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Showcase: White Gold + Redemption

September’s Showcases are introduced by Georgina Brown, Manager of The Wilbur & Niso Smith Foundation.

In adventure fiction, there is no smooth sailing. The protagonists will always find obstacles in their paths, like in all good stories. Whether it’s a physical obstacle, a geographical one or relationship-based, there will be speed bumps that emerge in the hero’s path, slowing them down. But that’s the key. Obstacles slow you down, but they don’t have to stop you entirely. With determination and perseverance, and maybe a little thinking outside the box, there’s always a way to keep on going.

With this in mind, in my fourth week of editing the Write On! Showcase, I’d like to consider the idea of rejection. Most writers you talk to will tell you that doubt and rejection come with the job. When the item in question is something you’ve created, the rejection can feel all the more personal.

Rejection comes in many guises, and frequently, it’s not about you. For writers seeking agent representation, there could be many reasons for receiving a rejection. Perhaps the agent doesn’t believe your work is quite ready, or perhaps they don’t feel they are the right person to represent you. At the end of the day, don’t you want what’s right and best for you and your manuscript? If you can take rejection in your stride, it can often lead to something bigger and better.

This week, I’ve chosen an extract and a poem to showcase this. I’m delighted to first share an extract from White Gold by Victoria Hopkins, which portrays protagonist Thomas being directly rejected as he tries to find an investor for his South Carolina plantation.

White Gold

Thomas pushed his way through the heaving crowds that filled Cheapside, past the market traders, costermongers and street hawkers with their laden barrows and crates, careful not to step onto the thoroughfare, busy with horses, carts and carriages. It was a relief when he reached the slightly less chaotic Cornhill, and slipped into Birchin Lane.

It was a narrow street, the half-timbered buildings on both sides leaning towards each other, casting it in perpetual shadow. He encountered a couple of whores who lifted their skirts as he passed, and two sharply dressed gentlemen who acknowledged Thomas with a nod. The murmur of voices rose to a crescendo as he reached a doorway with a wooden sign above it: ‘Carolina Coffee House’. He took a deep breath, then pushed open the half-glazed door and stepped inside.

He was immediately engulfed by the heat and noise of the place.  He halted at the door, trying to take it all in. A fog of thick tobacco smoke hovered near the ceiling, and the spicy aroma of roasted coffee beans filled the air. It was a large parlour, crammed with merchants and gentlemen. Some stood at the bar, whilst others sat around a long, dark wooden table in the centre of the room upon which lay a selection of pamphlets, journals, and newspapers.

Thomas found an empty seat at the table.  Almost immediately, a maid appeared with a large pewter pot and poured him a cup of coffee. She leaned over him, forcing Thomas to stare straight down the cleavage of her ample bosom.

‘Anythin’ else I can ’elp you with, my love?’ she asked in a thick, cockney accent. ‘For a price, of course,’ she added, in a whisper.

Thomas lifted his gaze up from her bosom.  She had the appearance of Fanny Hill and was clearly more attracted to the cut of his cloth and the weight of his purse than himself, but he would never actually entertain a whore.  ‘No, thank you.’  He dug into his pocket for one of the English coins Ralph had kindly lent him, and handed it to her.

Thomas savoured the taste of the smoky, bitter coffee, then picked up one of the pamphlets from the centre of the table and pretended to read whilst surveying the room. All around him men were drinking coffee and smoking pipes, talking animatedly in groups or pairs; some were just reading.  He saw money exchange hands in return for slips of paper as men carried out business.  He recalled what Mr Wedgwood had said about the white clay, but there was no obvious sign of anyone selling it.

His gaze was drawn to a gentleman addressing a small crowd in the far corner of the room. The man introduced himself as Mr Sillito, a merchant from South Carolina. He had a tanned, leathery complexion and spoke with an American drawl, that slowness of speech similar to his own, that had developed in the British colonies to help different nationalities understand what was being said. Thomas drained his cup and joined the back of the crowd.

‘I have opportunities to suit every budget,’ Mr Sillito continued, ‘whether you have a few pounds to invest or a few hundred. I offer a guaranteed return of four per cent, all with established low-country plantations. Low risk, but guaranteed high yield. Take indigo, for example. A small blue plant, now one of the most valuable commodities in the colony. Fortunes are being made over there as we speak. Everyone can afford to invest, however small the sum. You’d be foolish not to. But you must invest today – I set sail again tomorrow.’

