Archive for the ‘Francesca’s World’ Category

bookfront1Hello Everyone,

Sorry I’ve been AWOL on my posts of late – other than “Word of the Day.” I’ve been working my bum off on a special project.

Introducing: A New Look at Old Words

When I was working on Lady Blade I bought a reprint of  A Dictionary of Modern Slang, Cant and Vulgar Words written in 1860. I was so excited. I thought it would be perfect for adding some salt to the dialog of my pirate characters.

Problem was, since it was a dictionary, I needed to already know the slang word in order to look it up. I knew the bookfront2definition, not the word. For example, if I wanted a slang word for a black-eye I’d have to read the whole book to find one! Basically the book was no help at all, until I reorganized it.

I typed in each word and then grouped all the words into categories such as Body Parts, Insults, Professions… so that I could find what I was looking for quickly and easily. And I couldn’t help adding a bit of artwork and commentary. The result – a 700 page book full of all the wonderful words you’ve been enjoying each day, laid out by topic.

Now the book is ready to go to Kickstarter – after some final edits.


And here is where I could use your help. I’ve created 3 versions of a cover, and I want to see which is the most popular.

So vote away! I want to hear from you. Which do you like best?


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First chapter of Lady Blade up on wattpad

First chapter of Lady Blade up on wattpad

Perhaps it doesn’t seem that way, after all, the struggle continues to get my work out there, but the more I think about it, the more I find to be thankful for.

First and foremost, I’m thankful that I have the sort of imagination that can transport me to other time periods and other worlds, whether it be aboard a pirate ship in the Caribbean, or a fencing salle in Tuscany. I’m thankful for the characters in my novel who took me places I hadn’t originally intended to go. It was a long and crooked road and I’m glad I had the chance to walk it.

I’m thankful for my husband who gives me the time and space to write and listens patiently to my frustrations. I’m thankful that every day when I get out of bed I know I get another chance to be creative. And I’m thankful for the men and women in my writer’s groups whose honest and constructive criticism, though at times tough to hear, has made Lady Blade what it is today and has made me a much better writer.

I’m thankful for my agent, Frank, who hasn’t given up on me or Lady Blade, no matter how many “nos” he’s heard.

I’m thankful for modern technology which has made writing and editing a helluva lot easier and allows me, with minimal effort, to learn  about the past, from how to splice a rope aboard ship, to how to jump a horse riding side-saddle. And I’m thankful that I’m living today, with modern conveniences like refrigeration and health care, instead of in the past that I love writing about.

And I’m thankful for the changing publishing industry which gives authors more possibilities for publishing. Even in I don’t find a publisher, I’m thankful that Lady Blade can still find an audience.

And I’m thankful for all the people who have enjoyed my “Pirate Word of the Day” and listened to me ramble on this blog.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

C. J.

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First chapter of Lady Blade up on wattpad

First chapter of Lady Blade up on wattpad

Hi Friends,

Great news this morning. What a nice way to start a hectic day!

Chanticleer Book Reviews sponsors the Chaucer Awards for Historical Fiction along with contests in a number of other genres.  They just published their list of finalists this morning and yours truly was on it. Yippee!

Winners will be announced Nov, 30th.

If you’re interested to read the first chapter, it’s available on wattpad.  It’s free to read, and here’s the link:

Lady Blade – Chapter One

It is the story of the daughter of an Italian Fencing Maestro who is forced to serve aboard a pirate ship.

Thanks everyone!

C. J.

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First chapter of Lady Blade up on wattpad

First chapter of Lady Blade up on wattpad

Hi Friends,

So, how do you stuff a 600 page (double spaced) book into a 120 page screenplay? Seriously, I’d like to know, ’cause I’m having a hell of a time.

Okay, so I do have some ideas. I originally wrote Lady Blade as a screenplay so I have the original work to start from, But in the five years I spent writing the book the story has changed quite a bit. There are a ton more characters, lots more difficulties for my main character Francesca  to overcome, more subtleties and subplots. I know I have to let them all go, but it hurts.

So I’m saying goodbye to Willy Brown, the orphaned 16-year-old son-of-a-gun (or son of a woman who worked the docks) who trained Francesca in her topman duties – working the lines and sails above deck on the ship.  And who Francesca saves when he’s going to be strung up for stealing from another pirate.

Sayonara to Tuit, the tattooed islander who takes the “bad luck” off Francesca in a moonlight ritual. And goodbye to the ritual too.

