Tripping on Coconuts: An Author’s Adventures and Misadventures in the Florida Keys
Click a copy here – AMAZON
Author Tom Winton was just a young boy when he first visited the Florida Keys. Since then decades have passed, and the longtime Florida resident has returned to the sun-soaked string of islands time and time again.
Winton knows all about the dreamlike state of wonderment people fall into every time they arrive in the Keys. He’s felt the pull of romance that forever wafts in the balmy, subtropical breezes down there. He’s also had his share of thrills, mishaps and wild nights.
TRIPPING ON COCONUTS is a compilation of the funky, emotional, hysterical and downright dangerous experiences Tom and his wife Blanche have had in the Keys. Some parts will make you laugh. Others will have you clutching the armrests of your easy chair. But no matter what your reaction might be at any point in the book, you’ll feel like you’re right there in that magical place where memories are made.
Here’s a baby boomer’s “life-story” we like: five years ago when Tom Winton of Dahlonega, Georgia, was sixty-three years old, he had his first book published. Since then he has released six more novels, all best-sellers and all geared towards baby boomers. The newest, A New Dawn in Deer Isle, is about a man who decides to take the trip he and his beloved wife had dreamed about before she passed away. So he sets out in his old van across America, following the same route John Steinbeck took in 1959 with his pet poodle Charley. Here is an excerpt:
“For thirty-five months my life had been a living hell. Every morning, noon, and night relentless flames ravaged my mind, my spirit, and my soul. You see, in 2011 my wife and I moved to that blazing-hot inferno they call Florida.
And by the time we’d made it just halfway through the first nine-month summer in that overdeveloped, sub-tropical jungle, we absolutely hated the place. Then in September of the same year, with our hearts broken because we had made the move and couldn’t afford to go back to Long Island, my Lorna began to weaken.
It had come on suddenly, and I told her to see a doctor. But Lorna insisted it was only because she was a little tired. She was wrong. And she’d only been feeling that way for three days when, on the way home from shopping at Wal-Mart late one morning, she suddenly felt a vice-like pressure and tremendous pain in her left shoulder and arm. Groceries in the back of the van or no groceries I rushed her straight to Martin Memorial Hospital. But by the time we pulled up to the emergency entrance, Lorna’s breathing was labored. Three days later the woman I’d loved for more than forty years was gone.
I’m afraid I can’t tell you where I am as I write this story because that would give away the ending and it’s far too good a story to let that happen. I can’t tell you if I’m in heaven, hell or anywhere in between. I may still be alive in Podunk, Alaska or living in a chalet atop the world’s most scenic mountain.
My mind could still be knotted in the same dark state of irreversible sadness it was three years ago, or it could have finally found its way to that most joyous of all destinations they call “nirvana.”
No, I can’t give away any of that right now. But what I can do is start at the very beginning of my amazing journey. And if you want to come along you’d better buckle up. It’s going to be one heck of a ride.”
Alex Martin – In The Plotting Shed
Author of novels including The Twisted Vine and the Katherine Wheel Trilogy (Daffodils, Peace Lily and Speedwell)
Alex Martin’s books
In The Plotting Shed
Tuesday, 8 March 2016
Hi Tom, and welcome to the Plotting Shed. Thanks for coming all the way from Georgia, in America. How do my Welsh hills compare for scenery?
“I live in the mountains so I love your outlook from The Plotting Shed.”
It’s a nice day, fancy a beer on the decking? I hope you are comfortable. Let’s begin.
“I’d love one, thanks.”
1. Would you say you are a country mouse or a town mouse, Tom?
“I’d tell either one of them to stop mousing around and loading up on cheese. Then I’d tell those “meeces” to read my books. LOL”
2. Haha, nice one. What’s your working routine like for an average writing day. Or do you just write when you can?
“When I’m finished doing what needs to be done around the homestead, and jerking around online with networking and marketing, I usually start tapping keys at about 3 PM. Some authors can write for 14 hours straight, but I’m not one of them. If I get two hours in every day, and 500 to 1,000 words, I’m satisfied with myself. If I miss one day, though, it affects me. I can really come down on myself. ”
3. How many books have you written so far, Tom?
“In the past five years I’ve had seven novels published, one collection of short stories, and four individual shorts. I also have all my full-length books out in audio now, and some have been translated in various languages.”
4. Wow, good going. Would you describe your genre? I know you write romance, so would you say that was different for a guy?
