Two new books

Best friends forever...until the first kiss.
Best friends forever…until the first kiss.
Sometimes love isn't enough...until it is.
Sometimes love isn’t enough…until it is.


go on sale today!

The print books are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and all the regular places.

The ebooks are available from me (see links above), Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and all the regular places (iBooks coming soon). From now until May 15, 2014, they will be priced at $1.99. After, they will be $5.99 and $4.99 respectively.

Get ’em now!

Being honest with your fellow man

Jennie Hansen is a respected reviewer/writer in Mormon fiction. She reviews at Meridian Magazine and (I believe) is a judge for the Whitney Awards.

She is also a LIAR.


I have been very unhappily mostly silent about this for two years now, but one of her latest blog posts, “A Reviewer’s Confession,” has me seeing red and I’ll be damned if I sit silent any longer.

In this confession, she said:

Only once did I give a book a one star rating and that was because the language was filthy and the author hadn’t researched LDS policy. (The author came unglued over my rating!)

Oh, Jennie. Honey. You haven’t seen unglued yet.

Why? Because you gave me that rating not actually having read the book. How do I know this? Because this:

the author hadn’t researched LDS policy

is patently untrue.

If you had read past the one-page prologue you would know that.

My journalism training had qualified me as a critic . . .

Apparently you didn’t learn how to check your facts (or other reviews) before opening your mouth.

You also probably don’t grok that part of the temple recommend interview where the bishop asks you if you’ve been honest with your fellow man. Or else you were honest and you don’t have a temple recommend.

I don’t know if you were part of the judging panel for the Whitney Award committee or not, but if you were, that adds another layer of fraud to your pattern of behavior for this book—and is the catalyst for my having come unglued at your “review.”

You lied about reading my book.

In church vernacular, then, I challenge you to:

1) actually read the book and rescind your lie


2) declare publicly that you read the entirety of Magdalene. Anywhere will do: your blog, Goodreads, my blog, Meridian magazine.

But before you attempt #2, I want to direct your attention to Scott Hales’s review (he who is also a respected scholar of Mormon literature), the Exponent II review, and the Publisher’s Weekly review, all of which refute your claim that I did not research church policy.

You lied about reading that book, Jennie. That by itself is dishonorable and worthy of contempt. If you were assigned to read it for the Whitneys, you also tarnished the integrity of the awards.

Own it and confess.

Dunham: The Past

It is finished. I will now wring out my brain.

Now, you! Go go go! Get it and enjoy Revolutionary War swashbuckling on this Independence Day!

Dunham (Tales of Dunham: The Past) cover

Tales of Dunham: The Past
© 2013 by Moriah Jovan
295,000 words


Amazon print | Kindle
Barnes & Noble print | Nook
Smashwords ebook
Google Play ebook
Omnilit ebook
Kobo ebook

EXCERPT: EPUB | Kindle | PDF | online


For an autographed print copy ($27.99 with free shipping; email me for personalization), click the print button (no, it won’t print anything):



Side note: A bit of this book occurs on the Barbary Coast. Celia, the heroine, has spent some time in Egypt. So I am finding the Egyptian uprising today particularly poignant. Independence Day for Egyptians too?

Pre-ordering autographed copies

I finished this project up long before I thought I would. All that’s left is uploading the digital versions to the various sites and pulling the trigger on the print version at Amazon. So it got me thinking. For those of you who like print, how’d you like to pre-order an autographed copy? (Can’t guarantee before the release date, though I will try!)

Now, because I use a POD printer instead of storing 5,000 copies in my garage, they’re pricey (well, okay, in my defense, they can also be used as doorstoppers), BUT I will cover shipping, just like Amazon!

UPDATE: Apparently I was not clear (I R a rytr). If you’d like one, click the “print” button below. I promise it won’t print anything on your printer. 😉

  • $27.99
  • autographed (email me for personalization)
  • free shipping

A professional milestone

It may or may not be common knowledge that, under my real name, I run B10 Mediaworx, an author services / digital formatting company, which I’ve been doing for the past … mmm … four years. I think. Anyway, before that, I was an at-home medical transcriptionist for six years. I haven’t worked out of doors in ten years.

Well, doing this with babies/toddlers isn’t easy, let me tell you, but once they started going to school, my work life got a lot more productive. And it was so blessedly QUIET. I love(d) working at home. Free and breezy. But a couple of years ago, I found I had a lot more work to do AND I was slacking on the internet during the quiet time. So I started going to the UMKC library on Sundays to work, because they’re open until 11:00pm. AND it was a hassle getting a password for the internet, which I declined to do, because I didn’t WANT to be on the internet. One problem: They aren’t open every Sunday. Well, okay, I could work around that.

Until I couldn’t.

In November, we found out my husband’s employer was closing its Kansas City offices and sending its employees home to telecommute. Talk about a life change. And I do not do well with change. Of any sort. Even good ones. (Don’t come near me for two weeks after I’ve moved into a new house. Just don’t.)

For reasons I don’t know, Sunday, I was cruising Craigslist for office space. I mean, that’s not what I started out looking for. But I found this awesome deal for a little hole-in-the-wall above an old store in an old section of Liberty, Missouri. And it happens to be kitty-corner to the perfect bookstore. (Which is still perfect and I see a whole lot of other people are just discovering the concept and thinking they were original. Heh.) I emailed, as per protocol, but heard nothing. My husband had Monday off and said, “Well, why don’t we go up there and see what we can see?” Well, why not, indeed. I took my checkbook, just in case.

An hour later, I had an office. 140 ft2 of rehabbed historical building on Liberty Square, across from the courthouse, down the street from Jesse James Bank Museum, with a door and a lock and, most importantly, NO BOSS.

Today, I started moving in.

And I am ridiculously giddy.

The making of Dunham

And so begins a post (or series of them) (you know how wishy-washy I am) on Dunham, the privateer-heroine and pirate-hero Revolutionary War swashbuckler, which, for those of you not following the serial, will be available for sale July 4, 2013.

To kick it off, here’s the final cover for the official book:


I struggled with the question of whether to go with a slightly modified version of the serial’s cover to deal with familiarity to those who’ve followed the story all year (yes, almost a year!). But in the end, I decided not to. Why? Several reasons.

