It was supposed to be a fun Florida vacation for Mark and his girlfriend. Their host—Mark’s best friend Chris—lives in the manufactured home community of Paradise Palms in a small town outside of Orlando. But when Chris is arrested and jailed on drug charges Mark’s world quickly spins out of control.
Ten years ago Chris saved Mark from going to jail after Mark killed a college girl in a drunk driving accident. Now the tables are turned and Chris expects Mark’s help, but how far should Mark go to help save his friend?
When Mark promises to help Chris’s drug business survive while Chris is in jail, Mark ends up involved with Jen, an exotic dancer, and doing drugs with her. Mary—one of the Paradise Palms residents—has special gifts that can help save Mark from himself, but what path will Mark choose?
In the tight-knit neighborhood of Paradise Palms, Mary’s empathic nature is tested by other challenges from within the community. She is the caretaker of her anxiety-ridden father and of her aging surrogate mother. Patrick, a gay teenager beset by an intolerant father, seeks Mary support, as well.
Paradise Palms central story is Mark’s inner struggle and the ultimate choices he makes. Mark knows that the allure of sex and drugs will not rid him of the demons from his past, but there’s a price to pay on his road to redemption.
Targeted Age Group:: adult
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I had been wanting to write a novel for a long time, and when I passed this mobile home park on my way to and from work every day, I thought it would be a good setting for a novel. I also had some specific characters that I had been thinking about and then I developed the plot from there.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
I knew I wanted a tragic character for the protagonist, and the main plot I wanted to be about his redemption. I wanted another character who was extremely good to offset the protagonist and to aid him on his road to redemption.
Last, I needed some characters who could tempt the protagonist to go down the road of self-destruction. For these I created an exotic dancer and a friend of his who was a drug dealer.
The cigarette smoke drifted into Mark’s face. He coughed and said—“Could you at least roll down your window so I don’t have to breathe in your smoke? Is that too much to ask, for Christ’s sake?”
“Okay, okay,” Taylor replied, as she lowered the driver’s side window several inches, “but for someone who smokes as much pot as you do, you sure complain a lot about my smoking. How much longer ‘till we get there, anyway?”
Mark studied the Florida map. “I wish we had a damn GPS, like everybody else I know. Chris said it was about nine hours from Atlanta and we’ve been driving over eight hours so it shouldn’t be too far now. I can’t wait to see Chris. It’s been nearly three years since I’ve seen him.”
She adroitly flipped her cigarette out the window and then softly stroked her blonde curls while keeping her left hand on the wheel. She glanced in the rearview mirror at her pretty, oval face and her bright blue eyes and smiled at herself. “You said we would be close to the ocean, right? I’m looking forward going to the beach and getting a fabulous tan. Wait ‘till you see the pink bikini I bought—you’ll be pleased I’m sure.”
“Yeah, well, I said not far from the beach,” Mark answered, “which we won’t be, really; Chris said it’s about an hour away.”
“An hour away! Mark, you told me this trip was a beach vacation and now you tell me we have to spend two hours a day in the car to get to the beach and back. What else haven’t you told me? Who’s going to pay for all the extra gas, by the way? You’re unemployed—remember?”
Mark stared sullenly at the map in his lap. “You know, you should quit ragging me about being out of work—temporarily. It’s only been about three months. I’ll find something soon, probably right after we get back.”
“It’s been almost six months, Mark, and that was the third job you’ve lost in the two years we’ve been living together. And since your Honda is out of commission until you have the thousand dollars needed for repair, I don’t know how you’re going to land another job. I don’t have that money to lend you even if I wanted to, as I’ve already told you. I’ve still got college loans to pay off. Are you still hoping your dad is going to lend you the money, even though he told you he won’t?”
Mark gazed out his window at the dry bush and palmetto landscape heated by the relentless late-July sun. He knew his dad wasn’t going to lend him any more money, or offer Mark his job back working for his company. When Mark had failed the mandatory drug test twice for pot when he was at his dad’s company, his dad told him he couldn’t protect him. His partners insisted that Mark had to go.
He didn’t mean to lose his last job. He thought he was doing fairly well there, his sales were decent and he got along with everyone. Mark couldn’t believe they fired him because he was late a few times and with only one written warning before they canned him. It was no big deal, Mark said to himself, it’ll all work out, and anyway, he didn’t want to think about it on their trip.
“Hey, did you hear my question or are you just trying to ignore me?” Taylor asked.
Mark folded the map and put it in the glove compartment. “Not to worry, I’ll get the money somewhere. I’m hoping Chris may help me out; he sometimes has money to spare.”
Taylor laughed. “That would be great, but I’d be surprised that a guy who lives in a trailer park has extra money to spare. I don’t think you ever mentioned what Chris does for a living, just that you guys were best buddies at college."
“He does odd jobs, I think he still helps people with their computer problems, and he… sells a little pot on the side.”
Taylor turned and glared at Mark while trying to stay in her lane. “Chris is a drug dealer?” she yelled. “Wow, you’re just full of surprises today. I can’t believe you didn’t tell me. Just because I like smoking a little weed with you doesn’t mean I want to hang-out with drug-dealers.”
“I guess I forgot to mention it, but don’t worry about it. I wouldn’t call him a drug dealer, exactly. He just sells it to friends, mostly, and he’s really a cool guy. Mark leaned over, quickly kissed Taylor on the cheek and then caressed her smooth thigh with his left hand. “We’ll have fun, you’ll see.”
“You’re unbelievable, you know that, Mark? Here I am, a 26 year old middle school teacher living with a 31 year old college drop-out with no job, no money and no prospects, and now I’m going to spend my vacation with you and your drug dealer friend from your college years. This is one of those days when I think maybe my mom is right and I do need to grow up and think more about my future.” Taylor lit another cigarette and deliberately puffed in Mark’s direction
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