Scotty Cade here and I’m so pleased to be a guest on The Novel Approach. When Lisa asked me to stop by and chat with you, I was so thrilled because the two books I’d like to talk about today are very special to me. The first is Sunrise Over Savannah, which released in February and the sequel, Chasing The Horizon, is scheduled to release in June. The inspiration for these two books is such a unique story I am so happy to have an opportunity to share it with you.
As I already mentioned, these two books are very near and dear to my heart. Sunrise was inspired by a real life guy and an event that happened at a marina where Thompson worked in Savannah GA. Here’s the Reader’s Digest version:
For those of you who know me, my husband Kell and I spend the summers working at our farm, inn and restaurant on the island of Martha’s Vineyard and then we take our forty-foot motor yacht down the eastern seaboard to Florida for the winter. On one of our many October trips down south, we were traveling with our best friends and we stopped in Savannah GA for an overnight stay. The deck hand who greeted and docked us was one of those young, gorgeous, friendly, and charismatic guys you stumble onto every once in a while. Although we had just met him, we were all instantly drawn to him and knew he was the type of person that you and everyone else was drawn to and wanted to hang out with. He just bubbled with personality and charm and his name was Thompson Newkirk. Seriously the guy just seemed oblivious to his charm and good looks, which made him all that much more attractive. Now imagine four homosexuals, Kell and I in our mid fifties and our friends in their mid seventies all making conversation and batting our eyelashes at this kid. He didn’t blink an eye, just smiled and chatted us up for over an hour. So as you can imagine, I knew he was going to end up in one of my novels. And low and behold, he was the inspiration for Thompson Gray in this novel.
However, it wasn’t until the next morning, just before sunrise, that something happened that kick started the premise for the story. I was awake early as we were leaving at first light for our next day on the water and I always checked my charts and the weather, you know, all the nervous nell stuff boat captains do. I was sipping my coffee on the fly bridge of our boat listening to the marine weather loop and saw a man standing on the edge of the dock with his own cup of coffee. He was sort of standing sideways and I couldn’t get a look at his face, but he was seemingly frozen in place watching the sun peak over the horizon. I instantly noticed his shoulders were slumped over and stance was one of defeat. I watched him for the longest time until he finally turned around and started walking up the dock. The expression on his face was one of distress and overwhelming sadness and totally matched his stance. He looked so forlorn and sad that the image stayed with me for over a week. And for anyone who knows me, if an experience like this stays with me, it too will surely end up in a novel of mine.
Although I never found out why the man was so sad and defeated, a story unfolded rather quickly in my mind and practically wrote itself before I ever sat down to write it. I’m very proud of it and I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.
Much to my dismay, when we stopped at the same marina on our latest trip, Thompson was no longer working at that marina, apparently chasing an acting career. Go Thompson! See you in Hollywood! So without further delay, here’s the blurb and an excerpt from Sunrise Over Savannah!
Thompson and Caroline Gray were living their dream until a brain aneurism claimed Caroline just two years after they’d bought the Thundercloud Marina. When Caroline died, she took with her Thompson’s ability to love again… until Thompson’s longtime friend and towboat owner Hank Charming tows Garner Holt, a burned-out and recently retired doctor and his boat into the marina for repair.
From day one, an emotional triangle forms and takes all parties by surprise. Since high school, Hank has been secretly in love with Thompson, but Thompson has always been committed to Caroline, even after her death. Thompson and Hank are both drawn to the sailboat captain, but for very different reasons. Hank sees Garner as the man who might finally help him drop the torch he’s been carrying for Thompson. Thompson has felt alone and emotionally disconnected since Caroline’s death, but when’s he with Garner, the man reawakens emotions in him he thought he’d buried long ago.
Thompson Gray stood at the end of the dock both hands clutched tightly around his steaming cup of coffee in a feeble attempt to fend off the early morning November chill. The sun was just starting to peak above the barrier islands separating the Atlantic Ocean from the fast moving tide of Savannah’s Intracoastal Waterway. Georgia’s glowing morning sky was filled with hues of reds, oranges, and the slightest hints of fuchsia and pinks seemingly arranged to announce the arrival of another beautiful fall day. But not for Thompson. “Four years,” he said to himself as he fought the tears stinging the backs of his eyes.
