My Pirate Platform

Ol' Chumbucket greets a three-year-old pirate at Saturday's Talk Like a Pirate Day party in Studio City, Calif.
Ol’ Chumbucket greets a three-year-old pirate at Saturday’s Talk Like a Pirate Day party in Studio City, Calif.

Saturday was another grand Talk Like a Pirate Day. My friend, Mark Summers, and I started the holiday as a private joke twenty years ago. When we told syndicated newspaper columnist Dave Barry (who we now refer to as “our close personal friend, Pulitzer Prize winner Dave Barry”) and he wrote a column about it in 2002, the day just keeps going and going, getting bigger and more outrageous and – I’ll just say it – more absurd, year after year.

We’ve traveled the country with it. We’ve performed in Las Vegas and Los Angeles and New Orleans and Philadelphia. We’ve done our schtick in museums and libraries and bars. We’ve done hundreds – that’s not an exaggeration, hundreds – of radio, TV and newspaper interviews all around the world. I suspect by now we’ve been on just about every radio station in Australia and New Zealand. This year I did an interview with a station in Germany.

It’s not the way your parents might have hoped you’d come to the world’s attention, but when the wave comes up, you ride the wave.

In the book business – maybe in others as well, but definitely in the book business – you hear a lot about platforms. You have to have a platform. There’s a lot of definitions as to the exact meaning of “platform,” but you’ve gotta have one. It’s the area you’re known for, how people identify you, sort of the reason anyone can be expected to buy your book.

There are good discussions of the exact meaning here and here. But the point is, you have to have one.

And my platform is pirates. A lot of people in the pirate re-enactor community – or as I prefer to call it, the pirate world – know me, recognize my name. At least, they recognize my pirate name – Ol’ Chumbucket. And most know that that’s me.

So my first three novels were all pirate adventures, including “Chrissie Warren: Pirate Hunter,” which I thought was the best of them and the most ready to self-pub. And that gives me another venue for going out to sell the book. Along with libraries (I’ve got my first library reading tonight!) and bookstores, I’m looking at pirate festivals all over the south and east. Hope to have more to say on that very soon.

Getting very excited about this evening’s event at the East Jefferson Parish Regional Library. I’m one of three authors presenting their debut novels. (Between you and me, I’ve looked at the other two online and mine is head and shoulders above theirs.) I don’t know if many or even any people show up, but I’m looking forward to it. At least the other two authors will be there, so that’s something.

I didn’t sell as many books as I’ve had liked in Los Angeles, but the venue really wasn’t right for it. Place was crawling with pirates but there wasn’t really a schedule or set up to read or sign. Still, it was a case of showing my face and getting out there so the public – or your public – can see you and get excited.

You take these opportunities and you do the best you can with them, learning from them, and move on.

Well, THAT’S Encouraging!

Received the first “blurb” for “Chrissie,” and when you read it, you’ll understand why tears came to my eyes. They really did.

“If you like pirate yarns, adventure tales, wry humor, or just books, chart a swift course for Chrissie Warren: Pirate Hunter. Talk Like a Pirate Day founder and renowned pirate scribe John Baur’s first stab at young-adult fiction features top-notch characterization, breathtaking battle scenes, and as much plot as your favorite Rafael Sabatini and Hunger Games novels—combined. What’s more, Baur layers in maritime verisimilitude as well as anyone since Patrick O’Brian. You will taste the salt air. You will feel the four-pound cannonballs whistling past. You will not be able to wait to set sail with Chrissie Warren and her crew again.”

– Keith Thomson, NY Times bestselling author of Once a Spy and Pirates of Pensacola

Thomson’s book, “Pirates of Pensacola,” is one of my three or four all-time favorite pirate stories, so this meant a lot coming from him. You can read more about his at his site,

I’ve got nothing else to say, after that. Damn near took my breath away. Now, back to work.

Who IS that guy in the picture? And a story about my neck

After a while, you get tired of looking at your own face. For me it was after the third photo.

We’re down to it, getting “Chrissie Warren: Pirate Hunter,” ready to meet the public. One of the tasks still on the list was “take an author photo.”

We went to the local park this morning with a change of wardrobe and Tori started taking pictures. I have new respect for the contestants on “America’s Next Top Model,” because that gets really old, really fast. Tori. on the other hand, loved it.

“Work it! Work it! Now look over my shoulder! Smile! Now serious! Work it!” I couldn’t blame her. She was trying to get the perfect picture, and she had this to work with.

We got home and started sorting through 251 pictures. Culled it to the Top 10, or as I thought of them, the ten that made me feel the least ridiculous. After a while it was like that wasn’t even my face. I couldn’t recognize the person in the picture. It was a little creepy.

author pixGot the ten down to four. Then Tori began touching them up, getting rid of lines and blotches that I couldn’t even see. At one point she asked, “Do you want me to fix your neck?” There’s a true story about my neck which I’ll tell at the end of this. Anyway, I said, “Fix whatever you think you need to fix.” She sighed and said, “I’m going to be here for a while, I guess.”

We finally got them down to the last two, the two posted on this story. You can see a larger version of the image by clicking on it. Tell us what you think. Just don’t ask me to look at the pictures again.


And now about my neck.

It was 2004 or 2005, I’m not certain. Figuring it out would involve crossing the room and finding the book on the shelf and … no. It was 2004 or 2005. Mark – my partner in the pirate world, the friend with whom I co-created International Talk Like a Pirate Day, Cap’n Slappy – Mark and I had just self-published our first book – “Well Blow Me Down – A Guy’s Guide to Talking Like a Pirate,” and were in San Francisco for our very first book reading/signing event.

There is a blog post you can read about it here and the follow up here. This is the part that I never got around to telling.

We performed for a modest crowd, 50 to 70 people, if memory serves, and were set up to sign as many books as people wanted to purchase. Sales were a little lower than I’d hoped, but still in double digits. The event was winding down and we had to drive to Vegas that night. (Long, strange story there, but not right now.)

One woman wanted to talk. And talk. She was an older woman, either in great shape for 80 or really showing her age at 60, you know what I mean? And she didn’t talk. She brayed. She had a loud voice with an edge on it, a real Jersey kind of accent. She kept talking, and I didn’t want to cut her off because there was still a chance she’d buy a book. In the course of the conversation I mentioned my six children.

“You don’t have six children,” she said, not as a question but as a statement of fact, daring me to dispute her.

“Yes I do. Of course I do.” And I reeled off their names.

You couldn’t have six children,” she insisted. “You’re too young.”

“I’m 49 years old.”

“No you’re not. You couldn’t possibly be.”

“I am, I promise you. Why would I lie about that?”

“You aren’t old enough,” she repeated. “Look at that face. You have a baby face.”

Then she peered in, and suddenly said. “Ooooohhh!”

As if it was my fault, as if she’d just “caught me,” she said, “You’ve got a young face but an old neck.”

And she turned and left. Without buying a book.

And that’s what Tori was talking about when she offered to “touch up” my neck.