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.