My Guests Revisiting: James L. Nelson

... recycling some posts from  an old (now deleted) blog of mine that I ran in 2011/2012 

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Multiple award-winning author of maritime history and fiction, bringing to life
America's historic links to the sea.

Jim Nelson was born and raised in Lewiston. He has always harboured a deep love of ships and the sea, though no one else in his family ever did, which leads him to believe that it is a genetic disorder and not learned behavior.

Non Fiction
George Washington’s Secret Navy is the story of the small fleet of schooners established by George Washington soon after he took command of the Continental Army outside Boston. It is also the story of how Washington, a farmer whose military experience had taken place far from the sea, came to appreciate the importance of naval power in the war he would be fighting.

George Washington’s Great Gamble
Published in the Spring of 2010. George Washington’s Great Gamble tells the story of the centrality of sea power to victory in the American Revolution, and how Washington gambled everything on the hope of a French naval victory over the British off the Virginia coast. It tells as well the nearly miraculous story of how all the elements came together to give the Americans and their French allies a situation in which they were able to capture Lord Charles Cornwallis and his army at Yorktown.


The Revolution at Sea Saga – Captain Isaac Biddlecomb of Rhode Island  is swept up in the naval war for American Independence

By Force of Arms
The Maddest Idea
The Continental Risque
Lords of the Ocean
All the Brave Fellows

The Brethren of the Coast Trilogya series about Thomas Marlowe, a former pirate who tries to give up the old life and settle in Colonial America, but keeps getting drawn back to his old ways.
The Guardship
The Blackbirder
The Pirate Round
he Samuel Bowater Books- Set during the early days of the American Civil War, Samuel Bowater leaves his beloved United States Navy to fight for the Confederacy.
Glory in the Name – winner of the American Library Association/William Young Boyd Award
Thieves of Mercy

The Only Life that Mattered – a novel based on the lives of the pirates Anne Bonny and Mary Read.

Jim’s next book was out in March 2011. Something of a departure from his usual maritime theme, With Fire and Sword is about the early days of the American Revolution, culminating in the Battle of Bunker Hill.

Early Reviews of With Fire and Sword: 
Publisher’s Weekly: 
This rousing history rescues Bunker Hill from its folkloric shroud and pre-sents it as one of the revolution’s more significant and dramatic battles. Historian and novelist Nelson (Benedict Arnold’s Navy) calls the 1775 engagement–a struggle for high ground from which American artillery could hit the British stronghold in Boston–the revolution’s “first real battle.” Nelson’s gripping portrait of the battle caps a lively chronicle of the early days of the rebellion in Massachusetts and of the revolutionaries’ scramble to establish a government and organize an army as they edged uneasily toward independence. Nelson’s well-researched, entertaining account of the revolution’s opening chapter aptly conveys the difficulty and riskiness of the patriots’ gamble. 

His latest fiction series is a Voyage into the Viking age of Ireland - full of adventure and excitement.

Book #4
Amazon UK   Amazon US  

"Glendalough Fair is a novel of deception, betrayal, and honor. The various storylines are intricately woven, and while how they will intersect isn’t initially obvious, they come together seamlessly to realistically depict life in Ireland during the Viking Era. While the water scenes are minimal, the raid is portrayed with ingenuity that shows how much Thorgrim’s son has matured during the course of this series. Readers will gloss over the occasional misspellings or missing words, because this riveting and gritty tale is told so vividly it unfolds in the mind’s eye like a movie playing on the big screen. Fans of Thorgrim and his men will relish this latest saga and eagerly await their fifth adventure."
 ©2016 Cindy Vallar

Book #5
Amazon UK  Amazon US
"An intricately woven tale of betrayal and revenge. Violence remains a key element of this story and the time period, yet Thorgrim, Cónán, and Aghen rely more on ingenuity and knowledge than their fighting expertise in the encounters with their enemies. This adds depth to the characters and shatters the stereotypical portrayals of Norse and Irish alike. Readers who haven’t read the previous volume, Glendalough Fair, won’t have any trouble following what happens in the aftermath of that disaster, but reading that title first may enrich the experience of Night Wolf. Like the tales of old told by an Irish seanachaidh or a Norse skaldNight Wolf lures readers into its web and holds them spellbound until the story ends.
 ©2016 Cindy Vallar

A few questions for Jim to answer:
HH Out of your fictional sea-heroes, which one is your favourite?

