Friday, December 29, 2006

The Isle of Dreams

This is an excerpt from a story I submitted for an anthology to be published by Elder Signs Press. The art is by the talented Steven Gilberts; the cover design by the ever-creative Deborah Jones.
The story concerns a British privateer vessel at sea over a year as it travels through the Pacific. As the story opens, the ship is being swept along by a powerful wind, and certain things the captain’s son has said made the officers want to take full advantage of the speed it affords them.

I never developed an interest for stories based in the Age of Sail, but since doing research for this piece, I’ve found the period to my taste. I’ve noticed some calls for these stories on Ralan’s, so perhaps I’ll pen another one if the mood strikes. I hope you like this little sample, I think it shows the mood I was going for and at least touches on the main characters.

The Isle of Dreams

“I don’t like these seas Sir. I’ve never heard a good word and many a bad one about them. There’ll be a cracked brain before we’re clear o’ this gust, mark me,” Samualson said to his superior in a conspiratorial tone.

Richard looked up to the sky, trying to think of words to comfort the younger officer and perhaps quiet his own misgivings about their voyage. He had heard the stories of ships gone missing or found adrift and filled with spoils without a crewman aboard. They were far from the normal haunts of the French navy, on a mission whose importance only the captain knew. Captain Rogers’ successes and generosity with French spoils were near legendary, so when he told his crew that they’d be gone to sea for two years or more, but they’d all return rich men, they kissed their lady loves goodbye and signed on. The captain neglected to tell them they would be sailing uncharted waters where rumors said Death itself kept hearth and home.

In the firmament above, the Moon was only a sliver, as if curious but barely able to muster the courage to peek in on poor benighted souls. Not a star pierced the sky’s black raiment, nor a cloud offered hope of sweet summer rain to refill the empty barrels now rolling about the deck. Two days ago the grog had taken on a poisonous taste and what was left of the water was under strict rationing.

“Squalls such as this have a way of dying as suddenly as they begin. These are good men, most of them anyway; I’m confident you’ll get them through until morning.”

Samualson’s thin fingers began drumming a staccato beat on his hat as he spoke, “I appreciate ye’r confidence Sir, but to be quite honest, ‘s not just the tales nor the wind that be botherin’ me really,” and the young officer’s voice became so low it barely carried on the wind to Richard’s ears, “it’s the boy.”


Stewart Sternberg said...

As Chuck knows, I too have been writing a story about the sea. And it's infectious. Once you start learning more about that life, you start smelling the salt, feeling the boredom, the oppression, the freedom, the range of emotions of those men and their times.

Reading the Hornblower series, the Master and Commander series, "Any Approaching Enemy" by Jay Worrall...makes a writer want to jump in and have at it.

Exciting stuff.

The only problem I have with writing about this era of history is the ignorance of the average reader with it. It's like writing about aliens and alien culture....and hoping the reader will take the time to try and understand what you are talking about..or having to dumb down the jargon.

One person told me: When I read some of the nautical terms in your story, I just trusted you that they were correct or necessary and were there for a purpose or part of the flavor of it all.

AYE...Me Harteys..AYE.

Lucas Pederson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lucas Pederson said...

Sea stories are fascinating, gritty and done right, as you have done here Chuck, a little creepy. God only knows what sorts of leviathans lurk under the seas of the world. What strange and hungry beasts swim and hide from human eyes. The sea is mysterious in so many ways. I agree with Stewart here. Most readers just assume you the writer knows what he/she is talking about with stuff like dealing with sterns and helms and Blast'yee ya land lubbers! Stuff like that. I have yet to write a story about the sea, but damn it Chuck you inspired me to at least giver her try with "Isle of Dreams". Thanks again...

Vwriter said...

All right, Chuck, I'll take the hit for being the picayune bastard.

First, I think you were aiming for a "staccato beat" on Samualson's hat in the last paragraph. Stucco is that goopy looking crap slapped on the side of artsy southwestern houses. Second, was his hat on his head? I'm trying to imagine this guy tapping this beat on a hat that's on his head. Think about it. It just struck me kind of weird.

By the way, I love the piece, as you know. I just want to give you some straight feedback on the details.

Next, regarding the line "...uncharted waters where rumors said Death itself kept hearth and home," if you had it to do again, would you still include the word "itself?" Also, would you use the concept "hearth and home?" The hearth and home for death hit me odd (althouth I did have champagne last night and my head hurts today).

Anyway, I like the other stuff that was posted by the other guys, but those few points got me thinking. Now I'm going through my own stuff more critically and have decided to become an artist or a hockey player.

Chuck Zaglanis said...

Hi Rick,

You're right about the spelling, I've changed it in the blog and the story.

If you remember earlier in the story, the 1st officer had to take his hat off because of the wind, and the 2nd was waving his hat at the crew to get their attention. I'll try to illustrate that better in the story.

If I'd used the Grim Reaper image, I'd have used "he," but since Death itself has no gender...? I'd still use "itself."

I like the hearth and home reference. I think it has a good cadence, and sounds old-timey. (shrugs). I dunno, I'll give it some thought.

Your feedback is always appreciated Rick.

Christina Rundle said...

Congratulations. I'm trying to get a few of my short stories picked up and it is not easy. I'm excited for you. The cover art is beautiful.

Stewart Sternberg said...

By the way Chuck..when am I going to see more than this excerpt. I want to read the whole thing. I am looking forward to it. I just read this passage again for the fifth time.

Stewart Sternberg said...

rick..I think you would make a cute hockey player.

Vwriter said...

It's because of the mask, right?

Hey, I've got to tell you guys that I admire you all the more now that I'm getting a taste of this historical research stuff. It's.... work!

Chuck Zaglanis said...

Thank you Christina. I wish we were a monthly magazine. Hell I wish we were weekly. So many good, even excellent, stories get rejected because the competition is so fierce. And it seems like a great many of the markets are dying right now-it's certainly a rough time to be a writer right now.