So much has been happening in my life that I feel I have been neglecting my readers who follow this blog.
For that I sincerely apologize.
As well as moving into my new house, an ongoing project, I have been busy with book signings, socializing with new-found friends and exploring the surrounding area.
I have also been working diligently on my new novel, a science fiction work tentatively entitled ‘Ultimatum’, the first draft of which is now at the proof readers.
I hope that now that the cooler weather has moved in I will find more time to keep you all informed of the things going on in my life, as well as updates on the new book, hopefully weekly.
Welcome back. In the interest of your getting to know me better, I have decided to share with you the first part of the prologue of the first book in the series, “The Final Option (Bahamas)”. I am sure you suspect that I am doing this to pique your interest in the hope that you will buy the whole trilogy. Well, you are right. Here for your pleasure is that start.
“El Capitan Juan Ramon de Castillo, stripped of his uniform and his pride, clung desperately to the stump of the mizzenmast for dear life and threw heartfelt curses against his God heavenward, even as his ship disintegrated around him. He knew his blasphemous excesses would deny him what he thought to be his rightful place in the hereafter but he was beyond caring. After months of valiant effort by himself and his crew to bring the ship safely to its destination, this final challenge, this accursed hurricane, had defeated him. He cried bitter tears of regret at the thought of his failure to bring the treasure he carried in the hold of his command to adorn the palace of his benefactor, the King of Spain.
His old but still sturdy vessel, the Spanish caravel, Nuesta Senora de la Navarre, had left the sanctuary of the port of Cartagena sixty two days ago and should, if all had gone as planned, have been sailing more than halfway across the Atlantic Ocean by now in company with the rest of the ships of the yearly Spanish Silver Fleet. Unfortunately, because of an interminable delay in loading the fabulous treasure he now carried, caused by the sudden appearance of English ships at the entrance of the port, he had found to his annoyance that he was days behind in his schedule when he finally left and therefore he and he alone had made the fateful and unfortunate decision to bypass the rendezvous with the fleet in Havana. Instead of being carried by the swift, reliable current of the Gulfstream east of La Florida, he had been determined to attempt to sail the shortcut across the Navidad banks, sail east of the Baja Mar Islands and rendezvous with the main body of the fleet somewhere to the north of those islands which sprouted like clumps of weeds throughout the shallow sea. As he found out, much to his dismay, the best laid plans of men and mice often go astray, and although his plan was sound, nature didn’t cooperate in the normally expected way.
He had barely committed himself to the winding, twisted and narrow channels between the ever present sandbars, numerous coral heads and shallow reefs directly across the deep water passage to the north of Hispaniola when, inexplicably, during the season of the most reliable sailing weather, he had been becalmed. For weeks on end the ship drifted aimlessly, at the mercy of the tides. From horizon to horizon in all directions lay an unbroken sheet of salt water, which was normally a sailor’s delight. But they all knew that in most places except for the channels, that the sheet of water was only a foot or two deep. At times the Captain had been forced to send members of the crew into the longboats and tow the heavily laden ship away from sandbars. It had been an arduous ordeal. At all times the sailors had to take extra care of themselves because of the menace of the many sharks in the area. Those ominous black triangles stood clear of the water to amazing heights and all of the crew knew the dire consequences of falling overboard to share the water with those man eating machines.
Due to their gallant efforts, they actually grounded only twice, both times fortunately without damage, although once they had to wait for high tide to refloat the ship. The mainmast fairly bristled with the knives of the crew in a vain attempt to bring the winds that they needed to move the ship out of its predicament. The fresh water grew scarce, and they knew that they would have to replenish their supply before venturing across the wide Atlantic. Maybe even a provisioning call at Fort Matanzas in Saint Augustine in the far northern reaches of La Florida would be called for before they committed themselves to the crossing. Of course, by that time, the rest of the Silver Fleet would be well on their way and they would have to make the crossing alone.
Only after weeks of struggling were they able to break clear of the northern limits of the shallow banks which had held them prisoner for so long. The early days in the open, deep water before the winds came were like heaven to them, for there was rest for the weary men who had literally towed their ship across the sandbanks. Although the ship was moving very slowly, it was at least moving in deep water, and only the normal watches were being stood. This allowed the off watch to get some much needed sleep.
When the winds did come, gentle at first but continually increasing in strength, it was seen as a sign from heaven that God was watching over them. Soon, however, the men learned to curse at the wind, ever increasing in velocity, as the waves grew in size and power to pin their small ship on its leeward rail. Even the men who admonished the Gods with their requests for more wind by leaving their knives in the mainmast were cursed. The relatively small ship, which only a few days ago had seemed such a huge burden to move against the tides, suddenly seemed tiny in comparison to the size of the waves bearing down them.
