Jun. 8th, 2008 07:00 pm
clarentine: (Yellow Pirate ARR)
At the suggestion of pirates and Age of Sail expert Marcus Rediker, I have a new list of books to read for further research on the pirate novel currently going by the working title of Satisfaction. Here is where living in a metropolitan area pays off: two of the books recommended by Mr. Rediker are available within my home library system, and another is available in one of the neighboring systems. I have library borrowing privileges in each system (actually, I have borrowing privileges in all four of the local systems), and before the end of the week I expect to have waiting for me Joan Druett's She Captains: Heroines and Hellions of the Sea, Rough Medicine: Surgeons at Sea in the Age of Sail, and Hen Frigates: Wives of Merchant Captains Under Sail.

I still need to find a copy of Rediker's own Many-Headed Hydra, but if I can't lay my hands on it locally there's always Inter Library Loan, which brought me lots of wondrous research material the last time I was hunting books for Satisfaction. (And if it's as good as his Villains of of All Nations and Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, I'll end up buying it as well.)

I suppose this means that I'm resuming work on Josh's story next. ::grin::


Sep. 19th, 2007 08:41 am
clarentine: (Pirtate!)
Ahoy, matey, and welcome to International Talk Like a Pirate Day! Here's your eye patch, and your Jack Sparrow hat, and your knee britches and baggy shirt. Lace 'em up and let's get under way! There's rich prizes out there waiting for us!
clarentine: (Default)
Earlier this week, I was involved in conversations about foreshadowing and setting on a writers' list I frequent. I got to thinking about how I use foreshadowing, and [ profile] corrinalaw and I batted the topic back and forth.

I'm trying to pay attention as I write this draft of Satisfaction, to see when I layer in things that will be foreshadowing (things that I already recognize as foreshadowing, I should say) and to see if there's a pattern to the layering. I guess what I'm doing is that, as I write, I see all sorts of fractal possibilities with each decision made by the characters. I can glance down each and see if any of them hold potential to work with the overall themes of the book as I know them, and if they do then I choose to include those layers.

Who I chose for bosun's mate in Satisfaction is one of those fractal layers that stayed. The new bosun has to have a mate to help with the implementing of discipline. Discipline is, in part, at the end of the lash, so when the new bosun (who's Dutch) turned up with a bigger, more aggressive countryman, I gave him a rope belt with a big, nasty knot at its end. It's just a detail of setting when he's first introduced, but I know that there'll be nastiness with ropes later on, so it's also foreshadowing, depending on how he uses it. Plus there's the verses of the What Shall We Do with a Drunken Sailor, (at least) one of which involves the lash and many of which have potential to lead to scenes in this story. So, layers equal foreshadowing.

And setting equals foreshadowing, too. There is a significance to every setting; the work is in figuring out what that significance is to the person narrating the scene. If a character is leading a bunch of others escaping down a corridor in a secured compound, the choice of corridors matters, both to the characters and to their interaction. One of them chose this route. The others have a reaction to the choice, and to the route. They are living in your setting.

It's not what the corridors look like, in other words, but what the corridors mean to the characters. If they mean safety, or concealment, you describe how hard it is to see the characters in them, how they can work their way up to corners unobserved, the texture of the floor that enables them to run silently, that sort of thing. If they mean imminent capture, you describe the lighting, the noise the walls and floors are echoing around, the positioning of cameras. All of those things might be there - the lighting, the cameras, the positioning of the corners, the texture of the floor - but what you choose to describe is determined by what you want to convey to the reader.


Research has been limited because my available time has been rather compressed lately. I'm still doing minor readings on the city of Charleston ca. 1720 or so, not so much that I think the story will end up there as for the sense of place and time the information gives me. Port Royal had already experienced the first of its series of horrific earthquakes by the time of this story, and while it still existed as a city it was much reduced from what it had been. There are no existing buildings anymore for me to get this sense of place from.

(And hmm. There's one of those fractal layers I was talking about, above. Port Royal as a city crumbling around its residents' ears. One of the themes of this book is the clash of two societies and their mores (which are not the same as morals, but have things in common with them). So, when I do get to describing Port Royal, I need to describe the elements that will show this crumbling of the old regime.)

I had to do some research on bowsprit rigging, which drove me back to my notes from The Sailing Navy List - All the Ships of the Royal Navy, Built, Purchased and Captured, 1688-1860, by David Lyon. (All hail Interlibrary Loan; this book is in extremely limited circulation, and purchasing an available copy is just not feasible, though I'd love to have one.)

I also did some research into older building techniques in the Caribbean. (Hint: the islands aren't really rock, or at least the Bahamas Islands aren't, and that's where the scene is set.)


