FLORIDA FICTION – GRAB A COPY FOR #FREE!

Good morning – I’m running a special offer this week. If you haven’t read any of the books from my Florida Fiction series, now is the chance to grab the first two for free. All three books are stand alone novels. Each one has its own cast of characters and political, romantic, and environmental issues facing them. Let’s start with the first one.

TORTpsdTortoise Stew – FREE May 11-15 – The first book in the series follows the antics of rural small town Florida politicians, developers, reporters, and environmentalists. All of them have something to hide and the events that start unfold as Monster Mart tries to take over the town with trucks and warehouses.

Blurb:  When a bomb is left on reporter Kelly Sand’s desk, she’s determined to find out who wants her to stop reporting on corporate growth in rural Florida. The open threat thrusts Kelly back into the arms of her editor and former lover, Bart Stanley.

Together, the two begin to unravel the master plan of major developers who want to destroy the last vestiges of Florida’s natural beauty. Tortoise Stew is a satire on political crime and Florida sensibilities.

A sometimes humorous, often harrowing, and never boring Florida suspense novel, Tortoise Stew contains a cast of characters who leave dead armadillos as calling cards, dynamite ponds as a way to fish, and carry guns under Santa Claus costumes during the annual Christmas parade.

Through it all, the steamy relationship between Kelly and Bart heats up to blistering hot as they rediscover what brought them together in the first place.

Click here to download.

Trails in the Sand - BookcoverTrails in the Sand – FREE May 11 and 12 – This book leaves rural Florida to concentrate on state issues when the oil spill from BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig threatens to harm the wildlife and environment on Florida’s Panhandle. While a sweeping romance between Caroline and Simon reveals much more about the family, environmental issues create the disastrous background from the oil spill to a coal mine tragedy in West Virginia.

Blurb: Caroline Carlisle loved Simon from the moment she first laid eyes on him when she was nine years old. Unfortunately, he married her older sister, and thus set a southern family on a collision course with its past. After the death of her sister that makes Simon a widow, the two finally marry and attempt to make a family with Simon’s daughter Jodi. Jodi has other ideas, and they don’t include welcoming a new step-mother who also happens to be her aunt.

As Caroline starts to report on the oil spill threatening the sea turtles on Florida’s Panhandle beaches, she begins to uncover the secret of her own mother’s past, which includes her brother’s suicide and a teenage pregnancy. With Caroline’s sharpened reporter skills, she digs until she brings all the secrets to light, including her own.

Click here to download.

NATIVE_WEBNative Lands – $2.99 Kindle – The final book in this series widens its scope to the whole state from St. Augustine and the Everglades and beyond. It also goes back in time to the original native Floridians who are also fighting the invasion of their world.

Blurb: When their environment is torn apart by a conglomerate of international interests, a tribe of native Floridians thought to be extinct rise up and form their own oddly matched conglomerate, and with the assistance of nature, attempt to halt the destruction of the natural world they treasure. Cultural boundaries established centuries ago are erased as love and nature seek the balance lost in the battle for power and control of the last of the Florida frontier. Native Lands is a novel rich in intrigue and history as a tribe of Native Americans, thought to be extinct, fight to save their beloved heritage. They join with others willing to sacrifice everything to save the Everglades and St. Augustine.

Click here to download.

There you have it! The three books in my Florida Fiction series. I’m also thrilled to announce that all three books are now available on Audible, narrated by the talented Jeffrey A. Hering of Hering Voices.

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Tortoise Stew

Trails in the Sand

Native Lands

 

Native Lands – New Release

NEW RELEASE – FLORIDA FICTION SERIESIt’s an exciting day for me–one eight years in the making. Native Lands is now a reality. It went from Connecting the Dots in its original form in 2006 when I participated in a Novel in a Month group. My month stretched out into 100 months, but I did take a break from it in 2007 and didn’t return to it until earlier this year when I retitled it Safe Harbors, but there are many books with that phrase in the title. Since the book is about Native Americans–the Timucuans of north Florida–I decided to go with Native Lands because it encompasses the themes of the novel. I hope you’ll read about the book and perhaps even decide to read it! Enter the Giveaway below for the first two books in the Florida Fiction Series. Native Lands is the third and final(?) book.