1. At and during the RT Booklovers convention two weeks ago in Kansas City, I had a few marketing epiphanies courtesy of Tracey Reid (but most of which I can’t articulate yet, which is why I haven’t written about it).

2. My attempt at articulating this epiphany to my friend Melissa Blue brought forth an issue I hadn’t thought about: my books’ covers. ALL OF THEM. The fact that they needed a serious makeover. And that it must be done before Dunham was released to take advantage of the marketing wave.

3. So I did that. The Proviso, Stay, Magdalene, and “Twenty-dollar Rag” have new covers. In a different post, I’ll talk about the evolution of those, as I did before, long ago when I was just starting out.


4. After I had done that, I realized that the variation of the serial cover I had made could not conform to the format I’d made for the previous titles, so I scrapped it and redid it from scratch.

I also decided to remove the series tag from Dunham and, subsequently, book 5, which is a post-apocalypse polyandry tale (as yet not officially titled). That, too, was for a reason: people see a series number and assume that the series has an overall arc and that book X is NEXT in the chronology. It makes them less inclined to pick it up because who wants to start something in the middle of a series? Even so, the four contemporary ones above, while perfectly able to be read alone, are, in fact, chronological, and so the series tag is appropriate.

Yet I needed the cover of Dunham to conform with the first four while still being separate. You will also notice that the featured couple is on the back instead of the front. Why was this? Because Dunham is as much epic adventure as it is romance, I want to capture male readers. There are ships involved and thus, naval battles.[1]

And so we have a cover that reflects the pattern of the four contemporary covers, but is also separate.

People DO judge a book by its cover because marketing has evolved so much that people can tell exactly what’s in it. Well. Maybe not exactly. But close enough to the target market to do the job.


[1] I have done as well as I could regarding ship details and battles involving tall ships, which, I will have you know, is very difficult to come by for this very narrow window of time. It was a time of shipbuilding upheaval and drastic changes in naval warfare that began somewhere around 1760 and ended right around 1798, from which evolved the zenith of tall ship building and warfare, on display at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. In short, a LOT of significant things happened in shipbuilding technology and naval warfare between 1780 and 1805.

Veni, vidi, vici.

stfu_lg1I had several ideas for this post’s title:

“I’m not one of you.”
“Repeating myself”
“Tired of the sound of my own voice”
“Being silent”
“Serial starter”

Anyway, all of them are pertinent to my point, but they all mean different things. I’ll take them one by one.

“I’m not one of you.”

In the cult of self-publishing, the loudest voices are the ones who write fast and put out an oeuvre faster than I can switch channels on the TV. They are the ones who say such things as:

“If you’re not writing, you’re not a writer.”
“If you want to make any money at this, you have to write X number of words per day.”
“Writing is a business.”
“You must outline to write a decent book.”

and my personal favorite,

“Writers are lazy,” which post I would link to, but it has since been pulled. (Here’s the rebuttal.)

It’s all bullshit. Rather, the fact that all writers must follow these instructions as gospel is bullshit. The fact is, writers write for a whole host of reasons, only one of which is to make their works commodities. I provide a commodity service. I’m not in the business of writing novels to make them commodities too.

Commodities are soulless, interchangeable widgets, and I don’t believe that books are commodities at all. I also don’t believe that writing fast makes a book soulless. I simply can’t write that fast and put the time and thought into them that I do.

So, to you incessant voices in self-publishing and those of you who were trained as midlist authors to keep putting product out there, I’m not one of you.

Which leads me to my second point:

“Repeating myself”

I am not on the vanguard of self-publishing. Dan Poynter is. Aaron Shepard is. Morris Rosenthal is. April Hamilton is. They are mostly nonfiction writers and they speak to writers of niche nonfiction. For instance, Dan started out publishing parachuting and skydiving treatises.

I am, however, on the vanguard of self-publishing fiction, along with Ann Somerville and others in niche genres. I took a lot of heat for it, too. The loudest voices in self-publishing now were once rabid anti-self-publishers and some of them attacked me personally both publicly and in email for it. Hey. Assholes. I blazed your trail. You’re welcome.

(Oh, is that arrogant? Yeah, I know. I’m a woman. I’m not supposed to be arrogant. Suck it.)

I’ve said all I want to say, I’m noticing repetitious themes in my writing that annoy me, and I’ve become

“tired of the sound of my own voice.”

You may have noticed that, other than posting Dunham chapters, I haven’t blogged a lot.

“Being silent”

I seek silence like water seeks the ocean. You wouldn’t know it to meet me at a cocktail party, conference, or convention, but I’m an introvert. (Please see “Caring for your introvert” and “Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule.”)

“Serial starter”

I like to start projects. I rarely finish them. The ones I finish, I really, really care about. And then I abandon them. Because I’m bored with that.

“Veni, vidi, vici.”

You know where I’m going with this by now. For decades, I have wanted to be a published author. Like, since I was 15, which is exactly three decades. It may have been earlier, when I was around 10 and wanted to submit something to one of the Reader’s Digest quip sidebars. I knew how to follow instructions. My submission wasn’t published. But by the time I was 15, I had found out a) how to submit to Harlequin, b) what to submit to Harlequin, c) how many words I had to write to submit to Harlequin (Presents line, in case you were wondering), and d) about how much a Harlequin advance was and how much in royalties I could expect and when (answer: zero, which was okay with me at the time).

Along the way I have had disappointments and obstacles and tangential projects and replacement projects, all while going to school, earning a living being, basically, an administrative handyman because I had an unbelievable skillset and a degree. You know, living life as a marginally normal person. There was always something odd about me. Everybody knew it but me, until I finally got a clue by working in a very dysfunctional place.

So along comes 2007 and, after 7 or 10 or however many years when I had given up writing totally, out pops this doorstopper. And so I published it. And so I had MOAR STORIES TO TELL!!! So I did that. And here we are, five years later and I’m about to publish book 4 in a planned 5-book series, and I realized this morning…I’m done. I did it. I did what I wanted to do, which was to get my stories out on paper and to the public.

I have no more stories. I will write book 5, but it’ll be a while, and I will likely go dark for that time, but I owe those fans who have been slowly accumulating and who love the world I built.