Work on Satisfaction is ticking along at a respectable pace; thus far, I've made daily quota for [ profile] novel_in_90, though getting back into the swing of daily word count was not easy. I've put up about 6000 new words in the first week of solid work on it, and the story's becoming fun again, thank whoever. I did not relish the idea of slogging through this story if I couldn't get it to be enjoyable...and while I understand there's something to be said for the discipline of writing even if you don't think the story is exactly enjoyable at the moment--as in, revisions for an editor, which I can hope to be doing at some unknowable point in the future--that isn't a lesson I want to practice right now.
clarentine: (Pirtate!)
Day 5 of [ profile] novel_in_90, and work on Satisfaction proceeds apace. I'm right on the verge of setting a ship alight, and it occurs to me that I do not have a story reason for doing so. I have an author's hand reason, but not a story reason. Bah.

::drops note to self in WIP: "wouldn't it make better sense if Josh had been forced aboard either Indomitable or Capella, such that this burning really makes a difference to him, personally?"::

Earlier, I was pondering the fact that this entire scene was written without dialogue of any sort. Is that a symptom, perhaps, of this disengagement with the protag, or a subconscious choice based on the scope of the action? Because there is action; there are ships getting quickly underway, and people firing guns at one another, and rowing, and ducking to avoid stray bullets. Probably the answer is, It depends. (And may I just say right now how much I hate that answer. And think that it is right.)

I do believe that it's necessary to show events in relationship to the protag who's experiencing them. This means, of course, that my note to myself is not a note but a mandate, and I will have to correct the mis-step in course, and will have to take it into account as I press onward. But now I have a focus from which to do so, and hopefully that will make the words come that much faster.

Which they must do, because I have a concert to go to tonight after work, and there will be no time for computers or novels. And I have not yet met my quota for the day. And lunch hour is, alas, all but done.


Research recently pursued: incendiary devices/Molotov cocktails; images of full-rigged ships so that I can better describe Capella; British history leading up to the period in which I find myself. Old houses in Charleston. Old houses in the Bahamas. And I refreshed my recollection on the naming conventions of masts and rigging, because Josh is going to be sailing again soon and I want to make sure I know what I'm describing, even if Josh doesn't.
clarentine: (Pirtate!)
1,068 new words, and ticking right along. Haven't made it to the fire, yet, which does not upset me; it's coming. Maybe tomorrow.

Bad things inflicted on protag: Jack f#%king Rackam giving him the stink eye; being treated like a kid; just been told he can't go into Nassau with the rest of the crew.

Coming up: Fire!

Research needed: Fire on board wooden ship; calico fabric; men's fashions ca. 1720.

More pics

May. 30th, 2007 01:58 pm
clarentine: (Default)
(Bah. Flickr only permits three sets for free accounts. This does not help me stay organized.)

Okay. I have finished uploading the rest of the photos from Rock the Boat 2007. There are three sets. (Bah, I say, Flickr. Bah.) One contains all of the shots of Godspeed, and I think the shots of the shallop Explorer ended up in there, too. Another contains the many, many photos I took of Kalmar Nyckel, which is a truly spectacular ship, and whose flag kept playing coy every time I tried to get a shot of the stern gallery's carvings. The third is a combination of the schooner Virginia and the pungy schooner Lady Maryland.

You can find all three here:

While I think that Kalmar Nyckel is gorgeous, I have to say it was Virginia that moved me the most. There was a revolution in ship design between the late 1600s and the late 1700s/early 1800s that is very clear when comparing KN and Virginia; you can see it in the smooth sweep of Virginia's decks, absent any protruding deck to slow the ship in its passage. As useful as those decks and the structures beneath them are (and as many times as I lean on them in the current [ profile] novel_in_90 project, which is now going by the working title of Satisfaction and Revenge), the fact is that after 1680 or so they were not seen much on the swifter ships.

It doesn't hurt that I'm still looking for a model for the two-masted sloop Satisfaction - yes, there's a reason the working title of the novel is what it is - and of all of these ships, Virginia came closest to the sail configuration I think my Satisfaction has to have for the waters she traveled.

(Go on, you naval types, attack the use of sloop to denote this two-masted ship. I know of what I speak. I am never more aware how pedantic I can be than when I am faced with someone else's pedantism. *g* And I will be happy to dance this dance with you, if only to bring light to my own decisions with regard to use of the term here, and in the novel.)

(And isn't it funny that LJ has no built-in mood icon for Belligerent? *g*)


May. 25th, 2007 12:47 pm
clarentine: (Default)
I was working my way through the existing pages of the pirates novel, and came across this passage, which so perfectly sums up one of the undercurrents in this story:

Beatty sniffed. Rough, callused fingers seized Josh's right hand and turned it this way and that in the light. Beatty pursed his lips in critical comment. "I suppose you read."

