Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Murder in Dollywood Country!

Excerpt From: Fifty-Seven Traveling by Lonnie Cruse
Tourism Attraction: Cades Cove/Pigeon Forge
Location: Pigeon Forge, Tennessee
Photos: Click to enlarge any photo! Photos from MyPigeonForge.com (visit their site through the Pigeon Forge link in the Toursim Links below to plan a vacation)


Kitty Bloodworth was looking forward to a nice, relaxing vacation in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. She and her husband Jack were entering their prize classic car Sadie into an antique car show. When Kitty sets her eyes on a classic car for sale, her enthusiasm lands her in the middle of a murder mystery that perplexes even her keen senses. This novel is set in the beautiful tourism destination of Pigeon Forge. Learn more about how to visit the real places in the novel by clicking on the tourism links at the end of this excerpt.

From Fifty-Seven Traveling . . .

“Look at that,” Deb said, pointing out her car window at the mountain stream rushing over the large rocks alongside the highway leading to Cades Cove. I fished in my tote bag for my camera.

It seemed as though there were rushing mountain streams everywhere we looked. Jack stopped several times so I could take pictures. The sound of the water over the rocks very nearly lulled me to the point of needing a nap. And the wind sighing through the trees had me turning in slow circles, trying to capture the colors on my camera so I could enjoy them at home.

Back on the road after another quick stop, Leo said, “Are you speeding, Jack?” He pointed to the passenger side mirror.
I turned around in time to see an official car, lights flashing and siren blaring as it whizzed around us. Jack pulled to the edge of the road as best he could, and traffic in front of us parted like a pond wave as an ambulance slid by. The sirens were deafening. I counted a fire truck, another ambulance, a police car, and several other official vehicles as they flew by and said a silent prayer for whomever those vehicles were racing to rescue.

“Wow, must be something big going on,” Deb said. She’d roused herself from a brief backseat nap long enough to see what all the ruckus was about. Jack inched his way nearly into the intersection that split off toward Cades Cove, and for a few seconds I feared we’d be flattened in the crush of cars scuttling out of the way. Fortunately, the emergency vehicles zipped by us and continued on.

Jack turned onto the loop that meandered through the historic Cades Cove area, and the next few hours were spent admiring the amazing fall colors or hiking up the short walks to some of the older cabins, like the old Oliver place where we saw a momma deer and her twins snacking on a low tree limb. She sniffed at us as we sniffed at her.

“Even though deer pass through the pasture behind our old farm house nearly every day, I never get over the thrill of watching them up close,” I whispered to Deb.

We left the deer family to their meal and hiked the rest of the way to the old Oliver family log cabin, settling in for our own picnic under a nearby tree.

“I always try to imagine the people who once lived in these old cabins and what their lives might have been like,” I said, carefully gathering up the leftovers and cartons. I certainly didn’t want to leave any litter behind in this lovely place.

“The view form the porch is so beautiful it takes my breath away,” Deb said.

I nodded and glanced around inside, marveling at the small size of the rooms and lack of privacy for family members. Many of the old cabins had one central room where the family did household chores, ate, sat by the fire, and sometimes even slept.

“I’m thankful the locals somehow managed to preserve this historic area. It’s something future generations need to see, how people lived in pioneer days,” I said.

I’d nearly filled an entire memory stick on my camera with pictures of the homes and the woods and fields surrounding them. At this rate, I’d need to buy another memory stick before we left the area, even if they cost the earth. And I’d have to replace my little printer without letting my daughters know what happened to the one they gave me.

“Let’s take a different route home,” Jack suggested as we passed through the exit gate. “See what we can see.” Words which always made me cringe.

“Can you read that sign?” Jack asked, after we’d ridden in silence for several miles. Thankfully, I could still see distance better than he could, even from the back seat.

“Yes, it says ‘Weddings in the Woods. Get married among the beautiful trees of the Smoky Mountains.’ Hmmm, I wonder if Sunny and Craig would consider having their wedding here. It certainly would be far less expensive than the extravaganza she’s planning, and the area here is beautiful.”

I snapped a couple of quick pictures, in case Sunny showed some interest. Never mind that we didn’t know exactly where “here” was. I’d keep my eyes open and see how we got back to where we were supposed to be, assuming Jack didn’t get us permanently lost.

We were haggling over whether or not to have a quick snack of ice cream to tide us over until we met the car club for dinner as Jack fiddled with the radio knob.

“I bet they got a great oldies station around here,” he said.

“Yep,” Leo said, “they don’t make songs like that nowadays.”