“Yes, Alex, romance has a way of finding itself into all my books. Is that different than what most guys write? Maybe so, but I think romance is an essential element of the human condition, just like the many lessons the characters in my books learn while trying to overcome seemingly impossible obstacles.
As far as my genre is concerned, I’m a self-admitted first-degree “genre jumper and mixer.” Just as readers will find romance in my stories, they’ll also find plenty of suspense and quite often a considerable amount of travel.”
5. Have you got your own special writing station at home? What do you consider to be essential equipment?
“For the first time in my life, I now have my own “office” to write in. We moved from Florida to the North Georgia Mountains 18 months ago, and we’ve turned the third bedroom of our new place into my writing station.
As for tools, I still have in a bookcase behind me here the well-worn red dictionary and blue thesaurus I used for years. But I rarely pick them up anymore. Now all I do is click my cursor on a word I want to research and it takes me right to either the dictionary or thesaurus. My other tools are my computer, a used desk, a $5.00 second-hand office chair, a copier, calendar, pens and a pad or two. Those things along with the pen and pad on my nightstand, and a little inspiration, are all I need. When my muse shows up for duty I’m always good to go. ”
6. Do you enjoy research?
“I don’t mind a little research here and there, like an occasional Google search. But when more than that is required I absolutely hate it. If I need to break away from my writing for too long, it sometimes screws up my continuity. Let’s face it, when you have to tear yourself away from a single paragraph to look up four different things, it makes it harder to get back into the rhythm of the prose.
But nowadays there is an upside to researching. I’ve got more information available at my fingertips (accessible with my computer) than there is in any library in the entire world. And I can almost always find out what I need to know in just seconds.”
7. What keeps you motivated and how long have you been writing?
“What motivates me more than anything else are the fine folks who read my books. I certainly don’t enjoy the fame of a Stephen King or James Patterson, but I do have a following now. And believe me, despite my considerable number of modest writing successes, there have been many times I felt like running a garage sale and selling those writing tools I mentioned earlier. But I haven’t done that yet. And it’s because I know there are loyal readers out there who are waiting for my next book. Then again, my gold-gilded dreams of someday signing with a big publisher have a bit to do with why I keep tapping keys, too.”
8. What jobs did you do before you became a writer, or do you still work as well as write?
“I’m, retired now (ha, I put in more hours than I ever did). But during my working years I did everything from driving a taxi cab in some of New York’s most dangerous neighborhoods to driving railroad spikes in the Colorado Rockies. I’ve also dug ditches, been a sales executive in N.Y.C., and done most everything in between. The problem is I’ve always had a short attention span—once I “mastered” something it bored me to tears. I guess I should have realized much earlier in life that I was destined to become an author.”
9. What’s your current project (s)?
“Right now I’m putting the finishing touches on a short book about the adventures and misadventures my wife and I have had in the Florida Keys. You see, we’ve been going down there for more than 40 years now. Although I’d been to that magical string of islands once before Blanche ever had, we first went together in 1974. That time we had driven her canary yellow Chevy Vega through New York City in the cold predawn darkness, trying to beat an oncoming blizzard that was bearing down on the Big Apple. We were on our way to Key West to get married down there. Heck, that 1400 mile trip was a story in itself.”
10. What are the high’s and low’s of a writing life for you?
“Believe it or not, the high point of my writing career ended up being the low point as well. It happened in the summer of 2011, after I had sent out a batch query letters to literary agents for my first novel—Beyond Nostalgia. Within a period of just 30 days, I actually had ten agents ask to see the manuscript. That’s right ten of them! Ask any writer you know and they’ll tell you that’s almost unheard of. At any rate, I struggled to keep myself from getting my hopes too high. And it’s a good thing I did, although the outcome still hurt like hell. Every one of those goofy agents decided not to represent me. Sure, half of them said that the book just wasn’t quite right for them, and that they were “sure” I’d find a willing agent. But in the end there was no cigar.
Nevertheless, a short time later a small publisher offered to publish the book, I signed with them, and Beyond Nostalgia went on to become a bestseller. For about four months Amazon featured the book on their Kindle home page. It sold thousands of copies and it was continually ranked near the very top of the Contemporary Romance category. It also hit the Barnes & Noble “Top 100”. But I’m still not over the disappointment I suffered, because I truly believe that had I lassoed a good agent and bigger publisher Beyond Nostalgia could have been a huge seller. On the bright side, though, I have since self-published six more novels and every one of them has become a bestseller as well.
Alex, I really enjoyed answering the questions and appreciate you asking me to be on your site.”
