WRITESPIRATION @sacha_black #101 52 WEEKS IN 52 WORDS WEEK 5 Heaven

This post was written in response to Sacha Black’s weekly prompt for 2017 (52 weeks in 52 words).  Join in here!

Sacha will post one prompt a week for 52 weeks, and the challenge is to write a story in just 52  words exactly. Sounds like a fabulous idea. The value of conciseness for a writer is invaluable, as Sacha herself reminds us: ‘The art of being concise is nothing if not a muscle flexing ‘write’ bicep curling device’.

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This week’s prompt: Somewhere in your 52 words you need to include ALL the following words: Time, Stack, Juice, Pigeon.

This week’s prompt took me straight to heaven…

Heaven

 

Some people think they can conquer time.

They’re wrong.

The odds are stacked against them.

However hard they struggle, their juice will run out,

Because time’s like a homing pigeon.

It can fly long distances, but there’s no escape.

In the end we always come back home, to our safe place.

Heaven.  

****

Heaven’s such a geat place to be, but such a terrible place to be locked out of…

Here’s one of my favourite songs, Locked out of heaven 

 

 

It’s also the title of Chapter XI in Midsummer at Eyre Hall. The chapter is narrated by Michael.

The first line of the chapter: ‘The journey from Kilpeck to St. Ives was longer and more dangerous than I had imagined.’

The last line: ‘I was losing her, and I felt as if I were locked out of heaven.’

 

My Favourite Novel: Twelfth Night at Eyre Hall on #kindle Countdown Deal

Today is a very special day for my novel Twelfth Night at Eyre Hall, because Twelfth Night is the night before the twelfth and final day of the Christmas season, which started on Christmas Day, and that day, the 5th of January, is today. Although it’s no longer celebrated in the UK, it used to be a merry festivity in Victorian England.

Twelfth Night Billboard

 

Asking a writer to choose a favourite novel is like asking a parent to choose their favourite child. I’m going to own up to the truth here, Twelfth Night at Eyre Hall is my favourite novel. It’s a quick and easy answer, because I enjoyed writing it so much more than the others.

 

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Let me explain, book one, All Hallows was hard to write because it was the first and I had to prove to myself, and my readers that I could do it. I could write a novel. It was a cathartic experience and although I’m thrilled with the result, it was also stressful process.

Second came Twelfth Night, and I felt liberated and capable, so I let my imagination run wild and wrote the most exciting, adventurous and optimistic novel in the trilogy. Twelfth Night has everything that can entertain a reader: wonderful and varied characters, servants, villains, murderers, heroes, supernatural beings, pirates, children as well as adults. There’s romance, a murder investigation, child theft, blackmail, unveiling of family secrets, and a sea voyage. The settings are varied, we move away from Eyre Hall and travel to Dickens’ Victorian London, there’s also a sea voyage across to colonial Jamaica.

Although it’s part of a trilogy, it can be read as a standalone. There is no cliff-hanger ending, the ending is satisfactory, although not happy ever after. I hope readers will read the final instalment, Midsummer at Eyre Hall, but Twelfth Night is a self-contained novel.

The titles of the three books represent the day one of the major event in the novel takes place. In the case of twelfth Night, a significant event takes place. It’s the death, or rather the murder of one of the characters. I can’t say any more without including a spoiler, but I can read the first two paragraphs of the chapter, which is narrated by Jane.

Chapter XVI

Twelfth Night at Eyre Hall

The morning after Twelfth Night, Eyre Hall woke up to an alarming blizzard. I had risen and was looking out to the vast whiteness where no shape, human, animal or natural, could be discerned due to the snowy curtain pouring down. I pitied anyone who would have to leave the house in such weather.

I turned my thoughts to Michael, in London. No doubt, the weather as always, was kinder there. I wondered if he had found Helen, and how soon he would return. He had said by Twelfth Night, so I was looking forward to his arrival shortly. The snow might slow down his journey, but it was a small impediment for such a tenacious person. I wondered wistfully as Nell helped me dress, if we could ever be together as any couple who are in love, but we were not any couple. There were so many obstacles in our way, although now, more than ever, I was sure our future was entwined, and we would find a way to overcome all the complications.

