Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Behind the Book -- Dead Reckoning

Most writers have an interesting anecdote about each book -- we live with our stories for months at a time, after all -- but my second book, just out this month, is a little different.

To some extent, I live it.

Granted, the heroine of Dead Reckoning is a charter captain (I am not) and is out to save her sister (I have a brother who doesn't need saving) and is an engineer (definitely not me). Plus, she goes haring off on her adventure with a couple of hunky DEA agents (nope) and owns a Ruger 9mm (I wish).

But in everything else -- her living aboard a motor yacht, her willingness to crawl into an oily bilge, her fondness for the yacht engines she's called Hortense and Claire -- I'm there. (Mine are Wallace and Gromit, starboard and port, respectively.)

A natural romance has sprung up around boats courtesy of advertising and movies. If you've ever picked up Yachting magazine, you'll have been assaulted by glossy ads for gorgeous vessels whose owners never see the inside of an engine room. (My engine room is under the sofa and chair.) And movies, unless they're disaster films, never give you a chance to glimpse "under the hood," as it were. The most memorable boating scene I've ever seen on the big screen is Bing Crosby simultaneously steering the True Love, smoking a pipe, and crooning to Grace Kelly.

So because I write for Bombshell, a series which gives authors a little more leeway when it comes to exposing the nitty-gritty, I decided to reveal the reality of boating as I know it. You know, like just how loud a pair of Detroit Diesels can be, and how a pinhole leak in the downstream exhaust system can kill you. My poor heroine survives a couple of nasty experiences aboard her beloved Obsession; one character almost dies; another character does die.

But is boating and boat ownership full of danger? Not really. Common sense carries the day, as it does in all things. Mostly it's a matter of being aware and remembering your high school chemistry and physics lessons.

The Number 1 question I'm asked when people find out I live aboard is, "What about the space?" True, there's not much of it. My dSO and I live on a 38-foot motor yacht with two cats, and that's just about right for people who don't own much "stuff." In fact, leaving behind the "stuff" has been as much of a spiritual exercise as a mental or physical one.

We have a simple rule: When something comes aboard the boat, something else has to leave it. I make great use of our local library. My dSO downloads out-of-copyright books into his PDA. I've hung on to my power suits in case I have to go back to work in a corporate environment, but live mostly in shorts and t-shirts. My "keeper shelf" might as well be nonexistent, as it's only about two feet wide. Most books I purchase get donated to the library or shipped to my ravenous reading friends.

So is there really romance in boating? Absolutely!

In the spring, I went sailing with some friends in their sailboat and encountered a dolphin pod that played around us for two hours. Anchored out at night in a quiet cove with no one but black-crowned night herons for company is magical, especially with the phosphorous glow of sea creatures gleaming in the water. Daybreak on the water feeds the soul, as does sunset.

But between the dawn and the dusk lie the impellers that need changing, the fuel filters that need cleaning, and the heady, intoxicating scent of varnish. Would I trade any of that for the privilege of having someone else captain my vessel?

Not a chance.


Cheryl Bolen said...

Awe, c'mon, admit it, Sandra. You moved to your motor yacht after you saw Bing Crosby and Grace Kelley crooning "True Love" to each other at sundown in that boat scene. That scene is, hands down, my favorite romantic scene in a movie.

I'd have a very hard time giving up my "stuff" to live on a boat -- especially the 100 pair of shoes. But there is a certain lure to being able to wear shorts and T's all day. Oh, wait! That's pretty much what I do now that I write full time. Then why in the heck do I still obsess over those shoes? My husband keeps asking the same thing.

I read a self-help book that stressed how much better off people are when they shed some of their clutter. I completely understand this, too. But you've carried it a bit too far, Sandra!

Sometime in the next 24 hours I will buy DEAD RECKONING. If it's half as well written as your first, ORCHID HUNTER, I know I'll love it.

For those of you who haven't read Sandra, she had a unique, hip voice.

Colleen Thompson said...

Your lifestyle sounds wonderful to me. I often fantasized about chucking all the stuff to do as you have.

It's probably just a fantasy. Two good-sized dogs, an aquarium, a teenager, and a husband probably wouldn't fit. Hmm. Maybe I'll ditch the teenager. LOL.

Actually, some days that sounds like a plan!

Can't wait to read your book and live vicariouly. I loved THE ORCHID HUNTER very much - even bought my own orchid after reading it. :) See. There's another encumbrance to keep me on dry land.

Sandra K. Moore said...

Cheryl and Colleen, thanks so much for the kind words on The Orchid Hunter! I have to warn you, though, that Dead Reckoning has a very different voice (!) as it's written in third-person. I still had fun with it, though it gets a little lyrical at times. Must be all that water....

Jettisoning the "stuff" wasn't so hard. We basically sold all the electronic equipment and then called the Salvation Army to come get the IKEA furniture we had. As neither of us really care whether we have fine furnishings, we're probably ideal candidates for paring down possessions.

What's hilarious now is that we'll go camping in our van for several days (with both cats, no less), and enjoy ourselves thoroughly, and when we get back to the boat we look around and say, "Wow! Practically palatial!" Relatively speaking, of course.

(And yes, I have two orchids.)

Nancy Herkness said...

Wow, Sandra, you made me long to hear the twin diesels! I'm definitely going out to buy DEAD RECKONING.

My father would disown me if he knew though: he refers to motorboats as stinkpots since he prefers the silence of sails. Well, actually, in my experience sailing isn't all that silent since there's the rush of wind and a lot of clanging of yards against masts, not to mention yelling at the crew to sheet this in or prepare to come about. I'm not much of a sailor, having grown up in landlocked West Virginia so I just take orders when I'm on a boat.

But you're right, it can be magical to anchor in a deserted cove and wake up to a dawn that's all your own. You brought back some lovely memories of boat trips with my dad. said...

Sandra, I think lots of us have daydreamed about doing something similar. In my case, it's chucking everything and living on an RV while traveling around the country. The problems? Like Cheryl [waving at Cheryl!] I am a shoe freak and have about 70 pair, with more coming all the time. Ever tried, Cheryl? Trust me, it's nirvana. And there's the 1,000 or so books on all the bookshelves. And my dh is a cookware freak. We have so many kitchen gadgets we've now had to start putting them on top of the cupboards. Sigh. I guess our stuff rules.

Can't wait to read DEAD RECKONING. I, too, loved THE ORCHID HUNTER.

Sandra K. Moore said...

Hey there, Nancy! Yeah, a lot of folks around us are sailing purists and will, indeed, call our lovely motor yacht a stinkpot. It's true -- her Detroits are loud and smelly, even though Wallace and Gromit run smooth as butter.

We used to have a sailboat. The problem with that was we'd end up sailing more or less the same big triangle every weekend.... Then we got caught in a horrific thunderstorm while out at night, and my dSO was pretty confident we were going to end up losing the boat or ourselves (we didn't, but there you go -- close lightning strikes while aboard a lightning rod can put the fear into you).

Pat, RVing is something we're thinking about now, except we're talking about going in our camping van....

Cheryl Bolen said...

I've lusted after a few of Pat's shoes.

Nancy Herkness said...

Whoa, Sandra, lightning zipping around a tall-masted sailboat would certainly put some fear into me!