“Like what,” Deb asked. “‘Purple People Eater?’”

“Actually, I was thinking about the one where the momma doesn’t rock and roll,” Leo said.

“You’ve got it backwards,” Deb argued, “the momma don’t dance and—”

“Hey, listen!” I pointed towards the radio. “They’ve found a dead body in a ditch. Just up the road from the Cades Cove entrance.”

--Excerpted from FIFTY-SEVEN TRAVELING, Copyright © 2010 by Lonnie Cruse, All Rights Reserved


Tourism Guide

The goal of SELTI is to introduce readers from around the nation to unique tours based on the real settings of popular novels. What better way to do this than a novel about a vacation to a beautiful Southern town? The new novel Fifty-Seven Traveling by Lonnie Cruse is just such a story, set in the picturesque Pigeon Forge tourism district of Tennessee. For fun getaways, the Smoky Mountains are hard to beat, but adding the spice of a murder mystery only makes the trip that much more intriguing.

In such a beautiful area, it would be very easy for a traveler to spend the weekend shopping, eating, and relaxing without ever stepping outside of the tourist bubble. When my review copy of the novel arrived, I was expecting a light, fun mystery, and that's an accuracte description of the novel. However, Fifty-Seven Traveling also surprises the reader by connecting with the place on a deeper level by highlighting the culture of the local residents. The Beadle family’s old-fashioned values and traditions are refreshing, especially within the context of our modern society. The novel also includes mainstream attractions such as Dollywood, which the story proves is as much fun for adults as it is for kids.

The antique automobiles themselves become very sympathetic characters, and one has to contrast these solid, quality-crafted vehicles against today’s hastily-fabricated fiberglass constructions that often start falling apart within a few years. The classic cars were made to be durable for decades, and so were the moral values of the generation that produced them. For example, many couples today divorce within the same time they trade in their cars for new ones. There’s something to be said for things—and values—that last.

This talk of values and cars does play out at the end of the novel, which is not only creative but very touching. The main character, Kitty Bloodworth, is a grandmother that many people can relate to and might know in their local community. Placing ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances is often a great device to writing an interesting story.

The real area of Pigeon Forge and Sevier County is indeed beautiful almost to the point of being a wonderland, especially at Christmas time. The towns are as picturesque as a postcard, but it sure is fun to step inside that postcard and breathe in the fresh mountain air—maybe with some white fudge mixed in. Good eating plays a prominent part in this novel, and the same is true of a real vacation there. Be sure and bring your camera and some extra memory sticks because the real sights will be something you will always cherish.



Tourism Links
Pigeon Forge
http://www.mypigeonforge.com/

Cades Cove Auto Tour
http://www.cadescove.net/auto_tour.html

Learn more about author Lonnie Cruse
http://www.lonniecruse.com/

Order Fifty-Seven Traveling
http://www.amazon.com/Fifty-Seven-Traveling-Five-Star-Mystery/dp/1594148805/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1292812309&sr=1-1

The Official Tennessee Vacation Guide
http://www.tnvacation.com/

Follow SELTI on Facebook for updates on new articles and an easy list of all the others around the South:
http://www.facebook.com/#!/group.php?gid=289783765813

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Walking the Moonlit Road . . .

Photo by Peggy Blackburn/The Wetumpka Herald

Cold weather is the perfect time to sit down with a chilling tale. "The Last Confession" was just published on The Moonlit Road, a site with scary tales from around the South. The Moonlit Road is an innovative project started by students at the Art Institute of Atlanta and has been running since 1997. Many of the stories there include dramatic audio presentations by professional storytellers, some of which have been featured on National Public Radio and their affiliates. "The Last Confession" was the original scary tale that inspired SELTI and comes with a tourism guide to Cahaba, the abandoned first state capital of Alabama. The historic Coosa River district in Wetumpka, Alabama, (seen above) is also featured as an inspiration of the story. Check it all out here: http://themoonlitroad.com/the-last-confession/. Please browse the many tales at The Moonlit Road if you dare. Many Southern states are included.

