I recently returned from the first-ever Barbara Vey Reader Appreciation Cruise. On January 12, I set sail from Fort Lauderdale with a boatload of authors and readers for Labadee, Haiti, and Falmouth, Jamaica. Talk about high seas hijinks!
The Barbara Vey event was my second cruise but my first as an author interacting with readers (many thanks to Barbara for inviting me to come). It was a terrific experience because it gave me a chance to get to know my readers in a fun and relaxed setting, which is virtually impossible to do at a book-signing or conference. I managed to get some writing done in the mornings, and then I spent the days doing things with readers, like eating meals, playing games, seeing shows, talking books, learning about new cultures, and having lots of fruity rum cocktails.
Romance and Mystery afoot!
Although there were mainly romance authors on board—Heather Graham, Marina Adair, MK Meredith, and Karen Rose, to namedrop a few—I was thrilled to discover that the trip was full of mystery. For starters, we had to solve five puzzles in the ship’s escape room to prevent an alien spacecraft from destroying the earth (obviously we were successful because we’re all still here). We also investigated a murder plotted by none other than Darynda Jones, Violet Duke, and Elicia Hyder. Can you imagine how spooky-cool that was?
A visit to Rose Hall Plantation
On land, I went to Montego Bay, Jamaica, with fellow mystery writer Diana Orgain to visit the creepy Rose Hall Plantation. You might have seen the “great house” on Ghost Hunters International because it’s allegedly haunted by the original owner, Annie Palmer, a.k.a. the White Witch. Annie was born in England in 1802 to English-Irish parents, but they died from yellow fever when she was a child.
Annie was raised by a Haitian nanny, who taught her voodoo and witchcraft. And as a young woman, Annie was so sadistic and cruel that she had her slaves tortured and beheaded for entertainment while she watched from her balcony. Not only that, she killed her four husbands and all of her slave lovers except for one named Takoo, who killed her first. The late, great Johnny Cash immortalized her story in “The Ballad of Annee Palmer.”
Back on the boat, I did some sleuthing and discovered that the legend of Annie Palmer is actually based on a fictional character from The White Witch of Rosehall, a famous Jamaican novel written in 1929 by Herbert G. de Lisser. The original owner of Rose Hall was Rosa Palmer, who did have four husbands but didn’t kill them.
While the history of Rose Hall is fascinating, what I learned during the cruise is that the personal stories of my readers are no less interesting and intriguing. In fact, one couple’s love story had more twists and turns than the John Cusack movie Serendipity and will soon be the subject of a novel! The moral of my cruise story for authors—the lives of our readers can be every bit as interesting, if not more so, than the ones we’re telling in our books. So if you get the opportunity to know them on a personal level, take it. They are lovely people, and there could be a book in it.
Love this? Check out Traci’s Mystery Writer’s Mentoring Program starting on January 28th!
A Poison Manicure and Peach Liqueur
It’s Christmas in Danger Cove, and all Cassidi Conti wants is clients. A rival salon owner has come to town and stolen The Clip and Sip’s business. Her holiday hopes go south, however, after someone sexes up the sleigh display at her open house and an incident from the past makes the paper. Luckily, her tough talkin’ Texan aunt rides to her rescue, and she’s madder‘n The Grinch in a gift shop. But when a nail client drops dead at her rival’s salon, and the killer sends unseasonal greetings to The Clip and Sip, Cassidi wonders whether an entire Texas cavalry could save her from the impending disaster. She has to act fast to figure out who the manicure murderer is, or her Noël could be nixed—forever.