This morning, I would like to introduce you to my newest novel. There is something unique about writing the first book in a series, but it also carries a huge responsibility, especially when the books coming after yours are written by other authors. That’s the case with The Golden Legacy series. My book, Twist of Fate, which is available now for pre-order, goes live on May 16, 2020. I chose to write a historical romance set immediately after the events critical to the series. Others will write contemporary novels. Some may chose to write suspense novels and paranormal isn’t off the table either. So what, other than similar covers, will bind the series? This.
The Golden Legacy
In the early 1700s, a pirate brigantine attacked a merchant ship, The Golden Fleece, in the Caribbean. Although smaller, the merchant ship bested the pirate craft that contained a treasure trove of gold and jewels. A dying pirate claimed the Incas had cursed anyone who misused the treasure, hence the reason the merchant crew was victorious. The treasure would also bless anyone who used it for good. The greedy merchant captain, James Carlson, was killed during the battle, but his eighteen-year-old daughter, Sarah, survived in her cabin. Mindful of the curse and to thank God for their salvation, she asked the crew members to split the treasure equally, but to make a binding pledge that they would keep only twenty percent for their own use, and give ten percent to help others. With the rest, each was to buy something of great value that could be passed down to their descendants, with the curse passing onto anyone who broke the line and used it selfishly. If used selfishly, the treasure would be lost, but reappear in some form after skipping a generation. Every three weeks a new book will tell you what happens to other Golden Legacy descendants.
Having an avid love for history, I decided to set my book in 1734 and introduce Overton Stafford as my crew member in Twist of Fate. So what’s my book about? Here’s the blurb.
Can a cursed treasure unite two lonely outcasts?
Overton Stafford, shunned by his family because of a birthmark on his face, made a life for himself as Second Mate on The Golden Fleece. In a battle with pirates, Overton loses his left arm, ending his career. Knowing he will be a wealthy man makes the pain easier to bear, especially when he discovers he can repay a moral debt and help an old friend. When he meets Anna, Overton realizes he wants more from her than a financial partnership.
Anneliese Van Stubel lost her sight at nine as a result of Smallpox. Now eighteen, a ward of the crown because of the Danish Age of Majority law, she lives in limbo, uncertain what will happen to her. When Overton approaches her with the proposition to help her rebuild the plantation, she’s excited with the idea of returning to her home. But her joy fades when her caregiver makes it plain that he has a different future in mind for her, one that will profit him.
Set in a time when brutality against women and slaves was the norm, Overton seeks to change things as he falls in love with the girl who has lost so much.
Obviously, a book written during those turbulent times required a lot of research. Since I’d taken a cruise in 2019, one that stopped at several islands in the Eastern section of the Caribbean, I opted to use that as a starting place. I set my story on St Jan, as the island was called when it was part of the Danish West Indies. By 1733, there were 109 plantations on the island, 21 of which are producing sugar. Less than two hundred years later, they were all closed. Today, all that’s left of those plantations are ruins, like the image of the windmill on the once prosperous Annaberg Plantation south of Leinster Bay.
For my story, I created a plantation called, Earthly Paradise. It should come as no surprise to anyone that sugar plantations used slave labor. While we may consider that fact to be abhorrent, the reality was that, while some plantation owners may have tried to treat their slaves humanely, many did not. I chose to set my story in 1734, the year following the slave revolt on St. Jan.
In this day and age, it has become popular to sanitize history by removing the evidence of the injustices of the past, a practice that is not only futile but dangerous, with the chance of having us repeating the same mistakes significantly higher.
Our ancestors weren’t perfect. Just because we abhor a practice doesn’t mean we should pretend it didn’t exist. Slavery was a fact and dates back more than 11,000 years ago when humanity discovered the process of agriculture. There is evidence of it in the Bible. After all, Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery.
