Happy August! It’s a great time of year to listen to an audiobook

Hello fellow readers and writers.  It’s a great time of the year to listen to a novel. Learn and discover something new while working out, driving, passing time on a train or plane, or simply sitting on the couch and letting someone else read to you.  I’ve been a fan of audible.com since its inception.  First thing in the morning I go for a morning run while listening to a book.  I feed my mind and body, what a great way to start the day.  Hours of driving? No problem, time for a new story. Don’t get me wrong I love reading, but sometimes I just want to give my eyes a break.  Other times, I just don’t have time to read, but I can certainly listen.

Audible.com has a free listen for new members.  I encourage you to join and download my novel, Breakfast In Bimini, as your first listen. You won’t be disappointed with this fun, adventuresome story.  Simply click on a highlighted link to get started.  If you decide not to continue with membership, they make it easy to stop anytime with no further commitment.

 Breakfast In Bimini

If you’re already a member of audible and you’d like to listen and write a review of my novel then leave me your email address in the comments section and I’ll send you a code for a free review copy.

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Breakfast In Bimini book launch

book signingThis past weekend I published Breakfast in Bimini, and had a booth at the West Palm Beach Boat Show.  I ordered twenty paperbacks and designed bookmarks for distribution during the event. A few days prior to the show, I learned the books weren’t scheduled for delivery until the following week, and the printer didn’t get my final email approving the promo handouts.  To top off this wonderful day, my computer was hacked and a virus took over.  After many hours troubleshooting, I  reverted back to a previous version of Windows 8.

The night prior to the show opening, both the books and bookmarks arrived at my door. Luck switched in my favor.  I went strong for two days, selling some books and passing out plenty of info on my novel and website.  I received a mention on our local county station who also re-tweeted my book signing booth photo and links.  I met plenty of valuable contacts, but received dubious stares from others.  I always smiled and invited them to take my card.  The third day, I took a more relaxed approach, disappearing from my booth a bit more than desirable.

“You’re a bad exhibitor,”  the show promoter said at my lack of presence on the final day.

This promoter also happened to be my husband, so I took it with a grain of salt.

“I have a better understanding of what exhibitors go through,” I admitted.  “The ups and downs of a three-day show.  Slow at times, busy at others.  And dealing with people all day.  Some are super nice, some what to chat too long, and others just simply ignored me when I greeted them.”

BreakfastInBimini-AmazonMy book is now available on Amazon in both Kindle and paperback and also on my website sierramichaels.com

Breakfast In Bimini shows up immediately during a search as the only book followed by products offered for breakfast in a bikini. These are mostly detox products.  I had to laugh.

 

Breakfast in Bimini- Chapter 12 segment

Below is and unedited excerpt from the current book I’m working on, which should be complete by the end of summer.  It’s sometimes difficult to read parts of novels and really understand the story and for the writer it’s hard to post unedited drafts.  But I’m going for it!  I try to pick neutral paragraphs without much background needed or plot revealed. Next time I’ll have another travel story.  I hope you enjoy and as always I welcome feedback and thoughts.

Breakfast in Bimini.

Smoke filled my lungs in the middle of the night and for a fleeting moment I thought I was dreaming. I shook Luke simultaneously pushing out the screen and yelling, “Fire.” In an instant impromptu swoosh I bolted through the screened-in window, seamlessly landing on the wooden dock. I unplugged the boat power cord from the electrical box and upon returning to the cabin, I opened all the doors and windows while shouting “Luke, Russ.” The sun was just starting to float on the ocean as the smell of acrid smoke permeated the air. The two emerged through the haze sporting only boxers, Luke with blue and white horizontal stripes and Russ in hunting Camouflage. I noticed for the first time what I was wearing, plaid boxers, borrowed from Luke, and a loose navy blue tank top. I was relieved to have not slept naked as I often did since that could have been an ordeal. We all stepped on the dock to breathe fresh air.

“Well, that’s a hella way to wake up,” Russ exhaled. “It’s not a fire, Kelly. Fire means flames. It’s an electrical smoldering.”

I blinked and after a few moments rebuked, “Well I don’t have a dictionary with me at the moment, but I’m pretty sure it means smoke and danger, both of which existed. Smoke is just as dangerous as flames, besides screaming electrical smoldering doesn’t have the same effect and at the time…”

“O.K., my bad. You did the right thing by unplugging the power source.” He looked around, “Why is the window screen on the dock?”

“Oh, welcome to my world,” Luke chimed in. “Kelly screamed, “fire” in my ear, shook me into consciousness, then jumped through the screen and onto the dock.”

Russ stared at me in disbelief with raised eyebrows, wide eyes and mouth agape. I answered prior to any of his wry comments.