I was shaken by cries coming from Mr. Mason’s room…

****

So, if you’d like to read a Victorian Gothic romance, including some of the characters in Jane Eyre and many other engaging characters, in a novel which is full of mystery, suspense, romance and adventure, now is the time to give Twelfth Night at Eyre Hall a try because it’s on Kindle Countdown Deal at less than a dollar or a pound until the 11th of January.

Amazon USA

Amazon UK 

And when you read it, don’t forget to write a review, just a line or two is enough, and let me know what you think.

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Happy Reading and Happy New Year 2017!

 

Midsummer Dreams

“Whatever is dreamed on this night, will come to pass.” —William Shakespeare, A MidSummer Night’s Dream

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There are many magical nights in the year, which mark ancestral celebrations.

The three novels in The Eyre Hall Trilogy reference one of these traditions.

I’ve already written posts on Halloween, Christmas, and Twelfth Night.

In this case, I’d like to talk about ‘Midsummer’, the title of the final installment of The Eyre Hall Trilogy, which I’ve just published.

Midsummer is a magical night, as Shakespeare reminded us; it’s a night to make wishes and dream that they will come true.

In the Northern Hemisphere, the 21st of June, the summer solstice, or the longest day of the year, which has been celebrated throughout history as a day of magic. It is the one day of the year when the sun is at its highest point in the sky.

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The summer solstice marks the middle of the year. Six months later,  comes the winter solstice, which is the shortest day of the year.

Have you ever wondered why Midsummer’s Day is celebrated between the 21st of June coinciding with the summer solstice and the 24th of June coinciding with the festivity of St. John?

Nowadays this date represents the beginning of summer, but this wasn’t always the case. We need to go back to Anglo-Saxon times to understand the meaning of the word.

The word midsummer comes to us from Old English, although it probably comes from an older Germanic language. The Anglo-Saxon calendar had two seasons, summer and winter. For these calendars, “Midsummer’s Day” would have fallen near the middle of their summer. The beginning of summer would have been around May Day, so the middle os June would have been the middle of the ‘warm season’.

Spring and Autumn were not used for the seasons until Middle English (approximately 1400).

The summer solstice, was one of the pagan festivals taken over by the early Christian church, which aligned it with the feast of St John the Baptist, on 24th June. By the sixteenth century, Midsummer Day had a mixture of Christian and Pagan meaning.

In Tudor times, the typical celebration on Midsummer’s Day included Marching Watches, which were parades accompanied by lit torches with thousands of marchers. There would have been Morris dancers, giant straw puppets and hobby horses, and pageants.

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Midummer Watch Parade in Chester 2016

Fire and the sun were also important themes, so there were bonfires, too. The Fire Wheel is an ancient ceremony from the British Isles. The wheel was set on fire and rolled down a hillside. If the fire, which represented the sun, burned until the wheel reached the bottom of the hill, it was thought to bring good fortune to the entire community.

It was also traditional to use flowers and plants as decorations especially front doors, which were decorated with garlands or wreaths.

There was drinking, merrymaking and for everyone on this magical night in which wishes and dreams were made.

Midsummer celebrations often began at sunset the evening prior to Midsummer. The twilight hours were considered magical. It was a time when fairies and witches were more active. It was also considered the best day of the year for enchantments. This magical quality was immortalised by William Shakespeare in “A Midsummer’s Night Dream”.

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The Eyre Hall Trilogy ends on Midsummer’s Day, I’m afraid I can’t add an excerpt because that would be a huge spoiler! I’ve already told you it has a happy/satisfactory and hopeful ending, that’s why the cover shows flowers on a bright summer’s day. The final scene takes place on Midsummer’s Day at Eyre Hall, while the residents are preparing a celebration in the gardens for the local families, especially children.

Don’t forget to make a wish on this magical night!

 

#Book #Launch! Midsummer at Eyre Hall

Launch Day has arrived at last!

