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KATHRYN SHAY GETS PHYSICAL FOR BOOK 1 OF HER HIDDEN COVE TRILOGY, AFTER THE FIRE
Picture this: 13 acres of sprawling, sloping grassy, lakefront, water that's gilded by the early morning sun, so bright you can't stare at it too long. Birds chirp, fish swish through the lake, and Camp Good Days and Special Times comes alive for its young campers. Here, teams of children who share physical afflictions such as cancer, H.I.V. or sickle-cell anemia, or who have lost a parent to homicide or in the line of duty, are brought together every week throughout the summer.
In July 2002, after meeting with camp founder Gary Mervis, I spent time as a counselor at this residential camp, researching my firefighter
trilogy, Hidden Cove, for Berkley. I signed up for a one-week program for kids affected by homicide and drove to Keuka Lake in upstate New York during the hottest 90-degree spell of that summer to live in the cabins (I slept in a bunk bed!) with my group (14 teenage girls). It was a week of swimming and water activities, basketball, go-carts, rock climbing, arts and crafts, music and drama. In addition to having fun, these girls were also able to bunk with others in their situation and share late-night talks and escapades.
The program gives these survivors a chance to express their feelings about their disability, illness or loss. My week began with a session at the outdoor chapel where we were asked to write the name of someone we lost on a stone and put it in the pile under a cross where it would remain forever. As I wrote my friend's name, I saw a little girl, whom I later became close with, write "Daddy" on her stone. I cried then and many more times over the week. I was unbearably moved by their stories of losing a dad or mom or cousin.
In Book 1 of my Hidden Cove trilogy, AFTER THE FIRE, Police Detective Megan Hale comes to town in search of support to build a camp just like Camp Good Days and Special Times. She finds this and much more with Mitch Malvaso, everybody's favorite firefighterand her soul mate. In Book 2, On the Line (Jul. '04), the camp opens, and in Book 3, Nothing More to Lose (Jan. '05), we see what happens with the rest of the characters.
All three books required more firsthand research of firefighting itself. I'd done extensive work in the past with the Rochester Fire Department in New Yorkmy first time out with the boys was for a stabbing! I rode
the trucks, ate in the station houses, dressed in the firefighter gear and learned how to use the Jaws of Life. This time around, I went on a night ride-along, attended classes and drills at the fire academy and learned about the firefighter's role in dealing with weapons of mass destruction.
Based on my experiences with firefighters and the people of Camp Good Days and Special Times, I have tried to portray the selflessness and altruism of these folks in my cops and firefighters from Hidden Cove. I hope I've captured even a tenth of the atmosphere, optimism and dedication of Camp Good Days as well as the feel of America's bravesta most courageous, generous, interesting (and yes, romantic!) group of people.
To learn more about Shay's series, visit her website, www.kathrynshay.com. To read more about the story behind Camp Good Days and Special Times, check out For the Love of Teddi by Lou Buttino.
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