He gazed at the brilliant display and thought only of her. This peaceful ritual of coffee and sunrise was one he’d shared with his wife Caroline every morning since they’d bought the Thundercloud Marina just over six years ago. But this morning he stood alone, as he’d done every morning for the last four years, to the day, since Caroline’s sudden death at the age of twenty-eight. He shivered against the chill and took another sip of his coffee hoping the hot liquid might eventually warm his core, but he knew better. On this day every year since her death, he could never escape the icy chills and the impending doom of loneliness and dread that filled his being.
He thought back to that dreadful day, as he’d done most mornings since her death. The brain aneurism that had taken Caroline from him had come out of the blue. She’d been perfectly healthy, or so they thought, with no prior warning except a slight headache when she’d awakened that morning. As was always her way, she popped a couple of aspirin and never complained. She’d taken him by the hand and led him down the dock with the excitement of a child. It was her favorite time of day; but neither of them realized this day was to be their last sunrise together. In a flash, life as he’d known it had changed forever.
They’d been assisting a captain as he docked his boat for the evening. She’d bent down to secure a line when Thompson heard a loud gasp. He looked up to see her grabbing her head with both hands and collapsing in the very spot where he was now standing. In his minds eye he saw her unconscious body lying on the dock. He clearly remembered the fear and panic that had been in his voice as he desperately called her name. He saw himself scooping her limp body into his arms and felt the vibration of the dock under his feet as he ran frantically yelling for someone to call 911.
She’d never regained consciousness and by the time they’d arrived at the hospital, she was already dead.
Thompson tightened the grip on his coffee cup, fighting the memories of that retched day. If the stabbing pain in his heart was any indication, he should be as dead as Caroline, but unfortunately he’d been left alone to exist in his own nonexistence. He lost the fight against the impending tears and wondered briefly if he was crying for Caroline or for himself. With no clear answer, he allowed the tears to slide down his cheeks freely. He closed his eyes and his legs started to tremble so badly he could no longer support his own weight. In an act of desperation, he dropped to his knees and slammed the coffee cup against the dock causing it to shatter like the pieces of his broken heart.
Thompson and Caroline had grown up living just two doors apart, played together with the other kids growing up and from the age of thirteen had spent their summer vacations sitting on the dock watching the boats come and go at the Thundercloud Marina. They’d make up stories about where they were coming from, where they were headed and who owned them. Sometime when it was really busy, they would help the owner by collecting trash from the boats or delivering newspapers and donuts in the morning. As soon as they were old enough, Thompson and Caroline worked as dockhands and that’s when their love for the marina life really began.
As their friendship progressed, they’d become inseparable and the two of them would get to work just before daybreak, have coffee together while the sun peaked over the horizon and start their day by casting off travelers, or snowbirds as they were commonly called, making their way south for the winter and then eventually north again for the summer.
They’d gone to Savannah State University together, married right after graduation and purchased the marina with the help of Thompson’s grandfather.
Until Caroline’s untimely death, it seemed like they had the prefect life and were living their dreams. Then in one instant everything changed. The morning after her death, he walked out to the dock and watched the sunrise alone for the first time and vowed to continue their morning ritual as long as he lived. It’s where he felt closest to his wife. It was all he had left of her.
After the moments of grief and anger had temporarily passed, Thompson got to his feet. He wiped away the tears with his fingertips, looked around and prayed no one had seen his breakdown. He was grateful when he remembered that his only dockhand had quit two days ago and most of the many snowbirds that filled the marina had not yet awakened. He walked to the office to get a broom and dustpan and headed back down to clean up his mess. As he swept the remains of his coffee mug, the mundane chore helped to calm him and he began to regain his composure. His mind again drifted back to that time. During her funeral, so many people had given him words of encouragement. “Time will heal your open wounds,” they’d all said. But for the last four years time hadn’t healed anything. His guilt about being the one still alive had done an excellent job of keeping him frozen in time. Years later he still felt as devastated as the day he’d lost her. Tears threatened to fall again as the emotions and harsh memories all came flooding back.
During the first year after she’d died, he’d turned his back on everyone. Friends tried to stay connected, but he didn’t want their words of encouragement. He just wanted to be left alone. Everyone had meant well, but he just couldn’t bear the “everything will be okay,” speech day after day. It would never be okay. Time would not heal him. Nothing could heal him. Eventually everyone had given up on him. He didn’t blame them. He was sure he’d have done the same thing if the situation had been reversed.