Surprisingly, the mainmast was the first to go, sheared off without warning ten feet above the deck by a combination of a tremendous roller at the stern of the ship which slewed her to port and a terrifying rush of wind which twisted the vessel around and sent the sails in an uncontrolled gybe from one side to the other. The mast, which comprised the main motive power of this small caravel, toppled seemingly slowly, but carried with it the yards, sails, pennants, rigging, and the unfortunate sailors who had been aloft shortening sail. Only two of those unlucky enough to be thrown so rudely into the water made it back on board through that savage sea, the others succumbing to the wild water and their inability to keep up with the hard driven ship.
With axes and swords, the mainmast was quickly cut away, there being no question of attempting to salvage any part of it, for the shattered base of the mast, tethered at an acute angle alongside by the tangled rigging, was already trying to beat a hole in the hull. As it finally floated clear of the vessel, the screams of those unfortunate souls caught up in the lines or otherwise unable to swim to the ship, could be heard clearly above the incessant roar of the storm. Before such wind and waves, any attempt at rescue would have been foolhardy and both those in the water and those in the boat knew that the chances of survival in those conditions were slim to none. As the mainmast bearing its human cargo was left astern, many prayers were directed heavenward, both for the soon to drown and for the survivors.
At the Captain’s order, all the remaining sails were quickly furled and the men allowed to come down from the masts and to go belowdecks to ensure their safety while the ship, with its tiller tied down fore and aft, was left to its own devices, to allow it to find its way the best it could through the tumultuous seas. But even this desperate plan failed to achieve its intended purpose of keeping the ship afloat. An hour later the foremast was torn from the keel of the wooden vessel like a rotten tooth, taking some of the outer hull planking with it. The warm salt water flooded in and the ship began to founder. Panic finally set in as the crew realized their vulnerability in remaining down below, and the surge for the gangway was instantaneous. Their timing was unfortunate, however, for at that moment another tremendous wave swept clear across the ship, taking with it half the crew who were emerging from the flooding hull. This wave also caused the mizzenmast to snap like a twig a few feet above the deck and it joined its brethren, floating free in the vast ocean.
As the next wave in line swept across the suddenly unobstructed deck, Juan Ramon felt himself being picked up by the unyielding force of the water, which was attempting to wash him overboard to join his crew. But he was determined to stay with his command until the end. As he slithered across the deck he managed to catch hold of the stump of the mizzenmast and through sheer determination hung on until the wave had dispersed its fury on the other objects on the poopdeck.
Suddenly, above the maniacal shrieking of the storm, his ears picked up another sound. Despite being immersed in warm tropical water, this sound sent an icy dagger through his heart. He had heard the deep, hollow booming of large, wind driven waves breaking on a reef only once before, when he had been shipwrecked in the Philippines during a typhoon some years earlier, but it was a sound that he would never forget.
He turned to face the direction in which the ship was traveling and the sight which met his eyes made him cry out in terror. The gray cliff, which met his salt encrusted gaze, was at least fifty feet above his head. The bow of the boat, burdened by the water in its belly, could not raise its head above the rebounded wall of water from the cliff, and was aiming itself towards the bottom of the ocean. As the water swept over him for the last time, he wept at the thought of never seeing his sweet Constanza again, knowing that his wife of just two years would be waiting alone for him at Cadiz forever.
He felt the strong suction of the warm water close over his head as he and his ship left the surface for the last time and with a sudden calmness, knowing that he could do nothing more to save the situation, noticed the lack of motion down below. His last conscious thought was of his father, Sebastian, the Count of Navarre, and presently the Governor of Cuba. He wondered idly about which his father would regret loosing the most; his youngest son or this fabulous treasure, which was now bound for the bottom of the cruel sea.”
Well, there it is. The beginning of the whole thing. Now it is up to you to continue the adventure into a fascinating voyage.
Until next time.
Now that I have a few minutes out of my busy life, and have finally gotten over a bad cold, I just want to thank all the people who have read my books and taken the time to post testimonials on this website. I truly appreciate hearing from you and as I am deeply involved in finishing my latest novel, I hope that I can count on your continued support. I truly enjoy hearing from my readers and please feel free to email me, or text me; I will attempt to answer every one that I get. I am really liking my new location up here in the mountains, and I must say that it is completely different, and extremely enjoyable, from my past life at sea level. I do miss my old friends in Florida, but hopefully they will find the time to come and see me in my new home. Naturally, as my schedule allows, I will try to make it back to Florida for a reunion.