Crossing into Summer

Last night I was coming home from the Cape on the 7:45 p.m. boat, the Governor—the small, open freight ferry. The sun was starting to set, the water was calm, the night cool but not cold as there was hardly a breeze. In short, it was a perfect crossing. Until . . .
Just before we entered Vineyard Haven Harbor, we stopped. Dead. Dead Calm, I thought, remembering an old horror film that I hadn’t been able to watch that was based on an even older book that I couldn’t read, what with my over-active imagination and terror of things that go bump in the night. Or, in this case, the sea. It probably didn’t help that the Fourth of July is approaching so yet another anniversary for the film, JAWS, is looming.
I didn’t know why we were sitting there what seemed like too long. (I do know I wanted no reminders that the boats had undergone their own brand of horror stories over the winter.) Rather than obsessing, I decided to study the coastline ahead, the curve of West Chop with its lighthouse that steadily blinked its welcome. It felt . . . peaceful. Not JAWS-like at all.
By then it was well past 8:00 p.m., and the orange sunset was fading into darkness. That’s when I noticed the lights. From West Chop to the harbor, lights appeared in countless windows of the waterfront homes—homes large and small, old and new, most gray-shingled and sitting high on the bluff, perhaps watching the water as I was watching them.
That’s when I knew that it really is summer again. Off season, most of those homes were dark, their windows boarded against winter’s nor’easters, their owners elsewhere, perhaps counting the weeks until they returned; off season, if I’d been on the Governor at that time of night, I’d be wrapped in a down coat and warm blanket to keep from freezing to death.
Yes, it is summer. The rhythm has changed; the island is alive again, vibrant with chattering voices and a palette of colors and the welcome sounds of music and laughter and the occasional bark of a black dog. And yes, with lights glowing in windows again. Through the bicycles and the mopeds and the long lines at restaurants, tranquility somehow remains, like the meadows up island, like the calm sea.
The Governor’s old engine finally rumbled back to life, like the rest of us who live here year-round, I supposed. Within only a few minutes, we glided into the harbor, pausing as one of the big ferries—the Martha’s Vineyard—passed. Up ahead, I saw another ferry docked in one of the two slips: apparently our delay had simply been to allow time for the Martha’s Vineyard to load up and leave.
It is summer, after all. Let the party begin!

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Meanwhile, back on the Vineyard…

jean stone 2017Spring has sprung…sort of. The boats are running again…sort of.

But there is happy news: I have been hard at work on a new Vineyard series…women’s fiction with a dash of mystery. The first book, A VINEYARD CHRISTMAS, will be released by Kensington Books in September 2018 (my website will be updated soon with more info). It all begins at the fabulous Christmas in Edgartown, so mark your calendars!

In the meantime, here’s the new promo pic of me to prove that, yes, I really do live here now year round. I suppose to really have proved it this should have been taken in January, but it was too cold to stand up by the cliffs. And in February it was too windy. And in March I was too busy trying to meet the deadline for book #2 in the series.

Whatever…stay tuned…and Happy Spring!

This Place Rocks.

The other day I needed to do some reading—research for a new book I’m writing. It was hot inside my little house, yet I didn’t like the thought of closing myself into an air-conditioned space at the library on such a gorgeous day.

IMG_5377And then I thought about the Harbor View Hotel on North Water Street, or rather, I thought about its porch. Something about that porch intrigues me. It is nearly endless, with its iconic chairs that move gently in the breeze, beckoning their guests (and sometimes passers-by like me) to take a seat and enjoy the picture-postcard view of the lighthouse and the harbor and the serenity all around. (Actually, the porch and the whole hotel became a highly visible character in my latest book, VINEYARD MAGIC, but that’s a different story.)

I decided that, yes, the Harbor View was a perfect place to work. I gathered my research materials and meandered across town. I parked in front (A parking space! In Edgartown! In August!!!). I climbed onto the porch, slipped into one of the amazing rocking chairs, and acted as if I belonged there.

Oddly, as you can see in the photo here, no one was around. I would not have minded company, but it seemed that everyone was at the beach (or perhaps they were stuck in traffic at the Triangle or Stop ‘n Shop). The only folks I saw were those who pattered in and out of the front door of the hotel, juggling their coolers, kids, shovels, pails, and blankets, their happy laughter bouncing in the air. They didn’t stop to chat, though . . . they kept their eyes fixed across the water on the long shoreline of Chappaquiddick that awaited.

