From Pieter in the North to Sebastian in the South (from Cane and Conflict)

14 February 1861

I’m lying here in bed, not ‘my’ bed because that is wherever you are and we are many hundreds of miles apart. I know it was my choice to leave as I can’t fight for the South if war does come, but that necessity doesn’t make me miss you any less or my wish any greater that we were lying in each others’ arms.

It’s only by chance that I discovered today is Valentine’s Day, but it matters not; I love you with my whole heart each and every minute of each and every day.

I will come home as soon as it may be possible; months – years, I will come, I swear. I pray you will still want me when that day finally dawns. Know I will always love you, always.

Piet

Richard to Julian (from Smoke Screen)

14th February 1802

You were restless last evening and you got up and went to the balcony. You thought I was asleep but I missed your warmth almost immediately. I lay there and watched you, entranced as the moon slipped from behind a cloud and bathed you in its light. You’re always beautiful to me but in that moment you were ethereal and I had the insane idea that perhaps you weren’t of this world, that you were but a dream that visited me when I needed to know that love was real.

Then this morning I awoke to find you in my embrace, your arms wrapped around me. Then you opened your eyes, smiled at me, and whispered, “Happy Valentine’s Day, my love.”

If you are but a dream then I am happy to forever share it with you.

I love you.

Richard

When I planned to write this article I thought I knew about the origin of ‘policing’ in this country, but my research showed me otherwise. There was a system in place much earlier than I had believed.

It seems the origin of the British police lies in early tribal history and is based on customs for securing order through the medium of appointed representatives. In effect, the people were the police.

The Saxons brought their system of  ‘tythings’ over to England with them.  This meant that each village divided the people into groups of ten – the tything – with a tything-man as the representative of each group; and then these men were divided into larger groups each of ten tythings under a ‘hundred-man’ who was responsible to the Shire-reeve – or Sheriff – of the County.

Then when the Normans invaded they developed the system. The tything-man system changed quite a bit after contact with Norman feudalism, but it was not wholly destroyed. As time passed the tything-man became the parish constable and the Shire-reeve became the Justice of the Peace, to whom the parish constable was responsible. Just as in Anglo-Saxon times, if a hue and cry was raised, everyone had to join in.

Medieval towns had curfews in place to maintain law and order. A bell would ring at about 8pm, warning residents (and inn-keepers) to finish working and stay indoors. Anyone caught outdoors – or “abroad” – after curfew had to be prepared to justify their actions to the night watch crew.

During the Middle Ages, coroners had numerous legal duties that went beyond investigating sudden, violent or suspicious deaths. In some parts of the country the coroner was responsible for investigating all felonies – crimes that carried the death penalty. Capital crimes included murder, manslaughter and the theft of any item worth a shilling or more.

The coroner had to record details of all deaths he investigated on his rolls. The process was so cumbersome and convoluted that it often resulted in errors. As a result witnesses and other people involved in the investigation were often fined. It wasn’t unknown for folk to carry a corpse by night to another village to avoid being burdened with the results.

In the towns the responsibility for maintenance of order was conferred on the Guilds and, later, on to other specified groups of citizens, usually made up of higher class citizens, as well as tradesmen, craftsmen and shopkeepers. They supplied bodies of paid men, known as ‘The Watch’ who guarded the city gates and patrolled the streets at night. It was also their responsibility to light street lamps and watch out for fires – a major concern in those days.

Throughout the medieval period it was believed that the only way to keep order was to make sure that the people were scared of the punishments given for crimes committed. For this reason all crimes from stealing to murder had harsh punishments.

Although there were gaols, they were generally used to hold a prisoner awaiting trial rather than as a means of punishment, which ranged from simple fines to being placed in stocks or the pillory – where one could be pelted with rotten eggs, squishy tomatoes, or a well aimed stone! – mutilation (cutting off a part of the body), or death were the most common forms of punishment.

Up until this point any disturbance that couldn’t be controlled by The Watch had to be dealt with by the military. The Justice of the Peace would ‘read the riot act’ and the army would be called in. But having a group of ill-disciplined soldiers, under the control of their aristocratic officers, billeted on the local community was often worse than the disturbance they were meant to control. The need for a more disciplined force, directly under local control became obvious. As far as the middle classes were concerned, rising crime and disorder were still to be attributed to the moral decay of the masses. There was a willingness to criticise the old criminal justice system as inefficient, both as regards crime control and the regulation of public order.

