Sandra Neily here: First the important stuff. As if there weren’t enough barriers writing a novel in a small camper trailer, this morning I mistakenly took the dog’s Benadryl tablets instead of my meds. The fog descended. I have yet to stop staring at a spider that seems to be staring back at me. Sigh.
And here’s the next most important thing. I have a resourceful friend who overwintered in her cabin far away from roads. The Press Herald found her anyway!
I’ll let Wendy tell you about the book she’s just published. “ Living Every Season guides readers through the cycle of four seasons in the Maine Woods: the frigid white winter; the long, slow reawakening of spring; the lush green summer; and the glorious, almost impossibly bright autumn that fades, inexorably, into the austerity of another winter. Photos range from dramatic vistas of mountains, lakes, and skies to small details casual observers might miss: the delicacy of maple blossoms scattered on spring snow; the earthy colors and rich patterns of a fungus digesting a decaying log. This book will enhance readers’ sense of wonder and will help to open their eyes and their hearts to the natural world around them.”
My husband and I have been on the road for almost a month, exploring creeks for wild trout (very smart fish), and staying in North Carolina national park and forest service campsites. I’m used to Maine camping in remote places, so sharing a campground with other travelers (sometimes over forty of them in tents, small campers, and very large generator-chugging RV’s) has been a new experience.
But after a tightly-closeted year, it’s been a treat to give up privacy for friendly chats with neighbors. Just like kids on the road, my dog finds others to play with as soon as we pull in. (Other dogs, that is.) And she’s taken to sneaking onto the comfy parts of the trailer when she thinks we’ve gone out. Raven, you are so busted!
I am announcing a great find, useful for campgrounds with no privacy and shared toilets that are practically in the next county. I saw parents with young ones (and a group of mountain bike guys) use these small tents for quick pee emergencies. Clever. Right?
Trying to work on my third novel at our tiny table however, has not worked. I’m now writing this post from my sister’s Asheville home with her dogs keeping me company.
When my brain resists fiction, I write anecdotes from my river-guiding days. Folks have begged me to share the fun and drama. I will put together an ebook of them next year. Here’s a teaser.
On my first day guiding a raft by myself (no longer a trainee), a guest broke her nose at as we slid over a huge waterfall that only looked like we’d dropped off the earth. (Think ancient maps where the flat earth just stops and dragons breathe fire in the margins).
She thrashed in the raft, showering us with red drops. Blood was everywhere.
“I’m getting married in ten days! I’m getting married in ten days!” she screamed. I’m getting married in ten days! Ten days!”
Cracking open an ice pack on the edge of my paddle, I soon realized I knew more than the panicked, first-year med students in her party. I also realized someone could actually talk herself into a medical crisis unrelated to the actual injury. The more she yelled, the grayer she got, screaming herself into shock right before our eyes.
“Stop now,” the med students yelled at me.
“Pick up your paddles and be quiet,” I yelled back. “Unless you see a road that I don’t see, we’re going downriver.”
Elevating her head on my lap, I positioned the cold pack so it also covered her mouth. “Hold that and you’ll be fine,” I said. Her suppressed sobs vibrated through my long underwear and rain pants.
I’d already sent the secret Get-Me-A-Backboard signal to other guides on the trip. (That was my horizontal hand sliding sideways lots of times across my throat. Guide gallows humor.) EMT’s in their boats shadowed me as we pulled into a small beach near our trip vehicles. They had her immobilized on the board, covered with blankets, and even smiling as they loaded her into our cook van for the run to Millinocket’s hospital.
She met us as the trip’s end, holding her fiancée’s hand and gently fingering the bandage over her nose.
“They’ll try and sue you,” said one of our bus drivers. “You’re a green guide just out of the chute. No pun intended on that, but no way that face in ten days will go with something filly and white.”
I thought he might be right. Being married to the company owner had some perks. He agreed to do whatever I thought might be helpful. Near her home we found a professional make-up artist and gifted her with a complete hair and makeup session the day of her wedding. In the pictures she sent us, she looked gorgeous. And happy.
My husband, the company owner, was happy, too.
I guided for fifteen years and that was the worst guest injury I ever had. Well, someone on the Dead River yelled he was so ill he was going to die for sixteen roadless miles of flood-level huge waves.
That’s another adventure—along with skinny dipping where a hidden game warden had a spotting scope. (That story’s in my second novel, Deadly Turn.) Never waste good material.
The second Mystery in Maine, Deadly Turn, was published in 2021. Her debut novel, “Deadly Trespass, A Mystery in Maine,” won a national Mystery Writers of America award, was a finalist in the Women’s Fiction Writers Association “Rising Star” contest, and was a finalist for a Maine Literary Award. Find her novels at all Shermans Books (Maine) and on Amazon. Find more info on Sandy’s website.