The current WiP – The Search for the Crimson Lady

posted in: On writing, Science fiction | 3

Hi there.If you come here at all regularly, you’ll know I write a Saturday blog about politics, covid, what I did last week, our latest travelling adventures, and other sundry topics. But I started this blog because I’m a writer and posts about writing and my books have fallen by the wayside. After all, I describe myself as a ‘writer, photographer, animal lover, space nut’ – and ‘writer and space nut’ have become lost. I had intended to create a writing newsletter, but for various technical reasons it all became to hard and too expensive. So, this is the first of an (at most) weekly blog about my writing hobby, what I’m writing, what inspires me, and my latest project.

I’m currently writing a book that’s named (for now) The Search for the Crimson Lady.

Without me really thinking too much about it, my science fiction books tend to involve a lot of made-up history and some sort of mystery (with a romance chucked in). That’s how this one developed. I suppose it’s a little bit like the legend of the Flying Dutchman, a legendary ghost ship which was said to never be able to make port, doomed to sail the oceans forever, (except in a space setting with a few tweaks). The oldest extant version of the legend of the Flying Dutchman has been dated to the late 18th century. Purported sightings in the 19th and 20th centuries claimed that the ship glowed with a ghostly light. In ocean lore, the sight of this phantom ship is a portent of doom. [1]

Ahem. Back to space, the final frontier. In my story, the Crimson Lady was a pirate ship that preyed on the shipping lanes for seven years or so, when she disappeared without a trace. That happened about one hundred years ago and fact has morphed into legend. Everybody’s got a theory, of course, the most realistic being that the Yrmak warlords, annoyed the ship was muscling in on their pirate trade, blew the Crimson Lady to pieces. In the last few years, though, there have been unsubstantiated reports that the ship has been seen. The True Believers reckon she exists in a parallel universe, from which she occasional appears like a phantom – although nobody really believes it.

And then Tara Wyndham finds an artefact, a mug that was from the original Crimson Lady. Her grandfather is fascinated by the ship and its story and he hires a luxury yacht (with dishy captain) to find out what happened to her.

I always know when a story is going to work. I tend to wake up at around two or three in the morning and stare at the ceiling for an hour or so before I go back to sleep. When I’m onto a good plot, instead of reliving every mistake I ever made in my life, I chew over the details of my story and what has to happen next or what doesn’t make sense or what I have to fix. That’s where I am now. I’m about 12,000 words in, with lots left to write.

Here’s a tiny taste – subject to change without notice. For context, Tara has been to a clearance sale at a deceased estate, where she bought a ship model and a mug. She’s come home, all excited.

Grandfather was in his study watching the rain fall on the house’s central atrium, splatting onto leaves and running down the windows.
“Tara,” he said, smiling. “Just in time.”
“I was lucky. Any later and I would have been drenched.” She handed him the ship model, which he set on the desk in front of him.
“Not bad.” He inspected it, then looked up at her. “But I hope you didn’t pay much for it.”
She told him and he laughed. “It’s worth about three times that much.”
The shelves on the wall behind him held ten spaceship models, a fraction of his collection. He changed them out regularly, but the Crimson Lady always held pride of place, the lady in the flowing red dress prominent on her bow.
“What about this?” She pushed the model aside and put down the mug.
His eyes narrowed and his body tensed. He lifted the mug carefully, turning it in his hands. “The design is correct. Can you tell me anything, Archimedes?”
The house’s IS responded immediately. “The design looks like that of the logo on the original ship. Please show me the maker marks on the base.
Grandfather turned the mug over so the IS could scan it.
The tableware for the original Crimson Lady was manufactured at the Beecher plant. The company no longer exists, taken over eighty-seven years ago by Chando Corporation. That company has now closed. The new owner is Quanzhou Corporation.
“So, this mug might be from the original ship?” “I believe so, yes.”

The story is set in the Dryden Universe. I’ve already written a number of books in that setting, and you’ll encounter a Human Empire (they’re the goodies), large green aggressive aliens called Yrmaks, and a few other aliens. You’re right, it’s all a bit reminiscent of Star Wars – but I hope the physics is a bit better and there’s NO magic and NO Force.

3 Responses

  1. Mike Hayward

    Do you realise that Virgins latest and biggest cruise ship is called “The Scarlet Lady”. Perhaps you should seek sponsorship

    • Greta

      No, I didn’t know that. Maybe I’d better change the name – don’t want any ‘cease and desist’ orders.

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