JLN. Ah, that’s like asking which of my kids I like the best! Isaac Biddlecomb, protagonist of my series about the naval action of the American Revolution, was my first character, so he holds a special place in my heart. However, because he was my first, he is perhaps not as nuanced some of my later characters, though I do think he has some depth. Thomas Marlowe is the pirate turned gentleman who still gets lured back into piracy, and I like him quite a bit. Samuel Bowater is the main character in the two novels I did about the Confederate Navy during the American Civil War. In some ways he’s my least favourite, insofar as he is a bit of a stuffed shirt.
 His foil, engineer Hieronymus Taylor, is one of my favourites and one of my readers favourites, and I very much like the interaction between them.

A long response, and as yet no answer. I guess I’d have to give it to Thomas Marlowe.

HH. You wrote a fabulous book about the famous female pirates Mary Reed and Anne Bonny “ The Only Life That Mattered” – do you think they were the only female pirates, or were they only ones we know about because they were captured?

Ann Bonny and Mary Read were certainly not the only female pirates. Next most famous is the Irish pirate Grace O’Malley. But Ann and Mary are perhaps the best known, in part because they sailed during the last years of the Golden Age of Piracy in the Caribbean, and in part because they were captured and there were so many witnesses to their trial, and the transcripts as well. The “Trial of the Century” circa 1720. Also, there is a serious titillation factor with them. But no, they were by no means the only women pirates.

As I tell my daughters, piracy is still a good career option for a young woman.

HH. Do you think you’ll write any more fiction novels?

I would love to wrote more fiction, but I don’t see it happening anytime in the next few years. A lot of editors have this idea that historical fiction aimed at a male readership is dead. You can write as many novels as you want about Anne Boleyn and they all seem to get published, but something that is aimed at a male readership? No interest. Now it is certainly true that women read a lot more than men (another reason they are the superior gender) but I think the publishers are wrong on this. [HH I absolutely agree!]

However, I will say that I enjoy non-fiction as much as fiction. It is an entirely different animal, and a real challenge to make the pages turn when you can’t make things up, but I like it. And it’s frankly easier to get review and media attention, as well as speaking gigs, all things one has to consider when supporting five people who insist on eating regularly.

HH. Your next book is ‘With Fire and Sword’ – not your usual maritime sort of work. What prompted you to write it?

I’ve been writing maritime history, both fiction and non-fiction, my whole career. It is certainly my passion. But I am also passionate about the American Revolution. With Fire and Sword is about the opening year of the Revolution, culminating in the Battle of Bunker Hill. It’s a fascinating story. Most Americans would tell you we won the Battle of Bunker Hill, which we did not. But it also was the event, coming right on the heels of Lexington and Concord, that let the British army know that this would not be the stroll in the park they envisioned. And I also want to give a good account of both sides. The British, of course, were not monsters, and Thomas Gage, the British commander, was about as fair a man as one could ask, but he was in an impossible situation. Great stuff.

HH. Let’s pretend you are a Captain aboard a grand Royal Navy Vessel. You have been instructed by the Admiralty to invite 10 guests to dine.
You can have anyone – alive or dead – who would you choose and why?

Oh boy…

Okay, Jesus would be one, how could you miss a chance like that?
Shakespeare, he’d probably be a lot of fun to party with. And Mary Read. Maybe Ann Bonny.
Benjamin Franklin, to be sure. He might be first on the list. George Washington, certainly. You would think I would say Horatio Nelson and John Paul Jones, and certainly I’d have to consider them, but brilliant as they were, I don’t know if they’d be my first choice for a dinner conversation.
Certainly I would invite Ernest Hemingway and C. S. Forester. And probably Teddy Roosevelt.
And of course my wife, Lisa. I couldn’t let her miss such a gathering, and I would clearly need help with the small talk!

Thank you Jim (please can we have some more adventures of Biddlecomb and Marlowe…… ?)

A personal note from Helen
Relevant to this guest spot – Jim is my “red pen” when it comes to editing the nautical detail of my Sea Witch novels.
I had read all his fiction books – loving both Marlowe and Biddlecomb as characters – and I e-mailed him to say thank you for the super reads. WE struck up a bit of an friendship and I confided in Jim that I was writing Sea Witch, but I knew it would be rubbish as I am no sailor (never been aboard a tall ship – or even a short ship – in my life!)

Jim offered advice and to edit; I am so grateful to him for his professional help and cheerful friendship.

