Do You Believe in Signs?

Fools Rush In, the 1997 romantic comedy starring Selma Hayek and Matthew Perry, is a story about opposites attracting and finding true love in spite of all their differences. The heroine’s belief in signs plays a pivotal role in bringing the two lovers together for their happily-ever-after.

I like that because I believe in signs too.

Jolyse Barnett PhotographyOn our recent Key West getaway to celebrate our twenty-fifth anniversary, my honey and I arrived at our favorite B&B to learn I had an offer of contract for my romantic suspense novel. That story is set in Key West.

Sign Number One.

We went into full celebration mode, biking, swimming, fishing, and dining at five-star restaurants. On the last night, we embarked on the Jolly Rover II, an eighty-foot tall ship known as a schooner–built in the same style as turn-of-the-century pirate ships. The friendly crew taught us the history of the ship as we soaked in the view.

Key West Harbor

Key West Harbor

Jolyse Barnett Photography

Key West Evening

As if all these wonderful experiences weren’t enough, a small yacht motored past our pirate ship just before sunset. On board appeared to be none other than Howard Livingston crooning his song,”Living on Key West Time.” (Judge for yourself by comparing to his official photos on Mile Marker 24’s website.)

Sign Number Two.

Howie Livingston?

Howie Livingston? I’d say yes.

The Cherry on Top of a Perfect Sail

The Cherry on Top

Mallory Square

Mallory Square

We were thrilled. You see, not only did we know and love the song, but I’d created a YouTube video for this blog  using it a few years ago. We listened as we sipped our favorite wine and enjoyed one more sunset before returning to our Long Island home. By the way, if you like your signs in sets of three, this story won’t disappoint. The current title of my novel happens to be One More Sunset.

Some say there is no such thing as coincidence, while others say signs are only a person’s wishful thinking, attaching meaning to a random event. What do you think?

A Bonus:

I hate cold weather, but these photos of frozen bubbles are utterly breathtaking.

http://kellyimagesandphotography.webs.com/

Key West Wonders

Boating through the backcountry

Boating the backcountry

I treasure many moments from our recent getaway to the Conch Republic, including a kayaking tour, a romantic sunset dinner at the famous Latitudes Restaurant, and to my honey’s delight, an early morning fishing excursion.

Sunny Key West Morning

Sunny Key West Morning

I’m not exactly a morning person. Okay, I’m most definitely not, and vacation is the perfect excuse to savor a lazy wake up. But we had so much fun fishing with Captain Ron a few years back on our first Key West charter that I agreed to do it all over again. This time out, I promised myself I would remember how to cast a line and I was determined to bait my own hook and learn how to handle any fish I caught.

Sailboat neighbors

Sailboat neighbors

You see these sailboats floating around on the gulf side of Key West? People live on these vessels, some full-time in the harbor and others staying anywhere from a week to a month before moving on. Imagine how much thinking, writing, or reading you could accomplish without all the distractions. I wonder…

Jack and Me

Jack and Me

I loved every part of the experience, from watching the sun rise as our skiff motored through the channels to the backcountry fishing spots to learning about the different baits, lures and eating fish, to catching  our lunch and releasing my first-ever fighting fish–a beautiful jack.

The competition

The competition — a brown pelican

For four beautiful hours we were part of nature, the warm sun at our backs, the waves lapping against the skiff, and exotic birds landing near us as we waited patiently for a tug on our lines.

An egret

A Great White Egret

I hope to travel to the southernmost city in America again one day soon. The waters are calling me. I’ve added Pilates to my routine in preparation for our next adventure–paddle boarding.

Our Catch -- feed us and guests at Turtle Kraals

The catch we shared with fellow guests at Turtle Kraals

What’s one of your favorite memories from 2013?

Giving Thanks 2013

Today in the United States we celebrate the feast of Thanksgiving, begun in 1621 at Plimouth Plantation. The Pilgrims celebrated a successful harvest with their Native American friends, the Wampanoags, for three joyous days.

In addition to the traditional blessings, I am especially thankful for these three:

DSCN7956My honey is in complete remission from prostate cancer, his blood counts back to normal for a man his age. He hardly broke stride this past year, and I pray his good health and attitude continues.

My readers, followers, and friends through social media are a treasure I could never have anticipated when I began this journey toward publishing three-and-a-half years ago. I have learned from you, laughed and cried with you, but most of all, have welcomed into my heart your wonderful friendships from around the world. Thank you all. You are dear to me. I wish I had endless time to respond to every post, Facebook Update, and Tweet I read of yours. Please know how important you are to me and how your being there has impacted my life. I only hope I have brightened your life half as much as you have brightened mine!

Row your little boat. You'll get there!

Row your little boat. You’ll get there!

Finally, thanks to all of you who encourage me to keep writing, to keep querying. I recently received an offer of contract from Entangled Publishing to make my romantic suspense/magical novel part of their Ignite line of ebooks. I promise to share all the incredible details as soon as I can!