Those of you who have pre-ordered will receive a copy on your kindles, and those of you who haven’t bought it yet, can do so and download it and start reading at once!

Midsummer Billboard

It’s on special offer at 0.99 as a kindle ebook. The paperback version will be coming out later this month.

The three novels can be read as standalones, except perhaps book one All Hallows at Eyre Hall because it ends on a mini-cliffhanger, so if you read book one you will need to read books two and three!

Book two, Twelfth Night at Eyre Hall can be read as a standalone, but again, you’ll want to read book three, although it does not end in a cliffhanger.

In order to get the best reading experience it would be best to read the trilogy in order, but feel free to skip around. There are no rules for readers!

 

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I’m very excited about completing the trilogy, and although I’ve written ‘The End’, I’m already thinking about novellas and short stories related to the characters and events which appear throughout the trilogy. I’ve actually started a sequel to my sequel, which may be a novella or it may become a full-length novel. Time will tell.

Pick up your copy, or even the three copies!

They’re all on offer at 0.99 each for the Launch!

You’ll have plenty of time to read this summer.

I promise you will be enthralled in this gripping trilogy:)

Midsummer museum

Rediscover the mystery and magic of a Victorian, Gothic Romance in this breathtaking sequel to Jane Eyre.

Readers will be transported from the breathtakingly beautiful Yorkshire coutryside, to Victorian London, across the Atlantic Ocean and the Sargasso sea to Colonial Jamaica, and finally to magical Cornwall.

Adventure, suspense, mystery and passion unfold as the original characters come to life once again, interacting with a host of new ones to ceate an intertextual narrative, which will chronicle the lives of the inhabitants of Eyre Hall from the beginning to the height of the Victorian era.

International Buy Link: http://authl.it/B01EEN6RK0

1 Day to Book Launch of ‘Midsummer at Eyre Hall’: My Happy Ending, Thanks to Camus, Orson Welles and My Daughter.

Tomorrow is the big day. The Eyre Hall Trilogy is officially complete and available for purchase and download on Amazon as a Kindle ebook.

My proof for the paperback version of Midsummer at Eyre Hall arrived today. I’ll be checking it through carefully, and it will be available to purchase in print before the end of the month.

Today’s post is about happy endings.

 

My Trilogy

The Eyre Hall Trilogy in my hands! What an exciting moment, even though Midsummer at Eyre Hall is the proof copy.

In this final post, I’m going to tell you about one of my greatest challenges. I needed to make sure the end of The Eyre Hall Trilogy was not disappointing for readers who had read the previous books. After their emotional investment and the time spent reading, I wouldn’t want to let them down.

The main dilemma regarding the ending: it  could be happy or not.

As I briefly discussed in my previous post, a happy ending is not mandatory in a romance, or in a gothic romance, or even in a Victorian gothic romance, but in the end, that’s what has happened in The Eyre Hall Trilogy.

Why did I think of an unhappy ending in the first place?

Well, I didn’t want to be accused of promoting false expectations or chosing the easy way to end my trilogy on a marriage or birth, after all, the end, the real end of our lives, is pretty depressing.

I finally decided to stop at a happy moment, mainly because it was my daughter’s request and Camus’ influence, so I followed Welles advice and found the right place to stop in order to have an optimistic ending.

 

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Before we continue, let’s take a few minutes to discuss happiness. What is happiness? What is a happy ending?

According to Camus, life becomes absurd once we realise that from the moment we are born, we are walking towards our inevitable death.

Life is absurd, but we can make one of two important choices: to live or to die.

We can exert our freedom and refuse to play the absurd game by committing suicide, or we can freely accept the absurdity of life and chose to be happy.

So, if we choose to be happy, we accept our transient nature and implicitly agree to make the most of our time here.

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Now, back to The Eyre Hall Trilogy. Why is it a happy ending?

Mainly because the main characters, the characters the reader cares most about, are in harmony with the life they lead at the moment the narrative stops. They have made their choices, fought for what they wanted, and they have achieved what they desired, so they are happy at the end.