Jim's website
Jim's Blog

He graduated from UCLA with a degree in motion picture/television production and for several years pursued a career in the television industry. Finally, finding that despite being in Southern California it was a damp, drizzly November in his soul, Jim took the cure Melville recommended and decided to sail about a little and see the watery part of the world.
The Rose
(aka Surprise)
For six years he worked on board traditional sailing ships including a replica of Sir Francis Drake's Golden Hind the Lady Washington (known to Pirates of the Caribbean fans as the Interceptor) and the Revolutionary War frigate HMS Rose (better known as HMS. Surprise in the movie Master & Commander)

Jim went aboard the Rose in 1991 and a year later the urge to write a novel overwhelmed him and he started his first novel - By Force of Arms, was written mostly in the third mate's cabin of the ship, and on the great cabin table.

“ I was working on deck one day when the idea for my first book came to me, just one sentence, just like a bolt. I stood up and jotted that one sentence down, and that was the seed of the book."
Jim at work in the
Great Cabin

By Force of Arms incorporates much of the history of the original Rose when she was on patrol in Narragansett Bay, and some of Nelson's own experiences aboard the modern replica.

Finally realizing it would be easier to write about sailing rather than actually doing it, he came ashore and began a full time career as a writer.

Jim is the author of many works of maritime fiction and history. His book George Washington's Secret Navy won the 
Samuel Eliot Morison Award for Naval History.

My Guests Revisiting: Graphics Designer Cathy Helms

Over the next few weeks I will be recycling some posts from  an old (now deleted) blog of mine that I ran in 2011/2012 ... Today's Remembered Recycle:

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 originally published July 2011
Avalon Graphics (est 2009)
Greetings ladies and gents! I'm Cathy Helms writing  to you from rural North Carolina, USA. First of all I want to thank my phenomenal friend Helen for inviting me to her blog! It is great to be here and to be introduced to all of her readers. (HH lovely to have you here!)
Helen Hollick
I primarily read historical fiction, always on the lookout for anything 'Arthurian',  and while perusing the fiction section at my local Barnes & Noble bookstore spotted The Kingmaking. And that book discovery is what led me to Helen! I wrote to her with a letter of praise for her Pendragon's Banner Trilogy (which is still one of my favorite Arthur-centric novels of all time),  and that initial contact led to her hiring me to re-design the cover for her pirate novel 'Sea Witch'....
Helen Hollick
and I've been working with Helen ever since! 
She's introduced me to a whole bunch of great folks in the industry, so I owe a great deal of my recent successes to her!

My husband and I reside in North Carolina, relocating over a decade ago from Florida (USA), where we both grew up. After years of working in billing and customer service, I finally had enough of crunching numbers and creating invoices. So I applied and was accepted into my local community college where I earned a degree in Advertising and Graphic Design in 2008. 

I call the college experience my own version of a 'mid life crisis' since I waited until I turned 40 to further my education. After graduating, I established Avalon Graphics and have been working out of our home growing my design business steadily since 2009. And I feel that my big break came when I reached out to Helen and ended up fulfilling all of her graphic needs.

I grew up with a healthy interest in anything related to the Arthurian legends - thus the inspiration for naming my design business. Fantasizing about castles, knights in shining armour and all that frivolity were (and still are!) my favorite pastime. Also, I have always been fascinated with British history; in particular the Dark Ages. Bucket list item - walk a section of Hadrian's Wall! I regularly attend local Renaissance Festivals here in North Carolina, and travelled to the UK for the first time in 2012.

I am also a passionate digital photographer and often use my own photography in my design creations. I grew up with dreams of becoming a filmmaker, or a singer, or an artist, and so I've always considered myself a creative soul. As a teenager, I sang in my school's choir, played the trumpet, and was student director of many school stage productions. 

I graduated with the distinction of being named Drama Student of the Year in 1985. But it wasn't until much later in my life that I returned to my creative roots. Fresh out of high school, I failed to follow those dreams. Instead, I followed the job market earning a steady income for the first twenty two years of my professional life, working in dull cubicles.

Besides all things 'Arthurian', I also fell in love with Tolkien's Lord of the Rings novels while still working in the drab office environment. And when Peter Jackson produced the stunning films back in 2001, I found my muse again for imaginative pursuits. I began writing poetry and dabbling in fan fiction writing. And I wanted to create my own computer desktop wallpapers based on the Lord of the Rings and other fandoms.

Desktop Wallpaper

So after some research into how these digital wallpapers were created I discovered a computer software program called Adobe Photoshop. Years before I went to college to gain a formal education in the medium I taught myself how to create graphics for the web and print media with Photoshop. What my formal education gave me was the technical skills that I would need in order to apply my creative skills in the field of Advertising and Graphic Design. Most importantly, I learned how to prepare digital designs for print and quickly discovered a particular love for book cover design.

Helen Hollick
How I do it - I am often asked about my process in designing book jackets and my initial response goes something like this: each project is unique and it 'depends....' I know, that is incredibly vague. *laughs* I ask the client about their manuscript first, then ask a few questions about favorite colors, other book covers that they favor and if they have any specific elements they'd like to see on the cover.

