Amelia Island Book Festival – Are You Going??

Amelia Island Book Festival!

Amelia Island, Florida is a charming town just north of Jacksonville, FL and just south of the Georgia-Florida line. Why am I telling you this? Well, every year in February, the island hosts the Amelia Island Book Festival! This year’s festivities begin on February 15. They end with the Author Expo/Readers Extravaganza event on February 17. For more information of the festival, click on this link! I’ll be there with the Gemstone Chronicles series. I’ll sign books, meet lots of new friends, discover new authors, and connect with readers!

Amelia Island Book Festival GC Covers


2018 is the 17th Annual celebration. This year’s theme is An Amelia Island Encounter – Romance, Action, and Mystery. I’ll highlight a few of the events, starting with Thursday, February 15. The Kickoff Luncheon starts the Festival on the day after Valentine’s Day. New York Times bestselling author Adriana Trigiani gives the keynote address! Author David Baldacci introduces Adriana.

Friday, February 16 has three great events. First, bestselling author Steve Berry and his wife and business partner Elizabeth conduct a Writer’s Workshop. The workshop focuses on  both the writing craft and the business of writing.

While the Berrys hold their workshop, many authors will visit the 16 area public schools and Volunteer Pre-Ks. They will present to and interact with the students. This outreach program, called Authors In Schools, promotes lifelong learning and literacy!

Friday evening is the Author Face Off Gala Dinner. Jennifer Armentrout, Lee Child, Karen Slaughter, and Sherri Rinker face-off. The event, hosted by Steve Berry, includes a silent auction and much more.

Author Expo/Readers Extravaganza:

Saturday brings the Author Expo/Readers Extravaganza. Held at Fernandina Beach Middle School, this event allows readers and authors to get to know each other and includes book signings and breakout sessions. Famed chef Jacques Pepin will be on hand to sign his cookbooks and Steve Berry, Sherri Rinker, Jennifer Armentrout, Karin Slaughter, and Lee Child all hold breakout sessions. With nearly 100 noted authors, games, arts and crafts, and food trucks, this will be a day to enjoy! I’m looking forward to the festivities!

Are you going? I’ll be in space 105, so stop by! Say hello, grab a book or 4, and pick up a gemstone! I look forward to meeting each of you. If you buy a book (mine or someone else’s) please consider leaving a review. Reviews help authors become better writers. Simple reviews are fine. Just a few words stating how you liked the book is great!

Connect with me:

Want to let me know you’ll be there? Email me at or leave me a comment. I can also be found at the following socials: Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Google+, Tumblr, and Pinterest. Contact me and let me know if you’re going!


Castillo de San Marcos – Saint Augustine’s Spanish Fort!!

In my final post about our vacation trip to Saint Augustine, I thought I would share some pictures and information about Castillo de San Marcos – Saint Augustine’s Spanish fort!

Castillo de San Marcos protected the harbor to Saint Augustine. According to the National Park Service, the fort is the only extant 17th century military construction in the United States and the oldest masonry fortress in the country. The fort uses a bastion system of fortification with the diamond-shaped corners for cannons. It was a very cool thing to visit!

If you have ever been to Florida, you know that there isn’t a lot of stone to work with in the state. When the Spaniards built the fort, they used a limestone call coquina. Limestone would seem to be a poor choice for a fortification, but the porous nature of the coquina had a profound effect on the durability of the fort. Instead of shattering like a harder stone, the coquina simply absorbed the cannon balls. The National Park Service analogy was that it was like shooting a BB into Styrofoam!

Saint Augustine had a moat around it and the moat extended to the fort. The city gates weren’t very far from the fort and were locked each night at 8 pm. If you weren’t inside the gates by then, you spent the night outside. Talk about enforcing a curfew!!

From this picture, the fort is off to the left. It takes maybe a couple of minutes to walk from the gates to the entrance to the fort.

The courtyard view of the fort shows the numerous rooms and offices that were enclosed by Castillo de San Marcos.

This also would have been a training ground, recreation area, and a staging area for equipment during battles. Inside some of the rooms would have been the armory, the infirmary, storage, the treasury, officers quarters, and barracks for the soldiers. I spent some time floating around the world on a submarine, so I can relate to the cramped sleeping arrangements the soldiers had!

