Life on the Wall (Bloody Bay Wall) – Excerpt from Ocean Rhythms Kindred Spirits

Good morning everyone! I hope our neighbors due south are staying safe in preparation for hurricane Florence.

Today I’ll be sharing an excerpt from “Life on the Wall”, my diving adventure with friend Sheila and divemaster Zam, about the first time I cast a gaze on Bloody Bay Wall in the Cayman Islands.

Hope you enjoy!

“Keeping the wall as my visual landmark, I fin-kick and swim downward. Pressure builds in my ear canals. Pinching my nose with my thumb and forefinger, my cheeks puff as I force an exhale, clearing my ears.

I check my depth gauge, which now reads seventy-eight feet. Glancing to my right, I study the blue abyss. An immense Caribbean reef shark, sleek and gray, appears unexpectedly out of the chasm. I inhale deeply from my regulator, and hold my breath — an action forbidden in scuba diving. I quickly remember to exhale.”

Pink Azure Sponge, Devils Grotto GC copy copyr

“The lover of nature is he whose inward and outward senses are truly adjusted to each other, who has retained the spirit of infancy even into the era of mankind.”

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Peace, love and sand dollars,

Sheree

 

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The Fix-It Man – excerpt from Ocean Rhythms Kindred Spirits

I missed my blog post Tuesday due to the launch of my children’s book, Midnight, the One-Eyed Cat. For that I apologize.

I’ve decided to focus on family for this next excerpt from Ocean Rhythms Kindred Spirits – An Emerson-Inspired Essay Collection on Travel, Nature, Family and Pets. More specifically, my Dad Joe who passed almost 30 years ago, and the comaraderie of friends. Some friends I am still close with today…my LTF’s (or long time friends).

The title of this essay is called “The Fix-It Man”, and anyone who knew my dad quickly realized he could fix just about anything. The excerpt takes place in my first home. It’s about all the people that stepped up and took part in doing chores, readying it for my first husband and I to live in. The scene takes place after everyone is tired from a day’s work, and the evening begins to wind down.

It’s my favorite scene. I can still remember it to this day.

“The Fix-It Man”

“Upon closer inspection, I noticed a one-inch ring of barbeque smeared around the perimeter of Dad’s mouth. His sticky fingers grasped the ribs as he sunk his teeth into the meat, causing the sauce to drip, drip, drip onto the paper plate. I couldn’t tell if Chris was chuckling at my Dad’s infant-in-a-highchair look or at what he was saying. My father rather enjoyed laughing at his own jokes.

Later, as the bright tangerine sun touched down on the horizon, one by one, my friends garnered seats on the porch. Gathered around Dad like fireflies to a mid-summer night sky, they chuckled as he spun tale after tale, all the while savoring his scrumptious barbeque — pausing only to lick his fingers and tilt back a beer.”

I hope you enjoyed a little sneak peak from Ocean Rhythms Kindred Spirits. I’ll be posting another teaser on Saturday.

(Joe, the Fix-It Man) Me and Dad in Florida crop

Me an Dad at Silver Springs, Florida – photo by Mom

If you love the beach, nature, the ocean, pets, wild dolphins, sharks and family heritage, you can get your copy of Ocean Rhythms Kindred Spirits here.

For now, peace out, love and sand dollars,

Sheree

 

 

 

 

 

Midnight, the One-Eyed Cat is here! Happy Book Birthday!

Midnight, the One-Eyed Cat is finally here! Her book birthday is today!

Five years ago if you had told me I’d be publishing a children’s picture book with an author friend, Pat Wahler, I would have said you were crazy.

But at that time, a little seed was planted by my husband who made the comment that Midnight, our black cat, looked like a one-eyed cat with a feather in her hat, the way her tail plumed above her like a periscope when she pranced about the house.

“That’s a really great book title,” I said with confidence. “I’m going to scribble that down and pin it to my bulletin board in my office.”

