Well, I didn’t win a trophy, but I did win the the eSpec Books Flash Fiction Contest for September. TS Rhodes and I tied for first place, Author Rhodes with a more traditional pirate story and me with a truncated version of my space pirate story, “Captain’s
Very truncated. The version I’m currently editing for professional submission is roughly 2,300 words. The maximum word count for the flash fiction contest was 919 words. Talk about killing your darlings! First I cut the adjectives and adverbs. Then I cut the physical description. Did the reader really need to know that Captain Carswell looks too young to be in command of a starship? Does it matter that the first officer is African-American, and how do you describe someone of African-American heritage whose ancestors were from Earth, but is neither Terran nor American himself? I cut the characterization out. I cut the foreshadowing for what comes in the sequel I’m planning. I cut out all the Mr. This and Miss That — it’s a rather formal society; Captain Carswell addresses her pilot as Mr. Fernandez rather than just Fernandez, and it changed the flavor to cut out the honorifics. Finally, I deleted as much as I could, wept bitter tears, submitted it, and they liked it.
One of my beta-readers disliked this particular story (the original version, not the truncated version). In part, because I am misusing the word privateer in her opinion. Captain Janet Carswell is a privateer, commander of the HIMS Bandersnatch. She has an imperial letter of marque, which permits her to attack enemies of the Albionese Empire, including pirate ships. When not actively hunting pirates, the Bandersnatch and her sister ship often hire out as escorts to unarmed merchant vessels. My beta-reader says that since privateers were only licensed to hunt their nation’s enemies in the 17th and 18th centuries, I can’t redefine the word to make it an interstellar bounty hunter now. I say that words change meanings all the time, and would certainly change over the centuries. Janet is a naval reservist in the Albionese Navy, but the rest of her crew is civilian. In part, she disliked it because it was too talky. There, I agree with her. The story needs more polishing before it’s ready to be submitted elsewhere, either as an independent short story or the prologue to a novel.
“Captain’s Claim” is something I’ve been playing with off and on for quite a while now. Its influences include Andre Norton’s Scarface, Jane Yolen’s Pirates in Petticoats, Michael Jackson’s Captain EO, and Melinda Snodgrass’ Tears of the Singer.
Feel free to check out the truncated version of the story here. If and when I sell the longer version, I’ll be sure to post it on my blog. (And Facebook, and Twitter, and yelling in the streets … etc., etc.)
Unrelated to pirates, Haggis Rampant, the Louisiana-based bagpipe and bodhrán trio, was kind enough to recommend my children’s book R is for Renaissance Faire on their Facebook page. Copies are available through Amazon as either an e-book or a paperback, or if you prefer an autographed copy, through the Mid-South Renaissance Faire.
Photo credits: the picture of R is for Renaissance Faire, open to the R page, is taken from the Haggis Rampant Facebook page and was briefly their cover picture. The featured image at the top of this blog is a picture of Captain Edward Teach, aka Blackbeard, and is in the public domain due to its age.