The one person who hadn’t given up on him had been his longtime best friend Prince. Actually his real name was Henry Charming. Some called him Hank, but since high school, because of his striking good looks, most of their friends called him Prince Charming. They’d been his best friends from childhood. More then best friends actually. But things soon began to change when Thompson suddenly brought Caroline into the mix. Prince had slowly begun to pull away from him, but after Caroline died, he’d come back into Thompson’s life and tried to rescue him. He’d had spent the better part of two years trying to bring Thompson back from the darkness that had encompassed him. But a person can only do so much and it all came to a head early one morning.
Thompson remembered the day like it was yesterday. Prince had been trying to convince him that this morning ritual was not helping him and that he needed to give it up. In his usual way, Thompson had ignored him and proceeded down the dock with Prince on his heels. By the time they’d reached the end of the dock, it had been obvious to Thompson that Prince’s patience had finally run out. At the top of his lungs, arms flailing, he’d again tried to convince Thompson he needed to let go of the past and try to start living his life. Prince had finally broken down in sobs when he’d told Thompson that although Caroline was dead, he was still alive and he was doing her memory a injustice by not living his life to the fullest.
Prince’s words weren’t anything Thompson hadn’t already known, but it was a harsh reality to hear them out loud. He’d flinched internally, but had kept his expression blank and had had no response. Eventually Prince dropped his head, turned and walked away for what Thompson instinctively had known was his last attempt to help. On one level, he’d known Prince was his only lifeline, but on the other he was grateful Prince had finally given up on him too. After all he’d given up on himself.
Thompson’s mind drifted back to reality. Was Prince right? By holding on to this stupid ritual, am I holding on to the past and making everything worse?
“No,” he mumbled to himself. “I can’t. Caroline was my life and we were happy until… This is my last connection to her. To not do this would be like erasing the one thing I have left of her. I can’t pretend this moment we shared every morning never existed. Like we never existed.”
But deep down he also knew that Prince had been right. Four years later, he was still solidly stuck in place; sinking little by little with no visible way out. He realized for the first time that he wanted to get out. He wanted a life, but he had no idea how to go about it. Everyone still treated him like a ticking time bomb. He’d been so unreachable in the weeks, months and even years that had followed her death that his friends no longer tried to approach to him.
He poured the remnants of his coffee mug into the trashcan and started walking back up to the office. Caroline. I know I’m broken, but I have no idea how to fix myself.
Next up is the sequel to Sunrise called Chasing the Horizon. It’s going to be a bit difficult to tell you about Horizon without giving away the end of Sunrise so hopefully most of you have already read Sunrise. If not, and you do plan on reading it, you might want to stop here until after you have. :)
Okay, so at the end of Sunrise, Garner was off again to his next adventure, and although it is the way he wanted it, I had this feeling in my heart that I wanted him to deal with his commitment demons head on and find someone to love long term.
For any of you who’ve read my books, the underlying theme has always been that love always presents itself at the oddest times, where you least expect it and if you’re open it, the possibilities are endless. Chasing the Horizon is no different.
It’s no secret I’m a pretty conservative and sometimes uptight guy. My motto has always been live and let live, but lets face it, I’m pretty vanilla. With that said, one day while on our boat on Martha’s Vineyard, we invited a few friends over for cocktails and Justin, one of our dear friends asked if he could bring a friend and of course we said yes. Again for future reference, don’t bring anyone around me that doesn’t want to end up in one of my books.
So…I digress. Anyway, Justin brings his friend who just happens to be named Hawkin Morrison. I was immediately taken aback because Hawkin had a shaved head; he was tattooed from head to toe and pierced in every possible place, including places I couldn’t see, which eh told me later. Now again, I don’t judge, but I was totally caught off guard and fumbled my way through our introductions trying to not stare.
Oh my God, Hawken turned out to be the most wonderfully interesting person I’d met in a very long time. He’s one scary dude to look at, but he’s such a pussycat. So intelligent and enlightening and I was mesmerized by him, so much so that I consumed his attention all evening.
Okay, I know what you’re thinking. Why wouldn’t he be smart and funny and charismatic? And you’re absolutely right? Just because he’s scary and looks different, I was totally expecting a boring thug. How quickly I fell into that stereotyping thing and where was my live and let live attitude now? Another lesson learned.
With all that said, Kell and I now consider Hawken a very close friend and so, Hawken Morrison was the inspiration for Hawken in Horizon. I projected my situation into the story as Garner Holt is so much more uptight then I am and well you know about Hawken so the story took off rather quickly. Here we go. Here’s the blurb and excerpt from Chasing the Horizon.
