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The Town from Hell

What would a town from hell be like? It wouldn’t be a good vacation spot for sure. In my YA supernatural/horror book, Dagger & Brimstone: Town from Hell, Winthrop is the town from hell. It’s a fictional town in the middle of the desert where the book’s protagonist couple go on vacation, and their experience is far from pleasant. For fun, I used a 6- by 6-inch watercolor pad and created a picture book of Winthrop. I’ll post the fake picture book in three consecutive blogs.

DAB Page 1.jpg DAB Page 2.jpg

DAB Page 3.jpg DAB Page 4.jpg

What’s living in Winthrop? More than visitors realize…

Plots, Protagonists and Pirates

Protagonists in books are supposed to go through some kind of change from the beginning of their adventure to the end. Usually, they learn or grow through their experience, accomplish a goal, or attain both. In fiction writing, the character’s transformation makes up the plot.

For most of the crew of the Fleurie Jean in Pirates Off the Deep End and subsequent books in the Pirates Off series, their main goal in every book is to complete a task, which is usually delegated by a ghost pirate and is non-negotiable. The crew, Tommy, Connor, Dillon, and their captain, Hoody, always gain a valuable lesson from each quest. The fifth crew member, Cosette, changes in a different way.

Cosette and Her Pirate Boyfriend

Captain Jacques Mignard was a terrible boyfriend for Cosette back in the 1800s, and he didn’t improve after he turned into a ghost. Because he double-crossed Volange, a powerful sea witch, she turned Cosette into a ship’s wooden figurehead, a curse that was in place for over a hundred years. Mignard was unable to reverse the witch’s spell when he became a ghost, and he couldn’t find anyone who could.

Cosette figurehead

Cosette went from the front of a ship in France to a restaurant’s wall in New England when the days of wooden ships had past. She hung there in limbo for a long time until Connor and Tommy sawed her off. To fast forward, they cut a deal with Captain Mignard, which involved taking Cosette, the figurehead, to Volange to have the spell reversed.

Read the Fine Print on Any Contract

Tommy is clever, or so he thought. However, Volange had hundreds of years’ more experience in making deals than the 12 year old. After Mignard’s original deal with the sea witch went sour, Tommy bargained with Volange so she’d bring Cosette back to life. She held to her word, and Cosette was freed of her figurehead state and made a living, breathing—dog. A Brittany spaniel. However, if Tommy didn’t make good on his part of the bargain, Volange vowed she’d reverse Cosette’s living status and turn her into a figurehead for eternity.

Brittany spaniel

Spoiler Alert : Cosette Changes Once Again

Tommy and the rest of the crew go to Scotland to fulfill the bargain with Volange. Tommy’s ever-present mentor, Francois l’ Olonnais even provides “help” by recruiting a Scottish ghost pirate, Captain Red Boots, to guide them. Boots refreshes the boys’ memories that pirates can’t be trusted, and they learn the value of brotherhood, selflessness, and the fine art of negotiation. Cosette learns that she can trust the Klopts with her life, which she gets back with their persistence, and that the world has changed a lot since the 1800s.

Cosette 1 watercolor

Characters have to grow and change to make a story interesting. From figurehead to canine companion to person, Cosette wins the Pirates Off character prize for going through the most changes. Dealing with the Klopts on a daily basis, however, should be a prize in itself. Read about Cosette and the crew’s latest adventure in Pirates Off the Mark.

The Trouble with Ghost Pirates

Francois l’Olonnais, a 1600s French buccaneer, has long since gone off to a different realm, but he didn’t leave pirating behind. Being a ghost is merely a speed bump on an already dark and potholed road to hell. Along the way, he decides to become a mentor so his legacy will continue…”Or something stupid like that” as Tommy Klopt his protégé says in the adventure Pirates Off the Wall.

With the ghost lingering around and getting them into more trouble, Tommy Klopt and the rest of his family, Captain Hoody (his dad), and brothers Connor and Dillon have a hard time retiring from the pirating business.

The ghost has an ever-watchful eye on the Klopts, and sometimes, he uses his persuasive charm to ward off threats made to them:

L’Olonnais pulled his cutlass from its sheath. “Oui, Capitaine Hoods’ list of wrongdoings is quite long, but so is my cutlass. ‘Tis long and sharp. I’d say it could dispense with your head in one swipe…possibly deux.” He sneered. “And don’t even think about shooting me. I am already dead.”

When negotiating doesn’t work, such as with ghost pirate, Captain Mignard, he’s ready to duel.

Ghostly Duel acrylic

Lost in Translation

Most of the time, the ghost lets the Klopts find their own way out of sticky situations—at times because he can’t help given his ghostly restrictions. The French pirate’s warnings aren’t always crystal clear and are a constant source of frustration for Tommy and especially Connor.

“’Tis not what I desire, but what you desire that I bear news about.”

“Beware of the living, not the driftwood.”

“You can trick people into believing you are who you tell them you are.”

Connor sums up l’Olonnais in his own special way: “He’s a nut case, and we don’t need him screwing up our already screwed-up lives again.”

