Tag Archives: sailing

The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, by Carole Howard

I’ve been thinking longingly about a sailing trip we once took with friends in the Caribbean. It was a certain version of heaven. A catamaran (to minimize seasickness), with a crew (we don’t know how to sail a boat) and good company. Blue sky, gentle waves, cooling breezes, white sand. There was little to interrupt our tranquility.   And there were pina coladas to boot!

My current longing has nothing to do with the climate, the boat, the rum, or even the friends. It was, rather, that once we left the dock, putt-putted out of the harbor, cut the motor and raised the sails, we were completely out of touch with the mainland. There were no cell phones. No internet. The captain could call ashore if necessary, but that was pretty much reserved for emergencies. We had no idea what was going on in the rest of the world.   Aaaaah. Right around now that sounds pretty good.

Every time I open the computer to my home page, The New York Times, or listen to the radio in the car, or even look at Facebook to keep up with the adorable antics of my grandchildren, I’m laid low with any one, or more, of an assortment of unpleasant emotions. Fear. Dismay. Anger. A sense of powerlessness. Depression.

There’s the situation in Aleppo – not to mention the rest of Syria – and the ones in Yemen, South Sudan, and elsewhere. If you don’t know what’s going on in those places, I envy you, but a lot of it involves children who are dead, injured, or starving.  And massacres. It’s more than I can bear.

And then, of course, there’s the election.   (If you’ve read any of my blogs, you’re not surprised I feel this way.) Chasms where once there were “only” cracks. Our current national fracture has even wended its way to my town, a beautiful historic community with an agricultural tradition where citizens have always gotten along pretty well. Since the election, there have been two incidents that, in the context of this town, were shocking. One was the defacing of a Jewish cemetery, and the other an explosive, almost violent, public meeting about a blue line down one of our streets to demonstrate appreciation for our local police department. Things like this just don’t happen here! But now they do.

And so I’ve been thinking about the sailboat interlude and considering cutting myself off from the news, including Facebook. It feels drastic – and, frankly, I don’t know if I could actually do it – but it would just be temporary, to allow my emotional immune systems to regroup. On the boat, I had no choice, but to self-isolate is a different matter.

I’ve been more-or-less of an activist since the 1960’s, and it would feel eerie to be unmoored from the rest of the world’s events. The deep blue sea. But it feels worse to mourn for my country and the world. The devil.

I’m not advocating giving up. I’m glad others are out there fighting the good fight. This would only be a sabbatical. But I’m not sure it’s a responsible thing to do.

Advice, please?

  •     *     *     *

Carole Howard is the author of Deadly Adagio, a musical murder mystery set in Senegal.



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Behold – the hands

Have you ever stopped to consider your hands?

2 hands 1It is amazing how little attention we pay to our hands until something painful happens to them. Most people give daily, sometimes hourly, thought to their face, or their body, or their hair style, or even their shoe size, but hardly ever consider their hands except maybe to decide what color nail polish to use.

Babby meMy hands pushed me to a standing position when I was a child learning to walk, or held onto the helping hand during those first steps. Now at almost 85 they are again helping me to get up out of the chair I’m siting in, or reaching for a helping hand when I have to climb the stairs.

When I was a boy a friend accidentally shot an arrow through one of my hands. The doctor said there would be no permanent injury, but to this day I can’t fully open the last two fingers of my right hand. It is no great impediment, but when I notice it, it evokes happy memories of a day hunting frogs so we could have frog-legs for dinner.

My hands have held the reins to a team of matched grays pulling a sidebar mower or a side-delivery rake. They developed heavy callouses pitching the same hay that I had mowed and raked some days earlier.

They have passed ammunition for a 5-inch gun during a shore bombardment during the Korean Conflict. On another occasion they held a compress to a shipmate’s bleeding leg until the corpsman got there after he fell down a ladder. “Nothing serious,” the corpsman said, but it sure bled like hell.

These hands have turned the pages of innumerable books in a college library before computers came to be.

They trembled when I slipped the ring on my bride’s finger and again when I held our newborn daughter for the first time.

For eight years my wife, our son and I lived aboard a sailboat in Hawaii. Every year in about September when the rainy season started in Hawaii we would head south to the summer months in French Polynesia. It was our hands that raised and trimmed the sails and for 8 hours in every 24-hour day, for 22 to 25 days, we each had to take our turns of 4 hours of holding onto the tiller.

We sold the boat and started a normal life when our son was ready for college. In the years following we talked about our sailing days more than anything else, but we never talked about the part our hands played in it.

I have no idea how many years of hours these hands, first on a typewriter and later on a computer, have hit the keys in my trying to write novels.

The hands have always had something to do with all my joyful moments. Why have I never paid more attention to them?