If you enjoy "The Last Confession," then check out Blind Fate, another scary tale, here: http://southeasternliterarytourisminitiative.blogspot.com/2010/09/tourism-mystery-kindles-romance-in.html

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Find Comfort in Warm Springs, Georgia

Dowdell's Knob in Franklin D. Roosevelt State Park. This was FDR's favorite picnic spot in Georgia.
Photo by Georgia Department of Natural Resources (GDNR).
Excerpt From: Comfort by Joyce Moyer Hostetter, published by Calkins Creek
Tourism Attractions: Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute for Rehabilitation,
Franklin D. Roosevelt State Park
Location: Warm Springs, Georgia
Photos: Click to enlarge

Long before he became the iconic president that we read about in history today, Franklin D. Roosevelt was a New York senator who had just been crippled with a devastating disease: polio. The disease was so debilitating that he knew his dreams of becoming president someday might never be realized. Would anyone vote for a candidate with a disability? Then this New Yorker heard about a peaceful place down South called Warm Springs, Georgia, where the therapeutic natural springs there had made a dramatic difference in a polio victim’s recuperation.

The fictional Ann Fay Honeycutt in Comfort is one such young victim, who is struggling to recover from a polio outbreak in mid-1940s North Carolina. Although her hero, President Roosevelt, has recently passed away when she arrives at Warm Springs, Roosevelt’s presence is still strong. She is about to enter a place that she would have never dreamed possible and will change her life forever. Ironically, the place (now known as the Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute for Rehabilitation) would become a forerunner for innovations and laws that would change many lives for decades to come from all over the nation . . .

From Comfort . . .

When we arrived, Papaw took us right into the grounds of the Georgia Warm Springs Foundation. It seemed like it was open to just anyone. He drove real slow by a huge white building with tall columns and lots of windows. A girl in a wheelchair was going toward the building, and when she got to it, I couldn’t believe my eyes. The door opened for her and she hadn’t even done a thing!

“Well, if that don’t beat all,” said Daddy.

FRD's statue at Dowdell's Knob,
Franklin D. Roosevelt State Park
Photo by GDNR
I thought how I had to struggle to get doors open while I was propped on my crutches. Was every door in this place so easy to get through? What would it be like to live in a place designed especially for crippled people?

FDR's statue gazes out over his favorite
picnic spot in Georgia, Dowdell's Knob.
While we sat there and stared, the door opened again and a man came through in a wheelchair. Not a big wooden one like all the ones I’d ever seen, but a shiny metal one. He must’ve thought we looked a little lost because he wheeled his chair over to the car. Papaw told him we just wanted a glimpse of Warm Springs. “We saw a picture in the paper,” he said. “And it made us want to visit Franklin Roosevelt’s favorite place.”

Mr. Shoes poked his head out the window, and the minute the man saw him he got a big grin on his face. He let Mr. Shoes sniff his hand. “You sure do bring up some good memories,” he said. “The president had a dog like this, you know."


A party at Warm Springs for polio patients.
Photo by Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute
for Rehabilitation (RWSIR)
Then Papaw told him about me having polio. And right then and there, the man invited us to park the car and join him for a tour! None of us ever expected that. He waited for us to get out and then he introduced himself.

“Fred Botts,” he said, shaking hands with every single one of us. “I’m the registrar here at the foundation."

Mr. Botts turned his chair toward the building with the tall pillars. “This building is called Georgia Hall.” He looked up at Ida and Ellie and asked, “Which one of you wants to open the magic door?" Of course they both wanted to. So he said, “Whoever steps first in the front of the all-seeing eye.” He pointed to the door, and Ida and Ellie about knocked each other down to get there first. Just like that, the door opened and Mr. Botts took us inside.

Georgia Hall today.
The lobby had tall windows that let in lots of light. It was a grand entryway that stretched way out from side to side but wasn’t very deep. There was sofas and chairs and potted plants and pictures in fancy frames hanging on the walls. Mr. Botts led us to a big dining room off to the right. He showed us just where the president would’ve have sat if he’d been there for Thanksgiving dinner. “We always looked forward to our Thanksgiving meal with the president,” he said. “This year we left an empty space at the table to honor him.”

I asked him what it was like to actually talk to President Roosevelt.

“Meeting Franklin Roosevelt was like meeting your next-door neighbor. That’s what he called us. ‘Hi ya, neighbor,’ he would say when he drove up to people’s houses or saw folks in town. He loved to talk about farming and trees and horses and fishing.”

After we toured Georgia Hall, Mr. Botts wanted to show us the rest of Warm Springs. So he talked to a man in a bow tie at the desk in the lobby of Georgia Hall. “Ed, could you call for the trailer?”

The historic quad at the campus of the Roosevelt
Warm Springs Institute for Rehabilitation
The man picked up the telephone right away.

“We’ll just wait here for a few minutes. Someone will come get us,” said Mr. Botts.

And sure enough, before long a bus pulled up out front. The driver opened some doors in the back and pulled out a ramp. With his help, Mr. Botts rolled his wheelchair right into the back of that bus. And we followed.