Captains Don’t See Eye to Eye

Hoody is not intimidated by l’Olonnais although the pirate used him as shark bait, lost him in a card game, and sent him on a one-way cruise to Iceland. L’Olonnais refers to Hoody as l’idiot. He uses threats, but they bounce off Hoody such as:

L’Olonnais’ nostrils flared, and he gritted his teeth. “Oui, I have my cutlass, and ‘tis sharp enough to cut your head off.” His dark eyes were intently fixed on Hoody.

Hoody remains mild-mannered and gets right to the point when he deals with the ghost:

Hoody shook his head. “Speaking of things that aren’t obvious, why are you back? You have your cutlass. Shouldn’t you be lounging around on your ship waiting to terrorize unsuspecting children?”

Pirates and Sea Witches Can’t Be Trusted

The sea witch Volange adds to the Klopts’ problems. She’s beautiful, spiteful and powerful, which makes l’Olonnais avoid her and Mignard sorry he ever crossed her. Volange turned Mignard’s redhaired girlfriend, Cosette, into a ship’s figurehead for 100 years.

Cosette 1 watercolor

Tommy strikes a bargain with the aqua-eyed sea witch to save Cosette, despite his disdain for Mignard. This actually pleases Volange, but it doesn’t mean she plays fair.

Volange acrylic

The sea witch grinned. “Yes, I will bring Cosette to life again. I promise.”

That guarantee definitely came with fine print. As Tommy learns, a deal is a deal no matter how screwed up it is. The deal with Volange sends the Klopts on their way to Scotland with Cosette. She may not be a ship’s figurehead, at least for the time being, but she’s not quite her normal self. The Klopts success in Scotland will determine her fate.

A Quick Read with Action, Adventure, and Laughter on the High Seas

Being eaten by cannibals was just a setback for one of the most feared pirates in history, François l’Olonnais. The 16th century French pirate’s name may not be as well known as Blackbeard, Calico Jack, or William Kidd, but his evil reputation has hung around long after his demise in 1668.

lolonnais face part 1

Accounts of his life and treachery are sketchy; yet, what little is known paints a gruesome picture of the buccaneer. He honed torturing techniques, such as beheading and popping captives’ eyes out of their sockets, when he wasn’t pillaging or engaging in his favorite pastime, taking revenge on the Spanish. You can find more non-fiction on l’Olonnais, but the rest of this blog focuses on his current, and, of course, fictional activities.

The Pirate Ghost

Four hundred years after becoming a meal, l’Olonnais continues to haunt people as a ghost. All hell breaks loose when his cherished cutlass is removed from the wreckage of his ship, somewhere off the Panama coast. After the cutlass is stowed away in a trophy case out of the buccaneer’s reach, he stops at nothing to get it back. L’Olonnois believes only a special person can reclaim what is lost, and he has his sights on that person.

Cliff Klopt, the Captain

Enter the Klopt family. The patriarch, Cliff, is a mild-mannered, all-around family guy. The college graduate is a skilled mechanic, among other talents, good looking, and environmentally conscious. However, times are tough. He lost his job, wife, home, and most of his ability to reason along with his common sense. The only possession he has left is his old boat, which he decides will make a great pirate ship. Steal from the rich and give to—charity. The Robin Hood pirate, nicknamed Hoody, isn’t the best pirate in history, but he’s handy and tries to be prepared. However, nothing could possibly prepare him for an angry pirate ghost on a mission.

The Crew of the Swashbuckler

Hoody’s crew is comprised of his boys, Connor, Tommy, and Dillon. Connor is quick-witted and cautious, Tommy is creative and reckless, and Dillon is smart and carefree. The three brothers know Hoody has gone off the deep end, but they honor their mother’s dying wish—watch out for each other—and they play along.

Boys dock small

For a while, living on the boat is fun, but a brush with real pirates is a wake-up call. The boys come up with a plan to get Hoody to quit pirating; however, the plan is shattered when they encounter l’Olonnais and he chooses one of the boys as his protégé.
The ghostly buccaneer doesn’t negotiate with the boys. Besides, he holds a major bargaining chip—Hoody. He gives the boys and hourglass and says, “The sand will run out in three days. You cannot cheat the hourglass or stop it. You have until the sand runs out to return my cutlass. If you do not, your captain dies.” With their father’s life on the line, the journey begins.

Don’t Trust a Pirate or Make Assumptions

If you enjoy Pirates of the Caribbean, Harry Potter, and Goosebumps, you may be surprised that all three series are considered middle grade books. Don’t automatically assume that middle grade means boring and babyish; books are classified that way simply because they lack dirty words, sex, and are a shorter read.

Who doesn’t like a good pirate tale after all? If it’s short enough to read on a plane or train commute—even better. Give Pirates Off the Deep End a try and see what François l’Olonnais is up to.

In Between Writing

I could never be bored. When I’m not at work, doing things with or for my family, or taking care of my miniature zoo of pets, I love to write, paint, play tennis, go to yoga, work out, read, garden, walk the dogs, hike…I think you get my point. So much to do and not enough time.

Creating a blog takes up some of that precious time, but I enjoy posting every so often. You may have caught one of my posts about writing, but this time, I’m going to share some of my artwork. I enjoy dabbling in all types of media, but watercolor in probably my favorite.

Murphy

Covered Bridge

The covered bridge in an actual working bridge in Pennsylvania Dutch country. The portrait is of Murphy. If you like my paintings, click here to see more.