Nancy's Notes From Florida

Author Nancy J. Cohen discusses the writing process and life as a Florida resident.

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Posts Tagged ‘pirates’

Shipwrecks and Suspense

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on July 19, 2017

Research Insights – Shipwrecks and Suspense

I like adding bits of history into my mysteries. In Facials Can Be Fatal, I mined our Florida past concerning shipwrecks. Did you know the waters off Florida teem with sunken vessels? Spanish galleon ships alone may account for up to forty wrecks off our coast. Millions of dollars in silver, gold, and jewels lay at the bottom of the sea, much of it undiscovered. But Spanish treasure ships are not the only ones sunken off our shores. Pirate vessels, slave ships, merchant transports, and Civil War ships plied these waters, too. Storms, shallow water, coral reefs, and pirates were responsible for many of the wrecks.

Shipwreck

Buried treasure has long been exploited in stories, and my book is no exception. An old family journal is recovered that hints at a nefarious past for a couple of characters. How does this relate to the present? That’s the key that my hairstylist sleuth must uncover. Marla and her husband, Detective Dalton Vail, travel to Key West to learn more about Florida’s history from a reporter who has an interest in Dalton’s latest case. The victim is society matron Valerie Harper, who expired in the middle of a facial at Marla’s day spa.

Treasure Chest Reveals A Luminous Secret  Notebook

Here’s how the conversation goes with the reporter:

“The waters around Florida have seen ships flounder for decades, starting with Native Americans who used dugout canoes to travel up and down the coast. As civilization increased, ships and boats became vital to our development. Waterways were the most efficient means to transport people and cargo. Florida became a hub for maritime trade routes, but our waters can be treacherous. Hence we have a large number of shipwrecks offshore.”

“What about treasure ships from Spanish fleets?” Marla asked, shifting in her seat.

“My estimate is that maybe thirty to forty Spanish ships, dating from the 1500s to the late 1600s, lay at the sea bottom. The Spaniards would pick up gold, silver, jewels, and rare spices from the Caribbean islands and the South and Central Americas. Sometimes, they’d stop at a mint in Mexico before grouping together to return home. Or they’d gather in Havana and leave from there under convoy.”

“But not all of them made it.”

“That’s right. They’d get grounded on our reefs or floundered during hurricanes. For example, the Tierra Firme fleet set sail in 1622 from South America. Twenty-eight ships headed home to Spain. They ran into a fierce storm off the Florida Keys. Both the Nuestra Señora de Atocha and the Santa Margarita were lost. In 1985, Mel Fisher discovered the Atocha’s resting place and its treasure.”

“That’s amazing,” Marla said. “Those ships must have been heavy with all the gold coins, silver bars, and jewels aboard. No wonder they sank. Who owns the salvage rights to a sunken ship?”

“According to the Abandoned Shipwreck Act of 1988, any historic find becomes the property of its respective state.”

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To accomplish my due diligence, I paid a visit to the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum, a fascinating attraction in Key West. Here you can see many of the relics recovered from the Atocha. Read about my experience and see my photos HERE. Shipwrecks and buried treasure will always provide fodder for stories.

Do you like a bit of history mixed in with your mystery? Does it enhance the story for you?

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For more details on Facials Can Be Fatal, CLICK HERE.

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Posted in Book Excerpt, Excerpt, Florida Musings, Research | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Pirates – Fact or Fiction?

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on April 7, 2017

Research Notes: Pirates – Fact or Fiction?

Pirates have always fascinated readers. Witness the myriad romance novels wherein the hero, or even the heroine, is a pirate. How about the swashbuckling movies featuring pirate heroes? Yet for all their romantic image, these scourges of the high seas reaped death and destruction in their wake. We tend to overlook the reality and cling to the fictional counterpart.

Pirate With A Treasure Of Gold Behind A Lot Of Candles

Florida has a romanticized pirate named José Gaspar. Tampa has a Gasparilla Pirate Fest every year to celebrate this renowned character. So how does this apply to Facials Can Be Fatal, my latest Bad Hair Day Mystery featuring South Florida hairstylist Marla Vail?

GasparillaParade

Marla uncovers an old family journal belonging to a lady who died while getting a facial at her day spa. This journal tells about a pirate and his buried treasure. Here is a conversation Marla and her husband, Detective Dalton Vail, have with a journalist in Key West. My fictionalized pirate is based on the Gasparilla legend. The reporter is speaking.

