Florida Environmental Novels for Free

web tsWebMy two novels set in Florida, Tortoise Stew and Trails in the Sand, are both available for a free download to your Kindle on Wednesday, August 14 through Friday, August 16.

 

Here’s a short excerpt from both:

From Tortoise Stew:

tsWebCowan Garcia lived in one of the Victorian homes that graced the tree-lined Main Street of downtown Calloway. The morning after the meeting, he went out on his porch to retrieve The Tribune. He shook his head when he read the headline, and felt sympathy for Kelly Sands. Two weeks ago, his tires were slashed while he was inside city hall picking up a public records request.

He took a deep breath and glanced up and down the street. He wondered how such a beautiful area as Calloway could contain such greed and hostility. He found himself caught up in the negativity and sometimes he responded in worse ways than those with whom he had disagreements.

“Good morning,” yelled Chelsea Godfrey as she rode her bike into Cowan’s front yard. “Thanks for trying last night.”

“Lot of good it did with those scum-sucking morons up there. We’ve got to find the right person to run for the March election against Simmons.”

“Cowan, what is that?” Chelsea pointed to an object lying just a few feet from the front porch steps.

Cowan came down to the yard to inspect. “Damn it all!” He picked up a dead gopher tortoise from the ground and held it out for inspection.

“They were busy last night,” Chelsea said. She indicated the paper Cowan had tucked under his arm. “You saw the bomb story?”

“This is going too far.”

“What are you going to do with it?” Chelsea asked as Cowan headed into the house with his paper. He placed the carcass on the porch. Chelsea followed.

“I’m going to bury it in the front yard and put a tombstone up that reads ‘RIP Gopher Tortoise, Killed by Developers,’ and then I’ll call my favorite reporters and hold a memorial.”

From Trails in the Sand:

webOur paddles caressed the water without creating a ripple as we floated by turtles sunning on tree trunks fallen into the river. A great blue heron spread its wings on the banks and lifted its large body into the air, breaking the silence of a warm spring day in north Florida.

The heron led us down the river of our youth stopping to rest when we fell too far behind. The white spider lilies of spring covered the green banks of the Santa Fe River in north Florida.

“Do you remember the spot where we always swam?” my husband Simon asked. “Isn’t it around here?”

“I can’t remember back that far,” I said.

Simon pulled his kayak up alongside mine as a mullet jumped out of the water in front of us and slapped its body back into the water.

“Still the dumbest fish in the river,” I said.

The leaves on the trees were fully green and returned to glory after a tough winter of frosts and freezes. Wild low-growing azalea bushes were completing their blooming cycle, and the dogwoods dropped their white blossoms a month ago. The magnolia flower buds would burst into large white blossoms within a month.

Simon and I missed the peak of spring on the river. However, we finally escaped our work on a warm Tuesday morning in late April.

 “I hope things settle down. We should spend all summer on the river,” Simon said.

“Maybe we can get Jodi to come with us when she gets home from Auburn,” I said.

“Don’t count on it. Promise me you won’t be disappointed if she refuses.”

“I wish you wouldn’t be such a pessimist. That upsets me more than anything.”

Simon didn’t respond, which usually happened when I tried to talk about his daughter Jodi.

When we were kids, Simon and I spent many days in an old canoe on this river. Those idyllic days ended when he married my sister Amy. I never forgave Amy, even when she died two years ago. I eventually forgave Simon.

Even though I didn’t miss or mourn my sister, Jodi, my niece, did. She lost a mother she loved and believed Simon and I trampled her mother’s grave when we married nearly a year ago.

“At least winter is over,” Simon said. “Let’s hope for a quiet hurricane season.”

 

A Review of an Environmental Novel

VaporTrailsBy Patricia Zick @PCZick

The subject of Vapor Trails by R.P. Siegel and Roger Saillant intrigued me from the start. I’ve been looking for other contemporary fiction novels with environmental themes, so when this one came across my twitter feed, I immediately researched it and then bought a copy. I wasn’t disappointed with the read, although there is no middle ground with this book, which might have drawn in a wider audience. The book preaches to the choir rather than pulling converts to the green movement.

Vapor Trails enters into the bowels of corporate greed to the highest level of power. And power or energy at any cost to the environment and its people, is the heart of this story. The story is told from the viewpoint of three main characters: a corporate stooge, an environmentalist attempting to work within the corporate system, and a free spirit who rides his bike 2,500 miles just to attend a sustainability conference in New Orleans. Through the eyes of these three, the reader receives an education on oil and its damaging effects.