“Well, I had to do something and I wasn’t sure what was going on in the cabin. My adrenaline just took over. You know, emergency mode. So are things still sizzling in the cabin? Has anyone checked that out yet?”

“Cutting off the power supply should have stopped any additional smoke, it’s like clipping the fuel supply to an engine. It fizzles pretty quickly. Let’s go check it out,” Russ urged Luke.

I stayed on the dock, admiring the sunrise for a moment. It wasn’t a phenomenon I witnessed often, at least not lately. I was amazed by the stillness and tranquility of dawn, the vast calm sea only enhancing the serene moment. Waking up docked in the Bahamas was an experience unlike any other, the way life should be lived with natural sounds of the sea tenderly hitting the dock pilings, fresh slightly saline air, peaceful and carefree. I drank a quick cup of coffee still brewing courtesy of Luke preparing it the night prior and then pushing the button on his way out.

I changed into my running clothes. “I have time to run, right?” I asked, scooting past Luke.

“Yes, honey. We have to check the wires and weather again before setting sail.” He glanced at me and added, “And reinstall the window screen.”

I snickered, confidently knowing I had done the right thing. I was always one quick to react, a benefit at times and occasionally a nuisance. In hot debates I’d sometimes stick my foot in my mouth and shoot out a comment I regretted. Once as a witness in a courtroom I’d answered too rapidly to a cross-examination, spurring more interrogations from an unfriendly lawyer who tried to trap me. But overall, my innate need to swiftly respond was a gift.

Breakfast in Bimini, Chapter 10 excerpt

I realized the music was coming from our Intrepid, Russ’ choice I concluded. Fileted Tuna spread across a wooden picnic table with soy sauce and wasabi.  The smell of burgers soured the salubrious air.  I munched wasabi drenched Tuna, numbing my senses with an intense burn.  Inhaling the brief pain, I turned towards Russ arranging hamburgers on the public grill, “So do you always fish and boat in cowboy boots?”

“No Ma’am,” his grinned widened.  “Just for my flight here.  I brought shorts and flip-flops for the rest of the trip, but I’m always prepared for a rodeo.”

“We definitely have some sort of goat rodeo going on.  Maybe a little different from what you’re used to.”

He snickered and shook the ice against his otherwise empty glass. “It’s all good.  Hell, we’re in Paradise.”  Handing me his glass, “Would you mind getting me a rum and coke, some buns…and all the burger fixings?”

“Sure.”  I walked off, past the cloud of smoke encircling the Hillbilly Express, returning with a few drinks, a soy burger wrapped in foil, and all the accoutrements.  I threw my foiled veggie burger on the crowded grill.  Yoda was patiently sitting next to Russ, her nose wiggling at the meaty environment.

“What’s that?” Russ asked.

“A soy burger,” I nonchalantly answered.  “I’m a pescatarian.  I don’t eat any meat except fish.”

He shook his head, “I’ve never heard of such a thing.”

“Well now you have,” I smiled widely.

It was happy-hour on the dock with newfound friends meandering by, swooping up sushi and burgers, like the pelicans I’d watched earlier.  Yoda ate every scrap hitting the ground, spotting an airborne crumb as if a missile-launch, occasionally snapping at a fly.  Small talk buzzed around the now tropical storm brewing in the Caribbean and the deadly oil spill.  Apparently, this storm at the end of May was one of the earliest ones on record.  I kept my mouth zipped about our friends oil spill involvement, most fishermen were very environmentally conscious and although the Kramers had nothing to do with the tragedy, just being associated with such a disaster was a conviction.  The oil was already harming fish and wildlife in the Gulf of Mexico, not to mention the long-term effect on the ecosystem.  The Kramers just provided the insurance, they weren’t responsible for the explosion or its aftermath.  But I’d learned the hard way as a junior archaeologist that most people can’t detach or comprehend associations when dealing with environmental issues.  I was hired to help excavate one of the last remaining wetlands in Los Angeles County.  Protesters would show up every day and spit at me as I entered the site.  I wasn’t developing the area, but I was sure as hell going to save and preserve any artifacts discovered.  Sometimes you just can’t fight ignorance, development and strong, yet faulty beliefs. To top it off, I rollerbladed to work the wetlands while the protesters parked their SUV’s on the grass lot.

Glancing at Russ and Luke chatting with the Davy Jones family, I grinned knowing I didn’t have to watch the news while in the Bahamas.  After all we didn’t have electricity for the rest of our trip except when docked at night, and then we were too busy drinking.

Russ winked at me.  “So pescatarian, do you play the hook game or pool?”