Hugging Couple outside Key West Museum

Hugging Couple outside Key West Museum

In the meantime, I appreciate my family’s support as I clickety-click on the keyboard of my laptop, gaze into space while I imagine instead of clean, and work out story elements at the dinner table, on car rides, and–okay–pretty much everywhere they will allow. I realize how lucky I am they believe in me and my dreams.

And for you all, a big virtual hug.

Enjoy the moments!

Key West Sunset 2013

Key West Sunset 2013

Sunset Key and Latitudes

DSCN7912Welcome to this week’s Margarita Moment! If you enjoy this post and are a newcomer to my little island life inspired blog, sign up for your free, weekly escape. (Look to your right.) It will sail to your inbox on Mondays, more or less, depending on life’s currents and my novel writing schedule. Thanks for visiting.

The History of Sunset Key

During the 19th century, sediment from repeated Navy dredging projects in Key West’s Harbor was deposited a few hundred yards off the northwestern corner of the island. One of the resulting new islands was designated a fueling station and named Tank Island.

In 1986, the US government sold the 27-acre Tank Island to a developer. Westin Resorts built an exclusive resort on the northwestern quadrant and the island became known (at least to tourists) as Sunset Key. Exclusive vacation properties, owned by celebrities and wealthy business owners such as Oprah Winfrey, span the other three-quarters.

A Sunset Key Property

A Sunset Key Property

Latitudes

Latitudes is the renowned Westin resort restaurant on Sunset Key. I mentioned this restaurant in a previous blog post about romantic dining options in Key West. If you’re interested in planning a romantic sunset dinner at this particular restaurant, I suggest you reserve well in advance. Determine the time of sunset for your selected evening and then book online through Open Table. Take into consideration that the reserve time is when you’re expected to be at the Sunset Key Ferry on the Key West side. There’s a ten-minute ride across the harbor.

The view from ferry of Sunset Key Westin Resort

The view from ferry of Sunset Key Westin Resort

Once you arrive at Sunset Key, you may stop at the outside bar for a drink or enter the restaurant directly for your table. On the evening we dined there, we were given the option of a patio table or inside. The view outside is breathtaking but beware the heat. The inside tables still allow for a beautiful view while providing a cooler, intimate setting. Diners are welcomed (even expected) to leave their tables as the sun makes it descent beneath the watery horizon.

View from an intimate inside table at Latitudes

View from an intimate inside table at Latitudes

Coconut Crusted Grouper

Coconut Crusted Grouper

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Citrus Marinated Salmon

The food at Latitudes is delightfully presented. I chose the seafood cocktail appetizer, the mixed greens salad, and coconut crusted grouper with baby bok choy and black beans. My honey had the lobster bisque and citrus marinated salmon with risotto and grilled asparagus. The service was fine, the wait staff attentive but not intrusive. A couple can enjoy an intimate conversation, a great meal, and an unforgettable sunset. After your meal, transport will be waiting at the end of a short walk to the launch.

We found our meal at Latitudes to be a beautiful start to another romantic evening on our Key West getaway.

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Sunset at Latitudes

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Sailing Past Sunset Key

A View from the Dock

A View from the Dock

Kayaking the Keys

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Downwind EcoTours at Geiger Key, 8 miles east of Old Town KW

Kayaking the Keys

Floating through the Mangroves

Floating through the Mangroves

If you love water and ocean life, you may enjoy kayaking. It’s quiet and laid-back, a perfect change of pace from the Duval Crawl nightlife.

You may opt for the kayak/snorkeling tour leaving from Key West Historic Seaport, which involves taking a motor boat out to The Lakes section of Key West Harbor where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Gulf. Your guide will teach you all about the creatures swimming in the crystal clear waters beneath you, such as the nurse shark, a variety of tropical fish, and the delicate coral reef ecosystem. If you take the last tour of the day, you will have the added excitement of watching the famous sunset as you motor back to the marina.

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Years ago, we enjoyed our kayaking tour. For this getaway, we chose to explore the backcountry. What a great choice! I learned more about the mangrove ecosystem in five minutes from Tortuga Jack of Downwind Tours than in all our years of travel to the Keys.

The Highlights:

Double-Crested Cormorant

Dry and Ready for Flight

The double-crested cormorant isn’t a favorite of local fishermen as this excellent diver and fisher competes for the tastiest meals. Unlike most birds, this one doesn’t have waterproofing oil glands. When the cormorant dives into the water for its meal, its feathers become saturated. That’s why you’ll often see them perching in the sun, drying their feathers. I was excited to snap the shot (above) just as this creature took off.

Cormorant nest in a red mangrove.

Cormorant Nest in a Red Mangrove

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The creature shown here on our kayak paddle is called a Cassiopeia. Like its namesake constellation that’s an upside-down M, this jellyfish floats along the current upside-down in Key West’s shallow waters. They can grow up to ten inches in diameter, but their poison is weak.