We sat on seats that were lined up against the walls facing each other like sofas in a living room. While we rode, Mr. Botts showed how the bus had places to store crutches and even room for people on stretchers to ride along.

Polio patients receive warm water therapy at the
Georgia Warm Springs Foundation. Photo by RWSIR
We stopped next to a big building with huge glass windows. “This is our new pool that we use for therapy,” said Mr. Botts. “We won’t go inside, though, because I want to show you the original pools.”

The bus took us to some other swimming pools and we got out and walked around. A man was crawling to the pool. “See that gentleman?” asked Mr. Botts. “Before he was president, when he had more time to spend here, that could have been Franklin Roosevelt. At Warm Springs he was a polio like everyone else. If he needed to get somewhere and crawling was the easiest way, then that’s what he’d do.”
That really surprised me. In every picture I’d seen of the president he was standing or sitting at a table. I just couldn’t imagine him on his hands and knees.

Mr. Botts told us to put our hands into the water. “Feel how warm it is? Almost ninety degrees.”

I could see why the place was called Warm Springs—on account of the water, of course. But everything about this place seemed warm. There was a breeze, but even though it was late November it wasn’t the kind of wind to make you shiver.

Camp Dream at the Roosevelt Warm Springs
Institute for Rehabilitation.
On top of that, everybody was real friendly. A couple of patients came up to me and asked when I had the polio and if I was coming there to stay. Mr. Botts said, “Oh we’re working on that.” He looked at me. “You really should come.”

All the way back to Papaw and Mamaw’s house I kept hearing him say that line. You really should come. Even the tires on Papaw’s car were singing those words. You really should come . . .

--Excerpted from COMFORT Copyright © 2009 by Joyce Moyer Hostetter. All rights reserved.

Tourism Guide
A view from Dowdell's Knob
This novel had a strong personal appeal for me because I was born with a severely clubbed right foot. After multiple surgeries and casting, I started kindergarten wearing corrective braces. Naturally, this drew some teasing—that is, until my best friend explained to everyone that the braces were “action boots.” That sounded pretty neat to a bunch of five year-olds.

Sometimes the support of friends is the only thing that makes life bearable. My short time as a cripple was nothing compared with the hardships that so many young children, men, and women endured for the rest of their lives in the days before the polio vaccine was developed. The novel Comfort is a story about how the joy of friendship can overcome even the emotional devastation of a crippling disease like polio. Although a fictional character, Ann Fay represents the real experiences of thousands of young children in the first half of the 20th century.

FDR and Eleanor at the McCarthy Cottage, his home in
Warm Springs before building the Little White House.
Photo by RWSIR
Ann Fay’s cruel nickname at school was “Click,” but at Warm Springs, she found comfort in the companionship of a new family, one made up of children who shared her condition. For many who attended the Georgia Warm Springs Foundation, meaningful life began again. None of this would have been possible without the fierce dedication and leadership of Franklin Roosevelt. In his war against the dreaded disease, he demanded the same terms that he offered the Nazis: unconditional surrender.

The McCarthy Cottage today, also where the movie
Warm Springs was filmed in 2005.
Photo by RWSIR
A wonderful companion to the novel Comfort is the HBO movie Warm Springs, starring Kenneth Branagh as a younger Roosevelt. The magic of Joseph Sargent‘s artful direction shows how Roosevelt found his soul again at Warm Springs. Cynthia Nixon puts in an outstanding performance as a younger Eleanor Roosevelt taking her first steps towards becoming an inspiring public speaker in her own right. The movie also tells the tale of Roosevelt’s inspiration and building of the Georgia Warm Springs Foundation, the world’s first rehabilitation center for polio victims. In this film, viewers will see a very intimate, rare look at Roosevelt the man, including all his faults and weaknesses, both physical and otherwise. However, they will also see the powerful spirit that would make him iconic in the near future. In a very direct sense, Roosevelt’s experiences with polio and Warm Springs prepared him better than any other president to lead the nation through the great trials that lay ahead.



There are many connections between the novel Comfort and the movie Warm Springs, although both were independent projects. The real life historical character of Fred Botts in the novel is portrayed as a younger man in the movie. The movie, set in the twenties, was partially filmed in the McCarthy Cottage, where Roosevelt lived before building the Little White House. The historic pools that first drew Roosevelt to Warm Springs became a central part of the rehabilitation institute.

