From my first visit to the Caribbean, I was hooked. I love the culture, the sway of steel drum bands, the colorful cottages, the turquoise waters, soft sand, sun, delicious seafood, rum beverages, and pirate lore.
Two years ago, when I moved to the Tampa area, I was delighted to feel the vibe of the Caribbean seeping into the local atmosphere, and it inspired me to write.
When I learned about the annual Tampa Gasparilla Festival, I was fascinated by the famed buccaneer legend, as well as the wild, Mardi Gras style celebration. The result—my book, Tears on a Tranquil Lake with a pirate captain, a mermaid, and a merman as characters.
Coincidentally, the Gasparilla festival this year took place last Saturday, so my inspiration has come full circle to presentation of this published book marking the same event.
The festival is based on the legend of swashbuckling buccaneer José Gaspar, known by the nickname Gasparilla. He was a Spanish pirate who terrorized Florida’s west coast during late 18th and early 19th centuries.
As an aristocrat by birth and officer in the Spanish Navy, Gasparilla was well educated, possessed courtly manners, and had all the appearances of a fine gentleman. There are a few versions of his motive for becoming a pirate. One claims he achieved high rank of councilor to King Charles III. Popular in court, he held favor with many ladies. When he spurned one lover for another, the jilted lady took revenge by accusing him falsely of theft of crown jewels. In order to escape arrest, he took leave of Spain in his naval ship, vowing to seek his own revenge through piracy. An aristocrat-turned-pirate began an adventurous life as an outlaw of the sea. A very romantic legend of the man.
During the next thirty-eight years he called himself “Gasparilla” and trolled the Florida coastline, sacking every passing ship for treasure. Entries from his own personal diary boast the capture and burning of thirty-six ships during his first twelve years as a pirate.
In 1821 Spain sold Florida to the United States. At that time Gasparilla decided to retire, but once last take tempted him, despite the unknown practices of the new rule. He ordered his crew to attack and pillage a large British merchant ship. But when they approached, the merchant lowered its Union Jack and raised an American flag. It was in fact the pirate-hunting schooner, the USS Enterprise. Riddled by cannon balls, they left Gasparilla’s flagship burning to ruin. Rather than surrender, Gaspar chained the anchor chain around his waist and neck and leapt from the bow, shouting, "Gasparilla dies by his own hand, not the enemy's!" He brandished his sword in a final gesture of defiance.
The tradition of the Tampa Bay Gasparilla festival began in May, 1904. It is still celebrated with a mock invasion, as hundreds of boats of “Gaspar’s crew” sail through Tampa Bay to downtown Tampa and “take over the city.” The mayor then lends the key of the city to the represented pirate captain and a parade ensues down Tampa's major streets. The krewes (crews) in the parade throw beads, coins and other items while shooting blank pistols from floats during the parade. Music and celebration lasts through a long, wild night.
It’s terrific my book, Tears On A Tranquil Lake, releases alongside this fun event which brought it to life in my mind.
What a surprise for a young woman, to find herself suddenly transformed into a mermaid.
Ciel’s first thought – track down the merman who changed her and make him reverse his magic.
Unable to find him, survival in her new world becomes paramount. She eagerly accepts help from a dashing pirate captain who takes a fancy to her, lavishing her with finery. When her merman does show up, he competes for her affection. One look into his eyes makes her life more complex -- he is her soul mate.
Which man will she choose – pirate captain or merman? Which life – human or mermaid? Caribbean adventures and dangers chase Ciel as she searches for decisions and the key to her happiness.
Warning: This book contains Haitian vodou, sultry wenches, foul-mouthed scalliwag pirates, overindulgence of fine Caribbean rum, and amorous encounters on deserted beaches.
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