we continued to madly bail out the boat.

Drenched as we were, and in the ocean wind, our hands soon cooled to the point that it was difficult to hold onto the bailing containers. The orange suits that we had earlier joked about were now conserving our body temperatures, as we sat huddled together, awaiting rescue.

As the captain continued to work feverishly on the motors, we were blown towards a rocky crag that rose out of the water. Land! Even though it was covered in sea bird droppings and smelled horrible, it looked good to me, but not so to our captain. “If we hit that, it’ll puncture the boat and likely capsize us,” he warned. “Be ready to jump into the water!”

As we veered towards its edge, a seeming miracle happened: one motor sputtered back to life. Ever so slowly, we made our way around the rocky crag and back towards the shore.

An hour later, we spilled from the Zodiac and onto firm dry land, our eyes stinging and our faces coated white from the ocean salt. Back at their office, as we wearily hung up our orange suits, I noticed their motto printed in large black letters on a wall poster. It said, “Our Adventure Tours – More Than You Could Ever Hope For!” No kidding.

Stay tuned for next week’s installment:

Up Close and Personal With Creatures of the Deep

 
(Ahem, attention please: the above is a true story. You’ll find several similar adventures in my Quintspinner series, most of it fictional, except of course, for the parts that are real. You’ll have to figure out which is which for yourself. And you can get started on that adventure right here! http://amzn.to/1kLuqi9

G’wan. You know you wanna’. It helps me fund my next fishing trip. Thanks for reading.

IT’S THE MARCH BOOK FRENZY!! YES, INDEEDY!

27 Mar

Image

Well the blog hop has begun and it runs until Sunday, March 30th! Your help sharing the March Book Frenzy would be greatly appreciated. Tell your friends!
This March Book Frenzy is brought to you by http://fabulosityreads.blogspot.ca/Image

FOR MORE INFORMATION ON THE  FREE AND DISCOUNTED BOOKS YOU SEE ON THE BANNER PLEASE REFER TO THIS BOOK CATALOG.

 

There’s also A WONDERFUL GIVEAWAY:

 

FOR READERS $35, $25 and $20CashPLUS2 eBooks from each author. Refer to the BOOK CATALOG Giveaway Link: March Book Frenzy (Readers)

FOR PARTICIPATING BLOGGERS ONLY

2 X $20 Cash Giveaway Link (Bloggers ONLY): Bloggers Giveaway

Increase your chances to win by visiting as many of the blogs on the book tour as possible. (Find the list of participating blogs by clicking here). Here’s a list of all of the stops: http://new.inlinkz.com//luwpview.php?id=375044.

Why not click around and visit these blog sites? Such a selection! And all of them are full of really great reading suggestions. The hosts have a huge collection of posts from authors, as well as many, many book reviews.

I’ve started things off for the tour with a post about 10 things that I wish I had known before I became an author. It’s been a steep learning curve and I probably could have had a list three times longer….

If you are like me – multitasking, trying to keep my head above water while tending to all of the bazillion things that threaten to pull me under while competing for my time and attention – well, I’m left with the attention span of a fruit fly. Therefore, I have added the post in it’s entirety below. (one less click step for you!)  Here goes:

10 Things I Wish I Had Known Before I Became An Author

 

