Smorgasbord Posts from Your Archives 2020 – Reality Informs Fiction: Trails in the Sand by P.C. Zick

Welcome to the current series of Posts from Your Archives in 2020 and if you would like to participate with two of your posts from 2019, you will find all the details in this post: New series of Posts from Your Archives 2020

This is the second post for author P.C. Zick. Although the posts from the archives are not usually for self – promotion of books, in this case it is relevant to the story of an event that took place on April 20th 2010 when the oil rig Deepwater Horizon caught on fire with a tragic loss of 29 lives and creating a devastating impact on the environment and local wildlife.  The post also goes to show how reality plays a role in our own creativity.

Trails in the Sand (Florida Fiction Series) by [Zick, P.C.]

Reality Informs Fiction: Trails in the Sand by P.C. Zick

I published Trails in the Sand in 2013, three years after the disastrous oil spill after the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion. From the first moment I heard about the explosion nine years ago and through my job as a public relations director with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, I was glued to the news on the struggle to contain the tar balls and greasy water approaching the Panhandle beaches of Florida.

When not working at my day job, I was also starting a novel about a dysfunctional family struggling to change generations of heartbreak. April 20, 2019 marks the nine year anniversary of this event.

Four years ago, I wrote about the disaster and how the book Trails in the Sand was born. Here is that post to commemorate both the oil spill and Earth Day and to remind us all the importance and fragility of our natural world.

Published originally on April 20, 2015 – Five years ago today, the oil rig Deepwater Horizon caught on fire. Even though the newscasters downplayed its significance at first, I felt a black cloud deepen. I’d just moved to southwestern Pennsylvania where news of the Upper Big Branch coal mine disaster a few hours away in West Virginia still dominated local news. Twenty-nine men died in that explosion on April 5, 2010, just ten days earlier.

We soon learned that BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico had blown its cap, which allowed gushing oil and killed eleven workers on the rig. As I’ve done for the past two decades, when something bothers me, I start to write. The result from my sorrow and unease with both disasters resulted in the novel, Trails in the Sand. The novel serves as a reminder of two preventable disasters that occurred within two weeks of one another in 2010. Forty men died and countless wildlife and their habitats were injured or destroyed. Both events touched my life in some way and both made their way into the writing of Trails in the Sand.

When the Upper Big Branch coal mine in West Virginia exploded, twenty-nine miners, doing their job in the bowels of the earth, lost their lives. Subsequent reports showed the company ignored safety regulations, which played an important role in the explosion. At the time, I was in the process of moving from Florida to western Pennsylvania. The mine is located several hours from my new home, so the local media covered the disaster continually for the next few weeks. The national news also kept its eye turned toward a small town in West Virginia where families mourned their husbands, sons, fathers, brothers, and cousins. After April 20, the lens of the cameras shifted to the southwest.

The news began as a whimper before erupting into cries of outrage. An oil rig somewhere off the coast of Louisiana caught on fire on April 20, 2010. Soon the whole rig collapsed, and eleven men never made it out alive. Oil gushed from a well several miles below the Gulf’s surface.

As I made the transition to Pennsylvania, I still held my job in Florida, although I was in the process of leaving. I was a public relations director for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. I made the trip back and forth sixteen times in 2010. I conducted meetings from a cell phone in airports, highway rest areas, and at a dining room table from our small temporary apartment in Pittsburgh.

Every time I started to give my two-week notice to my supervisors, something happened, and my wildlife biologist bosses pleaded with me to stay. During a crisis, the spokesperson for a company or agency suddenly becomes a very important part of the team. Scientists become speechless when looking in the face of a microphone.

Nothing much happened in those early days of the oil spill for the wildlife community, although as a communications specialist I prepared for worst-case scenarios, while hoping for the best. Partnerships between national and state agencies formed to manage information flowing to the media. By May, some of the sea turtle experts began worrying about the nesting turtles on Florida’s Panhandle beaches, right where the still gushing oil might land. In particular, the scientists worried that approximately 50,000 hatchlings might be walking into oil-infested waters if allowed to enter the Gulf of Mexico after hatching from the nests on the Gulf beaches.

seaturtle4

An extraordinary and unprecedented plan became reality, and as the scientists wrote the protocols, the plan was “in direct response to an unprecedented human-caused disaster.”

When the nests neared the end the incubation period, plans were made to dig up the nests and transport the eggs across the state to Cape Canaveral, where they would be stored until the hatchlings emerged from the eggs. Then they would receive a royal walk to the sea away from the oil-drenched waters of the Gulf.

aptopix-gulf-oil-spill-1fee0422a0df6673

The whole project reeked with the scent of drama, ripe for the media to descend on Florida for reports to a public hooked on the images of oiled wildlife. Since I was in transition in my job, they appointed me to handle all media requests that came to the national and state agencies regarding the plan. From my new office in Raccoon Township, Beaver County, Pennsylvania, I began coordinating media events and setting up interviews with the biologists.

