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Jimmy Webb and Magellan’s Navigator

Jimmy Webb

Jimmy Webb, the legendary Grammy winning songwriter, enjoys historical fiction. The other night I gave him a copy of Magellan’s Navigator after listening to an evening of his songs and stories at Dimitriou’s Jazz Alley.

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The King’s Galley Is Published

Canny Greek Albo becomes master and pilot of a Spanish galley sailing against the infamous Barbary pirate Barbarossa. Death or enslavement will be his likely fate unless he can whip his raw crew into shape and curb the worst tendencies of his vengeful captain.

Think Master and Commander on a galley powered by sail and oar.

Two years of plotting, writing, researching, and editing are over.

I hope you enjoy it!

To buy follow this link: https://amzn.to/2ptXMzz

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September 26, 1519 – Magellan’s Fleet Arrives in the Canary Islands

In late summer, trade winds blow from Spain to the Canary Islands. This made the Canaries a frequent stop for mariners, including Columbus, headed to the New World. Magellan’s fleet arrived there after six days. The short voyage served as a shakedown cruise for the ships’ crew, most of whom had never sailed together before. Some of the grumetes, apprentice seamen, had never been out of sight of land.

Magellan spent three days at the port of Santa Cruz on Tenerife refilling his water barrels, loading more firewood, and purchasing salt cod. He also hired more men. Recruitment was a challenge for Magellan. The Spanish bureaucrats favored staffing their ships sailing to the New World. The multinational composition of Magellan’s crew is testimony to the recruiting challenges he faced. Apart from Spaniards and Portuguese, sailing with him were Italians from Lombardy to Venice to Sicily, Greeks, Frenchmen, an Englishman, a Norwegian, Dutchmen, an Irishman, and an Austrian as well as a few slaves or servants from India and Africa.

Also aboard was Magellan’s slave Enrique, purchased in Malaya seven years earlier at age fourteen, and listed as an interpreter. Once in the Philippines he played a major role in the armada’s fate. Interestingly, Enrique received a handsome salary of 1500 maravedis per month. That’s more than an able-bodied seaman and as much as a skilled cooper or gunner. Since he appears to have had a close relationship with Magellan, perhaps the money was indeed his.

Leaving Santa Cruz, the ships sailed to Monte Rojo on Tenerife, where they spent four days loading pitch. This prosaic substance was essential for keeping the ships seaworthy. At least twice during their voyage they careened the fleet, replaced rotten planks, and caulked seams.

An ominous visit occurred in Monte Rojo that foreshadowed the problems what would plague the fleet over the next year. A caravel arrived bearing a message from Magellan’s father-in-law. It warned him that the Spanish captains intended to kill him and take over the armada. Magellan fashioned a diplomatic reply despite diplomacy not being his strongest trait. Unfortunately, the warning was all too justified.

At midnight on October 3rd, the fleet raised anchor and sailed south.

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A Real Red Wedding

A fun part of writing historical fiction is that I get to read a lot of history. I go to some lengths to get the history accurate. Once a book’s plot is set, I start delving into the locations. For example, for my current book The King’s Galley, what did Seville, Barcelona, Algiers, and Naples look and feel like in 1523? I never know what I might find.

Researching Naples, I immediately realized the formidable thirteenth century Castel Nuovo deserved a major role in my book. Studying the plans of the castle, I discovered the Hall of the Barons. Hmm. What’s that? Did the local barons meet there?

No. The name comes for an infamous red wedding rivalling that in George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones. The wedding was in 1487, thirty-six years before my book. The niece of King Ferrante of Naples was to marry the son of one of the local barons. The people welcomed this. Hopefully, it would end the decade’s long feud between Ferrante and the barons. Only thing was, while Ferrante wanted to end the feud, he wanted to do it on his terms. Once the guests were in, guards locked the doors, and the barons, their sons, and the groom ended up in Ferrante’s dungeons. He executed the lucky ones, while the unlucky ones were drawn and quartered. The feud was over.

Did Martin use this wedding as inspiration? I don’t think so. His story seems more rooted in Irish and Scottish history. But the real red wedding in the Hall of the Barons rivals the fictional one!

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Magellan’s Fleet is about to Sail (Five Hundred Years Ago.)

Magellan_1810_engravingJune, 1519. Final preparations are underway for the sailing of Magellan’s fleet to find a route to the Molucca Islands, the sole source of cloves in the world. Over a year earlier, on March 22, 1518, the Portuguese Magellan signed an agreement with young King Charles of Spain to pioneer the route. Five ships purchased in Cádiz were towed up river to Seville, and there fully refurbished. Francisco Albo, first mate of the flagship Trinidad, works by Magellan’s side on the myriad of details necessary for a successful expedition.