Barracks at Castillo de San MarcosAs you can see, not the most comfortable sleeping arrangements, but I guess it beat sleeping on the ground.

As I mentioned, the fort guarded the entrance to the harbor. Looking out from the ramparts, you can see the ocean beyond the land. Quite a view!

Imagine if you were on a ship trying to attack Saint Augustine. The cannon in the picture is one of many that could be trained on you and bombard your ship from 6 miles away! Speaking of cannons, here is one of the cannons in the courtyard.

I think this is a 16 pounder, meaning it shot a 16 pound cannon ball. That would make a really big hole in your ship!

Here is another cannon mounted on the wall of the fort and pointed toward the ocean. To give you some idea of the size of the weapon, Aidan and Maggie (yes, the inspirations for the characters in The Gemstone Chronicles) are standing next to one. Pretty impressive!

Aidan and Maggie at Castillo de San Marcos2There you have our visit to Castillo de San Marcos and Saint Augustine. I couldn’t show you everything we saw and did and there is so much more we could have seen. We may have to schedule another trip down there to cover some of the things we missed (like zip-lining over the alligators at the Alligator Farm)!

Where did you go on your summer vacation and what did you see? Leave me a comment and let me know! I might have to add it to my upcoming vacation plans!!

Connect with me:

I’m on Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads, so let’s connect. Stop by and say hi!

St. Augustine Lighthouse (and Keeper’s House)!

For my second post about our vacation trip to Saint Augustine, I thought I would show you some great pictures from the Saint Augustine Lighthouse!


Saint Augustine LighthouseThere are 219 steps to the top of the lighthouse, and Aidan, Maggie, and I walked every single one of them to get up there. More on that later.

One of my favorite things about the lighthouse was the Lighthouse Keeper’s House. If you recall from The Gemstone Chronicles, one of the more enigmatic characters was Keeper. Now, I have to admit that Keeper’s house in the books was nothing like the Keeper’s House at the Saint Augustine Lighthouse, but I thought the name was cool and a neat reminder of the books!

Keeper's House Sign Saint Augustine Lighthouse

And here is the facade of the house. I think it is a little fancier than what I imagined Keeper’s house looked like in Celahir!

Kapper's House Saint Augustine LighthouseBack to the lighthouse. As I mentioned, there are 219 steps to the top – no elevator. It seemed to spiral upwards without end, but we finally got there. To give you some idea of the steps, take a look at the picture that Lana took.

We trudged up the stairs (and only took a couple of rest stops) and finally made it! The view was absolutely worth it! I took some panoramic pictures from different locations around the lighthouse so you could get a feel for what we were seeing.

View 1 from Saint Augustine Lighthouse

View 2 from Saint Augustine Lighthouse

View 3 Saint Augustine Lighthouse

View 4 Saint Augustine Lighthouse

View 5 Saint Augustine LighthouseThe views, as you can see, were amazing! I think the last picture is my favorite since I can see the ocean stretching out to the horizon. As a former submarine sailor, we didn’t get to see much scenery like this when we were underway.

I did take a picture looking down at the Keeper’s house. Not a bad place to have lighthouse duty!

Saint Augustine Lighthouse View of Keeper's house

There you have our visit to the Saint Augustine Lighthouse. We didn’t do the ghost tour that includes the lighthouse, but it could be an interesting thing to do.

If you have been to Saint Augustine, what was your favorite thing to do or see? Leave me a comment and let me know! And if you need a great read for your beach trip, The Gemstone Chronicles, is available in paperback and ebook on,, Smashwords, and many other outlets!



Beebop’s Corvette Convertible (AKA his mid-life crisis)!

Readers of The Gemstone Chronicles know that Beebop has some very cool toys. He has a ski boat, jet skis, four-wheelers, and a utility vehicle. He drives a truck and Nana has a crossover vehicle. But, Beebop’s Corvette Convertible is his favorite toy in the books! I found this picture on Google and thought I would let everyone see what Beebop loves to drive!!


