Christine: I am thrilled to share with you today another “writer on the water” Darcy Scott, who has taken her experience of many years’ cruising to write this delightful crime fiction series set in the waters off Maine. I’ll let her tell you all about it.
Darcy: Many thanks to Christine for slipping in my guest blog today! I’m a fellow writer/sailor (Maine Island Mystery Series) and new Seychelle Sullivan fan—my sister continually carrying on about Christine’s books until I finally agreed to pick up a copy of Surface Tension. Needless to say, I’m hooked. Christine then asked me to share my particular story and thoughts on writing with you, so here I am.
I first took to the water about 25 years ago when I met my husband—a life-long, balls-to-the-wall sailor and marine industry professional. Prior to that, I’d literally never been on a boat. Still, I felt a deep and immediate connection to the experience—the sense of freedom you have on the ocean, the connection with nature on a very elemental level. The fact I don’t get seasick was probably the deal clincher for him and we were married in 1994, living on our boat during the summer season, or as long as we can stretch it in southern Maine, which is usually from May through mid-October. Then we suck it up and move inland, about 20 miles west of our Kittery, Maine mooring, where we longingly begin planning boat projects and cruising destinations for the next spring.
Interestingly, I started writing around the same time I was introduced to sailing. I never put the two together before, but it makes sense. There’s something meditative about the motion of a sailboat, the stillness of a quiet harbor that trips my creative trigger. Some of my friends complain about the loss of household amenities, but it’s never bothered me. I love the simplicity of life aboard. The less “stuff” I have to take care of, the more creative time I have.
I began writing my first novel, one I call my “auto-bio-novel,” in 1995 when my husband and I took a year’s sabbatical to sail the eastern Caribbean. We’d usually spend mornings on the never-ending maintenance inherent in a 40-foot sloop (like most committed liveaboards, we do our own), then he’d head off in the afternoons to give a series of marine seminars, which left me delightfully free to spend them with my characters. It took 8 years to finish that first book, and I immediately began a second.
In the years since, we’ve sailed all along the east coast and beyond—as far north as the eastern tip of Nova Scotia and as far south as the bottom of Grenada—and raced to Bermuda any number of times. Still, our favorite cruising ground is the coast of Maine with its more than 4500 islands, and we spend a lot of each summer poking around Casco and Penobscot Bays where my Maine Island Mystery Series is set.
All islands have their own unique rhythms and social systems. This is as true in Maine as it is in the Caribbean, where neighboring islands are likely to be part of different countries—each with its own language, monetary system and social norms. In Maine, if you’re not born on a particular island, you’ll always be considered “from away.” I learned this one summer when we were sailing back from the Mount Desert area on a stormy afternoon and decided to duck into the small, single harbor on the island of Matinicus—a remote out-island notorious for its population of warring lobstering families who’ve been duking it out for generations and have little use for outsiders. Quaint this place is not. Rustic doesn’t really do it either. Its rather infamous history includes the early arrival of a few scrappy colonist families—ancestors of the same close-knit, lobstering clans still duking it out today—who decided to rid the island of the Native Americans so inconveniently in residence by killing and burying them in the vegetable garden.
Today’s Matinicans have a well-earned reputation for being suspicious of mainlanders, unconcerned with social norms, and intolerant of bureaucratic niceties. They create their own addresses, see no need for license plates, and have so far resisted all efforts to establish an on-island police presence. Perfect place for a mystery, I thought, then spent two years writing the first of the Island Mysteries about the place. Called simply Matinicus (May, 2012), it includes a lot of the history and flavor of the actual island, and introduces the series’ protagonist—the hard-drinking, bachelor botanist Gil Hodges—a womanizer with an unfortunate propensity for psychotic, often homicidal women—praised by Cruising World Magazine as “the best male protagonist to come along since Lee Child’s Jack Reacher.”
As the story opens, Gil arrives on-island ostensibly to catalog the purported 22 species of wild orchid said to be found there, but is really running from the latest of these disastrous sexual conquests—figuring the place so remote, so rugged, so utterly unwelcoming to strangers it would deter even this latest bizzarro chick. Shortly after he arrives, however, islanders begin to die rather gruesome deaths and he’s forced to try and solve the murders in order to prove his own innocence.
Book two, Reese’s Leap (March, 2013), is set on another remote Maine island where Gil finds himself fogged in with five complicated, high-powered women partying their way through an all-female retreat. He’s initially pleased at the layover, but when a stranger appears out of nowhere with his own twisted agenda, things start to go terribly wrong, and it falls to him to keep the women safe, despite a dawning awareness that not everyone will make it off the island alive.
Gil continues his adventures in Ragged Island (Spring, 2015), the third book in the series, set on the little-known island of the same name. Considering the thousands of islands studding the Maine coast, the series may go on for quite a while!
DARCY SCOTT is an ocean cruiser who spends summers plying New England waters. Her love of the rugged beauty of Maine’s sparsely populated out-islands serves as inspiration for her Island Mystery Series, which includes 2012’s award-winning Matinicus and the upcoming Reese’s Leap. Book three, Ragged Island, is currently in the works. Learn more at www.Darcyscott.net.
An excerpt from
Run, baby girl! Mama screams from her grave. Run!
And I be fast, too—lickety-split like she always say—rocks and shells cuttin’ at my feet as I claw my way up the hill. My breath all hitched and raggedy when I make the rise and creep under them trees that’s always so sweet and piney smellin’. My thinkin’ trees, Daddy calls ’em.
Through the branches I can see him and Willie bein’ marched down to the cove with the others—Willie spittin’ and fightin’ good as any man though he ain’t but six, Daddy gone all quiet as he peeks back to where I’m hid, his eyes catchin’ mine like they do, tellin’ me to stay put, stay quiet. That he’d be back for me.
Ain’t but a half hour since they come poundin’ at the door—the one Mama always said ain’t nothin’ ever come through but bad news—Daddy awake first, slippin’ that old suspender over his shoulder as he picked his way past us in the dark. Willie still hard asleep on the cot, but me, I saw Daddy’s back go stiff, his eyes turn hard when he opened up—the faces of them mainland men all twisted and ugly with meanness, lookin’ me over like they ate somethin’ bad. It was then Mama told me to git.
There’s more of ’em movin’ up the hill with their torches now, puttin’ fire to houses I been in and out of my whole life, laughin’ as they step ’round Sally’s baby plopped down in the dirt, flappin’ her hands and cryin’, all big-eyed scared.
I look to the graveyard where our people is buried—a hundred years’ worth maybe. Mama laid out just last winter, not a week after bakin’ me my nine-years cake. Places in there I know to hide, places I can stay ’til Daddy and them come back, feedin’ myself on fish and berries, lyin’ in the sun.
Hide! Mama beggin’ me now, but my feet don’t listen, my eyes still caught on Daddy and Willie and the man pushin’ ’em hard toward the boats—Willie cryin’, which he don’t hardly do no more, even when the cat up and killed her kittens for no reason other than they’s gettin’ on her nerves.
I’m turnin’ to make for the graveyard like she say when I’m took up sudden from behind, a big man-hand slappin’ hard over my mouth, hot words whisperin’ in my ear. I kick the air, claw to get free—Mama’s voice fadin’ into Willie’s cryin’ and the hoarse shouts of ugly men, my heart like to burst ’til the darkness take me down.
Christine: Hey guys, a big part of what makes this blog so special is finding those other folks out there who share our passions for both writing and a life on the water. I am thrilled to have found Darcy and her books, and I hope you are too. Please take a look at Darcy’s books on Amazon here:
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