The movie shows how Roosevelt traveled from a place of cold darkness to a place of warm light. This was not just a physical journey but a journey within his soul to a place many still call the Spirit of Warm Springs. He didn't want his work with the Georgia Warm Springs Foundation to just benefit the people he knew in life; he wanted the foundation to have a positive impact on many generations to come. The novel Comfort is the fulfillment of that dream after his passing, told through the spiritual journey of Ann Fay. The Spirit of Warm Springs continues to live on in places like Camp Dream, a beautiful outdoor recreation program for children with disabilities.

Today, the institute is a living memorial by serving as a rehabilitation hospital and an innovative vocational center for those with severe disabilities. Readers of the novel can tour the historic quad and buildings where Ann Fay found her place in life again and learned to walk. Georgia Hall, where she and her friends played games and sang songs, is now a beautiful exhibit with many period photographs from the storied institution’s incredible history. The public can go on guided tours of the historic area, which was designed to feel more like a pretty college campus than a cold medical facility.

FDR's Ford on display at the Little White House.
FDR converted this car with hands-only controls.
Photo by GDNR
The original pools that Roosevelt swam in are a separate museum right next to the institute. Around the corner is the spectacular museum of the Little White House, which includes a large exhibition building with items such as Roosevelt’s automobile that he converted to hands-only controls. The Little White House offers a 13-minute movie about Roosevelt, which is a must-see for its powerful presentation.

These three tours take up about half a day, but the Warm Springs area offers many more attractions. The little town itself has a wonderful block of antique and gift shops, ice cream parlors, restaurants, and even a historic hotel right next to the visitor center. Roosevelt often visited the ice cream parlor in the hotel.

Family-friendly attractions very close by include the beautiful Callaway Gardens, Wild Animal Safari at Pine Mountain, Butts Mill Farm, and the Franklin D. Roosevelt State Park. Learn about these attractions in the Tourism Links at the end of this article. One of Roosevelt’s favorite picnic spots on Pine Mountain was Dowdell’s Knob, which offers a spectacular view of the valley. He often drove there in his converted car, and now his life-size statue sits atop the mountain resting quietly on the spot that gave him so much peace. Dowdell’s Knob is a must-see attraction.
A rental cabin in the beautiful Franklin D. Roosevelt State Park.
Photo by GDNR

Franklin D. Roosevelt State Park today also offers many hiking trails, rustic lodges and cabin rentals, and scenic restaurants to eat in. Driving through the park is all it takes for one to realize what drew Roosevelt to return to this gorgeous area so many times in his troubled life.

The Georgia Warm Springs Foundation helped not only to change the way our nation heals the disabled but also how we view those with disabilities in general. I was reminded of this fact on the tour when the guide pointed out the brick exercise platforms where children like Ann Fay learned to raise their wheelchairs over curbs. Back then, the children had to return to a society that was not handicap accessible. Many of the graduates from the institute went on to play profound roles in transforming our nation to allow access for handicap citizens. Readers can learn more about these remarkable men and women at the end of Comfort in the resources section. Joyce did a great deal of research for her novel, which is a sequel to the award-winning novel Blue.

One testament to Joyce’s powerful writing is the way the tour guide kept referring to Ann Fay as a real person during my research trip to Warm Springs. At one point, the guide had to stop and assure me that she did know that Ann Fay was not a real person. However, I completely understood her passion because I felt the strong connection myself. When I first entered Georgia Hall and the door automatically swished open, the story leaped to life. Indeed, the novel holds a prominent place in the Little White House gift shop because it tells the story of Warm Springs so well.

Fortunately for me, my foot was rehabilitated by the time I entered first grade. Comfort made me wonder what my life would have been like if I had been born in a different era not so long ago when those with defects and disabilities were looked down upon and ignored by society rather than being welcomed and encouraged to achieve, as they are today. In a very real sense, I am one of the many beneficiaries of the Spirit of Warm Springs, which sought to redefine how our society deals with the challenges of all disabilities.
An adult polio patient receiving therapy in the
same pools that Ann Fay used.
Photo by RWSIR

Another major theme of Comfort is how Ann Fay’s family deals with her father’s Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome after he returns home from war in Europe. Much like polio at the time, there was no formal or effective treatment for this disorder. Today offers a sad connection as the families of many soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan are still facing the largely misunderstood affliction. I’ve been hearing the radio commercials about families trying to deal with this disorder in a loving way, and perhaps Comfort could help them cope with the isolation that normally develops. Many fathers from these wars never returned home at all, but others returned as different men, souls that were torn in half by the horrors they faced on the battlefield. Comfort offers a beautiful explanation for this syndrome and also a sobering challenge to the family on dealing with its effects.