The difference this time, in seeing the light at the end of this obsession’s tunnel, is that for the first time in my life I have no overarching “This is what I want to do.” I’ve done it. I quit writing once and had nothing to fill that creative void so I made a cross-stitch design company and permanently killed my love for my favorite hobby. But always, getting a book published was my overarching life goal–because I thought it would take my entire life to do so. Writing was my life’s work and I never thought I’d run out of stories to tell.

But I have, and now it’s time to move on.

So…where do I go from here?

I dunno, but I’m gonna read a lot of books while I try to figure it out.

Of artists and assholes

"Sit down, let me tell you a story. Once upon a time I ate your hamster this morning."Orson Scott Card doesn’t make a hill of beans’ worth of difference to me. I never read him until I was an adult (and haven’t read Ender’s Game), I was underwhelmed with the Alvin Maker series, and aside from his strong views on homosexuality, he has some other truly whacko ideas that also thoroughly and completely offend my libertarian sensibilities.

I weighed in on the controversy over his short story “Hamlet’s Father” because I can’t stand it when people rant about books they haven’t read. That is intellectually dishonest, and the people I saw doing this promote themselves as intellectually honest. Sorry, nope. Get off your fucking high horse and read the fucking book, then come back and talk to me.

A couple of days ago, I was cleaning out my feed reader and old web articles I’d saved and came across this: Broken, by Lefsetz, a music industry critic, in which he opines about the necessity of great art to come out of broken people. So this was already on my mind when I had an email conversation with a friend who is grieving her relationship with Card’s work because he personally is an asshole.

So this is what I said:

You wanna know why lit programs take the author out of the work? Because they don’t want to know what assholes the authors are.

I don’t know why anybody thinks an asshole can’t write empathetic characters. All you have to do is observe people and understand human nature. And in the end, the authors will reveal themselves to you in one of their characters, or leave bits of themselves in all of them (cf this article’s reference to Peter—the villain, I take it?).

Charles DickensDickens was an ass. Scrooge? Maybe parts of him.

Hitler was a talented artist.

Artists, great ones, are depressive, narcissistic, selfish, mentally ill, and sometimes evil. There are some who know how to act in public and some who don’t. It just kinda goes along with the artist thing.

It’s just that now people have access to these artists’ assholery and they don’t like the type of personality it takes to make great art. Not only that, but they don’t want them to self-medicate to mediate the bad personality traits but keep the great art. They want them to be emotionally stable. They want them to be normal.

Oh, hello, Van Gogh. Mozart. Polanski. (Shall we talk about Polanski?)

But art that touches people doesn’t come out of normal.

Card fans are grieving. Deeply, by the tenor of what I’m reading around the web. While I understand it, I’m kind of unsympathetic because people want great art, but they don’t want people to have the characteristics of what it takes to make great art.

Magdalene and Publisher’s Weekly

For an author, a Publisher’s Weekly starred review is one of the holy grails of reviews. It’s one of those things that, for a writer, is right up there with The Call (“Hi, Mojo. I want to offer you a contract for your book.”). I’ve had pretty close brushes with getting The Call, which (three times, to be precise) ended up to be “I love this book and I want to buy it, but I can’t because of Freak Things 1, 2, and/or 3.” What I have never dared aspire to (especially once I started down the self-pub path) is a review in Publisher’s Weekly at all, much less a starred one. But then Tuesday, this happened:

And you know what? I’m kinda proud because I had some goals with this book and, at least for this reviewer, I hit some of them. Later I received an email from the senior editor of reviews at PW passing along some more remarks the reviewer made, which made me believe that I accomplished almost all of my goals with the book.

But there is one I want to talk about because it’s not one that’s obvious. And it’s not obvious because I set this challenge for my own benefit, not for the reader’s.

In 2008, my editor for Monsters & Mormons, Wm Morris, wrote this piece at A Motley Vision (a Mormon lit blog): Stephenie Meyer’s Mormonism and the “erotics of abstinence.” The erotics of abstinence. Well, that’s an intriguing little idea. He was springboarding from this Time piece: Stephenie Meyer: A New J.K. Rowling?, wherein the author says this:

But it is the rare vampire novel that isn’t about sex on some level, and the Twilight books are no exception. What makes Meyer’s books so distinctive is that they’re about the erotics of abstinence. Their tension comes from prolonged, superhuman acts of self-restraint. There’s a scene midway through Twilight in which, for the first time, Edward leans in close and sniffs the aroma of Bella’s exposed neck. “Just because I’m resisting the wine doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate the bouquet,” he says. “You have a very floral smell, like lavender … or freesia.” He barely touches her, but there’s more sex in that one paragraph than in all the snogging in Harry Potter.

I, like Wm (and pretty much everybody else who read the book), was intrigued by that idea.

In 2008, Mitch and Cassie were a bare glimmer in my mind. I had mentioned Mitch’s name a couple of times in The Proviso with absolutely no intention of following up on that. Cassie didn’t even exist when I wrote the sketch with a nameless unreliable and unlikeable narrator in the style of “Snuff.” I like to do those sometimes, usually because something catches my attention and I’m restless and haven’t written for a while and though I only have a few words in me, they must come out. That 250-word monologue was in my head when I started thinking about Mitch’s role in Sebastian’s life. The two disparate ideas simply wound in and around each other like different streams of smoke drifting on the same breeze, tickling my mind with vague possibilities.

I was still in the planning stages of Magdalene, trying to figure out if I would or would not have my bishop succumb to temptation. I will tell you: I didn’t want him to, because that wasn’t who he was and besides that, I’d already gone down that road with Giselle. But how was I going to do this? I didn’t think I could write sexual tension, didn’t think I could carry abstinence too far and still make it seem legitimate. (We Mormons have all sorts of ways to justify our celibacy, but nobody outside our culture buys a word of it.)

Then I stumbled upon the “erotics of abstinence.” Stephenie Meyer had to go to paranormal lengths to justify abstinence until marriage. I don’t write paranormal, so I didn’t want to do that. She also had teenagers, which is its own justification. I don’t write teenagers, so that was out of the question.

I wanted to do that. With adults. Who weren’t vegetarian vampires. Plausibly.

I wanted to do it better.

So I did.

Dunham 07: Chapter Seven




March, 1780
In the middle of the Atlantic Ocean

From the periphery of her dreams, Celia felt the bed depress beneath her, and though it could not possibly have been Dindi, Celia cast the irregularity of it to the back of her sleep-induced haze and remained settled in the darkness of slumber.

