Thursday – A Little Personal

Jo Robinson is working with me on my eversion. She’s a real easy person to work with and will ensure your expectations are met. What an angel!!!

Fiction Favorites

Since I have hauled back into honest work, I have had to sacrifice some of the fun of being an author for the sake of the available time. One of the joys of being an indie author is formatting the manuscript for publication. You know, the four or five late nights as you struggle with getting the Create Space and Kindle formats in place. Let’s not mention the euphoria that comes with getting a table of contents working. Oh Yeah!

Jo Robinson

Well, I’m pleased to report I outsourced my most favorite activity next to a sharp stick in the eye. Jo Robinson who you know as a talented author provides services to Indie authors. You can go HERE  to check them all, but she was a Godsend when it came time to do the formatting work on the next John J. Cannon Thriller which I needed badly.

So thank you, Jo…

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Who Was This Young Man That Love Healed? What Was His Story?

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Gabriel was nine months sober and waiting three more months to stand up and tell his story. He won’t be able to now, so I am going to tell his story the best way I can. I may not get all the facts straight, but this is what I know. It is a long story, and it is with a heavy heart that I share it. It’s also the most important story I’ve ever written.

He was thirty-four, born February, 17th, to a Mexican father he never came to know. He was raised by his mom and step-dad. His struggles with his step-dad were intense and, in part, due to his drugging behaviors. His mom and step-dad loved him dearly. He also had a sister and a brother.

What it was like: 

In his early twenties, he started working in construction, making really good money and many “friends.” Even though he had seen the troubles his step-dad’s drinking had caused, he felt much pressure from his friends to drink and drug. The drinking was social and he always felt he had it under control, but the drugs made him feel powerful, invincible. Making good money, more and more of his earnings were spent on his drugs of choice, which were amphetamines, cocaine and pills.

Along with the drugs came risky behaviors. In his heart, he knew he was wrong, but the persuasion of the drugs was greater than his conscience. I won’t give you his drug-a-log or his drunk-a-log, suffice it to say, there were many instances where he had put his life or the lives of others at risk.

His family had tried everything in their power to alter his behavior, but he wasn’t ready to make any changes. He started living from pillar to post, burning bridges as he went. His life became harder, less manageable.

At age thirty, or thereabout, he and a friend walked into a Best Buy and walked out with a large screen TV. Right through the front door, they carried it, and were promptly arrested. At this time, he had more than $1000.00 in speeding tickets, willful and wanton reckless driving charges, and had a long history of theft by taking for which he had never gotten caught. Though he had driven all over the countryside, he had never taken the driver’s tests. He knew it was his turn to serve his time and the judge was not lenient on him, giving him three years in prison. During his time out, he had led his brother astray and felt much remorse for that.

What Changed:

Losing his freedoms and his rights, he saw that he was heading down the wrong road in life and knew he had to make changes. He had eaten enough black beans and rice, and pinto beans, to know he never wanted to return to prison, and the only way he could avoid that was to stay clean.

He first started a 12-Step recovery program in the jail and when he got out was absolutely convinced he needed to get a sponsor right away and work the steps. My husband, twelve years sober, has never protected his anonymity, he’s always hoped his openness might help someone else to see they, too, can stay sober. Gabriel, too, wanted people to know how the program had changed his life. Attraction, rather than promotion, is their motto, and he felt people needed to know it could be done. You could stay sober. He chose my husband as a sponsor.

Everybody had a hand in keeping Gabriel on track. It takes a village. He had many friends in the program and though offered a job back in his hometown in construction with his old friends, he knew he couldn’t go back to that environment. He started working for landscapers and loved the sense of freedom of being outside, working hard and making things beautiful.

His employers bragged on his work ethic and his drive. He was smart, fast, knowledgeable, and skilled. He could work every tool properly with care and took great pride in producing results. He also had a great sense of humor and kept them laughing through-out the day. He was a funny guy who worked hard but tried not to take life too seriously. His customers looked forward to his visits.

His first employer also became his first landlord and he paid half his wages in rent, but the guy had a drinking problem and his work ethic was not as strong as Gabriel’s. There was some major conflict between them. Then, Gabriel hurt his foot when a piece of metal pierced his shoe and drove into his foot. Unable to work and pay rent, he and his landlord had a major falling out. He found himself homeless, jobless, and injured…but he was set on working his program to stay sober. No matter the obstacles in his path, he kept coming back to meetings, worked his steps, and talked to his sponsor every day.