Great talking to you Tom. What an interesting life you’ve lead while you went around the houses before caving into your destiny.
Tom’s brand new book – A New Dawn in Deer Isle. Released just over a month ago, it too has already been an Amazon bestseller and “Hot New Release”.
Here’s the link for A NEW DAWN IN DEER ISLE http://amzn.com/B01B8MZMQA
Tom’s Author page on Amazon – http://www.amazon.com/Tom-Winton/e/B005H2T7AA/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0
Tom’s Website – http://tomwintonauthor.com/
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/Tom-Winton-206609429356346/
Twitter – https://twitter.com/TomWinton
Tom Winton’s Book Links:
A New Dawn in Deer Isle – http://amzn.com/B01B8MZMQA
Forever Three – http://amzn.com/B00S8JKS5M
A Second Chance in Paradise – http://amzn.com/B00GM2IR64
Four Days with Hemingway’s Ghost – http://amzn.com/B008FBXENQ
The Last American Martyr – http://amzn.com/B005GFM764
Beyond Nostalgia – http://amzn.com/B00650O686
Within A Man’s Heart – http://amzn.com/B00B29JHR0
Every once in a while we read a book that profoundly affects the way we perceive our lives. A New Dawn in Deer Isle is one of those rare books.
A common man of modest means, world-weary George McLast decides to forget all his problems and take the trip he and his beloved wife had only dreamed about before she passed away three years earlier. Despite all the unnerving feelings he’s been getting in his chest, his son’s disapproval, and his precarious financial situation, he sets out across America following the same route John Steinbeck took in 1959 with his pet poodle, Charley. And as the legendary author wanted to do back then, George hopes to reacquaint himself with his country and its people.
But everything doesn’t work out as planned. Along the way George encounters far more than he had bargained for. And so will readers. During his many adventures and mishaps you’ll feel like you’re right alongside him, in the passenger seat of his old van. And you will not only read his words you’ll learn from them as well.
Although I’m certainly not of Stephen King fame, I do have quite a few reader friends out there who from time to time want to know what I’m working on. So today I thought I’d put up a short update.
I’ve always been a one-book-at-a-time author, but somehow I now have four potential books in the works. That’s not including the horror novella I was working on with my wife, Blanche, but have temporarily abandoned.
What I have my sights focused on now is a novel that might ultimately be titled The Roar of a December Lion, The December Lion Roars, or maybe even Like Steinbeck and Charley. No matter what I call it, though, it’s the story of a sixty-six-year-old man, who like John Steinbeck in his non-fiction book Travels with Charley, sets out to drive across America for two reasons. One is that his heart has been acting up and he doesn’t know how much time he’s got left. The other reason is that despite all the negative changes he’s seen over the years, he still has this urge to go out there and become reacquainted with his country and its people. So, against the worry-filled wishes of his family, the aging widower says chuck it all; puts a mattress in the back of his old van; equips it with a camping stove and everything else he’ll need; then sets out on the road trip he and his deceased wife had dreamed about for years but could never afford. And wow, I’m at the hallway point in the story, and it’s turning out to be one wild and woolly journey.
Two of the other three books I have in the works are also novels. One is about a well-to-do executive who loses everything, including his family, and finds himself living on the streets of West Palm Beach, Florida. Bad as that experience is though, he isn’t living in “the rough” for very long before he gets a huge break. He’s taken under the wing of a street-savvy homeless man the local “houseless” people call “The Prophet.” An imposing figure at six-and-a-half-feet tall, The Prophet is an ex-professional basketball star that has long been wanted by the law for assaulting a man—an off duty cop, who was unmercifully beating up his wife in a garage. The main character’s hope is that someday his estranged wife, and their daughter, will have him back. The only other thing keeping him going is his plan B. He and The Prophet are trying to put together enough money to buy a used mobile home and set it up in a hidden, desolate, jungle-like area down in the Florida Keys.
The third novel I’ve started is the sequel to my already published, A Second Chance in Paradise.
The fourth book is a memoir and I have been adding a little to it from time to time. Although it’s about my coming-of-age years—when I was growing up in New York with my mentally-ill mother, I just might extend it into the years that followed.
So that’s it, gals and guys. That’s what Tom’s working on. And believe me, he is working.
What do some of us baby boomers do for our Second Act? A lot of us write. And at least one of us, Tom Winton of Dahlonega, Georgia, has done quite well at it. He had his first novel published only five years ago when he was 62, and now has six under his belt; all have become bestsellers on Amazon. The latest is “Beyond Nostalgia,” which takes place back in those sometimes magical years of the 1960s and 70s. Funny thing is, Tom didn’t always want to be a writer.