  1. Some people write just for themselves. (Drawers full of scribbled down short stories and poems for-your-eyes-only anyone?) These people are writers. Not authors. There IS a difference. The author part is where you do the hard work that is required to get the story or poem ready for judgment by the rest of the world, and then succeed in doing so. Writers write for the joy of capturing thoughts down on paper or screen. Authors do this too, but hope to make a living at it. Most writers secretly long to become authors.
  2. Telling the story is the easy part. Then comes the hard part of editing, rewrites, cover design, and marketing your product.
  3. Writing to make money is a business. There are costs involved and hopefully, monies earned. You do not have to spend a fortune to get a good quality book out there (although some have) but you probably DO need to pay for some services such as book cover design (if you don’t have a fantastic, eye-popping cover, it will never be noticed at thumbnail size. I hire Derek Murphy at http://bookcovers.creativindie.com/ to do the book covers for my Quintspinner series. Treat yourself to seeing some amazing book covers over on his site). The Internet provides groups to join professionally (http://allianceindependentauthors.org/ ) and lists places to get answers to questions about “how-to” for most things related to publishing a book and becoming an author. Other jobs, such as proper formatting can be hired out at a reasonable cost, to people who will make sure that it’s done properly. End result? You will have a great product to sell. Do not skimp on the quality.
  4. You MUST embrace technology. You cannot get away from using it and it will be a steep learning curve. If, like me, you are somewhat of a computer troglodyte, learn what you can on your own, and then hunt down a teenager who, for the price of some weekend beer money, will teach you how to upload, download, resize jpg’s, start a blog and a Facebook page, etc. They have grown up with this stuff. They’re really, really good at it. Pretend the money you’re paying them is going toward their university savings.
  5. You should have a plan. Several of them actually. A plan for your book’s plot. A marketing plan for your book’s introduction to the world. A financial plan for your expenditures. Do not do any of these by the seat of your pants.
  6. Word of mouth is still the most effective (and cheapest) way to get your book out there in front of hopefully thousands of pairs of readers’ eyes, and without a doubt, book bloggers are the best way to spread the word about your book. They connect with a built-in audience of readers. Book bloggers are an author’s BEST avenue of book discovery.
  7. Most of your friends and family members will abandon you after the novelty of your first book wears off and you have not immediately been invited to be a guest sitting and chatting on Oprah Winfrey’s couch. See the next point.
  8. Writing is a solitary occupation and it is vitally important to make connections with other writers. Preferably those who are authors. Not only will they have advice about formatting issues, royalty statements, Amazon algorithms, and be able to offer encouragement to you when you are full of self-depreciating thoughts (Why can’t I write the next BIG THING? Why do I continue with this?), but they will completely understand your need for a glass of spiced rum and coke and a bowl of chips and dip to get the creative juices going. (Hey, I am writing a pirate series after all.)
  9. The pathway to authorship will become littered with sacrifices. It’s a demanding career choice and it does not willingly share your time with anything or anyone else in your life. Got time to watch a season’s worth of your favorite TV show? Nope. Spend a few hours on a lazy afternoon reading for pleasure? Not likely. Want a weekend to work on [insert your favorite hobby here]? Not going to happen. You will be hunched and crunched over your keyboard, eyes nervously flickering over your accumulated word count, as the sounds of your family’s laugher floats over your head from the family room elsewhere in your home.
  10. This is the most important point of all and if I had known this, it would have made the journey of writing my first book so much easier: the heart-pounding, intense thrill of seeing your book available for sale online for the very first time, or better yet, holding it as a physical copy in your hands, makes all of the above WORTH IT. Every lonely, frustrating, exciting, wonderful, challenging minute of it. I really wish I’d known this from the start. Wouldn’t have gone through quite so much spiced rum, I expect Cheers!

MULTIPLE AWARD WINNER including B.R.A.G. Medallion Winner, Best
Historical (Reader Views, NIEBA), Best YA (Writer’s Digest, Hollywood
Book Festival), Best Commercial Novel (Eric Hoffer), Book of the Year
(Foreword Reviews)

 
Even in the year 1717, one month, one week, or one day, can make all the difference in the world.
 
One month ago, Tess Willoughby was the daughter of a well-to-do physician in London, and she witnessed the murder of an old seer. Coming into possession of the dead woman’s odd ring – an ancient Spinner ring, known by the locals as the Ring of Prophesy, she was wrongly accused by her father of having stolen the ring.
Three weeks ago, by her father’s arrangement for the family, she became an unwilling passenger on a merchant ship bound for the pirate-infested waters of the Caribbean.
Two weeks ago, at her father’s insistence, she became forcibly betrothed to a man who she recognized as being the seer’s murderer – a man who covets her only for her ring.
One week ago, she met a sailor and experienced the thrill of being in love for the first time.
Two days ago, she realized that such a secret love would endanger them both, and, heart-broken, she was forced to choose her loyalty. 
Yesterday, her fiancé betrayed her during a pirate attack and those she loved were slaughtered.
Today, she is plotting to save her own life and perhaps to take his in retribution. The ring is urging her to decide quickly…
 
Tomorrow will be too late.
 
 
 
Born and raised on the Canadian prairies, Dianne Greenlay is the author of the hilarious story, THE CAMPING GUY, as well as QUINTSPINNER – A PIRATE’S QUEST and DEADLY MISFORTUNE, Books One and Two in a fast-paced award – winning adventure series, set in the 1700’s, in the pirate-infested waters of the West Indies. Greenlay is also a playwright, producer, and Creative Director of the long-running community theater group, Darkhorse Theatre. She is fluent in at least her mother tongue and she thanks her fierce English teachers for that. More of her thoughts on life can be found at www.diannegreenlay.com.

