Tuesday, September 4, 2012

CWA: A Tour of Oltramari, Part One

The wind blows through your hair as the the ship sails through the Mediterranean Sea towards Sicily. You are amazed how fast the ship was able to travel from the Caribbean to the Mediterranean. You had party all night with the Sea Witch's captain and some of the other cruise guests. The last time you had looked at a clock was at two in the morning when you finally went to bed. You had a great time. When you woke up and finally left your cabin there were people all around the ship participating in a wide variety of activities. The sun was almost hanging vertically above you. You had obviously missed breakfast, a fact your stomach confirmed with its constant growling. 
"Oh, hello," Tasha calls out to you from beside the pool.  You walk towards your hostess and smile.
"Good morning."
"I hope you slept well."
"I did, thank you. I saw the map on the monitor we're in the Mediterranean Sea. Did I miss the announcement of where we are heading?"
"No, Dalton and I haven't made it yet. Lunch should be in a few moments and we will make the announcement then."
"Oh, ok. Thank you."
"You're welcome." Tasha smiles, picks up a clipboard from a poolside table then leaves you alone with the other guests. You wander around the deck for awhile with a slight headache and an empty stomach until you hear Dalton over the loudspeaker announcing lunch has been served. Thank heavens for that! You thought lunch would never arrive. 
An hour later you are sitting at a fancy, round marble top table with a few of your friends. An empty white plate sits before with an empty wine glass. In the middle of the table is a carafe of wine. Every meal you have had and every table setting before visiting a destination has been a reflection of where the cruise ship was taking you. It always amazes you how you can enter this cafeteria and each time it is decorated differently. You wonder what the details are trying to tell you. While you are lost in your thoughts, you waiter brings out a large pizza on a flat wooden tray. You look up smelling the wonderful aroma. Pizza! You smile as he lays it in the center of the table. Dalton rises from the head table and walks towards the small stage in the middle of the room. The room goes quiet as he speaks. 
"Tasha and I hope you are enjoying the tour so far. Please enjoy your Italian lunch and welcome to the island of Sicily! Our ship will be docking as we partake of our meal. After you have finished your lunch we ask that you would make your way to the side of the ship where we will all head into Oltramari to meet our next tour guide."
A view of Taormina. Credit: gnuckx (Flickr) Creative Commons.

My author says that Oltramari is an imaginary town on the northern coast of Sicily near Palermo. Imaginary? Don’t listen to her. All my mysteries take place in and around Oltramari, Sicily, a city you won’t find on any map.
My ancestors settled here centuries ago, so I know all about Oltramari and I’m going to take you on a tour.
At first, I’ll do the talking. You can ask questions later. Whatever you do, don’t click. Sit down if you’re tired. That’s right, on those stone benches over there, flanking the public gardens. No room? Well, ask those tattered soldiers over there to sit up. Snoring and lounging about, they think they can sleep away the centuries with their rusted Garibaldi rifles and faded red shirts. And Don Tigro’s thugs, they’re worse, up to no good. Sweep them aside and sit.
So. We’re in the center of town. This is our biggest square, the piazza del Duomo. On weekdays, vendor’s carts fill the center of the piazza where we're standing, but today it’s quiet. See that plume of smoke in the distance? Close to dinner time and someone’s cooking. I smell roast pork.
That’s our cathedral, the Duomo. Every Italian town has one, but ours is special with its baroque façade and copper doors and bell tower. The climactic scenes of DEATH OF A SERPENT began in that Duomo right over there where the madam disguised herself as a nun.
Designed by somebody or other, the cathedral. If Giorgio were alive, he’d tell you the architect’s name, but I was too busy birthing babies and ferreting out the truth to pay much attention to painters or priests.
The fountain in the center was built by those gorgeous Romans. Resplendent, our world, when sunlight falls on its cascading sprays, no? And this hollow-eyed statue here, he’s the suppliant St. Dominic. Or maybe he’s St. Benedict, who knows? What’s important is that he lost one of his hands during Garibaldi’s campaign, making the resulting hole a perfect place for secreting messages and the like. Figures into the plot of my third novel, DEATH IN BAGHERIA releasing late this fall.
On September 6 when we meet again, I’ll show you the rest of the piazza and we’ll wind up at Boffo’s Café.

Our destination today was written by author, Susan Anderson. After attending Marywood High School for Girls and St. Mary’s College, Notre Dame, Susan received a B.A. in English Literature from Marquette University.
Susan is a writer, a mother, a grandmother, a widow, a member of Sisters In Crime. She's taught language arts and creative writing, worked for a publisher, an airline, an opera company. Traveled. Grew up on the north side of Chicago, but lived most of her adult life in the east. So, like Faulkner’s Dilsey, she's seen the best and the worst, the first and the last. She's seen worlds blow apart and life turn inside out in less time than it takes to type this sentence. Through it all, and to understand it somewhat, she write.
DEATH OF A SERPENT, the first in the Serafina Florio series, published January 2012. It began as a painting of the Lower East Side and wound up as a mystery story. She just published NO MORE BROTHERS, a novella, the second in the Serafina Florio series and is working on the third Serafina book, DEATH IN BAGHERIA. In between writing, revising and editing she reviews books and blogs. 
Her website can be found at http://susanrussoanderson.com

Her books may be found on amazon at:


  1. Replies
    1. She did a wonderful job describing the setting of her book. I've been adding the introductions with my characters Tasha and Dalton to everyone's posts. I want the readers to feel like they are on an actual cruise.

    2. Excellent - can't wait to read the book :)

    3. This is an amazing concept! Loving it! Great post Susan!

    4. Thank you M.J. Kane. I've been developing the concept for awhile now. I hope to do more tours like this latter on.