Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Staying Connected

By Marcia Talley

When I still worked “outside the home” at a job in Washington, DC, we were always being asked by our supervisors to accommodate “shifting paradigms.” This usually meant that a hot-shot management guru had treated our CEO to lunch, and presumably held him hostage over double martinis, prime rib and crème brulé until he’d signed the corporation up for the latest management craze — MBO, TQM. Remember?

If you don’t, never mind. After spending millions on training and implementation, we employees usually forgot the mumbo-jumbo, too, and it was back to business as usual until the next management fad came along.

I was thinking about paradigms recently as I sat on our sailboat in a quiet anchorage in the Exuma Islands chain in the Bahamas. My husband and I have been living on Troubadour for several months. While he’s retired, I’m still trying to function as a working writer. This is something of a challenge in the islands, and a real-life test of shifting paradigms, one that has come to depend heavily, but not entirely, on the availability of an internet connection.

Before leaving the U.S., I set up everything electronically — bank accounts, bills, NY Times online, newsletters (like InSinc: save a stamp and download now from and Skype, a free voice over internet “telephone” service that is so neato-keen that I’m amazed AT&T hasn’t bought it out simply so they could shut it down.

But all this preparation is for naught in the absence of an internet signal, so we dropped big bucks on a satellite telephone to serve as backup when we sail out of range of the wireless internet on the island settlements.

Satellites are not the panacea one might think, however, as they have the irritating habit of passing over my patch of sky, then vanishing over the horizon, taking my internet signal with them. So, I have a regular cell phone with which I make calls and send short text messages — whenever we’re in range of a Batelco tower, that is. Alas, even local residents don’t rely on the on-again, off-again telephone service. Every house and boat has a name and a VHF radio (I’ve got a hand-held strapped to my belt) and contact one another on Channel 16 — “Troubadour calling Lion’s Den, switch and answer channel six seven.”

Several weeks ago I delivered to my editor the final manuscript of the next Hannah Ives mystery, Dead Man Dancing, while anchored behind Leaf Cay, a tiny island occupied only by iguanas, some as big as dogs. I think it was the writer Annie Lamott who said there are only two prayers — “Please, please, please” and “thank you, thank you, thank you” — so as the file began to upload to whatever satellite was currently passing over, I began reciting the first prayer until (after three attempts) the large file went through and I could recite, with feeling, the second.

Can you tell I’m enchanted by the islands?

In fact, I hope to set my next mystery down here, and have been hanging out gathering atmosphere and background at Norman’s Cay, former headquarters of the infamous Carlos Lehder who bought most of the island, terrorized the residents, and used the island as a way station for transferring cocaine between Columbia and the US for the Meddelin cartel, and where a DC-3 that missed the runway is now a haven for fish and a delight for snorkelers. And speaking of spectacular snorkeling, yesterday I donned snorkel and fins to explore Thunderball Grotto, a sparkling cave at Staniel Cay which was named for the James Bond movie, Thunderball, and where scenes from Splash and another 007 movie, Never Say Never Again were also filmed.

Right now, though, you’ll have to excuse me while I do something I will never willingly do electronically. Yesterday at a marina take-one-leave-one “library” I snagged a paperback copy of Margaret Maron’s Winter’s Child (how had I missed it?). I’m going to put on my hat and my sunglasses and take it up on the bow for a good, long read.

Marcia Talley is the Agatha and Anthony award-winning author of THROUGH THE DARKNESS and five previous Hannah Ives mysteries, all set in Maryland. DEAD MAN DANCING, next in the series, will be published later this year. She iserves as Secretary for Sisters in Crime National.

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