Enjoy fiction historical reading or a retro science fiction story - an adaptation of HMS Thunder Child from War of the...
Friday, 20 January 2017
In bygone days the winter solstice conjured up all sorts of wild myths and beliefs among the Celtic peoples of Britain and other peoples throughout Europe. In the northern parts of Europe, there were vast forests with remote places. The isolated groups that lived in such areas were susceptible to all sorts of suspicions and loved to listen to tales told by wandering bards or other such story tellers.
The surrounding Ecosystems of their realm were hosts to many types of beliefs and the seasons often changed the dweller's concept of the forest areas in magical and mystical ways. Winter being viewed in a completely different way to summer. Each season was celebrated and each solstice was too.
The solstice is celebrated in Britain and has been for thousands of years. There are suspected religious festivals and various stone rings aligned to celebrate such things. We have a summer and winter solstice across the planet and the solstice is opposite either side of the Earth's equator.
Therefore, when Britain, a northern hemisphere country, celebrates its winter solstice on the 21st of December, a southern hemisphere country like Australia will celebrate its summer solstice.
Saturday, 14 January 2017
Read the epic Dark Age novel Saxon Quest. Set in West Britain during the year 567 AD. Saxon Migration pushes further west across the British Isles. The Christian Romano-Celts decide to make a stand against the pagan English tribes.
HMS Thunder Child has a story of great courage to tell. Join the crew of the valiant and be with them as they journey towards the most uncanny confrontation in science fiction legend. Be there and see the uncanny events unfold through the eyes of the brave sailors aboard the legendary HMS Thunder Child.
Sunday, 8 January 2017
|U.S.S. Kearsarge (Union Ship) battles C.S.S. Alabama 1864|
In England during the year of 1862 in the day and month of 29th July, a ship was launched with no pomp or ceremony from the shipyards of Birkenhead, Merseyside. The ship was called Enrica and she had been built by shipbuilders called John Laird Sons And Company. The vessel slipped discreetly out of Liverpool into the Irish Sea.
A Confederate Agent called James Dunwoody Bulloch had procured the ship for the new Confederate Navy – a collection of states that had decided on secession from the United States of America. The contract had been arranged through Fraser, Trenholm Company – a cotton broker in Liverpool with interests in the Confederate States.
Bulloch went with the ship and had carefully arranged for a civilian crew to take Enrica to Terceira Island in the Azores.
A few days later on August 5th, another ship left Liverpool bound for the same destination in the Azores. This vessel was a steamer called Bahama and one of its passengers was to become a figure that would burn his name in history. He was a thin-faced man with a small beard and moustache who came from Maryland, in today’s USA. However, in 1862 the state of Maryland had joined the Confederate cause and this particular man had left the US Navy and joined the Confederate Navy. His name was Captain Raphael Semmes.
When he reached Terceira Island in the Azores he was greeted by Agent Bulloch and both began to oversee Enrica’s refitting. Another ship called Agrippina docked bringing special supplies for the newly constructed ship. This included ship’s cannon, coal, food and other necessities for a long voyage. When all of the loadings had been completed, there was a small ceremony which took place about a mile off of the island in international waters. The men of all three ships Enrica, Bahama and Agripinna stood on Enrica’s quarter deck with 24 officers of the Rebel Southern States – all of them in full dress uniforms.
Captain Raphael Semmes read out his commission from President Jefferson Davis, which gave him the authority to take over the newly built ship. When he had finished his speech, musicians began to play “Dixie”. The British colours were lowered and the Confederate battle ensign was raised. As the new flag fluttered in the sea wind Captain Semmes proclaimed the vessel by a new name. Alabama – CSS Alabama.
The renamed C.S.S. Alabama and was converted into a Navy cruiser. The newly armed vessel would become a commerce raider and the world’s sea would have an abundance of Union shipping to attack in the name of the Confederacy.