Even with his hurt foot, he was walking the neighborhoods looking for work, sleeping where he could, but making all the meetings he could attend. My husband talked to me about the possibility of Gabriel coming to stay with us for a couple of months until he could get back on his feet, literally. He had only sponsored Gabe for about four months and I had some reservations having dealt with addicts and alcoholics in the past. I feared the drama that might enter our lives, but conceded to have him come stay with us.

What it is like now:  

He moved in with us in March. Gabriel quickly found work with a landscaping company. His foot heal fast and he was back at it. His work ethic was so strong, he would be up at 5:30 am making coffee for all of us every morning. He would work from 6:30 am till 2-3 pm in the hot sun, come home, shower, nap an hour and go out into our yard to work some more. He was never asked, but sprayed for weeds, weeded gardens, pressure washed the pool deck, sidewalks, and driveway. He trimmed trees and shrubbery, dug up stumps, worked with my husband on the boat and other vehicles, swept and mopped my floors, cleaned bathrooms, emptied the dishwasher, cleaned the pool, kept his room and laundry tidy and did everything possible to earn his keep and insisted on paying money toward his food.

He made us laugh every day and brought much joy into the family. He cracked jokes and played pranks. He had the most likable personality and my grandkids grew to love him and called him Uncle Gabriel. He played in the floor with them when they would come to visit. We trusted him to house/dog sit for us when we went away and he never let us down. We took him on vacation with us when we went. At the end of the last day, we went out on a sand bar at Big Pass overlooking the Gulf to watch the sunset. We had had a glorious day fishing and touring my husband’s old stomping grounds. He had caught the only keeper trout of the day. We had dined waterside at one of the best seafood spots on Sarasota Bay. Gabriel said those were the best scallops he had ever eaten. At the end of the day, he walked way out on the water and I snapped his picture. Later, when I posted that picture on my blog with his permission, I asked what he had been thinking about out there alone. He said, “I was praying prayers of gratitude for the beautiful day.”

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Every day was beautiful to him, and he radiated happiness, and his presence brightened our days. In a short while, he had become like a son to us. He had served his prison sentence, paid off all of his debts, the tickets he owed, he had guided his brother back into the fold and away from a bad situation. He had reconciled with his parents. He had studied his Big Book, character defects (temper, impulsiveness, unwillingness to admit when he was wrong), made his amends, and took ownership for his part in things. He had cleaned up his side of the street. He worked his program diligently and attended all the meetings he could squeeze into a day, getting my husband involved in taking a meeting into a homeless shelter on Wednesday nights, as well as attending meetings with him a couple of other nights a week. He attended several different random meetings around town introducing himself to new people on weekends. He had started going to church with one member every Sunday morning. He made a decision to turn his will and his life over to God as he understood Him. He was living a beautiful life.

He had studied for and passed his written test to get his driver’s license back. He was set to get his driver’s road test done this morning. He had short and long term goals and his plan was to buy a truck and trailer and start his own landscape business. He had just started working with a new boss a couple of months ago who had more work for him to do than his old boss. He had saved up money toward the truck and was making real progress toward his goals.

Friday, July 8th, he came into the house around 2 pm. I asked if they were knocking off early. He smiled his big smile and grabbed a couple of sodas and told me, “Nah, we’re working right down the street. I’ll be back in a little while.” They had a couple more yards to do.

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What Happened:

He didn’t come back in a little while. We really became worried at suppertime. We didn’t even know his new boss’s name. He picked him up at the front door every morning and dropped him off every afternoon. We were concerned that he might have gone back out to drink or drug. It was a logical thought. That’s what had happened with all of my husband’s prior sponsees. He was convinced Gabriel was different. We started calling hospitals, looking up inmate records. We had no numbers for his family or his boss. We spent the night at the computer, and went to bed in the early morning hours with his dinner plate still on the table and his supper still on the stove, hoping he would drag in at some hour.

He never did. That morning, we looked up highway patrol records and saw the only accident reported was a fatal motorcycle crash in Ethan’s Glenn, a subdivision near us. We dismissed it because he didn’t have a motorcycle. His family, mother, sister and two nephews and a niece came by around 2 pm to tell us he had been involved in a dirt bike accident in Ethan’s Glenn that snapped his neck and he was dead. I was devastated.

I was home alone at the time and my husband was at a local café with his sponsor. I called them to come home immediately and invited the family inside. They did and we talked a long while with his family as they collected his personal effects. Although we had been listed as emergency contact, once he was declared dead, they had to notify next of kin.

