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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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Sigh,

An image created by the poster.

An image created by the poster. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I love being a writer. I love the opportunity to take something I’ve imagined and make it come to life on a page. I love getting into the hearts and minds of my characters and caring about what they care about. Creating people, places and situations is a little like playing God and who wouldn’t love that.

What I don’t love – leaving my future as a writer in some stranger’s or strangers’ hands. I’m talking, of course, about waiting for the announcement of the winners of the next round of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Competition. The winners won’t be posted until next Tuesday and I’m already nervous. This could be a huge break, one I’ve been working toward the last ten years.  Or not.

I know what you’re thinking, “yeah, like anyone likes to wait.”  I get that, but there is a sense of helplessness that goes along with waiting for your fate to be decided – especially when you can’t argue your case or at least face your judges. At least if you’re sending your manuscript to an agent, with a little research you can put a face, a name, and some sense of character to the person that’s judging you.

Am I whining? Yup. Sorry. Thanks for listening. It’s just the downside of the job that needs to be dealt with – hopefully without ulcers. At least next time I need to write an anxious and frustrated character I’ll have visceral experiences to draw on.

A gigantic hug and galactic thanks to everyone who’s reviewed my first two chapters for the contest.

Done whining, back to work.

Catherine Thrush

PS. If you have a few minutes to read and review the link is above.

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Hi Guys!
You’ve all been great! I’ve got 26 stellar reviews on my entry into the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest. Thank you so much! If even a quarter of what you’ve all said it true I did my job well.

Currently there are 5 people with more reviews than me (one person has over 70! Can you believe it!) Since the next cutoff for the contest is the top 25 entries – and there are 5 categories – I’d love to be in the top five in the number of reviews in my category. So if anyone one out there hasn’t done a review yet and has a few minutes to read the first two chapters of my historical fiction novel, Lady Blade, and do a review, I’d be over the moon. It doesn’t need to be a long, a few words is just fine.

You can download the chapters free from Amazon for a Kindle. If you don’t have a Kindle you can also download a Kindle app for free to your computer or PDA.

So if you haven’t already, please help me win $50,000 and a book deal, and I hope you’ll enjoy the read in the meantime.

Here’s the link to LADY BLADE entry

What’s it about you ask? Well, here is the pitch that got me this far in the contest.

Francesca DiCesare is the daughter of Italy’s most illustrious fencing maestro – and his most gifted pupil. From the speed of a parry, to the power and grace of a perfect lunge, she sees the art of the sword as an elegant and electrifying dance. Francesca never thought of her sword as a weapon; not until the morning of Papa’s duel – not until Papa lay dying and his opponent lay dead by her hand.

Forced to flee Italy or face the gallows, Francesca takes ship for England vowing to uphold Papa’s uncompromising code of honor.

Francesca enjoys the sea’s ever-changing moods and thrills at the bucking deck and the snap and hum of the crisp white sails – until pirates attack from the starboard bow. She fights with all the skill Papa has given her, and eight pirates die by her sword before she’s taken captive by pirate captain Will Massey.

Forced to join Will’s crew as they raid the Spanish Main, Francesca is drawn into the pirates’ nefarious world, and to the bold and vital captain. As she makes friends with Carter, an orphaned ship’s boy, and Miller, a grizzled old pirate, she learns that life is seldom as black and white as Papa led her to believe, and that Papa was not the paragon of honor she thought him to be.

Francesca’s swordsmanship earns her respect among the pirates and wins her the captain’s heart. To her horror, she discovers she adores being a pirate – not the killing, which flays her conscience day and night, but the freedom, and the thrill of adventure. Can she give up the man she loves and the life that she seems destined to live to keep her vow?

You guys are the best!

Catherine Thrush

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Hi Everyone,

Now that I’ve made it into the quarterfinal round of the Amazon Contest, the first two chapters of LADY BLADE are posted on Amazon for customer reviews. That means anyone can put in their two cents worth and the results go toward deciding who wins!

Sooo, if you have a few moments, I would be eternally grateful for some reviews – if you like it. It’s free to download the chapters to your kindle app.

Here is the link:

LADY BLADE Excerpt

Thank you for your support!

 

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LADY BLADE is my as-yet-unpublished historical adventure novel. This excerpt  from chapter three and takes place in Livorno, Italy in the early 1700s.

 

Francesca headed for the nearest ship, but when the sound of marching feet caught her ear, she spun. A company of infantrymen trooped down the main thoroughfare toward the docks. Her breath hissed out. She thought her knees might buckle, but she steadied herself and hurried in the opposite direction. Do not run. Don’t run. Don’t…

She twisted and turned randomly through the alleys as the purple clouds moved in. They weren’t after me. They can’t be. It’s too soon. But she had no way to be sure. Perhaps word had spread more quickly than she imagined. Tarrentino was rich and powerful. The search would be fierce. She kept going.