Comfort is the fourth young adult book featured on SELTI. The others are the Maggie Valley series by Kerry Madden, Upclose: Harper Lee (a biography, also by Kerry), and Alabama Moon by Watt Key. Alabama Moon was made into a movie starring John Goodman. Please check out these prior features at the links below.

Hollywood Visits Monroeville: Up Close with Harper Lee

Today’s Tom Sawyer: Camping Under an Alabama Moon:

Vampires Vs. Pancakes: Maggie Valley
http://southeasternliterarytourisminitiative.blogspot.com/2010/04/vampires-vs-pancakes-literary-tourism.html

Join SELTI on Facebook for an introduction to all posts and email alerts whenever new posts get published.
http://www.facebook.com/#!/group.php?gid=289783765813

Tourism Links

Joyce Moyer Hostetter (Order the books, learn about the author)

Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute for Rehabilitation (Home to Georgia Hall)

Roosevelt's Little White House Historic Site and Historic Pools
http://www.georgiastateparks.org/LittleWhiteHouse

Franklin D. Roosevelt State Park (I could spend a week here!)

Town of Warm Springs

Callaway Gardens (includes a man-made beach!)

Butts Mill Farm (includes pony rides for kids and much more)

Explore all that the beautiful state of Georgia has to offer

Calkins Creek (publisher of Comfort and other great books)

Author Links

Joyce was already on the same page with me (even before we met) when she wrote Comfort. She included a great resources section at the end of the novel for readers who wanted to learn more about the real story of polio, Warm Springs, and Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome. The links she provided in the novel are below, but the book also offers more recommendations for other books and related videos.

http://www.americanhistory.si.edu/polio/- Whatever Happened to Polio? – A Smithsonian Institution online exhibit about polio, the epidemics, and vaccines.

http://www.disabilityisnatural.com/ - The Disability is Natural website provides insight and resources for understanding how alike we all are and how disabilities do not define the individual.

www.kidstogether.org/kidstogether.htm - Site of Kids Together, Inc., an organization formed to provide resources for people with disabilities.

http://www.ncptsd.va.gov/ncmain/information/- This Veterans Administration site provides information about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. This page contains links to Frequently Asked Questions, a fact sheet about PTSD, and a video.

www.rooseveltrehab.org/ - The official website of the Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute for Rehabilitation (formerly known as the Georgia Warm Springs Foundation).

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Interactive Tourism Novel "Kindles" Romance in Montgomery

Excerpt From: Blind Fate by Patrick Brian Miller
Tourism Attraction: River Region
Location: Montgomery, Alabama
Photos: click any photo to enlarge

Blind Fate is a suspense novel that dares the reader to experience a world without sight through the unique “perspective” of Melody Harper, a blind violinist who finds herself in a very dangerous situation. The novel is also groundbreaking for being the first interactive tourism novel on Kindle, meaning it includes a guide with links inside the book that allow readers to browse the related tourism websites of the real places in the story.

Blind Fate was recently featured in USA Today for its innovation in tourism technology. Read the USA Today story by clicking here.

The settings of Blind Fate include some of the finest attractions in the River Region of Montgomery, Alabama, including the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts (both pictured below), Jasmine Hill Gardens and Outdoor Museum in Wetumpka, the Legends golf course in Prattville, and the riverfront entertainment district in downtown Montgomery, to name a few. However, the story begins at an isolated cabin on the shores of nearby Lake Jordan . . .

FROM CHAPTER 1 OF BLIND FATE:

Melody Harper inwardly sighed in relief when she felt Roger’s patrol car slide to a halt over the familiar sound of her gravel driveway. He had been quiet during most of the drive, and she could sense his frustration as he got out and shut the door a little louder than usual. Melody knew his moods intimately through their years of friendship, even though she had never seen Roger’s face. She listened to his thumping steps as he made his way angrily around the car and pulled her door open.

The fragrant smell of blooming gardenias greeted her back home as she stepped out and lightly grasped the back of Roger’s arm. His brooding silence barely distracted her from the wonderful sensation of being home after a long week away in Montgomery. He led her forward until the rough gravel underneath her feet gave way to smooth, wooden planks. Melody stopped and raised her hand to touch his warm face.

“Don’t worry, Roger,” she said. “I’ll be fine.”

“I worry enough about you,” he said. “But what about your parents? How can you put them through this?”

Although Melody could hear the genuine concern in his voice, a hot rush of anger raced through her body and into her voice.

