Saturday, October 08, 2016

How I Found Halcyon Beach

I am the first to admit that I am an eavesdropper and am in no way apologetic about it. Some of my best stories have come from eavesdropping including the one I am about to tell you. This week I put the final touches on the third story in my Halcyon Beach Chronicles series. This one will be Ghost of a Dancer by Moonlight. I sent it off to early readers, one of whom has already read it, and gave it a big thumbs up. I love my Halcyon Beach stories because they are a little sexier than most of my stuff. Ghosts are sexy anyway—all that unrequited longing.

These stories are different than my other series stories because there is no central character or characters that occurs in each story. There are secondary characters—Darby McMahon, the artist/bartender/busybody, and the four Geezers. I love the Geezers, four older men, three of whom are retired, and one—Turtle—who still operates a tattoo parlor.  

No, the main character in these stories is Halcyon Beach. The town itself is the star. Halcyon Beach is a rundown, amusement park beach town on the Massachusetts coast that was once quite elegant with a grand ballroom and fabulous hotels. But now it is pretty shabby. In the off-season, post Labor Day, they roll up the carpets and few businesses stay open. Artists come to take advantage of cheap winter rentals. The only businesses open are the Snuggle Inn and Pub, owned by Old Fitz Connolly, an aging wise guy from Dorchester who originally used it for money laundering, and Dave's Drive-Thru, a combination gas station, convenience, and liquor store.



In all the stories a young woman arrives in town—Layla in the first one, Ghosts of a Beach Town in Winter, Fleur in the second, Ghost of a Lighthouse in Autumn, and now Cleo—and begins listening to all the tales of ghosts that the Geezers spin in their daily Happy Hour at the Pub. Eventually, the ghosts enter their lives, always with disturbing results.



I am not a big fan of fantastical creatures. I have little interest in vampires, werewolves, zombies, etc. (with the exception of those created by JK Rowling—I love her characters.) But I do like ghosts. Ghosts are just like people except everything about them is more poignant and intense. My favorite part of these stories, though, is Halcyon Beach, my imaginary beach town.
Do I see Geezers on the porch?

This all started about 15 years ago when I was driving back from Maine one winter day. On this particular cold, cloudy afternoon I took the coastal route 1A. There are several beach towns lining this route—Salisbury Beach and Hampton Beach in particular. They were shut up tight and I was hoping for something, anything, to be open because I was famished.


I finally discovered a little luncheonette/deli and went in for something to eat. I had intended to get something to go but there were only a few people in the place and there were windows along the back with a great view of the ocean. So I stayed. As I waited for my food, I could not help but notice four older men sitting at a table together, drinking coffee. Maybe because I had a father who had a bunch of old geezer buddies he hung out with, I have a particular affection for crotchety old men. My dad would have fit right in with these guys.
This was my model for Fleur's cottage

This is the path leading through the dunes to Abe's house
Their conversation was loud—most old men are pretty loud, I have discovered—and uncensored. I kept my eyes on the ocean but I had an absolutely wonderful time listening to them. All four of them were locals who at one time had local businesses—restaurants or entertainment. They talked very openly about people they remembered and associated gossip and scandals, about how they once planned to sell out and move to Florida, but never got around to it. It was very enlightening and the seed began to grow.



When I started my first Halcyon Beach story I took a ride back up the coast stopping in various beach towns to take the pictures I'm including here. I keep them on my desktop as I write and I think about those four guys—my own Geezers.

Ghost of a Dancer by Moonlight should be out for Halloween. I hope you will give it a try and let me know what you think.


Thanks for reading.

24 comments:

  1. How nice to learn of another self confessed eavesdropper.
    I love the idea of a location being a character in its own right, and certainly influencing (if not dictating) what the people in it do.
    I will certainly track down Ghost of a Dancer by Moonlight. Thank you.

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    1. Thank you. When I think about some of my favorite stories the setting was as much a part of the story as the characters!

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  2. Hi Kathleen - I'd love to travel Route 1A ... coastal travel is always fun. No wonder your imagination took off with the trip, the villages and hamlets along the journey and then your 4 geezers - oh yes I can hear them!

    Have fun finding your ghosts ... they're always around ... good luck - cheers Hilary

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    1. I have a special love for ghosts and strange, mysterious places always fascinate me.

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  3. Hi, Kathleen!

    1001 happy memories stem from vacations at beach towns like your fictional Halcyon. Year after year from the 1950s through the mid 80s I frequented resort communities that dot the Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey shores along with South Carolina's Grand Strand where Myrtle Beach is located. Some have seen better days but I still enjoy returning whenever I get the chance.

    Those pictures of store fronts remind me that I enjoyed my first taste of soft ice cream and my first slice of pizza on the boardwalk at Wildwood, NJ, circa 1952. They also remind me how much I enjoyed the Taylor Pork Roll shop and the Thrasher's French Fries stand on the boardwalk at Ocean City, MD, and the salt water taffy stores at multiple beach towns where you could watch through a window as workers and their machines cranked out the elastic confection.

    While I am not as fond as you are of geezers telling their stories for all to hear in public places, I agree with Elephant's Child that it is a great idea to have the location and its resident spirits as the main characters of stories in the book series. Best of luck with your latest, Ghost of a Dancer by Moonlight.

    Have a wonderful week, dear friend Kathleen!

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    1. I have had a few vacations in Ocean City, MD and have fond memories of it. Mostly I remember eating boiled crabs that came in a big cardboard box and a nest of seaweed. They were delicious.

      People watching and listening is where it all begins for me! Always. So many stories there.

      Thanks for visiting and wishing you a good week.

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  4. I love that someone else eavesdrops too :-) Halcyon Beach seems like quite an interesting place to visit and a great setting for stories.

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  5. The run down beach amusement park community sounds like a great setting. And old geezers I can kind of identify with since some younger people probably think I'm an old geezer of sorts. I'm usually not very loud though.

    Arlee Bird
    Tossing It Out

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    1. I really love this setting and you are welcome to visit and hang out with the Geezers any time you like.

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  6. Those images had to make for some great ideas! I can see how you'd treasure these pictures.

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  7. I just love your "tours" around the area where you live and set your stories.

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    1. Thanks, wednesday, I do love where I live.

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  8. Those are super images to be inspired by. Fleur's cottage is especially creepy. I love the cover of your book. Wishing you much success!

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    1. Thank you. I'm starting to get excited about releasing it.

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  9. Another wonderful setting for stories. The town does seem haunted--by the past.

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  10. Wonderful post! I want to make a winter visit to a place like this now. I'm reminded me of Geneve-on-the-Lake east of Cleveland, Ohio. It's a funky old resort town. I need to read this book, too. Best wishes!

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    1. I was there--Geneva-on-the-Lake--many years ago. I didn't know if it was still there.

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  11. Now THIS sounds interesting. I can't think of a story where the town itself is the actual character.

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    1. I hope you'll visit and see what you think.

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  12. Ah yes, just sitting back and listening to others talk... I get to do that in my day job all the time. It's fun.

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    1. Liz, I love your blog posts about being a teacher.

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