Connect With Dianne Here:

More of Dianne’s books on her AMAZON page.
Follow her on TWITTER.

 

Deadly Misfortune Chapter 5

21 Sep

Chapter Five

The view from the top of the crater on that day had been spectacular. On one side of the island, smoke from the plantation sugar mill had risen in a lumpy rope that stretched up into the sky. The smoke had marked the location of the plantation’s Big House. Dangerous to all black people, especially the escaped slaves, the Maroons, and probably to themselves as well, now that they had lived with the Maroons. It was a place where slaves and indentured workers were forced to toil endless hours in the fields and in the sugar mill.

William had noted that escape from the island would not be possible from that side, even though the bay offered a natural harbor for ships. There was too much activity there. Too much observation.

On the other side of the island, the green canopy of jungle had stretched slowly away to the ocean, yielding to a hazy patchwork of boggy ground that merged with the water’s edge. The swamp. It had not looked accessible by ship from up there.

And now that he’d actually been there to see it in person, he’d decided that it was probably not accessible by any craft. It had been a depressing conclusion.

A baby’s wail pierced the air and brought William out of his daydream. He watched Smith stride over to his own hut. William continued to stare as Smith squatted beside Cassie who lay on a woven mat just outside the shelter’s open doorway. Sea-hardened sailor that he was, Samuel Smith was absolutely smitten with his wife and their newborn child. Not his child, William corrected himself. Hers. And Carlos, the pirate captain’s. Not that it mattered at all to Smith.

Smith, whose torso and arms were laced with the scars from numerous brutal floggings aboard the British Navy warship, the HMS Argus and who had, on another occasion, fearlessly stood in for one of William’s own whippings–this same man now doted shamelessly on Cassie and the baby. William could hardly believe the change.

Like he’s gone soft in the head. Tender-like.

Once again William was stabbed in his chest by the shard of recollection of his own family members. He had loved them all, quietly in his own way, but never more so than when they had become lost to him. Even at the age of nearly eighteen, however, he knew that this was the way things were. The way life was. No one lasted forever. A man should enjoy what pleasures he has for as long as he has them.

A forceful nudge at his elbow redirected his attention. Gerta, his father’s black goat, nuzzled the pocket edge of his ragged dungarees in search of a piece of ripe fruit. Now that the small goat was maturing, she was ravenous. Offering her only a small, precious piece of raw sugar cane, William then waved his hand in a horizontal swipe. Seeing the gesture, Gerta gave up on her begging and settled down by his side, munching contentedly on her sweet treat.

William’s gaze settled on his left hand and he stared momentarily at the loose webbing of skin which bound his fourth and fifth fingers together up to the first knuckle. Nearly transparent flesh, the web of skin was a family trait–his father had borne the same peculiarity–and both of them had been the objects of fear and violence generated by the superstitious sailors aboard the ill-fated Mary Jane.

Gerta’s mine now. Good thing, too, otherwise, she’d have been butchered as soon as she arrived here. The doeling was devoted to him now. Mischievous but clever, she’d learned to respond to a set of hand signals which William had taught to her. Even so, her good behavior was still erratic. He glanced down at her, surprised that she continued to lie still. Maybe the discipline is improving….

William slapped and waved at a cloud of determined mosquitoes, then squinted again at Smith and Cassie.

On the other side of the clearing, Cassie lay curled on a woven ground mat. She stirred from her fever-laced sleep, and smiled up at Smith before shutting her eyes and falling back into a light doze. Both Cassie’s child and the orphaned baby slept peacefully at Cassie’s side, calmed and cooled by Smith’s present waving of a palm frond overhead. William contemplated their sleeping forms and felt his tension return.

***

From the jungle’s edge behind William, Tess speculated on her own husband’s interest, as William watched Cassie. Unaware of Tess’s presence, or maybe uncaring, he openly stared, his blue eyes mesmerized by the sight, his longing palpable. Tess stared too, and tried to reign in her resentment.

Cassie. Her adopted sister. Beautiful, shapely Cassie. So unlike herself. Cassie’s chocolate brown skin shimmered, was radiant even, with the sweat brought on by the fever. Both girls, in childhood, had been taken in by the same family, but Tess’s copper colored locks and ivory skin had made it easier for her to be raised as one of their own. Even so, the girls had grown up as close as blood sisters, sharing everything, until the desperate sea voyage had dealt them each a set of far different circumstances to cope with.

