Monday, April 18, 2011
Liz's Lair: The Sacrifices We Make in the Name of Research
Sheesh! Nobody told me when I decided to get serious about writing that there would be hardships to endure. You know, the rejections, the hours alone at my computer, and the research required to make each of my stories authentic.
Last week, I bit the bullet and flew to Miami to begin getting background stuff for my third book in the Clueless Cook Mystery Series. In Murder for the Halibut, my girl and her band of merry troublemakers are dishing up mayhem on a Caribbean cruise. After MUCH deliberation, I decided the only way to get it right was to actually go on a cruise myself.
Last Saturday hubby and I boarded the Celebrity Eclipse (a brand new boat) for a 7-day Eastern Caribbean cruise. Now, mind you, this wasn’t my first rodeo as far as cruises go. I’ve cruised the Mexican Riviera several times, as well as Europe and Alaska, but I wasn’t paying attention to details then…just having fun and seeing how many excursions I could take and how many pounds I could gain.
I had already researched how much I could actually write off in taxes with the cruise and knew it wouldn’t be everything, but all the sites I visited, plus advice from two writer friends who are accountants, mentioned that I needed to take a lot of notes. And so, I journaled. I checked with Guest Relations the first day to set up meetings with security and the chefs, but they told me that had to be done BEFORE the cruise. They said they’d try, but they weren’t very hopeful. At this point, I was pretty frustrated.
We set sail for a two day trip to Puerto Rico where we snagged a great tour for ten bucks. Did you know the number one sport in PR is boxing? Or that the number 2 sport is baseball? And get this…the number three sport is womens volleyball. Our very funny guide mentioned this sport only shimmied up the popularity pole when the girls started wearing string bikinis!! Men are such predictable creatures!! And girl on girl on the beach barely clothed apparently ups the athletic appeal.
The next stop was St. Marteens. Did you know half the island belongs to the Dutch and the other half to the French?? The people were lovely and the shopping fantastic. We even discovered that all God’s creatures love to snuggle.
Does all this sound wonderful? It really was…except I got sick Sunday with some sort of stomach virus that lasted until Wednesday. Being the trooper that I am, I still managed to get my research done. On Sunday afternoon, there was a cooking exhibition and afterward, I introduced myself to the head executive chef and the head sous chef.
When I told them I needed plotting help and details worked out, they were really excited and agreed to meet me the next day in the coffee shop with ideas.
Well, imagine my surprise when FOUR chefs came by to help. Can you picture the faces of the people sitting around us listening as we plotted a couple of murders?? After many great ideas were thrown out, they said they would think about it, and if they came up with anything else, they’d call to set up a meeting.
Now, you have to know that food is the biggest thing on a cruise ship with 172 cooks of all nationalities. They are busy every minute of the day. So, when the Head Sous Chef, Maciek Kucharewicz of Poland came down off the stage after a cooking demonstration and found me in the audience to tell me he’d like to talk later, I was floored. But not nearly as amazed as when he handed me a bunch of typed notes, including his very own halibut recipe with a Caribbean flavor that has the murder weapon built right in. This will definitely be the dish that kills my first dead guy. Oh man! I couldn’t have asked for more…but I did. I picked his brain about what happens when there’s a dead body on the ship while at sea and who has jurisdiction. I still need to Google some things, but I have a great start to my plotting. Maciek wouldn't let me pay him, so I promised to send him an autographed copy of the book.
So, all in all it was a rewarding trip for research and I am ready to start the book. Of course, the people who sat at our table every night were fantastic, too. And the food…OMG! I had to force myself to eat so much…all in the name of research!!
So what kind of research stories do you have? Inquiring minds want to know!!