Tag Archives: pirates

St Augustine Pirate and Treasure Museum Educates, Inspires

I finally achieved a major objective since moving to Florida: I visited the St. Augustine Pirate and Treasure Museum. This is the world’s largest and most comprehensive pirate museum with more than 800 artifacts under one roof. The museum is just a stone’s throw from Castillo de San Marcos, a 17th century Spanish fort overlooking the Matanzas River.

I learned that the entire east coast of Florida was a prime location for piratical activity. The port itself was ransacked and pillaged numerous times.  In fact, the fort was built to help protect St. Augustine from pirate attacks. (I might have to send Isabella and Jean-Michel up the east coast of Florida in a future book in the Pirate of Panther Bay series.)

This Jolly Roger flag in the St. Augustine Pirate and Treasure Museum is one of just three surviving today.

The museum includes a ton of history relating to the Golden Age of pirates, including weapons, life on board pirate ships, pirates in film (including a Pirates of the Caribbean exhibit) and one of just three surviving Jolly Roger flags! Several new interactive exhibits have opened up, such as kiosks that allow visitors to learn about pirate havens, trading routes, and more about their favorite pirates (or pirates they just want to know more about). The museum includes a room that simulates what it would have been like to be below deck when pirates boarded your ship. Another area recreates the experience of loading and firing cannon from the deck of ships either defending themselves or attacking other ships.

This surgeon’s box shows the tools of the trade for trying to help wounded sailors at sea.

The visit helped me navigate several thorny historical facts relevant to the third book in the Pirate of Panther Bay series. Readers will spend some time below the gun deck of Isabella’s ship as Doc attempts to save sailors wounded during battle. One of the exhibits includes a fully decked out surgeon’s box with tools. Of course, in the 1700s, any wound was potentially fatal because the risk of infection was so high. Several period fire arms also helped me think through the limits of using those weapons during sea battles as well.

Francisco Menendez, a free black who helped organize a regiment and worked as a privateer to defend St. Augustine in the 1740s.

One of the most intriguing historical facts I learned surrounded Francisco Menendez. Menendez was a free black, and he helped defend St. Augustine and North Florida from pirates and other invaders (including the British).  In the 1740s, he became a privateer for the Spanish government and recruited other blacks to join him defending St. Augustine.

The role of blacks in colonial history is an underappreciated aspect of piracy in the Caribbean. Former slaves made up as much as a third of pirate crews on some ships. La Florida under Spanish rule was a haven for escaped slaves, which became a source of tension between colonial powers as well as the newly established United States in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. (The fact Isabella is an escaped slave fits well into the historical reality of Caribbean piracy.)

Check out the new interactive exhibits at the museum!

The museum has a lot to see and do since it added experiential exhibits. The museum is also set up for group tours, school visits, and other educational programming. Visitors should expect to spend several hours touring, and don’t neglect the Treasure Shop at the end!

For more information and to check out what has been added recently, listen to this podcast (Episode #60) from Under the Crossbones with Cindy Stavely, the executive director of the museum.

While you are at it, check out the podcast with me (Episode #20), too!

(The official book trailer for the Pirate of Panther Bay is fun, too. The St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum needs a trailer or 1 minute promotional video.)

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Review: Pirates of the Caribbean 5: Dead Men Tell No Tales

Reminding myself that the Pirates of the Caribbean film franchise was inspired by a theme-park ride is useful. As a writer of historical fiction, I find myself enjoying the movie much more. Such is the case for the fifth installment of the series Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales where fine acting and first class special effects shoulder most of the burden for creating an entertaining film. The caliber of the actors and producers, however, suggest this movie had much more potential than what was delivered on the big screen.

Multiple story lines bog down the plot in Dead Men Tell No Tales, and many viewers will find the story hard to track. New characters are introduced on top of a cast that had already expanded under the first three films. Dead Men Tell No Tales sequentially follows the third film (At World’s End), complicating matters, because the fourth film (On Stranger Tides) was a “one-off.” The story tried to capitalize on the popularity of Jack Sparrow and his crew independently of the established story line in the first three films, creating a nonlinear break in the story.

Dead Men Tell No Tales picks up with a young Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites, The GiverGods of Egypt), the child of Elizabeth Swan (Kiera Knightley, Bend it Like Beckham, Pride and Prejudice) and Will Turner (Orlando Bloom, Curse of the Black PearlTroyLord of the Rings) on a quest to find the Trident of Poseidon, which legend holds will break all the curses of the sea including his father’s. Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp, Curse of the Black PearlPlatoonEdward Scissorhands) holds the key to finding the trident through his bewitched compass, which will reveal the location of its owner’s most prized object. Through a series of comedic mishaps, Henry discovers and joins forces with Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario, Maze RunnerWuthering Heights), who also happens to be searching for the trident to vindicate her father’s scientific calculations left to her in a diary. Corina, however, is about to be hanged as a witch because no one believes her scientific ruminations as a brilliant astronomer.