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Tortuga Jack with a Horseshoe Crab

Living on Long Island, we are familiar with the horseshoe crab. What I didn’t know was that this ancient creature’s blood contains copper. This made the crab useful in scientific research and as fertilizer in the past.

A Horseshoe Crab

A Horseshoe Crab

Like most Floridian waters, the channel we traversed contains crocodiles. According to our guide, they are “elusive, exclusive, and seclusive.”  We also learned from Tortuga Jack that crocs have ventured as far south as Cuba in recent years, with a population of two thousand and growing,  competing with native species for available food sources.

Paddling the Quiet Channels

Paddling the Quiet Channels

We looked carefully, but those toothy creatures remained hidden. I suppose that was a good thing.

Crossing the channel; Overseas Highway in the distance

Crossing the Channel with the Overseas Highway in the Distance

A Mangrove Maze

A Mangrove Maze

The mangroves’ evolutional goal may be to create land, but the combination of Key West’s two tidal systems along with strong currents prevent the accumulation of soil in many areas. Winding through the tangle of branches, prop roots, and leaves, you realize why drug dealers and other lawbreakers used these waters to evade capture.

Nature meets Civilization

Nature Meets Civilization

As you float back to the starting point, you can imagine life on these waters. As beautiful as they are, the guide is your key to a successful outing. Not only was ours knowledgeable about the science aspect, but the history and literary aspects as well. We were the lucky recipients of an impromptu poem or two.

What special memories have you collected this autumn season?

Five Quotes to Live By

Fun Times at RWA13

Fun Times at RWA13

“The most wasted of all days is one without laughter.”

EE Cummings

Living it Up at Disney

Living it Up at Disney

You’ve gotta dance like there’s nobody watching,
Love like you’ll never be hurt,
Sing like there’s nobody listening,
And live like it’s heaven on earth.”  

William Purkey

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“Everything you can imagine is real.”   

Pablo Picasso

“If you ask me what I came to do in this world, I, an artist, will answer you: I am here to live out loud.”

Émile Zola

Savor Each Day!

Savor Each Day!

“Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michaelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein.”  

H. Jackson Brown Jr.

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What quote inspires you?

A Marvelous Mash-Up

Welcome to this week’s Margarita Moment! If you enjoy this post and are a newcomer to my little island life inspired blog, sign up for your free, weekly escape (Look along the right sidebar.). It will sail to your inbox on Mondays, more or less, depending on life’s currents and my novel writing schedule. Thanks for visiting.

Hey, all! You’re in for a treat today. Rylie snuck away from writing her secondary applications for medical schools to share a photo montage about Venice, Italy. She studied abroad her last semester of undergrad this past spring. If you missed her earlier posts, you’re invited to check out Off to Brunnenburg, Eating Northern Italy Style, Hiking the Italian Alps, Meran, Italy, and Dorf Tirol, Italy. I promise her photos are worth the click.

Venice

Hi! Rylie here. Like Mom said, I’ve been swamped with essays for medical school, but I want to show you the most incredible pictures and memories from this beautiful city. *drum roll* And the highlights are:

  • Traveling by waterbus down the Grand Canal
  • Seeing someone buy a freshly killed shark at the Rialto market
  • Getting gelato from every store near San Marco plaza
  • Waving to gondoliers
  • Finding as many paintings with Jesus in them as we could at the Gallerie dell’Accademia
  • Having – and hating – my first cappuccino
  • Getting lost on the way back from San Marco and unsuccessfully asking the police for directions
  • Almost knocking over a statue at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection
  • Going to over 40 stores to find the perfect Murano glass earrings
  • Watching two kittens play-fight in the garden outside our restaurant during dinner
  • Getting a beer glass for free at a pub after asking the bartender if I could buy one
  • Sitting on the Arsenale pier at night to watch the waterbuses finish their route
  • Getting lost in the back alleyways in San Marco
  • Learning that a dead-end in Venice is an alleyway that ends in water

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Fiction Fest

Five writer lessons I learned at Connecticut Romance Writers’ recent Fiction Fest:

1. Secondary character subplots must match the story’s main plot theme. (Kristan Higgins)

2. When ridding of that pile of papers on your writer desk, turn it over and start from the bottom. Quickly choose which items can be thrown and which need to be kept. Then file time-sensitive papers by the month, with files for the current month in files from 1-31. Check the following day’s file folder at the end of each workday to prioritize the next day’s to-do list. (Lisa Lelas)

3. Hybrid authors are fast becoming the trend in publishing. (Roxanne St. Claire)

4. Smashwords provides free books on its website for those authors going the indie route. (Jim Azevedo)

5.  Attending writing conferences are worth the time, money, and effort invested. (Jolyse Barnett)

Farewell to Summer

Are you silently mourning the passing of summer, pretending to be Turning Fall Into Spring? Are you nostalgic for the sunny days, reliving Summer Highlights to keep warm on chilly nights?

If you answered yes to these two questions (and even if you didn’t), this photo is for you:

2012-07-20 16.10.23

How have you welcomed the new season?

 

 

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