Today is also my husband’s 65th birthday. Happy birthday to my young and vibrant Robert. May you forever plant our seeds in the fertile soil of our garden.

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Native Lands is a gripping and entertaining thriller with depth, wonderful characters and well-planted
parallels between the two engaging narratives. There is a beautiful and warm feel of Native Lands and an excellent and uplifting moral that won’t lecture or patronize. A truly great read.

Christoph Fischer, Author

Native Lands is a novel rich in intrigue and history as a tribe of Native Americans, thought to
be extinct, fight to save their beloved heritage. They join with others willing
to sacrifice everything to save further destruction of the Everglades and St.
Augustine.

Forbidden loves, deceptions, and murder threaten to destroy
nature and families in a saga stretching from the 1760s to the present day.

Join Locka and Mali as they lead their tribe of Timucuans
away from the Spanish near St. Augustine in 1760 and settle into a new life in
the Everglades alongside the Calusa Indians. Their progeny grow up in the
Everglades, attempting to keep their bloodlines pure.

By 2010, Mangrove Mike, Joey Cosmos, and Rob Zodiac live
among the white people and learn that the human connection transcends the fear
of extinction of their people. Barbara Evans in the Everglades and Emily Booth
in St. Augustine are the glue as the different cultures combine forces to fight
a conglomerate of international interests.

It’s a dangerous journey as this oddly matched group attempts
to halt the destruction of the natural world they treasure. Cultural boundaries
established centuries ago are erased as love and nature seek the balance lost
during the battle for power and control of the last of the Florida frontier.

 

Excerpt:

Barbara Evans sat in the living room of her house on the western edge of Chokoloskee Island, leafing through past issues of Sierra magazine, searching for an idea for her next column. She listened to the news from the television, only looking up when the local weather presented NOAA’s prediction for an active hurricane season. Then the newscaster began a report that caused Barbara to put down the magazine and devote her full attention to the screen.

“Yesterday, wood storks in Big Cypress Wildlife Management Area attacked a young boy as his mother shot this video of the assault,” the announcer said.

Barbara watched as a boy, approximately ten years old, was crying as a wood stork’s beak poked at the Mickey Mouse portrait stamped on the front of his T-shirt. Another stork approached and began nudging the foam snout of the alligator hat on the boy’s head. A man ran into the frame of the video, yelling and scaring off the wood storks as the boy howled.

“Officers from Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Commission are handling the situation. Here to talk with us is the agency’s spokesperson, Larry Castle. Larry, what’s your agency doing to make sure the tourists are safe in the Everglades?”

“Along with the National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, we’re asking residents and visitors to our great state to keep their distance from wildlife,” Larry said, wearing a green shirt and hat with the logo from the state’s fish and wildlife agency. “They shouldn’t feed wildlife or make any attempts to capture or touch them.”

“The parents say the wood storks just came up and attacked their child,” the newscaster said.

“Wildlife usually keeps to itself unless tempted by food. We’re investigating, but the safest thing anyone can do is to enjoy wildlife from a distance with a zoom lens on the camera.

“Thank you, Larry. The family told us they are cutting short their vacation because of this unwarranted aviary violence. Governor Rick Scott offered the family a week’s stay in Miami to make up for the attack, but the family declined the offer.”

“My son may never get over this attack.” The mother, wearing a white visor with a Minnie Mouse label on the front, appeared on the screen. “His favorite hat is now in shreds in the swamp. It has been one horrible experience.”

The newscaster came back on the screen. “The video of the attack was recorded by the mother on her cell phone.”