There was one small dilemma that needed to be overcome. Captain Semmes had 24 officers but no crew. Confederate sailors were hard to come by in the Azores as none could be got out of the blockade. He looked to the mainly British crew that had brought the ship to the Azores as the civilian Enrica. He made a bold speech about the Southern cause and invited the Brits to sign up for an unspecified time. Unfortunately, the mainly British listeners were not too enthusiastic about a foreign civil war, so then he changed his tact, realising that Southern morality would not win Brit minds as opposed to the bulging wage packet. He, therefore, offered double wages, to be paid in gold, and additional prize money to be paid by Confederate congress for every destroyed Union ship. This induced a bold response as 83 excited Brits felt a sudden flurry of Rebel patriotism – in short Captain Semmes had acquired a crew of mercenaries that would prove to be well and truly up to the task at hand. He was still 20 men short but knew he could find more sailors in other ports. Many of the British mercenaries completed the full voyage – an extraordinary two-year high sea adventure with Captain Semmes who they came to admire greatly.
Captain Semmes began his rampage instantly in the Eastern Atlantic capturing and destroying all northern merchant ships that the Alabama came upon. These vessels were mostly whalers and the Confederate raider accounted for ten of them. Captain Semmes then ranged north and back to Bermuda, attacking 13 more Union ships and destroying ten of these vessels.
He then took his ship to new hunting grounds in the West Indies and attacked more enemy commerce, making Union shipping dread the sight or name of C.S.S. Alabama. Then in January of 1863, when sailing in the Gulf of Mexico, Alabama came up against her first military vessel – a Union side-wheeler called USS Hatteras. The Confederate ship quickly attacked and sank the ship, capturing the crew.
Next, she went south off of the coast of Brazil and took 29 prizes, reeking havoc before venturing back across the Atlantic to South West Africa where she worked with another Confederate vessel called C.S.S. Tuscaloosa. Next, she went into the Indian Ocean for six months and attacked and destroyed seven more Union vessels.
Altogether the C.S.S. Alabama was accountable for the destruction of 65 Union ships – mostly merchant vessels. Prisoners were never harmed and were handed to the nearest neutral ports or passing vessels. While roaming the seas and boarding vessels the C.S.S. Alabama never visited a Confederate port – she would have been incapable of breaking the blockade. She took over 2,000 prisoners without a single loss of life of her captured or crew.
In June of 1864, the C.S.S. Alabama docked at the port of Cherbourg in France to have repairs done. She had been at sea for a long time and was in need of an overhaul. A pursuing Union sloop-of-war U.S.S. Kearsarge arrived outside of Cherbourg three days later and waited for the Alabama to leave port and come out into international waters. Before he had arrived, the Union Captain John Ancrum Winslow had telegraphed for assistance from man-o-war U.S.S. St Louis with supplies for a long blockade of the Confederate ship if Semmes chose to stay in the French port.
Captain Semmes was a fighting man by nature and would not entertain the notion of being blockaded in the port of Cherbourg. He chose to sail out and engage the U.S.S. Kearsarge
On the 19th of June, the Alabama sailed out to confront the U.S.S. Kearsarge. Cannon fire was exchanged and soon the two ships were locked in a duel with Alabama outmatched against the Union sloop-of-war. The Confederate ships most poignant shot was fired from a seven-inch Blakely pivot rifle, which hit close to the Union vessel’s vulnerable stern post. The shell failed to explode. If it had done it would have crippled the ship’s steering.
The Union ship was armour clad and was more durable to shell fire. Eventually, the Alabama began to wane due to the pounding and after an hour she was badly broken up. One shell tore into her amidships below the waterline allowing water to gush in and drown her boilers. The Confederate ship began to sink.
As Alabama went down many of the survivors clambered into life boats and ship’s Doctor David Herbert Llewellyn managed to get many of his wounded patients aboard boats before going down with the ship. He was a Briton from Wiltshire and was awarded the Southern Cross of Honour. There is a memorial tablet and window commemorated to him in a church in Wiltshire and another tablet in Charing Cross Hospital where he once worked.
U.S.S. Kearsarge picked up most of the survivors, but a further 41 men were rescued by a British yacht called Deerhound. Captain Semmes was among these men and he escaped to Britain.
Captain Semmes held good on his promise to the crew who were all paid in full when they got back to Britain. He returned to the Southern American States and finished the Civil war fighting on land with his naval men as infantry in the dying months of the war. The Confederate cause was lost and he was interned for a few months after the South surrendered to the Union. After the war, he became a judge and a newspaper editor. He died in 1877 age 67.
In 1984, the French Navy found the sunken wreck of the C.S.S. Alabama and since then there have been joint French and US archaeological dives of the wreck.
