Surrender the Booty!

Song of the Day: This is Shangri-La by Mother Love Bone

Long before Jack Sparrow and the Black Pearl sailed onto the silver screen, I had a great interest in pirates. From Peter Pan, to the Goonies, to Erroll Flynn, to Russell Crowe, and of course Johnny and the POTC gang, these tall sea-worthy tales tickled my fancy. Frankly, I’m a sucker for most epics and adventures. Call it my love for history, especially world events and eras surrounded by legends and fantasy. Much history is based on the writings of those who lived through those times gone by. Mystery and intrigue sometimes abounds as generation after generation retells their stories. Fact or fiction, I adore them.

Recently, I attended an exhibit at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. It was a history lesson I simply couldn’t wait to see . . .no, experience.

Real Pirates!

Arrgh! The engagement gives visitors a glimpse of the life of a pirate through artifacts recovered from the only known pirate shipwreck, the Whydah. The Whydah, captained by Sam Bellamy, aka Black Sam, met her end in 1717, capsizing in a terrible Nor’easter. More than two centuries later, in the summer of 1984, the ship was found by undersea salvor, Barry Clifford.

The Whydah’s captain, himself, is someone an author could easily model as a redemptive hero or inspiration for a romance novel. Bellamy arrived in Cape Cod from England around 1714. He met a young woman named Maria Hallett and together they fell madly in love. But he was a penniless sailor and her wealthy family denied him her hand. To win their favor, he set out to seek his fortune by the quickest means – he joined a pirate crew. With a strong will and expertise in his craft, it wasn’t long before Bellamy was made captain. His reign of terror in the Caribbean began and he captured some 50 ships, including a fine slave ship on her maiden voyage, the Whydah. He chased after the Whydah for three days. Without ever shooting his shipboard guns, the Whydah surrendered and Bellamy took the prize for his own. Now laden with riches, Bellamy charted his course north, back to his love, Maria. But as he reached Cape Cod, the terrible storm raged. Just a mere 500 feet or so from the shores of Cape Cod, the Whydah broke apart, taking all but two of the 146 men on board, including Bellamy.

Exciting tales and a colorful crew, counting a 9-year old spitfire named John, make fodder for an author like me.

After a short film, the exhibit opened to a magnificent display of the Whydah’s bell encased in a glass column filled with seawater. I was so taken aback by the bell, my breath caught, my heart raced, and, I admit, I had tears in my eyes. It was as if the bell was sacred. I was that moved. Other artifacts on display were weapons (canons, pistols, and grenades), table settings, buttons, buckles, surgical tools, rigging pieces, navigational tools, and even a lead “shoot” that made up the pissdale, the toilet positioned at the bow or stern of the ship.

No pirate ship is complete without treasure. Hot damn! You could even touch it! Silver and gold coins, gold ingots and real pieces of eight. I did a lot of giggling while my fingers grazed the treasure.

Since I’ve done extensive research on pirates, most of the information at the exhibit I was familiar. Yet, I learned a few new things and took the opportunity to absorb myself in a world I am passionate about. And, I was quite proud of myself when I proved to my DH that I can indeed tie several different sailors’ knots.

So why am I telling you all this? I really believe when you are enthusiastic about something, be it a time, place, character or theme, it comes out in your voice, style and overall storytelling. Immerse yourself in what moves you. You may learn something new. You may be newly inspired. You may giggle until you almost pee in your britches.

Have you ever experienced something that influenced you on a deep level and invigorated you to write? I’d love to hear from you.

9 Responses to Surrender the Booty!

  1. Fascinating post, Jenn. Wow! Never really knew the depth of passion for your craft ’til now. Well done.

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  2. jbrayweber says:

    Thanks, Rounder.
    I also collect pirate paraphernalia. I like to immerse myself in my stories by surrounding myself with images, sounds, and smells. I believe it helps me ‘be there’ while I’m penning out their stories.

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  3. Tess says:

    Wow, Jenn, such passion…how womderful…and a joy to read about!

    I saw the Titanic exhibit when it came years ago…I wasn’t inspired to write about it, but it was definitely a profound experience. They had a block of ice and you could put your hands in these holes in the ice and it was supposed to represent how cold the water was the night so many were washed away…When the tour began, everyone was given a card with a name on it. At the end of the tour you look up the name on your card and see if you survived…None of my family members survived. I had tears in my eyes and said to the kids and dh, “I wouldn’t have wanted to live without any of you!”

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  4. jbrayweber says:

    Tess!!!
    I went to the Titanic exhibit, too. Everyone was so very, very quiet as we snaked through the artifacts. It was as if we all were paying our respects to the dead.
    That block of ice definitely put things in perspective. I couldn’t hold my hand on it for more than 15 seconds. I couldn’t imagine being submerged in it. At least you know death came quickly if you were in the water.
    Just me and DH went to the exhibit. At the end when we looked at our cards, I had survived, but he did not. Very profound, indeed.

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  5. Thank you for your post and pictures, Jenn. I especially dig your double-entendre title—“surrender the booty”, ha-ha!

    Thanks to your description of the pirate exhibit, now we all know what a ship’s head used to be called. The term was more colorful back in the old days.

    When I’m asked what inspires me to write, I can cite lots of inspirations from various sources. But if I’m asked what has influenced my writing, I reply that there has been only one influence.

    That, of course, is my actual experience in the real world. It has determined just what I write, including what I allow to inspire me.

    I suppose my two main sources of inspiration are two cultural arenas that have fascinated me for as long as I can remember. One is, broadly stated, mythology—not just ancient myths, but also folklore and fairy tales.

    The other is pop culture. Nowadays I’m pretty selective about which aspects I get into. But I used to get into just about all of them.

    I’ve drawn on these sources for themes, characters, plots, etc. But I don’t just copy them. By the time an idea from any source has worked its way through my imagination, it has (I hope) changed considerably.

    For example, my current work in progress, a futuristic romance, was inspired by one work in each of the two aforementioned fields. In terms of mythology, it was inspired by the legend of the Seven Sleepers of Ephesus, which (I’m pretty sure) I first encountered in the Barnes & Noble reprint of Sabine Baring-Gould’s “Curious Myths of the Middle Ages”.

    My pop-culture source of inspiration for this work was an episode of “The Twilight Zone” titled “The Long Morrow”. I’m sure lots of sci-fi, fantasy, and horror writers and filmmakers have mined this classic TV series for ideas.

    Having said all this, I don’t know where some of my ideas come from. But if I were to try to find out, I’d probably discover they stem from something that has powerfully impacted me.

    Keep up the good work!

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  6. jbrayweber says:

    Wow Mary Anne! That’s wonderful you have such a handle on what inspires you. For me, I’ve come to realize the darkness attracts my mind. And I’m not entirely sure why. 🙂
    I have to say, the Twilight Zone is rich with creative inspiration. The stories are simple yet profound and are a great fount to draw from.
    I, too, love mythology. I often end up with references to various myths in my manuscripts, usually quite by accident.
    Anyway, my the stories you come up with in my writing prompts, I know you have a vast imagination!!
    Thanks Mary Anne!

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  7. melissa says:

    Awesome!! Now I wish I’d made the trip to see it! 🙂 I need to learn how to tie a few of those knots. Don’t ask why. I just do! LOL

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  8. jbrayweber says:

    There’s still time, Missy! It ends Feb. 6th. Get down there and learn to tie a knot or two. I won’t ask why you need to know. Maybe I’ll get to read about it instead, hmmmm?
    Thanks, girl!

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