Gabriel had inherited a pocket watch from his grandfather who had died while he was living with us. The only reason his mom knew our address was because she was preparing to send him the watch and he had shared it with her. He had never even told his mom his sponsor’s name. She had felt he was doing so well, he deserved to take possession of the watch. He had called her every day to report on his progress and ask how she was doing. Sometimes speaking with her three or four times in a day. His sister said he had always loved dirt bikes, ATVs and three-wheelers…anything that would go fast. The temptation of the adrenaline rush was too great.

His boss came by Sunday to return his cell phone and tell us how things happened. It gave some sense of closure, but certainly didn’t lessen the pain.

After work, his boss was going to drop him off at our house as usual. Gabriel, who had been to his boss’s home before, offered to help him unload his equipment. They had to move the dirt-bike out of the garage to get the equipment inside. Gabriel had begged him to let him ride the racing bike in the past. His boss had told him it was a powerful bike, but promised him that he would take him out to the dirt track to ride some weekend when they weren’t working, as it wasn’t a bike to ride on the street. He was getting ready to sharpen his blades with his back to the garage door when he heard the bike crank up. He turned to see Gabriel flying down the street on the bike. Gabriel came into a curve and never braked.

When he hit the palm tree, his boss ran down expecting Gabe might have a broken arm and was yelling at him for his stupidity. When he arrived, he saw it was far more serious. The home owner had come out and they had to call 911 because the guy was hysterical and distraught. He could not believe the reality of what had just happened. They were doing CPR and took Gabriel away in the ambulance. The Florida Highway patrol arrived and pretty much said one passenger vehicle with one driver involved, and assured him they would contact us as we were listed as emergency contact on his phone. They never came.

His boss, eight years sober, had lost his little brother to drugs. Having taken him under his wing when his parents were forced to push him from the nest, his brother had been arrested. On Christmas Day, the jail called their father to say he had hung himself in the jail. We didn’t know this man, but we had heard these stories in the rooms, time and time again.

Gabriel’s story was different. He had made it. He was doing all of the next right things, one day at a time.

One bad decision. An impulse. A self-acknowledged character defect. And gone.

He went doing something his sister said he loved to do.

He will be cremated. His ashes given to his sister, brother and mother. His mom plans to sprinkle the remainder in a memorial garden where a memorial plaque will be erected. A service in his hometown will be held the 23rd or 24th.

I hesitated to be the one to tell someone else’s story. It’s not my place. But I also know how eagerly he anticipated the day that would come at one year sober when he could pick up his year chip and tell his story. We had spent many an evening on the lanai talking about the things he wanted to say. He was ready. There were times when he felt unloved. There were times when he couldn’t love. But he was loved by many. He had learned to love and be loved. In sobriety he found love.

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 He wanted everybody to know love heals.

A fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength & hope with each other to solve their common problem & help others to recover.

Social Media Confusion

I have a new trophy from WordPress!

Yes, I now have five followers! And I love each and every one of you. I don’t know what they did with the other 1980 of you, but I pray I haven’t lost you and you are safe.

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I’ve been trying to get the hang of Twitter. I have several new followers, mostly from Sisters in Crime. I’m getting to know some folk there and enjoying myself. I honestly don’t know how to use Twitter And rarely use hash tags except from #amwriting and #writerslife.

That’s probably not going to help me find followers.

I’m mostly using what I find to be humorous one-liners. I’ve followed all of the followers of the authors I most admire and of whom I write similar material. Many have followed me back, but I’ve followed 1889 and only 636 have followed me back. Any suggestions would be helpful.

I’ve just begun to retweet funny stuff and blog posts of writer friends.

I’ve decided to bite the bullet and start a mail list. Yes, I know, I should have done this three years ago. I didn’t feel it was all that important, but EVERYBODY says it is. So, I decided to tackle Mailchimp.

If I send out a newsletter, it will likely only be twice a year. I produce books slowly and only plan to use the newsletter to notify of pre-orders and new releases, or introduce new projects.

I’d like to set up lists of author friends who help promote, fans of the different genres I write (and keep them separate), and lists of other writers whose work I promote, book reviewers, and beta readers.

I don’t know yet if there will be any way to differentiate in as much as I have yet to get beyond MailChimp’s home page.

I wanted to use my new domain name for email. My new email is sknicholls@sknicholls.com, but that’s only for promo stuff. My old emails still work.