There’s always somethin’ what comes from somethin’. Her grandmother’s familiar adage about life swirled through Tess’s mind. Her mouth stretched into a small, unconscious smile. Her grandmother was her lifeline.

“Ah, Tess me darling’!” Emma’s voice boomed out as though summoned by Tess’s thoughts. “C’mere an’ let me pile yer locks up fer ya’.” Without waiting for an answer, the jolly woman smothered Tess in an enthusiastic hug.

“Have I told ya yet today how much I love ya?” Emma beamed at her before grabbing a handful of Tess’s copper ringlets, expertly twisting the strands into a reasonably tidy braid.

Ever the optimist, the boisterous Emma Hanley Lancaster was a walking collection of folklore, numerology, superstitions, and she dispensed a generous dollop of good old common sense at every opportunity. It was she who had always believed that the brown acorn birthmark trailing down Tess’s neck was a sign of preordained greatness and it was she who had convinced Tess that here on the island, there was no longer any need to hide it behind a thick plait of hair. For the first time in her life, Tess now wore her hair either loose in soft coppery ripples that trailed down her back, or gathered it up in a luscious pile on the top of her head

Relaxing with the pleasant sensation of her hair being coiled, Tess turned her attention once more to William. She studied him without appearing to do so, only lifting her head ever so slightly, gazing at him through her fringe of eyelashes.

William’s sun-bleached locks were pulled back into a loose braid with a few escaped wisps outlining his high cheekbones and determined jaw line. His skin had become deeply bronzed by their months here in the tropical sun, and his body, already hardened by the physical demands of the lengthy, if ill-fated sea journey, had become further chiseled with the lifestyle of the maroon camp and its scant food supplies. William continued to stare across the clearing, lost in his own thoughts.

A wash of prickly jealousy swept over Tess. She had agreed to be his wife. She loved this man. And still his raw desire was unfulfilled. Tess swallowed hard and hoped it was a passing phase. They had so much in common but this one thing threatened to drive her from his bed. The one thing he so desperately desired brought Tess only fear. And even though the two of them had not talked about it, had not ever spoken about the issue out loud, Tess knew.

More than anything, William longed for a child of his own. A family.

Deadly Misfortune – Chapter 4 Preview

12 Sep

Chapter Four

Warm as it was, the damned wind on the island blew to some degree every day. William’s nostrils twitched as a wisp of breeze carried with it, the definite aroma of swamp rot. The morning rains saturated everything.

William, Smith, and the ship’s one-legged carpenter, Mr. Lancaster, had done what they could to reinforce their own pitiful huts, making do with the basics of nature that surrounded them.

But in fact, everything was in short supply–food, clothing, medicines, and weapons. In spite of the double thatching, both the swampy winds and the driving sheets of rain had managed to invade their primitive shelters. Lost in his own thoughts, William startled when a voice sounded behind him.

“It’s the swamp fever, ain’t it? It followed us back here. Can ya’ not smell it?” Smith spoke of the obvious odor.

William raised his face to the sky and sniffed. “I can. It’s been on the wind a week or more.”

With a sudden push, Smith lashed out and shoved William’s head facedown. “Ya’ crazy bugger!” Smith’s brown eyes were wide with disbelief. “Don’t be suckin’ that evil air into yer body on purpose!” He semi-crouched in fear of the unseen sickness. Releasing his grip on William, he nodded toward the outermost row of huts.

“Didcha’ not notice that them what’s most sick are the ones stayin’ in the outer rows?” He snorted in disgust. “That’s where the poison wind settles first. That’s what’s got me Cassie ill. Would’a been safer to be on an inside one,” he grumbled. “She didn’t even come to the swamp yet she’s got the fever anyhow.”

“Yeah, well, we’re lucky that these Maroons let us stay anywhere at all,” William reminded his friend. “If you remember, both of us would have been killed on the shore right where they found us washed up in that storm if it hadn’t been for Mambo taking a liking to Tess’s ring.”

“Yeah, that and Cassie’s brand matching the one that that friggin’ pirate captain burned into Mambo’s arm, too,” Smith recalled with a scowl. “It’s a damned right thing he’s dead, that’s all the good I can say about that one.”

But what about the child Cassie bore, sired by him? The son you now call your own? William didn’t dare ask out loud. There was no reason to bring up the baby’s parentage. Smith seemed as devoted to the child as he was to Cassie.

