What’s a better beach read than a pirate tale? A pirate tale with vampires, that’s what. Author Marilyn Barr tells us what’s lurking in the turquoise waters of the Caribbean in her new release: Walk the Plank.
Monsters of the 1718 Caribbean Sea
I love writing paranormal romance. There is something about showing a reader the redeeming qualities of a monster and demonstrating how everyone deserves to be loved. I’m also a homeschool mom with my own little classroom of monsters (some days). In teaching them about the 1700s and the origins of democracy, I found a new love: the pirate code. I wanted to share the connections behind the pirate code and the democracy in the world today. In a book series, I thought I could expand on the real attitudes of pirates and shine a light on the stereotypes which are more fiction than fact. But what about my commitment to paranormal romance and those whose fangs cover their heart of gold?
I needed a monster who lived in the Caribbean Sea in the 1700s. Here are my top five favorites:
- Mermaids – While today’s popular culture depicts mermaids as beautiful people with scaly tails instead of legs, the lore from the pirate accounts couldn’t be further from this image. The stories originating from the Caribbean tell of men jumping ship to join the manatees in the Florida Keys because they heard the siren’s call. The round bodies, chubby cheeks speckled with whiskers, and rounded flippers of manatees are anything but sexy. Imagine risking your life for a sea cow. Of course, they were at sea years at a time. When Nassau and Port Royale were pirate havens, the crew would go ashore for fun and frolicking with the wenches every few months. When those islands were conquered by England and turned into naval bases, those manatees started to look more attractive.
- Kraken – While the real giant squids are found in the northern Atlantic and all over the Pacific, they are found in the legends of the Caribbean. Could the stories originate from Norway and their legends written in the 1100s? Or perhaps from their miniature cousins who line in the Caribbean reefs? I found many stories in the original documents of British naval officers where sailors assumed they were under attack by a Kraken to find they had prop fouled themselves with a tow line. Ropes from the rigging or extra line while dragging fishing gear would coil around the prop (fin under the boat for steering) called, “prop fouling.” Superstitious pirates would blame a Kraken before their inattentive hearties. Some brave soul would have to dive below the boat (without a scuba suit or oxygen tank) to cut the boat free. Historians agree the origin of the myths comes from the contents of sharks who hunt the giant squids in the north and then migrate to the Caribbean with the monsters digesting in their stomachs.
- Black Sam’s Ghost Ship and the Witch of Eastham (Mary Hallet) – Mary Hallet was the inspiration behind ‘Black’ Sam Bellamy’s going into the sweet trade. Too poor to marry her, he left the merchant fisheries of Cape Cod to sail in Hornigold’s pirate fleet. He rose to captain his own vessel and used the superstitious nature of slave traders to capture The Whydah. He and his crew (most of who were liberated slaves) traded clothes for chalk to become a ghost ship. They took over the largest slave ship in the Caribbean at the time with psychological warfare and not their cannons. Meanwhile, in Cape Cod, Mary Hallet gave birth to their child out of wedlock. When her child died, she was sentenced to whipping by the local clergy. Legend has it, she turned to witchcraft and haunted Eastham. Sam died at sea and the two were never reunited.
- The Devil Pirate ‘Blackbeard’ – My favorite fact behind the legend of Blackbeard is that his rise to fame, from joining Hornigold’s fleet to his disappearance, is just over eighteen months long. Imagine creating a monstrous persona so scary, in a year-and-a-half, you inspire the imaginations of creators over two hundred years later. His handwriting is the most monstrous of his attributes so historians can’t agree if he was born Edward Teach, Edward Thatch, or Edward Thetch. I found references to all three names in my research as the person behind the Blackbeard legends. Because of his fearsome reputation, his crew captured more plunder by raising their flag than firing their cannons. Merchant vessels would surrender to the legend in the hopes of never meeting the man. Those stubborn enough to face the ‘Devil Pirate’ were terrified of the pistols he wore across his chest and the firecrackers he wove into his beard. Even though he impersonated the devil, he treated his crew with twice the fairness of Captain Bligh. Blackbeard’s crew had members who were women, escaped slaves, navy deserters, former merchant sailors, and unskilled adventure seekers—and everyone (except the doxies) had a voice. His boat was democratic, and his position was an elected one. He was a fair leader who played a monster when most legitimate Captains of the period were the opposite, until a mysterious disease (suspected to be syphilis) had him trading crew members for mercury treatments. I fell under his spell in my research and decided to start my pirate book series on his boat, The Queen Anne’s Revenge.