Farewell to Mr. Hart, the ex-navy sailing master who refers to Francesca as Mr. DiCesare because he doesn’t approve of women aboard ship.

And to Old Nob, the ageless, leathered leader of her messmates who scurries through the rigging like a squirrel.

And so much more.

Creating them was a joy. Losing them is painful. But it’s not like they’re going away for good. They’ll still be there in the book. I can always go back and visit. And I do like that the process of adapting the story back to the screen makes me really focus on what’s important.

Still, it’s painfully obvious why people always go to the movie and then say, “I liked the book better.”

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First chapter of Lady Blade up on wattpad

First chapter of Lady Blade up on wattpad

Hi Friends,

I’m thrilled to see that in the month that the first chapter of Lady Blade has been up on Wattpad it’s already gotten over 200 reads! Great news. I’d love to keep the momentum going! So if you haven’t taken a look, it’s free to read, and here’s the link:

Lady Blade – Chapter One

My short story, My Brave Girl, about Francesca’s birth during a pirate attack, has gotten 192 reads! If you haven’t read the story yet I do believe it is my best so far – and it’s free! So if you like pirates, tall ships and mayhem, here’s the link:

My Brave Girl

Thanks everyone!

C. J.

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International Talk Like a Pirate Day

International Talk Like a Pirate Day (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I thought for Talk Like a Pirate Day I’d let Carter, a orphaned ships boy strut his stuff.

In general I kept the slang to an occasional phrase or two, but sometimes you just have to let yourself go. This is from my yet-to-be-published novel Lady Blade. The scene takes place shortly after Francesca has been forced to join the pirate crew. Carter has been tasked with teaching her the ropes – literally. They’ve climbed the shrouds to the “top” or a platform halfway up the mast. They’re joined by Willy Brown a sixteen-year-old crew member.

Once her heart stopped pounding she looked around. If the sea and sky seemed vast from deck, they seemed ten times more immense from fifty feet above. To the north the blazing white cliffs of Dorset grinned like teeth. Fishing boats dotted the sparkling gray sea. For a moment wonder and awe rose from Francesca’s belly, but Carter and his lesson brought her back. “‘At’s the mainsail below us and the tops’l above and the top gallant ‘bove that,” explained Carter.

Francesca looked up. There were at least thirty more feet of mast above her. A watchman perched on a tiny platform above the next higher sail. “That’s the crow’s nest, right?”

Carter nodded. “Some calls ‘em the topmast trees. And them,” he said, pointing to ropes running along the edges of the main sail. “Is the clew lines, fer raising and lowering.”

Carter went on, but Francesca’s attention was drawn to the captain, pacing the deck below. She watched his movements, graceful, and catlike. She wondered again what he meant by “any living woman.” Surely it implied he had lost someone…

Willy climbed over the side of the platform. Carter explained that only lubbers use the hole in the platform specifically made for easy entrance.

“Willy ‘ere is in Ol’ Nob’s mess,” Carter said to Francesca. “She’s yer new messmate,” he said to Willy.

Willy nodded amiably as he sat down dangling his feet off the platform. All of their legs dangled, but only Francesca’s fingers were white where she gripped the rail. Willy gave Francesca an overview of topman duties, most of which sounded horribly dangerous.

“Don’t worry,” said Willy. “Long as ya keep yer feet under ya and yer eyes on yer work, you’ll be fine.”

“There’s ol’ Miller blowin’ a cloud,” said Carter pointing to the man Francesca had threatened with the ceramic shard. He sat on a coil of rope smoking a pipe below them.

“Bet ya a bob I kin gob ‘im,” said Carter.

“Done,” said Willy, shaking Carter’s hand.

Carter leaned over, carefully judging the wind and the sway of the ship, and spit. His careful judgment was in vain.

“Carter!” said Francesca, “What if you had hit him?”

Carter shrugged. “I’d a’ won a bob. ‘Sides, Miller wouldn’t give it no mind. ‘E and I are ol’ pals. It’s cuz of ‘im I joined up.”

“What about your family?” said Francesca.

Carter’s brow lowered and he stared off toward the cliffs. “Pa chipped and ma did fer eight. The lot gripped while I coopered, ‘cept my wee brother.”

Francesca looked from Carter to Willy blankly.

“‘E said ‘is pa was a carpenter and ‘is ma looked after their eight children,” said Willy. “The grip, influenza took ‘em while ‘e was away, apprenticed to a cooper makin’ barrels, exceptin’ his younger brother.”

