Character Development

In an earlier blog I mentioned the possibility of writing a book or novel entitled “TropiGal.”  I have written a little already focusing on the characters who, of course, are mostly women. The central theme is women who have moved to Key West/the Keys for their own unique reasons. I’ll be telling stories about their triumphs and challenges.

The main character is named Lucky Wheeler (at least for now), a transplant from up north. Her mother decided to name her daughter Lucky, which was her mom’s maiden surname, a name she felt very proud of because of how unique it sounds. It seemed like a great name for a little girl and a way to carry on the family name since she was married and had changed her name to her husband’s.

Lucky is an artist who was drawn to move to Key West to live her dream as a creative person full time. She meets Mark, a musician, while visiting the Keys, and they really hit it off. She’s based on me, to some degree, but is a fictional character, so her experience will not be completely autobiographical. They say, “write what you know,” so it seems best to start with my own journey, however fictionalized.

I’m writing various stories at this point and not in a linear fashion. I’m currently writing a piece where Lucky is on a painting trip to the Dry Tortugas National Park. Here is a small excerpt first draft for example:

Lucky’s hand hung in mid air, paintbrush loaded with cerulean blue, poised, motionless, like a heron preparing to strike at a fish. Peering around her canvas at the walls of Fort Jefferson, she fixed her gaze, enjoying the contrast between the red brick structure and the intense blue of the sky. Her brush darted forward, the ball of paint now committed to, her hand stroking the color down, then up. She dipped her brush again and continued filling in the sky.

Artist Patricia Coote had organized a plein air painting expedition to the Dry Tortugas National Park through the Studios of Key West. Lucky jumped at the chance to not only pay a visit to this remote Civil War era outpost but also the opportunity to spend the afternoon basking in the sun while painting. The day couldn’t be more glorious with nothing but a few high wispy clouds far off on the horizon.

Choosing a location where she could capture some of the snorkelers struggling in and out of the water with their flippers, Lucky spent some time doing some quick studies in her sketch book and taking photos. She was inspired enough to take some ideas home to paint later. Since this was a plein air experience, French for “painting outdoors,” Lucky wanted to make sure she at least had a pretty good start on one painting before the ferry returned them to Key West.

There are two ways one can travel to the Dry Tortugas, which is 70 miles west of Key West. You can travel by seaplane ferry. The painting group had taken the Yankee Freedom II, a high speed catamaran operated by the National Park Service.

I’ve never written a novel. I have written some short stories, poetry, songs, of course. I’m looking forward to the exploration of another side of creativity. I’m highly inspired by the stories of many strong women who have moved here and I’m looking forward to telling those stories. Now, back to writing.


Dani Hoy: ‘At The End Of A Long Road’

Thanks to Music Interview Magazine on WordPress for this review.

Key West, Florida, is widely known for its tropical breezes, laid back lifestyle and of course, the Ernest Hemingway house. Plus, most everyone knows it is the southernmost point in the United Sta…

Source: Dani Hoy: ‘At The End Of A Long Road’

Beach Day

I’ve been a little serious in the last couple of posts, so…

Tomorrow we are going to the beach. It’ll be Wednesday and we have no other plans. Our friend and bass player Bob has his birthday on Friday and two of our friends are celebrating 5 years of marriage so we will be heading to Fort Zachary Taylor once again for beach time and barbecue.

It’s funny that I’ve been here almost three years and have spent so little time at the beach. I have spent a deal of time out on the water on boats, which is also tons of fun, too. When you live on an island it seems to me being in and on water is a huge plus.

In reality, Key West has no natural beaches. Everything is manmade. The coral reef prevents actual beaches from being created by tides. The surf doesn’t pound. It laps.

Ft. Zach is a state park. There is a nominal fee for entry and you can hang out there all day and then watch the sunset, after which you have to leave. Once you pay your entry and pass through the gate and up the winding road past Navy property you can stop to visit Fort Zachary Taylor, a Civil War masonry structure that was never completed. Climb up to the top and get a great view of the water and surrounding mangroves filled with huge iguanas sunning themselves.