I tilted my head realizing I had a winker, and a bit thrown off by a hook game.  “I play pool and I’ve heard of Captain Hook, any relation?”

He cracked a smile, “Let’s go play in the yacht club.”

Russ took the lead as a gaggle followed, including Yoda and a stray yellow lab. Luke and his buddies lingered at the bar, passing the two of us cocktails:  rum with coke and a white wine spritzer.  Cowboy held a silver circle in his hand attached to plastic fishing line.  The object of the game was to throw the circle onto the hook attached to the wall.  He tossed the swinging line ten times, hooking two of them in the process and then handed me the dangling circle the size of my wrist.  I flung it too aggressively and it bounced off the wall three times.

“Easy,” he said.  “Like your hitching a tame horse, not a mustang.”

Okay, not sure what that means, but I threw a mellower version, only bouncing the hook off the wall once.  It still swung wildly and I was nowhere close to hitting the target.  I played with my footing and focused on the task at hand, finally getting the circle to catch within ten throws.  I threw my hands in the air and jumped up and down. “Yeah.”

“That’s better,” he gloated as a successful teacher.  “A rematch?”

“Hell yeah.  I got this.”

He rolled his eyes and started the challenge.  He championed three hooks within ten shots, grinning with a knowing win, and then handed me the ring, “You’re turn.”

I studied the angles and found my sweet spot. Concentrating on the target, I hit the hook on my first throw, and then the third.  Four and five was a miss but then I mastered six, seven and nine.  I felt like Duane Wade on his best night.  I waved my hands in the air and turned towards Russ.  “I got this,” I rejoiced and added, “Do you want a rematch or a pool tournament?”

“I think you may be a pool shark, but let’s give it a go,” he said wryly.

Luke and Jeff stepped up to the hook game and Russ barely beat me at two games of pool.  I somehow accidently pocketed the eight ball by not paying attention to the task, forfeiting one of the games.  I was more into the Bahamian music leading my feet and mind to sway with the beat.  Jenny joined us, and hit a few of my striped balls.  We danced around the billiard table like courting Blue-footed Boobies.

Breakfast in Bimini, Chapter 8 excerpt

staniel cayWalking off, I scouted the docks for Luke.  He was talking to a few guys near the fish cleaning station.  Nick was at the opposite end checking out a large European yacht I recognized as an Azimut, from three distinct windows on the side and its aerodynamic design.  One of the few boats I could spot and identify, it was also my dream boat.  This one was curiously named Davy Jones. My mind raced to where I’d heard that name.  One of the band members names in The Monkees, I knew from my youth growing up watching and listening to the pop group, but also from somewhere else.  I shook off the mystery name and strolled over to Luke gabbing at the fish station.  Nurse sharks swarmed below in a feeding frenzy for fish scraps, attacking like Komodo Dragons on raw meat.  They didn’t look so peaceful or harmless now.nurse sharks

Luke noticed me standing by his side.  “Hey, sweetie.”  He turned to one of the guys filleting fish, “This is my girlfriend Kelly.”

The tall, thin, shirtless stranger greeted me with a nod, “Nice to meet you.” He glanced at me then the fish he was cutting.  “I’d shake your hand, but they’re a bit bloody right now.”  Two large fish were splayed on the filet table and a bucket full of fresh meat lay between his feet.  He was wearing plastic blue fishing waders. “I’m Paul, and this is my buddy Randy.”  I smiled at the younger, less messy fisherman.  His fish scraps seamlessly fell from the table into the shark infested water.  He was barefoot wearing only a bathing suit and a knife attached to his calf.

“Dolphin?”  I asked, with my newfound yet limited fishing lingo.

“Yes Ma’am,” Paul answered.  “Got a few at sunrise, just out yonder.”

Luke chimed in, “They’re from Fort Lauderdale.”

“Neighbors,” I offered, peering into the sea for another glimpse of the bloodbath.  Although the accent was a bit country-strong for southern Florida.  My eyes drifted toward Luke, “I’m going poolside until we leave on the golf cart.”

“We’re leaving in forty-three minutes.”  Where does he get these numbers?  Not forty or forty-five.  So random.

Jamie, the blonde and the adorable dog, Yoda, were all sunbathing at the small pool. “What are you drinking?” I called out.

“Pina Colada,” Jamie responded.

I returned with two Pina Coladas and a small bowl of ice water for the dog.  “I brought some water for Yoda, if you don’t mind?” I asked, placing the bowl on the ground.

“Ahh, thanks.  I’ve been giving her ice cubs from my drink and she swims in the pool.”

“She’s such a cutie.”  I sat in the lounge chair between Jamie engulfed in a magazine and the blonde. “And a good traveler?” I added with a quick sip from my sweet cocktail.