After an hour, the alley she followed dumped her out into an open square. Francesca stopped. In the center of the cobblestone square, workmen were erecting the rough timber outline of a gallows. Francesca’s mouth went dry. Her shoulders crumpled as she backed out of the square and turned and ran. It’s not for me. It’s not for me. Please God, let it not be for me.

 

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LADY BLADE is my as yet unpublished YA historical adventure novel. This excerpt is from Chapter Three. Francesca is the daughter of Italy’s most illustrious fencing Maestro and Achilles is her horse.

She had no idea how long she had been sitting there when she felt Achilles nuzzling her, urging her to get up. She knew he was tired and hungry. His insistence got her to her feet.

Francesca looked around at a loss. She had left home that morning without money, food, or clothing, except what she wore. She shivered, despite the warm day. She sucked in a breath and took stock. Her clothing was a mess. She couldn’t see the white ruffles at her throat but she ran her hands over them and came away with a few leaves from the forest. Her tailored woolen coat, which hugged her body, was snagged and soiled here and there with dirt, or blood. The wide cuffs and lapels were missing a few silver buttons. She brushed herself off as best she could then ran her fingers through her dark, tangled hair. With no comb it would be impossible to remove all the knots. She twisted it into a bun and used a strand of hair to secure it in place. It would have to do.

She moved down the alley to the window of a darkened building and stared at her distorted reflection in the wavy glass. She didn’t look like a murderer. She looked no different from when she left home that morning. But now she was a wanted criminal.

She rubbed a smudge from her high cheekbone, and wiped away a line of blood from a scratch along her arched eyebrow. There was nothing she could do about the frightened look in her green eyes.

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LADY BLADE is my as yet unpublished YA historical adventure novel. This excerpt is from the ending of Chapter two. Francesca DiCesare is the daughter of Italy’s most illustrious fencing Maestro and Achilles is her horse.

Francesca turned Achilles right, away from the road. He shook his head and headed back toward home. Francesca knew he was tired and wanted his stable and his oats. She rubbed his neck, her voice quavering, “I know. Breakfast will have to wait.” She realized that she had no idea when, where, or how either of them would ever eat again, much less sleep or live. She started to curl into a ball, but stopped herself and straightened. Words floated to the surface of her mind. Fugitive. Criminal. Hunted. Hanged. They were terrifying words, but she refused to give in. She needed to think. What was she to do? Where was she to go? Was there nowhere safe?

Papa’s words came to her, To England, Cesca. Reverend Falk, Covington. He’ll take you to Billy. Billy will watch over you.

There was somewhere safe, if she could get there. She turned Achilles to the right and let him walk. She bent flat against her thigh, her cheek lying against Achilles’ neck, as much for his warmth, for she felt chilled to the bone, as to avoid the low branches. She let him pick his way through the thicket.

They emerged onto a field of knee-high wheat. And there it was. Her breath caught in her throat and a fresh wave of pain and longing swept through her chest. A half mile away, perched high on a hill, was home, Salle DiCesare, the world-famous fencing school where, until this morning, Papa taught young noblemen the art and science of the sword.

The villa’s tan stones and terracotta roof glowed in the morning sun. A stone wall wound gracefully around it like a ribbon of gold. She could just glimpse the fuchsia of the bougainvillea that covered the south wall of the main courtyard.

Achilles neighed and she patted his neck. She ached to gallop across the fields and rush through the main gate. She wanted to throw herself on her bed, close her eyes, and wait to wake up from this nightmare. But she couldn’t. The Salle’s iron gates were irrevocably closed to her.

Besides, she knew the soldiers would expect her to run home. She was only eighteen, and a girl, after all. They would expect her to be frightened and confused. She hoped they would spend hours searching the Salle for her, while she slipped away.

She could see things were working in her favor. The soldiers had regained the road and were galloping toward the Salle.

Francesca turned Achilles in the opposite direction, away from her friends, her family, from her world. It was just the two of them now. She and Achilles would head south across country until they met the road west to the port of Livorno and the sea.

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LADY BLADE is my as yet unpublished YA historical adventure novel. Francesca is the daughter of Italy’s most illustrious fencing Maestro. (And Achilles is her horse.) This excerpt is the beginning of chapter two.

Francesca and Achilles flew across the Tuscan countryside. Close behind them galloped the two blue-coated soldiers with pistols drawn.

The late morning sun blazed hot on Francesca’s skin, but the wind ripped the heat away. Tears blurred her eyes. She wiped them away with the back of her hand, shuddering at the blood on her palm.

The sound of hoof-beats behind her grew louder, closer. Seated sidesaddle, with her right leg bent in front of her, Francesca kicked her left heel into Achilles side. “Faster!” she urged. He surged forward beneath her. His arched neck stretched forward, his wide Hanoverian chest pumped, and his black coat shone blue in the sun.

As the speed increased, so did the pull of Francesca’s cloak at her throat, choking her with each stride. She risked a panicked glance behind her, but saw only her dark hair tangling in the wind and her scarlet cloak waving like a matador’s cape. She tugged at the tie. The cloak billowed away.