In the eighteenth century came the beginnings of immense social and economic changes and the consequent movement of the population to the towns. The parish constable and “Watch” systems failed completely and the impotence of the law-enforcement machinery was a serious menace. Conditions became intolerable and led to the formation of the ‘New Police’ in the nineteenth century.

There was an attempt in the middle of the eighteenth century to improve matters with the introduction of the ‘Bow Street Runners’. There had been other men who attempted to solve crime for a small fee, but the Bow Street Runners were the first official ‘thief takers’ as they were assigned to a Magistrate (Justice of the Peace). These men did not patrol but served legal writs and ‘arrested’ offenders, eventually even travelling nationwide to apprehend criminals. Often former constables, at the end of their year of service, were selected for the positions, after having some formal legal training.

The Police – as we know the term today – was the brainchild of Robert Peel, the Home Secretary from 1822. Building on the idea of The Watch, the Bow Street Runners, and the dock police in London, Bristol and Liverpool, Peel formed the London Metropolitan Police. (Though it should be mentioned that these older ‘forces’ continued for some time after Peel’s founding of the ‘Peelers’ because Peel’s New Police was focused on other things than simple safety of the streets and the protection of property.)

Sir Robert Peel

Peel argued in Parliament for his Metropolitan Police Bill in 1828 on the grounds that it would be more efficient than the existing systems. These he characterised as uneven: some boroughs had effective Watch patrols but they tended to displace crime into less well policed areas.

Peel addressed his reforms directly to the more general fear of the ‘dangerous classes’ in  society. While crime such as street robbery and burglary was a problem, it was only part of a more fundamental issue of public order which was seen not simply as the problem of riots but more generally the discipline of the lower orders: how to make the working class as a whole less of an unruly mob and more a sober orderly group who would behave themselves in public and go to work on time and obey their employer’s instructions.

The main theme was ‘crime prevention’ by the moralisation of the working class. The police targeted Ale houses and the streets where legislation such as the 1824 Vagrancy Act enabled constables to arrest individuals not for crime committed but for ‘loitering with intent’. The police aimed not at those who had actually committed crimes but on the poor as a whole who were seen as a ‘criminal class’. The main task of the New Police was not crime detection.

Detectives only appeared in 1842, and originally there were only a few of them. The modern Criminal Investigation Department (CID) did not appear until 1877.

 

conflict200x300I am happy to announce the release of CONFLICT,  the sequel to my novel CANE.  I seem to have been waiting a long time for the release of the follow up novel but it’s been worth all the effort :)

BLURB:
Two men, one war. Can love survive when each takes a different side?

Leaving his lover behind to support the Abolitionist cause, Piet Van Leyden finds himself leading one of the first all-black Union troops
into the heart of battle. Reuniting with free slave and former love, Joss, brings some comfort, but will his presence tempt Piet into forgetting the love waiting for him at home?

Sebastian Cane wonders how he’s able to go on without Piet by his side. When a series of unfortunate events lands him a prisoner of the Union, Seb knows he must rely on his wits and his love for Piet to survive…and get home to him.

EXCERPT:
It was difficult for Pieter to concentrate on Grainger’s words. Of course he had thought on the possibility of running into Joss once it was permitted for blacks to join the army, but he had never really believed it would happen. There were literally thousands of men in the Union army, the numbers rising all the time and the odds must be enormous.

His thoughts faltered again as he heard the lieutenant state the private’s name. Peters? Joss had taken… Pieter didn’t know what he felt about it, that Joss had taken that as his name. Flattered? Appalled? Touched? Oh, Joss!

“Peters?” Pieter queried haltingly, his voice sounding odd even to his own ears.

“Yes, sir,” Joss replied, keeping his voice formal, staring over his commander’s shoulder. Then abruptly he shifted his eyes and looked directly at Pieter. “Named for the only man who ever showed me a kindness, sir.”