“I’m so sorry,” said Francesca. She put a hand on his shoulder.

Carter shrugged her hand off. “My brother was blewed up in the big-house, but I tipped my boom toward the docks.”

Francesca looked to Willy again for a translation.

“‘Is brother died in a work-house but Carter ran away ta the docks.”

“Didn’t I just say ‘at?” said Carter shaking his head.

“Go on,” said Francesca.

“Well, I beak-hunted an’ cabbaged when I got banded, ‘til I ran afoul a pack of bludgers.”

“‘E stole chickens and pilfered when ‘e was hungry, ‘til ‘e ran inta a gang a’ cutthroats,” said Willy.

Carter frowned, exasperated. “‘At’s what I said!” He looked at Francesca. “Don’t they teach ya Italians how ta talk?”

Francesca shrugged and winced. “Apparently not.”

“Well, they’d a’ done me if I ‘adn’t met Miller. Miller run ‘em off. After that I signed on with ‘im and the cap’n. It’s almost a year an’ I gots no complaints. I loblolly fer Barnacles, fetchin’ and runnin’-”

“Who?” said Francesca.

“Barnacles – the doc. I fetch fer the doc. Workin’ fer ‘im is easy; I got a hammock, belly-timber, grog on Sunday, an’ only a cuff on occasion. Not a bad bargain.”

Francesca nodded. “What about you, Willy?”

“‘E’s a son-of-a-gun,” said Carter.

“A what?”

“My pa was a sailor a’ some sort, I expect,” said Willy. “Me mum worked the docks.”

Francesca stared blankly a moment, then blushed. “Oh.”

“She was right good ta me ‘til she went toes up. Been on me own since I was six an’ at sea since I was somewheres ‘round ten. It’s a good gig.”

 Orphans all, thought Francesca. They had that in common. She may have spent her childhood in the salle among young noblemen, but she knew what it was to lose loved ones and end up alone. How many such stories ended aboard ships like this? For how many of the pirates were the hardship and danger a “good bargain?”

She breathed in. Much as she disliked being among pirates, she loved the snap and hum of the sails, the smell of salt spray, the vastness of the sky, and most of all, the curiosity about what lay beyond the horizon. But the bosun’s whistle tweeted, calling them to duty. Willy climbed farther up into the rigging and Francesca and Carter headed to the deck to clap hands on ropes and haul sail to tack the ship.


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Read the first chapter on wattpad

Read the first chapter on wattpad

I was going to call this an idiot’s tale. Because that’s probably what I am. I can’t seem to let this story go and just move on to something else. I’m not sure if that’s good or bad. On the one hand, I may be beating the proverbial dead horse, on the other hand, they say that persistence wins. So when exactly does persistence turn into foolishness? I wish I knew.

But I should start at the beginning.

I first wrote Lady Blade as a screenplay back in the early 2000s. In the craziness after 9/11 my glass business and my freelance web design business had dried up and I was out of work for a year.  I’d done some writing as a kid and actually had a book published while I was in college so I figured, what the heck, maybe it’s time to try again.

It took me a few years,  fourteen drafts, and a screenwriter’s group to learn how to write a decent screenplay. And Lady Blade won some awards, including a critique from Linda Seger, who said she thought it was very sellable. So I was hooked.  I seemed to have found my niche. Visions of dollar signs danced in my head.

But as many of you know, writing and selling are two different things. I sent the script out to producers and agents with no luck. I wrote a couple other screenplays but always seemed to go back to Lady Blade to tinker some more. Eventually I found an agent, Frank and he started sending it out. The response was always the same. We love it, but we pass. It’s too expensive to make. (To be fair, there are sea battles and whole towns destroyed so yes, it would be expensive.)

So it occurred to me that while there are only a handful of big budget movies made a year, there are probably thousands of books that get published.  And the price for a book is the same no matter how many towns you burn to the ground. Besides, if the book was popular, getting the movie made would be a slam dunk. So I set off on a five-year mission to write Lady Blade, the novel.

It was a steep learning curve. I mean, screenplays and books have very little in common besides plot. I had to relearn how to write. But, five years, two writer’s groups and a professional editor later I had a good book ready to go. Again, Lady Blade did well in a few contests. A quarter finalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel completion and finalist in the San Francisco Writer’s Convention contest – I’m still waiting to hear on some others.

So I sent it out to literary agents and waited, and more literary agents and waited… You get the picture. Moving on to plan B, I had my screen agent send it out to a few publishers and that’s where it is now. Again with the waiting.