He said, “Why thank you for thinking that.” Of course, I chuckled.

Every day as I walked past that bulletin board, I stared at the piece of white paper written with the book title written in blue colored pencil.”

Two years passed.

Suddenly, one morning I awoke from a dream I had about Midnight. I quickly grabbed my notepad, thoughts pouring out easily, and wrote an entire story in fifteen minutes. The ending and certain parts of the storyline needed tweaking, so I called my author friend Pat Wahler to collaborate on the story to make it perfect.

After querying agents and publishers, we received a response from a small indie publisher in St. Louis (Amphorae), who seemed interested. They mentioned how they loved the message of courage, confidence, and overcoming disabilities. Would we be willing to making a few changes, and resend the manuscript back to them for review? We agreed. That was three years ago.

Believe me when I say it wasn’t easy. There were at least six edits (maybe more) on this children’s book of approximately 450 words. All the while, we were hoping for a certain illustrator to come into the picture — Janelle Dimmett. We loved her style and use of color.

After Janelle was hired to illustrate, it was then up to her to interpret our story. Janelle also went through many illustration updates to coincide with the book’s message.

Fast  forward to today.

I am so proud of this book and the message of “it’s okay to be who I am, just the way I am.”

With the help of Midnight’s best friend, a three-legged white rat named Starlight, and a bunch of bird buddies, she gains the confidence and courage to realize she was already okay, just the way she was.

So welcome Midnight to the world.  Happy book birthday!

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Midnight, 18 years old, (pictured above) was extremely impressed she was the inspiration for this story!

Midnight, the One-Eyed Cat is available on Amazon, and can be requested at your bookstores and libraries.

midnight no background - 3d cover

 

 

A Life Changer – Brunswick Christian Recovery Center – Teaching individuals a new way to live

When my editor at South Brunswick Magazine, Allison, asked me to write a story on a nonprofit – Brunswick Christian Recovery Center, I was a little anxious. It was important I convey the center’s message of hope. After talking to Joshua Torbich, the director, and hearing compassion in his voice, and love of the work he was doing, not just for the community, but for the men of Brunswick Christian Recovery Center, all my anxiety was laid to rest.

Here’s the three-page story that was published in South Brunswick last week. I hope you enjoy the message, as much as I enjoyed writing the story.

S Brunswick - Life Changer BCRC S Nielsen pg 79

S Brunswick - Life Changer BCRC S Nielsen pg 80

S Brunswick - Life Changer BCRC S Nielsen pg 81

Yoga with Baby Goats & a Coastal Irish Pub – my newest publications

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Copyright Shenanigoats Yoga 2018

Good Morning Everyone,

Normally, I don’t post freelance publications on my blog. My blog is mainly inspirational posts and content. But…I’m just so excited on how these two assignments turned out, I wanted to share with you.

The first is a story on Shenanigoats Yoga in Nashville, Tennessee titled “Got Goats” (published in Long Weekends Spring Summer 2018) and how much fun goat yoga can be!

The second is a three-page spread on Fibber McGee’s, Sunset Beach, North Carolina’s only Irish Pub with a coastal flair, titled “Luck of the Irish” (published in South Brunswick Magazine Spring 2018). Sunset Beach is my favorite place to vacation, and Fibber’s is amazing!

So here you go! Enjoy the stories, and feel free to leave comments below.

Happy Monday! It snowed here in the Midwest last night, so I’m loving it!

Peace out,

xoxoxo

ShereeLong Weekends pg 97 Spring Summer 2018 crop

South Brunswick spring 2018 Luck of the Irish pg 90

South Brunswick spring 2018 Luck of the Irish pg 91

South Brunswick spring 2018 Luck of the Irish pg 92

Shifts Anthology – St. Louis Area Writer Featured in St. Louis Today

DSC_2483 glass window bridge 1 copyrSweet serendipity!

Have you ever stumbled upon something while searching for something else?

