Rafting, Turtles, and More!

I just came back from one of the ecological wonders of the world – Costa Rica. What a terrific place! They’ve never had an army and a quarter of the country is national park and other protected land. The biodiversity of Costa Rica is astounding, especially considering it’s roughly the size of West Virginia. The diversity of the landscape – extensive Atlantic and Pacific coasts with volcanic mountains and farmland between – is partly responsible. Also, of course, this is a tropical country with benign weather year around.

Tourists flock to Costa Rica. Two long coasts with gorgeous beaches, volcanoes you can drive up to in national parks, ziplines, river rafting. That’s me in front of the raft, by the way.

  • The Caribbean coast most impressed me. I spend several days in Tortuguero, a national park only accessible by water and air. It’s the closest I’ve been to a jungle and is replete with animals like caimans (they look like small crocodiles), brown pelicans, magnificent frigate birds, dozens of herons (little blue, tiger, cattle, green, tricolored), green macaw. The list goes on. Tortuguero is most famous for nesting turtles. For instance, the beaches swarm with leatherbacks on January nights.

    Given the timing of my visit, I didn’t see turtles. I did see the beach, though, and was stunned that the distance from the upland down to the ocean distance was so short. That means this critical habitat is extremely vulnerable to rising sea level caused by climate change.

    I’m always on the lookout for ideas for future books and have been thinking about setting one in Tortugero. Mara, Ted and Harvey would study impacts of warming on the turtle beach. What a setting for a mystery – caimans, the jungle, and howling monkeys and more!

    But that’s for later. Today I send off my draft version of Shadow Spirits of the Sea (working title) to the good folks at Torrey House Press. The story takes Mara, Ted, and Harvey to Haida Gwaii, a temperate rainforest and archipelago of islands fifty miles off British Columbia. The memory of thousands of earliest Haida people who lived off the land and water is everywhere. Crumbling totem poles greet Mara and her colleagues as they kayak ashore and vanishing spirits challenge Mara’s world view.

  • Snow, Sea, and My New Book

    It’s the beginning of February and the Iowa caucus and Groundhog Day are behind us. Since the groundhog didn’t see his shadow, we may have an early spring. Given climate change that’s not surprising, of course.

    A couple of weeks ago I was in Flagstaff, Arizona with my husband, John. He visited colleagues at Northern Arizona University. I brought my snowshoes but had to drive up to 8000 feet to find enough snow. It was glorious – huge open meadows and gorgeous mountain views. I worry about the lack of snow given the drought crisis there, but this year’s El Nino precipitation has helped.

    As is obvious from my books, my favorite sport is sea kayaking. However, paddling in Maine during the winter means frigid water and dry suits, neither of which I’m crazy about. (My protagonist, Mara Tusconi, constantly deals with icy water and doesn’t like it either). So I’m heading to Costa Rica in a few weeks to canoe, kayak, and swim. It’s eighty degrees down there right now. Plenty warm!

    I’ve finished the first draft of the second book in the Mara Tusconi mystery series. Shadow Spirit of the Sea (working title) takes Mara, Harvey and Ted to Haida Gwaii, a spectacular archipelago fifty miles off the coast of British Columbia. Each novel in the series is based on an actual marine ecological controversy. In Shadow Spirit the issue is geoengineering. In 2012 the Haida paid an American entrepreneur named Russ George a lot of money to dump about 100 tons of particulate iron off the western coast of the archipelago. George promised enhanced salmon runs and return in the investment through carbon credits. It fascinated me that a people with such a rich historic connection to the sea would be interested in such a scheme.

    Haida Gwaii is a Canadian National Park and world-famous kayak destination. I’ve sea kayaked there and was enthralled by the temperate rainforest of huge cedars and hemlocks, astounding marine diversity, and Haida relics (e.g., totem poles that greet landing kayaks). That’s all there in Shadow Spirit along with menacing bears, run-away kayaks, and a whole lot more.

    Finally, review copies of Cold Blood, Hot Sea are in the hands of potential reviewers now. I was especially pleased with Dan Bloom’s review on his cli-fi blog. Dan coined the term “cli-fi”.

    Less than seven weeks until the official start of spring!

    First post, last of 2015

    Big news: Cold Blood, Hot Sea, the first in the Mara Tusconi Oceanography Mystery Series, can be pre-ordered from your local indie bookstore, from Barnes and Noble, or on Amazon. The official publication date is May 10, 2016.

    This has been a terrific year for me as an author. I was awarded a prize for new authors from Mystery Writers of America, found an agent and publisher, and became a moderator on the cli-fi site (Ecology in Literature and the Arts). I’m a lucky girl!

    For my first and last post of 2015, I’ll try to answer the question people ask me all the time: what’s a marine ecologist doing writing mystery novels? In a nutshell, a famous scientist in Amherst, MA (where I was a professor) explained what it was like to be harassed by climate change deniers. I was outraged that the very people trying to understand causes and impacts of warming were hounded to the breaking point. But what could I do?

    The idea just came to me. Tell the story in fiction. Since I love mysteries, that choice was easy. As C.S. Lewis said, “Reason is the natural order of truth; but imagination is the organ of meaning.”

    See you all in 2016, Charlene