“You shouldn’t try to make me feel guilty, Roger. This is my home. My life will not come to a crashing halt just because other people worry about me. If that’s how I lived, then I wouldn’t really be living. You know how much my independence means to me.”

Roger gripped her shoulders with a sense of urgency that she had never felt from him before.

“Damn it, Melody, this is different, and you know it. This is not the time to be making an issue out of your independence. We can get this guy in a couple of days. It’s not like I’m asking you to change your life forever. This guy is a murderer, and he’s on the loose in this area. If you will just stay over at your parents for a week or so.”

“No, Roger,” she interrupted. “I’ve already had this conversation with my parents, and I’m not about to continue it with you. Thank you for the ride, but you need to leave now.”

“At least let me check the house first,” he pleaded.

“Fine,” she said, grabbing the rail and marching up to the door. She fished out her keys and unlocked the deadbolt. She crossed her arms defiantly as he entered.

But beneath her defiance, she felt twinges of guilt over insisting on coming back home. Was she really being inconsiderate or was she protecting her hard-won independence? Where should she draw the line?

She grasped the railing again and made her way to the back deck of the house. A light breeze brushed against her as she rounded the corner. The gentle sound of waves lapping against the rocky shoreline of Lake Jordan eased her fretful thoughts. The scent of the lake reminded her of how relaxing it was to be back at her own place, where no one could nag her. The familiar chirps of the birds and the distant whine of speedboats assured her that soon no one would be around to feel overly responsible for her.

Melody recalled how difficult it was to convince her parents to let her move out from their house. And indeed, she had never been so scared in her life as when she moved here all alone. But then the feeling of independence had slowly built up until she had never felt better in her life. Melody couldn’t fathom ever moving back in with someone after experiencing the freedom of living on her own.

And that was probably why she could never marry Roger. He would never be able to let go of that need to protect her, even when she didn’t need him to. Being a sheriff’s deputy only made Roger’s sense of responsibility worse, especially in a situation like this.

“Melody?” he called out in a concerned tone.

“I’m back here, Roger,” she said.

She listened to his anxious footsteps as he stepped outside on the deck.

“The house is clear,” he said. “You should probably go in now.”

Alabama Shakespeare Festival
“Alright.”

“Do you have any food in here?”

“Yes, Tony stocked up yesterday for me, and he’s been feeding my cat.”

“Good. You’ll call me if you hear anything suspicious?”

“Of course,” she said. “And I’ll deadbolt the door, and I won’t even open it for strangers,” she teased.

“I’m serious.”

“I know,” she sighed. “I’ll be careful, Roger.”

“Well, then I guess I’ll be going.”

“Thank you, Roger,” she said, touching his face again. “I know that you mean well.”

“I’ll be here if you need me,” he said, touching his hand to hers.

“I know,” she said. “Bye, Roger.”

“Bye,” he said, still sounding worried.

Melody listened in relief as his footsteps moved away. She waved when she heard his engine start, and then she walked inside.

A soft, furry body began rubbing itself against her legs as soon as she shut the door.

“Romeo!” she cooed, replying to his lonesome meows. She bent down and cradled him up in her arms. His loud purrs sent warm waves through her skin, and she nuzzled her cheek against the top of his head. “I’ve missed you so much!”

Melody set him down and fished through her bag for a treat. He gobbled it up quickly, lapping his sandy, wet tongue across her palm. She stroked him again and then went over to her stereo. She didn’t even bother to trace the Braille labels on her disks because she knew exactly where her favorite was. The stereo hummed to life as she turned on the power and slipped in the disk. In a few moments, the harmonious sounds of Bach filled the air.

Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts
Melody went to the bathroom and sat down on the ledge. She turned on the faucet and waited for the stream of water to run hot. Then she poured in her favorite blend of lavender bath salts before stripping off her clothes in anticipation. As she stepped in, the warm waves of water soothed her skin and relaxed her muscles. The fragrance melted away the frustrations that had been weighing her down.

After finishing in the bath, Melody toweled off her body and walked back into the kitchen to make some cappuccino. Damn, she forgot to lock the door, she realized. Melody stepped over to the door and reached for the deadbolt handle. She twisted it only to find that it was already locked. Melody frowned in confusion. She didn’t remember locking the door.

A frightening thought burst through her mind: What if I’m not alone?

---Excerpted From BLIND FATE, Copyright ©2002 by Patrick Brian Miller. All Rights Reserved.