Things haven’t gone smoothly. Officials of the Casa de Contratación de las Indies, which oversees Magellan’s expedition, spend as much time on their own illicit dealings as readying and provisioning the fleet. Nonetheless, Magellan is only months away from sailing. Manning the fleet is a special concern. Portuguese/Spanish rivalry has led to severe restrictions on the number of Portuguese on the fleet. Cliques within the Casa want it manned by Spaniards, but recruiting Spanish sailors isn’t easy. The plague has produced manpower shortages in Spain, and with the discoveries of gold in the New World, it’s more attractive to sign on to sail there than on some unknown route to a place a sailor has never heard of and under command of a foreigner. As a result, Magellan’s fleet will sail with a dysphoria from across Europe, including men from Norway, England, France, and Greece as well as a host of Italians.

More ominously, jockeying for the fleet’s final command posts is in process. Magellan ends up saddled with several mistrustful Spanish captains with no sea experience. That sets the stage for next year’s mutiny in Patagonia and later dire consequences.

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Magellan’s Navigator’s Sequel is Coming!

I can safely say that the sequel to Magellan’s Navigator will be out before George R.R. Martin’s The Winds of War. Okay. I know that isn’t saying much. Let me rephrase that. I believe the sequel to Magellan’s Navigator will be out this year. Half of it is written and in good shape, while all of it is plotted.

Briefly, the sequel is Master and Commander on a galley in 1523. Albo becomes master and pilot on the Spanish galley Cruz de Barcelona. He battles, as usual, the sea, but also the corsairs of the infamous Barbary pirate Barbarossa. Actually, Barbarossa wasn’t a pirate or from Barbary, but that is part of the story. A blonde countess enlivens Albo’s life while the implacable hatred of his captain for the Moors complicates things.

My attempt to understand early sixteenth century galleys slowed progress on the book. There is no definitive source of exactly what a Spanish galley looked like at this time. There is a replica galley in Barcelona’s Maritime Museum of the flagship galley at the battle of Lepanto in 1571. Unfortunately, this huge ship is not representative of galleys fifty years earlier or even in 1571. There are detailed plans of Venetian galleys. In the end, I assumed Spanish galleys were somewhat larger, more heavily armed, but less agile.

I’m hoping fans will enjoy reading it as much as I am writing it.

My working title is The King’s Galley, but I’m open to suggestions. I thought of Master and Pilot for about five seconds until I realized that was probably too close to Master and Commander.

 

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Mindfield and Mindgames Are Available!

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I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I’ve enjoying writing them over the past several years.

Here’s brief blurb on Mindfield:

Orphaned at age nine when the alien Harn kill his parents, Cam is driven by an all-consuming need for revenge. Vengeance requires more than bravado. He works hard to become a crack C-fighter and develop tactics to defeat the wily Harn. His opportunity comes when he leads his squadron in  the assault to take the Altos system from the Harn. He gets his revenge, but at a terrible price. His friends and lover are killed, and he’s marooned on a fragment of a Harn orbital. There he discovers there may be more to these aliens and the war than he has been told.  His elation upon his rescue is short-lived, and he’s propelled into a desperate quest for the truth about the Harn, his people, and himself.

Mindfield is space opera with a twist of Blade Runner.

Mindgames follows directly upon the events of Mindfield.

Mardi Rall and Cam are mismatched lovers. She is a Lieutenant Commander for the exiled Hartner regime. Cam is a genetically engineered ‘tuber’ fighter pilot with the NorAm government that helped overthrow Hartner. After the exodus of Hartner’s forces from Earth, Mardi and Cam are light years apart, and each are uncertain of the other’s feelings for them.

Disillusioned by the Hartner regime’s corruption, Mardi joins a plot to overthrow it. Hartner’s ouster will correct many wrongs, but if the coup fails, her fate is, at best, a summary execution.

Meanwhile, the alien Harn request Cam’s presence at a summit with the NorAm government. The Harn claim a warlike species called the Synnax will soon attack Earth. Humankind’s existence is at stake, but why have the Harn offered this warning and what do they want in return? And why do they insist Cam, and Mardi, attend the negotiations?

Mardi and Cam see a chance for reunion. Before that happens, they find themselves in the midst of a power struggle between the Harn, Hartner, and NorAm with the lives of millions, including their own, at risk.

For Mindfield in ebook, paperback, or Kindle Unlimited click: https://amzn.to/2BEq2VO

For Mindgames click: https://amzn.to/2wly6EO

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