Saturday, January 5, 2008

And away we go...

I've been reading blogs for years, admiring many of them, amazed by the wealth of info in others. I thought I should give it a go.

Coincidentally, today is one month before pub day for Hell's Bay, Thorn's latest adventure. So I'm going to take you through the countdown to blast off, then the book tour, then the aftermath. After that, we'll see where this goes.

That's Maggie above, one of the three spaniels in the house. She's usually at my side, and frequently snoring. Cavalier King Charles spaniels are great at snoring. Something about the flat noses.

A little about Hell's Bay:

For one thing, I take a look at phosphate mining in Florida, in particular the mining that's going on south of Tampa and creeping farther and farther south toward the Peace River and Horse Creek. A couple of good books (both mysteries) have taken this subject on before: Bone Valley, by Claire Matturro, and Eye of the Gator, by E.C. Ayers. Both good books and both focused on roughly the same area and environmental issues.
I almost bailed on the subject after reading those novels. They'd covered the terrain pretty well already, as have a lot of newspaper stories.

Like this one in the NY Times:

The New York Times
August 4, 2007 Saturday Late Edition - Florida Counties Try to Contain Phosphate Mines


Arguing that the State Environmental Protection Department is far too lax in regulating open-pit phosphate mines, three Gulf Coast counties are spending millions of dollars in an effort to keep the mines from further expansion in a major watershed.
Officials of Charlotte, Lee and Sarasota Counties along with the regional water authority, worry that the mines, in the central region of Florida, will decrease the quantity and quality of water in the
Peace River, a major contributor to the counties' water supplies.
The counties point to the river's importance to Charlotte Harbor, an estuary fed by the
Peace River.
''Our whole local economy is driven by the harbor,'' said Janette Knowlton, a lawyer for Charlotte County.

Little known outside Florida, phosphate mining has been a major contributor to the regional economy since the 1930s, accounting for 75 percent of phosphate used in the United States, mostly in fertilizer.

Two large companies, Mosaic Fertilizer and CF Industry Holdings, operate most of the open pit phosphate mines in Hardee and Polk Counties. At the mines, cranes dig a mixture of phosphate, sand and clay that is generally below 15 to 30 feet of topsoil and sand. The material is dumped into a nearby pit and blasted with high pressure water to create a slurry that is pumped through pipes to a plant for final separation of the phosphate. The leftover clay-water mixture is dumped into other pits that become ponds. Today, the ponds dot the landscape. The sand is used to help fill the pits after mining.

The mines pump on average more than 100,000 gallons of water a minute, according to the Florida Institute of Phosphate Research, an industry-financed organization.
The Environmental Protection Department regulates the mines. The counties say that state officials have granted too many mine permits and that many permits do not meet federal standards.

Mining companies have been allowed to destroy streams and wetlands, according to the counties, and areas they have reclaimed remain damaged and scarred.
''We found out through consultants that none of the permits complied with the environmental regulations on the books,'' the natural resources planner for Charlotte County, Bill Byle, said. ''We thought all these agencies were protecting us.''

That's part of the NY Times story. You can track down the rest. But it sums up the situation. (Oh, and Bill Byle was a real help to me in the early stages of research. Great guy.)

So phosphate was one thing that interested me. But I also wanted very much to tell a story about an adventure I'd had on a fishing expedition into the Everglades.

So I split the story in half. Sugarman tackles phosphate, Thorn get stuck in a life or death situation in the Everglades. One of the challenges was to make the two halves stick together. I'm sure I'll be hearing from you about how well I managed to pull that off.

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