She beamed a new motherly glow.  “Yes, I’ve only had her for about nine months.  But she goes everywhere with me.”

“Where do you call home?”

“North Carolina is home, but we’ve been traveling for the past few years on our boat.” She paused.  “I’m Jenny.  I’m here with my husband, it’s our fifth anniversary.”

“Congrats on five years.  I’m Kelly.”  I raised my drink to her unknown cocktail.  She lit a cigarette and I borrowed one.

“You smoke? I thought I saw you running.”

“Yes. I do both.” I mumbled.

She giggled with a knowing uninhibited grin. “No worries.”

I glanced at Jamie still absorbed in her magazine.  Yoda was under her lounge chair, resting in the shade.  “So you’re sailing around the Bahamas?” I probed for conversation.

“Yeah.”  She pointed to the marina.  “Our boat is docked over there for the next week.  It’s called Davy Jones.

My eyes widened through my sunglasses.  I’d assumed she was on one of the many sailboats.  “An Azimut.  My favorite boat.”  I took a sip, “And is your husband Davy?”

She giggled.  “No, it’s Jeff Johnson.  Davy Jones is a reference to shipwrecks at the bottom of the sea.”  She extinguished her cigarette into a close-by empty glass.  “Most people don’t get it, but he’s a treasure hunter looking for Spanish shipwrecks, mostly in the Bahamas.”  She clarified.  “He does web design and hosting for a living, but his passion is treasure hunting.”

It clicked.  That’s how I know the name Davy Jones.  It’s an idiom for the bottom of the sea.  Davy Jones’ Locker, or death to sailors. I started to fluster, my mind spinning through everything that had happened during our trip; boat disasters, pirates, my idol, portals, and nightmares.  Sensing my fear, Yoda jumped on my lap.  Jamie lowered her sunglasses and whispered through her teeth, “I caught part of the conversation, and I can see beads of sweat forming all over you, and you’re as pale as a ghost.  Breathe. Just breathe.  This has nothing to do with your dreams.”

“The symbol of death was just dropped on my feet,” I teeth-whispered back. “And the sweat’s from the hot sun.”

She smiled thinly toward me then to Jenny who was unaware of any conflict.  Jamie quietly nudged me and then turned towards our newfound friend, “We are going to change for our island exploration.   See you later this afternoon, I hope.”

“I think Yoda likes you Kelly,” she uttered.

“And such a cute name, how did you pick it?” I asked, hoping it wasn’t some omen.

“Oh, we’re Star Wars fans.”

I calmed at the response.  Great, the Star Wars Jedi master meets the sea devil. Following Jamie to the cottage, I imagined the dog and horned demon dueling it out with lightsabors to save the galaxy.  Somehow in my mind’s eye, the adorable pup won the battle before I even reached the doorstep.

Nick and Luke were waiting, ready to sightsee, “Has it been forty-three minutes?” I called out to Luke.

“Forty-four,” he taunted

We perambulated to the golf cart with no plans but to be at the airport around 3:00, or whenever we saw the Caravan fly overhead.  I wanted to stop by a local grocery store because I liked checking out foreign food, and Jamie sought boutiques, if we happened to pass one.  We were all in our bathing suits with cover-ups.  Jamie and I on the back of the four-seater with the boys navigating in the front.  Crossing the rickety bridge over Bonefish Creek, Luke in the driver’s seat, decided to stop and admire the fleeting fish.  A Piper Aztec buzzed us. “Not a Caravan,” Luke announced.

A small grocery store sat across from the creek.  “Can we check that store out,” I pointed to coral shack.

Luke pulled in front and Jamie and I jumped off the cart. I perused the can goods and cereal boxes.  Plenty of beans, rice, oatmeal and a few boxes of Captain Crunch and Cheerios.  The elderly Bahamian lady watched me like a bird stocking its prey.  “My God. You can’t come in here without a shirt,” she chided.

“Oh, I didn’t know.  Sorry,” I murmured.

Exiting the shack I glanced at Jamie wearing a cover-up.  She wasn’t far behind carrying four opened Kalik lights.  “I don’t think she liked your cleavage,” she kidded.  “What are you like a 36D?”

“C,” I corrected.  “It’s the islands.  Who knew?”

“Hey Kelly, did you tell Luke about the Davy Jones boat?”

“I met the owner, Jeff.” Nick said. “Nice guy.”

“Well we met his wife and dog at the pool.  Jeff’s a treasure hunter.  That along with the Davy Jones Locker euphemism leads me to believe my idol is still at work.  Maybe it wants to return to the bottom of the sea.”

The threesome snickered with Luke going into a lingering belly laugh.  “I think maybe the owner watches too much Sponge Bob,” Luke managed to cackle.

