LIVING ON ISLAND TIME, Part 2: “Feelin’ All Right”

English: Tourist shops at Port Aransas, Texas.
English: Tourist shops at Port Aransas, Texas. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


6:30 a.m.

As I stepped out on the patio of the Wahoo, one of the cozy beach homes offered by BeeGee’s Coastal Quarters, the sun was staining the sky a soft gold on her way up. Salty breeze caressed my face as I  sipped espresso from my French roast pot and munched a Cheerios bar. Below the  table, Cousin Beeg’s short-haired, orange-and-white cat, Rusty, wove around my legs and meowed. As I twirled his tail, I leaned back and drank in the serenity of the moment.  I came down here to research Port A, but I would have to wait until the sleeping town woke up.

Chill out, Kim. You’re island time, now.

After washing out my coffee pot in the full-sized kitchen, I dressed in white crops, Skechers, and a black tee-shirt from the 2013 DFW Writers Conference, and grabbed my tote bag. Within minutes, mugginess shrink-wrapped  my body. The black tee, I decided, would have to go.

Around nine a.m., I parked at the Islander, a souvenir and beach shop on South Alister Street,  for a  lighter-weight tee in a cooler color.  Seeing their sale on four tees for $20, I went inside and chose a powder-blue tee-shirt with the logo,  “Port Aransas: Feel All Right.”

“I’m also here to research my next mystery, which I intend to set in Port Aransas,” I told the sales person as I offered her my card.

“Oooh, really? Well, come with me,” she said, leading me to a bookshelf and handing me Images of America: Port Aransasby J. Guthrie Ford and Mark Creighton.

According to information appearing on the back cover of the book, aficionados of  Port Aransas and Mustang Island have Dr. Ford to thank for  establishing the Port Aransas Preservation and Historical Association, and writing the four-volume Port Aransas Historic Series. And hats off to Mark Creighton, a Cornell University graduate, for over 8,000 archived digital images of Port Aransas and Mustang Island.

Recognizing a super source when I see one, I added it to the bill.

After dropping the purchases in my bag and changing into my new shirt in a neighboring restroom, I followed Avenue G to the beach where I shed my Skechers to sink my toes in the sand. It had been too long — January 2009 — since my last beach-fix.  Wet sand and cool water felt heavenly on  tired, sweaty feet!  One thing I have always loved about Texas beaches is that I do not get winded walking on them.  By the time I  walked all the way down to Horace Caldwell Pier and back to my car, I had logged about two miles and sweated off about ten pounds.

Around 10:45, that morning, I returned with face flushed and tummy growling. Time to poll the locals.

“So, where’s your favorite place to eat?”

Avery’s Kitchen,” chimed the Islander staff, almost in unison. They pointed to a blue frame building with white trim, located on the other side of Spanky’s Liquor.  In celebration of the annual SandFest, someone had built a sand castle beside the balcony. The sign outside Avery’s Kitchen read “Keepin’ It Simple.”

“Actually, we’re still serving breakfast, but you’re welcome to wait,” said Meredith, who fixed me up with a tall glass of ice water, a menu, and a copy of the South Jetty, Port A’s newspaper.

“Great! What is the best thing you serve?”

” Breakfast or lunch?”

“Both, really.”

“Well, our egg platters are really popular, particularly the corned-beef hash-and-egg one. For lunch, our hand-breaded fish and chicken-fried steak are good, too.”

My mouth watered. “Is the owner here where I could speak to him?”

“Sure! Just be careful back there. It’s slick.”

When I pushed through the swinging door, owner Avery Hernandez was covering a vat of cole slaw. After i shook his hand and introduced myself, I got him talking about his food.

“We hand-bread all of our own fish. And I make my own corned-beef hash. Basically, we serve comfort food.”.

“Yum! Here’s my card. While I’m here, I might grab some breakfast.”

“Sure,” he said. “In fact, I’d like to buy your dinner.”

As I dug into the corned-beef-and-eggs platter, my mouth told me this was not the  run-of-the-mill canned stuff. No siree-Bob! As Avery himself said, he had cooked the corned beef, chopped it, and mixed in potatoes. It went down smoothly with two eggs over-medium,a homemade biscuit with strawberry jam, and coffee.

