The First Step (Coastal Carolina #1) by Shira Anthony
Published September 17th 2019
Cover Artist: L.C. Chase
Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to host Shira Anthony on tour for her new release The First Step. Welcome, Shira.
Life Aboard and an Exclusive Excerpt from The First Step
Thank you, Melanie and Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words, for hosting this stop on The First Step blog tour! The First Step is the first in my brand new series of gay romances set at the Carolina coast and featuring men who live and work near the water. Be sure to read to the end for an exclusive excerpt from the book.
Starting in December of this year, my husband and I will be living full-time on our beautiful catamaran sailboat, Prelude, named after one of the books in my Blue Notes series. I posted a tour of our boat on Facebook if you’d like to check her out: https://www.facebook.com/shira.anthony/videos/vb.100002261894384/1727557950662918/?type=3 She’s 38 feet long and nearly 24 feet wide, with a good size galley (kitchen), salon (boat living room), 2 heads (bathrooms), and 3 cabins. If you include the outside space in the cockpit, which has a table that seats 6, she’s bigger than the apartment I lived in years ago in New York City. But living aboard a boat presents lots of challenges, including lack of storage, constantly having to keep complicated mechanical systems working, not to mention keeping enough water and food aboard to live while you’re away from land.
Since one of the main characters in The First Step owns a sailboat and also works as an ocean pilot (he navigates the huge cargo ships into port for a living), I thought it might be fun to talk about life aboard a pleasure (cruising) boat. Half of you are probably thinking “no effing way would I live on a boat for years!” and the other half think it sounds like heaven.
To be honest, it’s somewhere in between for me. Yes, I love being on the water (as long as it isn’t too rough, since I get seasick sometimes), but I also love having my “stuff,” and the idea of giving up my apartment makes me pretty uneasy. There’s very little room on a boat for lots of clothes, especially for this clothes (and shoe) horse. Same goes for food. Our fridge is about as big as a large dorm fridge. Fortunately the freezer is a little bigger. But mostly you need to stock up as you go, which means cooking whatever you find locally.
And then there’s the toilet…. If you’ve ever been to Central America, you’ve probably been like me and grumbled at having to put toilet paper in a garbage can next to the toilet. Welcome to the world of the boat “head.” My husband’s least favorite thing is sticking his arm up to his elbow into the “hold”. Which holds what you might expect it would. Yuck! So we tend to steer clear of putting anything in the toilet that isn’t “natural.” And yes, you have to get someone to pump out the holding tank the same way you do on an RV.
When you’re on the water, it’s pretty ironic that conserving water is a huge issue. The problem is, of course, that there’s tons of salt water, but very little fresh. On land, especially in the US, we take an abundance of water for granted. But in many island nations like the Caribbean or Bahamas, fresh water can run upwards of a dollar a gallon, which when you think of how much water you use for just a shower, it gets really expensive, really quick. We have a water maker, which takes salt water and converts it to fresh, but it doesn’t make infinite water, so you have to conserve in everything you do. That means turning the shower off to soap up and turning it on again to rinse off. Same with doing dishes (I have a dishwasher – his name is Bob). It also means using ocean water to flush the heads.
Of course, most of the downsides of boating pale in comparison to the best part: being on the water. There’s nothing better than exploring the coast, meeting other boaters, and stepping back from the rat race to enjoy the beauty of the ocean. Our boat is my Zen place for writing, and I’m looking forward to writing many more stories about the coast. Who knows, maybe even a story about a writer who takes a few years off to sail?
Be sure to read on for an exclusive excerpt from the book. Happy reading! -Shira
The slight movement of the mainsail ceased and the fabric smoothed. Reed knew enough about sailing to appreciate just how well Justin controlled the boat, correcting in tiny increments to keep the sails full. Justin must have noticed him watching, because he asked, “Would you like to steer?”
Reed swallowed hard. “Are you sure?”
Justin scooted over. “Absolutely sure. It’s not like you can hit anything out here. You know the basics, right?”
Reed nodded and put his hands on the wheel. “Keep her pointing so that the sails don’t luff?”
“Yep. We can keep sailing on this tack until we’re ready to head back through the inlet, so that’s really all there is.” He put his hand reassuringly over Reed’s, causing Reed to momentarily lose his focus.
“Shit.” Reed adjusted the helm but overcompensated.
“Patience,” Justin said. “It takes the boat a couple of seconds to finish making the correction.”
“Got it.” Reed eased the wheel back a little and felt the boat pull against the wind, a familiar sensation he remembered from sailing as a kid. He laughed and glanced over at Justin, who beamed back at him.
“How many summers did you sail?”
“Two,” Reed replied. “Of course, the boats were a lot smaller than this one. So was my dad’s.”
“Once you understand the basics, the feel’s the same, big or small.” Justin watched him for a few minutes, then added, “You’re doing great.”
“Thanks.” He hadn’t expected Justin’s praise to feel so good. I didn’t expect any of this. He knew he needed to get back to interviewing Justin at some point, but he was having way too much fun to dampen the mood with lots of questions.