They have been bashed, cut, bruised, bled, broken and reset and are probably the most abused of any part of me. They are old, soft, and wrinkled now, but of all my body parts they are what I can depend on the most. They catch on to something if I start to fall and hold me up. They still clap for something I admire.

As they have been doing for eighty-some years they still faithfully lift the food and drink from the plate to my mouth, maybe a little more often than they should sometimes, or feeding me things the doctor says I shouldn’t eat, but that is not their fault. They are only doing as they are told.

Oh, how grateful I am for those hardly-ever-thought-about hands.

May your hands never fail you and be always ready to reach out to someone who needs a helping hand.


Paul’s book The Telephone Killer published by 2nd Wind Publishing is now available on Amazon and from the publisher. Kindle and Nook versions just $4.99. – Soon to be available as an audiobook.

Another new novel of mine, Murder Sets Sail, will be coming next month from Second Wind Publishing. This novel is not a mystery. You know from the beginning who the murderers are and who they intend to murder. Adventure aboard a sailboat from Honolulu to Hong Kong.

We jus signed a contract for another book with Second Wind Publishing. Death On the Church Steps is another mystery.

To learn a little more about me click here.


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Murder Sets Sail – Excerpt 4

Sailboat red Cov 2 thmb

Murder Sets Sail coming soon from Second Wind Publishing.

In excerpt 1 you met Chris. He’s the poor sap who desperately wants a charter.

In excerpt 2 and 3 you were introduced to the bad guys of the story. They are richer than God and more evil than Satan. They could buy a yacht of any size they want, but they need a couple of boats that are not in any way connected to them to bring in a shipment of China-white.

In this excerpt meet the other chump, but he won’t be around for very long. He owns the second boat the bag guys are going to appropriate for this little job.

* * *

Alone in the cockpit Jimmy started thinking about Mary. He’d thought of her a lot since leaving Hong Kong. They had corresponded since he left, exchanging three or four letters a year. But it was not until this trip that he started wondering if she would like to join him. He knew she hadn’t married. They were still close enough he was sure she would have mentioned if she was involved. They’d had a lot once. It had been the situation that had driven them apart, not their feelings for each other. It would be nice to have Mary always alongside him, to share things with. She had always been one he could depend on.

When he got to Honolulu he would write her and ask if she wanted to join him for a while. She might like this kind of life and decide to stay on indefinitely. The more he thought about it, the more pleasant the idea became, and the more possible it seemed. It suddenly became a desperate necessity to write and mail the letter as soon as possible. Continue reading

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The Waiting Game By Laura S. Wharton, author of The Pirate’s Bastard and soon to be released Leaving Lukens

Now that the novel is done, the edits are approved, and the beautiful cover is designed, the Waiting Game begins. I sent out advance review copies of my latest novel, Leaving Lukens, to big name reviewers—Publisher’s Weekly and the American Library Association’s BookList among them—months ahead of the book’s publication date. They require this kind of window to see if a book passes muster, gets assigned a reviewer, and then gets a decent review. In the terms of a game, I made the first move. Now it’s their turn.

And I have to sit on my hands and wait until they move. I can start promoting the book, but a solid review would help move the promotions along. And since the desired outcome of promotions is book sales, which I shouldn’t do before the book’s official publication date arrives in December, it’s challenging to be patient. I have never been criticized for being too patient, so it truly is a challenge to plan my next strategic move.

That said, I still have promotions and signings planned for my first novel, The Pirate’s Bastard, published by Second Wind Publishing. I’ll be at the following events:
 Winston-Salem’s BookMark Festival (September 11)
 Maritime History Council’s annual conference in Wilmington (September 28-30)
 Davie County BookFair (October 1)
 Mt. Airy Regional History Museum, Autumn Leaves Festival (October 14)

If you’re in the area, stop by and say hi! It will make The Waiting Game move along that much quicker if I spend time among friends.

Laura S. Wharton is the author of The Pirate’s Bastard (2010) and the forthcoming novel, Leaving Lukens.

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By Laura S. Wharton, Author of The Pirate’s Bastard and Leaving Lukens

I struggle with internet connection at my rural home. Some days, I can get online easily. Other days, I feel like I’m standing on a hill far, far away from civilization trying to decide whether sending smoke signals would be better than using a mega horn to get my message across. Some days, I have a connection before it’s dropped … never to be made again while I’m sitting in front of the computer, trying my level best to get messages out.

We’ve switched cables, computers, internet providers … everything imaginable except our location. Still, the lack of connection goes on (or off, depending on your point of view), and with the current economic conditions, we certainly won’t be able to move anytime soon to get better, or more constant, connections. So what’s a writer to do, besides having another cup of tea, hoping that “eventually” the connection will come back? Short of packing up my laptop and going to a wifi hotspot, not much.