The three pairs of shipwrecked survivors–he and Tess, Smith and Cassie, and Tess’s grandmother, Emma, and the ship’s carpenter, Brigham Lancaster–had been ‘married’ by Mambo, shortly after their assimilation into the Maroon’s camp. They had substituted the priestess’s ceremony for the church ceremony that they would never have.

The marriage ceremony, if it could be called that–Crikey, it was a weird thing!–had been, at the same time, both frightening in its strangeness, and exhilarating in its ferocity. It had taken place under a shimmering canopy of stars, when the sky had been under the dark influence of a new moon. Each couple had been bound, tied face to face, in the centre of a circle, its boundaries outlined with a collection of fruits, giant seed pods, shells, and flowers. Led by Mambo, the Maroons chanted in a foreign tongue, and had begun to dance around them, with feet and hands keeping time to a steady rhythm played out by a trio of men who had clicked their tongues and pounded on a collection of hollowed out logs and dried stems.

Having grabbed a stick from the ever burning fire pit, Mambo had held it high over head and whirled around them, spraying the helpless couples with a shower of sparks and chunks of glowing embers. It had been unsettling for the three brides to say the least, but their screams had been drowned out by the increasing volume of the chanters. Instinctively wrestling against their tethers but helpless to escape them, the grooms had bellowed out some very un-churchlike phrases.

Heedless of their dismay, Mambo had then produced a dried seed pod containing a smoking wad of herbs, and she had blown the smoke into the faces of each betrothed couple. The rest of the ceremony was hazy to William’s recollection except for the sharp poke of a wooden splinter into his lower lip and the salty taste in his mouth of Tess’s blood from her own freshly pricked lip, as their faces had been forced into an awkward kiss.

Without warning, their bonds had been slashed and they had collapsed to the ground. William vaguely recalled that several pairs of hands had gripped him, and each couple had been carried into the dark interior of a hut.

Stark naked. That’s how we were carried in. I remember that part. Never did figure out how that happened though….

William smiled at the memory of it. Primal as it had been, he was sure their matrimonial ritual had been as powerful as a church’s and certainly as binding as any on earth. Literally. And the first few weeks with Tess as his new wife, or had it been months–he didn’t know and it didn’t matter–had been wonderful. Sensuous. Full of their warm bodies intertwining, slippery with passionate desire.

William loved lying beside Tess. The nighttime air of the island’s mountainous interior was chilly and the two of them slept curled up together, as much to share body heat as anything. However, having her wrapped up in his arms, with his body in full contact with hers, her firm backside pressed back against him and his top arm draped across her breasts–the position was just not conducive to sleep. No matter how tired the rest of him was, his manhood was always eager and, he thought, considering their spooned position, impossible for Tess not to notice.

When he kissed her neck and nuzzled his way down to the soft spot above her collarbone, her soft moans and gooseflesh announced her willing interest in him, too. Tess would turn towards him and slip her hand between his legs, and suddenly the chill of the night would be a forgotten concern as she straddled him. Her touch, her nearness–it was sheer pleasure and William never tired of it.

And then something had happened. Was it that there was absolutely no privacy here? Was it Tess’s strange dreams that scared her and occupied her thoughts? Or was it his greatest fear–that Tess was becoming tired of him as well as their life on this island? Whatever the reason, their intimate nights had nearly disappeared.

He replayed a favorite moment in his head. He and Tess had been walking along a high trail, hiking up the side of the island’s extinct volcano. On Mambo’s instruction, Tess had been looking for special herbs. They had picked handfuls of one already, a broad, glossy heart-shaped leaf that grew on a tuberous vine low to the ground.

“What’s this one for?” William had inquired.

“Mambo needs it for the women at the camp.”

“Women?” William knew intuitively that he should ask no further, but sometimes his intuition didn’t seem to shout loudly enough. “Heart-shaped. Must be to make a love potion with, eh?” He’d grinned his dazzling smile that he knew she loved to see.

“Actually, no,” Tess had replied. “This herb, contrary to its shape, is called the baby stopper. The Maroons don’t want to go through the heart-break of having children suffer the life of a slave as they have done, so ….” Tess had shrugged and at that moment, had tripped and fallen into him, sending both of them tumbling back down the precarious pathway. He’d wrapped his arms around her and shielded her as best he could, as they rolled and crashed down the jagged surface of the hardened lava pathway. They’d come to a sudden stop in a collision with a rather large boulder.