Which brings us to the “back again” part. During the course of rewriting Lady Blade the screenplay as a novel the story had changed. Not drastically, but enough that I feel the need to go back and bring the screenplay up to date. On top of that, I got this funny little notion in my head that perhaps a graphic novel could will bring Francesca to life and those usually begin with a screenplay.

So here I am, on my continuing mission, re-learning how to write yet again. (A screenplay is 120 pages. Roughly a page per minute of screen time. The novel is 600 pages – double spaced. Cramming the one into the other is a journey in itself. But I’ll talk more about that next week.)

I’ve been working on Lady Blade in one form or another for over a decade. I believe in my main character, Francesca. I think this is a great story and I want to see it told to a wide audience. Whether that’s foolishness or dogged persistence, I guess that’s up to you to decide.

Thanks for listening,

C. J.

P.S. The first chapter of Lady Blade, as well as two short stories about Francesca are available to read free on wattpad.

My Brave Girl

Francesca and the Baron’s Son

Lady Blade – Chapter One

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ladybladechap1coverHi Everyone,

I’m trying to forget the fact that two publishers have agreed to read my novel. I hope that by telling you I can put it out of my mind for a while. We’ll see if it works.

First off, many thanks to my amazing agent Frank for unleashing Lady Blade upon those unsuspecting publishers – who will remain nameless in the hopes of not jinxing it.

I am, of course, grateful for the opportunity – but it is also agonizing. I’ve had a low-grade headache for days now since Frank told me. You know, the little annoying ache brought on from a slight tightness in the shoulders and jaw from knowing at this very moment someone might be reading your work and either  sighing or smiling. The feeling that your future rests in others’ hands our of your control.

I know that’s not true. If they say “no” life will go on. Frank and I will find other publishers to try, and failing that, I will self-publish. I even like the control that self-publishing offers these days, though I know that I could use the marketing help a large publisher could provide. So I tell myself it’s no big deal either way. But the headache continues.

Part of it is the waiting. I’m not good at it. I know it’s part of the job and comes with the territory, but I don’t have to like it. One major publisher debated for six months, going back and forth and giving it to more people to read before they finally said no. I’m hoping we’ll get quicker replies either way this time, but who knows.

Anyway, I’m done bellyaching about my good fortune. I’m such an ingrate. Thanks for listening.

If you’d like to read the first chapter it is free to read on Wattpad: Lady Blade – Chapter One

Now I’m forgetting all about it and getting back to work.

C. J.

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Read the first chapter on wattpad

Read the first chapter on wattpad

Hi Everyone,

Some good news.

First, my short story/prologue, My Brave Girl now has over 100 reads on Wattpad. I’m gratified to see that so many people are enjoying it.

My short story, Francesca and the Baron’s Son has 44 reads and the first chapter of Lady Blade, which I just put up 6 days ago is already at 36 reads.

They are free to read so check them out if you haven’t already:

My Brave Girl

Francesca and the Baron’s Son

Lady Blade – Chapter One

Second, and I don’t want to jinx it here, but I’ve got a publisher reading Lady Blade as we speak. Fingers crossed.

Thanks everyone!

C. J.

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Blue Train Books Historical Fiction Section

Blue Train Books Historical Fiction Section (Photo credit: Blue Train Books)

I found a disturbing article today about writing historical fiction.  The Ugliest Word in Historical Fiction: Anachronism

So apparently after pouring your heart and soul into writing a book for years, then struggling years more to find an agent and publisher, its likely some historical fiction aficionado will pick up some detail inappropriate for your historical period that you missed in your exhaustive research and shout “Anachronism! Anachronism!” to the social media world.

Yikes! As if this job wasn’t hard enough already.

I’m sure there are anachronisms in my writing despite my years of research. Unless you have a time machine and can check things out personally there are bound to be errors. Even if you do have a time machine, how good are your powers of observation? And even if you get thing right, they might well seem wrong to our ears.

So to anyone who has a burning desire to wheedle out errors and shout them to the world, please don’t read Lady Blade when I finally get it published. It’s meant to be enjoyed. It’s meant to introduce you to characters that I love and a world I find fascinating. It’s meant to explore concepts of honor and right and wrong. My intent was never to accurately display my knowledge of a certain historical period – although I tried to do that as well. And if there is anyone out there with a time machine who has recently visited the 1720s, I’d love to buy you dinner and pick your brain.

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