On the other hand, not all the plot lines are tied up optimistically, and not all the characters are living in harmony. John, Annette and Susan made some unwise decisions which they will have to live with. There is a shadow looming over Michael due to some risky decisions he made, and of course, Jane is getting older towards the end of the novel, and although she is in good health, in Victorian England life expectancy was low, but I wrote ‘The End‘ before she died.

The final moment in Midsummer at Eyre Hall is full of harmony, but the characters, the reader, and the writer are well aware that this is a photograph of a fleeting moment. In any case, I hope you enjoy this temporary representation of happiness.

*****

The following is an extract from Twelfth Night at Eyre Hall, where Charles Dickens and Jane Eyre are discussing the difficulty of ending a novel. Mr. Dickens is visiting Jane and they are chatting by the fireplace at Eyre Hall, after dinner. He calls her Miss Elliot, beause it was the pen name Jane used at that time.

It’s one of my favourite intertextual scenes in the novel; the author I most admire chatting to my favourite fictional character about literature. A magnificent moment.

****

Dickens Victorian lady

“The time has come to end this wonderful evening. I would not like to tire you, or I shall not be invited again.”

“Endings are so sad in real life, and so hard to write in fiction. How does an artist know a work of art has reached its end? And what is a good ending to a great story?”

“Indeed. It is no secret that I struggle with every ending.”

“I prefer happy endings, as you know, Mr. Dickens. Readers prefer a satisfactory conclusion. It makes the reading more rewarding.”

“Perhaps you are right, my dear Miss Elliot, but I am afraid it is not always possible.”

“Who should we bear in mind when writing the end, the reader or the story?”

“The reader always. We write for our readers. I had a more pessimistic ending for Great Expectations, but my dear friend Wilkie Collins persuaded me, or shall we say convinced me, that my readers would prefer a more positive ending, so I left the door open for Pip and Estella.”

“And are you pleased with this modification?”

“Yes. I have no doubt the story will be more acceptable with the altered ending. After all, I think Wilkie was right. It is for the better.”

“I must admit, it is one of my favourite novels, and I am glad you decided to present a happy ending. Would you read the last chapter before we retire?”

“It would be a pleasure, Miss Elliot.”

She handed me a copy of Great Expectations. I opened the last chapter and read the ending she wanted to hear.

‘I took her hand in mine, and we went out of the ruined place; and, as the morning mists had risen long ago when I first left the forge, so the evening mists were rising now, and in all the broad expanse of tranquil light they showed to me, I saw no shadow of another parting from her.’

Seconds later, I closed the book and watched a single tear slide down her cheek.

“Thank you, Mr. Dickens. That is the most perfect ending anyone has ever written.”

I wanted to add that it was a mere illusion, because there can be no happy ending to any story. We will have to surrender everything we have, in the end, and we will leave this planet as naked and helpless as we came, but I was silent. Why spoil the magic moment?

*****

What kind of endings do you prefer in the novels you read or write?

4 Days to Launch Midsummer at Eyre Hall. Writing Stage Three: Plotting

I’m relieved, overjoyed and excited to tell you that The Eyre Hall Trilogy is complete.

There are four days to go to the launch of Book 3, Midsummer at Eyre Hall, on the 21st of June, and I’m aiming to write a post a day about my writing process to celebrate my achievement.

Day four is all about plotting all the scenes into a three part structure.

3 BOOKS ALL HALLOWS

Plotting From Aristotle to Vonnegut.

Most novels combine engaging characters and a compelling plot to varying degrees, however some novels are more concerned with how and external conflict is solved. A prime example is a detective novel concerned with a criminal case and its solution. Other novels focus on personal conflict and the relationships between the characters. In this case, the outcome is often a change of attitude, or a new situation in the characters’ lives, not the solution of a specific incident.

I’m more of a character-driven writer than a plotter, because I’m more concerned with how my characters feel about their problems, and the processes they undergo to overcome them.

Nevertheless, I do plot and my plot is also important, it’s just not more important than my characters personal journey of self-discovery.

In this post I’m going to tell you about my plot structure for The Eyre Hall Trilogy.