Breathless, she’d asked, “Are you alright?” There was a moment of relief when he’d realized that neither of them had suffered serious injury. Up there, they were completely alone. It had been a bit frightening. Help would have been a long time coming. Still, having had Tess in his arms with her heart beat pounding so intimately against his own chest, he’d barely noticed his bleeding cuts and scrapes.

And then, to his delight, Tess had lifted her sweet lips to his and had kissed him. Delicately, at first. She’d run the tip of her warm tongue over his own. Had sucked his lower lip into her mouth and then released it, before trailing her soft mouth past his ear and down the side of his neck, lifting his skin in goose bumps as her wet lips made their way across his skin. William had felt his body respond and he’d traced the outline of her breast and hip with his fingertips. Softly. Just the way he knew she liked to be touched.

“I’m fine,” he’d reassured her. He’d kissed her neck and shoulders, had lingered as he’d drawn his own lips across the soft swell of flesh below her collarbone, pleased and further aroused to have her breathing increase with his touch. “I think we should lie here a bit, though, just to make sure.”

And completely alone on that trail, but now awash in gratitude for that solitude, with their bodies in perfect rhythm and sunshine splashing on their naked skin, they’d needed no help from anyone. No help at all.

Deadly Misfortune – Chapter 2 preview

28 Aug

Chapter Two

There were many ways to die on an island. Boredom was surely one of them and Tess had thought it would be a most terrible way to die.

Until now. Now she was sliding though slime-coated water in which, she was sure, lurked invisible horrors.

The hand-gutted canoe, being nothing more than a fired and carved out rotting log that she and the three others sat in, floated low, its gunwale dangerously close to the swamp water’s surface. The opaque water through which William and Smith paddled was a thick, sludgy green, and the canoe left a dark cleft in the algae layer as it slid along the swamp’s edge.

It had been decided that the four of them would go. Mambo, the Maroon’s priestess, would navigate their way overland, from the camp down to the foul-smelling swamp and the waiting canoe. The two young men, respective mates of Cassie and Tess, would be needed to push, paddle, and steer the craft, and Tess had insisted in coming along, desperate to free herself from the boredom that she loathed.

Tess gazed at her husband, William, who sat in front of her. They had been together for a few months on this island, dirty and hungry most of the time, but if anything, life here had improved William’s appearance. His sun-bleached locks glistened in a mass of unruly curls mostly refusing to be held back in a loose plait of sorts that laid down the back of his neck. His shoulders and torso were tanned to a dark caramel and were etched with the contours of hard muscle. Only the jagged white strips of his whipping scars broke up the broad expanse of his back.

His eyes are just as blue as the day we met, though. Tess smiled to herself, remembering how polite William had been in the presence of her overbearing father. And she remembered how attracted she had been to the young press-ganged sailor even then. He’s changed since then, she nodded, but then so have I. She no longer wore her thick copper waves in a left sided plait. The birthmark on her neck – an acorn shaped brown mark with a trail of tiny teardrops beneath it–had been a thing of shameful imperfection to her family, but it did not have to be kept hidden here on the island.

Now she watched the muscles in his arms ripple in a smooth dance under his skin as he poled their precarious and quite water-logged vessel along. She had the sudden urge to reach out and touch those arms but at the last moment, the presence of the other two people made her blush with embarrassment that she’d even had the thought of doing so.

Instead she closed her eyes and let the sunshine splash down on her face and she replayed another use for those powerful arms. In her mind, they were wrapped around her, one hand locked in her hair and the fingertips of the other trailing so lightly down her neck and onto the small of her back that her skin buzzed with excitement. Her breathing deepened as his hand slid deliciously further down–

“Tess!” William had twisted around and was smiling his dazzling smile. “This is no time to fall asleep. Look!” He pointed straight ahead. Startled, Tess blinked and then stared. The canoe had stopped. Tess stiffened with alarm and sucked in a breath.

Twenty-five feet away, life and death played out before them. Crouched on an overhanging branch, two tree-dwelling rodents munched contentedly on the leaves of their chosen tree. Cat-sized and covered with coarse brown fur, the plump hutias seemed oblivious to the danger that had gathered in the watery mess of mangrove roots below them.

The attack came with stunning fierceness and speed. Without warning, a crocodile exploded from the water and, launching itself upward, snapped at the branch, narrowly missing its target. Beside it, a second reptile burst out of the turbid water and seized a doomed hutia, crashing back into the mucky liquid below, with the rodent captured and crushed in its tooth filled mouth.