Beatty, by the way, is the captain of a small privateering vessel who's rescued Josh, my protag, from captivity by the Spanish, and they're discussing how Josh is going to pay his way to Charleston.

As Charleston and its economy plays a significant role in the background of this story, last night's (and today's) research included exploration of plantation economies in and around Carolina's Low Country in the early 1700s. (Primary cash crops: rice, indigo, tobacco, beef.) I got to read a cookbook on Low Country cuisine; that was fun as well as educational. Just because I don't like duck doesn't mean others won't eat it.

Oh, and I'm reading about the political climate in England in the several years preceding the date of this story, because the main plot is anchored on it. (The poor reference librarian, in trying to figure out where to start looking for books on my query as to important events around 1720, asked me if I knew when the English civil war was...yeah, that was the look on my face, too. *g* I felt better when it turned out she didn't know who Calico Jack Rackam was.)
clarentine: (Default)
This year marks the 400th anniversary of the British settlement at Jamestown, Virginia, and this week is the something less than 400th anniversary of the original settlement that became Richmond. As a result, renactments and historical exhibits are springing up like toadstools...the kind that redirect traffic, change road patterns, and litter the sidewalks with gawking tourists. In case you haven't guessed, avoiding tourists is not my favorite activity. I did my purgatory years in Orlando, thankyouverymuch.

On the up side of all of this, however, is the arrival on the scene of a veritable fleet of sailing ships. Beginning this past weekend and running through the Memorial Day weekend, Godspeed will be at Richmond's Intermediate Terminal. She'll be joined by the schooners Lady Maryland, Kalmar Nyckel, Pride of Baltimore, and Virginia, and all of them will be open to the public.

Which means, in a nutshell, that I'll be down at the Intermediate Terminal beginning Thursday afternoon to see Godspeed and Lady Maryland, and again Friday evening to see Kalmar Nyckel and the other two, camera in hand, absorbing details left and right. Godspeed, in particular, is supposed to have accurately depicted crew quarters, which is one element I really have not yet come across on the other period (or period re-creation) ships I've been aboard, and will go a long way toward making me seem less like a clueless idiot in writing about the various pirate ships' spaces below decks.

Wiki for Godspeed: (not much of an article, but it's the best I could find quickly)

Website for Kalmar Nyckel:

Website for Lady Maryland:

Website for Pride of Baltimore:

Website for Virginia:


In addition to researching the above websites, I spent some time yesterday looking to see how many vessels I could find that had carried the name Revenge. The first one that comes to mind, of course, is Queen Anne's Revenge, Blackbeard's last ship. There were sufficient others that I think I can use the name if I want to. Not sure I will, but it was something I was thinking about - primarily because I needed a working title for the book. So, for the moment, the pirate book is going by the title Satisfaction and Revenge.

I do so love a title that plays on several different levels.
clarentine: (Default)
I can tell I'm getting geared up to work on another story; the need to research has returned.

This story, the one I'm planning to work on for [ profile] novel_in_90's next round, which begins June 1, is about pirates. And botany. (And, unlike a certain other naval series (of which I have only read two books, quite deliberately, so as not to tread on toes), this particular botanical adventure features the botany as an integral portion of the plot, not just a series of character-building interludes.) And the realities of life in the Caribbean in the early 1700s.

Which realities include malaria and a batch of other lovely tropical diseases, but it's the ever-present malarial fevers that I was researching this past week. In keeping with my habit of inflicting nasty things on my characters, I've got one who recently contracted the disease and is now having to deal with the feverish unsteadiness that comes with it. He'll realize he's been afflicted soon enough - though not what he's afflicted with, as that bit of scientific knowledge hadn't yet arrived on the scene. It'll be my secret, mine and the audience's.


The CD I recently commented on purchasing for the express purpose of getting my mind ready to write this book - Rogue's Gallery, a collection of Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs, and Chanteys - has been on my playlist a lot lately. There are some very fine renditions on there: Blood Red Roses (Sting), Fire Down Below (Nick Cave), Bully in the Alley (Three Pruned Men, I kid you not). There are also some truly lewd lyrics (Good Ship Venus, by Loudoun Wainwright III, on the second disc) and some very weird things (Dan Dan, by David Thomas) that defy description. I haven't really had a chance to give a thorough listen to the second disc, as a matter of fact, because I've been listening at work and that second disc is by no means work safe. *g*

At any rate, if you or someone you know enjoys honest sea-themed songs, this is a good collection, if uneven to my ear. I think I'd have preferred the lewd stuff safely tucked onto just one of the discs, instead of scattered amongst the other, gentler songs. The effect is sort of like stepping from the front parlor into a whorehouse.
clarentine: (Default)
The next round of [ profile] novel_in_90's traveling word circus begins June 1. If you were looking for that daily kick in the pants to ensure you get words, here's your chance to get in at the start.