An unnamed hurricane in New Orleans causes water to surge and break through the levee system. This storm brings the odd trio of characters together when they are stranded at the sustainability conference. The storm is used to bring the key players together, but it isn’t used in any useful way to make a comment about man’s folly with playing with nature. Also, it left me slightly annoyed that the three characters don’t have to put up with the unpleasantness of the aftermath because helicopters and corporate jets zoomed down to rescue them out of the hellhole of southern Louisiana.

Mason Burnside, the corporate stooge, brought a lethal oil disaster to the rain forest in Ecuador though his cold-hearted decisions encouraged by his CEO at Splendid Oil. Ellen Greenbaum is an idealistic college grads ready to make a difference by working for the evil behemoth Splendid Oil in their sustainability department. Jacob Walker yearns to make the world a better place. Add together a man missing in Indonesia, and the novel has intrigue and mystery enough to hold the reader captivated.

Through the conversations, much information is imparted on the state of energy companies, the environment, and the impact on human lives.

While the novel can come across as pedantic and biased toward the green side, the ideas presented are considerably well-researched.

It is Mason who changes the most, as the other main characters remain static. Mason goes from stooge to hero through a series of life-changing events. Perhaps if the other two characters, who experienced the same events, had also undergone some type of transformation, the novel would be a more even representation of real life.

“. . . his arrogance finally caught up with him when he thought he could control nature,” says one of the characters near the end of the novel, and that is the crux of the whole novel making it an epic undertaking by the authors.

I highly recommend the book. If you’re on the fence about how you feel on this topic, this book will give you a good background for one side of the argument. For those folks who turn red at the mention of green, this book will do nothing but turn them further away.

I applaud the authors for a well-written and well-researched book on the treachery of pushing through projects in unsafe and deadly ways. I just wish they’d left a little room for the shades of gray in this discussion.

Current Events Creep into Fiction

Fellow blogger and author Annamaria Bazzi hosted me for a guest post on her blog Annamaria’s Corner. Since it’s the third anniversary of the oil spill and Earth Week, I thought it appropriate to repost on my blog. Please stop by Annamaria’s Corner where she posts about writing and promotes her fellow authors.

By P.C. Zick

My new novel, Trails in the Sand, 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.

The first one occurred on April 5 when the Upper Big Branch coal mine in West Virginia exploded, killing twenty-nine miners doing their job in the bowels of the earth. 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.

An 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.

The 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 go and enjoy the gift.

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I’m on a Virtual Book Tour this week with Trails in the Sand  – Visit tour stops to enter giveaway

I’m on “tour” April 22-29 to celebrate the forty-third anniversary of Earth Day and to celebrate the publication of Trails in the Sand. At each stop, you’ll be able to enter a raffle for an exciting giveaway at the end of the tour. I’m giving away a package of autographed copies of both Live from the Road and Trails in the Sand, along with a Route 66 baseball cap, a Trails in the Sand magnet, all wrapped in a “green” grocery bag donated by fellow blogger Betsy Wild at What’s Green with Betsy. The bags were designed by Where Designs.???????????????????????????????

The Tour Schedule for April 25 – Check out this blog today and enter to win the tour giveaway.

April 25

I Read Indie blog features my guest post “Why I love sea turtles” about my first interaction with the ancient creatures and how they became a central part of the plot in Trails in the Sand. I Read Indie blog reviews and features Indie Authors.

Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers features Trails in the Sand and my guest post “Subject Chooses the Writer.” Stop by Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers to “feed your need to read.” Gina’s love of books led her to create a site for her readers.

Blowing at Windmills

Girl and WindmillBy Patricia Zick @PCZick

Even when I think I’m being reasonable and moderate, I still walk a fine line with some folks.

“What do you want us to do, blow on windmills until we have enough power to fuel all our energy needs?” my brother asked me recently.

The question came after I tried to present a reasonable answer to the question posed to me: What is fracking?

“We shouldn’t jump into any new forms of bringing fossil fuels up out of the ground without investigating first,” I said. “They moved into fracking too quickly as a result of the bad connotations given offshore oil drilling and coal mining.”

That’s when my brother posed his question as if I’d said stop drilling, blasting, pounding, breathing.

Then this morning I received an equally “off the center” email from the other side. It seems there’s a group now demanding corporation and individual divestment from fossil fuels to stop global warming.

Is there no longer a middle ground on which to stand safely without fear of being knocked off?

I hope so, but just in case, I’m going to climb on my little mound in the center of the field safe here in my small office behind an anonymous computer screen to give my spiel in the hopes someone will listen. Neither of the sides quoted here will allow me to do so.

The subject of our energy and its sources are not new to me, but I became quite embroiled in the issue while researching Trails in the Sand. One of my sources, Power Hungry – The myths of ‘green’ energy and the real fuels of the future” by Robert Bryce, addresses what I’ve surmised all along. He writes, “But the reality is that the modern world runs on oil, coal, and natural gas. And while those fuels take a toll on the environment, they are indispensable.”