- The Vampire of Charles Town Harbor – Okay, you got me. I made this one up. In my research on Blackbeard, I found in 1718 he blocked Charles Town Harbor (now Charleston) when a deal on shore went bad. As he was leaving, all the churches in the town burst into flames. In history, the superstitious colonists blamed the devil who was leaving the dock. However, in my book, Walk the Plank, I offer a second explanation. Magda is brought to Charles Town Harbor as a scientific experiment from eastern Europe in chains. Thanks to a rogue pirate, she escapes and is on the run through Carolina. After spending her life under her abusive, vampire husband’s thumb, she is finally free—if only people quit following her with torches and pitchforks. By mixing historical events with ones from my imagination, I’m calling this series a ‘paranormal, historical faction romance’.
Are you ready to Walk the Walk with me hearties? The first book in the trilogy is on pre-order now until its release on 3/23/2022 on Amazon (Kindle Unlimited available after 3/23/2022). Here’s more about Walk the Walk Book 1: Walk the Plank.
Branko learns he will be sold into slavery when they dock in Charles Town, so he doesn’t hesitate to jump ship onto a neighboring sloop in the harbor. This boat will weigh anchor with him at the helm–once he decides what to do with the lady chained in the cargo hold who claims she’s a vampire.
Magda Dashkovari’s body has been given to science while she’s still living in it. Her prayers are answered when a pirate boards her boat, but she should have asked for her rescuer to be less bloodthirsty than she is…
Scientists hunt her in town, plantation owners hunt him from the north and south, Blackbeard blocks Charles Town Harbor to the east, and a war rages between settlers and natives to the west. These unlikely allies will have to link together to escape a life in chains…but will their trust in each other endure their journey to freedom?
An Excerpt from Walk the Plank
“Who is Blackbeard?” My heart skips a beat at her naivete. Her accent is foreign, so I forgive the slight. Unfortunately, she takes the opening to worm her way further into my mind. “We got off to a poor start. I am Magda Dashkovari, and I am a vampire.”
My disbelief bubbles like a good ale as we reach the deck. Gut-busting, belly-aching, side-stitching laughter brings tears to my eyes. From a madman captain who masquerades as a demon to a madwoman boat owner who masquerades as a vampire—I can pick ’em, can’t I? She wraps her wrist with furious revolutions while I wipe my tears.
“I don’t care what you are,” I tell her, “as long as you are leaving.”
“I could drain you.”
“I could throw you overboard.”
“—in Charles Town Harbor, and this boat is leaving.”
“I will sink this boat before I let you return it to my husband! Whatever he has promised in reward is a lie. Once you are in his harbor, one of his minions will drain you—”
“Oh, he’s a vampire, too. Is there a whole colony waiting for me somewhere? Listen, sea hag, I don’t know your husband, and the last thing in my future is to return his boat.”
Meet Marilyn Barr
Marilyn Barr currently resides in the wilds of Kentucky with her husband, son, and rescue cats. She has a diverse background containing experiences as a child prodigy turned medical school reject, published microbiologist, special education/inclusion science teacher, homeschool mother of a savant, certified spiritual/energy healer, and advocate for the autistic community. This puts her in the position to bring tales containing heroes who are regular people with different ability levels and body types, in a light where they are powerful, lovable, and appreciated.
When engaging with the real world, she is collecting characters, empty coffee cups, and unused homeschool curricula. She is a sucker (haha) for cheesy horror movies, Italian food, punk music, black cats, bad puns, and all things witchy.
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Thank you so much for hosting me hearties!