Cover reveal Lost in the Tale

I’m nearly ready to release my 2017 collection of made-to-order stories. I have the stories and the cover, and I’m just waiting for the proofread files and a bit of time to set up the pre-release. No date yet, but it looks like it’ll be early September.

The short stories in the collection have only been available as print books, on Wattpad, or to party goers and newsletter subscribers as ebooks. The novella has so far been seen only by the giveaway winner who gave me the ingredients.

Like Hand-Turned Tales, Lost in the Tale will be free at all eretailers as soon as I can persuade Amazon to drop from 99c.

The Lost Wife: Teri’s refuge had been invaded: by the French, who were trying to conquer their land, and by wounded soldiers from the English forces sent to fight Napoleon’s armies. The latest injured man carried to her for nursing would be a bigger challenge than all the rest: he had once broken her heart. (short story)

The Heart of a Wolf: Ten years ago, Isadora lied to save her best friend, and lost her home and the man she loved when he would not listen to her. Ten years ago, Bastian caught his betrothed in the arms of another man, and her guilt was confirmed when she fled. Ten years on, both still burn with anger, but the lives of innocent children and the future of their werewolf kind demand that they work together. (short story)

My Lost Highland Love: Interfering relatives, misunderstandings, and mistranslations across a language barrier keep two lovers from finding one another again. The Earl of Chestlewick’s daughter comes to London from her beloved Highlands to please her father, planning to avoid the Englishman who married her and abandoned her. The Earl of Medford comes face-to-face with a ghost; a Society lady who bears the face of the Highland lass who saved his life and holds his heart. (short story)

Magnus and the Christmas Angel: Scarred by years in captivity, Magnus has fought English Society to be accepted as the true Earl of Fenchurch. Now he faces the hardest battle of all: to win the love of his wife. A night trapped in the snow with an orphaned kitten, gives Callie a Christmas gift: the chance to rediscover first love with the tattooed stranger she married. (short story)

The Lost Treasure of Lorne: For nearly 300 years, the Normingtons and the Lorimers have feuded, since a love affair ended in a curse that doomed dead Lorimers to haunt their home, the Castle of Lorne.

Now the last Marquis of Lorne, the last of the Lorimers, is one of those ghosts, and the Duke of Kendal, head of the House of Normington, holds the castle.

Kendal doesn’t care about the feud or the ghosts. He wants only to find the evidence that will legitimate the son his Lorimer bride bore him before her death, and to convince his stubborn housekeeper to marry him.

But the time allotted to the curse is running out, and his happiness depends on finding the Lost Treasure of Lorne before the 300 years draws to a close. (novella)


First lines on WIP Wednesday

gothiccastleBecause I particularly like the first lines of the new story I started last week (tentatively called The Prisoners of Wyvern Castle — and yes, Carol Cork, this is your story), I’m inviting you all to share with me and the blog readers the first lines of any chapter of your work in progress. I usually say 7 to 10 lines, but I’ve overdone it today.

As soon as he said the last words of the blessing, the fat priest stepped towards them, a broad smile on his face. “May I be the first to congratulate your graces?”

But the man to whom Linnie had just been joined in the bonds of Holy Matrimony ignored the outstretched hands and whirled around to advance on Lady Wyvern, who stood behind them.

“Very well. I have done what you demanded. Where is she?”

“Penworth, your manners.” Lady Wyvern scolded, but the Duke of Penworth ignored her tone and spoke over the rest of her complaint.

“You promised to return her if I married Graceton’s sister. Well. We are wed. I want her back, Lady Wyvern, and I want her now.”

Lin was trying to make sense of it all. The duke had been forced to this marriage as well? By a threat? But to whom? Surely not… not his mistress?”

She stole a look at her half-brother, Baron Granville, who was openly amused. “Send the boy back to his rooms, Margaret, and my sister with him. His treasure is there, is it not? Oh do not fret, vicar. You will get your fee and your portion of the wedding breakfast.”


Thieves with a boat or patriots?

buccaneers_lo-res placeholder copy from blog 072410_0

One of the made-to-order stories I gave away last month needed a bit of research. The winner asked for a buccaneer. So what, I wondered, was the difference between a pirate, a buccaneer, a corsair, a privateer, or any other ship-going bandit?

Thieves with ships

Pirates, I found, were fundamentally outlaws. ‘Thieves with ships’ one website I found called them. They ransack towns and capture ships looking for loot and people to sell or hold for ransom. They answer to no-one except their own appointed leaders, and recognise no law outside of themselves. Leaving aside the romantic image from books and movies, they were and are a ruthless lot of men and women, loyal only to one another and a danger to everyone else.

