Author of OUTBACK LOVE a contemporary romance novel set in Australia, JETTING AWAY a short story prequel to OUTBACK LOVE, MOON OVER MADNESS a paranormal romantic comedy and BAYOU BLUES AND OTHER SORROWS a collection of short stories and poems about life and love. All are available online at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Apple, Sony, Diesel and Kobo. On Twitter @TeriHeyer

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Florida, the Sound, Birds and Books

Seagulls hanging out on the dock.

One of the many things I love about living in Florida is all the birds: Great Blue Herons, Red Tailed Hawks, Bald Eagles, Osprey, Egrets, Seagulls, I could go on and on.  I wake up to birdsong and often fall asleep to the hoot of an owl.

A great place to bird watch is the sound. There's a waterfront park on the sound not far from our house. My dog, Dude, loves car rides and one of our favorite destinations is to the park on the sound.

The sound, facing southeast from the boat launch.

Dogs are not allowed on the sound, so Dude has to be content with viewing the water and birds from the Jeep's rolled down windows.

Personally, I don't see the harm in letting dogs swim in the sound, but that's a big no-no here. Dude is a water-dog and he would just love to swim there.

A Great Blue Heron trolling for fish.

Well, Dude and I did our almost-daily car ride late this afternoon. Unlike yesterday's torrential rains, today was bright blue skies and nary a cloud in sight.

I took my camera along and snapped a few pics of the birds hanging out near the boat launch. A handful of seagulls rested on the dock. Some Mallards swam in circles in the shallow water and a Great Blue Heron waded out looking for fish.

One of the Mallards.

The Mallards were real beauties. I think they were disappointed I didn't bring them something to eat. Next time I'll have to remember to do that.

I felt bad that Dude had to stay in the Jeep while I walked along the water's edge to snap some pics.

The sound, facing west with the fishing pier in the background.

Sunrises and sunsets are awesome on the sound. Only this was just a quick visit, so no time to wait for the sun to set.

From time to time I'll be posting pics of Florida. So mosey on back now and then for a visit.

Dude the dog.

Dude insisted I include a pic of him in this post. So here's a close-up of my big, 100 pound, goofy dog who says, "Ahhh-roooooo!"

As with most of my posts, I'm including a list of books. This time it's an assortment of Florida Fiction, a mixture of romance, historical, mystery, suspense and thrillers.

The books marked with an (*) are TBR on my Kindles (my old Kindle Keyboard and my new Kindle Fire). The books are listed in no particular order and are available in eBook format. Though I haven't read most of the books listed here, they all sound like great reads. Those marked with an (**) are ones I have in paperback, have read, loved, and loved the series.

Florida Fiction:

Bird Brained (Rachel Porter Mystery) by Jessica Speart**
Flashback (Anna Pigeon) by Nevada Barr**
Land of the Noonday Sun by Carmen DeSousa*
South Beach Cinderella by Sharon Potts*
Crazy in Paradise by Deborah Brown*
All Keyed Up by Mary Stella*
Ring of Lies by Victoria Howard*
Against the Wind by Virginia Kelly*
Runaway (Florida Civil War) by Heather Graham
Love Finds You in Holiday, Florida (Love Finds You) by Sandra D. Bricker
Margarita Nights (Sherri Travis Mystery) by Phyllis Smallman
Far From Paradise (Florida Series) by Bren Yarbrough Bruhn
Matanzas Bay (Quint Mitchell Mystery) by Parker Francis
Gator a-go-go (Serge Storms) by Tim Dorsey
Pirates of Pensacola by Keith Thomson
Hurricanes & Hangovers by Dear Miss Mermaid
Key Manatee by Robert Tacoma
Mango Lucky by Bill Myers
Red Right Return (Buck Reilly Adventure) by John H. Cunningham*
Chasin' the Wind (Mick Murphy Key West Mystery) by Michael Haskins*
Key Lime Blues (Wes Darling Mystery) by Mike Jastrzebski*
Chomp by Carl Hiaasen (YA)
Hoot by Carl Hiaasen (YA)

Thanks for stopping by. You're welcome to add your favorite Florida Fiction or favorite Florida sites in the comments below.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Rain, It's About Time!