As the project began in June 2010, I began writing Trails in the Sand. At first, I created the characters and their situations. Then slowly I began writing about the oil crisis and made the main character, Caroline, an environmental reporter who covered the sea turtle relocation project. Then suddenly I was writing about her husband, Simon, who mourned the loss of his cousin in the coal mine disaster in West Virginia. I didn’t make a conscious effort to tie together the environmental theme with the family saga unfolding, but before too long, I realized they all dealt with restoration and redemption of things destroyed. As a result, the oil spill and the sea turtles became a metaphor for the destruction caused by Caroline and her family.

I’m a firm believer in the subject choosing the author. When that happens, it’s best to let the muse lead me to the keyboard and allow the words to find their way to the story. Trails in the Sand stands as my testament to the process.

©P.C. Zick 2019

About P.C. Zick

Bestselling author P.C. Zick describes herself as a storyteller no matter what she writes. And she writes in a variety of genres, including romance, contemporary fiction, and creative nonfiction. She’s won various awards for her essays, columns, editorials, articles, and fiction.

The three novels in her Florida Fiction Series contain stories of Florida and its people and environment, which she credits as giving her a rich base for her storytelling. She says her, “Florida’s quirky and abundant wildlife–both human and animal–supply my fiction with tales almost too weird to be believable.”

P.C. writes both sweet and steamy romances. The sweet contemporary romances in her Smoky Mountain Romances, are set in southwest North Carolina. Another sweet romance series, Rivals in Love, contains two books with four more in the works. All six follow the Crandall family of Chicago as the siblings find love despite their focus on successful careers.

Her steamy romances go from Florida to Long Island. The Behind the Love series, set in a small fictional town in Florida, feature a community of people who form bonds as they learn to overcome the challenges of their youth. Her Montauk Romances are set in and around Long Island and feature simple, yet sophisticated beach houses designed with romance in mind. The two books in this set are filled with steamy scenes as love grows and thrives.

No matter the genre of novel, they all contain elements of romance with strong female characters, handsome heroes, and descriptive settings. She believes in living lightly upon this earth with love, laughter, and passion, and through her fiction, she imparts this philosophy in an entertaining manner with an obvious love for her characters, plot, and themes.

A small selection of  books by P.C. Zick

One of the reviews for Trails in the Sand on Goodreads

Mar 09, 2013 Christoph Fischer rated it it was amazing

Trails In The Sand” by P.C. Zick is an emotional read about family secrets and making peace with the past. After her sister dies, Caroline reconnects with her family and with Simon, the man that her sister stole from her and married. Said widower Simon has an adopted daughter that needs to come to terms with her status and with the new relationship between her aunt and her father. Thrown into the mix are a few more family issues such as a drowning in 1956 and more revelations that come from diaries. As you can see that there are a lot of issues to be resolved in this family, making it an emotionally charged scene.

Zick uses several separate narratives for this story to bring different perspectives into the book and also includes several sub plots making for a rich reading experience. There is an important plotline which concerns the 2010 Deepwater Oil Spillage in the Mexican Gulf, a metaphor for hidden or covered-up tragedies and wrong doings that ultimately force their way to the surface and spill onto the shore. Caroline being a writer and journalist that concerns herself with environmental issues – not just the oil spillage – describes the horrific damage to the wildlife and the coast. She also writes also about a coal mining disaster in Virginia which helps to take the focus of just one or the other oversight or cover-up making it a more global theme. The family is under severe stress from both external and internal forces and as they unite to save sea turtles and work together on the present they let go of the past and begin to forgive and to heal.

The writing in this novel is immaculate and tight; for example, the Prologue begins in 1956 with the drowning of Alex, Caroline’s uncle, and the story ends in the same spot, a beautifully chosen way to complete the circle. The dialogue and the weaving together of the various plots and narratives works well to unfold the story and make this an interesting read. The characters are well composed and believable and make for an engaging and convincing portrayal of their inner struggles.

Zick writes with much empathy and insight into her characters, showing a very caring and committed attitude towards the environment and the human beings in it. The interplay between the story lines, private lives and newspaper stories that are woven into the narrative adds much depth to the book.

Read the reviews and buy the books: Amazon US

And : Amazon UK

Read more reviews and follow P.C. Zick on :Goodreads

Connect to Patricia

WebsiteP.C. Zick
FacebookP.C. Zick
Twitter@PCZick

My thanks to Patricia for sharing this with us. Living history and its personal impact on us is important to pass on to future generations and including it in our fiction is one way to do that. Your comments are always welcome. thanks Sally.

9 thoughts on “Smorgasbord Posts from Your Archives 2020 – Reality Informs Fiction: Trails in the Sand by P.C. Zick

  1. Thank you for re-posting. We tend to forget about these events because something always comes along to replace it. As I researched Deepwater Horizon, it became clear that the well should never have been dug and when it was, it should have been abandoned. The big shots at the top knew full well the dangers. Ten lives lost and no telling the damage suffered by the loss of wildlife and habitat. We must always remember.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Pingback: Smorgasbord Blog Magazine Weekly Round Up – 9th to 15th February 2020 – Food, Music, Guest, New book releases, Book Reviews and Laughter. | Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

Leave a Reply to Smorgasbord - Variety is the Spice of Life. Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.