Middle Grade Fantasy Adventure
Thirteen-year-old Jocelyn Hook is a disappointment. Her grandfather intends to see her pressed and starched into a well-mannered, fine society lady – but Jocelyn has other plans. Besides having a distinct aversion to starch, Jocelyn wields a sword better than an embroidery needle. She dreams of high-sea adventure, hoping to become every bit as daring a pirate as her infamous father, Captain James Hook. A forced admittance to Miss Eliza Crumb-Biddlecomb’s Finishing School for Young Ladies insists that Jocelyn stuff those dreams into a lacy white handbag – complete with matching hankie.
When she is sprung from school in order to hunt down the crocodile that killed her father, Jocelyn finds more adventure than she ever imagined. As if trying to defeat Neverland’s most fearsome beast isn’t enough to deal with, she must captain a crew of untrained pirates, battle a not-quite ghostly ship, outwit cannibals that are wild for English cuisine, and tame the attentions of a love-sick fairy.
HOOK’S REVENGE, a middle grade fantasy-adventure, is complete at 56,000 words.
Prologue: Children Have Sticky Fingers and Ask Impertinent Questions
There have always been pirates. Why, even as far back as Eve, on the day she was considering whether or not to eat that apple, a pirate was most certainly planning to sail in and take it from her. He failed, of course, but that’s not why you’re here, is it?
I expect that you’d like to hear about the most famous of all pirates, Captain James Hook. As I am the world’s foremost expert on him, naturally you came to me.
Children come to me all the time, begging me to tell what I know. I graciously seat them in a circle around me, lean in, and whisper, “Not a chance.”
I don’t like children all that much.
However, last Thursday I became an old man. It occurs to me that someday I will die. Like many my age, I hope that I may go peacefully, in the midst of a hostage situation or a failed arson attempt, but I digress…
We were talking about Captain Hook. Most everyone knows the main points of his story: Peter Pan, the iron hook, the crocodile, and so on and so forth, but what came after – with Jocelyn, Hook’s last request, and such – now that’s far more interesting.
What’s that? You’ve never heard of Jocelyn?
I’m not surprised. I’d venture to guess that a list of things you don’t know about could fill volumes. However, today appears to be your lucky day – you are about to be enlightened. The fact that I am the one who must provide the enlightenment can only mean that today is my unlucky day, but sometimes these things cannot be helped.
Let me see, how to describe the girl…
Ah, I have it! Have you ever been privy to witness a great disaster, such as the burning of a circus?
Picture it: a great trumpeting of elephants and snarling of tigers. Ladies, both beaded and bearded, fainting of terror. A mighty bucket brigade made of midgets and clowns, sword swallowers and finely-dressed dandies, all shouting and sweating as they pass buckets of water up the line to the source of the flames. Now look to it, the great and tragic circus tent aflame, its colors more vivid than life and all the more beautiful wrapped in disaster…If you can imagine that, you will have a pretty good sense of young Jocelyn.
What else would you expect from Captain Hook’s own daughter?
There is no use putting it off any longer; it is time to tell what I know, lest the girl’s story die with me. Settle in, I suppose. Do be sure not to touch anything, and for heaven’s sake, please don’t breathe so loudly. I won’t stand for it.
If you’re quite comfortable, I’ll pour myself a little drink and begin. If you are not comfortable, I’ll begin anyway. Your comfort is of little concern to me.
Now, let’s see…Jocelyn, hers is a tale worth telling.
Chapter One: In Which Our Heroine Displays a Clear Need for Professional Help
The week before Jocelyn’s grandfather decided to send her away to finishing school was an eventful one, even by her standards.
On Monday, Jocelyn’s newest tutor found his pupil unable to do her history lesson. Someone had torn most of the pages from her lesson book in order to make paper boats. This same unidentified person then floated the paper vessels on the garden pond, after lighting them on fire, of course. Jocelyn sat at her desk, wide-eyed and innocent, with a spot of soot on her nose and the faint smell of smoke still clinging to her rumpled dress.
If you ask me, her tutor was wrong to turn in his resignation. True history is filled with burning fleets.
On Tuesday, Jocelyn startled the head cook, who rather foolishly did not expect the girl to come flying down the front banister brandishing a wooden sword and singing a bawdy sea chantey at the top of her lungs. A tea-tray of French pastries dropped on Sir Charles’s finest Persian rug was clearly no one’s fault but the cook’s own.
Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday were much the same: Jocelyn tore her new silk stockings trying to climb the high iron fence surrounding Hopewell Manor in order to see out and “scout for enemy ships approaching.” Her finest blue sash went missing, only to be discovered under the hedgerow, one end tied into a complicated sailor’s knot, the other, a noose.
