Tag Archives: Mystery Writers of America

Safety First!

The third week in June, as we’ve done for the last 20-odd years, my kayak buddies and I rented the same next-door houses on the water in Stonington, Maine. At the end of a long peninsula, Stonington is a seakayaker’s mecca. A dozen or so islands not far from shore offer us refuge from the open ocean and delightful spots for picnics and hikes. We can see the hills of Acadia National Park from the house and water.

This year, a sudden squall scared the heck out of a couple of us, including me. I wrote about what happened on my Facebook page (link). Essentially, it was terrifying and truly took all my skill to not flip over. If I had, my pals couldn’t have reached me because they were fighting the same conditions. We made it to shore, but a few hours later we learned that two kayakers were not so lucky and died as a result of the decision not to wear wetsuits. There’s a scene in COLD BLOOD, HOT SEA in which readers learn how and why paddlers practice rescues. What happened to those kayakers is why.

Since the event, I’ve been asked for details on how to safely kayak in marine waters. I’ll use Mara as an example of Kayaking 101.

Mara's Kayaking Gear

Mara’s kayak, like her buddies’, is specifically designed for rough ocean waters – very long and narrow (hers is 17′ long and cockpit narrower than most – just big enough to squeeze into). In high winds she might drop her skeg a bit into the water so the boat doesn’t turn into the wind. Other boats have rudders, some nothing. Basically these boats are designed to go straight and fast (river kayaks turn quickly). Mara’s kayak is light – less than 50 lbs – so she can lift it easily.

Mara always wears a wetsuit when she paddles off the Maine coast, even in midsummer, and of course her PFD (life jacket). She would never go out without her sprayskirt, which wraps around the cockpit and keeps waves from swamping the boat. If the water is really cold, as in early spring, she wears a drysuit. It’s a total pain to put on but keeps her dry if she rolls the kayak.
As I show in the book, Mara and her pals practice self and buddy rescues. Using a paddle float, she can get back into her kayak in about a minute if she flips the boat and can’t roll back up (although it’s never happened to her).
Mara has years of experience dealing with super tall waves, breaking waves, wind events, currents, and motor-boaters who can’t see kayakers (so low in the water) or don’t look for them. She loves to surf waves with her kayak even though that’s a tricky maneuver.

Finally, Mara carries these on her trips: weather radio, compass mounted on the deck, chart, extra paddle, emergency kit, emergency food, extra water, extra clothes in dry bag in the hatch, cell phone, bilge pump, tow rope, and whistle attached to her PFD. No wonder it takes her so long to get ready for a trip!

The event was another sobering reminder of how everything can change in an instant. As Mark Twain said, “Life is short, break the rules … Never regret anything that makes you smile.”

New Release Date!

For those of you who have been wondering, Cold Blood, Hot Sea has it’s new release date. You will be able to purchase the book come June 7th. It’s not that far off, so naturally I’m incredibly excited!

In the meantime, keep an eye on my News and Events Page. Some cool events are coming up, so don’t miss out!

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