Tripping on Coconuts: An Author’s Adventures and Misadventures in the Florida Keys
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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.”
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?
ALL OF TOM’S BESTSELLING NOVELS ARE AVAILABLE AT THE FOLLOWING RETAILERS AND MOST OTHERS:
A Second Chance in Paradise by Tom Winton
Sonny Raines is a furniture salesman in New York. After telling his boss off, and quitting his job, he comes home to find out his wife, Wendy, is having an affair. He packs his bags into his old van and heads for Florida to start a new life. He settles into a small town just outside Key West where he meets good common people who also have battle scars like his own. He finds a new job, makes a new life, and falls in love again. But while he is at it, he gets pulled into a dispute about a real estate developer, protected mango trees, and a threat to the new life he’s learned to love.
If you’re a fan of Hemingway’s scarred heroes, and you want to read a six-star future best seller, here you go. If you are a budding author who wants to study the work of a master, well, this is how it’s done, son.
Agents and editors will blog and write articles about the “rules” of writing, and point to techniques that no author should even think of sending in. It is a rare and talented writer who can get away with breaking those rules. One of those rules is that a writer should never say “little did he know”. Another rule is that background information should be delivered in small doses. Too much background at one time is known as an “information dump.” As a rule, background should not exceed more than a page at a time.
In this story, Winton successfully uses the “I didn’t know this at the time, but…” ploy, and follows it with pages of background that cover Julie’s engagement to her former fiancée, a car accident, and a resulting handicap. It’s done so smoothly that the reader doesn’t even notice the rules are being broken. After reading that chapter, I had to stop and consider the feat this author pulled off. I read the chapter again, just to admire the beauty and skill of the way it was written.
The love scene is also excellently portrayed. While written from a man’s point of view, using tasteful language and descriptions, the scene comes off the way a woman wants it. It’s not just climactic, but tender and loving at the same time, giving, not taking, passionate, yet tender. Wendy was a complete fool to ever let Sonny go.
The action scenes are also tastefully described, yet make you gouge the edges of your Kindle and squirm in your seat. These scenes prove that, with skill, a writer doesn’t need to resort to guts to make a book gut wrenching.
The only thing that could possibly improve the story would be if Sonny realized that being sterile is a sort of handicap, too. That would have motivated the ending better, but even without that insight, the ending will make you say “aaaaaaaah” and you’ll be tempted to read it again and again.
Four years after burying his young wife, New York sales executive Christian Crews still can’t move forward with his life. Day after day, treasured memories of his beloved Elyse continue to drift through his spirit like an endless procession of mournful ghosts.
Chris wants to leave Manhattan—walk away from his job and the apartment he and Elyse once shared. He dreams of moving to New Hampshire, where he feels he just might have a chance of finding peace. But in his grieving mind, breaking away from those memories would be the same as abandoning Elyse—an unforgivable act of betrayal he could never live with.
Then, on the fourth anniversary of Elyse’s death, Chris makes two shocking discoveries, and a part of him begins to believe that she would want him to go on with his life.
Two weeks later he makes the move to New Hampshire, and minutes after arriving in the small rural village of Mountain Step, he meets a beautiful local woman with mesmerizing gray eyes and a heart as big as the surrounding mountains. Beginning another emotional relationship may be the last thing on Chris’s mind, but he soon finds himself falling for Gina Elkin, every bit as hard as she’s fallen for him.
Could there be a future for them? Will Elyse allow it? After all, she’s still deep within Chris’s heart—a place no one else has ever been.