She scandalized the third-floor serving maids when she refused her evening bath by shouting, “Look out, ye dog-livered landlubbers! I’m the most feared girl-pirate to ever live! I’ll see you keelhauled before you get me to walk the plank!”
All of these things were bad, to be sure, but not entirely out of character for the child. It was what she did on Saturday that made her grandfather, Sir Charles Hopewell IV, feel he had to take drastic action.
Shortly after Jocelyn’s birth, when it became clear that he must be the one to raise the child, Sir Charles vowed to do all in his power to ensure that she grow up to become a fine society lady, well-mannered and well-married (preferably to a man of title such as himself). To the man’s credit, he did try.
At age twelve, Jocelyn was rapidly approaching young womanhood; Sir Charles was thinking about future suitors. On Saturday evening of that fateful week, he invited Lord and Lady Trottington and their one-day-perhaps-quite-eligible son, Ambrose, to a dinner party in order to show off his lovely young granddaughter.
Jocelyn sauntered into the dining-room twenty minutes after the soup course had been served – with twigs in her unruly dark curls, muddy knees, grass-stains on the seat of her dress, and a tattered adventure novel tucked under her arm. Sir Charles glowered at her and muttered something under his breath about interviewing for yet another governess as soon as possible.
Jocelyn laughed at his frown, set her book on the sideboard, and seated herself directly across from Ambrose. Looking up, she couldn’t help but notice that he was unabashedly picking his nose. She stared at him in fascinated interest for a moment. Ambrose took no notice, but continued with his mining.
“I am sorry for coming in late,” she said to the boy, “but I was lost in the best part of my book. A giant cyclops was threatening to eat Odysseus and his crew. In order to escape and get back to their ship, they had to get the monster drunk, wait until he was firmly asleep, get a sharp stick and…” Jocelyn leaned in and spoke in a reverential whisper. “…gouge his terrible cyclops eye out. Isn’t that marvelous?”
Ambrose yawned and looked across the table at Jocelyn. He did not bother to remove his finger from his nostril, choosing instead to speak around it, “That’s rather disgusting talk for the dining table. You are pretty enough, I suppose, but I can see that you may need to learn some manners if we are to court when we are older.”
Jocelyn immediately decided dinner should not last much longer. If Ambrose wanted a display of manners, she would give him one. For the next quarter of an hour, Jocelyn laughed too loudly, slurped her soup, dribbled gravy in her lap, and used her sleeve instead of a napkin.
Sir Charles and Lord Trottington took no notice; they were deep in discussion about the proper application of wig powder. Lady Trottington looked on with her usual expression of silent disapproval. Ambrose removed his finger from his nose and inserted it in his ear. He pulled out an amber glob of wax, sniffed it, and wiped it on the tablecloth.
Clearly, it was time for Jocelyn to play her trump card.
“You know,” she said in a loud, clear voice, “I think my father would like to meet you. He’s been away, but I expect he’ll come for me any time now. Perhaps you have heard of him? Captain James Hook?”
Lady Trottington fainted dead away into her plate of jellied eels. Lord Trottington let out terrified scream. (Who would have guessed him to be a soprano?) As for Ambrose, the thorough scrubbing a house maid gave his chair that evening can attest to his reaction to Jocelyn’s pronouncement.
The next day Sir Charles demanded that Jocelyn take an unusual outing with him: a stroll down execution dock. Here the recently executed bodies of pirates and other criminals were often placed in iron cages, called gibbets, and put on public display. Sir Charles planned to employ a time honored tactic used by parents the world over: frightening the child into obedience.
As the pair walked along the dock, a horrifying scene played out above them. The gibbets creaked and moaned in a slight breeze, calling to mind sounds of ghosts in all the old stories.
Their occupants varied in looks, depending on freshness. Those that had been long exposed to the elements lay shrunken and shriveled in their iron cages. Thanks to the gruesome work of birds and time, these former pirates were reduced to little more than bones. The skulls grinned down at the gentleman and his granddaughter, empty eye sockets staring.
Worse still were the fresher bodies. These were stinking, dripping, and bloated. Some swelled so much that they pressed into the bars, rather like an overly ample woman trying to squeeze into a too-small corset.
A few moments of the terrible view should have been sufficient. Sir Charles held a handkerchief to his nose and ushered the willful child back to the safety of their carriage. They traveled most of the way home in silence. As the pair reached the gates of home, Sir Charles, wanting to be sure of his success, questioned, “And what did you learn today, Jocelyn?”
The girl looked up at him with red-rimmed eyes. “Two things, Grandfather. First, if I am to be a pirate and sail with my father, I must be a very good one and not get caught. Second, I will never, ever wear a corset.”
That very evening, Sir Charles penned a letter to Miss Eliza Crumb-Bibblecomb herself. Even with his finest efforts, he had been unable to make any headway in turning Jocelyn into a lady. It was time for professional help.