View from my patio on this rainy day.

We have not had rain here on the Florida Panhandle in quite a long time. This year, for some odd reason, rain has been pretty scarce. Thank goodness we have well water for our yard or our water bill would be outrageously high.

Just yesterday our yard was tinder dry. When my dog, Dude, ran around in the backyard puffs of dirt billowed into the air. For Florida, that is really dry. Today is altogether different. We woke up to torrential rain and it's still coming down hard. My dogs would just love to go outside to "do their thing." But it's too wet out there even for them.

So this much needed rain got me to thinking, which may or may not be a good thing. First off, I quickly snapped some rain pics so I'd have some for this post. Then I thought about the book I was reading all day yesterday and until the wee hours this morning, Mariana by Susanna Kearsley. This awesome novel is a time-travel, sort of in the style of Daphne Du Maurier's  Rebecca.

There are several wet and rainy scenes in Mariana and so I've been concentrating a lot on rain. Maybe that's what brought on this sudden rainstorm? Not likely, but definitely worth the thought.

My patio in the rain.

Now I haven't read a time-travel romance in ever so long. But I happen to love them ever since I read A Knight in Shining Armor by Jude Deveroux. This is a must-read-keeper. Of course, I should give credit to H. G. Wells' The Time Machine, which I read as a child and first led me to dreaming about the concept of time-travel.

Well, this got me to thinking some more. Oh no, thinking? What next? I've read some wonderful time-travels. Diana Gabaldon's Outlander is top on my list. Then there are all those wonderful time-travel romances by Lynn Kurland. So far I've only read five of them and all are fabulous: This is All I Ask, A Garden in the Rain, Much Ado in the Moonlight, Dreams of Stardust and If I Had You. Lynn Kurland's books are all keepers and have a place on my bookshelves. The rest of them are on my TBR list, which I must say is much too long these days.

Shani, a bit wet after venturing out in the rain.

Another awesome time-travel romance is Deb Stover's Some Like It Hotter. Yes, that one is a keeper too. I've just added Deb Stover's A Moment in Time to my TBR list.  I don't want to forget Ciji Ware's A Cottage by the Sea which is another awesome time-travel romance. This one is definitely a keeper too.

I have to admit that I've been remiss and still haven't read The Time Traveller's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger and Beyond the Highland Mist (Highland Series) by Karen Marie Moning. OMG, how did I miss those? So they're now on my TBR list too. Ohhhhh, that list is getting soooooo long.

Dude finally went out into the drizzle.

For those who follow my blog, I'm almost always adding a list of books. So this time it's a list of time-travel romances. I'm absolutely certain this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to time-travel romances, but all these happened to catch my eye. In fact, some of them are already on my Kindles (my old Kindle Keyboard and my new Kindle Fire). So the (*) in this case denotes time-travel romances TBR on my Kindles. I hope you all find some books you want to read. (Note, all of these books are available in eBook format.)

Time-Travel Romances (in no particular order):

The Rose Garden by Susanna Kearsley*
A Knight in Central Park by Theresa Ragan*
Return of the Rose by Theresa Ragan*
Taken by the Cowboy by Julianne MacLean*
Daughter of Time (After Climeri Series) by Sarah Woodbury*
The Bride Price (Civil War Brides) by Tracey Jane Jackson*
The Long Way Home by Andrea Stark*
Out of Time by Deborah Truscott*
Yellowstone Heart Song (Yellowstone Romance) by Peggy L. Henderson*
Come Home to Me (Second Chances Time Travel Romance) by Peggy L. Henderson
Tear in Time by Christopher David Petersen
A Love Through Time (MacKendimen Trilogy) by Terri Brisbin
Everything In It's Time (Time Travel Trilogy) by Dee Davis
My Honorable Highlander (Highland Games Through Time) by Nancy Lee Badger
Timeless (Stolen Brides) by Shelly Thacker
The Last Highlander by Claire Delacroix
Until Forever by Johanna Lindsey
Viking Unchained (Viking Time Travel) by Sandra Hill
A Little Time in Texas by Joan Johnston
Lord of the Black Isle by Elaine Coffman
A Laird for All Time by Angeline Fortin
Kiss Me, I'm Irish (Tennessee Waltz) by Bella Street
A Slip in Time by Kathleen Kirkwood
When Lightning Strikes by Cynthia Lucas
A Rip in the Veil by Anna Belfrage
Going Back For Romeo by L. L. Muir
Christmas Kiss (A Christmas Time-Travel) by L. L. Muir
Time's Arrow (Christmas Holiday Extravaganza) by Clare Revell
The Mammoth Book of Time Travel Romance ed. by Trisha Telep