To read the rest of this chapter right now, visit the Amazon Kindle page for Blind Fate here:

Book Review From Olivia Wright
Columnist for Wright Reviews in the Red Bay News
What do you have when there is dancing in a tower, chases among temple ruins and a symphony under the stars? Perhaps an impromptu response would be, a European adventure. Nothing could be further from the truth as Patrick Miller’s novel Blind Fate finds genesis in of all places, Montgomery, Alabama. Mystery, political intrigue, and yes, love, spring forth among some of the state’s most beautiful cultural landmarks.

Former lobbyist Alex Dawson, convicted of slaying the next would-be governor Michael Fenimore, has escaped from prison. As residents of Montgomery panic and law enforcement tightens their net, 25 year-old Melody Harper, blind musician and violin instructor, steps into a trap of her own. Hiding in her home is the assailant whom the police are trying to snare. Fiercely independent, Melody finds herself in a situation worse than her hovering parents and friends could ever have cautioned her about.

Pleading his innocence, Alex eventually convinces his hostage to help him take back his life by helping him find the person or persons responsible for the crime. As Melody finds herself falling for her captor, and he his victim, all her sensibilities come into question. What if Alex isn’t as innocent as he claims? Are her parents warranted in treating her like a helpless child? As Melody sorts though a myriad of self doubt and misgivings about the integrity of the man she has quickly grown to love, a tangled web of destruction threatens to destroy the faith they have in each other. At stake too is the fate that awaits them both, made salient and more enervating to Melody when her sixth sense receives warning by Huntingdon College’s legendary specters.


Rosa Parks Museum
These were cast from leaders in the Civil Rights Movement.
Photo by: Peggy Collins, Alabama Department of Tourism

Follow Alex and Melody from the lushness of The Alabama Shakespeare Festival, sixth largest in the world, to the honor bestowed the Olympians at Jasmine Hill Gardens, Alabama’s “Little Corner of Greece”, as this hapless couple seek much needed answers. Is it possible, here among the ruins of Hera, to find the truth they so desperately need? Take a leap of faith, blind if you will, by reading this intriguing and fast paced novel from the South’s brightest new voice. After all, who doesn’t dream of dancing under the stars, particularly those falling on Alabama, and coming face to face with heroes?

Olivia Wright King
Hearts of Dixie Book Club


Note: Blind Fate is an exclusive Kindle edition that allows readers to visit the tourism sites that inspired the settings through web links embedded directly into the novel. This feature makes the Kindle uniquely suited for tourism fiction. If you don’t have a Kindle, you can download Kindle for PC in minutes for free to your computer (or to devices like the iPad, iPhone, or smart phones) and then have access to the massive Kindle library. Every Kindle book allows potential readers to preview a portion of the novel before purchasing. The Kindle for PC program sizes to fit your computer screen and offers one-click page turning rather than scrolling.
A tourism link from inside Blind Fate to
one of the settings in the novel, the
F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald Museum,
as shown in the Kindle Fire edition.

The Kindle uses cutting-edge technology that allows readers to download up to 3,500 books into a lightweight, user-friendly device—all without ever plugging into a computer. Books are downloaded within sixty seconds and have great features like automatic last-page finder and large print options with the click of a button. Try Kindle for PC and check out the extended sample of Blind Fate; you will be amazed at how easy the reading experience is. The Kindle makes a great traveling companion, especially for the modern literary tourist.

Tourism Guide
There are far too many places to visit in the Montgomery area to fit into a single weekend. However, the following is a list of websites where readers can learn more about the tourism attractions in the novel. I highly recommend a visit to the Montgomery area, as it offers such a variety of tourism. Browse through this list to find what suits your interests most and feel free to return to this guide after reading the novel. Most of these links are available in the novel as well, but some extra ones are available in this feature. Note: these tourism attractions are not sponsors of the novel; they are simply fun places that I think readers might enjoy visiting. For an overview of all the SELTI features across the South, please join the SELTI Facebook page and share with your friends: http://www.facebook.com/#!/group.php?gid=289783765813

Jasmine Hill Gardens and Outdoor Museum

Alabama Shakespeare Festival

Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts

Montgomery Symphony Orchestra
http://www.montgomerysymphony.org/

Rosa Parks Museum

Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail: The Legends

Renaissance Montgomery Hotel and Spa at the Convention Center

Huntingdon College

F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald Museum

Montgomery Convention and Visitors Bureau
http://visitingmontgomery.com/

The Shoppes at East Chase/Bone Fish Grille
http://www.bonefishgrill.com/locator/details/montgomery-alabama

Alabama State Capitol (includes virtual tour)
http://www.preserveala.org/capitol.aspx?sm=g_b%20website

Alabama Tourism Department