Although I completed my first “novel attempt” more than fifteen years ago, I’ve only been socializing with other writers on Facebook, Twitter, and all the rest for three years now. But over the course of that time, I have been fortunate enough to befriend (and learn from) hundreds of authors from all over the world. I’m deeply indebted to many of those folks and to others I’ve met on writer’s communities such as Authonomy and YouWriteOn.
During the course of my everyday contacts with writers, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard folks say things like, “I’ve been writing stories since I was six years old,” or, “I wrote my first novel when I was just seventeen,” or “I wanted to be an author ever since I read Flaubert’s Madame Bovary in high school.”
Well, for me it was different. While in some ways I wish I had started scrawling words when I was six or sixteen, I can’t honestly say that I did.
Nevertheless, by the time I was in my mid-forties, I had done quite a bit of reading. And there were fleeting moments when I entertained thoughts of writing something myself. The problem was that I thought I was too busy— too busy “living life” to bother sitting down and writing about it.
Yes, I thought it would be really cool to be like Hemingway, write in the mornings, fish in the afternoons, and party at night with a bunch of famous and infamous friends. I wanted to be a writer but didn’t want to pay the piper. I wasn’t ready to stand for hours and scrawl stories on lined yellow pads like old Hem did. Heck, I wasn’t even ready to sit on my tail and do it either. But I sure dreamed about getting the respect and attention that accomplished authors so often do.
Then one day I woke up.
After years of never having less than six books lying on the carpet alongside my recliner, I finally thought, Oh, hell . . . I can do this writing thing! I can do it better than most authors I’ve read. I know I can do better. How hard can it be to describe a green hill in Africa, or a southern plantation gone kaput in Georgia? Ha . . . lemme go get a pad. I’ll whip something up right now.
Boy . . . was I wrong!
I went and got a spiral notebook, then plopped right back into my easy chair to begin my great American novel. What did I accomplish that first sitting? Nada, as in, not a thing. I had no idea where to begin. My next attempt was just as fruitless, so was the next, and the next, and every other attempt I made for two straight years. If I wasn’t out fishing, working, running around somewhere, or reading, I’d be in that soft mauve chair agonizing over what a flunky I was with a pen.
I lived on Florida’s Gulf Coast at that time but somehow, after moving across the state to the east coast those two years later, I found myself on a quiet beach with that damned notebook again. I thought if I took a folding chair with me and sat out there on the sand, I just might finally get something down on paper.
And I did. I don’t remember how much I wrote that day, but I started my first novel. Why was I finally able to come up with something that I thought was halfway decent? Did my muse float in on a wave along with all the brown seaweed on that beach? Had my inspiration surfaced ten miles out in the Gulfstream and blown in on the easterly wind? I doubt it.
I think what happened was that I finally had a story somewhat worked out in my mind. I had a beginning, a middle, and an end. And that’s all I needed. Well, almost all I needed.
Sure, the rough plot I had worked out in my head helped give me confidence, but so did something else. I did exactly what Ernest Hemingway told aspiring writers time and time again: “All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence you know.” And I did.
Starting a new novel still isn’t easy for me. None of the writing process is. But in my mind, there aren’t many things in this mad, maddening world more rewarding than a productive morning at the keyboard. And I’m awfully glad that I learned what writing one true sentence can lead to.
In the past four years I’ve had six novels published. I’ve had two different publishers but parted ways with both. Now all my books are self-published and will continue to be. That is, until the “big six” publishers have a desperate, frenetic bidding war over them. Ha! Talk about a classic example of a writer’s imagination running wild!
If ever there has been a story to give voice to the joy and pain of love, it’s Forever Three.
For far too long author and nice guy Dean Cassidy has lived with the misfortune of loving two women at once. Over and over his heart has been stretched, wrenched, twisted, and bruised in an emotional tug-of-war.
Dean has loved his wife, Maddy, since long before they took their vows, but after 22 years, he still can’t shake the memory of his childhood sweetheart, Theresa Wayman. And now things are getting worse. Suddenly, the torturous triangle is closing in on him like a three-sided vice.
Day after day Dean is pummeled by a dizzying, soul-numbing succession of guilt, joy, tragedy and uncertainty. He’s all but lost the will to go on. Nevertheless, the human spirit does not destruct easily. It is resilient and tenacious. And as close to going down as Dean is, he’s determined to keep swinging until the very end. The question is will it be enough?