I blinked at the three, raising my lips slightly.  “Do you know what Davy Jones means, sweetie?”

His laugh teetered to a perpetual grin.  “Yes.  Sponge Bob had a locker at the bottom of the ocean that he kept some socks in.”  He went to a full belly laugh again and stopped the cart.

Nick spoke through his smile.  “I don’t know a thing about Sponge Bob, but in pirate lore it’s the devil of the sea and it’s meant to cause fear among seamen.  It’s mentioned in Moby Dick and Pirates of the Caribbean.”  He glanced back at me.  “But in reality, it’s just a name some guy picked for his boat.  Besides he looks harmless.  You should show him your idol.”

I shrugged.  “He’s still a treasure hunter.”

“And you’re an archaeologist.  You two should have a lot in common.  I’ll introduce you two tonight,” he concluded.

Breakfast in Bimini: Chapter 7 excerpt

Chapter 7

Exumas

Wading through the water I spotted the duck pacing and wondered if it sleeps at night or if ducks dream, recalling my crazy dream of drug-stuffed idols.  Heading towards the runway, I passed Kevin and waved with a quick flip of my right hand.  Sea Grapes edged the landing strip as I caught a glimpse of the ocean in the distance. With music blaring through my iPod, I barely heard the faint sound of an engine landing behind me.  A Piper Aztec touched down as I jumped into the Sea Grape bushes in astonishment.  Where in the hell did that come from?  I was running on a runway with music blasting in my ears, probably not a good idea.  Continuing past the dilapidated airport I observed a plane resting in the shallow water just feet from the shoreline.  It was almost identical to the book cover ‘Turning the Tide’ I was introduced to just yesterday.  With enlarged eyes I scooted closer to the water’s edge.  I embraced the moment of historical relevance and continued running the shoreline until my turnaround point back to the ship.  The pacing goose greeted me yet again for the last time.

Aboard the Cabin Fever, the crew was intensely looking over charts and planning as I arrived drenched in sweat and salt water.  “Wow, that was an exciting run,” I exhaled while approaching the threesome on the bridge.  “An Aztec landed and I saw the plane from the cover of the book.”

The three looked up with approval.  “Did you have a good run?”  Jamie asked.

I nodded. “Yes, awesome.”

“Good, we are setting sail soon so if you need anything on land, then now is the time.  Including toilets,” she emphasized.

“Oh, that’s right.”  I turned around and dove back into the water feeling more confident with my swimming abilities.  Dripping wet I visited the outhouse and mumbled a quick goodbye to Kevin in the restaurant.  After a swift shower I was ready to tackle the day in my bathing suit.

In the cabin I was informed of our plans for the day as we lunched on fresh-baked cheese croissants compliments of Jamie.  We would cruise past several small islands and then Luke and I would jump into the Intrepid for some fishing and meet up with the Bluewater at Compass Cay then onto Staniel Cay where parts were being flown in to fix the toilets.  The ocean was flat calm and fairly shallow except for the Exuma Sound dropping to almost 6000 feet, similar to the Tongue of the ocean.  We would only be in the deep fishing on the Intrepid.

I grabbed my book, cigarettes, a towel, and a bottle of water setting up for a few hours of sunbathing. “Anybody want to work on their tan,” I threw out there as I set-up on a large cushion at the stern of the bridge.

“I’ll join you,” Jamie answered.

Returning minutes later she sat down on a cushion next to me spraying tanning lotion on her shoulders, neck and face.  Holding up her sun kissed brown bottle, “Would you like some?”

“Sure.”  I took the lotion from her outreached hand and sprayed my chest, already having SPF on my face as a daily routine after my shower.  I’d spent some time with Jamie but I didn’t really know her outside of the four of us having dinner a few times in Florida.  I knew she was a strong person and often commanded the room.  She was a leader, as was I when nobody else stepped up to the plate.  I was usually willing to let someone else take on that demanding role.  She definitely wore the pants in the family, although Nick was no pushover.  We were both laying horizontal as I glanced sideways through my sunglasses. “So how did you and Nick meet?”

Her face lit up and an uncontrollable smile swept across her face. “Well it’s kind of a funny story.”  She glimpsed at me then back up at the sky.  “Have you heard about Columbus Day Regatta?”

“Luke said it’s a party on the water and that he wants us to go this fall.  September, right?”

“Yes, the first weekend in September.  And party is an understatement.  Everyone is drinking crazy amounts of alcohol and bathing suits are optional.  It’s like an orgy in the middle of the ocean.”

I cracked a smile as my ears perked.