So nice to be mentioned by author and editor Trina Sotira, of Muse Write Press in Chicago, from her article in St. Louis Today published December 9, 2017.

Her story tells the story of women’s challenges and triumphs in Shifts – An Anthology of Growth Through Change.

As Trina states:

“The anthology features poems, short stories and essays by 35 women who represent diversity in age groups, geographic locations, marital status, parenting status, professions and sexual orientations. It highlights the strength of women as their life shifts ultimately lead to increased confidence and internal peace. The book was a 2016 Next Generation Indie Book Award and 2015 USA Best Book Awards finalist.”

I am honored my photograph of the “Glass Window Bridge” taken on the gorgeous island of Eleuthera, Bahamas, graces the cover of his powerful book (pictured above).

To read the entire article click on the story title below –

ST. LOUIS WRITER FEATURED IN ANTHOLOGY THAT CAPTURES WOMEN’S CHALLENGES AND TRIUMPHS” 

Peace out,

xoxo

Sheree

 

 

The Drifter – A poem from Folly Beach Dances

2 The Drifter copyright

Since it’s National Poetry Month, I’d like to share a poem I penned for my 2015 Da Vinci Award Winning book, FOLLY BEACH DANCES – THE INFINITE RHYTHMS OF A SOUTH CAROLINA SEASHORE, inspired by the sea’s rhythm and my lymphoma journey, and endorsed by Karen White, NYT bestselling author.

It’s titled “The Drifter”, on page 5 of this ‘healing’ coffee table book of lyrical poetry and gorgeous photography, with reflections by 5 award-winning women authors, and my husband.

“The Drifter”

Not far in the distance I notice an old tree,

now driftwood,

with branches reaching out to a cornflower blue sky and white-streaked cotton clouds.

The image of a beach bungalow appears in my head,

with sounds of laughter,

lazy days in the sun,

peaceful ocean breezes,

smoky barbeques at dusk

and a warm crackling fire at night.

Except from Return to Folly Beach, Sheree K. Nielsen

Folly Beach Dances, copyright May 2014

Peace out and love,

Sheree

Troy Buchanan Writer’s Week – 7 days of inspiration

On March 16, hubby and I had the great pleasure of presenting two talks to students at Troy Buchanan High School Writer’s Week.

Writer’s Week is an annual event where authors come from all around to talk about their books, their journey, and the craft of writing – a full week of back-to-back sessions for the students.

As my husband, Russell and I stepped into the library, we noticed a photo of our book propped on an easel. Upon closer inspection, it was actually a ceiling tile painting, and realistic depiction of our book cover, Folly Beach Dances. So excited, I asked April Elliott, the Art teacher who painted the tile, to pose for a photo next to her creative masterpiece.

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Book covers from visiting authors hung as ceiling tiles in the space overhead, such as The Hate List by bestselling author Jennifer Brown.

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The session commenced as a few students read their works to fellow students before our presentation. One young writer from our church, Tyler Tippett, shared a poignant and touching essay about a family member.

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DSC_0874 Russell copyrAfterwards, Russell and I proceeded to tell the story of Folly Beach Dances in words and pictures. We hoped the students took away with them the purpose and mission of our ‘healing’ coffee table book.

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Georganna Krumlinde, Library Media Specialist, (yellow t-shirt) graciously provided us with lunch and a surprise basket of gifts from the school once our session ended.

In the process, I discovered Annie England Noblin, NYT bestselling author of Sit! Stay! Speak! was a presenter at Troy Buchanan. Later in the week, writer friend Pat Wahler and I, attended her session. During Annie’s break, we chatted about writing, our fur babies, and life in Missouri.

 

Booksignings, Southern Authors, Beaches, and New Friends

The first week in March, hubby and I set out on a two-city booksigning event for FOLLY BEACH DANCES.

First stop was the Tides Folly Beach Hotel. I’d stayed there last September when my long time friend and author, Tina Solomon, visited Folly Beach to market our ‘healing’ coffee table book FOLLY BEACH DANCES. Recognizing familiar hotel faces, I was happy to be back.