She should not have, she discovered, when her eyes popped open at the harsh pressure of a stranger’s lips upon her own. Her heart lodged in her throat and her sudden fear made her stomach lurch—

Ice blue eyes twinkled in the moonlight piercing through the darkness.

Then she tasted rum and cocoa.

She opened her mouth and wrapped her arms around the man’s broad shoulders, under and through his long silky hair, his skin cold and a bit damp from his midnight row.

“Ah, now that’s a greeting I didn’t expect,” he whispered into her mouth.

“Not even after I ordered my sails trimmed? I expected you days ago.”

He stilled, and she felt him smile against her lips. “And now we are becalmed.”

“Aye. I want my figurehead back.”

“Is that why you are so willing? You’ll fuck me to retrieve it?”

“If I must.”

He chuckled and hoisted himself off the bed to pull the linens back. “Share your bedclothes.”

“Why?” she asked as she moved to accommodate his big body and held the linens for him to slip in.

“Because I’m cold,” he said wryly, and proceeded to prove the point by rolling up against her so that they were cold skin to warm.

Celia squeaked. “God’s teeth, Judas. First you mistake me for a whore, and then you mistake me for a warming brick.”

“And yet you have not chased me out of your cabin for my audacious invasion of your ship and your person. You haven’t even fled to the other side of the bed.”

“You sound particularly pleased with yourself. I told you there were many ways to gain my undivided attention for a night or six.”

“And this is one of them.”

“It is now, although if you had a faster ship, you could have ordered me to heave to and boarded me.”

“I intend to board you, Madam, never fear. And I am keeping your figurehead.”

“Aye, I thought you might say that. I will simply sink your ship, then. If I cannot have it, neither can you.”

He ignored that. “I would like to discuss your questionable judgment in methods for running British blockades.”

Celia laughed. “And all this time I thought talking was the last thing you would wish to do.”

“In time, my love. In time. I’m intrigued. I want to know your mind as much as your body.”

“My mind is not engaged at the moment, Sir,” she murmured and rubbed her palm carefully down his body, thumbing his pap along the way, feeling the hard muscles of his torso—its scars—the peak of his hip, to the nest of curls around his cock. It was flaccid at the moment, but she would expect no less considering the cold. “And ‘twon’t be long until yours is no longer engaged. Kiss me.”

“Aye, Cap’n,” he muttered, as if he had no choice, and pressed his mouth against hers again, opening her lips expertly with his.

It wasn’t the first time Celia had been tempted into bed by a virtual stranger, but it was the first time a man had made such a concerted and sustained effort to get her there.

“Why?” she whispered against his mouth, her fingers running through his long, damp, salt-laden hair.

“Why not?”

• • •
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Dunham 06: Chapter Six


March, 1780
In the middle of the Atlantic Ocean

The morning sun shone bright on Celia’s face. Below her, on the main deck, activity was lazy and, for the most part, curtailed, the crew engaged in menial tasks that nevertheless must be done. Two of the women aboard were mending sails and rope. Two more were in the galley baking the day’s bread. Another was with the men who sat along the rails fishing. Yet another was aloft with Kit, keeping watch. Mary and Solomon were behind her at the communal secretary, Mary dictating correspondence to Celia’s moneylender concerning Celia’s accounts and holdings.

Celia sang the chanteys along with the men, though she grew so lost in her thoughts that it took her a while to realize the other voices had dropped off, and it was her voice alone that filled the sails—and it was not because she was an officer.

Sea witch.

She knew what Skirrow thought: Her success as a woman aboard a ship without need of a disguise, one who had survived a flogging wielded by James Dunham, was a result of a bargain she had struck with Lucifer.

Skirrow looked at her askance, half afraid, half aroused. She stared back at him while she sang, lifting her brow. He turned away, unable to hide his unease with her. That did not go unnoticed, if the sudden shift of several men’s bodies around her were anything to go by.

Celia arose to her full height as she finished that chanty, then pulled her shirt over her head, baring her to the waist. She took a deep breath, raised her face and hands to the sky and let her voice ring out, a robust, clear soprano that echoed across the still ocean.

And with His stripes we are healed . . .

The ship nearly rocked in the becalmed sea when the Christian and Muslim sailors alike scattered away from her to escape her blasphemy and nudity. Celia grinned and continued to sing of things a witch should not be able to voice at all, much less in such a heavenly manner—

—unless she truly was a witch and her song was a joke she shared with her master Lucifer.

Skirrow remained at the helm and glowered at her, his cockstand all too evident, yet he would not attempt any offense against her person. Firstly, he needed her too much. Secondly, he feared any reprisal by Dunham. Thirdly, like the animal he was, he only attacked weak humans.

Celia was anything but.

She turned the wheel a bit, allowing the wind to strike her face sharply, and smiled at the memory. It was one of the very few good ones she had of her time aboard the Carnivale. In great need of some respite from her restlessness, she took a deep breath as the Thunderstorm sliced cleanly through the waters and listened to the music in her head.

“For, unto us a child is born . . . ”

Work halted around her when she began to sing to them, her men and women, even the ones who did not know her voice had kept her as safe as her scars and her sword.

“Oh, child,” Mary sighed happily.

“Unto us . . . A son is given . . . Unto us . . . A son is given . . . ”

Johann’s tenor answered her soprano immediately: “For, unto us a child is born.”

‘Twas only a half measure before the few men and one woman who could, in fact, sing, joined her lustily.



The mighty God, the everlasting father, the prince of peace . . .

It had taken time for her and Master Gunner Rico, a highly trained castrato, to teach the crew to sing thusly, but now they did so with vigor and skill and the length of a watch could be easily passed in near-complete abandon.

Cam’s deep bass rose as her soprano faded away, then Johann’s tenor slipped in and out. Rico’s contralto—the lowest register he could manage without flaw—joined their voices.

Then she heard a violin expertly playing the recitative before the soprano’s next aria. Someone else had found his recorder flute, and a third had fetched his squeezebox.

She was certain Maestro Handel had not intended his piece to be performed on the deck of an American privateer by a crew of ne’er-do-wells for no one but themselves, yet here they were.

And suddenly, there was with the angel, a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying—

“SAIL HO!” Kit bellowed from the crow’s nest.