MailChimp no longer allows gmail, yahoo, or other free email servers in as much as third party servers frequently block their mail. So I had to buy a service provider subscription. First I went with Google Business apps. It was only $5.00 per month. I had to verify ownership of the domain name with Blue Host. That got complicated when I tried to transport codes to Blue Host and set up Outlook and took a couple of hours of customer support.

Then I learned it was necessary to have hosting in order for you to use your domain address as an email address.

Since I bought my domain from Blue Host and plan to have them host my website, I renewed my hosting account with them, which cost more than twice as much as Google business apps.  But hey, I should have a web site for S.K. Nicholls Brave Blue Heron Books soon.

After cancelling Google Business apps, I spent another two hours with Blue Host re-setting the settings.

As soon as I figure out my WIIFM (what’s in it for me) to offer people when they subscribe to my newsletter, and figure out what plugins work on my WP blog, and figure out how to use Mail Chimp, I’ll be adding a subscribe button of some sort to my blog and other social media.

Southern Recipes, book of short stories, Private Investigator joke book (I’ve been trying to write one), any suggestions on what you’d like to have a reward for receiving two more emails a year?

Marketing, self-promoting…writing? Argh!

#independenceday: celebrating diversity

Connie has some beautiful things to say about who we are. It’s nice to hear a positive spin on who we are and who we are becoming as a nation. We are a young country. Let’s not forget that as we are deciding our direction.

Life in the Realm of Fantasy

800px-John_C._Dollman_-_The_immigrants'_ship_-_Google_Art_ProjectToday, July 4, 2016, is celebrated as Independence Day, here in the US. Yet, though my family left their homes in dear old Mother England, we still feel that bond, that familial connection.

My father’s side of the family came to America from Herne Hill, Canterbury, England in 1630, sailing on the Winthrop Fleet, and ended up in Massachusetts.

My mother’s side came from Laugharne, Carmarthenshire, Wales right around the same time, and ended up in Virginia. Somehow, fortunes were made and lost, generations passed, and my grandparent ended up in Olympia, Washington.

Hó-ra-tó-a,_a_BraveWhen you look back far enough, every person in this country is an immigrant. The Native American tribes and First Nations peoples came first, across the waters and across the land bridges. This was their land for thousands of years. But we who claim European, African, and Asian ancestry are all recent immigrants. We are only here because…

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Help Me Name This Character

When I was working for Hospice in the year 2000, I had an assignment that involved delivering morphine to a guy in Hallowpaw, Florida. With a town name like that, you can imagine the characters who live there.

Hallowpaw is a little village that sits out on a swamp in the middle of nowhere about forty miles south of Orlando.

It was pouring rain that day and I drove down a long sandy road with cypress swamp on either side to get to the address. When I arrive in front of the tiny makeshift shack, I turned onto a drive that was flooded in places and wondered if my car would make it out.

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Sitting on the front porch was a huge Haitian man of about four-hundred pounds, give or take a few.

In a foot and a half of murky coffee-colored water, I took my umbrella and waded, in my three inch heels and stockings, to the front steps.

A pillar of smoke rose from his head and I noticed he was smoking a doobie the size of a Cuban cigar, the fragrance unmistakable. I stepped up onto the porch, introduced myself and took a seat across from him. It was then that I saw the two foot alligator on a leash that he held in his hand. It lay quietly on the floor a few inches from my wet feet.

He was jovial, but obviously in pain, wincing with every move. I handed him his bag and he told me a couple of swamp stories and I was on my way.

A couple of months later I was in Washington, D.C. attending a luncheon hosted by Elizabeth Dole’s  secretary, where I was asked to describe a day in the life of a Hospice nurse. Hospice was a relatively new concept in this country at that time. We were trying to get political support.

The day I met the Haitian man came to mind because it was a full day. I had to leave him, go home and shower, and be at the top of the Winter Park Towers to give a presentation to a bunch of doctors and suits on the benefits of Hospice services and the feasibility of instituting an inpatient suite of beds in their facility. Next, I had to meet with a family in their home to process an admission of their dying family member. Those appointments took me from sunrise to way after sunset. I thought that day offered a comprehensive overview of what Hospice nurses do.

First lady: Did you call the police and report the illegal drugs?

Me: No, I was there to deliver his morphine. I doubt if anything he was imbibing in was anymore detrimental to his health than his disease or his narcotics.

Second lady: Did you call the Humane Society or Animal Control about the alligator?

Me: The man was dying. If he found some pleasure in entertaining himself with an alligator while getting high, who am I to wreck his fun.

They didn’t seem at all interested in my day beyond the flaws they found in that situation. I guess those stuffy, high society ladies had never seen the real Florida.

