I’m just wondering…
I’d like everyone to stand up and give Sharon Marchisello a big round of applause for being this week’s Plunge.
Sharon Marchisello’s Bio
Sharon was born in Schenectady, New York. She’s lived throughout the US and studied French on a scholarship in France. Her current mystery novel, GOING HOME, is published through Sunbury Press and she has self-published a personal finance ebook, LIVE CHEAPLY, BE HAPPY, GROW WEALTHY, no doubt explaining what she did with all that income from her mystery novel, GOING HOME. She also writes about personal finance on her blog. Sharon’s current project is SECRETS OF THE GALAPAGOS.
Sharon and I talked about killing people for fun and profit, working in the airline industry, knowing how to say “Which way to baggage claim?” in French, Sunbury Press, self-marketing, the use and misuse of first readers and critiquers, the writing life, bucket lists, dogs and cats, personal finance, pet peeves, writing styles and what’s involved in learning to write.
You can find links to Sharon’s books on the right or at the bottom of this post (depending on your device). You’ll also find links to Sharon’s sites underneath the video.
Sharon Marchisello’s Links
Sharon’s murder mystery, Going Home, on Sunbury Press and Amazon
Sharon’s Live Cheaply, Be Happy, Grow Wealthy personal finance book
Sharon’s Amazon Author page
Sharon on Facebook and Twitter
Sharon on Goodreads
Sharon’s personal finance blog
Sharon on HomeTownReads
An excerpt from Sharon Marchisello’s Secrets of the Galapagos
Laurel tugged at my flipper and pointed. I pivoted through the stream of bubbles in time to glimpse a six-foot hammerhead shark. Its flat head barely rippled the water it displaced, and I could have touched its coarse gray skin had I dared. My heart pounded. In our dark wetsuits, did we look like seals? The guides said these Galapagos sharks were not dangerous unless provoked, but who knew when one might decide to add a little tourist delicacy to its diet of fish and crustaceans?
Her dark hair floating around her face, Laurel gave a thumbs-up. I returned the gesture.
The shark glided away almost as quickly as it had appeared, replaced by a school of surgeonfish, their yellow tails and silvery bodies shimmering in the sunlight. I lost sight of Laurel as I floated among them like a mermaid.
I kicked my way to the surface and lifted my head to drain my snorkel tube. As I pushed a strand of wet hair out of my face, I couldn’t help glancing at the narrow band of white skin where my engagement ring had been—until last month. Don’t think about that jerk, I reminded myself. Focus on enjoying this incredible cruise. Our group had been snorkeling in the chilly waters of Gardner Bay for about an hour, and all I wanted to do now was get back on board the ship, dry off, and tell everyone over a tasty lunch of fresh seafood about my close encounter with the shark.
I pulled off my fogged-up plastic mask and rinsed it in the ocean. The sea had grown rougher since we’d started snorkeling, and dark clouds were gathering. A wave slapped my face, sending salty water into my nostrils. I held up my right hand, the symbol for, “I’m ready to come in.”
Where was everybody?
“Laurel?” She had been swimming beside me just moments ago.
I scanned the water for my fellow snorkelers and the guides hovering in the inflatable black boats called Zodiacs. Laurel and I had not strayed that far from the group…had we?
I put my mask back on and ducked underwater to see if anyone was still swimming beneath the surface. Nothing but fish. I didn’t care about the fish anymore.
The sudden sensation of being alone in the cold ocean sucked away my energy. I took off my mask again, struggling to hold my head upright and tread water while I regained my bearings.
The steep volcanic outcropping where we’d been congregating was on my left. It had been on my right before. I must have drifted to the other side. Sea birds squawked at me, as if I had plans to disturb their nests wedged into the jagged, guano-coated crevices.
“Laurel?” My new friend must be wondering what had happened to me.
I dog-paddled around the volcanic rock and then sighted one of the Zodiacs—at least thirty yards away and headed back to the ship. A black speck in the distance was probably the other boat.
“What the —?” I propelled myself in their direction, but the current pushed me back. Instead of aiding my progress, my cumbersome flippers, life vest, and wetsuit—the gear that had kept me so buoyant while I was floating beneath the surface, enjoying the underwater scenery—now weighted me down. I stopped and waved my whole arm rapidly, the sign for, “Come get me now!”