According to Aristotle’s Poetics, all drama has three basic acts corresponding to the beginning, the middle, and the end of a story.

Three thousand years later, Kurt Vonnegut told us that a good story has a hero who gets into trouble and then out of trouble, everyone loves that story.

 

Screen writer David Trottier put it like this, ‘Put your hero in a tree, throw rocks at him, and get him out.’

There are few surprises to this basic structure, which has been used over and over again, of course, the fun is in the way it’s presented.

Basically, the first part presents the conflict, the middle complicates it even more, and the end resolves it.

I use this basic 3-part structure in my novels, too.

My three novels have three parts with ten chapters per part.

Each chapter has one scene and some have two related scenes.

Part I includes the setting, main characters and first crisis. I start throwing the rocks as soon as possible. In fact the first crisis happens in chapter I in the three books. I thrust both readers and characters into the situation without warning. This event changes the main character’s life drastically and unexpectedly, to such an extent that Jane literally loses control of her life.

This first crisis is sometimes referred to as enticing incident. It’s what sets the ball rolling.

The rest of the novel is spent dealing with and sorting out this situation, which is partially resolved in books 1 and 2 and finally tied up in part 3.

Part II, also called the midpoint, the central character takes stronger actions, the conflict intensifies, or more conflict appears, and the pace quickens. The main character is at a point of no return. Jane must go forward even if she’s walking straight into another crisis at midpoint, and she knows it. When all seems lost, things take a turn for the better, leading up to part three on an optimistic note.

Part III starts well, but there is another major turning point, which is usually referred to as the crisis or dilemma, occurring towards the end of the novel. It usually involves making a decision aimed at solving the initial problem. It’s often a low point where all seems lost. It is followed by the climax, which is the result of the choices made and leads to the final outcome.

If the novel is part of a trilogy, as my case, there can be no satisfactory solution to the crisis in book I, or there would be no reason for a further book, so it ends on an unsatisfactory ending, sometimes called a cliffhanger if it’s more dramatic, so the reader will want to know what happens in book II.

Book two starts with the same structure all over again, leading to book three, which has a more satisfactory ending. I say satisfactory, because the ends are partially tied up, not because it is totally happy. But more about happy-endings tomorrow.

Scenes

Each of the thirty chapters include scenes.

These scenes include crisis, turning points, surprises, complications, revelations plot twists and turns, and a climax, and a resolution along the way, otherwise it would be a very boring ride!

Scenes are vital, because they drive the story forward. Each scene must have a purpose within the novel, which will move the plot forward or give us some vital information about the characters or back-story.

I give each of the three parts a name, and each chapter a number and a name, too. It helps me in the planning stage, and it signposts the action for the reader (by the way, these names undergo multiple changes throughout the writing process).

This is the Index of Midsummer at Eyre Hall

Part One: Season of Darkness

Chapter I – Abodes of Horror

Chapter II – The Best of Times           

Chapter III – Betrayal

Chapter IV – Winter of Despair         

Chapter V – The Worst of Times       

Chapter VI – Fugitives

Chapter VII – Nothing Before Us       

Chapter VIII – Hell is Empty   

Chapter IX – The Age of Foolishness 

Chapter X – Wrath     

Part Two: Spring of Hope       

Chapter XI – Locked out of Heaven   

Chapter XII– Everything before Us    

Chapter XIII – Epoch of Incredulity

Chapter XIV – Stairway to Heaven    

Chapter XV Pride, Greed, and Lust.   

Chapter XVI – The Agony and the Ecstasy

Chapter XVII Manderley        

Chapter XVIII – In Search of Helen    

Chapter XIX The Road to Hell

Chapter XX –  First Love         

Part Three: Season of Light   

Chapter XXI – Persuasion       

Chapter XXII – Seashells and Puppies

Chapter XXIII – Present Blessings      

Chapter XXIV – Mr. de Winter’s Request      

Chapter XXV – Thunder Moon at Eyre Hall   

Chapter XXVI – Susan’s Inferno         

Chapter XXVII – James Eyre Kirkpatrick        

Chapter XXVIII – Max and Helen       

Chapter XXIX – The Light and the Darkness  

Chapter XXX – Return to Eyre Hall    

****

I didn’t plan it all before I started. I started book one with some characters and a situation and let them speak and act. A third of the way through, I planed it all, loosely. I didn’t consciously use Aristotle’s proposal, although it may have been ingrained in my subconscious due to my literary background as a graduate in literature.

