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November, 1519 Off Africa…the Trouble Begins for Magellan

Tensions are high among the Armada of the Moluccas officers.

Soon after leaving the Canary Islands, Magellan altered the fleet’s course to a southerly one. Magellan has done so to avoid the Portuguese ships that wait ready to waylay him near the Cape Verdes Islands. When Cartagena, captain of the San Antonia and conjunta persona of the fleet along with Magellan, questions the course change, Magellan refuses to explain. And so begins the overt rift between Cartagena and Magellan.

The fleet initially makes good time, but after a few weeks, a series of hurricanes or tropical depressions hit it. They survive these only to become mired in the hot, humid tropical doldrums for three weeks. The ships barely move. The men are miserable. All fresh food is gone or rotten. The water becomes fetid.

Tempers flare. Cartagena refuses to make the evening salute to Magellan…which is a huge insult to these touchy Iberians. Cartagena and Magellan both stew about the offensive behavior of the other. The scene for more trouble is set when Anthony Salomon, the Sicilian master of the Victoria, is found committing sodomy with a grumete.

 Magellan will have none of that. He convenes a trial by the fleet’s officers his flagship. Salomon is sentenced to death, although not immediately executed. After the trial, the officers discuss the course and their tedious time in the doldrums. Cartagena insults Magellan, and Magellan seizes him by his shirtfront and puts him under arrest. Cartagena appeals to his fellow Spaniards for support, but they don’t move.

Magellan has Cartagena placed in stocks on the main deck…used mainly for the punishment of drunken common sailors. Many officers are aghast at this. Finally, it’s decided Cartagena will be released into the custody of Mendoza, the Spanish Captain of the Victoria. Another of the Spanish clique, de Coca, becomes captain of the San Antonio.

 Things then settle down…for now. But nothing is settled. Magellan’s mistakes will haunt him later. He could have communicated the course change more diplomatically. And then, when Cartagena is deposed, he’s placed in the custody of a confederate. It isn’t clear if de Coca was a ringleader of the Spaniards opposing Magellan, but he wasn’t definitely a friend of Magellan. In any event, Magellan should have placed his brother-in-law in charge of the San Antonio since it carried a substantial portion of the fleet’s supplies.

Finally, the equatorial current carries the fleet into the trade winds, and the fleet begins making good time towards Brazil and the next confrontation between Magellan and Cartagena.

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Thank you, The King’s Galley Reviewers

The first reviews and ratings of The King’s Galley are out on Amazon and Goodreads. It’s gotten two five star and two four star ratings plus two very thoughtful and well written reviews. Thank you readers.

I always think that I’ve written a great book, but there’s no way that I can be objective about my creation after having spent a year or more conceiving, writing, and editing it. The ratings and reviews are the final validation of my effort.

More good news is that October was the best sales month ever for Magellan’s Navigator despite its first being published in December 2016. This was due in part to a significant rise in sales in the United Kingdom and Germany.

I’ve begun work on the sequel to The King’s Galley. It’s about Albo’s adventures as a galley captain in 1524 fighting against the Ottomans. Unlike after Magellan’s Navigator, I have no other writing projects or other distractions, like moving to a new city. I reasonably expect to finish the book within a year.

Again, thank you readers.

 

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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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Mindfield and Mindgames Are Available!

mf cover 072018 PM1215 kindle flattenedMindgames cover kindle 072018 PM0115

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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Fact and fiction in Magellan’s Navigator

Magellan’s Navigator sticks closely to the known facts of Magellan’s voyage. The dates are accurate. Every person named, with one exception, did have a part in the first circumnavigation of the world. There was a master gunner named Andrew who was from Bristol and who died of scurvy soon after leaving Guam. However, Andrew’s wife, Ana Estrada is my invention. On the other hand, Fidelia was Ginés’s wife and believing he was lost, she did remarry before he finally returned.

I used Albo’s logbook to fix the time and place of the fleet during its voyage. Antonio Pigafetta’s Report on the First Voyage Around the World gave me an eyewitness report of the people he met and the places he saw. My descriptions of the rajahs Humabon and Almanzor are from Pigafetta’s book. Also borrowed from Pigafetta are the lengthy lists of gifts to the rajahs. I am indebted to the late Tim Joyner for his book Magellan. His meticulously researched book uses Spanish and Portuguese sources, unlike many other books about Magellan. His fleet rosters are by far the most complete I’ve seen.

So what is fiction? I really don’t know because the events as told in Magellan’s Navigator are both plausible and possible. Historical sources contradict one another about the details of some events, like the mutiny. For example, while my explanation of the San Antonio’s capture during the mutiny can’t be proved, it also can’t be disproved. It is known that for some reason one of the mutineer ships floated helplessly to Magellan’s ships, and Albo could very well have been responsible for that happening.

I did have to simplify things by focusing on a limited number of crewmembers. I did that after early drafts thoroughly confused readers when I included all Albo’s shipmates. I apologize to Leone Pancaldo and the others who deserved to be mentioned, but had to be excised from the story for readability.

One issue I’d like to address is Albo’s ethnicity. Wikipedia lists Albo as being from Rodas, Spain. This is questionable. The Spanish roster simply lists Albo as being from Rodas with a birthplace of Axio. This is consistent with my having Albo being born in Thessaloniki on the Axios River in Greece, and his being most recently from Rhodes (Rodas.)  Roses is evidently an alternative spelling of Rodas. There is a small port of Roses in Catalonia, but I see no associated place name of Axios, which argues against Albo from being there. Andre Rossfelder’s In Pursuit of Longitude  makes the argument that Albo was from Roses, but concedes  he does not know whether Albo was Greek or Spanish. Numerous Portuguese and Spanish historians over the centuries have called Albo a Greek, so I went with the preponderance of opinion. In addition, S.E. Morison in his The European Discovery of America, the Southern Voyages cites a source that claims a survivor of the circumnavigation sailed with Piri Reis, the Ottoman admiral. We know what happened to most of the survivors afterward, except for Albo, who disappears from history. His being from Greece is consistent to his returning to the eastern Mediterranean and working with Piri Reis.

I hope you enjoy Magellan’s Navigator. It is available in print and paperback on Amazon. Just click the photo above.

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Genius, a movie about Maxwell Perkins and Wolfe

Genius, a movie about the great editor Maxwell Perkins (think Fitzgerald, Hemingway and more) and Thomas Wolfe is coming out. That will be a must see for me. If such things interest you, the following link will be of interest.

http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/authors/interviews/article/70466-four-questions-for-max-perkins-biographer-a-scott-berg.html?utm_source=Publishers+Weekly&utm_campaign=2edddcb834-UA-15906914-1&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_0bb2959cbb-2edddcb834-304609113

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