When Jack Sparrow gives up his compass for a drink in a local tavern, a crew of undead Spanish Navy sailors led by Captain Armando Salazar (Javier Bardem, No Country for Old MenSkyfall, Before Night Falls) are released to continue their quest to rid the seas of pirates. This puts Captain Barbossa‘s (Geoffrey Rush, The King’s SpeechThe Book Thief, Life and Death of Peter Sellers) pirate fleet in jeopardy. Barbossa is captured by Salazar, and his life is saved only when he relents to find Jack Sparrow. Everyone is now on the quest to find the Trident of Poseidon—Henry Turner to release his cursed father from the Flying Dutchman, Corina Smyth to prove her scientific brilliance, Barbossa to retain his power over the seas, and Salazar install himself as lord over the seas.

Keeping all this straight in difficult, and Dead Men Tell No Tales is prone to dialogue that fills in details and background for the audience (a classic case of Show Don’t Tell) with predictable results—slowing down the action. This is a problem because the Pirates of the Caribbean films are built on action sequences that include protracted sword fights, running duels among pirate ships and their pursuers, and chases through towns and jungles. Dead Men Tell No Tales has those scenes—one in particularly has Jack Sparrow dodging a ghost’s attempt to skewer him with a pike as he jumps from cannon to cannon between Bardem’s ship and the resurrected Black Pearl.

Juggling so many characters and story lines creates challenges for directors in a format as structured as film, where the the entire story must take place in a 2-3 hour window. Few characters really have a chance evolve. Henry Turner stays the same brash, precocious young man throughout the movie, although he falls in love with Corina. Salazar stays the same revenge and hate-filled pirate hunter. Corina becomes slightly less headstrong. While Will Turner and Elizabeth Swan make an appearance, but their time on the screen is not long enough to have a meaningful impact on the plot except to set up a sixth film.  (Hint: stay seated through the final credits.)  The lone exception is Barbossa whose hardcore piratical worldview sets up a personal dilemma that forces him to make a tragic but noble choice—and let’s Geoffrey Rush show his experienced acting chops.

Thus, the plot fails to bring much fresh to the story. The characters come off as flat despite excellent acting by the entire cast. (Even the brief part played by and credited to Paul McCartney—perhaps the only time a beetle is welcome on a wooden ship—was well done and, for me, worth the movie theater ticket price.) Dead Men Tell No Tales’ special effects, particularly those applied to the renderings of Salazar and his crew and the final battle for the trident, are also state of the art, so don’t be surprised to see a few technical Oscar nods to this movie next year.

Nevertheless, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is an entertaining film that stays well within the framework and spirit of the first three films in the franchise.

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Family Pyrate Day in New Orleans!

I’ve been late getting this up, but Confetti Kids and Old Point Bar in Algiers Point,  New Orleans are kicking off NOLA Pirate Week with Family Pyrate Day on Saturday, March 25th from 11 am to 5 pm.

A whole slate of entertainers and authors is set up starting at 11 am at the Old Point Bar. I will do a reading from The Pirate of Panther Bay at 12:30 pm.

Pirates of all ages are welcome!

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Isabella sails into gold at the FAPA President’s Awards

Tortuga Bay earned two gold medals in the FAPA President's Awards

Tortuga Bay earned two gold medals in the FAPA President’s Awards

Tortuga Bay continues to generate enthusiasm and accolades as 2016 moves into its final months. Earlier, Isabella and her crew fought their way to recognition as a Category Finalist in the Eric Hoffer Book Awards. Tortuga Bay has also made it into the final rounds of the Royal Palm Literary Awards (final results will be released in October). Now, her crew earned gold medals in two categories of the President’s Award competition hosted by the Florida Authors and Publishers Association.

Both awards came in Young Adult (YA) categories. This first category was Young Adult Fiction, a broad category that would have her compete among many other books and subgenres. The second category was in YA Romance, Coming of Age, and New Adult.

Gold medal certificate for Young Adult Fiction

Gold medal certificate for Young Adult Fiction

Tortuga Bay (and the Pirate of Panther Bay series) are showing a broad appeal. While all the results are not in, the story has made it into the RPLA finals under Published Fiction—Mainstream/Literary. That means the novel is competing against a wide range of novels, in and outside the young adult category. In addition, Tortuga Bay made it into the RPLA semi-finals in the categories of YA historical fiction, women’s fiction, and YA romance.