So I sat there, rocking and reading, for nearly two hours. I accomplished more than I had hoped. And when I was between chapters I realized that in my next life, or in this one at a later time, I would very much like to be a concierge at the hotel. Maybe next week I’ll stop by Human Resources and fill out an application.

In the meantime, I’ll be glad to just do my work while sitting on the porch. Hopefully, they won’t find out and want to charge me rent.

www.jeanstone.com

They’re Here!

The fabulous new MV license plates have arrived, and I couldn’t be happier! With an early bird opportunity to select my favorite number (yup, this one is mine, no doubt about it), and a small donation to Martha’s Vineyard Community Services (the place that keeps the island ticking), over 1,000 applications had been received, which was more than enough for the special state-issued plates.

IMG_5378Hooray!

But this is not an ordinary RMV story. (Surprise!)

This morning was my day to go to the registry and get my new plates. I pulled myself together early and packed a few essentials: ice water, a book I’m reading for the Edgartown Library book group, a notebook, pen, much-needed glasses. I was, after all heading off to the island RMV and, well, sometimes there’s a wait. ☺

I arrived around 9:30, gathered my daypack, and headed inside. I stood in the middle of the open room and surveyed my surroundings. Aside from one young woman who stood on the opposite side of the front door, no one was around. Not a soul. It seemed she was sorting license plates.

I stopped, turned back to the door, and rechecked the HOURS. I thought the office might not open until 10:00, and that someone had left the door unlocked. Either that, or it was a holiday. Where were the lines? Where were the people parked on the long benches? Where was the click-click of the Take-A-Number machine?

The young woman turned to me. “May I help you?” she called from across the room.

“Um,” I replied. “Yes. I’m here to pick up my Vineyard plate?” I said it as a question because I had begun to wonder if, instead of the RMV, I had wandered into the Twilight Zone.

The young woman, whose middle name, as is happens, is Jean, smiled. “I can take care of you.”

Three and one half minutes later I was out of there with my new plates. Wow.

But not so fast. When I got home and put on the new plates, I noticed a small flaw in the front one: someone at Walpole State Penitentiary, or wherever it is that license plates are IMG_5379now made, had failed to paint the “J” in “JUN,” which I guessed stood for “June,” the month the plates were actually made. It was a small glitch, but it made me smile to think that I will renew the registration in UN of next year.

Well, nobody’s perfect, I suppose. Not even the RMV. But kudos to the Vineyard office!

Who were Yours?

After a brief trip, I returned to the island Tuesday afternoon, grateful that the crossing was uneventful and the weather had turned cooler and that I could put my feet up and say, “Ahhh . . . home.”

IMG_5373But as I turned on the TV to await the evening news, a familiar voice rang out: “She had a little trouble with her dismount but she looked strong in the warm-ups . . .” I sat up straight and smiled. The video showed a young woman in sparkly pink Spandex, flipping and twisting and then—yay!—sticking her dismount. I had inadvertently tuned in to the U.S. Women’s Olympic Gymnastic Trials; the announcer’s voice belonged to Tim Daggett, 1984 Olympic gold medal gymnast.

Full disclosure: I am not, never was, never wanted to be a gymnast. In third grade I sucked at climbing ropes, doing cartwheels, standing on my head. I was better at making up stories, which back then were called “daydreams.” (“Jean! Stop daydreaming!” my mother or my grandfather or Mrs. Smith, my teacher, often barked.)

Today my daydreams are called “fiction.” From the time I was eight or nine, I wanted to write. But if it hadn’t been for a few important people, including Tim Daggett, who knows what might have happened.

I believe that all types of incredibly supportive, inspiring people step into our lives—people beyond our families and our close friends—who, amazingly, think we are capable of reaching our goals.

I met Tim through a business connection, helped him with some marketing projects, and ended up co-authoring his story, DARE TO DREAM (Baker Books 1992). It was my first published book, which was unbelievably exciting. But even more important, while working with Tim, I became influenced by his unwavering determination, his ability to, as he might say, “have a dream and do whatever it takes to make that dream come true.” In 1994, thanks in large part to Tim’s inspiration, my first novel, SINS OF INNOCENCE, was published (Bantam Books).