“So I took my boat down with about six girlfriends.  At that time I had a 36 foot Contender and we anchored next to Nick’s 56 foot Hatteras.  He was there with about ten guys and they started throwing beads at us to remove our tops.  So I tossed my top onto his boat, dove in the water and emerged on his stern.”  She propped herself up on her elbows and motioned to her breasts.  “And he kept staring at these, so I said, are you going to get me a drink.  Still stunned he handed me the one in his hand.”

I giggled.  “I’m sure he did.”

Her smile widened.  “And we just really hit it off.  It was a crazy weekend.  All of my crew ended up spending the weekend on the Hatteras.  Naked guys and girls floated about the sea, music blared, and come Monday we decided to keep in touch.  The Hatteras and his captain stayed in Miami as Nick flew in from Texas almost every weekend.  That was over ten years ago.”

“Do you go to the regatta every year?”

“No, but I’d like to go again this year.”  She laid back down, “It’s fun, but a bit much at times.”

“Sounds like fun.  I’d like to check it out at least once. Where do people sleep if on a smaller boat?”

She chuckled.  “Wherever they fall.  Most people are so wasted that they just pass out on the boat or not sleep at all, or all sleep together.”

2011 reflections and 2012 predictions

HAPPY NEW YEAR.  I know I’m a bit late but that seems to be my direction for the past few months.  Too much to do with too little time.  I hope 2012 frees up my schedule to do what I love…writing.  It’s part of my resolution along with about ten other things to improve upon in the new year.  As many have pointed out to me the past few weeks, according to the  Mayan calendar the apocalypse is on December 21, 2012.  Bah Humbug.  If that were true my only resolution in the new year would be to live life to the fullest.  Carpe Diem.  Wait, I already do that.  So what do I wish for in the new year? And what has 2011 taught me?  I vowed to let go of my ego in the new year after reading “The Power of Now“, but I want to embellish it for the last time or perhaps many times to come.  I can still release my ego and write about life’s experiences from my point of view. 

For several months I was captivated by biographies of music legends   such as Frank Sinatra, The Beatles, Rolling Stones, and Jim Morrison, to name the memberable ones.  They all had interesting stories with lots of drugs, sex, fanatical fans and complete chaos. For some reason I really connected to Jim Morrison’s life story and it’s kinda scary considering the unparalleled hedonistic life he led.  Perhaps it was my connection to Venice Beach and my past life there, but I found  his history very exciting as I went on a Morrison quest during my visit to Los Angeles this past fall. 

Memorable characters such as Howard Hughs, Rob Lowe and Tina Fay also made it into my reading library as I listened to their life’s struggles and successes.  After reading all these non-fiction books I realized that we all have a story.  Each and every one of us, including myself. Some are more exciting than others but I appreciate and learn from each of them and it seems like everyone this year had a book telling their story. 

Of course I love history and the people that make it, but a good well-written novel to escape reality makes my day.  Followed by the movie, even better.  I read “The Help” and “The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo” last year and “One Day” this year all followed up by the movie…well eventually. I thought the movie “The Help” did an excellent job with character casting, acting and scenery.  The other two movies are top on my list this month.  The “Book of Joe” was also a great book but not really movie material, and that’s O.K. I still took something from it especially a writing style that emulates my own.

As for 2012, I will continue to wake up every morning and run to a powerful, joyful, life rewarding audiobook.  As for the Mayan calendar and the end of the world.  The ancient culture based their calendar on a 5,126 era, why go beyond that.  It was their conclusion of a b’ak’tun. They probably figured they could pick it up at anytime in the future and finish it, hell they have over 5,000 years to do so.  Does our society plan that long in the future?  If we are colliding with a Black Hole, I’m already doing my part…living life to the fullest.  If it’s a spiritual rebirth, I have a head start on that too with my renewed Buddhist practice.  In the meantime Carpe Diem for the new year!

MAYDAY MAYDAY

 Here’s a short story I recently wrote.

“MAYDAY, MAYDAY.  We need to talk.” My husband said while frantically switching radio frequencies between Miami Departure and Miami Center, trying to reach anyone as our altitude decreased. I was concentrating on flying the airplane, but at 1200 feet we would impact the water within minutes.  We lost our engine at 4500 feet and after setting the best glide speed at 75 knots I tried to restart the engine.  I checked the magnetos, fuel selector, and fuel pump.  Nothing but eerie silence filled the air. “Fly the airplane, you can do it” I said faintly to myself.  Talking to air traffic control was my least concern but a very real one for my husband, Luke.  He was solely concentrating on how we were going to be rescued, while I was focused on surviving the crash into the Atlantic Ocean. I frantically reviewed everything on my checklist again and prepared for the ditch.

