Armchair Explorer

Good Sunday Morning!

I hope you've had a pleasant week; mine has been productive. I've written chapter 2 of Hounds and Heists, the prequel to my new cozy series, Holiday Decorating Mysteries and I am halfway through final edits on Broken Chords.

Speaking of Broken Chords, I did a lot of research while writing Tina's adventure on a 9-day, rock and roll themed cruise or as she likes to call it: 9 days of Dante's floating inferno.

I've never been on a commercial cruise so much of my research involved ship layouts, and cruise ship uniforms (I had to make sure they hadn't changed since my Love Boat watching days!).

I also wanted to know little things like how the lifeboats hang on the ship's side, what floor they hang on, are they covered, and what material: little details like that are important to me. I can imagine lots of twisty turns but I always make sure they don't make my readers suspend disbelief too much.

Another research project for Broken Chords was shore excursions. On the cruise, Tina and her father spend quite a few days at sea but they do stop at several ports, which let me be an armchair traveler!

The first port of call was St. Thomas, in the US Virgin Islands. I have never been to the Caribbean. I watched YouTube videos and read dozens of websites; almost as good as being there? Hardly! But, I do live in a semi-tropical climate. Our flora and fauna are similar, and I know all about the unpredictable weather.

My research of Charlotte Amalie (the St. Thomas port of call for cruise ships) let me explore local customs, foods, and history; the things I love most about traveling!

My character in Broken Chords is a chef, it was impossible for her not to try the local dishes while exploring Charlotte Amalie! Fungi, pate, conch fritters, and johnny cakes ... Tina ate her way through the Caribbean!

(Fungi (pronounced foon gee) is basically polenta, and polenta is just GRITS. Southern girls will happily eat in the Caribbean!)

Tina also did some sightseeing. The 99 Steps (see picture below). earned a quick visit. Made from the ballast bricks of the tall ships that came from Europe. They would unload their ballast and use goods from the Islands as a weight for the return trip.

My hometown of Savannah, Georgia is also paved with ballast bricks: River Street's cobblestones can be deadly for ladies in high heels!

I got to experience a bit of Charlotte Amalie and San Juan while writing Broken Chords and I hope my readers will be transported as well.

Have you ever been on a cruise? Visited the Caribbean? It's on my bucket list!

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