Pieter stared at his old friend and ex-lover, emotion running through him to find him looking so well. “I see,” he replied softly. “Thank you, private.”

“Sir!” Joss said smartly, stepping back into line.

Pieter knew he gave orders and passed out praise and criticism in equal measure, but when the day ended the only thing he could clearly remember was the look in Joss’ eyes as they had stared at each other. Pieter just had to talk with him but he couldn’t simply single him out to speak to privately without reason. A company commander would have no cause to communicate with a private soldier without going through junior officers, unless for censure or commendation.

He paced his tent for thirty minutes until he recognized there was a way. Grainger had inadvertently given it to him.

“Grainger!” he called, sticking his head out of his tent, looking round for the lieutenant.

“Here, sir,” a voice floated from nearby in the dark and then the pale face of the lieutenant came into view.

“That private, the one who you introduced?”

“Peters, sir?”

“Yes, that one. Send for him. I want to have a few words and he should be ideal for providing me with background.”

“Yes, sir, immediately.”

Pieter sat in the rickety chair behind the small folding table in his small tent. He was nervous at the prospect of seeing Joss again, and being able to talk to him. Pieter smiled at his own reaction, he knew it wasn’t at all logical.

Presently, the lieutenant brought Private Peters inside the tent and the black man saluted his officer smartly, eyes staring straight ahead, back ramrod straight as he stood to attention.

“At ease, Peters,” Pieter said, a surreptitiously shared look between them at Joss’ choice of surname, and then with a glance at Grainger he added, “Thank you, Lieutenant. I will take it from here.”

Grainger glanced from his captain to the private as if silently asking if he were sure, but he merely nodded, saluted and left.

Pieter just stared at Joss for a long moment and his old friend stared back and slowly smiled. He was suddenly assaulted with images of the two of them together, long years ago when all that mattered were those snatched moments together. Memories of his hands moving slowly as they skimmed over Joss’ ebony skin; Joss kissing him with abandon and each murmuring promises of forever. Those had been naïve times he realized now but they had been good times.

Things were very different now, the love he’d felt for Joss then had been real but he knew it paled into comparison with what he’d learned he was capable of, but he would never regret his feelings for Joss. Suddenly Pieter’s face was split by a grin and he rose and strode around the table, and the two men embraced. They didn’t hold the hug for long, both being aware of the difficult situation.

“God, it’s good to see you looking so well,” Pieter commented as he retook his seat. “Grab a stool,” he said as an afterthought.

Joss did as he was asked and sat opposite his captain. “Oh yeah, I never expected to see you here.” He hesitated a moment, giving Pieter a long look.

“What?”

“I didn’t know if you were still in Louisiana,” Joss explained, his voice low.

Pieter nodded, dropping his eyes as he said, “I didn’t want to leave Sebastian. I remained as long as I could, but I just wasn’t able to stay among those people down there. I was… I couldn’t keep bottling up my real feelings and it was starting to…to. I didn’t want to damage what we had by staying,” his voice barely above a whisper as he spoke. He looked up at Joss then, attempting to smile at his friend, but it might just as well have been a grimace.

Joss recognized the sorrow in Pieter’s eyes that his friend was trying to hide, the ex-slave knew him too well.

After a moment, Pieter continued, “I tried to persuade Seb to come up north with me, not that I really expected he would. He has too much of a commitment in Louisiana.”

Reaching across the small table, Joss laid his hand over Pieter’s and gave it a small squeeze, attempting to comfort him. “I’m sorry, Piet, but I can’t say I’m surprised. His family have lived there for generations, don’t suppose he feels he can simply walk away from that.” He didn’t add that he also felt that if Cane had loved Pieter
as much as he claimed he ought to have had different priorities. It would be no kindness to Pieter to voice that thought.

“I know and also in the few letters I did manage to receive from him before the mail stopped getting through, he admitted to feeling a greater responsibility to his slaves now and that…” Pieter stopped, as if remembering just who he was speaking to. He shrugged an apology.

Joss looked Pieter square in the eyes and commented, “Well, we know who to thank for that change in outlook, don’t we?”

“Enough about me,” Pieter said decidedly. “How about you?”