The goal of the community is simple: 750 words a day, seven days a week, for 90 days. Post each day to let the community know if you reached that goal, and stand by for mocking if you didn't. Feel free to mock in your own turn; that's the strength of the community, that someone surely will be there to kick your butt if you back away.

This round, my plan is to work on the pirates book. I've done months and months of research and have better than 100 pages already...and a story line that has gone nowhere. Time to regroup, figure out where to pick it up, and move forward.

::edges closer to the ball marked Writing in preparation for adding it to the balls already being juggled::
clarentine: (Default)
This just in: Goya "Jamaican Style" ginger beer cannot compete with the "Jamaican Country Style" ginger beer I usually buy. The Goya stuff's got more bite than flavor, and it makes me cough. Refresco, it is not.

Good thing I have a bottle of the JCS ginger beer in the fridge. And that the grocery store has finally restocked their supply. Must have come all the way on the mail boat. *g*


In other news, it looks like [ profile] novel_in_90 will be starting up another full round on June 1. If you've been considering getting in on the community, or started and dropped out last go 'round, now's your chance to catch a cresting wave. At this point, I believe I'll be able to take part, and this time I hope to get the pirate story moving.


No fun research to report. Alas. My brain is full of design thoughts.


May. 3rd, 2007 04:23 pm
clarentine: (Default)
It's a rainy Thursday, and the Queen is in Richmond, and because they've closed our entire office block for security reasons (and the street between my building and Capitol Square, and my parking garage) I had time to finish up the edits I wanted to make to Cavalier, and then put together those queries I'd intended to send last week. I've posted five new queries and sent the requested partial manuscript off.

I'd forgotten how useful a significantly long stretch of hours could be when one is in a mood to write. *g* The edits were polishing, really, but I'd been dithering over them for a while. Once I sat down to work this morning, with [ profile] corrinalaw's comments, they went quickly.

I'm not sure what comes next. It's still spring, and the design jobs are keeping me hopping in what there is of my spare time. Probably I ought to concentrate on those, since their timeline is finite, and let the two stories I have percolating brew a bit longer. The pirate story is not ready; I went awry somewhere, after a promising start, and haven't yet figured out where. Probably I ought to simply do the [ profile] novel_in_90 thing again and just get it written, and worry about the editing later. The Bells story that I wrote this winter with [ profile] novel_in_90's help has plenty of plot - shock! amaze! - but needs more characterization.

(In fact, I believe the problem with shooting for consistent word count is that I'm going to consistently miss out on the characterization I love so much but that takes a while to develop; I don't know if this dooms this means of generating words, or not. I guess we'll see how hard it turns out to be to flesh Bells out.)
clarentine: (Pirtate!)
If you were a pirate in 1720 and you had a small wooden barrel that you wanted to refill with drinking water at the local cistern, would you just pull out the bung and attempt to pour water from the bucket into the bung hole?


Sep. 19th, 2006 08:13 am
clarentine: (Pirtate!)
::cue scratchy old record of sea chanteys, with the sounds of seagulls and the creak of rigging in the background::

Today is International Talk Like a Pirate Day! Arrr!

Go here: - and click on the first of the Melody links, to enjoy my favorite chantey, along with the words to the song itself.

And if that doesn't get you talking like a pirate, I wash my hands of you!
clarentine: (Default)
Plot, Rule One: make sure the opening conflict, the point from which your story begins, relates directly to the rest of your plot.

That is all.

::smacks self upside head::

Amongst the online discussions of Alfred Noyes' poem The Highwayman, there is one that ponders why Loreena McKennitt's [excellent, truly excellent] version omits verses that make it clear how the authorities learned about the bandit's plans to steal the gold and where to find him. This, it occurs to me, is a valid plot quibble.

And it's what was wrong with the opening for what I've been referring to, variously, as the pirate story, Josh's story, and the Highwayman story. I got two scenes down on paper, and stalled. Why? Because I didn't know what happened next.

Because it wasn't connected to what the story was about.

If, however, I make the attack that occurs in the first scene happen as a direct result of the conflict Josh faces through the rest of the book, then I suddenly know (a) the much less generalized location of the opening scenes, (b) the motive of the men participating in that first attack, (c) the motive of the men participating in the second attack, and (d) what happens next.

Color me pleased.
clarentine: (Default)
Given that I have a pirate tale lurking in the deep corners of my brain, I suppose I ought to give a nod and a hearty Arrrrrr! to the day. >;-]

Now if the damned thing would just tell me what I'm supposed to do with all the pirate research I did last winter...probably more research.


clarentine: (Default)

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