Since I have a good deal of down time waiting for internet connection, this issue naturally leads me to think about connections writers make with readers in stories. My father says he’s watched books transform from “who-done-it” to “where-done-it” stories – focusing so much on place, on description of flora fauna, or surroundings, or what the victim wore on the night of the murder. He points out that if all the adjectives were taken out of current books, there might be four words left to tell the story. I suppose that’s okay, as long as those remaining four words actually do the job of 70,000 plus words and connect with the reader for a memorable experience. But which four words would work? It depends on the kind of connection a writer wants with a reader.

I’m guilty of putting a great deal of emphasis on a story’s place. In The Pirate’s Bastard, the tale is set in colonial coastal North Carolina. A tale of history, piracy, blackmail, and ships, what resonates most with reviewers is the lush emerald green marsh grass from which the lead character Edward Marshall takes his name when he comes to the new world, escaping his past and his pirate father’s deeds. Readers also comment on the way I’ve described the grounds and waters near the grand mansion that Orton Plantation was going to be, where Edward served as an agent for the wealthy land owner.

In Leaving Lukens, I set out to write an adventure story filled with a little romance. According to my editor, it’s a romance filled with lots of action. I could connect with readers on the romance level, or the action level. The place connection could be strong, too, since the story is set in the small North Carolina village of Lukens on the opposite shore from Oriental and features New Bern prominently. But what about the history angle? That might be the greatest connection with readers. It’s honestly my favorite part of the story. The impact of World War II was felt hard along our coast: German U-boats sank many American tankers filled with goods bound for England in the lend-lease program. Oil, debris, and even sailors’ bodies littered our otherwise pristine beaches. The black stench of war hung in the coastal air for days after a sinking, according to eyewitness accounts. Pleasure boat-building companies stepped up their production capabilities to supply minesweepers and other ships for the war effort. And little towns like New Bern swelled with military men, or vanished from existence thanks to the “last straw” effect of a war like no other.

My characters experience all this (and so much more) in Leaving Lukens. I wonder how the story will connect with readers and reviewers when the book comes out this fall? Assuming I get a connection today, I’ll upload this blog posting, and look forward to the feedback readers might offer.

Laura S. Wharton is the author of The Pirate’s Bastard and the upcoming novel, Leaving Lukens. Learn more about her and her work at http://www.LauraWhartonBooks.com, http://www.LauraWharton.blogspot.com, or connect with her at http://www.twitter.com/LauraSWharton


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The Journey

Journeys are amazing to me. Filled with contradiction, having a destination in mind can be exhilarating, yet the transformation occurring while “away” is subtle. I started thinking more about journeys – those planned and the ones never undertaken – when I friend of mine sent me a copy of The Pirate’s Bastard book review he read in Latitudes and Attitudes, a wonderful magazine for seriously fun-loving sailors. I’m incredibly pleased to have an opportunity to reach this audience, given the nature of the nautical fiction I write. I wish I, too, were still a sailor. I still have fun, just no boat on which to sail at the moment. But I have fond memories of my own sailing days. They drift by occasionally like whiffs of salt air over a rising tide.

Which brings me back to the thought of the journey. In my forthcoming novel, Leaving Lukens, (Fall 2010), the primary character faces a number of journeys with trepidation. Her transformation from being somewhat wimpy to being strong enough to embrace what each journey holds in store is fun to write. Like all good stories, transformation is essential. If everyone remained static, there wouldn’t be any story at all. The lesson for her being offered by different support characters is that she should enjoy the journey as much as the destination. In real life, that’s key as well. Monotony can be challenging; yet it’s in the monotonous that tiny discoveries and slight transformations can occur if we are willing really see. It’s in the paying attention that we learn; and in the learning, the transformation. Here’s to the journey. And here’s to summer breezes filling sails for all of you who still have sailboats.

Laura S. Wharton is the author of The Pirate’s Bastard and the forthcoming historical novel, Leaving Lukens. Visit her website, http://www.laurawhartonbooks.com, for more information.

The Pirate's Bastard featured in Lats and Atts Magazine!

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Thinking of Summer in the Winter

It’s true. I admit it. I’m not a winter person.

As I write this, schools (and work) have been closed thanks to a wintry mix of snow and ice. When my son wakes, it will be all I can do to find his boots in time before he runs out of the house, pell mell toward the hill with sled at his side. That will be fun for a bit, and the following fire in the fireplace, a lovely bowl of homemade soup with my freshly baked bread, games to play and a book nearby will help us pass the day away.