Not only was the breakfast blog-worthy, so was lunch. Avery’s fish-and-chips, advertised on a blackboard outside, was $7.95. Having eaten fish and chips  at Long John Silver’s and Captain D’s, I asked Meredith about how Avery fixed it.

” It’s grouper, freshly-caught and hand-breaded.”

The grouper was so tender that it self-destructed in my hand. No “fake” fish, here.  The fries were so well-seasoned that I needed no additional salt.  Chunky cole slaw in a light, not overly-sweet dressing complemented the meal..

I was wiping my mouth and shoving my plate aside when Meredith approached me, again. After pouring more ice water, she pointed to a table where a cake and bowls were set out.

“When you’re ready for dessert, you’re welcome to a complimentary piece of our lemon cake.”

When I finished the square of cake — satisfyingly tart and sweet and just the right portion —  I paid for my meal and waved my thanks.

. “I will be back!”

Still on my agenda, the marina and the Chamber of Commerce. I had a lot of ground to cover in three days.  This was only Day One.


Laughing Gull
Laughing Gull (Photo credit: surrph)


What do a harried travel writer, an aggressive reporter, and a 1950’s screen star stricken by Alzheimer’s have in common?

They’re all characters in my murder mystery, By Her Daughter’s Hands.

As the title may imply, the mother gets offed by a daughter. But which one? The “only” child shocked at Momma’s secret? Or the adoptee who finds out that her birth mother did not “go to a better place”?

Well, that’s for me to know and for you to find out when you finish my book. A book to come out some time in this lifetime. Providing an agent and an editor fall in love with it.

In January 2009, the germ of the idea formed during my flight home from the Laughing Gull Workshop in Port Aransas, Texas. Although I had read few mysteries, other than those of Mary Higgins Clark, I became intrigued with the genre after attending two presentations. One on poisons. Another about weapons: guns, knives, explosives. By the end of the day, I learned about the significance of blood-splatter patterns and weapons and poisons guaranteed to kill people deader faster.

Since then, I have fallen in love with the mystery, suspense, and thriller genres and developed a voracious appetite for the works of other mystery/suspense writers: Joy Fielding, Karin Slaughter, Lisa Gardner, and Tess Gerritsen, to name a few.

A published poet, I’d never entertained the idea of writing a mystery. But, as I sat on the plane, notepad and pen in lap, I began to brainstorm. By the time I returned to DFW Airport, I had the most rudimentary of plots in place:

A woman caring for her ailing mother — hmmmm….make that Alzheimer’s — is accused of murder when the mother is found poisoned. The culprit: a grapefruit-juice chaser taken with her blood-thinner, Coumadin. Ooooh…a real blockbuster, right?

I think not.

Okay, then, picture this. When the mother and daughter become ill, a sympathetic neighbor plies them with home-made soup. When the mother dies, authorities testing the soup find botulism. On second thought, make that arsenic.

Back to the drawing board.

Bottom line — in three years, I have hammered out more versions, more scenarios, than I have fingers and toes to count. With each draft, the plot takes on yet another evil twist, rather like an episode of “When Roller-Coasters Go Wild”.

Ah, but this time, I know the direction I want the story to take. So here it is:

When travel writer Karen Keystone returns to her childhood home to fulfill a deathbed promise, she finds angry letters from a secret sister. As she grows closer to finding that sister, she finds herself in danger from an unexpected source. Only one person knows the whole truth. Does he also know the connection between her sister and the enemy?

Last month, I pitched the premise of this book to an agent who asked to see a synopsis and the first chapter which I sent, last Monday. Although I still have beaucoup to do, I have only to wander into my office, among the tower of drafts threatening to collapse upon me, to see how far I’ve come.

Before the DFW Writers Conference, I chose the best possible agent for my women’s murder-mystery novel. Any day now, I will hear whether or not she wants to represent me.

In my next entry, I will let you know. Until then, keep me in your prayers.