Author Wednesday – Revital Horowitz


Welcome to Author Wednesday. Today, Revital Horowitz stops by for an interview. I first about Revital from Christoph Fischer when he reviewed Daughters of Iraq and its author Revital Horowitz on his blog. Daughters of Iraq is historical fiction based on Revital’s family’s story. Daughters of Iraq cover

Welcome to Author Wednesday, Revital. It took me quite awhile before I recognized my “voice” as an author so it always interests me to discover how other writers “hear” their voice. When did you first discover your voice as a writer?

As soon as I sat down to write my first novel Daughters of Iraq, I discovered that I had a voice, and that my voice needed to be heard. When I first started writing, I had a vision, and I had a mission to complete. I knew that my family history should be told, and after giving it a lot of thought, I decided that the best way to reach the most people I could reach, and tell this story, should be through a historical fiction book. I thought I learned best through stories, and now that I even think about it more, I realize that stories from generations to generations keep history alive even before the invention of paper.

I saw my voice as the voice of so many silent voices that are forgotten. I thought that telling the story of the Jews of Iraq would put those people on papers of history, and without it, they will forever be lost. I admit it was and still is a heavy weight on my (not so wide) shoulders. I wrote the story, and I give lectures all over the world to whomever invites me, and I tell their story, and I revive some Jewish history past that is hidden, and not so well known as the European Jewish history part. But, there were Jews all over the world, including in Arab countries. You will not find many of them today in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Tunisia, Libya and other places. If you are interested in learning why, you will find some answers in my book.

It is a noble pursuit and one worth pursuing. Even though you had this vision, when were you first able to call yourself a “writer” or “author?”

It took a very long time for me to realize that I am actually an author, and this title really describes who I am. Besides  being a mom, a wife, a daughter etc., it was the first time in my life to really appreciate what I have done with my life for myself. I am very proud and happy to carry the other titles too, but this one is was totally mine and for myself, and I love so much what I am doing. I love writing, and I love passing my ideas and thoughts to others. I see that as one of the best gifts I’ve ever received in my life.

It’s wonderful you were able to heed the call. Not only do you give a voice to a voiceless people, you also gave yourself a voice as an individual. How did you come up with the title of Daughters of Iraq?

Daughters of Iraq was written as an honor to life and women who are forgotten. I wanted to expose their story to the public, and was able to do so through the book I have written. It is a story of three women and two generations, and for me, being an immigrant myself (I moved to the United States from Israel), I was able to go deep into emotions and even places I have never been (Iraq), and yet be able to describe the lively Jewish life more than 150,000 people have experienced. Being an immigrant is a very unique experience that so many people go through, and yet it’s so hard to pass the feelings of not being understood, or not being able to describe feelings and places to other people who have not experienced it. It is very different then visiting a place, and it is more of bringing your traditions and country with you.  This is how those women felt when they immigrated to Israel, and so many times it was hard to close on gaps between generations, when parents were raised in different places than their kids.

I can only imagine how difficult that must be, but through books such as yours, we can attempt to understand the experiences of others. What is unique to your book? What do you think people who buy your book find in it? Why do they like it?

I think there are a few unique things in the book. First, it takes the readers back to Iraq of the mid-twentieth century. It also takes the readers back to historic events in Iraq and in the newly established country of Israel. The book bounces between places and time, and I really like reading those kind of books, and know by now that many readers like it, too.

Are you working on something new?

Yes, I am. I am actually on the final steps of my second novel Hope to See You Soon. It is a story of two women who are best friends. One lives in Israel and the other in Seattle. The book explores what time has done to their life and friendship. Each one of them was  jealous of the other for many years. One is jealous for not traveling and staying in one place, and the other one is jealous for that same reason, but from the other side: She wished she would have stayed in one place. It is interesting to see that after all, everyone has their own destiny and needs to be happy with their own lives.

That is so true. It’s taken many years to realize that grass is never greener somewhere else. I’m sure this book will be a very interesting exploration of that discovery. I’m so happy you stopped by for a visit today, Revital. Congratulations on the success of Daughters of Iraq and finding a way to express the experiences of those who are no longer able to tell their stories.

revital_img1About Revital Shiri-Horowitz:  Revital Shiri-Horowitz is an experienced teacher and presenter to Jewish communities and audiences. Using her own life story and excerpts of her novel, Revital Shiri-Horowitz generates a warm and uplifting experience for the listener. Her overall mission is to connect her audiences to their roots so that they can be closer to themselves.