A few members of the audience muttered amongst themselves while a large gentleman stood up and waved a handful of bank notes in the air.

‘I’ll sign up!’ he shouted.

‘And I!’ shouted another.

Sillito, smiling broadly, sat down at the table, picked up a pen and dipped it in a small pot of ink as a queue formed in front him. Thomas was amazed to see so many men willing to part with their money with so little persuasion.  An idea suddenly came to him, pushing all thoughts of Mr Wedgwood’s venture out of his mind.

Thomas stepped forward.  ‘Sir, can you tell me exactly where the investment will go to?’

The merchant, interrupted whilst counting a wad of bank notes, looked up at Thomas.

‘Plantations in South Carolina,’ replied Sillito. He was smiling politely, but his eyes were flashing dangerously.

‘Can you be a little more precise?’ asked Thomas. ‘South Carolina is a large colony – almost as big as England, in fact.’

The men in the queue turned to stare at him and silence descended in that corner of the room.

‘I act for a number of planters,’ said Sillito. ‘There are many plantations in the low country.’

‘As I am fully aware, sir, being a planter there myself.’

A few men from elsewhere in the room now joined the crowd gathered around Sillito.

‘There are many men there willing to take your money and disappear with it,’ Thomas said, addressing the group. ‘Have you learned nothing from the South Seas scandal? Gentlemen, you need to know where your money will be going. You need to know who the planter is and what crops he grows. I am one such planter and I’m willing to tell you what I grow.’

‘And who the devil are you?’ demanded Sillito.

‘Thomas Griffiths, sir. I own three thousand acres just outside of Charlestown.’

‘And who can vouch for you?’

‘I am the brother of Ralph Griffiths, a respectable gentleman living here in London and editor of The Monthly Review.’

Sillito frowned.

‘And what is your crop, sir?’ asked one of the speculators.


‘Rice? Ha! There’s no money to be made in rice. The market has plummeted.’

‘I disagree, sir,’ Thomas said confidently. ‘Have you not read the new tax proposals? There is soon to be a tax relief on rice exports. I can offer five per cent guaranteed return.’

The audience turned back to Sillito, awaiting his response.

‘You do know about the tax relief on rice, don’t you?’ Thomas added.

Sillito smiled weakly. ‘This man is a fool,’ he said to the expanding crowd. ‘The Chancellor would not give relief to the colonists when Englishmen are already taxed to the hilt. If you invest with him, you’ll never see your money again.’

‘I can offer you a five per cent guaranteed return,’ Thomas repeated.

The crowd mumbled amongst themselves, then turned away from Sillito. The merchant scowled at Thomas and threw down his pen in disgust.

Thomas was none too pleased either. His idea to poach some investors had fallen flat on its face. He made his way to the door.

Outside, he inhaled a lungful of fresh air. He should have bided his time. He could have come back another day armed with facts and figures, with paperwork. Now, he had most likely ruined his chances with the Coffee House merchants. He mulled over the option of asking Ralph to invest again, but it really was a last resort. Cursing under his breath, he set off towards Cornhill.

He suddenly had a feeling he was being followed, an instinct he had honed whilst a scout, that he had learned never to ignore.  He turned to see a brute of a man approaching him, but then he remembered seeing him amongst the crowd gathered around Sillito. Perhaps the man was interested in investing.

‘Can I help you?’ said Thomas, smiling.

‘Don’t show your face ’ere again,’ the man growled, stopping so close that Thomas inadvertently inhaled a lungful of his stale breath.

‘Are you threatening me?’ Thomas asked, his eyes narrowing. He stared at the row of decaying teeth and clenched his fists.

Close up, the man was huge – taller, broader, and a lot heavier than him.

‘Yeah. And what are you gonna do about it?’ the man sneered.

Thomas’s rage ignited and he punched the man on the chin, causing him to stagger back against the wall. He quickly followed with his left fist, slamming it into the man’s solar plexus and knocking the breath right out of him. The man buckled and slumped to the ground. Two blows were all it took.  Pugilism was another skill Thomas had picked up in the colony.

‘I trust that answers your question?’ Thomas said coldly, straightening his coat sleeves.