The first crocodile leapt again, having re-estimated the branch’s height, and its eight foot long scaly body was propelled into the air by the enormous strength of its tail. Like its companion, the croc splashed back into the swamp, this time its bloody jaws full with its intended victim. In only a moment more, the two crocodiles and hutias sunk from view, the marshy water’s surface closing over them.

Sweet Jesus! Tess’s heart pounded in her chest. And we’re here to collect crocodile teeth! Why on earth does Mambo think that Cassie is in greater danger from a pirate’s spirit than we are from these ravenous, horrible creatures? And a dead pirate at that! Thank God, Cassie didn’t come! She doesn’t have the stomach for something like this.

Cassie, Tess’s adopted sister, had stayed behind at the hidden Maroon camp, high up in the island’s mountainous interior. Tess couldn’t blame her. Being a pirate’s captive as Cassie had been, had destroyed her sister’s confidence. Had nearly destroyed her life. Besides this was no place for a baby and Cassie never let her son out of her sight.

He has marked us both. Only something stronger can protect can protect from such evil, Mambo had insisted. It was either cut the pirate’s brand from both Cassie’s and Mambo’s arms so that they could not be tracked by the pirate captain’s spirit, now that he was no longer tied to a physical body, or wear an amulet containing the crocodile’s teeth which would hold a power greater than the brand. And Mambo was taking no chances on the pirate’s spirit tracking her and Cassie down.

Such strange beliefs. Tess shook her head. But who am I to judge? She glanced at her left hand at the three spinner rings that she wore. All of them had been fashioned by long ago forgotten crafters, to have moving bands or spinning parts. The one with blue tourmalines supposedly brought on prophetic visions, the emerald spinner healed in ways that were beyond normal explanation, and the third ring, the one with tiny ruby encrusted vanes was the ring of persuasion. That one had been the one she had obtained– no, taken–from Edward, but the words that he had used to activate the ring as he spun it had died with him.

The canoe bumped against something and Tess was brought back to the moment. She lashed out, groping for a handhold in the canoe. God! I hate being on water! She felt her chest tighten. I don’t think I can stand this much longer. I hope Mambo knows what she’s talking about.

The African priestess had explained that the “cocodrilo” as she called them, constantly shed their teeth–the crocodile teeth would be easy to find and collect from bits of logs and roots, or perhaps would have washed up along the swamp’s margin–but she hadn’t gone into detail about the giant reptiles’ actual presence. Tess thought that she would have rather taken her chances being back with the pirates. At least they were only six feet in length.

But now her chest was aching with apprehension and remorse. Nothing, in her short life of nearly eighteen years, not even in her wildest imagination, could have prepared her for this situation. She tightened her grip in an effort to control the shaking she felt and she snapped her head around to speak to Mambo.

“What in the hell have you gotten us into?” Swiveling around to face forward, she pleaded, “William! Please get us out of here!”

White knuckled, William poled the canoe slowly forward, his paddle being no more than a long branch. “Tess, sit still. We really don’t want to capsize.”

“Closer.” Mambo pointed to a half-submerged log to their right.

The log had an indent in its midsection. A large indent. Bumping along side of it, the canoe tipped to one side as Mambo leaned over to run her hand along the log’s surface.

“Hah!” Mambo cried out. “Cocodrilo bite here,” she explained.

She pulled and tugged, digging at the log’s depression with her fingertips. Water slopped over the canoe’s edge, pooling along its bottom. Tess looked down, horrified to see small, undulating bodies in it.

“Can we please go? There are worms in this water!” she shrieked, scrambling to raise herself up out of the collected water. It was one thing to plant fly maggots in wounds to harvest decaying and dead flesh, which, when he was alive, she had once helped her physician father do, and quite another to purposely sit with one’s unprotected bottom amongst a colony of probable burrowing parasites.

“An’ I’m guessin’ there’s plenty more in this swamp, if ya tip us,” Smith warned from the back of the canoe, his voice tight. Mortified at the thought, Tess sat back down.

“See?” Mambo cackled with delight. She held out her hand. Two long, pointy, hollow triangles lay in her palm, their white tips blending into a deep grey near the bases. “Now we go,” she announced, her fingers curling into a protective fist over the teeth. Satisfied and smiling, she nodded and remarked, “This be good trip.”