“God’s teeth,” Celia gritted, instantly on the alert. She was at once disgruntled at the loss of her respite and glad of the termination of her boredom—if only for a while.

The instruments were put away and the menial chores abandoned for preparations of battle. Everyone who could not fight went below immediately, taking their work with them if they could. Mary and Solomon hurriedly gathered up the parchments and pens, books and ledgers, and disappeared.

If it were British, they would either take it or blow it up. Celia waited for more information before giving her orders.

“British, but not navy. Looks like a merchantman. Off the larboard bow. Alone.”

“Are you certain?” she demanded, wary of a trap, and waited patiently another ten minutes before the answer came:

“Brit-built. Square-rigged. Two masts. Ten guns, if that. Aye, Cap’n, I’m sure.”

Well, that settled it.

Celia spun the wheel to come hard about. Sea spray and sun splashed her face, her heart beat faster with excitement. ‘Twas hard to remember why she was bored with this life at times like these.

“Run up the Union Jack.” She grinned now, the urge undeniable. “Look sharp! If we cannot sing praises to God, then we shall plunder in his name!”

Celia could now see the white sails of the British merchantman, which were approaching fast. It would not take but a few moments to reach them.

“Has she spotted us, Kit?”

“Aye, and she’s spilling wind.”

“Glad of a Navy escort, is she?” Celia laughed, but the sound was whipped away by the stinging wind.

“Cap’n, there’s a woman aboard. In a dress.”

Celia’s eyebrows rose in surprise. It made no difference in her battle plans, but women in dresses aboard British merchantmen bound for England meant gentry and that did not bode well for her.

Bataar barked orders for the guns to be readied in the surreptitious manner she had drilled into them.

“I hope to settle this with not a shot wasted,” Celia mumbled.

A quarter hour passed before the Thunderstorm was close enough to the Lamplight to hail it.

“Ho, Lamplight!” Cam called from the prow, his voice strong enough to carry back to Celia. His bare chest glistened ebony in the sunlight.

“Long live the king!” came the return.

“Run up Congress’s colors!” Celia bellowed. The Union Jack was struck. The gunports slammed open.

The crew aboard the Lamplight scrambled in panic.

Cam cupped his hands around his mouth. “Stand down and prepare to be boarded!”

She struck her colors the moment Cam ended his command, and Celia’s crew ran to grab the grappling hooks. Down the rails, the hooks struck the wood one after another in rapid sequence—






—then Celia’s crew heaved as one until the two ships crashed together. Immediately, thirty of her men swarmed the deck of the Lamplight, swords bared. They met no resistance, much less a fighting force.

Celia handed command off to Smitty, clipped down the stairs to the main deck and vaulted over the rails, Solomon and Cam following. Ten of her crew followed the pair of them, her other officers left behind to sail the Thunderstorm should anything untoward happen to Celia.

Celia surveyed the scene before her before she spoke. A normal-looking crew, scattered across the decks, betrayed a great deal of fear. The captain slowly came forward because his position demanded it, but the man would have turned and fled at a moment’s notice. Across the deck, Celia caught the flash of pale blue going down a hatch, and with a slight signal that only her crew could discern, one of her men sprinted across the expanse and dove down after it. With another signal, the rest of her crew disappeared into the holds to inventory what she held, leaving Celia, Cam, and Solomon alone on deck.

The captain of the Lamplight stood before Celia, trembling and wringing his hands, looking amongst the three of them, unable to decide which would be the captain: the Arab, the woman, or the Negro.

Her lip curled. “Speak, man.”

“Captain Tunney at your service, ma—er, uh—”

“I am Captain Fury,” Celia intoned, her eyebrow raised and her lips pursed. If this man swooned, she would lose a ten-pound wager with Smitty. “You may address me as Captain or Sir. Do you understand?”

“Yes, ma—er, Sir.”

She gestured to her right. “This is Captain Bull, who will be commanding this vessel once I have completed my inspection.” He watched warily as Cam strode off to oversee preparations for his command. “What do you carry?”

“Cotton, m’lady—er, Sir—er, Captain. Spices. Tobacco. Coffee. Naught else.”

Not a word about passengers. She and Solomon exchanged glances, which only made the man fidget more.

“There is a woman aboard this ship, aye?” His face colored, but before he could stammer a reply, Celia said, “Loyalists bound for England, mayhap?”

But the captain was beyond speech. His eyes rolled back in his head and he dropped, a dead weight, onto the deck. Guffaws rang out from the quarterdeck of the Thunderstorm.

Celia sighed and looked at Solomon. “Another ten pounds sterling lost to the leftenant. I believe I shall have to cease wagering with the man.”

No sound or change in expression came from Solomon but a speaking glance told her he had found amusement in both the circumstance and her comment.

She turned to the crew, and said, “Who here would like to work for me?”

To a man, not one raised his hand. Well, that was no surprise. Celia was not especially good at impressing men, because she wanted willing sailors, but no matter. Cam would need this crew and she did not.

“Cap’n! Hold’s full of cotton and tobacco.”

She nodded at the crewman who yelled this bit of news. “Offload the spices and deliver them to Solomon’s cabin.” With a salute of acknowledgment of the order, the crew went back to their preparations.

Her crewman appeared shortly thereafter with a woman, a girl, and a man in tow.

The man was obviously well-heeled merchant gentry, and even in this dire situation, the wife would not allow her hem to touch the sailor who held her. She was not well pleased a Moor held her arm in his iron grip.

“What is the meaning of this outrage? Get your hands off me, you animal!”

Celia looked at the woman as she was dragged, struggling across the deck, to stand before her.

With one look at Celia, she ceased struggling and threw herself at her, hugging her and wailing. “Oh, m’lady, what shall we do? They’re monsters, the lot of them!”

Grimacing in distaste, Celia tried to extricate herself from the arms that held her. The woman seemed not to have noticed that Celia was dressed quite differently from current fashion, in a white cotton shirt and breeches. The tarred moccasins, white head scarf, broad slashes of kohl across her cheekbones, and huge gold hoop earrings were also quite beyond the pale for this season’s rage. The flintlock in Celia’s waistband, the dagger strapped around her thigh, and the scabbard swinging from her hip did not seem to register.

“Madam,” Celia muttered as she sought to disengage herself. “I say, Madam!”