Barbara ran her fingers through her short curly red hair, and with the other hand reached for her phone to call Stan Hogan, her editor at The Miami Herald.

“Stan, I’ve got to write the story about the wood stork attacking the family at Big Cypress,” Barbara said. “You’ve got to let me do it.”

“If I let you write the article, it’s off limits for your column,” Stan said. “You write an objective piece, but no editorializing. Agreed?”

“Then I can write a column about it in a few weeks.”

“No. You’ve been hired as a columnist. If you want to go back to reporting, then we’ll start you on covering the commission meetings in the communities around Lake Okeechobee.”

“Come on, Stan. You know I can write a good piece. I don’t know why you won’t let me.”

“That’s my final say on the subject. You write your column or you start working the Glades County beat.”

“All right, all right.” Barbara knew being assigned the rural beat near the shores of Lake Okeechobee amounted to a death sentence for a writer. “The column is better because I can ask, ‘why the hell was the mother recording the attack instead of protecting her child?’ The kid deserved getting attacked just for wearing that stupid alligator hat. Tell them to pull the column I wrote for this week. I’ll have the new one to you later this afternoon.”

“No ‘those tourists deserved it’ crap. You got me into a load of trouble with that last piece about the pigeons and doves at that wedding in Disney World. One of the copy editors should have caught the line ‘anyone who chooses to get married in the land of Mickey Mouse deserves dead doves floating down during the vows.’”

“I can’t help it if nature keeps biting back,” Barbara said. “Just be sure they pull my old column.”

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Natives Lands – Chapter One

TimucuanWhen the Spanish landed near St. Augustine, Florida, in the sixteenth century, the Timucua (Spanish named them; the Timucua near St.Augustine called their village Seloy) occupied several hundred villages in one-third of Florida. Most historians agree they lived from St. Augustine to west of Tallahassee, and south to Tampa Bay. Much of what we do know about this group of Native Americans comes from Fr. Francisco Pareja, a Franciscan priest who served at a mission north of Jacksonville. Some estimates put the Timucua population at 100,000 in 1500 A.D., according to Florida’s First People by Robin Brown. (Click here to read previous post on the Timucua.)

However, by “1800 A.D. all aboriginal Floridians were gone,” Brown states.

I’ve never bought it. How does an entire population of people disappear completely? They must have realized at some point, they weren’t going to survive the Spanish invasion into their lands, so I imagine them banding together and escaping to the Everglades. That’s what the Seminoles (Creeks) did when they found the Spanish would not tolerate their presence in north and central Florida in the 1800s. The Seminoles fled to the Everglades. The white man couldn’t survive the harsh conditions nature provided in the Everglades. But the people who lived in balance with nature and respected its power and beauty could. My new novel, Native Lands, explores the possibility that the Timucua didn’t become extinct but simply went into exile.

The novel’s first draft is complete and ready for its first read by my beta pals. Even though the majority of the novel is set in contemporary Florida, there are flashbacks two hundreds years to Locka and the Seloy living near St. Augustine. Here’s a peek at the first chapter (in draft form). I would love to hear your comments and/or suggestions.

Native Lands

By P.C. Zick

Chapter One
1760 – near St. Augustine, Florida

Locka wiped the blood off his spear with his blood-stained fingers.

Their blood is the same color as mine, he thought. A chill descended over him, despite the heat of the morning air from the sun rising over the ocean to the east.

He looked down at the body of the man he’d stabbed through the heart.

“Go back to the village now,” he said to Mali who stood nearby holding the moss the Spanish soldier had ripped from around her neck and from her waist. “Stay to the river banks.”

Only a few minutes earlier, the day held bright promises as Locka left his village tucked into a grove of live oaks dripping in gray moss. He walked through the marsh, careful to step between the sharp reeds, as he headed east to the estuary. Rich with a variety of landscapes, the area was a great provider of food for his tribe, the Seloy. Locka headed for the estuary where the tide would soon be high. Locka wanted to reach the nets he’d laid the night before while it was still low tide. When the water returned, it would empty any of the mullet or snook that had swum into his nets.