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I told you about this man because I’m thinking of working him into this book, Naked Malice, as an ancillary character.

He was a storyteller and I’m certain he knew all the secrets the swamp could hold in his area. I need people who know secrets of the swamp for this story. I mentioned him in Red Clay and Roses, but I really want to bring him to life in this next book. I’d like the old man to be immortal. I can’t recall his name. Any suggestions?

He was Haitian, so I’m thinking something with a bit of Creole French, but also need something that suits his quirky character or swamp life.

Book Two in the Naked Eye Series Sprouts Wings

Being introduced to Social Services at a very early age as a result of entering the foster care program, I have always had an interest in social issues.

With my debut novel, Red Clay and Roses, I focused on the inequalities of people living in the Deep South during the 1950s-60s, Women’s Rights, and Civil Rights as I told the stories of a black family and an independent, high-spirited white woman and her relationship with an African-American man who was in medical school and became very active in the Civil Rights Movement.

For a long time, I pondered over how my social issues of interest could be written into genre specific novels. Historical fiction was not conducive to current issues, except by virtue of how it is that current issues came to be issues at all.

I read across many genres and have always loved a good crime novel. But what is “good” to me may differ from what is “good” to you. I enjoy the witty comedy of crime that is characteristic of Serge and Coleman in Tim Dorsey’s work. I love the way Carl Hiaasen integrates current issues and history into his eco-thrillers and crime stories along with humor. Randy Wayne White fascinates me with the historical elements of place and time and contemporary elements of technology and current events. Tim Baker keeps me amused with his iconic justice for Florida weirdo criminals. They are more than crime novels, they are adventure stories. Not gritty noir, not hardcore city streets…but regional crime fiction that illuminates the unique culture that is Florida.

With this in mind, I set out to write my first crime novel, Naked Alliances. My goal was to write a Florida regional crime fiction novel that addressed the social issue and crime of sex-trafficking. I chose a private investigator as a protagonist because they have the unique ability to sometimes skirt the law to accomplish their goals, yet have boundaries they are governed by. (Though, sometimes, my P.I. oversteps these.) Richard Noggin is a bit naive, and a bit scattered, but both brave and intelligent, in his own way. I wanted him to have a female co-protagonist who was strong, smart, and skilled…but not necessarily traditionally feminine. Brandi, a transsexual exotic dancer, who was a cop briefly, and served time in the military as an E.O.D. Specialist, became his sidekick.

I’m not a comedian, but wanted there to be opportunity for subtle humor, while keeping the social issues and crimes serious. To that ends, I’m quite satisfied with book one in the Naked Eye Series.

Naked Alliances should be released this September, if all goes well.

In keeping with Florida themed social issues and crime, I have completed the outline of my next book, titled Naked Malice.

Richard Noggin, P.I., a gambler, sets out to investigate the suspicious death of his investment partner and friend, Milton Rexrode, in Vegas, but another death at the Reedy Creek Kennel Club and Card Room raises his suspicions that another investment partner is guilty of murder. But when a string of young Seminole men in the 3320 member Seminole Nation die under suspicious circumstances, and the Federal agents investigating rule the deaths accidents, Council Elders fear these are crimes against humanity in a conspiracy to commit genocide.

Each and every Seminole man, woman and child receives a check of from $7000. to $150,000 per year from the tribes’ gaming industry and non-gaming enterprises. The tribes have quickly gone from poverty to immense wealth over the past three decades. With a new generation that has never lived in the thatched roof chickees of their ancestors, or suffered the deplorable conditions of reservation life in the sixties and seventies, new problems arise as they receive distributions that lead the young people to believe they do not need to go to school or work for a living. Crime, excessive gambling, financial irresponsibility, and drug and alcohol problems threaten the existence of their culture. This is the skeleton that forms the basis of my next crime novel.

Huge efforts are being made to bring the youth back into the fold and keep the nation and its culture intact.

The Seminoles were not originally a single tribe. They were an alliance of Northern Florida and Southern Georgia natives that banded together in the 1700’s to fight the European invaders, including people from the Creek, Miccosukee, Hitchiti and Oconee tribes. Later the alliance became even closer, and today the Seminoles are a united sovereign nation, even though their people speak two languages and have different cultural backgrounds.

I really want to shine a good light on the Seminoles. In recent years, they’ve taken a lot of heat for irresponsible fiscal management, and I’m trying to use the story to demonstrate the positives that are coming out of their progress.