A little further down the road is a large parking lot and bike racks. The beach is not surrounded by only palm trees but is also home to many tall Australian pines whose wispy fronds provide excellent shade. Since we will be barbecuing we’ll stay under the pines toward the Navy property where the grills and tables are. In the opposite direction, off to the right, if you’re facing the water, you can wander down to a small hut to rent chairs and umbrellas.

Since it is a state park, alcohol is prohibited. There is a snack bar where you can buy beer and so on but you have to imbibe it at the stand. They have some nice tables plus the bathrooms and showers are right there.

The ocean temperature is wonderful this time of year, though not as much like bath water as it is during the height of summer. It’s a great place to just hang out in the salty water which deepens immediately upon entering. Ft. Zach is also great for snorkeling and swimming if you’re feeling more active.

Other beaches can be found on Key West but I recommend Ft. Zach as the nicest for all the reasons above. Cheers! See you on the beach.


Tim Burton said, “One person’s craziness is another person’s reality.”

Sometimes I’m driven, like many, to express my opinion about the current political climate or some other issue on the interwebs. It’s so easy to drop a comment or get pulled into an argument, trading barbs and blasting angry words in a thread. I’m doing my best not to react, and I’ve failed, but it saddens me to see even my own family making hate-filled posts. The best I can do is unfollow the worst, which I have done (family, too) and find inner calm to not jump into the fray. Politics in this country are out of control and I’m frankly hoping for a peaceful shake up of the system. I’m hoping for a future where we aren’t propelled toward hate and fear by talking heads on cable news networks and false propaganda masquerading as truth.

I realize we all are emotional creatures. Having been assaulted more than once as a young female I find the current news cycle to be very disturbing. That said, I can’t discount the feelings and concerns of others about the candidates. We are all being pulled this way and that because of a myriad of reasons personal and political. This is not a simple process.

If we can find a way to look past the lies and our emotions perhaps we can be more reasonable people. We can choose to find inner peace and practice peace between us if we think first and don’t just react. Agree to disagree and shake hands. What happened to polite discussion? Ask yourself, “Is this for real?” Think. These people aren’t demons. They are very flawed individuals in the political arena, sparring for the highest office in the land. I would love to see respectful dialogue that doesn’t include memes and name calling. Even the most basic comments have become a field for trolls.

In conclusion, the internet is a place where opinion becomes reality. When discourse of any kind becomes angry ranting and vicious thoughtless attacks, I’m out.Be a positive vehicle for change, not just an angry voice shouting diatribes. Practice peace, respect others of every race and creed, and consider things from another’s perspective. That’s what my mom and my faith taught me.

Thanks for reading.

Photo from Key Largo, FL


Hurricane Plan


It’s Saturday and, by sometime later this week, a hurricane will be once again pound Florida. Hurricane Matthew is currently a category 4 storm getting ready to pounce on Jamaica and Haiti. Concerned friends here in Key West are discussing their “hurricane plan.”

Folks who live in hurricane prone areas are encouraged to have a hurricane plan. When you live in the Florida Keys on an archipelago of tiny islands there aren’t too many places to go to avoid wind and flooding. It floods here all the time with a good heavy rain. One has to consider survival tactics, evacuation plans and things such as pet care, clean water, what to eat when the stove doesn’t work. At this time it doesn’t appear we will be hit directly but the effects of the storm will be felt here. We could lose power, suffer property damage, loss of life. It’s quite a sobering idea, except for one thing. We live in Key West.

I asked a local guy what he had in mind if Matthew hits. He laughingly mentioned something about rolling up a fat one and lots of alcohol. Others are talking parties, too. I haven’t lived here long enough to experience a hurricane or a hurricane party. People party here at the drop of a hat (or a large red shoe on New Year’s Eve). Key West, with over 300 liquor licenses, is one of the “drinking-est” towns in the country. It’s also one town that raises lots of money for charity. There is always some kind of fundraiser going on in this town and you can bet the majority are also partying while supporting a cause.