He flexed his hands and noticed his right knuckle was bleeding. He pulled Ralph’s silk handkerchief from a pocket and made a tight bandage with it around his fist. He straightened his peruke, and looked up and saw the same two gentlemen he had met on his way to the coffee house. This time, they were staring at him in horror. Thomas turned on his heel and disappeared into the crowd in Cornhill.

He spent the rest of the day drifting from tavern to tavern, spending Ralph’s money on ale and rum as he debated what to do.  He was running out of time and had waited long enough.  He had to return to Charlestown soon; Daf and Rhys were waiting for him to return with investment in time for spring sowing.  He had worked his passage over, and expected speculators in London to be chomping at the bit, wanting to invest in his plantation, only to discover they had been dissuaded by the South Seas scandal.  He had spent the last two weeks making enquiries at the banks for loans, only to find they wanted property for security.  None of Ralph’s friends were interested in the colonies.  Wedgwood’s offer was the closest he had come to finding investment, but facing his old enemies, the Cherokees, was out of the question.

Yet he had to return.  It had been Katherine’s wish that he made his fortune in the colonies, and he was determined to achieve it, to honour her memory.  Also, Katherine’s ashes were there.  He had not even afforded her a proper burial.  He could not leave her interred in that savage wilderness.  True to his old Celtic roots, he had burned her body, and placed the ashes in a wooden urn.  It was all he had left of her, after the savages had destroyed everything else.  If Ralph the puritan knew everything he had done the last eighteen years, then he would know he was far from a gentleman; he was nothing but a heathen savage himself.

He staggered out of The Old Bell on Fleet Street with the realisation he had just one option left.  He had to ask Ralph, but then he would discover the truth.

(c) 2021 Victoria Hopkins

Thomas has travelled from the British Colony of South Carolina to London in a last-ditch attempt to save his failing dreams and having to manage the possibility that each rejection could be leading to a bigger disappointment.

Yet, it is the decisions he makes after this moment that shape the next years of his life, which jobs he takes, where he travels and what success he sees. It is only the beauty of hindsight that allows us to see that rejection is not always a negative thing when you look at the bigger picture. It can open doors and in fact, mean that the right thing is just around the corner.

This is of course a hopeful way of thinking, but one that is important for creative survival.

The second piece I’d like to showcase is a poem, Redemption by Ray Miles. It is a wonderful piece which, to me, shows someone overcoming a trauma and finding light in the darkness. The rhyme scheme gives the poem a steady pace, letting us feel the movement of time at the subject’s pace.


I’ve spoken with an angel,
Her voice was soft and low.
She gave me light in darkness.
She showed me where to go.

I’ve spoken with an angel,
Her voice was soft and warm.
She gathered up the pieces.
She shielded me from harm.

I’ve spoken with an angel,
Her voice has kept me sane.
She listened while I broke my heart.
She helped me ease the pain.

I’ve spoken with an angel,
She’s guided me from Hell.
Her light showed me the path to take.
She raised me when I fell.

I’ve spoken with an angel,
Her voice, it gave me hope
Of future bright, and I could see
That I’d begin to cope.

I’ve spoken with an angel,
Of this I am quite sure.
She helped me to rebuild my life.
She picked me from the floor.

I’ve spoken with an angel,
I’ve never seen her face,
But she has guided me again
Back to the human race.

I’ve spoken with an angel,
Her voice was soft and warm.
She told me she’s no angel,
But she’s taken human form.

I’ve spoken with an angel,
I know I’m not mistaken.
She says that she’s no angel;
My belief will not be shaken.

I’ve spoken with an angel,
Of that there is no doubt.
She says that she’s no angel;
I know the truth will out.

I’ve spoken with an angel,
We don’t speak any more.
I’m grateful for the time we had,
But sorry that it’s o’er.

© Ray Miles, 2021

Whether the angel is a real person or not, the feeling of the work remains the same. To me, the angel signifies the reappearance of hope, the regaining of a self-belief. When the relationship between the subject and the angel comes to an end, the poet tells us, I’m grateful for the time we had. I like to think this is because the need, the dependency, is no longer there and that the subject is now strong enough to try again themselves. After all, it’s better to have tried, than to have never tried at all. A different future could be in that very next draft!


If you’d like to see your writing appear in the Write On! Showcase, please send your short stories, poetry or novel extracts to

You can read more fiction, poetry, interviews and author advice in the latest issue of Write On!  Issue 10 of Write On! is available now. You can see it here!