This plotting structure has worked for me with the Eyre Hall Trilogy. It helped me to organize my erratic thoughts into coherent scenes, but I honestly have no idea whether it would work with any other novels I’ll be writing. There are lots more methods for plotting a novel.

How do you plot your novels?

 

 

 

6 Days to Launch Midsummer at Eyre Hall. Writing Stage One: Visualisation

I’m relieved, overjoyed and excited to tell you that The Eyre Hall Trilogy is complete.

There are six days to go to the launch of Book 3, Midsummer at Eyre Hall, on the 21st of June, and I’m aiming to write a post a day about my writing process to celebrate my achievement.

3 COVERS

I’m a visual learner, thinker and writer.

This means I need visual input to learn, understand and interact meaningfully with my environment.

As a learner, it means I need to see and/or make charts, images, diagrams, mind maps, videos, etc. to fully understand what I’m learning.

Visual 2

As a reader, it means that if the writer doesn’t show me where I am and what and who I’m seeing, I can’t relate to the novel, which is probably why I love the detail and atmosphere conveyed in Victorian novels. However, this doesn’t have to be wordy. Think of poetry; just a few words can express complex feelings and situations.

As a writer it means I need to see images in my mind of who and what I’m writing about, before I write, and it’s why I want my reader to be there with me, inside the characters’ shoes and looking around through their eyes.

These mental images can be based on memories, or something I can see, either physically or virtually, but I need that trigger.

Visual 1

For example, I need to see Eyre Hall before I can imagine anything happening there. I also need to see my characters: their clothes, hairstyles, accessories, mannerisms, etc. before I can hear them speak or watch them interact.

This visualisation stage happens in my mind’s eye, sometimes consciously as I take a walk, sit and think, or unconsciously when I dream.

It is the starting point of all my scenes. I’ve seen it all before I write it down.

I call this the summoning or activating stage, where I’m thinking scenes through, like a chess game. I purposefully think about my characters and location. I see what the characters are doing, where they are and what they are saying like film shots. I rewind, repeat, change, until I’m comfortable with the scene.

I can’t start writing until I’m satisfied with the scene I’ve seem.

Sometimes my imagination isn’t enough to visualise what I want to see, and I need to see photographs and paintings, of people, places and objects related to my scene, because if I don’t ‘see’ it, I can’t conjure it, and I can’t write my scene.

For example, I was having trouble writing about the sea scenes in Twelfth Night at Eyre Hall. I saw plenty of pictures about naval battles and storms, but I needed to get inside the ship, before I could hear Michael and Captain Carrington speaking in the Captain’s cabin, and I couldn’t see the room at all.

Sea 1

Quite by chance, I went to Madrid for a weekend in March 2015, and decided to look into war museums, and I discovered that there was a fabulous Naval Museum, which is very close to the Prado Museum, where I spent an unforgettable afternoon. I was lucky enough to take part in an enlightening guided tour of naval history from Columbus to the present, using the museum exhibits.

Captain's cabin.1

There was one exhibit which mesmerised me and enabled me to write the scene I mentioned; an exact replica of a captain’s cabin in a 19th century frigate. It struck me powerfully how grand it was. The polished wooden walls and furniture, rich carpets, drinks cabinets, paintings, upholstered chairs, which were in stark contrast to the rest of the rooms on board.

That visit was like magic. On the two-hour train ride back home, I jotted down all my ideas for the scene, and when I returned, I sat on my computer and it happened. But more about how the actual writing process tomorrow.

Are you a visual thinker?

Here’s an excerpt of one of the scenes on the ship in the first part of Twelfth Night at Eyre Hall.