Not that I don’t find something to admire in the way that the pirates of the Caribbean ran a democratic society based on ability, where every man and woman of the crew had a say in how it ran and who should be captain, and a share of the loot. But I’d find it a challenge to make a hero of any of them. It could be fun, mind you, but I’d need a novel, not a short story.

Buccaneers, it turns out, were privateers and pirates in the West Indies in the 17th Century. The word comes from the French boucan, meaning smoked meat. The buccaneers started by selling meat gained from hunting, then found there was more money to be made by attacking towns on behalf of the French and the English, who were at war with Spain at the time.

And corsair is a word the English applied to foreign pirates, particularly Muslim pirates operating out of North Africa. They also applied it to the French and even the Spanish when at war with them, which was most of the time. They intended that as an insult, and it was certainly taken that way. Corsairs were also keen to find loot, but they were particularly interested in capturing slaves. Muslims being forbidden to enslave (or even rob) other Muslims, the corsairs attacked any underprotected European or American ship that strayed into their path, thus combining the religious duty of harrying the infidel with the economic pleasure of making a profit.

Thieves with a licence

Which brings us to privateers. In times of war, governments would issue letters of marque and reprisal — commissions to entrepreneurs with boats. The licence or commission would give the ship the right to attack ships belonging to whoever the country was at war with. In the 1812 war between the United Kingdom and the United States, which is in the background of my short story Kidnapped to Freedom, both countries commissioned privateers. The US had a very small navy but a large merchant fleet, and the UK navy was heavily committed to the war against Napoleon.

The commission specified what they were allowed to do, and any prisoners were treated as prisoners-of-war. But the prize — the ship and the cargo — paid for the enterprise.

All-out privateers often sailed with multiple teams headed by ship masters, who could take over a prize ship and bring it back to port. They were essentially pirates, but with a single focus on their nation’s enemy. They would never dream of attacking a neutral or allied nation’s ships or ports.

Many cargo ships also carried letters of marque authorising them to seize enemy ships. This also made them privateers, but part-time privateers rather than full-time.

When the war was over, those cargo ships would carry on with their usual business. The problem with privateers, though, was that the end of the war destroyed their livelihood, and history records many pirates who began their lives as privateers but branched out at the end of the war they were commissioned for.

I made my short-story’s hero a merchant captain from the Maritime States of Canada, with letters of marque from the United Kingdom. I hope my winner thinks I’ve got close enough to a buccaneer.



Playing at story

6a00e5509ea6a18834017ee9cffee3970dWhen our kids were young, the PRH was in charge for training people in his profession for the whole of the lower South Island. Whenever we could, we’d all go along – so we had lots of long car trips, and I evolved a number of ways to keep the mob entertained on the way.

Several of these involved telling storytelling, and some I still play with the grandchildren today. They are great ways to develop the story telling muscles.


One of our favourites was the build-a-story. In build-a-story, someone starts telling a story, and stops after a paragraph or two. The next person carries on, often taking the story in a completely different direction. I found that when you’re building stories with children, it’s important not to let them name a character after themselves, since a sibling will ensure that character is eaten by a dragon or dissolved in acid at the first possible opportunity, and it all ends in tears.

On the other hand, they quickly learn that what goes round comes round. Any destruction will soon be paid in kind, with interest!

Fortunately, unfortunately

We loved this game. The first person ends their few paragraphs with something disastrous, and the words ‘but fortunately…’

The next person picks up the tale with whatever miraculous intervention saved the day, but ends their part with ‘but unfortunately…’

Or you can mix it up and let each storyteller decide whether they’re going to pass on a happy or an unhappy happenstance.

Made-to-order stories

When the children were tired and likely to fight over story directions, I would tell the stories. But each child could choose one, two, or three objects to have in the story (the more tired I was, the fewer objects). I still do this with the grandchildren. There are rules. I don’t tell stories about other people’s characters (from books, films, or tv). And they can choose nouns, not verbs. That is, they can tell me the objects or people, but I decide what happens to them.

It can be a challenge to weave a story that has a vase, a unicorn, an alien in a spacehelmet, a spiral-bound notebook, a poodle, and a hot-air balloon. But oh the fun!

The letter game

I’ve played the letter game (by email) with two of the older grandchildren. The person who starts invents two characters, a locality, and a reason why the two characters have to write to one another instead of meeting or phoning. This all goes into the first letter. It’s impossible to plan much further than that, since the second person will take the story wherever they want it to go.