Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A Good Week

It was indeed a good week. It began with my publisher informing me that Windrusher and the Trail of Fire had won a Silver Medal in the Florida Publishers Association's annual President's Book Competition. This was indeed good news. On my way to the Florida Writers Association 9th Annual Florida Writers Conference Wednesday, I stopped by the Flagler Beach offices of Ocean Publishing and publisher Frank Gromling presented me with the medal.

After grinning through this photo session, I continued on to Lake Mary, just east of Orlando, for the FWA conference which lasted through Sunday afternoon. It was a busy four days, starting with a presentation of my Novel in A Day workshop on Thursday, moderating the agents and publishers' panel on Friday, and presenting another writing workshop on Saturday.

The FWA Conference was one of the best ever, and I've attended seven of the nine. This year's attracted 420 writers from multiple states. The highlight was the Royal Palm Literary Awards (RPLA) banquet Saturday night where over 350 people were treated to an inspiring talk by award-winning military historian , Carlo D'Este, author of Patton: A Genius for War and Eisenhower: A Soldier's Life among others. Carlo was good, but we all looked forward to learning the winners of the RPLA.

As a Regional Director and Board member of FWA, it's been my pleasure to participate in the growth of the organization that began just 9 years ago with only 7 members and now is approaching 1,200 members. The Northeast Florida region, which I oversee, was well represented in the awards ceremony, taking home 21 separate awards, including Book of the Year in the Unpublished category. Those of you who have followed my writing career may recall that my mystery, Matanzas Bay, took Book of the Year honors last year. I was happy to learn my short story, The Day Hemingway Died, took second place in the published category. The story first appeared in The Flagler Review, Flagler College's literary magazine. You can read the first few pages of the story by clicking on the Other Works button at the top of my web pages. Or just click here.

Let me hear from you if you've had a good week, like making the New York Times Bestseller list, for example.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Sergio's Story

This blog post was supposed to be a celebration of my new and improved website finally going live. You can view it as usual at When you do, click on Author Bio and scroll down to the photo of Sergio licking my head. We only added this photo last week along with a new page of Vic's Cats.

Even as I added the photo, I knew Sergio was no longer the playful and energetic kitty he was when that photo was taken a few years back. Just two months ago, Sergio was diagnosed with the beginnings of kidney failure. We put him on a special diet and gave him lots of love. You can see by the postscript I added that Sergio lost his battle with the disease and now joins seven other cats in our book of memories.

Sergio was a neighborhood stray, growing up feral like many of our adopted cats. He came to us and we fed him. Eventually we had him trapped and neutered. The plan was to return him to our front yard since we already had a houseful of cats. First we sequestered him in a bedroom until he healed from the surgery. But somewhere along the line, we decided to keep Sergio (as we named him) and introduce him to his new family of brothers and sisters. There was Satchmo, Rocco, Sami, Gage and Sasha. Unlike these other rescues, Sergio wasn't ready to be a house cat. He spent all his time hiding under a bed. We figured he'd eventually come out and join the others, but he didn't. And he wasn't eating. The poor cat was obviously miserable inside and my wife decided it was best to return Sergio to the outdoors where we found him. So about two weeks after we brought him in, she opened a window in the bedroom and he scampered out.

A funny thing happened, though. Sergio kept returning to our front door, and we kept feeding him. After many months, he allowed us to pet him without running. This went on for more months while we made friends with this stubbornly-resistent outdoor cat. We eventually got him in the house only to have him scurry under the bed again. My wife and I looked at one another, thinking, "Here we go again." But this stage lasted only a day or two ending when my wife entered the bedroom to find Sergio not under the bed but on top of it. He looked at her as if to say, "What? Isn't this where I belong?"

Sergio was now part of the household, and a fully socialized kitty. He proved to be one of the sweetest boys we've had, never giving us any trouble. Fast-forward twelve years. We awoke yesterday morning to find Sergio in bed with us, something he never did. Was he saying goodbye as a friend suggested? Perhaps, but yesterday we said goodbye to him after the vet informed us his kidneys had shut down completely. Goodbye Sergio, and to the 12 years of friendship and good spirits you brought to our household.

I'd like to think he would have enjoyed seeing his picture on my website, and remembered fondly the times he licked my head while I sat there reading or watching television. I know I will.