And as I would explain to either side, except they’re too ready to wield an ax on my head, we must ensure we are wise stewards and bring those forms of energy to us in a safe manner that does the least harm.

We’ve no choice but to rely on regulations and laws that mandate safety for the environment and human life. It’s a sad state of affairs when the government must tell corporations to engage in certain practices so workers aren’t killed.

I’m trying to make this post as uplifting as possible, but today an article I read about natural gas mining in Wyoming discourages me. “Too deep to drink, huh? Too shallow an excuse,”  by Suzie Gilbert with shalereporter.com, writes about a situation between Wyoming’s Oil and Natural Gas Commission and Encana, a fracking company. The government and Encana are tossing around the concept of allowing the company to dump 750,000 gallons of fracking wastewater per day into an aquifer for fifty years. Some agencies say “no,” others say “yes,” the scientists say, “hell no,” and the argument continues.

I’m all for tossing around ideas and discussing them, but for goodness sake, this one does not take a geologist to understand that wastewater has no place in an aquifer. Period. End of discussion. If our drinking water becomes contaminated with wastewater from unsafe practices, then it really will be the end of the discussion – all discussions.

#trailsbanner3webTrails in the SandA Family Saga Filled with Love Triangles, Sea Turtles, and an Oil Spill

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.

What’s Your Carbon Footprint?

By P.C. Zick@PCZick

I challenge you to take this eye-opening Ecological Footprint quiz to take that will tell you how many earth’s it would take to offset your carbon footprint. I’m at 3.3!

I could stop traveling. We probably need to install more water-saving devices in our home. We have an oil furnace but this past month we installed an energy efficient heat pump that will be our primary heat until it goes below 20 degrees. Then the oil furnace will kick on and do the rest.

We eat seafood, but we grow our own vegetables and preserve as much as possible. Our waste management provider does not offer recycling but we have a large basement so every six weeks or so I load up the truck and head to the recycling center with all our paper, cardboard, glass, plastic and aluminum. I’m always heartened when I go because there’s usually a line of cars in the bin area unloading their bottles, cans and newspapers. Even if our waste managers aren’t being responsible, many individuals are.

Let me know your score or if you don’t want to share your score, tell me about ways you’ve cut down or plan to cut down on your carbon footprint.

The Challenge: Eat one meal per week made from local food

By P.C. Zick@PCZick

The thumbs and hands of a gardener are not green, but brown from the soil encrusted on them after planting a flat of tomato seedlings.

My husband Robert grows food for our table, and when it overflows the plates, I find a way to preserve the abundance for the months when the garden lies beneath the white stuff.

I’m not sure we save money because the seeds, manure, sand, mulch, organic fertilizers all cost. The electricity to can and freeze the vegetables runs up the utility bill. The water to sterilize the equipment may not be in the best interest of conserving that precious resource.

But that doesn’t matter when the first tomato ripens on the vine and nirvana exists on our taste buds. What price can be put on the taste of freshly picked spinach lightly steamed and tossed with butter, salt and pepper? Last year I ran out of our preserved tomato sauce and used canned sauce to make marinara sauce. The tinny flavor and red water consistency did not make up for the fact I bought that can on sale for 75 cents. Give me my sauce made solely with food we grew from the fresh herbs to onions to peppers to garlic and infused into our crushed yellow and red tomatoes any day, at any cost. No price can be placed on the value of knowing where that food came from and knowing how it was made.

The U.S. Census Bureau says nearly a quarter of us grow some our own food. Some of us make an effort to get down to the local farmer’s market whenever they open for the season. But still too far many of us have no idea where our food came from and what has been done to it. I don’t have enough space or time to go into those details here, but thankfully author Barbara Kingsolver gives us the details in her 2007 book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.

As our garden grows into its summer’s fullness, I’m reading Kingsolver’s nonfiction book, written with assistance from her daughter and husband. It is a memoir of gardeners and farmers and serves as a primer for agricultural history and food basics.

Our garden provides us with sustenance and satisfaction and the knowledge of filling our bodies with home grown goodness.But Animal, Vegetable, Miracle points out another good reason to eat locally as much as possible. The production of food, from the ground to our table, expends 400 gallons per person per year of oil. That’s 17 percent of our total energy use. Every step along the way to bring us the Jolly Green Giant uses petroleum in some form. If everyone committed to eating just one meal – any meal – per week that comes from locally and organically raised meats and produce, we could reduce our country’s oil consumption by 1.1 million barrels (not gallons) of oil per week, according to Kingsolver’s husband and co-contributor, Steven L. Hopp.

Now that is something to chew on and swallow.

Could you eat one meal per week consisting of food right from your backyard or neighborhood?