The view from our hotel balcony was the ocean. (Sigh)

In our spare time, Russell and I made it a point to enjoy leisurely strolls on the beach. The first morning, we met a twenty-something Lizzie on the pier. As the three of us walked, we conversed. She spoke fondly of her boyfriend in the military. Browsing through the pier’s gift shop, we noticed FOLLY BEACH DANCES on display. Picking up a copy, Lizzie flipped through the pages of the book, and ended up buying a copy.

Lizzie and me, at FB pier

Lizzie and me, at FB pier

That afternoon we headed to The Preservation Society of Charleston for a booksigning. At first, sales were slow, but by late afternoon we’d hit our stride. What the customers didn’t buy, Evan, the event coordinator, ended up purchasing for the store. A successful event!

The next day, we drove to the end of the island to visit the Folly Beach County Park. As I stepped foot on the sand, I felt transported to a Caribbean oasis. The white sand and muted landscape hues, drew me closer to the water’s edge. And the crisp air beckoned windsurfers to ride the ocean’s waves.

Walking the shoreline, I followed the island’s natural curves. With unbridled anticipation, I was anxious to uncover visual treasures with my camera’s lens. A weathered tree with branches that mimicked windblown hair, awaited me around the next bend.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe bid our goodbye to Folly Beach the next morning, but not before stopping at Bert’s Market – an eclectic hipster produce store. Speaking with Julia, the store’s owner, I was happy when she said she’d carry FOLLY BEACH DANCES!

Next stop – Columbia, South Carolina. After checking into Homewood Suites, we met fellow writer C. Hope Clark and husband, Gary, for dinner at Mr. Friendly’s. The time passed quickly as we spoke of writing, publishing, conferences, the beach, and the lake. I thought the waiter was going to kill us for lingering at her table for more than 2 ½ hours!

Hope and Matt

Hope and Matt

The following day we headed to Irmo Branch Library for a 15-author event. Matt Matthews, author of Mercy Creek, and the First Carolina Novel Prize sat to our right. Hope sat to our left. With her Low Country mysteries, there was a constant stream of visitors to her table. I felt comfortable wedged between these wonderful writers. At the end of the event, I took inventory of our book sales, and realized we did okay.

I told hubby, I’d be back, and took some time to find Southern writer, Tom Poland’s table. Co-author of Reflections of South Carolina. I’d seen his book everywhere – even in Missouri. Along with Robert Clarke, Tom created a wonderful journey of photography and essays, weaving personality and character into the book’s colorful pages.DSC_1220 Tom Poland crop copyr

Tom and I chatted for awhile, and I learned of his humble beginnings in writing. Back in the 70’s, he had a wild idea to take to the road with Robert. With no plan in mind, they’d write and photograph whatever they found interesting. And they never looked back. We shook hands, exchanged business cards, and agreed to meet again whenever in the South.

The car loaded with suitcases, we set course for our next destination – Sunset Beach, North Carolina. Three hours later, we pulled into the parking space of our beach rental, the Graham Sporting Goods house.

Friend and fellow author, Jacqueline DeGroot, stopped by for a visit the following night to talk, watch the sun set below the horizon, and drop off her recent book releases – The Cemetery Kids series. I snapped a photograph of Jack for an upcoming story.

The next three days were bliss. Lazy days spent walking the beach – in the morning, the afternoon, and at sunset. Oh, the sunsets. The sunsets were divine.DSC_1452 birds under pier sunset copyrWhen not on the beach, we’d hop in the car and putter along Shoreline Drive, gazing at the gorgeous homes, with the intercoastal waterway in the distance. We’d stop at our favorite coffee shop, or just shoot photos of flowers, birds, or landscapes.

Oh how I love Sunset Beach.