“I recalled the story of the infamous brigand known as Red Ted. Born Thaddeus Montoya, he was a nobleman’s son from Spain whose exploits with the ladies caused his hasty departure aboard a naval vessel. Because he could read and write, he rose to officer’s status and got himself appointed as a liaison to the court. But his old habits died hard, and he once again found himself fleeing Spanish authorities. He commandeered a ship and set sail, forcing the crew to either join him or be hanged. His nickname came from his fondness for bloodshed.

“Wanting to get even with Spain, he set out for the next decade to raid helpless merchant ships. But his inflated ego eventually caused his demise. Before his last voyage, Red Ted was getting set to retire. He’d loaded his goods onto a mule train and told his second in command to take it to Key West, where he planned to hole up in his later years. Then a sighting came for one more merchant ship that appeared to be unarmed. He couldn’t resist this last kill and set sail. The vessel turned out to be a warship hiding under a merchant flag, and Red Ted shot himself rather than be captured.”

“What happened to his mule train?” Marla asked.

“They were attacked by Indians on the route south. The natives made off with horses and mules and left them with fewer pack animals. They had to lighten their load and so buried some of the chests. They didn’t have much better luck as they headed into swampland and were beset by storms as well as bandits. With dwindling resources, they buried more loads along the way.”

How do these past events relate to the present? Facials Can Be Fatal has real journal entries from my father’s 1935 trip to Florida. He discovered a buried chest along the wilds of Fort Lauderdale beach. What was in this chest? In my fictional tale, it’s something quite different than what my father found. Read more in Facials Can Be Fatal.

What’s your favorite pirate movie?

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FacialsCanBeFatalFront

Facials Can Be Fatal (Bad Hair Day Mystery #13)

Salon owner Marla Vail’s new day spa hits a snag when a client dies during a facial. To salvage her reputation, Marla jumps on the trail of the killer. Soon she’s unraveling clues involving historic buildings, family journals, pirates, and shipwrecks off the Florida coast. The victim may have stumbled onto secrets others would kill to keep.

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Pirates and Pirating

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on June 9, 2016

We have seafaring pirates, and we have book pirates. Let’s talk about the former type first.

Last weekend, my husband and I went to an exhibit at Plantation Historical Museum about Florida pirates. The seas off the coast of Florida have seen many shipwrecks along with pirates who’ve taken advantage of our broad coastline. I’ve a special fascination for these highwaymen of the seas as they play a role in Facials Can Be Fatal, my next full-length Bad Hair Day Mystery. This story delves into Florida history as described in my post below, Florida Escape.

After a grand introduction at the museum, the action went outside for a sword fight. Indoors were a variety of exhibits including these clever dioramas. I especially liked reading about the women pirates. Many of them disguised themselves as men and became quite famous. Today we have our modern version of seafaring pirates who steal boats instead of cargo, and they can be just as scary.

 

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From Boats to Books

Then we have pirates who steal books and offer them free to readers. I hope every download comes with hidden malware. Not a day goes by that I don’t get a notice one of my books is available online for free. I don’t bother to send takedown notices, because for every site I would shut down, two more will pop up. It’s an unstoppable plague. What readers need to know is how this hurts us. I’m not talking about my wonderful, loyal fans who follow my work. This doesn’t apply to you, and I am grateful to each and every one of you. But there’s a subculture out there that we all should be aware of since it affects us adversely.

I am not getting paid for these downloads. It robs me—and other authors—of royalties. Would you ask your doctor or financial advisor for free advice? Not really. So why should you expect authors to give away their products for free? We slave over our books for months. Our dedication takes time we could be spending with our families. Then we have certain marketing expenses. And for what? So people can steal our work and give it away without regard for an author’s rights.

I can understand if you’re on a budget. My response is to tell you to go to the library. You can get plenty of books there for free, and you can even ask your librarian to order a title you want. That counts toward an author’s sales. Or subscribe to BookBub or The Fussy Librarian and get their daily newsletter of free reads that are paid promotions by authors. Many authors offer free reads on their websites or books as giveaways. You can find plenty to read within legal means.

But don’t steal an author’s work by downloading her book from a dubious site. Or pretty soon, your favorite author will determine the negative return to her investment is going to put her out of business. Free books have their place. They help us gain new readers. But not when our work is pirated without permission. What can you do about it? Don’t support these sites. Support your authors instead! And again, my heartfelt thanks go to those readers who do value and respect our work. Hugs to you all!

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