When Erin and Ariel first saw Nell Flander’s Mansions of Nyx, the ship was careened on lush Sugar Bowl Island in the Deep Blue Sea. This painting is of a different ship* on a barren coast. You can observe a member of the crew suspended from a line scraping the hull free of barnicles. This had to be done from time to time on all ships, especially a ship of war. A clean hull meant a faster ship.

*Source: Jules Dumont d’Urville (1846) Voyage au Pôle Sud et dans l’Océanie sur les corvettes L’Astrolabe et La Zélée exécuté par ordre du Roi Pendant les Années 1837–1838–1839–1840 sous le commandement de M. Dumont-d’Urville.

The Blow

The Blow

An excerpt from Chapter 23 of the new novel. The girls (disguised as boys) are sailing on Captain Swiftfoot Darkrunner’s frigate Velocity. Erin is known to captain and crew as Aaron Spotsworth; Sophie, as Michael Claude. The day after they’ve been promoted to midshipmen, the ship enters a terrible storm. Mr. MacLeish is the boatswain.

“Well done, Mr. McLeish,” Darkrunner told him.

“Oh, thank you, sir.”

“Is there anything you need?” Captain Darkrunner asked.

“Only a dozen more sailors, Sir,” MacLeish said. “But we’ll do with the ones we have. I don’t wish to give them airs, but they’re the best I’ve ‘ad the honor to sail with.”

“Good man, Mr. MacLeish,” said the captain. “But if you have a deck hand to spare, I think we need two more hands at the wheel. I fear Mr. Short won’t be able to hold her steady alone through his watch.”

“Aye, Sir.” Mr. MacLeish said before descending the companionway.

Erin shielded her eyes from the rain as she watched two men trim the foresail above. “It’s amazing they can hang on in this weather.”

“Sadly, not all do,” he said staring off at the ragged gray clouds advancing from the north. “A boy not much older than you was struck by a loose boom a fortnight ago and plunged to his death right where you’re standing.”

Erin quickly shifted from the spot and searched the boards for signs of blood.

“It was  appalling to see the lad splayed out like a broken doll.” The captain hesitated a moment before he was able to continue. “He was French — a prisoner shipmate of Mr. Petit’s until they joined the mutiny. Poor Petit scrubbed the deck furiously for an hour, sobbing like a child.”

Erin felt frozen where she stood.  She felt uneasy staring down, but didn’t want to look  up into the captain’s face.

“I’m sorry, Mr. Spotsworth,” the captain said swiping his hand across his eyes. “I didn’t mean to burden you with my woes.”

“Oh, no, sir,” Erin said lifting her eyes. “It’s quite alright. I know how awful it is to lose a friend.”

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Climbing Pitons

I attended the Willamette Writers Conference in Portland last week. For those of you who don’t know of it, it’s my favorite.  The three-day conference has excellent speakers and is very well-managed. What it offers that is of special benefit to me is direct access to industry people willing to listen to one-on-one and group pitches.

One of the seminars I attended was a talk on writing memoirs by Jennifer Lauck. I plan to begin a memoir in about eighteen months, so I was keen to learn something about a subject which has puzzled me for a long time.  How does one write truthfully about what happened long ago? I have my memories of course, and plan to talk to people I knew at that time. But how does one construct something real from the muddle and mist that momories oft are?

I don’t want to give away too much of what Jennifer had to say. (I did that at a conference once and the lecturer let me know he didn’t appreciate it. It was, as he said, his “bread and butter.”) I’ll just leave you, however, with a helpful quote she gave us from Bernard Cooper, the American novelist. The quote states, “Only when the infinite has edges am I capable of making art.”

With that in mind, I plan to find those edges in my story that I know are the most real.  I do have some records of these edges, namely half a dozen songs I wrote during that period, photographs my wife took and, most importantly, eight hours of audio with one of the principles in the story. My idea is to drive these certainties into my tale like the pitons climbers use to secure their ropes to, as they ascend.  Climbers, I would imagine, don’t view a distant and unfamiliar mountain face and know how exactly they will climb it. It is only as they approach the rock and study its gross formations, that they rough out their possible routes. And it is not until they are literally face to face with the mountain, that really decide which paths are to be trusted, and which not.  Surrounded by the infinite, they feel their way to the summit along these edges using little more than their intuition, fingertips and shoe leather.

A piece of art that to me embodies this of an infinite with edges is John Lennon’s “Across the Universe.”

Words are flowing out like
Endless rain into a paper cup
They slither wildly as they slip away across the universe.
Pools of sorrow waves of joy
Are drifting through my opened mind
Possessing and caressing me.

Jai Guru Deva. Om
Nothing’s gonna change my world
Nothing’s gonna change my world
Nothing’s gonna change my world
Nothing’s gonna change my world

Images of broken light, which
Dance before me like a million eyes,
They call me on and on across the universe.
Thoughts meander like a
Restless wind inside a letter box
They tumble blindly as they make their way across the universe.

Jai Guru Deva. Om
Nothing’s gonna change my world
Nothing’s gonna change my world
Nothing’s gonna change my world
Nothing’s gonna change my world

Sounds of laughter, shades of life
Are ringing through my opened ears
Inciting and inviting me.
Limitless undying love, which
Shines around me like a million suns,
It calls me on and on across the universe

Jai Guru Deva.
Jai Guru Deva.
Jai Guru Deva.
Nothing’s gonna change my world
Nothing’s gonna change my world
Nothing’s gonna change my world
Nothing’s gonna change my world

Here are a few links that relate to this post.

Jennifer Lauck:
Bernard Cooper quote:
If you’re considering going to a conference next year, I urge you to get on their mailing list: .

As I Liked It

Seattle Shakespeare

I’ve been a season ticket holder to the Seattle Shakespeare Company’s season for many years now. Last night I saw their “As You Like It” below the Space Needle at the Center House Theater.

I’ve got to say Orlando (Nathan Graham Smith) had a bit of a rocky opening. There are moments in even a good actor’s career when he can do no more than summon his lines. And though this was one of them, the awkwardness moment passed quickly, and Mr. Smith led the play very well indeed.

The story has a rather serious beginning, as all good comedies should. Ray Gonzales and Keith Dahlgren played very credible dukes with lots of slapping around, which added to the drama in the resolution of the play.

Jake Ynzunza portrayed well the oafish wrestler Charles and the bumpkin rube William.  The characters played by Bill Johns and David Klein were not the most interesting, but the actors played their parts very competently, as they always do. Hanna Lass and Rebecca Olson where fabulous as BFFs Rosalind and Celia. Ms. Lass portrayed the lead with the perfect balance of spite and lovestruck ardor that the character requires, and Ms. Olson animated Celia with the humor and steadfastness Shakespeare breathed into the lines.

Everyone did well, though I have to say I was struck by the skill that David Pichette used in playing Jacques, the worldly philosopher who elevates the tale. His “All the world’s a stage” speech was the best I’ve seen. He gave it in the aisle, not three feet from me. I admit, I had to overcome the urge to leap up and wring his hand when he’d finished.

And Darragh Kennan was Wit himself as the wisest of fools. His patter throughout the play – especially with Hannah Mootz (Phebe) – was wonderful. There seemed to be one or two spots where their words got crossed and Mr. Kennan improvised magnificently.

The music, by the way was very well done. I usually read past those lines in the play, but they were delivered so musically they stood out as some of the best parts of the performance.

Once again thanks to John Bradshaw and George Mount, all of the actors and, of course, the Bard for a wonderful evening and season.