Later, I attended a lecture at Smith College given by Kurt Vonnegut. His theme focused on the teachers in our lives: he closed by asking how many in the audience had been inspired/encouraged/motivated by a teacher. Most of us raised a hand. Vonnegut then asked us to turn to the person on our left and reveal the teacher’s name. I turned my head. “Miss Carroll,” I said without hesitation. She had been my ninth grade English teacher. And she’d encouraged me—really encouraged me—to write. And write. And write.

So this year when I watch the Olympics, I will think of Tim and Miss Carroll and a few other special people. I will remember that without them I would probably not have 19-and-counting published novels.

What about you? Who were your greatest inspirations? Have you thought about them . . . and maybe thanked them lately? Do it! It feels great. Best of all, sparkly pink Spandex is not required.

Enjoy the Olympic Games!

Summer Reading Alert!

Thanks to the magic of the Internet, I now have a number of new readers! Yay! Many have asked about my previous titles, so, if my previous readers will please indulge me, over the next few weeks I’m going to do my own special kind of Throwback Thursday.

Here is one of my summer favorites—TIDES OF THE HEART—that’s all dressed up for easy eBook reading. A classic work of women’s fiction, it, of course, takes place on the fabulous island of Martha’s Vineyard. ItTides of the Heart_approved was a USA Today best-seller and, for some reason we’ve never been able to figure out, it was a huge seller in France.

So . . . welcome to my new readers! If you’re already familiar with my work, don’t miss this one this time around. It’s also available in paperback—published by Random House.

For other of my classic summer tales, check out my website: www.jeanstone.com.

We now return to our regular scheduled program.

Did you ever wonder WHY?

Thanks to my friend and fellow writer Marty, I have begun to wonder about things. And now I have something to say when I am blog-topic-less. So…here goes.

Did you ever wonder why a dog who barks incessantly suddenly stops?

It happened to me the other night. For almost an hour, Rover kept woof-woofing. It sounded as if he were somewhere down the street…the sounds weren’t close enough to be next door, but loud enough to be annoying. A German Shepard, perhaps. Or maybe an alto poodle. Left home alone. And unhappy.

Woof, woof. Arf, arf.

Don’t get me wrong. I love dogs. Really, I do. Anyone who’d ever seen me with Snuggles (my cocker spaniel—see photoSnuggles copy) knows that’s the truth. But on a warm evening, with the windows open, the woof, woof, arf, arf was, as my friend Bev would say, “working my last nerve.” (I love that saying.)

So I closed the windows. The arfs were muted, but still there. I tried to read. I washed the dishes. I flicked on the TV news, turned it up loud. The woofs evolved into a deep howl.

Then, suddenly, they stopped.

I waited. Nothing. Nadda. Yay.

Then I started to, as Marty would say, wonder why.

My thoughts could have gone to dark places, but, as I said, I love dogs. I decided to deduce that his (or her) owner must have returned home. The sweet dog was happy again, wagging his tail, trotting into his house, crunching Milk Bones and enjoying a few laps of cool water that would no doubt soothe his throat that must have been burning from all those vocals.

I returned to luxuriate in the quiet and stopped wondering why. Until the morning when I had to do errands.

I opened the door to the outside, juggling my keys, my purse, and a trash bag (I was en route to the dump). I stepped out onto the small deck and into the early sunshine. All was lovely until I took my next breath. My throat closed up. My eyes suddenly watered. I tried to mouth-breathe, the way a doctor friend had once taught me.

Unfortunately, nothing helped. I quickly raced to my car, threw the trash bag in the back, jumped into the driver’s seat, and slammed the door. But even inside my hermetically-sealed VW Jetta, the smell was unmistakeable: skunk.

And that’s when I knew. The dog must have stopped barking because he’d had a visit from one of the neighborhood black-and-white critters. He must have forgotten that this is their island, not his. And I suppose, like me, even skunks appreciate silence.

The end. No more wondering needed.

P.S. I have not heard a peep, so I assume that the dog has returned to the mainland with his owners. Unfortunately, the aroma of his visitor still lingers. Not as strong, but still there.

I have no idea if there is a moral to this story. Maybe Marty can come up with one.