Genesis 37:28 And there passed by Midianites, merchantmen; and they drew and lifted up Joseph out of the pit, and sold Joseph to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels of silver. And they brought Joseph into Egypt.
The Arab slave trade lasted for more than a millennium, with Saudi Arabia’s slave population estimated at 300,000 as recently as 1960.
Slavery in the Americas is a touchy subject, one I will not presume to judge. The Spanish began it in 1501, followed by the Danes and British. Over the course of time, rebellions and wars were fought over it.
One such rebellion was the Akwamu Slave Revolt on St. Jan in November of 1733. More information about the revolt and its aftermath can be found at a number of sites online including https://blackartblog.blackartdepot.com/black-history/akwamu-slave-revolt-1733.html
I have tried to relay the information fairly as it applied to the conditions on St. Jan, a Danish island in the West Indies, today St. John, USVI, at the time of my story. History acknowledges one thing. That revolt was the first step toward the eventual abolition of slavery. In 1999, the Legislature of the US Virgin Islands declared November 23, Freedom Fighters Day in honor of the Akwamu who rebelled and fought for their freedom.
Sometimes, remembering the past and acknowledging it is important. It allows us to move forward, a lesson we’ve learned the hard way with the COVID 19 pandemic.
As well as selecting a difficult period in time, I chose to have my main characters deal with what were insurmountable problems back in the day.
Let’s start with my hero. People were superstitious and cruel. Poverty was prevalent, and children as well as adults were commodities. Overton, a family name I’ve chosen to use, was born with a large birthmark on his face, which made him not only an outcast but a very lonely man with no hope for love and family in his future. Eventually, he found himself at sea where the mark didn’t matter, especially after he had a tattoo placed over it, but he is still far from a handsome hero.
To add to his woes, in the battle with the pirate ship, Overton loses the lower half of his left arm–from the elbow down. Discouraged, he must leave the sea, but with his share of the treasure, he hopes to be able to find a place for himself on St. Jan, an island where a friend has a plantation. When he learns of the rebellion and the fact that his friend is dead, he vows to do whatever he can to protect his friend’s blind daughter, the heiress to her father’s plantation, heavily damaged in the rebellion.
I have heard so many people complain about helpless heroines when they apply today’s standards and women’s positions in the world to the past. I wanted to find a way to create a character who wouldn’t be able to stand up for herself. One who would be forced to accept the help of others. Research showed me that among the horrors of the Smallpox epidemic that had struck the island roughly nine years before my story, was the fact that survivors didn’t always get off without lasting damage. Blindness was one of those painful side effects of the disease.
You can never make a second first impression. People judge others on their appearances. We all do it. Weight, hair color, skin color, tattoos, piercings, wardrobe… Those are just a few of the things we notice. Rarely do we initially judge people on the sound of their voice and their behavior toward others. Creating a blind character isn’t the easiest thing to do, but it gave me the chance to explore what it might be like to not be hampered by that judgemental first sight.
It’s hard relying on sounds, smell, taste, and touch to describe things. But more than that, I had to imagine what it would’ve been like back then to be blind. The dangers all around, everything from open flames in the kitchen to feral animals. Underdeveloped land would’ve posed its own dangers. There were no people to teach the blind to read braille, no assistive devices. The blind wouldn’t have survived for long, especially a woman who would be incapable of doing any of the things society demanded of her. And so, I created Anneliese. For her, life is a burden, one that becomes a curse when she loses her family during the insurrection. As an orphan, she inherits her family’s plantation, but because of her age, she becomes a ward of the king, incapable of making any decisions for herself. Her temporary caregivers are a government agent, Mr. Svenson and his wife. A religious zealot, Mr. Svenson is not what he seems and he has plans of his own for Anneliese and her fortune.
So, there you have it. These are the threads I used to create Twist of Fate.
The book is now available for pre-order for the introductory price of 99 cents. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B087QJWMSM
I hope you’ll enjoy my tale of a one-armed sailor and his blind lady.