He noticed Mali walking parallel to the marsh carrying a large basket. Locka knew that she was probably headed to the blackberry bushes between the tree line and marshes.

Locka watched her graceful movements as she carried the basket on her hip just above the line of her moss skirt. More moss, entwined with small shells and pearls, hung around her neck. It swung from side to side revealing her firm and full breasts not yet turned soft from nursing a child. He knew soon Mali would be married to one of his young warriors although he knew she wasn’t yet promised to anyone.

He wanted to turn away from watching her, but he couldn’t. Her straight black hair swung down her back, and soon, as the summer heat intensified, she’d wear it up in a knot to keep her neck cooler. Her almond-shaped brown eyes and her ample body made him feel the risings of something he hadn’t felt in a very long time. Locka found himself reluctantly and frequently mesmerized by her. She reminded him of his wife Suri before she gave birth to their son Olio. When Mali turned and saw him staring at her, he quickly turned away, missing her wave and smile. Even though his wife vanished five years ago after a raid on their village, he still ached for her and kept himself away from the young maidens of the village who were more than willing to take the handsome and brave Locka as their husband.

When he turned back around, he saw Mali nearing the bushes laden with blackberries. He also saw a white man, wearing boots and a tall metal hat, come out from the woods. Locka recognized him as one of the Spanish soldiers from the fort downriver. The soldier moved toward Mali, and when he stood in front of her, he reached for her breasts as Mali screamed.

“Locka!” Mali’s voice carried across the marsh to the estuary, but it only excited the soldier more as he pulled Mali toward him and pushed his leg between hers. With one hand holding her close, he used the other hand to rip the moss skirt away from her body, and then he reached down between her legs with his free hand.

Locka was on the move at the first sight of the soldier and before her screams rang out across the marsh. When he reached them, Mali was pushing the soldier away, but he held her tightly as he continued to probe her with his hands and mouth. So absorbed was the Spanish soldier in his abuse that he failed to see Locka’s approach.

Locka leaped from a crouching position and landed close to the soldier. Locka shoved him to the ground as Mali escaped to the side. She watched from several feet away as Locka shoved his spear into the man’s chest. He died quickly with the smirk on his face wiped away and replaced by the open-mouthed shock of fear.

Blood dripped from his spear when he pulled it out of the dead man’s chest. Locka reached down and rubbed the soldier’s blood on his hands and then smeared the blood on his face.

“He won’t bother you again,” Locka said without looking at Mali.

“Thank you, Locka,” she said. “I was sure he was going to either kill me or take me back to the fort.”

“Go back to the village now,” Locka said. “I’ll take care of the body.”
Mali reached to touch his arm, but Locka pulled away abruptly as if she’d slapped him. He turned his attention to the dead man as he cleaned the end of his spear.

“I’ll cover him at the base of the burial mound.”

Mali nodded and then headed back to the village.

After wiping the blood off the spear, he put it back in its pouch and slung it over his shoulder. He bent down to grab the boots of the dead man and dragged the body to the line of trees away from the water. When he came to the base of a mound twelve feet high, he dropped the feet and began digging a shallow grave with his spear. If the animals came and dug him up, so be it. He at least made the effort to bury him.

When he finished his work, he stood and looked east to the estuary and the river beyond. The sun was higher in the sky, and the water was returning to the mud flats of the estuary. On the opposite bank of the river, Locka could see the dunes laden with the orange sunflowers and yellow daisies of spring interspersed with the tall and spindly sea oats waving in the wind. He couldn’t see the ocean beyond because the land was so flat and the dunes were taller than his six-foot height, but he could hear the constant motion of waves just beyond the dunes.

Now that the water was coming back into the estuary, he’d have to walk to the beach and spear food from the sea since he’d missed the chance at low tide to find any oysters or conch.