Cover Design by
Avalon Graphics
 Then I begin my concepts (in Photoshop, not by hand which usually surprises folks) based on the client's input and largely on my own gut instinct after interacting with the client. I like to work directly with the client in developing a cover design that truly speaks to them and represents the story that they are telling within the pages of their book. While my education taught me the 'rules' of formal graphic design, I like to step outside that box and go for something more unique whenever possible. 
Pauline Barclay
Not all publishing houses allow free styling in book cover design, but I certainly push that envelope! I fashion myself a photo manipulator with a serious addiction to typography. However, my resume simply says 'Graphic Designer' as that would be the prim and proper title for my profession.

So what I do -  offer an array of design services and have geared Avalon Graphics to suit the self-published and small businesses in the market in need of quality design while on a tight budget. I provide full book jacket layouts, marketing materials such as fliers, post cards, bookmarks, web graphics, as requested. (Note : I used to do book trailers for You Tube, sadly I no longer have time to do these.)

Designs for marketing:

 Design for Helen's 2011
Blog Tour

Three of Cathy's wonderful covers have been nominated for the Indie BRAG award please click here to vote for Cathy's covers, and any others that take your gfancy in the various categories

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from the original post

Cathy: which ten people would you invite to a dinner party and why? 
You can have anyone, alive, dead or fictional.

1. Lucius Artorius Castus (Roman Commander who lived 140-197): He led a legion of Roman soldiers based at Ribchester against the Caledonii tribe during a large campaign to push the enemy back north of Hadrian's Wall in his time. I think the man would give me a fantastic insight to life along the Wall...whether or not his campaign was in part the basis for the Arthurian Legends...well that is anyone's guess. But he's high on my own personal list of contenders for the real Arthur. And any man of that caliber I'd love a long chat with over a strong wine and in front of a roaring fire.

2. Clive Owen (actor, 46): My favorite actor! I think he'd be an interesting dinner party guest because he always seems friendly and impeccable in interviews. He comes from humble beginnings and I'd like to hear more about how he'd made it all work in such a tough industry as movie making.  I'm a bit curious about his obsession with David Bowie too, and I would ask him all sorts of questions about learning to ride horses for the filming of King Arthur - and his own thoughts on the legends. What was it truly like to portray 'Arthur'?

3. Steven Spielberg (director, producer, screenwriter, etc) - my idol filmmaker since I first saw his films back in the early 80's. Fascinating man. I would ask him about his inspirations and whole creative process. And why exactly did Indiana Jones hate snakes so much?

4. Gaius Julius Caesar (probably most famous Roman of them all / 100BC to 44BC): I've always been fascinated with this man's life story - what we know of it at any rate. I'd love to hear all about it in first person. What was the Roman Empire truly like day in and day out? And how much did he truly trust Brutus?

5. Helen Hollick! (writer and friend): One of the most inspirational people that I've ever met. I think we could talk for days about pirates, warlords and wine! (I accept - you've got a date! :-)

6. Howard Huddleston (b. March 1912 d. Dec 1988): My paternal grandfather. I adored him and he adored me. I never had enough time with him. He is the reason that I have a particular love of animals...especially horses. He bought me my very own pony before I could walk. And much to my mother's dismay, he always took me out to his pastures to feed the horses; allowing them to lick my hair and such when I was still a toddler.

7. Linda Hostetler Tucker (b. Oct 1968 d. June 2008): My beloved cousin. I lost her too soon. I miss her. She was my twin in life.

8. Ashley Argo: My best friend! She's my writing partner; she understands and most importantly accepts all my quirky ways. And how could I have a dinner party that included Clive Owen without inviting Ashley? She would murder me. *laughs*

9. Captain Jack Sparrow! (fictional - Pirates of the Caribbean franchise) Don't tell Jesamiah Acorne that I picked Sparrow over him! It was a tough choice mind you. Perhaps I would have better luck getting the rum if I invited Acorne instead! Jack Sparrow is one of the most beguiling and bewildering characters ever to grace the screen...or the Caribbean.

10.Richard Cypher (fictional - The Seeker): Terry Goodkind gave us the best of all men when he created Richard for the Sword of Truth series. And I would love the chance to share a meal with the modest woods guide who turned out to be the savior of their entire world. I want to know what it is like to be a War Wizard! And I bet he could prepare a better meal than any fancy restaurant on the planet today.

Contact Cathy 

Cathy's Award Winning cover for
1066 Turned Upside Down