Joss gave Pieter a quick rundown of his life since they had parted in New Orleans, admitting that after a slow, difficult start the life he now had was good. He explained a little about Nathaniel and how the old Negro had helped shape his new outlook. Joss told him that Nathaniel had even taught him to read, and he reminded himself that he should show Pieter the letter he’d written when he got the opportunity.

He admitted he was glad to be able to accept responsibility for his own life, though it had been hard at first to get work and he had felt so lost and unsure most of the time until Nathaniel had taken him under his wing.

He gave a deprecating laugh. “Strange as it sounds,” Joss confessed, “I have felt happier since I joined up. Even after a year or so of freedom I was used to the,” he sought for the word he wanted and smiled wryly when he remembered it, “constraint of slavery and oddly I missed the…structure it gave my life.” He shook his head at his own confused thinking and Pieter smiled sadly at what had been done to people like Joss.

Joss regarded Pieter, giving his old friend a long assessing look. A little unnerved by the stare, Pieter asked, “What?”

“You’ve changed,” Joss said quietly and as Pieter frowned, he explained. “You’re more…comfortable, more sure of yourself.” Eyes lighting up as if Joss suddenly understood, he smiled broadly and added, “You know who you are.”

<end excerpt>

Available from Phaze Books: http://www.king-cart.com/Phaze/product=Conflict/exact_match=exact

[There is in fact a longer excerpt available if you follow the link on the book page at Phaze, as per the above link]

Stevie
http://steviewoods.com
http://swquill.wordpress.com/
My Publishers:
http://www.phaze.com
http://www.torquerepress.com

1809caribbean1

I originally needed to research the Caribbean islands as they formed an important background for the hero of my novel, CANE, which centered on slavery in the sugar cane industry of the 19th century.  It was such a fascinating subject that I learned far more than I could ever use in my novel.

Though the slave history of the islands is well known, it transpired the Caribbean had been a hotbed of slavery long before the Europeans arrived; they only found more efficient ways to make it work.

There had been native tribes living on the islands since the dawn of time, the first peoples long ago lost to history. However, the Tainos (more commonly known as the Arawaks) had been living in the Caribbean islands for hundreds of years before the birth of Christ. It was a later arrival, the Caribs, who originally came from Venezuela, who began to pray on the Arawaks, making slaves of them. The Caribs systematically forced the Arawaks from many of the islands, killing many and enslaving the survivors. However, it took the arrival of the Spaniards to finally wipe out the Arawaks in the 16th century. It was then the turn of the Caribs to become slaves to the white man. Today, there are virtually no Caribbean Indians surviving, though certain Arawak features can be found among the indigenous races of South America.

The Spaniards originally needed slaves from the islands in their quest for gold and many were shipped to South America. By the time the value of cane sugar was realised late in the 17th century, the Caribbean Indian to use as slaves were virtually gone, so new sources were needed. It was a friar from Hispaniola named Bartoleme who suggested enslaving Africans. Many of these new slaves came from Africa’s Guinea coast, taken from their homes by slave-raiding parties, which were often endorsed by the local government.

passage-01So began the infamous Triangular Trade: European ships set sail for the Caribbean colonies, via Africa where they bartered arms and liquor with the African slave traders; the captured slaves were shipped to the islands and, in the final step, sugar and rum were sent from the islands back to Europe. The trade may have begun with the Spaniards, but soon other European races were quick to see the advantage and before long the Dutch, French and English were fighting over the rights to the islands – and the slaves. The trade was thought so valuable that England went to war with the Dutch twice over control of the islands – the two countries had originally banded together to oust the Spanish.

The trade was not only ongoing, it was increasing year by year. For those that survived the harrowing sea voyage, the average life expectancy of an imported slave was only seven years, but many never even survived that long, an average of ten percent dying within the first year.

canefield2aOn the plantations, owners demanded slaves sever every tie to their homelands and they kept slaves of the same culture apart. Harsh punishments were exercised for disobedience or acts of will, and it was not illegal to kill an African man in the British Colonies until the beginning of the 19th century. The occasional slave revolts were put down with vicious force; many slaves would rather die than return to their life of servitude.

harvestingsugar

Jamaica in particular saw many slave uprisings, and was home to more slave rebellions slavemaster11than all of the other British islands combined. Tacky’s rebellion in the summer of 1760 was the most significant of these. Tacky, who had been a chief at home in Africa, led a group of supporters and moved inland. They took over plantations and killed the white plantation owners. Their plan was to overthrow British rule and to establish an African kingdom in Jamaica. However, the British authorities sent in the militia and though some of the rebels returned to their plantations many fought on until Tacky himself was killed. The last of the rebels committed suicide rather than return to slavery.