Beebop's Corvette Convertible

Beebop’s Corvette Convertible


Now, some facts about the car. There were only about 30,000 Corvettes made in 1973 and of those, only 4,943 were convertibles. 1973 was the last year the rear chrome bumper was available. There were 3 engine options available: the base engine 350 cubic inches (190 hp), L82 version at 350 cubic inches (250 hp), and the 454 cubic inch LS4 (275 hp). The cost for a convertible began at about $5,300!

Beebop’s Corvette is painted Mille Miglia Red and has the L82 engine. Why did Beebop pick this particular car and this particular year? Because it is a beautiful classic automobile that he has admired for years! It is fast, nimble, and incredibly fun to drive.

If, and when, I ever get the chance to own one of these classic convertibles, I will be sure to take advantage of the opportunity. I could see myself, Nana at my side, cruising down to Panama City Beach, Florida with the top down, wind in our hair, enjoying the sunshine! Pair it up with some Rayban Wayfarers (which I happen to own), and we will be ready to roll!

To find out more about Beebop’s 1973 Red Corvette Convertible, read The Gemstone Chronicles! Books 1-3 can be found at the following links and at many fine etailers (like Barnes and Noble and Books A Million) on-line!


Book One: The Carnelian:



Barnes and Noble:

Book Two: The Amethyst:



Barnes and Noble:

Book Three: The Emerald:



Barnes and Noble:

And, remember, a portion of every book sale goes to my 1973 Red Corvette Convertible fund!!!

What is your favorite classic car? Leave me a comment and let me know!

A Week of Vacation – Panama City Beach, Florida

Beach vacation!

I spent the last week vacationing in Panama City Beach, Florida with my lovely and adorable bride Lana and my two wonderful grandchildren Aidan and Maggie (all three inspired characters in The Gemstone Chronicles). Lana and I both grew up visiting PCB (or simply “the beach” in the towns where we lived back then), so it was a nostalgic trip for us, but Aidan and Maggie had never visited the sugary white sands and emerald waters. We had a ball!


We ran through some rain on the way down to PCB, but here is what I woke up to each morning!

Panama City Beach Florida



Being a former US Navy sailor, I also enjoyed the sound of the waves!

We did spend some time on the beach, where Aidan rode the waves and Maggie played in the sand. We managed to mostly avoid sunburn, too!


Panama City Beach



Aidan and his board!



The finished sandcastle!



All that sandcastle building wore me out, so relaxation time!

Lana’s view of the Gulf of Mexico.



Aidan and Maggie playing in the pool!

We didn’t just lay on the beach or swim in the pools at the condo. To experience PCB, you have to get out and do things. We visited Gulf World Marine Park, where we got to pet stingrays, watch sea lions, dolphins, penguins, and macaws, among many other things. Maggie even got to help “train” a dolphin to blow bubbles!




Petting the stingrays. Maggie said they were slimy!


Maggie “training” the dolphins!





Bottle-nosed dolphins waving goodbye to the audience after their show. They were pretty amazing!

We finished our last day at the beach by riding the Sea Dragon Pirate ship. Maggie became a pirate and took the pirate’s oath!



Aidan didn’t take part in the pirate festivities, but he enjoyed the trip anyway.




Maggie, though, went all out and became a pirate!!



We loved PCB!

We enjoyed great food, visited the new Pier Park, and rode go-karts. I don’t have pictures of that, since we were all riding at the same time, but it was one of the best experiences we had at the beach. It was Maggie and Lana’s first time on go-karts and they did great!!

There were changes since Lana and I had last been at PCB. For instance, The Breakers, an iconic restaurant from our time, is now closed and for sale. There are a lot of high rise condos that block the view of the beach from Front Beach Road. Many of the Mom and Pop stores are gone. But, the spirit of the beach that we so loved growing up still exists and we were very happy to be able to share it with our grandchildren!

Lana and I decided that we need to retire at the beach, so I have to get busy selling a lot of books so we can make that decision occur. Any help with the dream will be greatly appreciated!! 🙂

If you have been to PCB, leave me a comment on your memories. If not, maybe plan to visit The World’s Most Beautiful Beaches in the near future!!