For Outlander fans, A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows (An Outlander Novella) by Diana Gabaldon will be released December 3rd.  Yes, I'll be adding it to my Kindles.

Please add your favorite time-travel romances in the comments below. If you write time-travel romances, be sure to mention your books too. Thanks so much for stopping by.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Zoo Tails

Zion, the lion cub.
Saturday I had a Girls' Day Out at the zoo with my daughter and twin granddaughters. What an awesome day! We were there bright and early when the zoo first opened and just in time for Zoo Tots, a once a month program which teaches little kids about zoo animals. There was story time, a frog game and then off to see the animals.

Here's the link for our wonderful zoo:

Gulf Breeze Zoo

The highlight of Zoo Tots was getting an up-close introduction to the newest addition, Zion, a three and a half month old lion cub from a zoo in Arkansas. We all sat very quietly on the zoo train track while Zion's zoo-keeper-mama told us all about the cub. He made plenty of lion cub sounds, not all that pleased with an audience of mostly children and he wasn't allowed to "play."

The unconcerned rooster.

When a zoo rooster walked over to the cub he went on alert and was ready to help himself to a fresh meal. Zion is only twenty-something pounds at the moment, but he still figured he could take on a rooster. Of course, the rooster wasn't at all concerned and went on his way.

Dora, the coatimundi.

The next part of Zoo Tots was meeting the two Coatimundis, Dora and Diego.  Their zoo-keeper-mama brought them out of their pen for a "close" encounter. The two year old coatis wore dog harnesses and were on a leash, which enabled them to have a semblance of freedom. My twin granddaughters approved of the names and thought the coatis were quite cool.

One of over 300 Australian budgies.

After that we had the run of the zoo. The twins had to show me their favorite part of the zoo, the Australian Free-Flight Budgery.

Birds of a feather of every color.

We went inside the budgery armed with budgie treat sticks and were immediately greeted by the colorful birds. I had as many as four budgies at a time on one hand and with another riding on my shoulder.

The twins were enthralled with the colorful and friendly budgies. This is the first time I've ever had an encounter like that and I must say, I could have spent hours sitting on a bench and talking to all the birds.

Two of the three young giraffes.

We fed goats (slobbery eaters), sheep, guinea pigs, rabbits, roosters, chickens, peacocks, giraffes and camels. They all loved the special zoo feed we bought upon entering the zoo.

The twins' favorite was the three giraffes who were surprisingly gentle. The girls weren't at all intimidated by large giraffes that towered over them.

A 10 ft. American Alligator with a powerful tail.

We made the rounds of the rest of the zoo, visiting the two Bengal Tigers, two American Black Bears, a gigantic old American Alligator, llamas, gibbons, turtles, cockatoos, a huge vulture and an assortment of other critters.

One of the zoo's inquisitive chimps.

We rode the Zoo Safari Train to see the zebras, ostriches, chimpanzees, White Rhinos, two hippos  and Rwanda, the Western Lowland  Gorilla, with Kigali, her ten month old baby. Kigali was sleeping beneath a grass hammock so we only saw a glimpse of him.

Rwanda, the 27 year old mama gorilla examining a stick.

Three and a half hours later the twins were still full of energy and I was beat. All in all, it was a really fun day.

Now I'm sitting in my recliner with my feet up and going through my assortment of photos for this post. I hope you enjoy the photos, of which these are only a few of the hundred or more that I took.

Llama tails.