Some discussion, of course, is about which category will make us leave the Keys. It takes a lot for some to consider traveling north. In a mandatory evacuation, which occurs with a cat 3 hurricane, tourists are made to leave first, residents the next day. Depending on the category there are a couple of places to hole up. The evacuation center in Key West is Key West High School for cat 1 or 2. Beyond that the main shelter is Miami-Dade County Fair & Exposition all the way up on the mainland. Sounds scary, right? Driving that long thin road all the way up to Florida with thousands of other freaked out people in nasty weather? What would you do?

In just a few days we will have to deal with the reality of some horrible conditions. It is something to take seriously, of course. We probably won’t be as hard hit as other islands in the Caribbean. Whatever happens, Key West will take things in stride and raise a glass.

Cheers and good luck to all in the path of Matthew.

Always moving


This is a loose list of memories from my early childhood.

Once I read a statistic that a large number of people live no farther than two hours from where they were born. For most of my life, until almost three years ago, I was part of that statistic. Now I live quite a few hours south of there.

My parents were from Maryland, had met in high school there. They went to Kenwood High School. After they got married, Dad worked for the Baltimore County Bureau of Highways and did some other jobs including playing in a band with his brothers. Mom was a stay-at-home-mom and worked odd jobs.

I was born in Baltimore, MD. The city. The first place we lived in, after I was born, was Cove Village apartments. Afterwards, my parents bought a house in Middlesex. It was a tiny town home, a row home. I remember the small white stove and my mom making cookies. I recall that my brother was, then, allergic to peanuts. I also remember the stairs to the basement where my brother tumbled down and broke his arm. Mom had a job taking dictation through headphones and situated herself at a small table with a typewriter in the basement. She typed on this thin typing vellum with a line and small numbers down the left side. Seeing I liked to draw, she gave me her typing paper and a pen to draw with. At some point, I think I was five or six, I drew one of our dogs, a Schnauzer, with paw raised. It really looked like a dog and very sophisticated from the hand of a kindergartner. Mom saw I had artistic potential and gave me lots of paper to draw on plus some kind of drawing book that had monkeys in it. I became very proficient and famous in first grade for drawing monkeys. I went to St. Clare’s, a Catholic school that had Irish nuns for teachers.

We had a small backyard when I was that age. Across the alley was train tracks and the train went by several times a day. I recall that there was news that some teenager was killed on those tracks. I had some kind of toy I rode that looked like an inchworm. Unsuccessfully I rode it down the concrete steps to the backyard. I’m sure I had some kind of contusion from it. At least that’s why I remember… Later I had a tricycle and so did my brother, Chris. My brother is one year and 8 months younger than I. Our room was small with my bed, his crib, one dresser, some Disney books on top. We were Catholic and I remember a statue of Mary in bright red regalia plus some other religious paraphernalia in my parents’ bedroom.

My folks had a volatile relationship. We moved a lot. I went to eleven different schools over the years until graduation. My parents were not in the military. I got that question from time to time because of all the moving. The funny thing is we didn’t move far. I frequently joke that my parents couldn’t decide which side of the Mason Dixon line they preferred. We either lived in Maryland or Pennsylvania. That’s it. Nowhere else.

What I remember most about growing up was the constant change and having to make new friends. I got pretty good at handling change. I was, luckily, gregarious as a child. I would introduce myself to complete strangers. Dealing with new situations and being versatile was what got me through the hard times when I was bullied and treated like an object. I’ve always known that nothing lasts. Nothing is permanent. If you don’t hold on to the moment, if you realize that “this doesn’t last,” you can go forward. Everything changes and, because everything changes, what is happening now won’t last. If you are patient enough, you can get through it.