The various islands/island groups were constantly fought over and changed hands, often repeatedly as the European nations strove for dominance of the islands.

It took many years before the disgraceful trade ended, as peoples’ sensibilities changed because of the efforts of anti-slavery movements. It was a slow process – the first country to abolish slavery was Denmark in 1792 and it was not until 1882 that the last slaves in the Caribbean were finally freed.

Monument to the end of Slavery

Monument to the end of Slavery

I’m excited to be able to announce that my second historical novel, Beyond the Veil, was recently released by Phaze Books. It seems I’ve been waiting for this to be published for ages, but when the release finally happened RL played an unkind trick on me and I wasn’t at my best, so I’m a little late with my notice.  However,  I’m posting the Blurb below, together with the first few paragraphs to give a taste:

BLURB:

Captured by the aggressive pirate captain of a Barbary corsair ship off the North African coast in the latter half of the eighteenth century, David Jordan faces a life of slavery of the worst kind when he is taken to the specialist markets of Tripoli.  However, the enigmatic man who finally buys him is not at all what David expects.

Robert Charteris has a very personal reason for fighting against the iniquity of slavery and, in disguise, witnesses the disposal of the slave cargo from a captured English ship and, for the first time in fifteen years, Charteris feels an interest in another man.

His decision to rescue the young man has repercussions he could never have expected in this tale of high passion and forbidden love.

EXCERPT:

David was forced to duck yet again as a cannon ball screamed overhead, this one slamming into the ship’s mast, the cracking of the wood drawing everyone’s attention, but miraculously it held. More cannon balls whizzed and shrieked as they tore through sails or broke off some of the smaller spits holding the shrouds aloft.

Slipping further back into the shadows, David cursed his stupidity at ignoring the perils of travelling in the Mediterranean as he watched the Barbary Pirates pouring across the ship’s tilting deck, its surface already awash with blood. The crew manfully attempted to fight the pirates back but they were not only outnumbered, they were outfought. David had no weapon and weighed his chances if he tried to help.

His attention was drawn by the angry bellowing of a pirate who was chasing Miss Bateson, her long blonde hair coming loose from its tortoise shell grip and streaming out behind her. As she looked back over her shoulder, her eyes showed fear yet her mouth was set in a determined line. David was debating his options when he saw young Tom Bateson struggling with one of the pirates.

Almost immediately David understood that Tom had been attempting to help his sister, who ducked hoping to avoid another pirate trying to intercept her.

Without a second thought, David ran out of his hiding place and launched himself at the pirate who shook the sixteen-year-old youth like he was a rat in the teeth of a dog. The man was huge, his bare arms bulging with muscles where the split sleeve of his shirt fell open, his legs braced with a wide stance. David landed on the pirate’s back but the man was not even unbalanced. He dropped Tom instantly though, and twisting from his shoulder he reached back and cuffed David upside the head.

David hung on even though his head was spinning and his ears were ringing. With a growl, one of the man’s beefy hands gripped David’s right arm and his vice-like hold broke David’s grasp as if it was nothing. He yanked David towards him and his other hand slammed into David’s chest, throwing him clear across the deck where he landed heavily, his head ringing.

Suzanna Bateson’s forward rush came to an abrupt halt when she ran into a solid object. Strong arms wrapped around her, keeping her from falling. For a moment she looked grateful for the help, until she glanced up and gasped in shock.

She was held tight in the grip of another pirate. A tall man whose dark eyes were all that could be seen of his face, the rest of it covered by a black veil edged in silver attached to his burnous, and the long hooded cloak favoured by the Turks, which was also edged in silver. The burnous fell over loosely fitting black pantaloons and a loose silver shirt worn split open to the waist where it was tucked inside the wide waistband.