******

Captain Carrington looked up from his desk and waved a hand towards the chair facing him, and then busied himself with some papers, seeming to ignore my presence.

It was rumoured that he had spent so long waiting for a captain’s commission, that his hair had turned white and his skin grey. His face was dented with deep ridges that cut his hollow cheeks, and his head and stomach were unusually large compared to his scrawny limbs. I wondered how he had become so overweight with the meagre portions we ate while at sea.

He folded a document, which looked like a letter, and then stared at me before speaking at last. “Why are you here, Midshipman Kirkpatrick?”

“I wanted to be in the navy, like my father, sir.” I had said the words so often I had convinced myself they were true.

“Who are you running away from?” 

I took a few seconds to reply to his unexpected question. “I have never run away from any man, sir.”

“I can believe that.”

His eyes dug into mine, once again. “Cold blood. Determination. I’ve seen you kill without a second thought, when you needed to.”

The crew were mostly decent, self–respecting men, who worked hard and obeyed the regulations. However, there had been a few blackguards of the worst sort, tough, merciless men who stole rum and provisions, slept on guard, and increased the workload of the rest of the crew. Many of them had served their time in prison, where they should have remained. A group of such criminals had provoked a mutiny threatening the captain’s life shortly before our arrival in Jamaica. In spite of being flogged for not joining their criminal uprising, I managed to escape with the help of a few brave and loyal sailors and suppressed the rebellion by slaying the scoundrels.

“I’m prepared to do what is necessary for my ship and the crew, sir.” I was relieved that the conversation had returned to professional matters.

“Then it’s a woman you are running away from.” He smiled wryly, and I knew there was no point in denying it. I could not imagine how he knew, because we had never spoken about personal matters. “Not a woman, sir. A very special lady.”

“They are all special to someone, my boy. Beyond your station, perhaps? Her family didn’t think you were good enough, did they?”

“Something like that, sir.”

“So you came here to fix that, did you? To prove that you’re worthy of the damsel?”

“I came to forget.” I had not spoken to anyone about Jane since I left Eyre Hall and it was more painful than I had imagined.

“Of course, to forget.” He nodded mockingly, pressed his fingers on the mahogany desk and raised himself up painfully, swearing as he limped around the cabin. He stopped behind me, breathing down my neck. “But you can’t, can you? She is in your thoughts, under your skin, inside your blood, and you cannot pull her out. You smell her before you fall asleep and touch her in your dreams, don’t you?”

I was relieved that he stood behind me. I needed time to compose myself. How could he know how I felt if I did not understand my feelings myself?  

“And when you wake up, your whole body misses her, and your heart aches to hear her voice, you long to look into her eyes, preferably looking up to you from beneath.” I felt his hand on my shoulder. “Am I right, Kirkpatrick?”

I was silent, containing my breathing. How could he know?

“So, what are you going to do about it, man?”

“Nothing, sir. It’s impossible.”

He returned to his seat, staring at me again. “And if you were to return as a commissioned officer, as a lieutenant. Would that make it easier to convince her father?”

“No, sir. It would not.”

“Interesting, no father.” He shuffled the papers on his desk then looked up. “Is that why you’ve been trying to get yourself killed almost every day since we set sail six months ago, Lieutenant?”

“I’m not a lieutenant, sir.”

“You’re a dangerous and valuable man who can kill with one hand and plan the mathematical coordinates of the ship with the other. Your father would have been proud of you, and, one day, so will your beloved’s family.”

“Thank you, sir, for your concern, but I’m afraid not, sir. The lady is out of the question.”

“Then you’ll have to replace her.”

“Never.”

“Admirable self–control and loyalty. I presume she must be married?”

“She is beyond my reach, sir.”

“You were a valet at a country estate before enlisting, am I right?”

I nodded.

“I don’t think a young maid would have made you flee, or rejected you, and seeing the ambition and astuteness in your eyes, I added two and two, and realised it must have been the mistress of the house, or her daughter. Which was it?”

*******

Did I manage to bring you into the captain’s cabin? Did you see the characters? Are you intrigued?