With that, the seaman pulled the woman back with some force, and she stood, panting, staring at Celia as if she had somehow grown another head.

Celia calmly dusted herself off before looking back at the woman. For some reason, however, the girl caught her attention. So, she was the daughter of this gentrified pair.

She tilted her head in curiosity. “What is your name, girl?”

“Georgina, Sir.” Ah, the girl had courage. She did not flinch. She held her head proudly and looked Celia in the face.

“How many years have you?”


“Where are you bound?”

“England, Sir. To wed.”

Celia thought a bit. Had she grown up as other girls, a match would have been made for her, but now, a score of years past and a truly scandalous marriage behind her, she could not imagine being given no choice in the matter. “Have you met this man?”

“No, Sir. He is titled and wealthy and more than twenty years older than I. I—” The girl stopped abruptly and snapped her mouth tight.

“Say what you will, girl.”

“I do not want to wed. ‘Tis as if I have been sold.”

The girl’s mother, so outraged she forgot everyone’s presence but her daughter’s, raised her hand to slap her, but Solomon caught her wrist in a vise grip until she whimpered and then harder until he’d forced to her knees.

“Your parents have whored you out, eh?”

“Yes, Sir.”

Oh, the girl was completely bitter, then. Celia ran her tongue over her teeth. “Tell me something. Would you return to your life with them now, if you could? Until it was appropriate for you to marry? Even someone of your choosing?”

Everyone but her own crew started at that question, though the girl herself started the least. “No.”

Her mother continued to weep in pain and her father looked away. Celia looked at the girl for a long time and the girl stared back.

“Marriage or piracy. Choose.”

She gulped, but did not look away. “Piracy,” she whispered.

The father blanched. “No!” screamed the mother. “You can’t! Georgina! Don’t do this to us, please!”

The girl looked down at her mother, her mouth tight. “I told you I would rather die than marry that man,” she murmured. “This is the best choice I have.”

“Lucio!” Celia bellowed finally, looking over her shoulder to the Thunderstorm. When he appeared at her side, she waved a hand at Georgina. “Take the girl to Officer Mary.” Her crew did not hesitate and the girl looked at her with wide eyes.

“You’ll thank me for this someday.”

She sucked in a breath. “I already do, Sir. I already do.” She said nothing more, but went willingly with Lucio, who, ever the gentleman, would have assisted her over the rails even if she hadn’t been wearing a rather cumbersome dress.

“Now,” Celia began again. “I will reiterate in case the situation is not perfectly clear: I am Captain Fury, of the American privateer Thunderstorm. This vessel now belongs to me, claimed in the name of the United States of America. Cambridge Bull will be the commander of this vessel and has every right and protection afforded me as part of the privateer fleet.”

Celia sat on her haunches before the weeping mother and said, “Where do you wish to go?”

“We have nowhere to go,” she wept. “We sold everything, and cannot set foot in England without Georgina. We are ruined.”

“I see. In that case, England is exactly where you’ll be going. I’ll be sure to deliver the pair of you up promptly to Georgina’s former betrothed.”

Solomon chuckled as he loosed the girl’s mother, who fell into another bout of weeping at Celia’s feet, begging for mercy, but the sailor who’d fetched her earlier picked her up and threw her over his shoulder. Her screams of outrage made Celia laugh a bit herself and the father cast her wary glances.

“Ah, I amuse myself mightily betimes,” she murmured, and the crew that heard her laughed. She turned back to the woman. “And thus we see the Ottomans are not the only ones who buy and sell Christian women. What name did you sell your girl to?”

The woman could not speak for her weeping and gasping and the shoulder buried in her belly, so Celia looked to the father for the answer. He gulped. “Commander Elliott Raxham, second son of the Earl of Tavendish. A good friend to my cousin, who arranged the match.”

Celia slapped a hand on the hilt of her cutlass, put a finger to her lips, and studied the deck. “Who is that?” she muttered to herself. “I know that name.”

“Tried for high treason and acquitted,” one of her officers called from the Thunderstorm. “Siege at Casco Bay. Captained the HMS Iphigenia and commanded the fleet. In the midst of firing on the village, he turned on one of his own ships and sank it.”

“Aye, that would get one tried for treason. And you sold your daughter to a man who’d turn on one of his own fleet?”

“Cap’n, wait,” Croftwood continued. “His barrister proposed Raxham was the target of an assassination attempt by the captain of the ship he sank and thus was acting to save his and his crew’s life.”

Celia turned to stare at Croftwood, but he nodded solemnly. “Well! I simply have not heard a yarn that preposterous in years!”

“Bloody hell, Jack,” Smitty called, “you have no room to call that preposterous.”

Celia’s face split wide in a grin and the crew of the Thunderstorm roared. “Ah, just so,” she finally said. “‘Twouldn’t matter. His name is forever black. He’ll not be able to find a bride with sufficient settlement or title, I’ll wager. No noble in England would desire a traitor’s name attached to his own by marriage, wealth or not—and a second son has no title to sweeten the pot.”

“Wot’s ‘at?” her pesky lieutenant called again. “Another wager?”

She looked over her shoulder and yelled back, “Aye, another, you whoreson! An hundred pounds this time!”

It took another hour to prepare. The family’s trunks were stowed aboard the Thunderstorm, though Celia would have to think about where she wanted to put them and what they would do to earn their keep.

“Captain Bull,” Celia called and jerked her head for him to follow her back aboard the Thunderstorm. She led the way to her cabin and counted out some gold for use as shares and bribes. “I’ll send Li Chen with you to navigate. He has not as much training as I’d like, but can find his way to Holland. Dock in Rotterdam and seek out my agent there. You have met him?”

“Aye, Cap’n.”

“Sell everything, dole out shares as you see fit, then oversee any repairs she may need. Your new crew promises to be unwilling. How many of our crew will you need to keep them in line?”

“A good score, Sir.”

“Done. Take whom you will. What do you plan to do with the captain?”

“Throw him in the brig. I’m not in the habit of killing mice.”

Celia chuckled. “I don’t expect to be far behind you. Once we arrive, you will deposit George’s parents wherever her formerly betrothed lives. Mama and I will likely be gone to London by the time you return.”

“Aye, Cap’n.”