We made some new furry friends along the way. Sassy and Libby, whose owners live in Little River, came down for a beach visit. We met Emmy, a sweet golden, who lives a short five minute walk from the beach.

Emmy

Emmy

Libby

Libby

Needless to say, we’ll be back in Sunset in May with our fur babies. They’ll get to meet Sassy and Libby, and maybe even Emmy. I know they’ll see their friend Mosa, a boxer, who vacations the same week every year.

Oh yeah, the first day of our trip, FOLLY BEACH DANCES was nominated for the Eric Hoffer Award, including a finalist for the da Vinci Eye Award, for excellence in book cover design.

So, all in all, I’d have to say, we had a great trip.

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Wednesday Awakenings…

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It was a Wednesday. I’d only been gone a couple hours running errands, when I returned home to find my sweet tuxedo cat, Mr. Trip, passed away on the wool rug in our dining room. He lay in the spot where I usually placed my feet under the table, when working from the dining room chair.

Devastated, my sobbing began from the time I found him, and went on for days. There was no rhyme or reason to my crying. It happened anywhere, anytime, under any circumstances.

When a full week had cycled, I cried on the one week anniversary of his death.

Wednesday, February 4 was different, though. In the quiet of the morning, I was startled by a loud male voice.

Not sure if I was in the transition period between dreams and consciousness, I heard, “Sheree!”

I sat up immediately, eyes wide open.

The voice sounded like my Dad’s …and God’s? Although I have no clue what God’s voice sounds like, I thought it must be Him. The strong sublime voice was telling me to ‘Wake up!’

Wake up now?
Wake up to my surroundings?
Wake up to life?
What was he saying?DSC_1066 sunsrise copyri

As I arose from our king size bed, I slipped on my socks and robe and stumbled to the kitchen. Two pooches and one cat followed.

As I pushed the sheer curtains open in the dining room bay window, the most magnificent yellow-orange sunrise radiated across the sky. I smiled. A peacefulness filled my heart.

Sauntering in the kitchen to prepare my breakfast of oatmeal and raspberries, I eyed the resident gray squirrel outside. Inching his way down the wooden deck rail, he separated sunflower seeds from their hulls, munching on the meaty treat inside.

DSC_1076 squirrel eating sunflowrs copyrightSeated at the kitchen table with my oatmeal, rye toast and English Breakfast tea, I noticed a pair of cardinals hopping across the deck outside our French doors.

I felt like God was telling me to ‘wake up’ and embrace the beauty around me.

The visuals of nature helped me forge through the rest of the week. I cried a little, but remembered the beauty I’d discovered on that Wednesday morning.

February 11, in the wee hours of the morning, I had a dream.

In the dream, I awoke from slumber. The back rear door to our vacation home was open, and welcoming sunlight poured in. The hardwood floors of the hallway were cool to my feet. In the living room, my husband relaxed on a plush beige sofa.

I didn’t notice our Australian Shepherd at first, but when she emerged from behind another sofa, a cat was riding her piggyback.

As I approached my smiling canine, I studied the cat’s fur and color. His body, mainly white, sported light grey spots. The reddish-brown color of his head and face were separated by a white part traveling from his crown to his nose.

Awaking from the dream, I thought the cat reminded me of a parrot. I smiled.

After breakfast, I scuffled down the hallway to the bathroom. Squeezing the toothpaste tube, a tiny bubble formed, and floated upward. The small masterpiece remained airborne for at least five minutes. I watched the bubble travel about the bathroom in amazement. First up, then down, then sideways, toward the window, over the tub, and back towards me like an astronaut weightless in a space capsule. I stepped into the bedroom to grab my camera to capture a shot of the bubble, but when I returned it was gone.

DSC_1721 cappucino art design 1 crop copryLater in the afternoon, my young friend Rileigh and I ordered lunch at a local coffee house. When the server delivered my salad, the dressing rather than on the side, was on the salad. I explained my original request. The server politely offered to make a second one. Upon his return, he handed me two tokens for any coffee beverage and apologized for the inconvenience.