For those who follow my blog, I usually add a list of related books. In this case, some are Zoo Tales (fact and fiction) and others are related reads. I've also included a list of Children's & YA Zoo Books. I've only read a few of these books, but they all look like great reads. Many of the books are available in eBook format.

Zoo Tales and Related Reads (in no particular order):

We Bought a Zoo by Benjamin Mee
Steve & Me by Terri Irwin
Jungle Jack: My Wild Life by Jack Hanna
Lioness by Nell Brien (aka Shirley Palmer) *
Babylon's Ark: The Incredible Wartime Rescue of the Babylon Zoo by Lawrence Anthony with Graham Spence
The Last Rhinos: My Battle to Save One of the World's Greatest Creatures by Lawrence Anthony with Graham Spence
The Elephant Whisperer: My Life with the Herd in the African Wild by Lawrence Anthony with Graham Spence
Congo Kitabu by Jean-Pierre Hallet **
Animal Kitabu by Jean-Pierre Hallet **
Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood by Alexandra Fuller *
Scribbling the Cat: Travels with an African Soldier by Alexandra Fuller *
Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness by Alexandra Fuller
Malaika by Van Heerling ***
Our House in Arusha by Sara Tucker
Growing Up in Africa by Lee & Genny Nichols
Whatever You Do, Don't Run: True Tales of a Botswana Safari Guide by Peter Allison
Backseat Safari by Robyn Keene-Young
Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen **
The Flame Trees of Thika: Memories of an African Childhood by Elspeth Huxley
Into Africa: The Epic Adventures of Stanley and Livingston by Martin Dugard
How I Found Livingston by Sir Henry H. Stanley **
Savages and Beasts: The Birth of the Modern Zoo by Nigel Rothfels
The Rhino with Glue-On Shoes (Zoo Vets and their Patients) by Lucy H. Spelman
Life at the Zoo: Behind the Scenes with the Animal Doctors by Phillip T. Robinson
In the Shadow of Man by Jane Goodall **
My Life with the Chimpanzees by Jane Goodall
Gorillas in the Mist by Dian Fossey **
A Zoo in My Luggage by Gerald Durrell
Night Kill (A Zoo Mystery) by Ann Littlewood
The Koala of Death (A Gunn Zoo Mystery) by Betty Webb
Anteater of Death (A Gunn Zoo Mystery) by Betty Webb
Death Roll (A Snake Jones Zoo Mystery) by Marilyn Victor
The Menagerie: A Zoo Story by J. D. Porter ***

A Giant Tortoise.
*Read and on my bookshelves.
**Read but borrowed from the library.
***TBR on my Kindle

Children's and YA Zoo Tales (in no particular order):

If I Ran the Zoo by Dr. Seuss
The View at the Zoo by Kathleen Long Bostrom
Bruno Munari's Zoo by Bruno Munari
Going to the Zoo by Tom Paxton
Dear Zoo (A Lift-the-Flap Book) by Rod Campbell #
Zoo Animals by Brian Wildsmith
Good Night Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann #
Curious George Visits the Zoo by Margaret Rey
Put Me in the Zoo by Robert Lopshire #
Never, Ever Shout in a Zoo by Karma Wilson
Animal Strike at the Zoo, It's True! by Karma Wilson
If Anything Ever Goes Wrong at the Zoo by Mary Jean Hendrick
The Secret Zoo by Bryan Chick
Danger at the Zoo: A Kit Mystery (American Girl Mystery) by Kathleen Ernst
The Zoo Crew (Nancy Drew & the Clue Crew) by Carolyn Keene
Edison and the Dinosaur Zoo by N. R. Mackie
Saving the Bagdad Zoo by Kelly Milner Halls
Trouble at the Zoo (Bindi Wildlife Adventures) by Bindi Irwin & Chris Kunz
Croc Capers (Bindi Wildlife Adventures) by Bindi Irwin & Chris Kunz

# Children's Zoo Books recommended by my grandkids.

One of the two young camels.

I'm sure I've left off a bunch of zoo or related reads, so please feel free to add your favorites in the comments below. I'd also love to hear what you enjoy the most about the zoo.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Thankful for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays. I happen to love turkey, dressing, pumpkin pie and all the other yummy Thanksgiving goodies. I also love the leftovers which hopefully last through the weekend. That said, there is certainly more to Thanksgiving than all that food.