Like anyone, I just want to have a happy life and some stability. But, again, nothing lasts. Impermanence is a fact. So, what you choose is happy moments. As a friend has told me, “I’ve never had a bad day. Only bad moments in a day.” Always moving and dealing with change has shown me how to stay resilient, how to get past difficulty. Nothing lasts.

TropiGal: The Novel?

“Her heart belongs to the open seas.
She wants to soar on the ocean breeze.
Salty air and the sun is all she needs.
She’s TropiGal.”

TropiGal on YouTube

The title cut to my first CD is a song about women who are called to live their lives tropically. Being near the salt water, playing on the beach, taking cruises to island destinations is what makes their lives complete. They would rather sit by the ocean than be anywhere else.

Landlocked in Maryland or Pennsylvania, our family would travel about three hours “down the Shore” to vacation by the mighty Atlantic. A frequent stay was Wildwood, NJ. We also stayed in Cape May and surrounding areas. Wildwood was a funky town with quaint motels, miles of boardwalk and attractions. I loved being there. My mom always said that her summer wasn’t complete unless she smelled salty air.

After moving to Key West I’ve met many who came here on vacation and felt they couldn’t live anywhere else, some of them women. My friend LaReta from Indiana arrived 6 weeks after I did. Another friend, Jean, decided to move here from Colorado with the random throw of a dart. I’m inspired by the stories of how they came here so much I’d like to write a book called “TropiGal: Women in Paradise” or a similar title. It would be based in fact but mostly fictionalized stories of a group of female friends in Key West. I’m not sure whether it will be short stories or a novel. I think I like the novel idea best.  You can let me know what you think in the comments.

Two years and eight months years ago…

Ping pong, graves and dead roosters and a carousel horse

Status LIVE Video on YouTube

My song “Status”

I moved to Key West, Florida.

Well, it will be two years and nine months on September 27th. I used to live in Pennsylvania but, like a certain club of travelers to Key West, I discovered I couldn’t stay away. Drawn like a bee to nectar, I found the idea of living here succulent and sustaining. Living in Key West and the Florida Keys presented both a challenge and an opportunity I couldn’t resist.

My past I’ll delve into more over time. The immediate question: Why Key West?

Why not? It’s beautiful, tropical, as far south as you can go in the contiguous United States. Key West is home to many artists, entrepreneurs, musicians, writers. Its past is full of amazing stories, historical, humorous, ghoulish… Snow? Never. Coldest it’s ever been here is 41 degrees in 1981 and 1886. The houses here are a mixture of New England and the Bahamas with some modern influences thrown in. Less than 2 miles wide and four miles long, Key West is Paradise to many for a variety of reasons.

The downside? Living here is expensive, especially when it comes to housing. Finding a yearly rental and one that is affordable is difficult. Property values are very inflated right now with taxes and related expenses rising. It’s a small island with very little available space. Also, as a tourist town, there are a variety of concerns with the ebb and flow of humanity. Tropical weather is also be something to be concerned about as there is only one road in and out of here. And then there’s the wild chickens, iguanas and mosquitos.

These are all well-known facts about the island. So, why did I personally move here?

As I stated above, moving here presented great opportunities and, at the same time, lots of risk. Key West seemed like the place I could thrive as an artist, something I felt I hadn’t been doing well before coming here. As a songwriter, writer, artist, performer and craftsperson this little island felt like a place where I could explore a new life as a full-time creative. The change was a drastic one, leaving what had been familiar my whole life for an entirely different climate, set of friends, circumstances. It was momentous, mid-life, motivated by that fear of time getting shorter.

Two years and almost nine months later, I’m doing what I came here to do. I no longer have a day job. I make music, perform, write, promote myself, do art, all full time. I’m grateful to be living in a beautiful place living life full out. I’ve made many mistakes but I’m determined to keep going forward, living this life that I love in this beautiful place and sharing the story with you.

If you haven’t done so, check out the video and audio link for my song “Status.” You can download the song and my other music when you visit My website.