My husband made one last feeble attempt to reach Miami, “MAYDAY, MAYDAY.  This is 8547 Whiskey going down fifteen miles northwest of Bimini.  MAYDAY.” Luke released control of the radio.  He reached for a life vest and placed it around my neck and then secured one around his own. “I love you baby,” he said with sincerity.

“Me too.”

My mantra was “just pretend like your landing on a runway,” over and over I tried to convince myself—as Luke was counting down our altitude. “Fifty feet to go.  Hold on.”

I stalled the airplane just a few feet above the water for a hard but upright landing.  I already had the door unlatched so I immediately released my seatbelt then swung the door open.  I glanced over at Luke who was right behind me with our red life raft in his right hand.  My leap into the ocean was filled with relief that we landed safely.

I pulled the cord on my life jacket and started kicking my legs as we bobbed around in the vast Gulf Stream struggling to release the life raft. It was caught in the door. As we worked to get the raft untangled I noticed blood streaming from a gash at my husband’s temple.  Not wanting to alarm him, I stayed silent. Not only could his injury be more serious than it looked, it could also attract sharks.  In the Gulf Stream there are several types of sharks including the deadly Oceanic White Tip Shark.   Thoughts of the wreck of the Indianapolis crossed my mind, one of the most gruesome shark encounters mankind has witnessed.

Luke freed the raft from the wreckage as I watched him. “How are we doing on getting the raft opened?” I asked with a slightly shaky voice.  “Do you need help?” Luke was still struggling with the raft as his blood dripped into the water.  “Honey, what can I do?”

He grunted.  “I got it. But, I think…I think it might have a tear in it.”  The raft slowly unraveled.  The sides expanded as the middle sank.

I looked over at our Cessna and saw only the tip of the tail above water.  “There goes the plane,” I mumbled. The ocean’s expanse seemed more vast and looking over my husband’s shoulder so did the fin I saw coming towards us.

“Sweets jump into the raft, NOW!”  He hesitated afraid to lose the buoyancy of the raft.  “Honey a shark is heading towards us.  Now please.”  I jumped onto the side of the raft and Luke dove onto the other side.  Our bodies were out of the water but we didn’t know if the raft was going to hold us. 

A ten foot shark slowly circled the raft. “That’s a White Tip,” Luke said with conviction as he moved closer to the inside of our inflatable boat.  Our raft resembled a donut. The sides were completely inflated with a big hole in the center.  Blood from my husband’s head continuously dripped into the Gulf Stream.

“Sweets.  Why don’t you lie on your back and let your head rest.”  I said, hoping that his blood would coagulate.  “You’re bleeding a little.”

“A White Tip is about to bump us and you want me to lay down.”

I shimmied out of my shirt and gave it to him.  “At least put this over your head,” I said as I leaned over and handed him my shirt.  He balanced himself with his legs and one arm while tying the cloth around his head.

I looked at the donut hole and noticed only an inch or so of water covered the bottom of the raft.  “So should I lean inward if we get bumped?” I asked as I tilted into the raft.

“HOLD ON,” he shouted.  I hugged the boat like an infant being taken from its mother.  My body completely enveloped the rounded edge of the raft.  The bump felt like a strong push, not enough to dislodge me into the water.  My husband apparently did the same.  I relaxed my grip, and for the first time since the accident smiled at Luke.

He grinned back.  “Why are you smiling?” 

“Because we are still both on the raft; we are still alive—and I think we are going to live through this.”  He looked around for the shark’s fin.  I wondered, “Do you think ATC heard our Mayday?”

His grasp on the boat relaxed a bit as he took turns looking at me and the ocean.  “It’s possible that they heard us and we didn’t hear them.  Hell anything’s possible right now.  We filed a flight plan and notified customs.  They should know we are missing by now or at least in the next few hours.”  I noticed his face turn grim again.  “The shark is back.”

“Did he bring friends,” I said trying to make light of our situation.  “The hole in the bottom of the boat is not that big, should we try and sit inside?” I inquired.

His eyes followed the fin in the distance.  He quickly glanced at the center of the boat then back into the water. “It’s too risky.  Oceanic White Tip’s are known for attacking from the bottom and it could easily bite through the thin rubber layer.”  He glimpsed at the donut hole again then at me.  “And our weight could increase the water flow.”  His eyes darted around looking for the shark as I noticed his grip on the raft tighten.  The concern in his eyes made me tense and copy him. 