These days we need to be thankful for many things. Having a roof over one's head, electricity, heat, fresh water, things we normally take for granted, can be taken away in the blink of an eye. Hurricane Sandy did just that when it barrelled into the East Coast of New Jersey and New York.  Thousands of people along the East Coast lost their homes. Thousands more are still without electricity, heating, fresh water and all the other things we take for granted.

This Thanksgiving season those of us not affected by Hurricane Sandy need to be thankful for what we have. We also need to keep those harmed by Sandy in our thoughts and prayers. If possible, we need to pony-up and send some money/aid their way.

Thanksgiving is a time to be thankful for family and friends, for our health, for our homes, for our livelihood. A time to be thankful for the country given to us by our founding fathers. A time to be thankful that we live in a free and democratic country. No, I'm not going to get into politics here, only to say that in the U.S. we have greater freedom and liberty than found in many other countries. So we need to be thankful for that too.

I grew up with the traditional story of the first Thanksgiving. The Mayflower, pilgrims, Plymouth Colony, were all part of my earliest memories. I was told that I'm a descendant of those first pilgrims. I learned about genealogy early on and knew that I had a genetic connection to those same pilgrims.

Thanksgiving is only a week away. I'm already thinking about the turkey and other goodies. I'm thankful for what I have. I'm thankful for my heritage. I'm thankful for Thanksgiving.

For those of you who follow my blog, I've put together some lists of books about Thanksgiving, the Mayflower, the pilgrims, Plymouth and our other founding colonies. I've divided the lists into History, Fiction and Children's/YA Books. Many of these are available in eBook format. Some of these books I have in my own library or on my Kindles. The books are listed in no particular order.

History (great reads for history buffs & excellent research for writers):

Of Plymouth Plantation 1620 - 1647 by William Bradford*
Mayflower by Nathaniel Philbrick*
Plymouth Colony: Its History & People 1620 - 1691 by Eugene Aubrey Stratton*
American Colonies: The Settling of North America by Alan Taylor*
Savage Kingdom: The True Story of Jamestown, 1607... by Benjamin Woolley*
The Mayflower and Her Passengers by Caleb H. Johnson
Love and Hate in Jamestown: John Smith, Pocahontas... by David A. Price
A Land as God Made It: Jamestown and the Birth of America by James Horn
A Kingdom Strange: The Brief and Tragic History of the Lost Colony of Roanoke by James Horn
Roanoke: The Abandoned Colony by Karen Ordahl Kupperman
Roanoke: Solving the Mystery of the Lost Colony by Lee Miller
The Times of Their Lives: Life, Love and Death in Plymouth Colony by James & Patricia Deetz
Making Haste from Babylon: The Mayflower Pilgrims and Their World by Nick Bunker
The Name of War: King Philip's War and the Origins of the American Identity  by Jill Lepore
Changes in the Land: Indians, Colonists, and the Ecology of New England by William Cronon
Everyday Life in Early America by David Freeman Hawke
The Island at the Center of the World: The Epic Story of Dutch Manhattan... by Russell Shorto
Walter Ralegh's Virginia: Roanoke Island and the Lost Colony by Aleck Loker

American Colonial Fiction:

Pilgrim by Hugh Nissenson
White Seed: The Untold Story of the Lost Colony of Roanoke by Paul Clayton**
Roanoke (The Keeper of the Ring Series) by Angela Hunt**
Jamestown (The Keeper of the Ring Series) by Angela Hunt
Sackett's Land (Sackett Series #1) (circa 1600) by Louis L'Amour*
To the Far Blue Mountains (Sackett Series #2) (circa 1600 - 1620) by Louis L'Amour*
The Warrior's Path (Sackett Series #3) (circa 1620s) by Louis L'Amour*
Jubal Sackett (Sackett Series #4) (circa 1620) by Louis L'Amour*
Here Shall I Die Ashore: Stephen Hopkins by Caleb Johnson
Almost Home (The Mayflower's Mary Chilton) (Daughters of the Faith) by Wendy G. Lawton
American Jezebel by Eve LaPlante
Bone Rattler (A Mystery of Colonial America) by Eliot Pattison**
Eye of the Raven (A Mystery of Colonial America) by Eliot Pattison
The Vanishing Point by Mary Sharratt