After lunch, we visited the Sophie Sachs Butterfly House, and observed more than 20 varieties of OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAbutterflies in a humid glass-enclosed structure. The smell, the flowers, and temperature of the habitat brought back memories of my visits to the Caribbean.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Blue Morphos floated past us, just like the toothpaste bubble. Rileigh and I sat on the custom wood benches and observed. Our heart rate slowed as a calmness filled our bodies.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe concluded the afternoon with a trip to a local bakery called “The Cup” to stuff our faces with sweet delights.

Although the events of a particular Wednesday left a somber and melancholy feeling in my heart, I believe God’s loving arms helped me realize Wednesdays are to be celebrated – whether through death, or a new life, or a change.

I believe that my sweet fur baby, Mr. Trip, running free on Rainbow Bridge, would want me to savor all the good and positive moments that Wednesdays bring.DSC_2121

I’ve decided that Wednesdays are ‘get out of jail free’ days – a break from the crazy world of stress.

I look forward to more unexplained sweet ‘awakenings’ in my life, and know that God always plays a part.

Care to join me?

Pleasures await you by the seashore…

This summer I had the opportunity to sit and observe nature while on vacation in Sunset Beach, North Carolina.

I love watching birds, their graceful movements, and sometimes silly actions. I wrote a poem on this cold winter today which actually fits quite nicely with a fortune cookie I received awhile back.

Here’s the poem – I hope you like it. It’s called “Pleasures at the Seashore”

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Six little sandpipers
dip long spindly legs
and feet
in the shallow mud flats
and
watch tourists
on the shore.

Preening, gleaning
angel-like wings
and brown-tufted bellies,
resting idly
at ocean’s door.

A gentle waveDSCN0353 birds crop adj
pushes foamy surf
across wet land
in a lover’s
lullaby
of the sea.

And the feathered
reflections of nature –
six mirrored silhouettes,
dance on the glistening sand.

© Copyright Sheree K. Nielsen 2015

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Shifts – Women’s Growth Through Change

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000038_00066]I received a package over the Christmas holidays – my two contributor copies of the women’s anthology, SHIFTS – An Anthology of Women’s Growth Through Change.

The book’s editors, Trina Sotira and Michelle Duster, asked me to submit photographs for the front and back cover.

I selected scenes that reminded me of shifts in my life – the raw beauty of the ocean, flora, fauna or any other photography that came to mind. Then I narrowed it down to my favorites. One of which was the The Glass Window Bridge – an unforgettable natural phenom I will not forget.

The Glass Window Bridge situated along Queen’s Highway near Gregorytown, is Eleuthera’s thinnest stretch of land – a mere 30 feet across. The man-made bridge replaced the naturally formed bridge of rock destroyed by a hurricane. Vistas of the rock formations are breathtaking, as well as the contrast between the aquamarine waters of the Caribbean and the indigo blue color of the Atlantic Ocean.

Over the weekend, I started reading SHIFTS, and was prompted to send an email to Trina. Bits and pieces too personal were left out. Here’s the edited email.
—–
Trina,

Just wanted to tell you how much your book has touched me.

This morning I woke up with my heart in my throat. My first thought was to reach for my bible, which usually calms me down.

For whatever reason, I didn’t reach for my bible. I opened up Shifts, and read three essays from the Self-Worth section – yours, The Slope, and the Last Christmas.

Just reading these essays, calmed me down and took away the anxiety. A couple of women came to mind that probably would love the book, too.

I guess as women we all go through trying times in our life. I just love the book. I know I promised to blog about it, but haven’t been really motivated these weeks to accomplish writerly things.

Sheree
———-

And just like the contrast of the color of water near The Glass Window Bridge, and the ever changing tides, this books reminds me of the challenges and choices women through on their journey doing ‘life’.

I urge you, if you haven’t picked up SHIFTS, buy it.