I've written a number of times on where stories come from. But today I'm describing a process that has led to a story I wasn't even looking for. I sketched out an idea for the seventh Joe Silva/Mellingham book, and filed it in my notebook. When I pulled it out, ready to start working on it, I knew it was the wrong story.
|Lake Miedwie near Szczecin|
I read this book in one weekend and would have taken longer if the book had been longer. I didn't want it to end. I'm not one for adventure tales, but courage on the ocean, to me, is the pinnacle of character. The author, Derek Lundy, describes encounters, challenges, moments that if contained in a novel would be considered too outlandish, too absurd, too extreme to be believed.
|Mooring post in harbor|
And then I found myself writing a story about sailing adventures I'd had as a teenager. These outings were not even as exciting as casting off a mooring in the Bay of Biscay but the story had legs, as some say, and after a while I tried turning it into a novel. The first effort failed, but the story will not die, and it is now re-coalescing around a man teaching his stepson to sail.
Chief of Police Joe Silva discovered in his stepson Philip a longing he didn't know he had, and Philip is eager to learn everything he can from the man he worships. So, while Joe is teaching safety and wind and wave patterns, someone else in the small town of Mellingham is looking to the ocean to satisfy an ambition of a different sort.
If someone had told me a few years ago that I would be writing this book, I would not have believed
them. I would have thought my
experiences with Saturday afternoon racing through Salem Sound were too far in
the past. Plus, I never loved racing. I liked messing about along the shore,
dropping anchor in a cove and going for a swim or hike on the island. But when
I began to write (or type), I remember how it felt to approach the start line
and have the wind die, as it does among a dozen boats jockeying for position. I remembered scanning the waves for signs of hidden hazards, and I remember the chill that came over us when we saw fog sneaking up on us.
|210s with full spinnakers|
I was surprised at how much I remembered, but I shouldn't have been. Sailing is like a language, or a dance step. With a little nudging, the words come back, the hands know what to do, and the skipper looks up to check the wind and waves. Chief Joe Silva learned to sail as a very young man, and now Philip will too. But not everyone else will be taking to the water for pleasure, and skill with a tiller or a line will prove crucial.