I scanned the Atlantic Ocean and noticed its deep violet color radiating light with the reflection of the sinking sun.  The waves were gentle and peaceful allowing me to relax my body and mind.  I closed my eyes and tried to pretend like I was on my raft in the pool when I realized I was thirsty as I tasted the salty air.  Dried salt water left a sticky residue over every inch of my body and stiffened my clothes. I suddenly craved fresh water.  A craving I realized I couldn’t satisfy.  Trying to forget about my thirst, I looked around the ocean again for any signs of the shark or life in general.  A flying fish whizzed by just feet above the water.  I smiled and my lips cracked with dryness.

I turned to my husband, “Sweets, why don’t you relax a bit and rest your head.  I don’t see the shark.”

“That concerns me even more,” he said as he repositioned my shirt on his head.  “Is my head still bleeding?” he asked.

I couldn’t tell with the dark brown color of the shirt so I suggested, “why don’t you dip it in the salt water and put it back on your head.  Salt water heals.  That’s the best thing right now along with you resting.” 

Luke rinsed the shirt in the center of the boat, wrung it out and tied it back on his head. He placed his head down facing me and sighed. “You know with the wind direction we won’t hit land, not in the Gulf Stream… not until Africa.”

I grinned.  “I’ve always wanted to revisit Africa. Did you figure out how to turn salt water into fresh water yet?” I said sarcastically.  “And I can learn to like fish.  You’re such a great fisherman; I know you can provide for us.”  He snorted.  “Seriously, rest your eyes and we’ll take turns looking for the shark.  Just lean inwards in case we get bumped.”

I continued to scan the vast ocean for any signs of life, staying alert for sharks and even for possible vessels in the distance.  I let my feet dangle but I still had a firm grip on the raft.  I tried to stay positive but thoughts of dying in the ocean crossed my mind.  Thoughts of sharks, dehydration and starvation, drowning and losing my partner forced their way in as I determinedly pushed them back out.  I’m a survivor I reminded myself.  I pictured Luke and I back home having a beer at the end of the day and concentrated on good thoughts of a long life together.

The sun was lower in the sky and I figured we had a good hour left of sunlight.  A Marlin jumped in the distance and I was awed with its beauty.  I was getting tired but I refused to close my eyes.  Luke had to rest with his injury, not me.  If only I had an energy drink, I thought. 

The quietness had developed a slight buzz in the background, an unnatural sound of a distant engine.  The sound was moving closer so I called out to my husband. “Honey, are you awake?  Luke, I hear an engine.”  He lifted his head and looked around.  I followed his gaze.

“It’s a helicopter!  I can tell by the sound.”  We both stared at the sky straining to see what was creating the noise. As the buzz became louder and I could recognize the distinct hum of the blades spinning.  A black dot on the horizon quickly came into view.  I sat upright and began waving.  Luke did the same.  “It’s a J-Hawk,” he called out with enthusiasm.  “That’s what the coast guard uses.”

“Do we have a flare?” I asked.  Already knowing the answer would be no—Luke didn’t bother to answer.  I fumbled around in the side pocket of my khaki’s for a small mirror that I usually carry on me.  I pulled it out and faced it towards the sun in hopes of creating a reflection.  Luke continued to wave his arms as I flashed the mirror. 

The crew of the J-Hawk were in sight, with one wearing a mask and snorkel.  A basket was lowered to our raft.  Luke grabbed it and lifted a VHF radio while continuing to hold on waiting for instructions.

“Captain, this is Coast Guard.  We are unable to follow normal procedure and send a man in to help you. We are watching a large White Tip circling your life raft. It’s too dangerous for our rescue swimmer to jump into the water.  I’m going to need you to follow my instructions very carefully.”

“I’m ready,” Luke shot back.

“We can only take one at a time.”  The voice said from the VHF.  “It’s best if you help the female into the basket, then we will send it back down for you.”

“Come here baby.”  Luke called out.  “Crawl along the outside of the raft.”  I inched along the border as he grabbed me and helped me into the basket. 

I sat in the basket looking down into the ocean.  The blades from the chopper were spraying my husband and the shark was aggressively closing in on him.  “Hold on baby,” I shouted.  “He might bump again.”

Within minutes I was safely in the helicopter and the basket was lowered back down to pick up Luke.  I suddenly realized I was topless as one of the men put a blanket around me.  I squeaked out a thank you and focused on Luke.  “He’s injured and might need a hospital.”  I held my breath then glanced down and saw my husband on his way up.  The shark was still circling.

I threw my arms around my husband as the Coast Guard helped him into the aircraft.  They removed my shirt from his head to look at his injuries and began first aid.  “Let’s go to Jackson Memorial,” I heard one of them say. 

“How did you find us?” Luke asked. 

“We were on a routine patrol mission looking for human traffickers and drug runners when we got a call to be aware of a small plane that went down off of Bimini.”

“So I guess they heard my Mayday,” Luke said with satisfaction.