A comfortable silence settled between them as they sailed. The day was perfect, and the feel of the sleek boat under Reed’s hands made him remember what he’d felt like when he was a kid sailing with his dad. Good memories. Things had been simpler then, before he’d gone to middle school and stopped fitting in. The little kid in him wished his father could see him now. The adult in him wished his father was sitting in the cockpit with them, enjoying the ocean and the bright blue sky above.
“Thanks for inviting me,” Reed said after a while. “I’d forgotten how great it feels to sail. Last time I was on the water other than taking photos this past week was taking the Staten Island Ferry to some political rally.”
“Not exactly the same, is it?”
“Not exactly. Don’t get me wrong, I love New York Harbor on a sunny day.” He just didn’t have the time to enjoy it.
“One of these days I’m going to sail up to New York Harbor,” Justin said. “Take a few months off and head north.”
“Sounds amazing.” Reed imagined what it might be like to live aboard a boat for months at a time. The First Step wasn’t that much smaller than his high-rise studio apartment in Midtown.
Justin stretched his arms over his head and yawned.
Justin shrugged. “I had a tough time getting to sleep last night.”
“At least I wasn’t the only one.” If you only knew. Justin had featured prominently in his dreams, and it made for a very long night of tossing and turning.
“We’ll nap on the beach after lunch.” Justin took a sip from his soda and looked over his sunglasses at something in the distance.
“What do you see?”
Justin put a hand on the wheel. “Go look for yourself. Starboard, about two o’clock.” He gestured to the life vest belt pack Reed had been wearing earlier. “You’ll see better on the foredeck.”
“Okay.” Reed snapped the pack on and walked along the lifelines to the bow. He saw them a moment later—a pod of dolphins swimming a few hundred feet off the right side of the boat. One of the animals jumped out of the water and dove back down, showing its tail flukes. Reed gasped in happy surprise.
“Bottlenose dolphins,” Justin said from beside him.
Reed stared at him in surprise. “Who’s…?”
“Autopilot.” Justin showed Reed a small electronic device. “I rigged this baby so I could sit on the foredeck and steer. Came in handy the other day when I was fishing you out.”
“This is much more fun.” Reed nearly clapped with excitement as several dolphins began to swim alongside.
“If you head out to the Gulf Stream,” Justin said, “you’ll see spotted dolphins too.”
“Do you ever see whales out here?”
“Yep. Never seen one on this boat, though. We usually see them come November, but I had to steer around one last week near the Cape Fear Inlet.”
Reed wished he could have seen that too. “I’m jealous.”
“I have the best job.”
Reed had to force himself not to reach for his notebook—he didn’t want to give Justin an excuse to shut down again. Besides, this was a quote he’d remember without having to write it down.
A Coastal Carolina Novel
The first step is the hardest. After a scandal, New York political reporter Reed Barfield is lying low at the North Carolina coast, writing a story about the seafood industry. But it’s the harbor pilots on the Cape Fear River who capture his interest—men who jump across ten feet of open ocean to grab a rope ladder and guide huge container ships into port. Men like sexy but prickly Justin Vance.
After surviving an abusive childhood and a tour in the Navy, Justin isn’t fazed by his dangerous job—it’s certainly easier to face than Reed’s annoying questions. Justin isn’t out at work, and he doesn’t need Reed digging into his personal life or his past.
But Reed’s no stranger to using his considerable charm to get what he wants, and as he wears Justin down, they realize they have a lot in common—and that they like spending time together. Moving beyond that, though, will mean Justin confessing his sexuality and learning to trust Reed with his secrets—if Reed even decides to stay. Both men want a future together, but can they find the courage to take the first step?
About the Author
Author bio: Shira Anthony was a professional opera singer in her last incarnation, performing roles in such operas as Tosca, i Pagliacci, and La Traviata, among others. She’s given up TV for evenings spent with her laptop, and she never goes anywhere without a pile of unread M/M romance on her Kindle. You can hear Shira singing “Vissi d’arte” from Puccini’s Tosca by clicking here: Shira’s Singing
Shira loves a great happily-ever-after and never writes a story without one. She’s happy to write what her muse tells her, whether it’s fantasy, sci fi, paranormal, or contemporary romance. She particularly loves writing series, because she thinks of her characters as old friends and she wants to visit them even after their stories are told.
In real life, Shira sang professionally for 14 years, and she currently works as a public sector attorney advocating for children. She’s happy to have made writing her second full-time job, even if it means she rarely has time to watch TV or go to the movies. Shira writes about the things she knows and loves, whether it’s music and musicians, the ocean, or the places she’s lived or traveled to. She spent her middle school years living in France, and tries to visit as often as she can.
Shira and her husband spend as many weekends as they can aboard their 38′ catamaran sailboat, Prelude, at the Carolina Coast. Not only has sailing inspired her to write about pirates and mermen, her sailboat is her favorite place to write. And although the only mermen she’s found to date are in her own imagination, she keeps a sharp lookout for them when she’s on the water.