“Godspeed. George!” she bellowed once Cam had disappeared up through a hatch and she heard his deep, commanding voice. The girl poked her head out of Mary’s door and looked at Celia with some trepidation. “Come up on deck with me. Your education started three hours ago.”

Once up on deck, Celia went directly to the pair whose name she did not know, nor did she care. Woman and Man would do nicely, she supposed, and she went to stand in front of them, who huddled, terrified. Activity went on all around them, crewmen jumping over the rail to the Lamplight, grappling hooks being retrieved, Cam bellowing orders as he stood on the quarterdeck and threw the wheel hard to larboard.

Celia waited until the pair actually looked at her.

“Man. Take George’s trunks to the salon. A crewman will show you where. Take your own to the hold. You will sleep in the berth with the rest of the crew. The purser’s mate will give you a hammock and change of clothes. You will work and work hard. Mayhap my crew can shove a ramrod down your spine with regard to your wife and with any luck, you won’t die from it. Get going.”

Man began the process of laboriously dragging their trunks belowdecks, a crewman waiting impatiently for him to direct him.

She turned her attention to Woman, who cowered. “Have you tailoring skills?”

“Yes,” she whispered.

“Have you needle and thread, scissors and a tape?”

“Yes,” she whispered.

“Good. You will also earn your keep on this ship, since you did not pay me passage. You will sew George and yourself clothes like mine. As regards George, she is now under my command by her choice; thus, you no longer have any claim on her, her belongings, or her behavior. You will treat her with the same respect you will be expected to treat the rest of my crew and obey any orders she gives you, understood?”

She swallowed. “Yes.”

Celia then curled her hand into the low neckline of the girl’s dress and pulled, ripping the dress all the way down to the deck. It was George’s first look of terror as she attempted to cover herself as if her shift were not enough.

“Take off the dress. Give it to Woman.” The girl did as she was told without a word of protest, though she was terrified and the crew watched and snickered.

“God’s blood! The girl’s bound up in stays and she’s not yet grown tits. Have you your courses?”

Her mouth dropped open. “Yes,” she squeaked.

“Condolences. Well, what are you waiting for? Get that thing off.”

But the girl looked at her helplessly. Heaving a longsuffering sigh, Celia bid the girl turn around. She drew her dagger and sliced the laces with no further ado. George turned back around and Celia, catching the garment as it fell, unceremoniously tossed it overboard.

Celia then pulled her own shirt off over her head, and both George and Woman gasped to see not her bare breasts, but the matting of horizontally striped scars that encircled her torso from hips to collarbone. “Here,” she said, handing the shirt to George, whose breasts were, in fact, rather respectable. “Well, so you’re not titless after all. Good. Put that on over your shift. KIT!”

Only a moment it took for the boy to land on his feet beside her. “Cap’n?”

“This is George. Loan her a pair of your breeches and then teach her to climb the rigging.”

“Aye, Cap’n.”

As she walked away in a daze, Celia heard Kit demand, “Gimme yer slippers,” followed by a faint plink in the ocean. Celia chuckled.

“Woman. George is to have one pair of breeches and a shirt like mine before sunrise. After that, you will make her enough to last a week before laundering. When you’ve finished her new wardrobe, start on your own. I do not allow skirts on my ship.”

“I have no cloth,” she whispered. “What shall I use?”

“Your wardrobes, of course. She’ll not need a dress again for months, if not years. After that, you will be emptying the slop jars, doing laundry, and keeping all the women aboard this ship supplied with clean menses rags.”

With that, she dispatched Woman to the galley to use one of the broad mess tables for cutting and sewing. Yet before—

Celia gripped Woman’s neck and hauled her back to speak in her ear. “I am your entire existence now, Woman. You do what I say when I say how I say. Do you understand me?” She nodded frantically.

Celia let her go with a shove, then turned to watch the little merchantman sail east, ahead of her. She smiled at a job well done and stretched, running her hands up her ribs, over her breasts, under her braid until it fell from her outstretched arms.

“Captain! I must protest!”

Celia whirled at this voice she did not know and who questioned her authority. The entirety of the crew within earshot stilled to watch this scenario play out.

A man approached her with some urgency, a great weaselly fellow. Tall and bulky, he had thinning hair of an indeterminate mousy brown. One colorless eye did not focus in the same direction as his other colorless eye. He tended to squint most likely because he needed spectacles. His hands were large as hams and, Celia imagined, just as clumsy.

“Who are you?” Celia asked calmly.

“My name is Marcus Rohmler, Madam.”

“Captain or sir, Mr. Rohmler. You’ve been on this vessel a fortnight now; you know the proper address.”

“Yes, Sir.”

“What is your protest?”

“The treatment of the women, sir. They’ve brought you no harm.”

Celia tilted her head and looked up at him. Their height difference did not bother her in the least. “Mr. Rohmler, tell me: When you came aboard this ship seeking employment, did you not know ‘twas a privateer and its captain a woman?”

“Yes, sir.”

“And now you question my behavior?”

“‘Tis not right to treat gently bred women thusly.”

The male crewmembers held their breath, Bataar wrapped her hand around the hilt of her sword, and the rest of the women abovedecks began to murmur angrily.

“‘Tisn’t it now? Richins!” she bellowed without taking her eyes from the man before her. “Fetch Woman back here.” She waited, never taking her eyes off of this upstart, who began to squirm under her cool regard. Once Woman was shoved to Celia’s left, she dropped to her knees, sobbing.

“Mr. Rohmler,” she began. “You say it is not right to treat gently bred women as I have treated Woman here. Do I understand you to say that it is right to treat common women thusly?”

The female crew growled and Rohmler’s mouth dropped open. “No—no, not at all.”

“Pray tell me why you protest for this woman—a woman who sold her girl’s womb to an aristocrat? What has she done to earn your chivalry that the other women aboard this vessel do not deserve?”

“Ah . . . the others are here to—of their own free will. This one is an innocent being taken hostage. Sir.”

Celia laughed. “I am a pirate, Rohmler!” Guffaws rang out. “‘Tis what I do!” She leaned forward. “What I do not do,” she murmured, “is tolerate insubordination. So. I will test your chivalry. You get back to work and mind your own business or Woman here gets the lash.”

His eyes widened. “But I—” Celia’s eyebrow rose and his stuttering became nearly painful before he said, “Please don’t lash her, Captain.”

