Saturday, July 14, 2007

Sailing with Friends

Marcia Talley (Guest Blogger)

My husband retired in December. An avid sailor, his idea of a fab retirement trip was to pack up a few “necessities” in a duffle bag the size of a pillowcase, climb aboard our ancient Tartan 37 sailboat and set sail down the Intracoastal waterway from Annapolis to Fort Lauderdale — a distance of 1200 miles — and from there, another hundred miles or so across the Gulf Stream to the Bahamas.

I thought it’d be fun, too. Research, I smiled to myself, envisioning a novel — no! — a whole series of mystery novels, set along that scenic waterway. Assassins in Albemarle. Bodies in Beaufort. Corpses in Charleston. Deaths in Delray Beach. So, I packed up my laptop and went along.

After provisioning, there’s barely enough room for two people on a sailboat — imagine living for six months in a space the size of your average bathroom. A radio, of course, but no TV. And no high speed internet, either, although wireless signals can pop up in the unlikeliest of places. I was sitting cross-legged on deck somewhere in the vicinity of Vero Beach one day, tapping out chapter three of the next Hannah Ives mystery when email suddenly started pinging into my mailbox. “Sail in circles!” I shouted to my husband. “This area’s hot!”

The usual place to get free internet while cruising is an independent coffee shop, or the town’s public library. It was at a public library in Myrtle Beach, NC, in fact, that I learned from my agent of a hardback deal (hurrah!) for Dead Man Dancing and the Hannah mystery after that. By Myrtle Beach, too, I’d read to the bottom of my modest, space-restricted TBR pile, so the mystery section of the library looked enormously inviting. I longed to dive right in, but, alas, what library is going to lend a book to someone who plans to sail into the sunset the following day?

While doing a load of laundry in Charleston, South Carolina, I learned a life-saving fact. Marina laundromats are the lending libraries of the cruising sailor. Here’s the deal: you take one, you leave one. At Charleston City Marina, I left Margaret Maron’s Rituals of the Season on a shelf over the coin-operated dryer and picked up R is for Ricochet, which I’d somehow missed when it first came out in 2004. I left Sue Grafton in Isle of Hope, Georgia where I snagged a copy of Rochelle Krich’s Blues in the Night, which kept me happily engrossed all the way to my next laundry day in Fernandina Beach, Florida. There, Rochelle was traded for a well-thumbed copy of Dead Before Dark by Charlaine Harris. When Elaine Viets wrote High Heels are Murder, I doubt she imagined anyone would be plucking it off a rickety bookshelf on a tropical island in the Bahamas but I did, in Hopetown in the Abacos, leaving Ellen Crosby’s Merlot Murders in its place. And at the marina on nearby Man of War Cay, I picked up a plumply waterlogged copy of Carolyn Hart’s (appropriately titled!) Set Sail for Murder (in hardback!) thinking, “Today’s my lucky day!”

Then I really got lucky. One morning while listening to the Abaco Cruisers’ Net, I heard about Buck a Book. Open Monday-Wednesday-Friday from 10 to 1 and staffed by Mimi Rehor and a string of volunteers, Buck a Book turned out to be a battered, turquoise shipping container plunked down under a palm tree in a muddy parking lot opposite The Conch Inn in Marsh Harbour, capital of the Abacos. Mimi accepts book donations and sells them to sailors like me for a buck each, all to benefit the gravely endangered wild horses of Abaco. (

Inside the cramped, dimly-lit space, with a computer screen glowing bluely in one corner and a dissenting fan keeping the stagnant air gently moving from another, I checked out the shelves: Steven King, James Patterson, Michael Critchton, Patricia Cornwell, Nora Roberts and the usual suspects were there, for sure, but I’m happy to report that books written by authors I actually KNOW were more than generously represented on Mimi’s shelves. I greedily stocked up on Denise Swanson, Christopher Fowler, Nancy Martin, Jerrilyn Farmer, Chassie West, Donna Andrews (how on earth had I missed Click Here for Murder?), Andrew Taylor and half a dozen more, paying for them with a twenty dollar bill, and please keep the change, Mimi.