“What have we here?” he asked in English but with an odd accent.

The woman struggled in his grip, but he merely pulled her closer to him. “I like a woman of spirit. I think I might keep you,” he said as his eyes swept over her.

He leaned in towards her, obviously intending to kiss her and she shouted in shock, “No!”

Ignoring his increasing dizziness, David attempted to roll to his side to try and get his knees underneath him but just then Tom Bateson barrelled out of his hiding place among some fallen sails and leapt at the tall pirate.

“Leave my sister be, you bastard!” he yelled as he attempted to land blows on the man’s kidneys.

The tall pirate swirled the girl away into the arms of her erstwhile pursuer while he grabbed up the fair-haired youth. “I can clearly see you two are related,” he said with a smile, his oddly accented voice warm with amusement.

David just managed to hear the captain say, “Take them to my cabin, Achmed,” before everything dimmed and he gave in to the pain pounding behind his eyes, momentarily losing consciousness.

A rough voice calling out in a language he knew he ought to recognize dragged David’s attention back to his surroundings. He tried to open his eyes but swiftly closed them again as the brightness seared his pupils. He tried to listen to what was being said, but at first he could not even remember which language it was, let alone interpret it.

However, he realized it was the pirate Captain speaking and with growing horror he did recognize a few of the foreign words, “…kill the injured men too. They’re no use as new crew and even less use on the slave block.”

<end excerpt>

Buy today from Phaze: http://www.kingcart.com/Phaze/product=Beyond+The+Veil

Stevie

http://steviewoods.com

My Publishers:

http://www.phaze.com

http://www.torquerepress.com

That’s quite a question and one I decided to have a go at answering because I’ve had short stories published in the Sci-fi and fantasy genre, and a couple of contemporaries. My latest submission was my first stab at a paranormal fantasy novel. I’ve given this question quite a bit of thought and I decided one of the first things I had to ask myself was: why do I like to write historical stories? I thought if I could answer that, maybe it would give at least half the answer to whether there is a difference. I’ve loved history for as long as I can remember. It was just about the most enjoyable class for me in school and I used to ply the teacher with questions all the time. I’m one of those people who can remember dates, never know why but I was always very pleased that I could. It still bugs my husband now, he loves history too but he never seems to be able to remember dates:) Heck, I seem to be going off on a bit of a tangent here.

What I was trying to lead into was that because I like the subject it seemed the ideal jump off point when I wanted to write original characters – oh yes, like so many others have mentioned, I too started off writing fan fiction. However, in my case, my fandom wasn’t book based, it was TV and TV science fiction at that, yet when I wanted to write original fiction it never occurred to me to go that route.

The first two pieces I wrote were an historical novel and a novelette, and it was only while I was waiting for my first publication – chomping at the bit for it actually – that I decided to write another short story. However, this time, probably because of that impatient chomping, I wanted the immediacy of something I could produce with less effort and complication than writing an historical piece. Don’t get me wrong, you still have to get your basic facts right, I mean it would hardly do to have your spaceman open the airlock and not be in his spacesuit :)

However, what I really enjoy when writing science fiction, or fantasy, is that you can let your imagination run riot and you don’t have to worry if such a thing were possible during that era, or if a man might risk his life to make love to the man he desired above all else. I can paint a picture of a world where men can be together without risk, with acceptance, in fact without even a second thought and the only danger or risk in their lives comes from anything and everything but their sexuality. There is a freedom in that kind of writing that you don’t have when you need to research so much of what you want to put down on paper.

So, for me, it’s good to be able to have that freedom to write in easier worlds than the men of history faced. I suppose you could say that very freedom makes me appreciate the bravery and forbearance of those men from out of our past who were prepared to risk all for love. It makes me want to tell their story.

So, yes there is a difference but I’m not sure it really matters. There is a place in fiction for every genre out there, some people have more of a feel for one kind, others want to have a finger in every pie, and yet others simply want to experiment, to stretch themselves. Those authors who want to concentrate on writing historicals do so because they love the subject and the research necessary to write a good story is part of whole process and part of that love – and it shows through in the writing of a good historical novel.

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