Revital Shiri-Horowitz was born and raised in Israel. As a kid, she wrote poetry and short stories. She’s been writing in her journal almost every day since she was nine years old, and up to the time she met her husband, but never imagined that one day she would become a published author in more than one language, and in so many countries, and even continents.

Revital went on to earn a BA in Hebrew Literature and Geography from Tel Aviv University, an MA in Geography from Haifa University, and an MA in Hebrew Literature from Tel Aviv University.

She was an assistant professor of geography in Haifa and Tel Aviv Universities, and has been an editor for Hebrew-language books.

Based in Seattle, Washington, and in Israel, Revital is the mother of four boys, married to Amnon for twenty years, writes poetry, runs a blog in “Haaretz,” an Israeli newspaper, and is working on a second novel.


Amazon Author Central

Daughters of Iraq purchase link (Amazon)


Author Wednesday – Melissa Mayberry


Welcome to Author Wednesday. Today I interview Melissa Mayberry, the author of Mellifica: Devastating First Love, a Young Adult (YA) romance. Melissa is a very busy mother, nurse, and writer. I’m very impressed with her ability to juggle it all.Mayberrycover

Hello Melissa. I’m honored you found time in your busy schedule to stop by my blog. I’m always interested in the moment when a writer first claims the title. When were you first able to call yourself a “writer” or “author?”

In high school, I wrote some poetry for the school newspaper. That was my first publishing and my last for about twenty years. Even though Mellifica has been published, I haven’t gotten into the habit of saying that I am a writer.  Maybe when writing is all I do, then I will be comfortable calling myself a writer.

It might come before that, and you’ll be amazed at the feeling when it happens. What are your writing rituals?

I’m a day-sleeper, night-shift nurse. So, on my nights off, I write. I love the quiet house and the spooky ambiance from the stillness.

It sounds as if you’ve found the perfect time for you to create your stories. Rachel Carson (Silent Spring) said she never chose a subject because as a writer, the subject chose her. Describe a time when a subject chose you.

This is so true, especially for me. If it wasn’t for my story line blatantly presenting itself, I may have never bothered to write again.

See – you are a writer. You had no choice. Do you have a favorite character that you created?

I’m a mother of four, so I liken this question to motherhood. Each one of my characters has a special place in my heart. Some I love to hate. Some I’d love to be and others, I love them and wish they were here. If I’m not feeling any attachment to the character, I wouldn’t expect my readers to either. So, I either have to ditch them, or make them special.

I always say my favorite characters are the ones I’d like to be. What’s the best thing said about one of your books by a reviewer?

When I sent a query, one guy explained to me that he was this beefy guy that rode motorcycles, but he was shocked that he couldn’t stop reading the chapter I sent him because it was a YA romance. I love that even men like my books.

What’s your one sentence pitch for Mellifica: Devastating First Love?

Heartbreak plagues Melissa when her high school boyfriend dumps her for a teacher’s wife.

Sounds intriguing. How did you choose the title? Has it been the title from the very beginning?

Mellifica has been the title, but I added on Devastating First Love after reading a review. Mellifica is the nickname given to me by the antagonist in the book.

How long do you estimate it took you to take the book from an idea to a finished, published?

It took well over two years. I hadn’t written in so long that I had to learn the process all over again. When I started, I thought I would catch on right away, but it took me a few tries.

That’s not too bad considering you only get to write a couple of nights each week. Is the book traditionally or self-published? Why did you choose one over the other?

I went with the traditional publisher after publishing it myself. The plan was to send out a certain number of queries and if I had no response, then self publish. An answer came about a week after I self-published. Ultimately, I went with them because they were awesome and offered a better deal than most publishers.

What is the message conveyed in Mellifica: Devastating First Love?

My main character is so fickle it drives me crazy sometimes, but she has a reason for that. She has no self-esteem. If you learn anything from her, it’s not to let your ego guide you; let your heart.

What is the best thing someone could say about this book?

I love to hear that it’s inspiring. That was my intention—to inspire people to take their destinies into their own hands and reap the reward.

How Mellifica was conceived in your imagination?

Mellifica is based on a true-life situation. From there, characters were fictionalized to provide privacy to the innocent.

What type of research did you do in the writing of this book?

All my research was from my head. Some people flipped out about how things were back in 1992. “You can’t write about people smoking in a restaurant.” Really? Things were different then.

Who or what is the antagonist? Did you enjoy creating this character?

The antagonist, Arien, was so much fun to write. After all, in real life he was an ex boyfriend. I spent so much time solely devoted to detailing all his little quarks. Revenge is sweet.

Without giving us a spoiler, tell us a little bit about your favorite scene.

One of the most heart-wrenching scenes in my mind, is where Sandy is trying to get Mel to leave Arien. He brings her a cupcake to school and somehow manages to look incredible while doing it. His ploy almost worked, but ended with Mel saying some pretty cruel things to him. I think it’s my favorite because Sandy was incredible inside and out, even holding a pretty little cupcake.

What else do you want readers to know about your book?

Book one has been out for about six months. I am working hard and hoping to have book two published by early fall. Book two has exciting life changes for everyone, followed by an ironic and sad twist of fate for one of the main characters.

About Melissa Mayberry – Melissa believes in living a full life. As a wife, mother of four, full-time nurse, and grad student, a story presented itself to her in such a way that she had to become a writer as well.

Learning and growing through her work, Mellifica: Devastating First Love is the first of two books chronicling a sordid love affair with a tragic, yet ironic ending.

 Author Links

Website and blog:

Facebook: Melissa Mayberry / Mellifica

Twitter: @MayberryMelissa



Mellifica on Kindle

Mellifica on Nook

Mellifica on Smashwords

How Much Background Is Too Much in a Novel?

By Patricia Zick @PCZick

I’m happily working away at the new novel these days. When I wrote the original concept back in 2006, I provided lots of background research on Florida and the Everglades. That’s the way I’ve always written, even when I was a reporter. I regurgitated all the new and old knowledge onto the page in a very rough first draft or outline of a new piece. Then I set about slicing more than half of what I’ve spewed onto the page.

Successful writing in any field or genre contains three essential elements. I call it the 3 C’s of writing. The elements are correctness, clarity, and conciseness.

Correctness – In journalism, accuracy is a key element (we hope). However, even in fiction, correctness is important. I read a book once where the author was describing a scene where the newly in love couple went kayaking – in a single kayak. He helped her in the seat and then the author wrote that the man jumped in the same seat behind his gal. Also, the couple – both experienced kayakers – were said to use “oars” rather than the “paddles” used in kayaking. I lost interest in the book at this point. Try jumping into a one-person kayak alone, let alone with another person, and remain unharmed, upright and dry, and I’ll eat an oar immediately. Correctness is essential in the details of a novel. If you chose a famous place for the setting, make sure you know that place and the names of streets and intersections. You can make up the name of hotels and restaurants, but be sure you know distances between places. Also, make sure that if you’ve set your novel in 1984 you haven’t created any anachronisms by having a character pick up a cell phone to make a call. I’m reading a book right now that I thought was set twenty years, ago but the author just mentioned Wikipedia and Craig’s List. I don’t think either of those were around then.

Clarity – Clarity goes along with conciseness in some ways. Make sure nothing in the novel confuses the reader’s understanding of the story. I don’t mean the confusion that might come from unraveling a mystery. The reader shouldn’t have to read a word, a sentence, or a paragraph repeatedly to make sense of what you’ve put on the page. I ask my Beta readers to point out any confusing areas by simply putting a question mark. Sometimes it’s as simple as a misplaced modifier, such as “Credit cards shall not be given to customers unless the manager has punched them first.” I misplace my modifiers often in the first draft, and just as often, I’m not the one to catch them.

Conciseness – Finally, I get to the reason I started writing this post. I’m struggling now with all that background information culled from reading, interviewing, or living. It’s sometimes difficult to realize that the reader doesn’t need and probably doesn’t care to know all I’ve learned before writing the novel. The reader simply wants a story to be told. I’m struggling right now as I turn that original draft/outline into a real first draft ready for Beta readers. That background information or exposition as it’s called by literary folks doesn’t all need to come at once or at all. The author decides where, when, and how much to tell. Some of it can come out in plot situations throughout the book. It’s one of the beautiful things about being an author. It’s also one of the most difficult. Beginning writers can sometimes be spotted immediately because they haven’t yet realized the importance of conciseness. I’m still learning after nearly two decades in this business. You don’t need to tell the reader everything you know. Not even close.

Here’s something I try to remember every time I write: Just because I put it down on paper, doesn’t mean I’ve carved the words in stone. That delete button is a one-finger press away. (But just to be sure I create a file for deleted passages.)

What do you think? Are these important elements in storytelling?

wood stork (Everglades)

wood stork (Everglades)

Author Wednesday – David Lawlor

typewriterWelcome to Author Wednesday. Today I interview David Lawlor, the author of two historical novels published as eBooks. Tan is set during the Irish War of Independence, and its sequel, The Golden Grave,  is set in the old battlefields of WWI.


Welcome to Author Wednesday, David. I love something I read about the writer and scientist Rachel Carson (Silent Spring). She said she never chose a subject because as a writer, the subject chose her. Describe a time when a subject chose you.

When I started out as a journalist I heard the story of how the Choctaw Indians in Oklahoma had raised money for the Irish famine relief fund in the 1840s. Their generosity always stayed with me, and I knew that someday I would write about that story. It took ten years or so before I got round to it, but that became my first book.

That’s a subject that clearly chose you. Do all your books have a common theme or thread?

My first published book, Tan, told the story of Liam Mannion, an Irishman who served as a Black and Tan during the Irish War of Independence. The Tans were ex-WWI servicemen brought to Ireland as Temporary Constables. They became notorious for their cruelty.  It was a time of great violence and brutality on all sides.

My grandfather was heavily involved in the War and the subsequent Civil War. He was actually tortured by the Tans and had a finger nail pulled out during interrogation. He was also a member of a firing squad during the Civil War so this period is close to my heart. I felt Liam had a much larger story to tell than just the one in Tan so I have now written about him again, in The Golden Grave, returning to the battlefields of France in search of lost treasure. I am working on a third book involving Liam, which is set during the treaty talks with the British in 1922. After that, I think Liam is bound to see more action in the Civil War that followed the treaty.

How incredible that you could take the seeds of your own family’s history and create several novels. You must have a great affinity for Liam. Explain how this book was conceived in your imagination.

A documentary about the excavation of a WWI bunker set the ball rolling. I wondered what you might find down there. From that, I developed the story of five war-scarred veterans returning to the crucible of the battlefield to dig for lost treasure and of how the ghosts of their wartime experiences haunt them.

What other type of research did you do?

The documentary was a great help. I researched tunneling techniques and bunker building and read  accounts of what life was like in the trenches. I also studied photographs of the battlefields as well as maps of  France and Switzerland, which is where the finale takes place.

The documentary served as your starting point for the rest. Who or what is the antagonist in your book? Did you enjoy creating this character?

There’s a femme fatale in The Golden Grave called Sabine. She runs a soldiers’ bar near the frontline. She is beautiful, sexy, and knows how to wrap a man around her finger. She is also extremely devious and will do anything to further her own ends. She was great fun to write.

I understand. I love creating devious characters. Without giving us a spoiler, tell us a little bit about your favorite scene in this book.

I liked writing the opening scene, in which a train hurtles through Flanders at night. The scene focuses on the driver and his coalman as they try to outrun a German artillery barrage. I wanted to convey the fear and tension of their predicament. They are on a steam locomotive so it was fun trying to capture the workings of the train and placing it in the ruined backdrop of war.

Where do you write?

On my fifty-minute commute into work, during my lunch break, and on the journey home. I aim for one thousand words a day – sometimes I reach that figure, sometimes not.

That’s amazing, David. Your goal is ambitious. How does your immediate family feel about your writing life?

My wife is resigned to it by now. I think that after I wrote my first novel she felt I had  it out of my system. It was quite the opposite – I had been bitten by the bug! We have four young children, who are unaware of their dad’s pastime. I published my first book in April 2012, as my mum lay dying in hospital. She got to see press clippings about it, which.was nice. I dedicated Tan to her and my dad.

That’s wonderful, David. I’m sure one day your children will be well aware of their father’s other passion. Thank you for stopping by today. I enjoyed getting to know you a little bit better, and I look forward to reading your books.

DavidAbout David: I’m no historian, but I do like the subject (I even managed to get an Honors degree in it after much sweat and tears). I also like to write historical fiction. The idea is to collate interesting snippets from the past, things which spark an interest and maybe even a story or two. My day job is as an editor with a national newspaper.

In the course of my research, I have come across what I think are interesting facts, which you might like to read.

Twitter: @LawlorDavid
The Golden Grave:

Author Wednesday – Adam Pepper


Welcome to Author Wednesday. Today I interview Adam Pepper, author of Buried a Man I Hated There. Adam describes his book as “a dark and unusual psychological thriller with a slight literary bent.”Buried-Art

Hello, Adam. I’m glad you stopped by today to talk about your book and your life as a writer. I’m always interested in how other authors view themselves as a writer. My vision includes the antique typewriter I use for Author Wednesday. What is your vision of yourself as a writer?

I’ve always been ambitious. I write to entertain but also to illustrate my own personal worldview in a way that compels readers to come along for the ride, either because they identify or simply find my view interesting.  My books generally fall in the suspense genre, but I strive for something deeper and more memorable than a beach read.  And yet, I never want my readers to feel bored or preached to.  Any message must come across organically.  Story first.  Always.

I love that. While we are forced to categorize our books into genres, often those books don’t fit into the strict definition. Speaking of messages, what messages or themes do you try to convey to your readers?

My work tends to come from a cynical place.  I don’t intend to be negative, but rather realistic.  Human nature can range from ugly to silly, and I look to capture that range in my stories.  Characters with the most depth propel the story forward but shallowness exists too and can’t be ignored.

What authors have influenced your writing and why?

Clive Barker for his imagination.   Hubert Selby Jr. for his raw power.  Kurt Vonnegut for his ability to make serious statements while being completely off-the-wall at the same time.

Setting can be used to great effect in novels. How does setting play a role in your stories?

Setting is crucial. Most of my stories are set in New York because I know it so well, and it’s a setting that genuinely interests people, even though it’s been used in fiction perhaps more than any other location.  It’s a great city that lives and breathes and so there’s always room for another NYC story.  In Buried, the story rotates from the city locale to rural Vermont.  These two drastically different settings give the story needed contrast.

What other techniques do you like to use in your writing?

I think experimentation and creativity are keys to standing out.  But I don’t like self indulgence.  I’m known to play with tenses and points of view, and my stories aren’t always linear.  But they are always coherent and fast paced.

I enjoy that, too. Now let’s talk specifically about Buried a Man I Buried There. What’s your one sentence pitch for your book?

When a devoted family man loses everything he loves, who is he?

It’s an interesting title. How did you choose it? Has it been the title from the very beginning?

My alternate title was Picnics in the Snow, which I loved, but I was afraid it sounded too much like a love story or romance novel.  There is a very strong romance element to the piece, but it’s more of a dark suspense novel with a literary bent. The picnics are a huge part of the book and I was very attached to that title, but I was also afraid I would lose my audience with it.

Is the book traditionally or self-published? Why did you choose one over the other?

I spent more than a decade trying to break into publishing.  I’ve had two agents, published in the small press and built up a healthy, grassroots following.  But I never landed a deal from a big NY publisher.  Buried received a lot of attention when I shopped it around a few years back.   It sat for a while on my hard drive until I decided it was time to send it out into the world.  I’ve self-published two other novels, a dark fantasy novel, Symphony of Blood, and a mob thriller, Skin Games.  This book is a pretty strong departure from those books, but I believe it has the most depth and substance.

Where do you write?

I dream of one day having a “real office.”  Something “writerly” with a globe, immense bookshelves, and a walnut desk.  What I really have is a 5′ by 7′ man cave in the corner of my basement next to the hot water heater. It’s smaller than most prison cells, and it feels like one at times.  But it’s home! And I’ve produced some good work while holed up there.

As long as you can write there, it doesn’t matter. A woman once told me she’d start writing once her husband built her a new house with an office. She’s still not writing. Thanks for stopping by today, Adam. It’s been a real pleasure to learn more about you and your work.

GE DIGITAL CAMERAAbout Adam Pepper – At times disturbing and grim, others raunchy and comical, Adam Pepper’s work is known for a unique blend of horror, suspense and speculative fiction. Memoria, Adam’s debut novel, reached No. 1 on the Dark Delicacies Best Seller list and received rave reviews from Cemetery Dance and Chronicle.  “Super Fetus,” his outrageous Bizarro novella was called “In-your-face, allegorical social commentary” by esteemed reviewer, Paul Goat Allen.  His quick-hitting short work has appeared in genre magazines including The Best of Horrorfind, Vol. 2 and Space and Time.  Adam’s non-fiction credits span from New Woman Magazine to The Journal News. His recent publications include the mob thriller, Skin Games and the supernatural detective novel, Symphony of Blood

Links to Buried a Man I Hated There


Amazon UK :


Follow on twitter:  @AdamRPepper

Learn more about Adam at his website:

Beach Driving and Other Atrocities

sea turtle (loggerhead) hatchling (Photo by P. C. Zick, 2006)

sea turtle (loggerhead) hatchling (Photo by P. C. Zick, 2006)

By Patricia Zick @ P.C. Zick

Today I’m working on my next novel about Florida and its fragile environment. Native Lands begins when Mangrove Mike notices the sound of machines ripping apart his beloved and sacred Everglades. He brings it to the attention of his friend Barbara, who is an environmental columnist for the Miami Herald. Meanwhile, further north in St. Augustine, an environmentalist turned politician uncovers a development that is ripping up wetlands near his home. Through a series of events, the two parties join together to stop the destruction of the natural world they treasure.

One of the environmental issues I address in the novel is beach driving. Unfortunately, too many Florida beaches still allow vehicular traffic on its beaches, although during sea turtle nesting season – May through October – the hours are curtailed so as not to have lights on the beach when sea turtles come ashore to lay nests and when the hatchlings come out of the nest to march to the sea. But the traffic from a typical summer day is intense, and those vehicles leave ruts in the road and disturb the habitat for not only the turtles, but for the nesting shorebirds as well. Many species of both turtles and shorebirds are endangered, which means they are on the brink of extinction. Disturbing the habitat where they engage in reproducing the species can be devastating.

In my novels, I try to educate as I make environmental issues a part of the plot. Here’s a little excerpt from Native Lands where the Booth family of St. Augustine volunteer once a week for sea turtle patrol.

The Booths drove the deserted A1A Highway before 6 a.m. on Saturday. They drove south to Crescent Beach, past rows of condominiums blocking the view of the Atlantic Ocean. When they arrived at the public parking area, a vehicle from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission sat alone in the otherwise empty lot. When they pulled in next to the van, Peggy, the biologist in charge of the sea turtle program, climbed out of the driver’s seat and struggled to shut the door on the van against the winds whipping off the ocean.

“It’s churning out there this morning,” Peggy said. “The sand’s blown over the dunes so even if something happened last night we probably wouldn’t be able to see the tracks. We only have a couple of nests so far, but we want to be able to find them once the wind settles down.”

“We might be doing this quite often this year, if the reports about the hurricane season pan out,” Daniel said. “What if we get a hurricane here?”

“We do the same thing. We reinforce the tape and posts around the nests and hope they survive the tides and winds. Then we go out as soon after as possible to make sure the nests can still be found and later to check for hatchlings,” Peggy said. “Let’s hope the predictions are wrong.”

“I heard this morning that we’re feeling the outer bands of Tropical Storm Claudia,” Emily said. “It’s headed straight for the Florida peninsula.”

“It’s so early in the season, I doubt anything will come of it,” Peggy said. “But still this is good practice in case we get something later in the season.”

“Peggy, I got a call from Tim down in the Everglades,” Daniel said. “Seems one of our little crabs managed to wash up on the docks down there.”

“I heard,” Peggy said. “Amazing, isn’t it? OK, let’s get organized for this morning’s walk. It’s probably going to take a little longer than usual because I need all the walkers to make sure the current nests are securely marked.”

The female sea turtle trundles from the sea starting in May continuing through October to lay eggs on Florida’s beaches. However, most of the nesting takes place during the first part of the season. During the later months, the patrols look for signs of the hatchlings emerging from the nests. In the first months of the season, the volunteers look for tracks indicating a sea turtle came ashore to lay eggs the night before.

“I guess we’d better walk slow and closer to the dune line,” Janie said. “Maybe we should spread out more.”

A female sea turtle comes onshore during the night and using her front flippers, pushes aside the sand before using the hind flippers to make a deep hole large enough to deposit 100 to 120 eggs. She then pushes the sand back over the eggs and hightails it back to the sea. She might come ashore several more times during a season to lay a nest during the summer nesting season, but she will never return to the nests already laid.

Instinct brought her to the site of the nesting because most likely at least thirty years earlier that same turtle emerged from a nest in the same approximate location.

When Janie learned about the habits of the loggerhead – the most common of the sea turtles to come up on the beaches of St. Johns County – during her training the year before, she became passionate about keeping the beaches free from danger for these ancient ocean dwellers.

“If the beach is changed in any way, wouldn’t it confuse the mother and cause her to go back to the sea?” Janie asked her father one night soon after they began doing the patrol.

“Yes, that’s why they ask residents to keep the lights off on their houses.”

“And what happens if the female can’t get over the tire tracks to the dunes to lay her eggs?” Janie continued.

“I’m not sure, but I would bet it disrupts the natural order of things,” her father said. “It’s more of a problem for the hatchlings trying to crawl over those ruts to the sea. The longer it takes for them to march to the ocean, the more susceptible they are to predators.”

“What predators?” Janie asked.

“Ghost crabs, dogs not on a leash, and vehicles driving on the sand.”

“I wish they wouldn’t let anyone drive on the beaches,” Janie said. “Can they shut the beaches at least during nesting season for both the turtles and the shore birds? Some of the birds that nest here are endangered species, too.”

“They won’t do it as long as the tourists demand access with their SUVs, but I’m not opposed to helping you fight the battle.” Daniel put his arm around his daughter and smiled.

Emily knew Daniel felt pride in Janie for her willingness to fight for the defenseless sea turtles and birds. Emily felt the same pride. Now in their second year as volunteers, their efforts to close the beaches to cars had been fruitless despite trying to form a group of concerned residents. As the wheels continued tearing up the beaches of St. Johns County, Janie learned how slowly the wheels of government turned.

Florida Novels by P.C. Zick

Wild and wacky of small town Florida politics explode in Tortoise Stew.

Wild and wacky of small town Florida politics explode in Tortoise Stew.

Author Wednesday – Marilyn Slagel

Welcome to Author Wednesday. Today, I’m happy to interview Marilyn Slagel. Marilyn writes women’s fiction. I’ve enjoyed getting to know her ever since she began following this blog. She writes thoughtful comments and is supportive of all the authors featured on Author Wednesday. Her book Dirty Laundry uncovers some unpleasant truths about the confusing life of an adolescent girl on the brink of adulthood. 9781458206565_cover.indd

Welcome, Marilyn. It’s my pleasure to host you today and learn a bit more about you as a writer. What is your vision of yourself as a writer?

My vision is to write in the most honest way I can, telling stories about the grit and not-always-so-nice events we encounter as life rolls along. People experience so much they are embarrassed or ashamed to talk about. If it’s real, I want to get it out there to help others.

I admire your bravery in tackling the tough issues. What messages or themes do you try to convey to your readers?

Hope is eternal – no matter how hard a situation is. There is always hope things can improve.  Every messy situation we get ourselves into can be overcome.

That’s such an important message to get out to folks. What are you working on these days?

My baby is, of course, Dirty Laundry, the brutally honest account of my own life.  It is funny, sad, poignant, and real. Marly and Johnny are far from perfect and make some very poor life choices on the way to lasting love. Would Marly make the same choices today? You decide after reading, and let me know.

My work in progress is the story of online dating and the pitfalls encountered by “ladies of a certain age.” As a new widow, I ran from grief into online dating. The stories in this book will curl your hair and make you wet your pants with laughter – dating after fifty is not for the weak. I hope to release Dirty Laundry 2: Hung Out to Dry later this year.

I can’t wait. I was divorced at age fifty after being married for half of my life. Dating was not very pretty, but there is hope.

What advice can you give to other writers about receiving a bad review?

Hmm, I have received two bad reviews to date. At least one of them was personal. My advice would be:

  • Throw something off your desk at the nearest wall and hope it doesn’t dent the plaster.
  • Cry, stomp your feet and call your mom to vent.
  • Stew about it overnight, then get up and move on with your life.

It’s only ONE person’s opinion.  With two out of eighteen reviews being 1-star, the sixteen good reviews more than make up for it.

That’s very good advice, but sometimes hard to remember. Good for you for putting it in perspective. Is Dirty Laundry traditionally or self-published? Why did you choose one over the other?

Dirty Laundry was self-published through Abbott-Press in Indiana. Fear of failure was the driving force. One of those “hidden things” we don’t like to admit to, but the truth. Book No. 2 will be self-published with the help of Ellie Searl, Publishista. She is a great designer, and I’m really looking forward to working with her.

Here’s one of my favorite questions. If you could invite two other authors over to your house for dinner, who would you choose and why?

  • Danielle Steel.  I have been reading Ms. Steel’s books forever. I would love to get to know her over the dinner table.
  • Nicholas Sparks. Sweet, romantic stories flow from this man over and over again.
  •  Jodi Picoult.  I loved The Other Sister and want to read more of her works. (Couldn’t stop at two, sorry!)

How does your immediate family feel about your writing life?

I’m widowed with two grown children. They are fine with it, as my time writing doesn’t interfere with them. My daughter is proud of me. My son suffers from severe schizophrenia and is not connected to my day-to-day life. I’ll be writing about mental illness in the future.  A huge advocate for the mentally ill, I believe we need much more awareness about their plight.

Yes, we do need much more awareness about all mental illnesses. What book are you reading right now?

Umm, a few? To Heaven and Back by Mary C. Neal, The Fire in Fiction by Donald Maass, Normal by Janet Bettag and Stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor, Ph.D. With very eclectic tastes, I always have a few going at the same time.

Marilyn, thank you so much for dropping by today. You are a delight, and I wish you the best in your future worthy and noble writing adventures.

Slagel-5x7About Marilyn Slagel – Marilyn Slagel is a true Midwestern girl, living in a tiny town with Shadow, her loyal lab/shepherd mix. She writes for today’s women — honest, gut-wrenching, funny, poignant stories about the forbidden or taboo things in everyday life among families and other relationships.

When not writing, she works a “real” job as a medical editor/transcriptionist. With more than twenty years’ experience, there is still something new every day.

Marilyn enjoys her family and friends with plenty of gatherings for wine, food, and chatting. Reading is a lifelong passion and takes up some time every day. There’s always time for a few pages, isn’t there?



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Using Real Life in Fiction

By P.C. Zick @PCZick

Originally published April 23, 2013 on Words Unlimited, Back Story

During April 2010, two significant man made disasters occurred in the United States. Both of the tragedies became a part of my life for the remainder of the year and led me to question how we live our lives. It took me some months to make the connection between the two events, but when I did, they both found a home in Trails in the Sand, the novel I began writing in late 2010.

Florida's sea turtles saved from oil spill in Trails in the Sand

Florida’s sea turtles saved from oil spill in Trails in the Sand

The first tragedy occurred on April 5, when a coal mine exploded in West Virginia, several hours away from my new home in western Pennsylvania. Twenty-nine miners, trapped inside the mine, died that day. The local Pittsburgh news carried very little else as hope ebbed and flowed on the first days after the explosion. But finally, on April 9, the governor of West Virginia made a tragic announcement. All twenty-nine miners were dead and had not made it to the safety room as hoped. My husband works with the mining industry in his job as an engineer with a water solutions company. He knows the coal mining industry very well so we kept our eyes and ears tuned to the news, first hopeful as everyone else, and then, more than curious about how and why the explosion occurred in the first place. The answers became clear in the months following the deaths. The company, Massey Energy, had cut corners in safety procedures. The resulting reports are gruesome and indictments are still coming down for the highest echelon in a company that for a long time flagrantly disregarded the safety standards for coal mining.


Two weeks later, all eyes turned to the southeast of West Virginia when another explosion caused an oil rig to catch on fire and fall to the ground, exposing a deep well in the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana. On April 20, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill explosion killed eleven workers. For months, oil gushed out of the well unabated. Petroleum headed for the Gulf beaches. Within a few weeks, wildlife began appearing on the barrier islands covered and smothered in oil. The photos of birds immersed in a wet suit of petroleum played continuously on the news and horrified the world.

Even though I’d moved in Pittsburgh in April 2010, I was still working for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission as a public/media relations director until they found my replacement. The oil spill and the threat to Florida’s wildlife put my departure on hold for months. As I watched the news unfold about what caused the mine explosion from my home in Pittsburgh, I was fielding media calls, writing news releases, and pulling together facts sheets on oiled wildlife. By June, I was appointed to handle all the media during the sea turtle nest relocation project where 250 nests were dug up on the Panhandle beaches of Florida and eggs were transported to the Atlantic side of Florida for hatching and release. The project was unprecedented and received the attention of national and international media.

It didn’t take long for a culprit in the oil spill to have a name: BP. Once again, a large corporation sacrificed human and environmental safety in the pursuit of profit. My mind was churning and mulling over the connection between the two events.

In my spare time, I began writing a love story called In the Garden about two people reunited after a long separation. The subject began to have a life of its own. I wanted to write about my mother who died in 1998. Through various tidbits I’d gleaned over the years, I suspected that my mother gave birth when she was a teenager back in 1933 or ’34. I researched as best I could. I interviewed her only living sibling in 2011 and went through writings left by my mother and her father, my grandfather. My grandfather had been a miner in Cornwall until he came to the United States in 1900. When he arrived, he went to work in the copper mines in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan before giving his life to God and entering the ministry of the Methodist Church. Yes, my mother most likely became pregnant in a small Michigan town at the age of fifteen or sixteen, and she was the daughter of the Methodist minister. It scarred my mother for life, and in turn, it left its mark on her five children. I’ve spent my life recovering as I attempted to piece together my mother’s story.

With all of these events and life histories swirling in my head, I changed the course of my novel and renamed it Trails in the Sand. I wanted to write a book about how we destroy things and then attempt to recover and restore, if possible. It begins with a teenager on a beach watching a sea turtle lay a nest on St. George Island, Florida.

The chapters on the BP oil spill and the Upper Big Branch coal mine disaster are from actual news clips and press releases. I used a description from my grandfather’s journal to describe the early years of the patriarch in the story. My mother’s story is weaved into the story as well. The main character, Caroline Carlisle is an environmental writer who sets out to write about the sea turtle project.

That’s how my novel came to life. I wrote Trails in the Sand to show it’s never too late to restore and recover from tragedy, and it’s never too late to find love.

Trails in the Sand is available on Amazon Kindle and in paperback. It’s also available on Nook at Barnes and Noble.

sea turtle (loggerhead) hatchling (Photo by P. C. Zick, 2006)

sea turtle (loggerhead) hatchling (Photo by P. C. Zick, 2006)