A good trip? Because none of us were eaten alive? Tess didn’t even want to know what would constitute a bad one.

This island is a giant death trap.

She mentally listed off the dangers–the things, that until now, she had purposefully tried to ignore–the swamp fever, the scarcity of safe water to drink, as well as there never being enough food. Then there was a different classification of dangers including the spotted wild cats in the jungle, the slithery things on the ground, and god-only-knew what other predatory creatures lurking around in the shadows. And now she could obviously add the monsters that cruised in the waters under them.

And it wasn’t just that. There was the strange plant life–trees growing along the beach, that oozed poisonous sap, and those in the jungle coated with thorns large enough to pierce a man’s hand.

From Mambo, Tess was learning to identify both the plants that had medicinal value and those that were deadly. Anything in between was just decoration for now. Tess needed to learn only enough to keep her alive until they could get off this damned island and back to some kind of civilization. And being stuck here revived the ever present fear she had, that before long that pirates would land and would somehow recapture them all.

Of course there was the plantation on the island’s other side, with its Big House. But it was run by slave owners. Owners whose overseers had found Tess’s grandmother and her husband, Brigham, washed up on the shoreline after the hurricane, and who had brought them back to the Big House as indentured workers. No, going to the Big House was not an option for escape from this island.

At first, having been washed up on its shore during the same hurricane, she’d felt only immense relief. After all, she had escaped impending slow death at the hands of the pirate crew of the Bloodhorn. Her skin prickled with the memory of it. And I escaped the clutches of Edward Graham. The man she had been forcibly betrothed to. The same man who had killed the Crone, a defenseless old woman, in an effort to steal the woman’s ring. Even he, a royal courtier, had believed that the ring had ancient prophetic powers when its inner band was spun by the wearer.

Well it’s my ring now. And good riddance to him.

The canoe’s nose bumped into the soft mud, jarring her once again from her thoughts.

“Well, that’s this trip done,” Smith said. “Everyone out.”

William slipped over the side and sank in the muck to mid-calf. He extended his arms out to Tess and smiled. She gathered up the tattered remains of her skirt in one hand and took hold of one of his hands. She was standing and debating about how and where to best step into his arms when the skin under her blue ring began to itch fiercely.

Oh my God! This is not a good sign! Tess jumped into the muck and screamed, “Hurry! Get onto the shore!”

The four of them scrabbled through the ooze and onto firm land just as the tremor hit, knocking them all to their knees. The swamp water rose and crashed against the shore as though trying to capture them and suck them back in.

Tess lay gasping on her back and was mentally adding this island’s increasing tremors to her list of dangers, when William, incredibly, began to laugh.

“So you chose the mud route rather than my arms, eh? That was the fastest exit I’ve ever seen anyone do, Tess. You’re getting braver by the day. Didn’t know you had such speed in you.”

Neither did I. Tess wondered about the itch. It was less now. Definitely less, but still there … and then her grandmother’s voice whispered in her head.

Ya never know what ya can do till misfortune comes nippin’ at yer backside.

 

A First Look at Quintspinner

29 Jul

Have you heard of spinner rings? They are fashioned after ancient Tibetan prayer rattles, which were thought to give users powers of manifestation. I have a new novel available for those who like mystery, romance, action, and intrigue: Quintspinner – A Pirate’s Quest. Here’s an excerpt for you to enjoy. The time has come. A Quintspinner has been found. The woman inhaled a deep shuddering breath and her eyes flew open as she stabbed a bony finger at Tess and hissed, “The rings will seek ye. Pay attention to the inner voice, Quintspinner.” Her eyes narrowed and she continued in a hushed voice, “It is the only sense to trust.” Tess sat quietly on the stool, made speechless by the Crone’s story. Cassie, however, spoke first. “That’s a fine story, it is. A fine yarn for scaring us. Spinner indeed! Tess doesn’t even have a ring, if you haven’t noticed. And she’s not bloody likely to find one in the marketplace, is she now?” “She has the mark. They will come,” the Crone said simply. A sudden loud knock on the door made both girls jump. A wisp of fear flickered in the Crone’s eyes and then was gone, replaced by a look of grim expectancy. “Into the back room with ye both!” she whispered. “Hide so as not to be found.” The knock sounded again, this time louder and more impatiently. The Crone grabbed Tess by her arm.”Ye’ll come to know things, Quintspinner. Do not doubt the inner voice. It will not fail ye, if ye choose to hear it.” The knock swelled into a fierce pounding.

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