Row your boat

This excerpt from XAGHRA’S REVENGE illustrates the actual movement of the rowers on galleys in the 16th century. Contrary to what you might see in movies of galley slaves rowing while always sitting down, they stood for part of the cycle. It makes sense. For one thing there was less friction on the benches so their posteriors didn’t get so raw, sore. Also they use gravity better. It has to be remembered too that the oars, while heavy, were finely balanced on the divots so not as heavy to row, especially when there were three men per oar.

This section from Chapter 35 is just before our captured Gozo farmer makes a bid to escape over the side.
The drummer started the usual rhythm.
Push down, stand, forward, lift, back and sit.
Push down, stand, forward, lift, back and sit.
Push down, stand, forward, lift, back and sit.
Stjepan wore a maniacal grimace. Muscles screamed but energy surged, fuelled by hatred.
Push down, stand, forward, lift, back and sit.
Stjepan sailed through the pain, enjoying the rush. The pull and stand hurt, but that was sweet. The push hurt more–exquisitely so.
Push. Dragut, Push. Lurgus. Push for Sabid. Push for Lidia.
After an hour, Lurgus collapsed just as Stjepan had to stand. He stamped on the Greek’s neck, and heard bones crunch. Many other rowers, too exhausted to cry out, stayed sitting. The oars entangled. The drum master stopped beating and the horn blasted to signal up oars. Stjepan saw only three oars reach vertical. He didn’t bother with his, in pretence of attending Lurgus, who laid face down in the crud. If he hadn’t already died from exhaustion or a broken neck, he’d have suffocated. Stjepan’s elbow on the back of the sweat-laced bald head saw to that.

A writer friend writes naval historical fiction along the lines of Hornblower. He sells quite well via tiny indie press, but he never promotes his books. Here we are promoting like mad people, spending more on adverts and book tours than we recoup (maybe just talking about me) while he just relies on the niche of his genre. I mostly write scifi and fantasy, but so do tens of thousands of writers. His naval fiction has a large following but only a dozen or so authors so his books are sought no matter how well they’re written. Anyway, he read Xaghra’s Revenge recently. Hey, he said, you refer to a largely forgotten naval disaster: the mass abduction of a whole island and taken for days across the sea in a fleet of pirated vessels. Use that to promote it. I’d never thought of that! Perhaps your books need another angle you’ve already written in to reach a new, niche audience?

The link below is for the Kindle. Free on Kindle Unlimited, the price of a coffee and cake otherwise. The paperback is on Amazon too.

As usual I am in some trouble. One of the alternative cover images was created by John Keane, a fellow writer in the British Science Fiction Association critique group. It is rather racy as you see, and for this some folk say I’m sexist. However, many young women were enslaved from Gozo and taken to seraglios in Constantinople. Many endured their sex lives there and a few escaped. Part of the revenge in the title is for Lidia, when she tries to escape with a friend.






A list of my publications in this last 17 years

2003 first short of the decade was called 2020 Vision (ironic)

2003-05 ESCAPING REALITY: a humorous thriller

2005-08 EXIT, PURSUED BY A BEE: sci fi

2009  HOT AIR: literary thriller

2009-12 ARIA LEFT LUGGAGE: sci fi pandemic apocalypse




2018 INCREMENTAL: 25 short, surreal stories

2019 SUPPOSE WE: scifi

2019 FALLING UP: scifi


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