I’ve been home since Saturday, catching up on paperwork and getting reacquainted with my cat, Tommy, who’s presently sulking under the bed, just to punish me. I was away for six months, but in all that time, thanks to my fellow cruisers, I never really felt out of touch with my friends.

Marcia Talley is the Agatha and Anthony-award winning author of Through the Darkness and five previous novels in the Hannah Ives mystery series. Her short stories appear in more than a dozen collections. She is Secretary of Sisters in Crime, and immediate past president of the Chesapeake Chapter.Visit her web site at


Lonnie Cruse said...


Welcome home! The Silverlings have missed you. Earl signed with a publisher. Glad you had a great trip!

Elizabeth Zelvin said...

Marcia, I loved the stories about finding books along your watery route and the image of sailing in circles to catch the wireless signal. I do have a couple of questions: one, if you were gone for six months, how did you magically appear at Malice? And didn't I see you at the Edgars too? And two, what about that "dissenting fan?" I gather it was just a noisy old-fashioned cooling device swearing at the newer technology--but I pictured a laundromat curmudgeon who hated mysteries. :)

Marcia Talley said...

Hi, Elizabeth. We flew home in April to take care of some things, like TAXES (ugh) and so I could attend the Mystery Trifecta: Malice, the Edgars and Festival of Mystery in Oakmont, PA. But we went right back afterwards. Troubadour is now "on the hard", waiting out hurricane season in Green Turtle Cay. Hopefully we'll be returning to pick her up in Jan. or Feb. for more adventures.

Sofie Kelly said...

Marcia, I'd love to read a series set on a sailboat. (We sold our boat when the munchkin arrived in our lives.) Any chance you will write one?

Marcia Talley said...

Darlene, I once outlined a novel set on a fictional island in the Exumas, but my then publisher told me "novels set in foreign countries don't sell." It's still something I'd like to write, however, because life among the sailing community has a pace and style like no other. In the meantime, you could try Kathy Brandt's books!

Anonymous said...

You've made some really good points there. I looked on the internet to find out more about the issue and found most people will go along with your views on this site.

My web-site ... email templates gmail

Anonymous said...

This post came in a timely passion! I can't believe it. I'd been searching on
line for Email Templates. You did a really good job and yes i completely agree that your template can make or break your company.
Well Done!

Here is my weblog ... Email marketing templates

Anonymous said...

Hey! I'm at work surfing around your blog from my new iphone 4! Just wanted to say I love reading your blog and look forward to all your posts! Keep up the outstanding work!

My blog ... Email Templates

Anonymous said...

Thank you, I've just been looking for information about this topic for ages and yours is the best I've came upon so far.
However, what about the bottom line? Are you positive
concerning the source?

Visit my blog - enterprise email marketing

Anonymous said...

Generally I don't read article on blogs, but I wish to say that this write-up very compelled me to take a look at and do so! Your writing taste has been amazed me. Thank you, quite nice post.

Here is my blog post ... just click The following page

Anonymous said...

Wonderful blog! I found it while browsing on Yahoo News.
Do you have any tips on how to get listed in Yahoo News?
I've been trying for a while but I never seem to get there! Thanks

Here is my weblog shoplift

Anonymous said...

It's going to be finish of mine day, however before finish I am reading this fantastic piece of writing to increase my knowledge.

my homepage - lukewarm

Anonymous said...

I like the valuable information you supply for your articles.
I'll bookmark your blog and check again right here frequently. I'm
quite certain I'll be told many new stuff right right here! Good luck for the next!

my page email templates html

Anonymous said...

This article will assist the internet users for setting up new
website or even a blog from start to end.

Also visit my web-site :: templates Email

Anonymous said...

I'm truly enjoying the design and layout of your website. It's a very easy on
the eyes which makes it much more enjoyable for me to come here and visit more often.
Did you hire out a developer to create your theme? Great work!

My homepage: Email Templates Samples

Unknown said...

Recycled Sail Bags, Sailcloth totes, Sailing Totes, Messenger bags Tote bags, Seabags, Duffel Bags, Beach totes