No heads turned in my direction. The boats were moving farther away.
Damn that Fernando! That self-centered excuse-for-a-guide was probably too busy flirting and boasting about his exploits to notice two missing passengers.
Something bumped my leg. I couldn’t look.
“Hey!” I shouted at the top of my lungs. I sprang upward, spyhopping like I’d seen whales do. “Hey!” I had visions of myself drowned in the Galapagos, or devoured by a shark—a tragic end to this vacation of a lifetime, this attempt to escape the mess I’d made of my life back in Georgia.
At last one of the other snorkelers turned my way and pointed. The boat changed course and headed toward me.
“Thank God! I may live to see twenty-five after all.” I called toward the spot where I’d last seen my friend, just after the shark had passed us. “Laurel, the boat is coming for us.”
There was no answer. “Laurel?” I spun my head around, but there was no sign of my snorkeling partner.
Waves continued to smack my face as I treaded water and watched the boat approach. “Laurel? They’re almost here.”
The Zodiac pulled alongside me. My arms trembled as I gripped the swim ladder and tried to hoist myself up. I faltered. My frantic swim against the current had numbed my limbs.
Fernando grabbed my elbow and lifted me the rest of the way into the boat. I opened my mouth to say something snarky to him about his ability to count heads, but I didn’t have enough breath left in my lungs to form the words. I clung to his sinewy, sun-weathered arms until I could seat myself on the edge of the rubber boat between two water-logged women. A quick survey of the other ten passengers told me Laurel was not among them.
“We thought you were with the other group,” said Deborah Holt, the thirty-something, red-headed Australian teacher next to me. I think she had been the one who spotted me, perhaps saving my life.
“Laurel….” I gasped, still too breathless to finish my sentence. I pointed at the water, but Fernando had already turned his back.
The outboard motor started again and the Zodiac turned toward the ship.
Catching my breath, I cried, “Laurel! She was with me.” I jumped up. The boat lurched forward and I fell back against its rubber wall.
Fernando grabbed his radio and engaged in a crackling exchange of Spanish. He turned to me. “The other boat picked her up.”
“Sure?” I looked around, but did not see another boat.
Fernando patted my shoulder. “Don’t worry.”
“They wouldn’t leave anyone behind.” Next to me, Deborah reached into her backpack and retrieved a tube of sunscreen.
Reassured that Laurel was safe, I sat back, closed my eyes, and inhaled the briny sea air. How silly of me to think we were going to drown out there. I pushed my tangled hair away from my face. The wind blew it behind me like a contrail as the boat gained speed. “We saw a hammerhead shark,” I announced.
“Wow! Did you get a picture?” Deborah slathered coconut-scented sunscreen on her freckled arms and calves, exposed by her sleeveless, knee-length wetsuit.
“I didn’t, but Laurel had her camera.” I gazed at the water and watched Española Island and the volcanic outcropping where I’d last seen Laurel grow smaller and smaller.
Our Zodiac bumped the platform alongside the black hull of the Archipelago Explorer and two deckhands scrambled to help us disembark. We were the last group back to the 100-passenger luxury cruise ship. The voyage was only half full this week—fortunate for me and my grandmother, who had booked at the last minute. Treating me to this cruise was her grand gesture to help me get over my heartbreak.
As soon as the final passenger climbed out and mounted the iron stairs to the main deck above, the crew would raise the Zodiac and prepare it for transport. The Archipelago Explorer was scheduled to sail to the other side of Española Island this afternoon, where we’d set out on another nature hike.
At the top of the stairs hung a locator pegboard. Each passenger and crew member had been assigned a numbered tag. I flipped my number, twenty-seven, to green, indicating I was back on board. Twenty-six, Laurel’s number, was still red.
I tapped Fernando’s shoulder as he collected our life vests. “I thought you said Laurel was on the other boat. Her tag is still red.”
With a snort, Fernando flipped number twenty-six from red to green. “That Laurel does this every day.” He gave me a sideways grin. “She must think I’m her servant.”
“You’re sure she’s back?” I rubbed the goose bumps rising on my arms as a cloud eclipsed the sun.
Fernando gave me one of those looks that warned me to mind my own business and turned to help another woman unfasten her life vest.