Monday, 12 December 2016
Look at Book Beaver Cover Design
I was looking for a fresh and dynamic cover for my adaptation science fiction story. I looked over many different cover design companies and emailed a few. One of them was Nik of Book Beaver. We had an online chat where I was invited to put forward the type of idea I was looking for. Something with a steampunk, retro, feel. An age of Victorian iron and steel with other things etc.
All questions were answered and the financial package was great and quickly agreed upon. I got a few examples of what the finished product would look like. I have to say I was impressed from the word go. However, the biggest surprise was to come as the presentation book cover came to completion with all of the most intricate background detail. I found the artist’s impression absolutely mind blowing. It exceeded all of my expectations and I am so proud that the design really catches the eye.
I am due to launch my title in the UK in January. However, I’m allowed to sell in the USA now and was thrilled to see the books sales rise. There is definitely a lot of interest generated by the new cover design already.
Imagine, if you will, how it would have been to be a Victorian sailor from 1898. You are on board HMS Thunder Child and the ship is picking up strange semaphore messages from the shore stations. Invaders from Mars are striding about and destroying the entire fabric of your nation. Would you believe such outrages things? The entire ship would be alive with speculation and disbelief. These sailors were destined to see three and confront the colossal edifices in battle.
Friday, 9 December 2016
Carole and I had been sitting at a cafe on a raised balcony walkway that overlooked the sea at Funchal, Madeira. The very sea one can spot beyond this derelict and abandoned house. We had been enjoying the coffee and chatting about how great this warm winter weather was. How idyllic it would be to live in such a place with this panoramic sea view.
Such was the nature of our idol banter when we paid the waiter and walked up the lane to spot this very place. It was empty and in need of some TLC. However, the grounds and the building, as one can see, held nothing but grand promise.
Carole and I fell in love with the house and dreamed on for a while. We fantasised about living in such a wonderful place with a gorgeous view. It was only a dream but we indulged ourselves for a few moments with the good old "What if..." thoughts.
No doubt someone would buy the grand place in the near future. It is, after all, a prime house in a prime location.
We made our first port stop of the cruise holiday in the port of Funchal, Madeira - an island west of the Spanish Canary Islands that belongs to Portugal. It is a wonderfully green island and I have to say it is one of the most favourite overseas places that I long to visit. It is vibrant and green and the town of Funchal is a bustling happy place that enjoys a fabulous climate. It was December 1st and the afternoon temperature was in the early eighties. It was a glorious little place.
To make my morning start off with a happy feel good factor, our ship The Oceana moored right behind a British Royal Navy vessel called HMS Scott. I watched from the top aft deck of our cruise liner. I saw two officers and a navel hand hoist the naval ensign flag. It seemed to be a morning ceremony.
It was great to see our lads flying the flag and we delighted in watching the flag being hoisted dead on 0800 hours. Great stuff and a good start to the wonderful day that was to come.
The early cloud cleared and the day turned bright blue. Carole and I know Funchal rather well now and we enjoyed the walk from the port into the town centre.
The last day of the holiday going ashore was in Lisbon, Portugal. I've been here before and love the place. It was December 6th and the day was glorious touching the eighties in the afternoon. City workers were sitting along the dock area basking in the sun. It was smashing as Carole and I walked about the city.
Afterwards, we sat on the top deck of our ship looking out at the city and watched the sun go down. There was more daylight for the time of year than we get in England. I suppose it is a little closer to the equator. I kept commenting on what a smashing day it was. I would love to spend winter in Portugal when I'm older. I would still like to go back to Britain in the summer, but I prefer the winter in Spain or Portugal. 😊
The first thing I noticed as the ship docked in the port of Cadiz, was the rain.
"Oh, blast! It's raining," we said.
But we went ashore and walked the quaint narrow streets anyway. We found a coffee shop and killed some time watching the drizzle. It soon stopped and the sun came out as we began to explore the wonderful narrow lanes of the old city. It was a beautiful day and the shopping area was grand. Soon the wet morning had become bright and sunny.
It was a very oldy world place in many ways and was a great way to pass the time of day before setting off for Lisbon in Portugal. As the afternoon wore on the temperature climbed to the upper seventies. It was hard to believe this was winter December 5th.
Spain is a wonderful country where the pace of life seems a little less hectic then we Brits are used to. Perhaps this is a good thing. The Spanish people seem a lot more laid back as they go through the day. I think their weather is so much more agreeable than Britain's.