Wednesday 13 March 2013

Please welcome - Helen Hollick

I am delighted to welcome the author, Helen Hollick, and to be part of her 2013 blog tour, as she celebrates the release of her latest pirate adventure, Ripples in the Sand.

SilverWood Books

The fourth voyage of Captain Jesamiah Acorne, 

pirate captain and charming rogue.

My Review

Coming new to a well established series is rather like coming late to a party where everyone is well known. Whilst standing nervously in the corner, clutching your party Pimms, you wonder if you will ever get to know anyone, or indeed have enough courage to mingle with the in-crowd. Such is the power of Ripples in the Sand, that even as you stand dithering on the sidelines, the skilful manipulation of the story allows you enough tantalising glimpses into the past story, so that even before you know it, you are singing sea shanties with rollicking gusto.

From the very first chapter of Ripples in the Sand, I was gripped by a story steeped in history and mysticism, and rich in the promise of adventure. Jesamiah Acorne and his wife Tiola, along with a motley ship’s crew are on board the Sea Witch bound for the English coast. Such is the power of the narrative that even as I imagined every creak and groan of the ship’s deck, and felt the icy blast of cold salt air, I was plunged into a dangerous seafaring world, and when a mysterious Navy frigate trails in their wake, I sensed that life was never going to be easy for the captain and crew of the Sea Witch. What then follows is a true adventure, with action that is both fast and furious, and which dips into and out of danger with skilful aplomb.

The snug warmth of a Devon hostelry and the refined despondency of the local gentry are explored in great detail, as is the hissing menace of Tiola’s nemesis, Tethys, the sea-goddess. However, it is in the portrayal of Jesamiah and Tiola where the story gains its heart and soul, there is no doubt that Jesamiah, with his gold acorn earring is the stuff of dreams, but it is Tiola with her ancient mysticism and her ability to sense danger who adds a unique blend of sensitivity and compassion to this exciting story.

To give my rendition of Ripples in the Sand would be doing a great disservice to the skill of this author, whose emotional investment in her characters shines through in every word. My best advice would be to stop dithering on the sidelines at the sea shanty party, and jump headlong into the story - better still, start at the very beginning, and enjoy every moment of this imaginative series.


Here's Helen,

Jo asked me to write something about my Sea Witch Voyages – she suggested how and why I started out, but followers of my Blog Tour will already be aware of how I ‘met’ Jesamiah on a beach in Dorset.

For anyone who doesn't know, or would like to refresh their memories the story is here:

After the enjoyment of writing Sea Witch I realised that I had a potential series on my hands. I had fallen hook, line and sinker for Jesamiah, and so had quite a few readers; I was getting enthusiastic e-mails and comments on Facebook and Goodreads – and demands for more about Jesamiah. 

I also realised that I ought to have the word ‘Pirate’ in the title because of various word searches on Amazon and other on-line book-sales sites.

The title, Pirate Code, though, was the easy bit! 

I had a rough idea for a plot: Jesamiah gets embroiled in encouraging a revolution on the Spanish-held island of Hispaniola. Needless to say he finds himself in a lot of trouble. I also wanted to establish his relationship with Tiola, his girlfriend – who also happens to be a white witch. (I’m being careful here as I don’t want to give away any spoilers!)

I found myself stuck, however, with an idea for a supernatural-based plot to run alongside the main story adventure. In Sea Witch, my use of Tethys, the spirit goddess of the sea was sufficient (she again returns throughout the series) but I did not want every adventure revolving around her, so had to come up with something different.
I decided on using a ‘daughter’ of Tethys – a mysterious woman in grey who always appears when it is raining. She is Rain – the elemental spirit of rainfall.

I first imagined her peering in through a window at Jesamiah, angry because there was another woman with him….

Leaving the table, the gold-rimmed china coffee cup in his hand, Jesamiah went to peer out at the tempest. The sea below the sheer drop, not a few yards beyond the walls of the house, was spuming foam over the rocks and up the cliff face. How was Sea Witch faring? Was she battling with this wind somewhere?

He sipped at the hot, black, sweet, coffee. Signing those papers before he had been permitted to leave the prison of the Tower had galled. They were his promise to not attempt an escape. That was a nonsense. Did they seriously think pieces of paper would hold him should he choose to go? An old man and a woman as his jailers – oh he was not disillusioned, he was a prisoner here, a bullet would be put in his back if he tried to leave. Which, he figured, the Governor was going to be disappointed about; Jesamiah had every intention of staying put. It was raining outside, there was good food, comfort and a very pretty woman inside. He was not stupid. Besides, what else did he have to do?

