Vacation, Part One - The Research

My husband and I just returned from a vacation. I didn't post anything while I was gone because ... well, no sense advertising our absence, right? But now we're back, all rested and refreshed. You know the old saying about watching out for people who want to show you their home movies? Here's your warning: I don't have home movies, but over the next couple of days I'm going to tell you about our trip, and maybe share a few pictures. (If you're not interested, feel free to leave the room now.)

We went on a cruise in the Western Caribbean, on the Carnival Legend. Now, this isn’t our first cruise, nor was it our first time on this itinerary. We’re scuba divers, and the Western Caribbean has some of the best dive sites in the world. Unfortunately, our diving plans went awry this time. My husband was recovering from a broken collarbone, so he couldn’t dive. And I developed an inner ear infection at the last minute, so I couldn’t dive, either, without risking permanent damage. (As my dive instructor told me a long time ago, “Diving is good. But hearing is better.”) So actually, though we’ve been in these ports numerous times, this was like a brand new cruise because we did things we’d never done before.

Plus, I had another reason for selecting this cruise itinerary. My twelfth novel, a romantic suspense story called Into the Deep, takes place partly in one of the ports we visited – Cozumel. The book isn’t completely written yet, so I was able to do some terrific research in Cozumel. Thanks to an extremely friendly and talkative taxi driver, I found a church that will play an important role in the life of the heroine in my story. And I got pictures of the beach and place where my hero lives when he receives a late-night visit that sets off a series of nail-biting events that change their lives. You have no idea how incredible it is to dream up a story, and then discover the place where the story unfolds – and have it look very much like you pictured. The setting is now much more vivid in my mind, which will help me paint a crystal-clear picture for readers. Oh, and I managed to do a little shopping, too. The local shop owners were tolerant of letting me try out my textbook Spanish, and happy to relieve me of a bit of money at the same time.

Another port on our itinerary plays an important part in my new book. Did you know that the Cayman Islands are known for having a large number of banks? There’s a bank on every corner, and the identities of the people with accounts in those banks is held in strictest confidence. In other words, if someone has a large sum of money that they don’t want people to know about – say, for instance, the IRS, or an ex-spouse – the Cayman Islands is a good place to keep that money. I don’t want to give away too much about my new book, but my husband and I took some time running around Grand Cayman snapping pictures of banks. We’ve never been to Grand Cayman without diving before, and we discovered that everything is commercial (at least the parts we saw), and very, very expensive. But we enjoyed the view of the turquoise waters of the Caribbean – from the top side, this time!

Tomorrow I’ll tell you about the other two ports we visited on our cruise.