Before going back for his canoe to row across the river to the dunes, he climbed another mound, this one made from the shells thrown there by the Seloy tribe for many centuries. From the mound, he viewed the different landscapes that provided his people with the means to live an abundant life during the warm months. The Seloy had just returned from their wintering site deep in the woods to the west a few weeks before. During the winter months, Locka missed the variety of their coastal home. Despite the violence of his encounter with the soldier, he managed to pull his concentration to the landscapes of the ocean, river, estuary, marshes, woods, and creek that flowed behind their village.

He watched as a few egrets and ibis pecked in the mud for the last bit of food from the flats before water covered the whole area once again. A lone great blue heron stood at attention at the line of water, patiently waiting for a fish to appear. During low tide, the birds were so abundant, they hid the mud. Now, only a dozen or so of the hardiest souls remained. A pelican flew close over his head spying to see if he had any fish he was willing to sacrifice. The sea beat upon the shores as Locka watched from the mound. From his vantage point, he could see in all directions. His village lay to the west in a low-lying canopy of live oak trees weathered by the constant salt breezes. A small creek ran behind their seasonal home. He surveyed the river immediately in front of him and let his gaze head south to the settlement of St. Augustine.

The sound of trees being ripped from their roots like a black bear ripping the meat from the bones of a fawn, tore through Locka’s heart as the Spanish cleared even more land to build houses and churches from the coquina shell weathered and crushed by the tides.

To celebrate Earth Day 2014, my Florida fiction books are only .99 cents on Kindle during April. Click on the covers below to purchase.

Tortoise Stew - Small town Florida gone wild

Tortoise Stew – Small town Florida gone wild

Trails in the Sand - Oil spill, sea turtles, and love

Trails in the Sand – Oil spill, sea turtles, and love

The Sexy Horseshoe Crab

Sunset Everglades

Sunset Everglades

I went down to the water’s edge to watch the sunset over the Gulf of Mexico and grabbed a few photos of the sun setting behind one of the tree islands in the Ten Thousand Island area off the coast of Florida. Something near my feet caught my eye. I turned my camera from the vista before me and snapped shot after shot of something I’d never seen before.

More than a dozen horseshoe crabs were crowding together on the small beach where I stood. A couple came up behind me, and I pointed to the huddling DSC03199masses.

“I’ve only seen them dead before,” the man said.

“They probably weren’t dead horseshoe crabs, but only the shell that they shed many times during their lifetime,” I said.

He took some photos, but his partner turned toward the sunset. I know the horseshoe crab isn’t one of the sexier beach critters. Probably not even close to the top 100, and would even fall further if folks knew they’re actually not a crustacean, but more closely related to the spider.

They’ve also been on earth millions of years before the dinosaurs. Their story is one I love about the connections in nature, but it also shows the fragility of our environment. The Delaware Bay’s horseshoe crab population began declining in recent years because of over-harvesting. They make great bait for commercial fishermen, and scientists have culled them for research because of their blue blood, which contain important antibodies.

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Photo by Hans Hillewaer

Not only did it endanger the horseshoe crab, but also endangered the species that depend upon their eggs, such as a little sandpiper known as the red knot. The red knot flies nearly 10,000 each year as it makes it way from the Arctic down to South America. Along the way, it stops in Delaware Bay to fill up on fuel–the old, unhatched eggs of the horseshoe crab.

Scientists discovered the dwindling population of the red knot in 2005, when its 100,000 population suddenly dipped to 7,500. In recent years, the harvesting of horseshoe crabs in Delaware Bay has been halted or is at least highly regulated. Hopefully both populations of wildlife will survive.

If what I saw on the beach in the Everglades is any indication, the population may be doing all right these days.

“What are they doing here?” the man asked.

“I believe that’s called mating,” I said. DSC03201

His partner suddenly came back from watching the sunset to catch a glimpse of copulating horseshoe crabs.

