Friday, August 5, 2016

Love on the High Seas!

I love the sea and the ships that sail upon it. I also love a romance with a sea captain hero. So, in writing my Regencies, it was inevitable one or more would be set on a ship. Two of my romances are set, at least in part, on a schooner of the period: Wind Raven, the third in my Agents of the Crown trilogy, and To Tame the Wind, the prequel to the trilogy, a Georgian romance.

When I began to do the research for these stories—the part set on the ship—I had no idea what was involved.

Since I’m committed to making my stories historically authentic, I dove into all the ship terminology, pouring over my new 4-inch thick Sailor’s Word Book until late at night. But I realized just having the vocabulary was not enough. I wanted to be able to describe a storm at sea as huge waves crashed onto the deck and a battle that had shot bringing the sails down around the characters. For To Tame the Wind, I had to describe battles raging in the English Channel. And I wanted to do it all while getting the ship terminology correct. So, I did hundreds of hours of research and studied diagrams of schooners and sail configurations until I was seeing them in my dreams

But even that was not enough. I had to get the feel of the ship. I decided it was essential to take a ride on an actual schooner.

The schooner pictured below, as painted by artist William Lowe, is the Californian, a reproduction of a topsail schooner of the period that, fortunately for me, is berthed in San Diego where I live. It is the type of schooner Capt. Jean Nicholas Powell sails in Wind Raven and his father, Capt. Simon Powell sails in To Tame the Wind. And this is the ship I experienced under sail.

It was thrilling to hear the sails luffing, feel the wind on my face as the ship’s bow cut through the waves and the deck moving beneath my feet. (And, yes, it does move a lot.)

While on board, I soon exhausted the knowledge of the docent, at least as to the Georgian and Regency era ships. However, I found a jewel in the gunner, who became my technical consultant, and now my good friend. She led me through the things my research could not tell me. Even a simple question like whether the quarterdeck should be raised. You’d be surprised at how complicated the answer is.

Some schooners were flush-decked, that is everything on the main deck is on one level, like the Wind Raven and the Fairwinds in my stories, so that you could walk from the bow to the stern without going up or down any ladders. The ship still has a “quarterdeck”; it’s just not raised.

If you compound this kind of issue many times over with everything from windows in the captain’s cabin (side windows existed in larger schooners such as in my stories), to what the captain might read (it’s in Wind Raven), to how a fast schooner can avoid the guns of a larger brig-sloop (it’s in To Tame the Wind), you begin to get a picture of the depth of research required to “get it right.” But the end result, I believe, is a story that puts you on the ships and gives you exciting tales of love on the high seas.

One reviewer said after finishing Wind Raven

“... it had me feeling the spray of the ocean in my face, my hair and clothing plastered to my body, the chill of my blood when you know, just know that you’re time is up and you’re done for.”  

Want to sail with my characters? Take a look at the storyboard pictures for To Tame the Wind on the Pinterest board. And check out the books on my website

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