Francesca tried to clear her head, to think, to plan. But only one thought would come, Papa’s dead, Papa’s dead, over and over with the beating of hooves. A strangled cry escaped from her and she shook her head, trying to concentrate.

She had headed home on instinct, but what would happen when she got there? Would the soldiers shoot those who tried to help her? In her mind she saw Papa’s pupils, boys and young men, closing ranks around her. She knew Burkhard would do something heroic and foolish and get himself killed. She imagined the soldiers shooting, iron balls ripping through muscle and sinew, shattering bone. She saw Signora Bianchi, her governess, lying dead in a pile of gangly limbs. Pain, like cold steel, spiked through her chest stopping her breath as she realized she couldn’t go home, ever. Doing so would put her family and friends in danger, implicate them in her crime.

Achilles’ iron horseshoes clattered loudly across a stone bridge that arched over the sleepy Arno River. She heard the pounding hooves of the soldiers’ horses’ just seconds behind. Pain turned to icy fear. They’re gaining. She urged Achilles on, faster.

She was northwest of Cascina, nearing home. She raced up the dirt road, winding into the foothills. Gnarled grapevines blurred past to her left. Pockets of woodland flew by, dark against pale grass. Soon she would see her home perched on a hill to her right. But before that point there was a hedge… A plan suddenly occurred to her.

She heard a pistol fire behind her and felt a tug at a loose strand of hair. Francesca’s heart skipped a beat and fear bunched in her stomach. She yanked the reins to the right, heading Achilles into a field of dark dirt.

Twenty yards ahead Francesca saw the hedge. A tight tangle of holly wound around the border of the field. Behind it lay a dark patch of woods. She urged Achilles on. She and Achilles knew this area well. They’d jumped this hedge last year for fun, but it had grown at least a foot since then. They streaked forward.

As they approached, Francesca felt Achilles shorten his stride. She bent over her right thigh which lay along Achilles’ back and wrapped her knee tightly around the pommel of her sidesaddle. She gathered handfuls of his mane along with the reins. She braced herself. The hedge was nearly six feet tall. Achilles gathered, and sprang. For a moment, airborne, Francesca felt her body rise. She pulled herself down hard into the saddle to keep from being thrown. Then they crashed down on the far side, Francesca’s chest slamming against her thigh and her face into Achilles’ mane. Seconds later they were into the dark woods, leaves and branches slapping at her face and catching at her skirts.

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LADY BLADE is my as yet unpublished YA historical adventure novel. This excerpt is also from Chapter One, as Francesca, her two brothers and her father reach the place appointed for her father’s duel.

The Church of the Madonna dell’Acqua’s bell tower loomed out of the mist. Its usual cheery red-gold color seemed dark and ominous in the diffused light.

“We’re here,” the maestro said. His voice sounded unnaturally loud and close.

Francesca felt the foreboding rush back over her, heavy and cold. She shivered as she and her family dismounted and let the horses loose to crop grass in the swirling mist among scattered tombstones. As they headed behind the church, Francesca took Papa’s arm. It felt reassuringly solid and her fingers tightened around it. She looked up at him. “Papa…,” she said, hearing the worry in her own voice.

The maestro patted her hand cheerfully. “Not to worry, my Cesca. This will be quick. Then we can visit your mother.”

Francesca nodded and forced a smile. There was no point in worrying him. He was probably right. He always was.

Francesca’s mother was buried in the cemetery where the horses now wandered. Francesca had never known her mother; she had died the day Francesca was born. Usually Francesca felt close to her here, as if something of her spirit remained in the russet stones of the church, the swelling green hills, and the soft murmur of the Arno River nearby. Today she felt none of that calming presence.

When they rounded the church, Francesca saw Tarrentino, the maestro’s opponent, standing in the open, amid thinning fog. A powdered wig perched atop his head and a sneer curled his mouth. He wore an elaborate waistcoat of golden silk along with a blue velvet coat and breeches – as if finery could impart skill with a sword.

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LADY BLADE is my as yet unpublished YA historical adventure novel. This excerpt is from Chapter One as Francesca, her two brothers and her father are traveling to her father’s appointed duel.

She looked up at Papa, who rode alongside her. Maestro DiCesare had scars on his handsome face. One scar slanted across his prominent right cheekbone. Another ran down his broad forehead into his dark, graying eyebrow, skipping his eye and continuing down his left cheek. She saw no hint of worry on his brow, no menace weighing him down. His back was straight and his face serene.

Francesca wanted to lean toward him, lay a hand on his arm and say, Please, Papa, let’s go home, but she knew it was pointless. He had been challenged. Now it was a matter of honor, and his honor meant more to him than anything, even his life. She looked away and sighed, trying to convince herself that everything would be fine. He’s fought a hundred duels, maybe a thousand. He’s marched with armies and faced down kings. He always wins… But she couldn’t stop her mind from adding, so far.

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