Still, I dream of summer: hot, sticky afternoons turning into hot sticky nights in the days before air conditioning. I fondly recall time spent in the Severn River swimming, diving, canoeing, or sailing, long before kayaks were all the rage; and I truly dream of the frequent crabbing sessions. We’d lean way out over the edge of a pier to see if the weighted chicken neck attracted the attention of a blue crab big enough to be a keeper, the imprint of the dock’s weathered boards leaving their mark on my t-shirt and mind for years to come.

For what seemed an all too brief time in my life, my family lived in a magical place near Annapolis, Maryland. We referred to it as “the Forest” or “Sherwood” … it might as well been called heaven to a kid, though. When we were summer people, we had a small green clapboard-sided cottage with white trim on Robin Hood Road – it was more of a loop, where we lived with screen doors slamming as all four of us kids ran in and out constantly off to club (they now call it camp), or back in from some waterfront activity. From the breakfast table, we’d call across ravines to friends to see who was going where when; we walked, ran, or rode bikes everywhere (the kids now take golf carts to their destinations); we swam in the river (there’s now a pool – can you imagine?); and when we got older, we visited “The Pit” – a nice name for a place to hang out at night with the same kids we were in club with all day.

The house is still there, but it’s now a three-story, glassed-in, protected-from-the-elements fortress. Hard to recognize, to say the least. There will be no undetected slipping out of those screen windows. When that window opened to the bedroom I shared with my two sisters, we regularly rolled out of bed in shorts and flip flops to meet friends down at the river for a moonlight dip. I’m sure my parents knew we did it, but it seemed like harmless, covert fun at the time.

There were dances in the clubhouse, church services in the fellowship hall, and a ten-pin bowling alley down below where my younger brother earned a little money straddling the alley so he could jump down to reset the pins for the next bowler. It was a coveted job, to be sure. When he finished a shift, he would promptly head over to the General Store, ask Duffy to make something substantial for a snack, and often as not, charge it to my parents’ account. Standing tall in his white apron, Duffy took on many roles: cook, store clerk, postmaster, and stand-in parent to all the kids of Sherwood with a watchful eye and a stern warning for anyone who crossed the line with one too many sweets. The store is still there. It’s a gourmet deli, though, and Duffy is long gone.

We played volleyball, tennis, softball, badminton, golf, and water polo. Archery was an activity for everyone, as was lacrosse. Soccer (in the days before the current soccer craze) and lacrosse were played on the same small field – at least I remember it as small, compared to the mega-soccer complexes of today.

And even on the coldest mornings (and there were cold mornings in Maryland during the summer), if swimming was the first activity of the day, we were in the water, struggling to get warm under the tutelage of Coach Cropp, and battling sea nettles. Swimming across the river was a rite of passage. At the end of summer, as a team we swam across the river en masse to psyche out the opposing time –they swam in a pool, for heaven’s sake. The trick worked well, as I recall – plus, we’d had our warm up on the way. The only down side was we had to swim back after the meet was over, and we were tired and hungry. Or at least I was. But we all made it. We all survived. We all reveled in the days of summer in Sherwood Forest.

The annual end of summer event to top all, the Corn Roast, was something special – so special, I made the trek back to attend one after many years’ absence. Aside from the family grills blazing and a beer truck at the ready, the centerpiece of the event is the definitely the corn. Large ditches are dug, fires smolder all afternoon, and corn—still in the husk—is steamed in metal canoes. Burlap is fitted over the top of the canoe and hosed down from time to time, making the absolute best corn I have ever tasted. Ever. Thoughts of visiting with old friends on Robin Hood Beach, watching the dolled-up girls make their entrance, (many of them are my dear friends’ daughters) bring a smile to my lips on a bitter cold morning. Ah, summer.

These memories flutter in and out of my mind on cold mornings as I begin in earnest my next novel. The characters deal with similar living conditions, though they have far less than we ever did. They just don’t know it. Nobody knew what life would hold. (I’m not sure any of us grownups do now, either.)

The story is set in 1942 in a small North Carolina village greatly impacted by the Great Depression and subsequent war. Summer in this waterside village is very similar in climate to Maryland’s, with sticky days, bugs, and the incredible cacophony of bugs at night where the only protection might be a screened porch – a thin veil separating occupants of home from the incredible outside life. Activities vary, but still focus on water.

While the characters and story are fictitious, the place was at one time very real, very much alive with families. There was a schoolhouse, a store, a church, and homes with gardens. There was a cemetery, which still remains on a bluff overlooking a river.

With the exception of the cemetery, the village doesn’t exist anymore. In many ways, it reminds me of the Sherwood Forest of my childhood. It no longer exists either, though the place is still very much there – just in a different way. Ah, the lens of childhood.

Laura S. Wharton is the Second Wind author of The Pirate’s Bastard and the forthcoming children’s story, Mystery at the Phoenix Festival. Learn more about her and her books at http://www.LauraWhartonBooks.com or laurawharton.blogspot.com.

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