Garner Holt, an uptight psychologist buys a sailboat and trades in his prestigious job in New York City for a life on the water. He arrives in Key West Florida early one morning and encounters a half dressed Hawken Bristol who unbeknownst to him is on his way home from a wild night of sex and alcohol. Garner immediately thinks this barefoot and shirtless man, with a shaved head, multiple tattoos, and piercings in every orifice is going to rob him and prepares for the worst. Instead when the stranger passes Garner by and climbs on a boat two slips down, Garner is suddenly intrigued.
Hawken sees the look of fear on the stranger’s face, recognizes the rigidity in his stance and is just tired enough of being stereotyped because of the way he looks to mess with the frightened man. In the next few days the two men spot each other around town and each is attracted to the other for unknown reasons. They formerly meet when Garner helps Hawken dock his boat in a windstorm and that’s when sparks start to fly. But each has baggage that surfaces very quickly and threatens to derail what they have going.
Garner Holt stood behind the helm of his Beneteau Oceanis 55, a moderate wind blowing through his shoulder-length, sun-streaked brown hair. AquaTherapy, as he’d so aptly named her, was heading south toward Key West, cutting through the clear azure waters of the Hawk Channel, just off the south Florida coastline. AquaTherapy’s sails were tuned perfectly to the southwest winds, and she was cruising along at a brisk six and a half knots, heeling a comfortable eighteen degrees.
The closer Garner got to his destination, the lighter his heart felt and the better his mood became. He turned his head upward as the warm mid-December sun blanketed him with her glorious rays. He inhaled deeply, and his lungs filled with crisp, salty sea air.
God, I love the feeling of freedom when I’m on the water.
Garner was the only child of a pediatrician, who was now retired and living on Long Island, and a mortgage broker who, before his death at age sixty-seven, had enjoyed a lifelong love for sailing, which he had passed on to his only son. But when Garner had gone off to college, he’d become very driven, almost obsessed, with his education and had put sailing and his family on the back burner for the most part. His dedication to his education didn’t go unrecognized, and when he graduated at the top of his class, he was immediately hired by Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City. After only four years, his Ivy League education, strong work ethic, and unmatched dedication earned him the title Head of Psychiatry, the youngest doctor ever to hold that coveted position. But as with all positions of power, it wasn’t without its drawbacks. The grueling schedule left him absolutely no time for a personal life, and combining that with his extremely independent personality meant any type of relationship was a disaster waiting to happen. He’d tried a few times, but after his last boyfriend told him where to shove his job, he’d given up and decided it wasn’t worth the headache or the heartache.
By the end of his eighth year at Mount Sinai, his career was definitely on track, but the pressure and stress were finally starting to take their toll. He’d just barely survived that year and went into his ninth battling severe burnout and exhaustion. One February morning he didn’t get out of bed. For two weeks. That’s when he decided he’d had enough and started the process of early retirement. He’d sold everything, bought a sailboat, and set out to find new winds to fill his sails.
When he’d pulled out of New York harbor and rounded the point at Sandy Hook, New Jersey, he’d been a different man. He’d spent a couple of months on the water, taking his time meandering the eastern seaboard, exploring the Delaware and Chesapeake Bays and picking up the Intracoastal Waterway in Norfolk, VA.
His well-laid plan was temporarily derailed when his engine failed in Savannah, Georgia, and he’d had to be rescued by a very handsome BoatUS Captain named Hank Charming. He was towed to the Thundercloud Marina, where the marina mechanic uncovered a manufacturer’s error that couldn’t be repaired. His boat required a new engine, and that came with a six-week lag time.
After the initial shock of being stranded for six weeks wore off, Garner tried to figure out what he was going to do to keep himself entertained. Luckily, he didn’t have to wonder too long. The day before he’d been towed in, the owner of the marina, Thompson Gray, had lost his dockhand and was in dire need of a replacement. After a brief meeting, Thompson offered him the job and he gladly accepted.
But he quickly learned his help was needed not just as a dockhand, but in another capacity, one he was all too familiar with.
After working with Thompson during the day and dating Hank Charming at night, Garner realized the guys had a very strong emotional connection to one another. He soon learned they shared a very complicated past, an even shakier present, and little or no chance for a future. They interacted on a daily basis when needed, but their past was clouded with misconceptions and untruths that were slowly eating away at both of them. In the end, with Garner’s help, Hank and Thompson were able to find their way back to one another and were now happier and stronger than ever. And Garner was still alone, with no complications, just the way he liked it.