Maybe these creatures are sexy after all.

Enduring Everglades

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They came out of nowhere that day I floated on a fishing boat in the waters off Chokoloskee Island. Two men in a canoe using long poles to push themselves through the shallow water as low tide came. They said they went out every day on those waters on the western edge of the Everglades. The people of the Everglades IMG_1623call their way of life “free.” They live by the seasons, the sun, and the vagaries of weather.

Chokoloskee Island postcard

Most of the land in this part of Florida lies at or below sea level. Chokoloskee Island, a small island at the gateway to the Ten Thousand Islands, is one of the tallest places in the Everglades and it was formed by the Calusa–the native people of the Everglades–who threw their seashells in piles that soon grew into mounds. Developers in Florida destroyed many of these mounds and the advent of Europeans into Florida forced the Calusa into exile to Cuba or worse. By the 1770s, most all of the original people of the Everglades were gone.  And by the 1930s, much of the Everglades was manipulated and destroyed in man’s effort to control water.

No place exists anywhere on the planet like the Everglades. Fortunately, the National Park Service and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission ensure lands are protected and sustained.

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King of the Everglades

Those fishermen who came out of the water the last time I visited the Everglades reminded me of the timeless beauty and simple endurance of nature. The Everglades may not be what they once were, but they have survived, and along with them the flora and fauna that make up the rich environment of the “river of grass.”

red mangroves

red mangroves

Snow Inspires Florida Writer

DSC03106I woke to a fairyland of snow-covered trees and lawn on a day when I thought I would be waking up to the marsh and swampland of the Everglades.

I’d planned a writer’s retreat while my husband attended a conference in Reno. We began by spending a week with my daughter and her boyfriend in St. Augustine, after driving there from Pennsylvania the week before Thanksgiving. We played in the surf, walked the beach, walked across the Vilano Bridge to Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth site. And then we shared a Thanksgiving dinner with family and friends in Flagler College’s dining hall, replete with one of the largest collections of Tiffany glass in the world. The college is housed in the former Ponce de Leon Hotel, Henry Flagler’s showpiece of grand architecture, art, and opulence during the Gilded Age. My daughter graduated from Flagler in 2005, so it was a grand setting with a bit of nostalgia. The food was tasty and the company even better.

wood stork

wood stork

As our week progressed, the weather warmed. But my husband’s condition that first surfaced in Mexico returned, and we were forced to cancel our plans and come home five days earlier than planned.

As I looked out at the snow-covered yard, I was struck by the beauty of the whiteness against the stark background of naked tree limbs.

We spent those unexpected days at home with no plans or deadlines and delved into keeping warm and getting my husband well.

In the week since we returned, I’ve completed the first third of my new novel, Native Lands. It might be true what writer Harry Crews always said. He needed to write about growing up in Georgia away from there.

Perhaps being in the setting of the Everglades would have distracted me from the work. As the wood storks, great blue herons, and snowy egrets foraged for food in the swamp, my eyes would be glued to them and not to the laptop screen. The gators sunning on the edge of the water and fish slowly swimming by the dock would have occupied my time instead of the writing. The kingfishers, pelicans, and ibis might have forced me to photograph them rather than working on my manuscript.

ibis roaming in a yard in Tarpon Springs, Florida

The warmth of a November day in the Everglades would make me sit with my feet up, a beer in my hand on a lounge chair overlooking the mangrove and cypress trees dripping in Spanish moss. It’s much easier to write when I’m forced to stay inside.

I’ll go back, hopefully in February, for another try. This time I’ll have more of my novel done and during  my time in St. Augustine and Everglades City, I’ll spend time on plenty of porches and sandy beaches warming my toes in the sun checking my facts on whether the surf is stronger at sunrise or sunset and determine whether the pelican or the great blue heron fascinate me more on a lazy afternoon.

That’s good research in any book I write.dsc00466.jpg