* * * 

‘Cesca was standing near him. Compassionate, she reached out, laid her hand on his arm.

A renewed burst of rain stuttered at the window; the catch must have been loose for suddenly it flew open. Cold rain and a swirl of wind rushed in, the curtains crazily lifting, items rattled, the tablecloth billowed upward, knocking over a jug of fruit juice and Jesamiah’s empty cup.

Señor Escudero cried out, ‘Cesca ran to help Jesamiah slam the casement shut, his face, hair and front of his shirt and waistcoat were wet. She did not hear the wild cry of frustration, the scream of annoyance as the window slammed; Jesamiah did, but he told himself it was nothing more than the sound of the wind. And the face he had seen at the window, before it had burst open, had been his unease calling up fanciful notions.

He failed to notice the puddle in the shape of a woman’s footprint on the tiled floor. Had he done so perhaps he would have questioned his sanity.’

Cesca returns in Ripples In The Sand – and whether Jesamiah did or didn't eventually make love to her in Pirate Code I am not revealing here, you’ll have to read the book! 

There was not so much historical fact in Pirate Code, but I researched, as much as I could, the detail of places, and as ever, ensured to the best of my ability that the nautical scenes were factual – thanks to my good friend and excellent maritime author James L. Nelson who kindly edits the Nautical Bits for me. (He complains that the stories are too engrossing – he finds himself reading on from the at-sea scenes!)

I also incorporated more of Jesamiah’s background. This was hard to do because I originally intended
Sea Witch to be a one-off novel, so I had made no plans for intriguing background ideas, plus, if their relationship was to continue, I had to dispose of Tiola’s Dutch husband!

I did know some of Jesamiah’s past:

He had a half-brother, Phillipe, who was a bully. He had not got on well with his father, and after his father’s death, when the plantation in Virginia (Jesamiah’s home) had been left to Phillipe, Jesamiah, aged almost fifteen, fled to sea and a life of piracy. In Pirate Code I had to explore the whys of these facts of his past. Why was Phillipe a bully? Why did his father not love Jesamiah?

I found this fascinating – almost like unravelling a real family’s secrets. And the more I unravelled, the more secrets came into my mind, so while writing Pirate Code I plotted the story for the third Voyage –
Bring It Close. This adventure was to reveal a lot more of the ‘whys’ – and was to feature the most famous pirate of all – Blackbeard.

I wrote Sea Witch, initially, because I had enjoyed the Pirates of the Caribbean - the Curse of the Black Pearl movie, and had become obsessed with Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow. I wanted more Captain Jack – but at that time there was only the one movie planned. (And between you and me, I wish they had stuck with the one. The other three follow-on movies were nowhere near as good, in my opinion.) 

Photo by kind permission of  Helen Hollick
I searched for pirate-based adult novels. Plenty for children and young adults, but nothing for the grown-up with more grown-up material (a bit of sex, for instance). There were nautical adventures: Hornblower, Patrick O’Brian’s wonderful novels, Julian Stockwin’s Kydd series… Jim Nelson’s books – but none were about a charmer of a pirate rogue, and none had that added element of the supernatural.

I wanted something that was as fun to read as Pirates of the Caribbean had been fun to watch. I found nothing. So I wrote my own. Wrote the books I wanted to read. 

And found my very own handsome pirate into the bargain!

Find out more about Helen:


Main Blog:



Publisher : SilverWood Books

Thanks Helen - Jaffa and I are delighted to be part of your 2013 blog tour, and we wish you continued success with your handsome pirate !


  1. Oh my goodness thank you Jo and Jaffa for such a superb review! I'm a bit blown away to be honest - I admit to being a bit nervous of a new reader coming into the series at book four "What if she doesn't like it?" (*bites nails*) But I suppose I should have more faith in my pirate eh? :-)

    1. Hi Helen - Thanks for inviting Jaffa and I onto your blog tour - we've had great fun!

      I'm so excited that my journey with the Sea Witch Voyages has now begun.... and I can get to know the handsome pirate even better !


Thanks for taking the time to comment - Jaffareadstoo appreciates your interest.