With a glance slid to Richins, he took weeping Woman belowdecks once again. “I do not know you, Rohmler,” she said, “and I hear you came aboard bearing Washington’s name.”

“Yes, sir.”

“You’re lying to me.” He started and Celia knew she was right. “I cannot prove it, but I don’t have to, as I am the only law here. One more misstep, Rohmler, and I’ll shackle you in the hold for the duration. I don’t like liars and I will not have my authority questioned.” She turned and walked away from him then, toward the quarterdeck. Over her shoulder, she called, “I’d watch my back if I were you, Rohmler. Methinks you’ll not want to cross swords with me.”

Once she’d taken the wheel over from a glowering Smitty, she saw the man still standing there, his mouth agape. “Get to work, Mr. Rohmler,” she murmured just loudly enough for him to hear. When he didn’t move, out of fear or rebellion Celia did not know, she pulled the dagger out of its sheath on her leg and fired it at him.

It pinned his foot to the deck.

He howled in pain and bent to grapple at it, sobbing.

“Mayhap now you’ve an excuse not to move when given a direct order.”

She watched as he dislodged it from the wood beneath his foot, then pulled it out of his foot. He hobbled away, blood streaming behind him. “Get Senzeille to tend his wound,” she mumbled to Smitty. “I want him alive for his flogging on the morrow and do not wish an infection to rob me of that.”

“Aye, Cap’n.”

“Made me waste a bloody nice day. I’ll not forget that soon.”

She began to yell instructions and sails were unfurled. She spun the wheel to starboard and fought to catch a breeze.

There was some commotion above her and she was obliged to smile at Kit’s attempts to teach George to climb. ‘Twas a difficult task made more difficult by the softness of the girl’s feet, the dizzying height, the strength of the wind, and the pitch of the ship as she turned. It took tremendous strength and a strong stomach. If George could master the rigging, she would be able to master anything.

At the moment, though, Kit hopped from the platform to the ratlines and ran down the net, upsetting George’s timorous hold on the ropes so that she lost her grip and fell. Celia watched as the girl caught herself halfway down, but she clung to it, breathing heavily; Celia smiled with the memory of herself having done the very same thing. ‘Twould teach her to hold on better.

Oblivious to his charge’s circumstance, Kit launched himself off the rigging by a rope and swung out over Celia, dropping neatly beside her. “The Silver Shilling’s twelve miles behind us, two points off larboard.”

She speared Kit with a look, and realized she had to look up. When had he gotten so tall?

“Are you sure?”

“The figurehead, Cap’n.”

“Oh, aye, that would do it. Does she see us?”

“Aye. She’s heavy in the water but seems to me she is trying to overtake us.”

“Excellent. Get me a shirt.”

• • •

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Creepy collective consciousness is creepy

It appears I’m not the only writer with her knickers in a twist over The Book That Shall Not Be Named, and not only that, but it appears the writerly collective conscious had gotten its knockers knickers in a twist somewhere between Sunday night and Monday morning. Usually when the twist in my knickers gets too tight, I simply avoid the source. In this case, I can’t. It’s everywhere, including my snail mail box after my 70-year-old aunt in Salt Lake took the time to cut an article on it from Deseret News and drop it in the mail to me. I can’t get away from it.

Between this and the incessant banging on the marketing drum, I’ve pretty much had all I can take of the business side of being a writer. (Note: Being a publisher is an entirely different thing.)

Monday morning I went whining to a couple of people, one of whom was utterly unsympathetic and the other who sent me to Cliff Burns’s latest blog post. Lo, there not only did I behold my own frustrations laid out in more articulate language than I’ve been using lately, but on the same day I was having my existential crisis.

Building character through self-flagellation | Cliff Burns – “Books not selling, readers indifferent, preferring to spend their hard-earned shekels on dry-humping teen vampires and spank me-fuck me fan fiction. Not a brilliant stylist, so I can’t even hope for the consolations of posterity.”

Then a friend, who thinks something must in the water:

The rise of the published first draft | VacuousMinx – “I fully agree that TBTSNBN has an alchemical appeal for readers, one that transcends its many flaws. But while its appeal cannot be copied, any more than you can catch lightning in a jar, the (lack of) process can and will be. […] So we will get more barely-altered fanfic and more un-self-critical writers who are proud that they can write 100,000 words in a month and send the resulting manuscript off to a publisher.”

sent me to yet another writer writing at the same time:

Striving for a WIP that’s actually “in progress” | KZ Snow – “Does it even pay to write well? Maybe I should follow the lead of some of my peers and strive for quantity, compose a few tearjerkers or sex romps or chuckle fests every couple of months. There’d be nothing wrong with that. Readers seem to enjoy the output of speed writers as much as or more than that of poky writers.”

I’d already decided to do the Dunham serial a couple of weeks ago, so I did feel as if I were actually taking action and could prove to be a boon. We shall see, but at least I was trying something different, doing something with the words I’d written that otherwise wouldn’t see the light of day for another year. I’d also already decided to rebrand the Dunham series with new covers and new classifications and unveil them all next year with the release of Dunham.

So between the time I announced the serial and the time I got to Cliff’s post, I had spent hours revamping my websites, which I find oddly relaxing. And because I do like this thankless, background, zero-revenue activity so much, I slowly came to the realization that writing novels and the act of publishing them is a hobby. Given that I hold my hobbies sacrosanct, this wasn’t a step down, but a step up. In that respect I also decided to get out of the business of publishing other people. I needed to let go of the pressure of selling, the pressure of sales (or lack thereof, as measured against those of the snake-oil salesmen of our business), and the pressure of bookkeeping. I needed to rejuvenate my love for creating and disseminating my own work. The constant marketing of myself and publishing other people is not part of the hobby and not part of the love.

So now it’s Friday. Nothing about the situation has changed except that I feel as if I have taken some action AND changed my outlook. My frustration level is way down and I can once again stop to see what I have: a wonderful family, a good job that pays the bills, a nice house with a gorgeous porch* upon which I sit with my Tax Deductions and discuss the nature of God—and a hobby I’m mad about and am excited about sharing over the next year.

That’s far more than a lot of people have.

*I am irrationally and exuberantly proud of my porch.

UPDATE: I was roundly castigated for not actually showing you my porch. Here it is: