Reality Informs Fiction: Trails in the Sand

3-D2

I published Trails in the Sand in 2013, three years after the disastrous oil spill after the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion. From the first moment I heard about the explosion nine years ago and through my job as a public relations director with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, I was glued to the news on the struggle to contain the tar balls and greasy water approaching the Panhandle beaches of Florida.

When not working at my day job, I was also starting a novel about a dysfunctional family struggling to change generations of heartbreak.  April 20, 2019 marks the nine year anniversary of this event. Each year on the anniversary, I offer a special on Trails in the Sand, normally priced at $5.99 on Kindle. April 21-28, 2019, the book may be downloaded for $0.99. Click here to grab your copy.

Four years ago, I wrote about the disaster and how the book Trails in the Sand was born. Here is that post to commemorate both the oil spill and Earth Day and to remind us all the importance and fragility of our natural world.

Published originally on April 20, 2015 – Five years ago today, the oil rig Deepwater Horizon caught on fire.  Even though the newscasters downplayed its significance at first, I felt a black cloud deepen. I’d just moved to southwestern Pennsylvania where news of the Upper Big Branch coal mine disaster a few hours away in West Virginia still dominated local news. Twenty-nine men died in that explosion on April 5, 2010, just ten days earlier.

We soon learned that BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico had blown its cap, which allowed gushing oil and killed eleven workers on the rig. As I’ve done for the past two decades, when something bothers me, I start to write. The result from my sorrow and unease with both disasters resulted in the novel, Trails in the Sand.  The novel serves as a reminder of two preventable disasters that occurred within two weeks of one another in 2010. Forty men died and countless wildlife and their habitats were injured or destroyed. Both events touched my life in some way and both made their way into the writing of Trails in the Sand.

When the Upper Big Branch coal mine in West Virginia exploded, twenty-nine miners, doing their job in the bowels of the earth, lost their lives. Subsequent reports showed the company ignored safety regulations, which played an important role in the explosion. At the time, I was in the process of moving from Florida to western Pennsylvania. The mine is located several hours from my new home, so the local media covered the disaster continually for the next few weeks. The national news also kept its eye turned toward a small town in West Virginia where families mourned their husbands, sons, fathers, brothers, and cousins. After April 20, the lens of the cameras shifted to the southwest.

The news began as a whimper before erupting into cries of outrage. An oil rig somewhere off the coast of Louisiana caught on fire on April 20, 2010. Soon the whole rig collapsed, and eleven men never made it out alive. Oil gushed from a well several miles below the Gulf’s surface.

As I made the transition to Pennsylvania, I still held my job in Florida, although I was in the process of leaving. I was a public relations director for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. I made the trip back and forth sixteen times in 2010. I conducted meetings from a cell phone in airports, highway rest areas, and at a dining room table from our small temporary apartment in Pittsburgh.

Every time I started to give my two-week notice to my supervisors, something happened, and my wildlife biologist bosses pleaded with me to stay. During a crisis, the spokesperson for a company or agency suddenly becomes a very important part of the team. Scientists become speechless when looking in the face of a microphone.

Nothing much happened in those early days of the oil spill for the wildlife community, although as a communications specialist I prepared for worst-case scenarios, while hoping for the best. Partnerships between national and state agencies formed to manage information flowing to the media. By May, some of the sea turtle experts began worrying about the nesting turtles on Florida’s Panhandle beaches, right where the still gushing oil might land. In particular, the scientists worried that approximately 50,000 hatchlings might be walking into oil-infested waters if allowed to enter the Gulf of Mexico after hatching from the nests on the Gulf beaches.

seaturtle4An extraordinary and unprecedented plan became reality, and as the scientists wrote the protocols, the plan was “in direct response to an unprecedented human-caused disaster.”

When the nests neared the end the incubation period, plans were made to dig up the nests and transport the eggs across the state to Cape Canaveral, where they would be stored until the hatchlings emerged from the eggs. Then they would receive a royal walk to the sea away from the oil-drenched waters of the Gulf.

aptopix-gulf-oil-spill-1fee0422a0df6673The whole project reeked with the scent of drama, ripe for the media to descend on Florida for reports to a public hooked on the images of oiled wildlife. Since I was in transition in my job, they appointed me to handle all media requests that came to the national and state agencies regarding the plan. From my new office in Raccoon Township, Beaver County, Pennsylvania, I began coordinating media events and setting up interviews with the biologists.

As the project began in June 2010, I began writing Trails in the Sand. At first, I created the characters and their situations. Then slowly I began writing about the oil crisis and made the main character, Caroline, an environmental reporter who covered the sea turtle relocation project. Then suddenly I was writing about her husband, Simon, who mourned the loss of his cousin in the coal mine disaster in West Virginia. I didn’t make a conscious effort to tie together the environmental theme with the family saga unfolding, but before too long, I realized they all dealt with restoration and redemption of things destroyed. As a result, the oil spill and the sea turtles became a metaphor for the destruction caused by Caroline and her family.

I’m a firm believer in the subject choosing the author. When that happens, it’s best to let the muse lead me to the keyboard and allow the words to find their way to the story. Trails in the Sand stands as my testament to the process.

3-D1Trails in the Sand synopsis

When environmental writer Caroline Carlisle sets off to report on endangered sea turtles during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the last thing she expects is to uncover secrets – secrets that threaten to destroy her family, unless she can heal the hurts from a lifetime of lies. To make matters worse, Caroline’s love for her late sister’s husband, Simon, creates an uproar in a southern family already set on a collision course with its past.

Using real-life events as the backdrop, Trails in the Sand explores the fight to restore balance and peace, in nature and in a family, as both spiral toward disaster. Through it all, the ancient sea turtle serves a reminder that life moves forward despite the best efforts to destroy it.

April 21-28 – Only $0.99

 

 

 

DOWNLOAD FLORIDA FICTION SERIES FOR $0.99 CENTS THIS WEEK

Click here to download

Click here to download

ffs_boxset_final

 

Three novels in one package, these novels represent my love for Florida in all its crazy and complicated glory.

Here’s a review from author Uvi Poznansky that I treasure. I love it when others call me a storyteller. That’s my job, but it’s always nice to be recognized as such by someone else.

Review:  PC Zick is a unique storyteller. Her female protagonists are energetic fighters, tackling conflicts within their families and society. Their thoughts reflect what’s in her heart: a caring for a place (hence the name of the series, Florida fiction), a sense of awe when history is unraveled, and a deep passion for a cause, all of which propel them through the twists and turns of the plot, seeking a way to arrive at resolution. Writing in bursts of dialogue, and in short chapters that often alternate in time, she takes it upon herself to weave together political and social strands with familial ones, to create a rich, complex tapestry as the backdrop for her stories. That is why they ring true in the deepest sense of the word. Her dedication on the opening page of Tortoise Stew says it all: “For all the underdogs who fight for justice because it’s the right thing to do.”

In the first novel, Native Lands, the story alternates between two time frames: 1760, where we meet Locka—son of a native tribe in Florida, who suffers the loss of his wife and finds himself attracted to the beautiful Mali—and the present, where we meet Emily Booth, the mother of a difficult teen and the wife of a political candidate Daniel, and the columnist Barbara Evans, who writes about environmental issues. In both time frames, the author bases her writing on in-depth research to create detailed, convincing realities in a manner that highlights the contrasts between past and present.

3-D1Set on Florida’s panhandle and the east coast near St. Augustine, the second novel, Trails in the Sand, presents Caroline, a woman faced with challenges on two levels: her family and her environment. On the family level, she uncovers family secrets–murder, incest, and pregnancies—secrets that went unspoken for as long as three generations back. Going forward, these secrets threaten to unsettle the shaky balance between her, her husband, and his daughter, as they struggle to reach for each other and find forgiveness. On the environment level, they must pull their efforts together, to rescue sea turtles that are threatened by extinction due to environmental hazards brought on by society. In Zick’s writing, the family and environment issue are interconnected: the night scene on a beach near Cape Canaveral, when the sea turtle hatchlings make their way to the sea, is moving on both levels at once. It left trails in the sand, in a direction which for me, evoked hope for a future founded on understanding and acceptance.

TORTISE_webThe third novel, Tortoise Stew, explores further this notion of trying to reach understanding and acceptance even in the face of differences. “If we’re all shouting, who’s listening?” It presents Kelly Sands, a reporter investigating politically explosive environmental issues in the town of Calloway. The story opens with her staring at a bomb meant to scare her away from her investigation. Armadillos and gopher tortoise fall victim to an all out warfare surrounding the development of Florida, while a commissioner is murdered and his wife commits suicide. In this atmosphere of ruthlessness, how can cooler minds prevail, to form a sane solution?

Taken together, these three novels showcase Zick’s gift as a master weaver. They are smartly constructed, rich with detail, and offer both enlightenment and delight.

Click here to grab your copy.

 

 

Reality Creeps Into Fiction – #DeepwaterHorizon

seaturtle7

Oil spread to the beaches where sea turtle hatchlings would soon make their way into the oil-laden waters in 2010.

 

Five years ago today, the oil rig Deepwater Horizon caught on fire.  Even though the newscasters downplayed its significance that morning, I felt a black cloud deepen. I’d just moved to southwestern Pennsylvania where news of the Upper Big Branch coal mine disaster a few hours away in West Virginia still dominated local news. Twenty-nine men died in that explosion on April 5.

We soon learned that BP’s project in the Gulf of Project gushed uncappable oil and eleven men lost their lives. As I’ve done for the past two decades, when something bothers me, I start to write. The result from my sorrow and unease with both disasters resulted in the novel, Trails in the Sand.  The novel serves as a reminder of two preventable disasters that occurred within two weeks of one another in 2010. Forty men died and countless wildlife and their habitats were injured or destroyed. Both events touched my life in some way and both made their way into the writing of Trails in the Sand.

When the Upper Big Branch coal mine in West Virginia exploded, twenty-nine miners, doing their job in the bowels of the earth, lost their lives. Subsequent reports showed the company ignored safety regulations, which played an important role in the explosion. At the time, I was in the process of moving from Florida to western Pennsylvania. The mine is located several hours from my new home, so the local media covered the disaster continually for the next few weeks. The national news also kept its eye turned toward a small town in West Virginia where families mourned their husbands, sons, fathers, brothers, and cousins. After April 20, the lens of the cameras shifted to the southwest.

The news began as a whimper before erupting into cries of outrage. An oil rig somewhere off the coast of Louisiana caught on fire on April 20, 2010. Soon the whole rig collapsed, and eleven men never made it out alive. Oil gushed from a well several miles below the Gulf’s surface.

As I made the transition to Pennsylvania, I still held my job in Florida, although I was in the process of leaving. I was a public relations director for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. I made the trip back and forth sixteen times in 2010. I conducted meetings from a cell phone in airports, highway rest areas, and at a dining room table from our small temporary apartment in Pittsburgh.

Every time I started to give my two-week notice to my supervisors, something happened, and my wildlife biologist bosses pleaded with me to stay. During a crisis, the spokesperson for a company or agency suddenly becomes a very important part of the team. Scientists become speechless when looking in the face of a microphone.

Nothing much happened in those early days of the oil spill for the wildlife community, although as a communications specialist I prepared for worst-case scenarios, while hoping for the best. Partnerships between national and state agencies formed to manage information flowing to the media. By May, some of the sea turtle experts began worrying about the nesting turtles on Florida’s Panhandle beaches, right where the still gushing oil might land. In particular, the scientists worried that approximately 50,000 hatchlings might be walking into oil-infested waters if allowed to enter the Gulf of Mexico after hatching from the nests on the Gulf beaches.

seaturtle4An extraordinary and unprecedented plan became reality, and as the scientists wrote the protocols, the plan was “in direct response to an unprecedented human-caused disaster.”

When the nests neared the end the incubation period, plans were made to dig up the nests and transport the eggs across the state to Cape Canaveral, where they would be stored until the hatchlings emerged from the eggs. Then they would receive a royal walk to the sea away from the oil-drenched waters of the Gulf.

aptopix-gulf-oil-spill-1fee0422a0df6673The whole project reeked with the scent of drama, ripe for the media to descend on Florida for reports to a public hooked on the images of oiled wildlife. Since I was in transition in my job, they appointed me to handle all media requests that came to the national and state agencies regarding the plan. From my new office in Raccoon Township, Beaver County, Pennsylvania, I began coordinating media events and setting up interviews with the biologists.

As the project began in June 2010, I began writing Trails in the Sand. At first, I created the characters and their situations. Then slowly I began writing about the oil crisis and made the main character, Caroline, an environmental reporter who covered the sea turtle relocation project. Then suddenly I was writing about her husband, Simon, who mourned the loss of his cousin in the coal mine disaster in West Virginia. I didn’t make a conscious effort to tie together the environmental theme with the family saga unfolding, but before too long, I realized they all dealt with restoration and redemption of things destroyed. As a result, the oil spill and the sea turtles became a metaphor for the destruction caused by Caroline and her family.

I’m a firm believer in the subject choosing the author. When that happens, it’s best to let the muse lead me to the keyboard and let it the words find their way to the story. Trails in the Sand stands as my testament to the process.

3-D1Trails in the Sand synopsis

When environmental writer Caroline Carlisle sets off to report on endangered sea turtles during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the last thing she expects is to uncover secrets – secrets that threaten to destroy her family, unless she can heal the hurts from a lifetime of lies. To make matters worse, Caroline’s love for her late sister’s husband, Simon, creates an uproar in a southern family already set on a collision course with its past.

Using real-life events as the backdrop, Trails in the Sand explores the fight to restore balance and peace, in nature and in a family, as both spiral toward disaster. Through it all, the ancient sea turtle serves a reminder that life moves forward despite the best efforts to destroy it.

3-D2

 

 

Florida Fiction Series – New Review

ffs_boxset_final I’d like to share with you a recent review from my Florida Fiction Series. I love it when others call me a storyteller. That’s my job, but it’s always nice to be recognized as such by someone else. It’s been a discouraging year where my book sales are concerned, but for some reason, I continue to write. And I continue to tell stories. I don’t know if my friends and family tire of it, but if they do they’re too polite to tell me. So for now, I’ll let someone else tell the story for me. From author Uvi Poznansky, here’s a review for three novels all created with the intention of telling the reader a great story.

PC Zick is a unique storyteller. Her female protagonists are energetic fighters, tackling conflicts within their families and society. Their thoughts reflect what’s in her heart: a caring for a place (hence the name of the series, Florida fiction), a sense of awe when history is unraveled, and a deep passion for a cause, all of which propel them through the twists and turns of the plot, seeking a way to arrive at resolution. Writing in bursts of dialogue, and in short chapters that often alternate in time, she takes it upon herself to weave together political and social strands with familial ones, to create a rich, complex tapestry as the backdrop for her stories. That is why they ring true in the deepest sense of the word. Her dedication on the opening page of Tortoise Stew says it all: “For all the underdogs who fight for justice because it’s the right thing to do.”

In the first novel, Native Lands, the story alternates between two time frames: 1760, where we meet Locka—son of a native tribe in Florida, who suffers the loss of his wife and finds himself attracted to the beautiful Mali—and the present, where we meet Emily Booth, the mother of a difficult teen and the wife of a political candidate Daniel, and the columnist Barbara Evans, who writes about environmental issues. In both time frames, the author bases her writing on in-depth research to create detailed, convincing realities in a manner that highlights the contrasts between past and present.

3-D1Set on Florida’s panhandle and the east coast near St. Augustine, the second novel, Trails in the Sand, presents Caroline, a woman faced with challenges on two levels: her family and her environment. On the family level, she uncovers family secrets–murder, incest, and pregnancies—secrets that went unspoken for as long as three generations back. Going forward, these secrets threaten to unsettle the shaky balance between her, her husband, and his daughter, as they struggle to reach for each other and find forgiveness. On the environment level, they must pull their efforts together, to rescue sea turtles that are threatened by extinction due to environmental hazards brought on by society. In Zick’s writing, the family and environment issue are interconnected: the night scene on a beach near Cape Canaveral, when the sea turtle hatchlings make their way to the sea, is moving on both levels at once. It left trails in the sand, in a direction which for me, evoked hope for a future founded on understanding and acceptance.

TORTISE_webThe third novel, Tortoise Stew, explores further this notion of trying to reach understanding and acceptance even in the face of differences. “If we’re all shouting, who’s listening?” It presents Kelly Sands, a reporter investigating politically explosive environmental issues in the town of Calloway. The story opens with her staring at a bomb meant to scare her away from her investigation. Armadillos and gopher tortoise fall victim to an all out warfare surrounding the development of Florida, while a commissioner is murdered and his wife commits suicide. In this atmosphere of ruthlessness, how can cooler minds prevail, to form a sane solution?

Taken together, these three novels showcase Zick’s gift as a master weaver. They are smartly constructed, rich with detail, and offer both enlightenment and delight.

Click here to grab your copy.

I hope you’re staying safe and warm on this treacherous weekend here in Pennsylvania. It’s a good chance to stay inside and read. Here’s two other box sets that might interest you. Heroes to Swoon For is available for $.99 cents and At Odds with Destiny is available to pre-order also for $.99 cents. Release date set for March 3.

Click cover to pre-order

47a53-heroes2bto2bswoon2bfor_3d_medium

Trails in the Sand – Indie Book Award

ibdbadgeI woke this morning thinking today would be a day filled with nice things. I can’t say why I felt this way, but I did. A few minutes ago one of the many nice things happening today appeared in my inbox.

Royal Certificates

Sometimes when we just keep plodding along despite our feelings of failure and inadequacy, life will boost us back up and show us that we really are on the right path.

I’ve had a few weeks of feeling as if I wasn’t getting anywhere as an author. Whenever I felt most discouraged, I kept writing and I kept promoting my current works.

This award is just for a day, but the good it does to my heart, mind, and attitude will last far longer.

Check out the feature on Trails in the Sand: http://indiebookoftheday.com/trails-in-the-sand-by-p-c-zick/

Let this be a lesson for those of you out there pursuing your passion. Keep going and find the rewards for your work in the small satisfactions that sometimes come in small packages to fill the well of creativity.

3-D1

Click on cover to purchase on Amazon

 

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.

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)

 

My Interview with Jennifer Donohoe

Goodreads GiveawayNow - Feb. 28

Goodreads Giveaway
Now – Feb. 28

Jennifer Donohoe is a fellow author and blogger (A World of Writing). She does a wonderful job of also promoting her colleagues. Yesterday, she posted a summary of my new novel, Trails in the Sand, along with the first chapter. Originally, she intended to post an interview with me for her Wednesday evening author interview post, but she misplaced the interview. When I located the questions and answers, I decided not to let them go to waste.

Interview with Jennifer Donohoe

P. C. Zick – Trails in the Sand

 What has been your greatest moment as a writer?

The greatest moment came when I held my first published book in my hands. That happened in 2000 when a small publisher picked up my first novel, A Victorian Justice. In the aftermath of that moment, I could finally say without hesitation or embarrassment, “I’m a writer.” Now I go further and say, “I’m an author.”

 What has been your worst moment as a writer?

The day I received my first one-star review on Amazon for my novel, Live from the Road, was probably my worst day as a writer. I’d been writing and publishing novels for twelve years and had received my share of reviews. Not everyone liked what I wrote, but the majority who took the time to review did. This reviewer hadn’t even finished the book and made comments that weren’t true. For a couple of days, I hung my head and questioned my life as an author. Then I realized this was just one person who decided to write a mean review, and it should not overshadow the good comments I’ve received. But most of all, I do believe in what I write whether anyone else does or not. That is the most important thing to remember as a writer. Believe in yourself, and the rest will fall into place.

 Do you write your stories from personal experiences or another source and why?

I write from both perspectives. All of my novels have some seed from my real life, but then I expand and pull in other sources, such as characters and settings. I don’t write autobiographical novels, which is an oxymoron. But I do use my real-life situations because I usually want to take what I’ve learned and share it with my readers. Also, just listening to the news and reading the newspaper gives me fodder for scenes. When I was a journalist, I kept track of a host of situations and people which occasionally made their way into my novels. There’s a wealth of stories wherever I turn.

What do you want readers to know about your book?

Trails in the Sand is about redemption and restoration. I use the environment as the backdrop to help stress the theme. As the main character, Caroline, explores the mysteries, secrets, and lies of several generations in her family, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill gushes toward the beaches of Florida, threatening the sea turtle nests. Caroline’s husband, Simon, is mourning the death of his best friend and cousin in the Upper Big Branch coal mine disaster in West Virginia that killed twenty-nine miners weeks before the oil spill. Caroline is fighting to restore her family and find redemption in the process as she writes about the environmental stories in which folks are fighting to restore the environment and save the sea turtles from extinction. I want readers to walk away after reading Trails in the Sand knowing it’s never too late to restore peace and find love.

What do you believe will appeal to readers about your book?

The environmental themes will appeal to readers. I use real news releases and news stories in between the love story of Caroline and Simon. In addition, the unraveling of the family’s secrets and deceptions from generations past will keep the reader turning the page. The story involves a race to save the sea turtles and to rescue a family from destruction.

 

 

The Next Big Thing Blog Hop

blog-hop-the-next-big-thing

By Patricia Zick @PCZick

Author Lynn Thompson http://www.lynnthompsonbooks.com asked if I’d participate in the Next Big Thing Blog Hop! Since I launched my Next Big Thing Novel (Trails in the Sand) yesterday, January 30, it seemed quite appropriate to participate in my second blog hop. This blog hop requires me to answer ten questions about my new work and then tag other authors to do the same. Not only does it give me the opportunity to promote my new book, but I have the opportunity to support and promote my fellow authors as well. It’s a winning combination.

Ten Questions about Trails in the Sand

Was Trails in the Sand always the title of this book, even when it was a work in progress?

No, it was originally titled In the Garden. Even though the garden is a part of the book, it didn’t really address the whole concept. When I sent it out to my first readers during the first draft round, I kept thinking about the title and knew I had to change it. At first, I wanted Tracks in the Sand to be the title, but when I did a search on Amazon, I came up with dozens of other titles very similar to that one. Trails fit better, and I didn’t find any other books with that title.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

I was embroiled in the real-life drama as a public relations director for Florida’s fish and wildlife agency. I handled the media for the sea turtle nest relocation project that took place during the summer of 2010. At the same time, I was beginning a new relationship with a lost love from thirty-five years ago and was in the process of moving to Pittsburgh. Two weeks prior to the oil spill, twenty-nine miners were killed in a coal mine explosion in West Virginia, just a few hours from where I was moving. It all fell into place to write about the oil spill and coal mine disaster and our quest for profit and fossil fuels at any cost as the backdrop to the love story unfolding as the reunited couple face obstacles that threaten to topple their new marriage.

What genre is your book?

Trails in the Sand is contemporary literature. I want to create a new genre for environmental fiction, but so far, I’m not having success with that.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Ashley Judd would be exceptional as main character Caroline Carlisle, with Woody Harrelson as Caroline’s husband Simon. Susan Sarandon would make a perfect Gladdy Stokley Carlisle, the damaged southern belle and mother to Caroline.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

As environmental writer Caroline Carlisle reports on endangered sea turtles during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, she uncovers secrets about the past threatening to destroy her family unless she can heal the hurts after a lifetime of lies.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I went the traditional route for my first three novels. I self-published for the first time in May 2012 (Live from the Road) with modest success, so Trails in the Sand is also self-published. However, both books have gone through several beta readers, a copy editor, and a professional editor before publication.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

It took me six months or so; it’s hard to say because I do a great amount of research during the first draft stage, and I write scenes as they come to me, and then worry about placement later. With that said, it could have taken almost a year before I felt it was ready for first read by beta readers.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Before I began writing this book, I reread Pat Conroy’s Beach Music. While I do not put myself in his category of writing excellence (yet), my themes are similar. We both explore nature and crazy families who’ve done their share of damage to those who come later.

What inspired you to write this book?

As I learned more and more about the two tragedies that occurred in April 2010 – the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and the Upper Big Branch mine explosion – I became increasingly concerned with the lack of following safety procedures in both cases. Both disasters could have been prevented. In total, forty lives were lost. In addition, my personal life fluctuated between extreme highs and extreme lows during this time. And again most of that could have been prevented. In all of these cases, I kept wondering if restoration and peace would ever be possible after something is destroyed, so I decided to explore that concept both in the environment and in human relationships.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

I hope readers will enjoy the story of one family as Caroline explores the past of her grandfather and mother. There’s touching moments as well as hilarious moments as one southern family fights to hide the past. As a reporter, Caroline can’t let it go. I also think readers will enjoy the race against time as wildlife officials fight to save hundreds of sea turtle nests from destruction as the oil heads for Florida’s Panhandle beaches.