Children's and YA Books:

The Thanksgiving Story by Alice Dalgliesh
The Pilgrim's First Thanksgiving by Ann McGovern
If You Sailed on the Mayflower in 1620 by Ann McGovern
If You Lived in Colonial Times by Ann McGovern 
Thanksgiving is for Giving Thanks by Margaret Sutherland
The Story of the Pilgrims by Katharine Ross
If You Were At The First Thanksgiving by Anne Kamma
The Very First Americans by Cara Ashrose
The First Thanksgiving (Step-into-Reading) by Linda Hayward
Pilgrims of Plymouth by Susan E. Goodman
Three Young Pilgrims by Cheryl Harness
The Landing of the Pilgrims (Landmark Books) by James Daugherty
Pilgrim Cat by Carol Antoinette Peacock
The Pilgrims of Plymouth by Marcia Sewall
Pilgrim Stories by Margaret Pumphrey

* Books on my Bookshelves
** Books on my Kindles (Kindle Keyboard & Kindle Fire)

Please feel free to add additional books in the comments below. I hope you all have a wonderful and thankful Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

My Childhood Love of Books

Favorite books from my childhood.
Today I added one of my favorite childhood books, Johnny Tremain, to my Kindle Fire. I remember that as an awesome story and couldn't pass up the opportunity to reread this wonderful book.

That's what I love about having a Kindle and which I'm sure is the same for a Nook, iPad or any other eReader. I love the immediacy of downloading a book which catches my eye. And yes, I do add way too many books to my Kindles (my old Kindle Keyboard and my new Kindle Fire).

I'm writing this post tonight due to my childhood love of books. If I hadn't fallen in love with books all those many years ago, well, I probably wouldn't be in love with books today. I got to thinking about all those wonderful books I read as a child and promptly started making a list of them. For those of you who follow my blog, you know that I love making lists of books. Well, this particular list is one that's dear to my heart.

I have to admit that reading all those extraordinary, magical, exciting, adventurous, heartwarming books are what brought about my dream to someday be an author. So if you want to know what authors influenced me through the years, well, just take a look at my list. Talk about inspiration ...

My Favorite Childhood Reads (in no particular order):

Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes
Old Yeller by Fred Gipson
Savage Sam by Fred Gipson
The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
The Enormous Egg by Oliver Butterworth
Hitty Her First Hundred Years by Rachel Field
The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare
Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder*
Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne*
Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry*
King of the Wind by Marguerite Henry
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott*
Hans Brinker or The Silver Skates by Mary Mapes Dodge
Silver for General Washington by Enid LaMonte Meadowcroft
Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink
The Borrowers by Mary Norton*
Nancy Drew Series by Carolyn Keene*
All-of-a-Kind Family by Sydney Taylor*
Betsy-Tacy by Maud Hart Lovelace*
Strawberry Girl by Lois Lenski
Five Little Peppers by Margaret Sidney*
Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild*
Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lundgren*
Mary Poppins by P. L. Travers*
A High Wind in Jamaica by Richard Hughes
Polyanna by Eleanor H. Porter
Heidi by Johanna Spyri
A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett
The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
Cheaper by the Dozen by Frank B. Gilbreth
Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevensen
Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm by Kate Douglas Wiggin
The Incredible Journey by Sheila Burnford
Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie
The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood by Howard Pyle
Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson
Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss
Thomasina by Paul Gallico
That Darn Cat by The Gordons
The Friendly Persuasion by Jessamyn West
The Moonspinners by Mary Stewart
Hailstones and Halibut Bones (Poetry) by Mary O'Neill
Greyfriars Bobby by Eleanor Atkinson
Lassie Come-Home by Eric Knight
Lad: A Dog by Albert Payson Terhune
Black Beauty by Anna Sewell
My Friend Flicka by Mary O'Hara

*Note - These are books where I read and loved the whole series.