The part that surprised him the most was that while he was acting as Hank and Thompson’s unofficial therapist during those six weeks, he had become very close to them both. And because of that, Garner had left Savannah with mixed emotions and a heavy heart. He’d never planned to stay—he had a horizon to chase—but that didn’t make leaving his new friends any easier.
On the morning he’d pulled out of the marina, they’d all promised to stay in touch, but Garner knew all too well that life sometimes gets in the way of the best intentions.
With AquaTherapy now cruising along on autopilot, Garner stretched out in the cockpit and basked in the Florida sunshine. He listened to the latest NOAA weather report on his VHF radio; the weather was going to be clear and picture perfect for his last few days of his journey. Eager to get to Key West, he decided to sail straight through the night and make it to his destination by tomorrow morning.
“Just one more day,” he said to the ever-present dolphins dancing alongside his boat. “We’re almost home free, guys.”
Garner sipped a glass of Sancerre as he watched the spectacular sun hover above the western horizon, the yellows, oranges, and magentas all blending into one magnificent blur and dancing on the water, then slowly sinking into the abyss.
After dusk, with his GPS and radar set to alert him to any imminent danger, Garner sailed through the night, the bright moonlight shimmering like diamonds as it reflected off the deep, sapphire-colored water. He dozed every now and then, tweaked his sails as needed, but mostly gazed at the billowy blue velvet sky against the distant lights of the Florida coastline.
When the morning sun peeked above the horizon, Garner smiled and thought of his friends Hank and Thompson back in Georgia, probably watching the same sun rising over Savannah. He kissed his index finger, held it up in the air, and wished them a heartfelt good morning.
By seven thirty, Garner was almost giddy. He was only five miles away from Key West, so he radioed ahead and received his docking instructions from the harbor master. With his sails furled and AquaTherapy motoring along at five knots, he pulled into the Conch Harbor Marina sporting a smile as broad as the dawn.
Following instructions, he pulled along a T-head pier and, with the help of a dockhand, secured his boat and connected the water and electricity.
By eight thirty, Garner had traded the fleece, blue jeans, and boat shoes he’d worn overnight for shorts, a T-shirt, and no shoes. He was on the dock barefoot, rinsing the dried salt off his boat, when he saw someone walking down the dock in his direction. As the stranger got closer, Garner could see that the man’s head was shaved and he was wearing low-hanging black jeans, but no shirt or shoes. His skull, as well as every other part of his exposed body, including his feet, was covered in brightly colored tattoos.
As the man continued toward him, Garner could see that he appeared to be pierced in every visible orifice, sporting a stainless-steel nose ring, a loop in his left eyebrow, studs up and down both of his ears, and a bar with balls on either end in his bottom lip. Garner did his best not to stare, but he couldn’t help it; the man reminded him of a pierced and tattooed Mr. Clean.
Looking farther down, Garner saw that the stranger’s nipples were pierced, as was his bellybutton. A chill ran the length of Garner’s spine and he shuddered when he thought about what else might be pierced that he couldn’t see. And just to push the entire look over the edge, the man wore silver-dollar-sized solid black discs in his stretched earlobes.
Garner started to feel uneasy, and his heart rate began to increase. He quickly looked around for any other boaters milling around the dock who might offer a little support if he needed it, but there was no one to be seen.
His next thought was of some sort of weapon. Garner doubted he could hose the guy to death—should the need present itself—but anything else he could possibly use for a weapon was aboard AquaTherapy.
When the guy was about ten feet from him, Garner’s felt the adrenaline pumping through his veins at breakneck speed. He didn’t make eye contact but tightened his grip on the hose and held his breath. Shit! He’s coming right at me. Calm down, you sissy. You lived in New York City for how long?
Garner spread his feet apart and moved the hose to his left hand, fisting his right. I might go down, but not without a fight. Just four feet away. Three Feet. Two feet. One foot.
When Garner could finally see the figure in his peripheral vision, the scary dude lowered his head and walked right past him.
Garner exhaled with relief and willed himself to calm down. He nonchalantly turned his head and followed the stranger with his eyes, but the guy kept on walking until he reached a fishing boat three slips down named ReelCrazy and hopped aboard. Appropriate name!
It really been fun chatting with you and if you ever have any questions or want to make any comments about any of my books, please feel free to contact me. Here’s where you can find me:
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