Author Links

Here are five talented authors I’m tagging as the blog hop continues. Make sure you stop by their blogs and get to know these talented individuals.

Jerry Hatchett

Website:  http://www.jerryhatchett.com

Blog:  Storyfreak – http://jerryhatchett.blogspot.com

Pawnbroker Website:  http://www.pawnbrokernovel.com

Facebook Fan Page:  http://www.facebook.com/JerryHatcherAuthor

Twitter:  http://www.twitter.com/Chop0Matic

Inez Reilly

Website:  http://iamsproperty.org

Blog:  http://inezreilly.blogspot.com/

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/inez.reilly

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/IAMSPROPERTY

Author Central:  https://www.amazon.com/author/inezreilly
About Me page:  https://about.me/inez.reilly

Elise K. Ackers

Website:  www.elisekackers.net

Blog:  http://elisekackersthewritefrequency.blogspot.com.au/

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/EliseKAckers

Facebook:  www.facebook.com/pages/EliseKAckers/145929782088997

Harriet Cammock

Website: www.harrietcammock.org

Blog:  http://www.harrietcammock.blogspot.com

Twitter:  www.twitter.com/HarrietCammock

Facebook:  www.Facebook.com/harriet.cammock

Radio Blog:  www.blogtalkradio.com/the-harriet-cammock-show

 

Ferris Robinson

Blog:  http://easingintomyfifties.wordpress.com/dogs-and-love-ebook/

Amazon website:  http://www.amazon.com/Dogs-Love-Stories-Fidelity-ebook/dp/B00B3NUDHS

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/#!/DogsAndLove?fref=ts

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/fkrobinson

 

I’d like to thank, Lynn Thompson, for tagging me and asking me to participate. Please take a moment to visit Lynn’s sites.

Lynn Thompson

Website: http://www.lynnthompsonbooks.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/#!/lynnthompsonbooks

Blog: http://lynnthompsonbooks.blogspot.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/lynnthompson8

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5625793.Lynn_Thompson

A Second Look at the First Chapter

By Patricia Zick @PCZick

One of my fellow bloggers at eternal Domination  gave me this idea for a first “look” at my current work. His post Kool Challenge: Look Back at Look gave credit to the blog Read Tom Lucas for this idea.

I decided to follow and do the same thing, and I hope other writers will accept the challenge as well.

  1. Find the first use of the word “look” in your manuscript and post the surrounding couple of paragraphs as a first “look” into your work. I decided to go to my second chapter since I’d already posted the first “look” in Trails in the Sand when I posted the prologue. This first look is in the first chapter of the book so I’m going to say it qualifies.
  2. Answer the question: What makes you excited for this story?

I’ll start with answering the question first. I love the characters, even the not-so-nice variety because even they have their reasons. I love the theme of redemption and recovery I’ve woven throughout the book. And I love using a “real” event – Deepwater Horizon oil spill and the sea turtle nest relocation project – with fictional characters. I am passionate about saving the wildlife and about saving the family I created within the pages of the book. As I go through yet another round of revision (third), I find myself deepening into the characters even more. That’s a good thing.

So here’s my second “look” in the first chapter of Trails in the Sand.

 Trails in the Sand by P. C. Zick, excerpt

The next morning the whir of the coffee grinder woke me as Simon churned beans into grounds for our daily ritual downstairs in the kitchen. I savored that first sip of coffee every morning. Simon used only the darkest roast with an oily sheen. Every morning he brought me a steaming mug of the brew along with the morning papers. If my eyes weren’t open when he came into the room, he bent down and gently kissed me on the forehead.

“Good morning, baby,” he’d say, and I’d look up into his smiling face, his blue eyes twinkling a greeting. His eyes mirrored my own blue eyes. At one time, we both had blonde hair, but now with age, Simon’s had turned white while mine remained the same color of our youth, thanks to L’Oreal.

As I sipped the aromatic brew, I glanced at the morning’s headlines before the television and George Stephanopoulos diverted my attention.

It was only a blip on the charts of the day’s news stories. I would have missed mention of it if I’d gone to the bathroom when George said an oil rig had caught on fire in the Gulf of Mexico the night before. On the morning of April 21, 2010, other news took precedence over this minor incident occurring miles off the coast of Louisiana.

How about you, fellow authors? What’s your first (or second) “look?”