It seems to me that all these books would make wonderful Christmas presents for young and old alike. Many of these are also available in eBook format.

Let it be known that I owe my love of books to my mom who started reading to me when I was just a baby. Through the years we spent countless hours together in the library. Every Christmas and birthday she gave me wonderful books. The three books in the photo above were all given to me by my mom. To this day, my mom and I still share books.

I'll add other books to this list as I remember them. Please feel free to add some of your own childhood favorites in the comments below.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Florida is a State of Mind

A typical Florida day at Navarre Beach.

I fell in love with Florida years before I moved here. A childhood friend of mine had vacationed in Miami and came home with stories about the beautiful beaches, palm trees, a rainbow of flowers, bright blue skies, huge white marshmallow clouds and water that went on forever.

To a Southern California beach kid, I think I was seven at the time, Florida sounded like paradise. I vowed then and there that someday I'd go to that exotic land.

Through my school age years I read what books I could find at the library and learned about crocodiles, sea turtles, dolphins, manatees and colorful fish. I was hooked. I was also surprised that the state didn't have any mountains. How could that be?

The west side of Navarre Beach.
I've always been in love with the beach, so heading to Florida, a state surrounded by beaches, was just a dream away. I could envision swimming in those turquoise waters and building sandcastles in that sugar-white sand.

As years passed I met more and more people who had either vacationed in Florida, lived there or intended to travel or move there. I kept that goal in mind as I went through college and started a family. Florida was out there, on the other side of the world it seemed, just waiting for me.

Sometime in my mid-twenties I was introduced to the wonderful Travis McGee books by John D. MacDonald. I raced through that series and knew that Florida was where I belonged.

Eventually, my husband, Ben, and I moved to Florida. By that time, his parents had retired to the Florida Panhandle and mine were working on the east coast, in Daytona Beach. So we also had the excuse of moving closer to family. It was also a great place to raise our daughter.

We started out in Pensacola, on the Florida Panhandle, just minutes away from the Gulf of Mexico and those beautiful beaches I'd been dreaming about all those many years. After a year we moved to Ormond Beach, which is a bedroom community right next to Daytona Beach. A couple years later we were back on the Panhandle, in Fort Walton Beach. The next year we were living on a bayou off Escambia Bay.

The east side of Navarre Beach.
Florida is a state of mind, one of exotic sights and sounds and smells. In the years we've lived here, my husband and I have traveled from one end of the state to the other.

The Keys and Key West are favorites, so is Sanibel Island. Orlando is exciting with Disney World, Epcot, MGM Grand and Universal Studios. The Everglades is filled with those alligators I'd read about as a child and every kind of bird you could imagine, my favorites being Great Blue Herons, Egrets and Osprey.

The best part of Florida is the beaches, every kind of beach you can imagine. The beaches of Miami and Fort Lauderdale are trendy. Sanibel beaches are wall to wall seashells. In Daytona Beach you can drive along the sand. In the Keys, the beaches are thin strips of sand with turquoise waters in every direction. The Panhandle beaches are sugar-white sands, sand dunes covered graced with gently waving sea-oats and the most beautiful turquoise and emerald waters you've ever seen.

A view of Navarre Beach from the pier.
I fell in love with Navarre Beach from the very first moment. Back then, thirty years ago, only a few cottages and motels were built along the beach. You could walk at water's edge for miles if you wanted and only see a handful of people.

Now there are high-rises built along the west side of the Navarre Beach Pier and untold numbers of huge beach houses. The west side of the pier has been left in its natural state with the exception of a scattering of picket fencing designed to protect the sand dunes.

My husband and I have lived in Florida off and on over the last thirty years. We moved away to Las Vegas for eleven years, but frequently vacationed back here and checked on our bayou house that was rented out to a succession of renters.

When my husband retired we moved back to our bayou house, which had to be renovated after renters tore up the house and hurricanes took out dozens of trees. Living on the bayou was never the same after Hurricane Ivan in 2004 and Hurricane Dennis in 2005.