Gold medal certificate for Young Adult Romance/Coming of Age/New Adult

Gold medal certificate for Young Adult Romance/Coming of Age/New Adult

FAPA’s awards have a lot of integrity. Unlike some other competitions, FAPA does not feel obligated to hand out awards to books based on the number of submissions in a category. Each book is judged and evaluated numerically based on a rubric. In order to become a finalist, the book has to meet a minimum numerical threshold from the judges. Specific thresholds are also necessary to qualify as bronze, silver or gold. Some categories, in fact, didn’t have any medalists. Other categories didn’t have any gold medals awarded, and others didn’t have bronze or silver medal awards. So, winners have confidence that their award was based on an absolute measure of quality (although scores are still subjective) that are compared equally across other submissions.

Thus, we are particularly proud to have earned these gold medals.

To buy Tortuga Bay, check out amazon.com or SYP Publishing.

For more on the series and how it can be used in the classroom, check out my website: http://www.srstaley.com/pirate-of-panther-bay.html

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Tortuga Bay Launches Isabella into Voodoo and Revolution

The official release date is set for Tortuga Bay, the sequel to The Pirate of Panther Bay: September 5, 2015. We will be launching the book at the Decatur Book Festival (@DBookFestival) in Decatur, Georgia, September 5-6th. We will have a launch event in Tallahassee, as well, but the venue and date have not been confirmed yet. Take advantage of pre-release savings by pre-ordering Tortuga Bay and/or The Pirate of Panther Bay for $3 off the cover price! (Use coupon code READNOW.)

Tortuga-Bay-RGB-96-01I am very excited about Tortuga Bay. Isabella goes into very different and a very dark place as she grapples with voodoo and a nascent slave revolt on Saint-Domingue (modern-day Haiti). Lots of swashbuckling action takes place, but I enjoyed working some bigger issues into the plot and character arcs in this version.

It helps that I’m getting great early reviews! Here’s a sampling:

  • “Isabella sizzles in this swashbuckling sequel to The Pirate of Panther Bay.  Her sword slices through oppressors from the first page to the last in an adventure that puts her daring and decisive stand against slavery at the center of a story that shimmers like its Caribbean setting. Unputdownable!” Donna Meredith, award-winning author of Wet Work, The Color of Lies, and The Glass Madonna
  • “In SR Staley’s sequel to The Pirate of Panther Bay, Isabella once again shows she is made of as much grit as any male pirate captain.  The action starts on page one and never lets up.  Through exhilarating battles at sea and the start of a slave revolution on land, Isabella fights for the success of her ship, safety of her crew, and survival of her lover, who happens to be a captain in the Spanish Navy — a sworn enemy.  At the same time, she is searching for the meaning of the Prophecy given to her long ago by her now dead mother.  Staley’s familiarity with ships of war and the history of the region helps readers feel they are part of the action. “ M.R. Street, award-winning author of The Werewolfe’s Daughter, Hunter’s Moon, and Blue Rock Rescue.
  • “If you pick up Tortuga Bay you better strap on your seat belt because you will be transported back in time to an era of pirates and ships chased by the soldiers and sailors of Spain’s Most Royal Catholic Majesty. Isabella, continuing her role as The Pirate of Panther Bay from the previous book, is an intriguing character. By casting this young woman as a pirate captain Staley launches a frontal assault on all the female stereotypes so prevalent in literature, media and the entertainment world. He has done a remarkable job of mixing pirates, Royal political intrigue and Haitian voodoo into an entertaining tale.” Col. Michael Whitehead (ret.), author of The Lion of Babylon and Messages from Babylon.

Stay tuned for updates as we get closer to the release!

Also, keep track of my comings and goings on my website: http://www.srstaley.com

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Pirate of Panther Bay: “A Thrilling Caribbean Ride”

An excellent review of The Pirate of Panther Bay by award-winning young adult author M.R. Street appeared recently on one of the Tallahassee Democrat’s community blogs. M.R. Street, author of The Werewolf’s Daughter and Hunter’s Moon, recommended readers find “a hammock swaying in a balmy breeze and hold on for this thrilling Caribbean ride.”

The review is quite extensive and appeared on the TWA blog. I think this is the essence of  her take on The Pirate of Panther Bay,

“Staley’s swashbuckling adventure takes place in historically accurate settings.  His research into the Caribbean region and time period (1780) encompasses the political dynamics, attention to detail of ships of war, and sailors’ superstitions.  The battles at sea are breathtakingly realistic, with cannon balls whistling by and swordfights that require both skill and psychology.  Staley deftly creates a lead character with multi-layered texture:  a scared former slave girl who at a young age has lost her first love; but who is, at the same time, a self-assured young woman with military cunning and skill.  As I read The Pirate of Panther Bay, I flinched each time Isabella was whipped in her cell in El Morro.  Why doesn’t she just give up?  She is beaten mercilessly, emotionally and physically.  But her will to survive is fueled by her mother’s prophecy.  Before Isabella was even born, the spirits told her mother what Isabella’s future would hold.  To Isabella, the prophecy is a promise that this is not how she is meant to die.”

View the Official Book Trailer here.

Buy The Pirate of Panther Bay here.

 

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