April 25, 2013

TRAILS IN THE SAND Blog Tour {Guest Post & Give@way}

Several years ago, in 2006, I gave birth on Matanzas Beach, Florida – to a sea turtle. I also gave birth to my love of the ancient creature now considered an endangered species. At the time, I was working as a sea turtle patrol volunteer on the beaches south of St. Augustine.

My love expanded in my work as a public relations director for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, from 2007-2011. I wrote news releases on sea turtle nesting season, cautioning beach dwellers to keep lights off at night. I helped pull together brochures and license plates designs for the sea turtle. Then in 2010, when oil from the Deepwater Horizon disaster threatened Florida’s beaches, I was appointed to handle media relations during the project that dug up nests in the path of the oil and moved the eggs to the east coast where the hatchlings were released without entering oil-infested waters.

My love for the ancient creatures of the sea led me to put them in a starring role in my novel, Trails in the Sand. I began writing the novel soon after the nest relocation project successfully ended. The more I learned about the sea turtle, the more in love I fell with its enduring life history and connection to the Earth that man has treated poorly.

I hope that little hatchling from 2006 is swimming in the Atlantic Ocean having beaten incredible odds so far. If the hatchling survives to adulthood – it takes thirty years for a female to reach maturity – it will have beaten 1,000 to 1 odds for survival.

Approximately seventy days before that morning when it ventured into the sea, I walked alone on the beach near the Matanzas Inlet, south of St. Augustine. I noticed a pattern of swishes in the sand, starting at the tide line and heading toward the dunes, but the patterns looked small for the flippers of the loggerhead, which can weigh up to 275 pounds. I walked away without leaving the stick I carried to mark nests, but as I continued my patrol, I knew nothing could have left marks in the sand in such symmetry. I called the office, reported its location, and placed my stick in the sand so the biologists would be able to find it. Later it became a confirmed nest. Matanzas North Nest #3 may have been the official title, but from that day forward, I thought possessively of it as mine.

That’s why one of the biologists called me one morning in August to tell me #3 had hatched the night before. She invited me to watch as she dug up the nest to make sure all the hatchlings got out. One was still struggling to emerge from its shell when we got to the nest the next morning. “My baby” needed assistance getting to sea.

It barely moved at first, and the biologist conducting the dig put it in a box of wet sand until it starting moving around. They continued digging and eventually found the remains of 120 hatched eggs and four eggs that had gone bad. These are pretty good statistics, but there is no guarantee all 120 of the hatchlings made it to the sea. Those of us gathered on the beach kept all predators away from this lone straggler, but the other hatchlings didn’t have that protection when they emerged the night before.

When the hatchling began moving around in the box, a volunteer placed it on the sand next to the nest so it might remember the precise location of emergence. If this one turns out to be a female, in approximately thirty years, it might come ashore at Matanzas and lay its first batch of eggs. The scientists believe the turtles tap into the Earth’s magnetic field while in the nest.

The hatchling began its long walk to the sea following its instincts. A group of high school biology students formed a protective circle with the volunteers. Morning visitors to the beach, along with their vehicles, already competed for space. We left the hatchling a wide berth that no one could penetrate.

As the tide receded, the hatchling encountered some difficulty when the first wave hit it. It knew what to do, but it didn’t have the strength yet to swim out far enough not to be swept back in. Repeatedly, we watched as it attempted to go back into the ocean. We cheered each time it managed a ride and commiserated each time we saw it come back toward us.

“Watch your feet,” one of the biologists yelled when the wave swept the hatchling back toward those of us forming its shield.

Barely two-inches long, this baby looked no bigger than a broken scallop shell. The hatchling tried again, this time managing a five-foot entry into the sea, only to be swept back onto the beach again.

Then a big wave came as we cheered, but my baby came back near my own feet — belly up. The soft under belly, black and white spotted, faced me as its flippers frantically tried to right itself.

One of the biologists picked it up, walked out into the ocean for more than ten feet, and let the sea turtle go into its world undersea.

In one hour this baby had been pulled from the sand, crawled for the first time and then swam away to fend for itself in the sea. We had done all we could to protect it.

“Safe passage,” I whispered.

Trails in the Sand is my love paean to all the sea turtles. May they continue to come back and lay their nests each year.

A Family Saga Filled with Love Triangles, Sea Turtles, and an Oil Spill
When environmental writer Caroline Carlisle sets off to report on endangered sea turtles during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the last thing she expects is to uncover secrets - secrets that threaten to destroy her family, unless she can heal the hurts from a lifetime of lies. To make matters worse, Caroline's love for her late sister's husband, Simon, creates an uproar in a southern family already set on a collision course with its past.
Using real-life events as the backdrop, Trails in the Sand explores the fight to restore balance and peace, in nature and in a family, as both spiral toward disaster. Through it all, the ancient sea turtle serves a reminder that life moves forward despite the best efforts to destroy it.


P.C. Zick began her writing career in 1998 as a journalist. She's won various awards for her essays, columns, editorials, articles, and fiction. She describes herself as a "storyteller" no matter the genre.

She's published four works of fiction and one nonfiction book. Prior to 2010, she wrote under the name Patricia C. Behnke.

She was born in Michigan and moved to Florida in 1980. She now resides in Pennsylvania with her husband Robert.
Her fiction contains the elements most dear to her heart, ranging from love to the environment. She believes in living lightly upon this earth with love, laughter, and passion.

"This is one of the most exciting times to be an author," Ms. Zick says. "I'm honored to be a part of the revolution in writing and publishing."


  1. Thank you so much for hosting me today. I hope others enjoy my love story.

  2. What a touching and moving story about "your" hatchling. Just think, someday, it'll be back.