Our house was built on tall pilings, so it didn't flood. But most of the other houses around the bayou flooded out and many were never rebuilt. After a couple years we sold our house and moved away to the Texas Hill County. But like I said, Florida is a state of mind, and it didn't take us long to move right back. Plus, our daughter and grandkids are here, so we're back in Florida to while away the days.

The Pier Bar at Navarre Beach.
We now live only a couple miles from Pensacola Beach. If we had the energy, we could walk or ride our bikes over the bridge, but we don't have that kind of energy these days.

Our beach days are only now and then, for leisurely strolls along the beach or sitting under beach umbrellas and gazing out at that turquoise water. Florida is a place to dream about warm sun, tropical breezes and paradise.

I'll be doing a lot of Florida posts this month, so please check back for more photos of other Florida beaches, the Everglades, the Keys, Sanibel Island and even Orlando. This is a beautiful, exotic state and I hope to share it with you all.

For those who know I love to add lists of books to my blog posts, here's one I'm sure you'll enjoy. As I already mentioned, I fell deeper in love with Florida while reading John D. MacDonald's Travis McGee series. So here is a list of those wonderful books in order. All the series is now available in eBook format for those, like me, who love to read their books on a Kindle, Nook, iPad or other eReader.

Floridians fishing on the Navarre Beach pier.
The Travis McGee Series by John D. MacDonald:

The Deep Blue Good-By
Nightmare in Pink
A Purple Place for Dying
The Quick Red Fox
A Deadly Shade of Gold
Bright Orange for the Shroud
Darker than Amber
One Fearful Yellow Eye
Pale Gray for Guilt
The Girl in the Plain Brown Wrapper
Dress Her in Indigo
The Long Lavender Look
A Tan and Sandy Silence
The Scarlet Ruse
The Turquoise Lament
The Dreadful Lemon Sky
The Empty Copper Sea
The Green Ripper
Free Fall in Crimson
Cinnamon Skin
The Lonely Silver Rain

Me on the pier with the beach high-rises in the background.

I've read every single one of the Travis McGee books and highly recommend them all. I guarantee that you'll soon fall in love with Florida too.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention my book, Bayou Blues and Other Sorrows, which is a collection of eight short stories and eight poems, many of which originated from the years when we lived on a Florida bayou.

The cover on Bayou Blues and Other Sorrows is from a photo I took of a sunset on our bayou. Yes, Florida is a state of mind.

BAYOU BLUES - Amazon/Kindle/US

BAYOU BLUES - Amazon/Kindle/UK

BAYOU BLUES - Barnes&Noble/Nook

BAYOU BLUES - Apple/iBookStore/itunes

Bayou Blues and Other Sorrows is also available at Sony, Kobo, Diesel and Smashwords.

Bayou Blues and Other Sorrows is a collection of short stories and poems touching on issues that all may face at one time or another, from lost love to life changing crossroads to moments of pure happiness. These are heartwarming stories you won't want to miss.

The short stories are:

"A Kiss is Just a Kiss" – People are not always who and what they appear to be. A kiss is not always just a kiss, it may have consequences.

"I Love You, Joe Montana" – This is a story about love renewed.

"Checking Out" – There are many crossroads in life. Check out? Or is life too beautiful to leave behind?

"The Night of the UFO" – Pure happiness can come at the oddest of moments. So how many Whiskey Sours do you need to see a UFO?

"Earthquakes" – Some people enter the world with a bang.

"Faded Love" – Faded love is better than no love at all.

"Harry's Garden" – How far will a scorned woman go to get even with her cheating husband?

"Old Dogs Need Love Too" – A story about love lost and love found.

The poems are: "Bayou Blues," "Cartwheels," "In a Café," "Sweet Lips of Time," "Barefoot," "Sunshine and Promises," "The Turtle," and "Tumbleweeds."

I hope you'll give Bayou Blues and Other Sorrows a try. These are heartfelt stories and poems which I believe you'll savor and enjoy.

As always, please feel free to add comments below. I love hearing from my readers. Also, feel free to add Florida books that you have written or your favorites from other authors. Be sure to check back from time to time for more Florida posts.