Nice job, #NewBernStrong…but. (A hurrication in pictures)

I’m back from my hurrication (evacuation due to Hurricane Florence for those who don’t know) and I’m thinking. A lot.

Florence clouds

We left town as the clouds of Florence began to blanket Eastern North Carolina.

First, leaving was tough. I’ve written about being away and not knowing what was happening, and then hearing my hometown’s name on the lips of every journalist on the television for forty-eight hours. I heard from friends whose homes were flooded, some with them still inside. This was while the storm was still ongoing. Later, I heard of homes and belongings washed away, dreams broken, families uprooted… Then came the stories of the heroes. Those who went out in boats to help, those who worked tireless hours to help the ones who lost so much, those with power who took others in, meals made and delivered, pets rescued, the long, hard job of drying off and recovering finally beginning.

Mari

Traveling with the animals was a new experience for us. Two cats, two dogs and a bearded dragon had to be evacuated too!

Wow. What an amazing community I live in! I am so proud of these people. I want to be a part of it, to help those in need, too.

But.

Charlotte cat

Not one of the cats we evacuated with, and he didn’t really appreciate seeing our cats inside…

Now that I am home I can see the truckloads of supplies being brought in, the homeless sheltered, the hungry fed. As I throw out the spoiled food from my own refrigerator, I think about how so many of those homeless and hungry have probably been homeless and hungry for a long, long time before Florence paid us a visit. They’ve been invisible in my community until the winds of Florence blew them out into the open.

This is obviously a country of plenty. A land of too much if you judge by the amount of food that was thrown out from the powerless houses. Why is it that the plenty is only shared at times of crisis?

Pumpkin truck

Traffic returning to New Bern meant being stuck behind this pumpkin truck for an hour in Raleigh.

Yes, my neighbors are amazing. Yes, the federal government was generous in its response. FEMA is here, taking care of those who lost homes and belongings. POTUS even visited and passed out hot dogs and thanked volunteers. Bottled water and food, batteries and an army of power trucks to restore the lost power have alleviated much suffering during this time. I’m sure those who needed it are grateful. I am grateful.

Driveway

The worst of our damage was downed trees. This one, now that my husband has cleared the drive underneath, forms a kind of natural arch for us to drive under.

But. But what happens when the trucks are gone, when we all go back to our daily activities and forget about volunteering? What happens to those who have needed help all along and always will? Can we stay #NewBernStrong for our community?

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Staying #NewBernStrong in Exile

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Better days.

I haven’t updated this blog in almost a week. And the past two weeks have been the most emotionally tumultuous I’ve ever experienced.

During these two weeks, we’ve prepared for what looked to be a historic storm. We took all the accumulated junk from outside and got it inside our house or tied down somewhere on the exterior. Lawnmowers, barbecue grills, trash cans, outdoor furniture—our outdoor furniture is now in our downstairs, cobwebs and all.

While my husband and son concentrated on that, I tried to figure out what was most precious to me. What couldn’t be replaced if we left and our house was flooded or the roof ripped off. If you’ve never had to do this, it’s emotionally exhausting. Because nothing you own can ever really be replaced. The sofa the cats clawed, the coffee table the kids ruined by never using coasters, the half-broken rocking chair you nursed your daughter in when she came home from the hospital eleven years ago—you can get newer and better and less broken, but you have these things still because you actually love your animals and your kids and the memories make the faults more beautiful.

We wound up packing our kids, our dogs, our cats, our bearded dragon, some photo albums, my mother’s charm bracelet, a necklace and earrings my son saved up to give me for my birthday when he was ten and a few other odds and ends into our two cars, finally, and trekking to an Airbnb in Charlotte. And then the anxious waiting began.

In the midst of it, I found I couldn’t even finish a sentence. I would start to speak and drift off mid-thought. My favorite pair of glasses (the only ones I brought) broke in half. The dogs don’t like being confined, and I’m constantly worried the cats are going to break or claw something. There’s a stray cat outside our Airbnb who has fleas and I’m worried about my animals getting them. I haven’t had a decent cup of coffee since I left home. And none of it matters.

The worst was hearing of friends waiting for rescue.

The best was when my oldest texted me from his college dorm. I’m so glad you guys left.

Our house made it. We’re some of the lucky ones.

My husband went back home a few days ago, but the kids and I remain in self-imposed exile. We’re watching news and trying to grasp that this is our home. Boats and docks that were peacefully moored when we left are no longer there. Some have been washed out to sea. Some sank. Some are now on dry land. Hundreds of people were rescued from attics and rooftops as they saw their homes flooded, their belongings and memories ripped away.

And in the midst of it, there are rainbows. I hear of neighbors collecting for those who lost everything, businesses giving food to first responders and power company linemen, neighbors organizing to help each other clean up, volunteers at the shelters which remain open while those who lost all look for permanent lodging. These are the lights in the darkness.

We want to go home more than anything, but our power is still out and my husband says stay. At least until the weekend. By some miracle of hard work, our city managed to protect the water so we do not have to boil it, but the sewage pumping stations were flooded and are in the process of being restored.

I know the work will be long when we get back, but I’m eager to begin it, whether it’s volunteering to help others, throwing spoiled food out of our refrigerator, picking up branches or running the book fair I had to leave behind at our school. No matter what, I’m happy I’m still here to do it.

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The Blue Cord: Tale of an Evacuee

Yesterday, my family and I fled our home on the coastal plain of North Carolina. We made the decision on the spur of the moment, and if my son hadn’t started college this fall and I wanted so badly to be with him, we might not have made it. So I know why others stayed.

I’ve heard it over and over. From well-meaning people and authorities and news reporters. Why would you stay? Why would you risk your family’s lives that way?

Indulge me in a little story. It’s a different story than most that you’ll hear about evacuating, but to me, it gets to the heart of why it is so difficult to leave. It takes place after we’d spent days getting our house ready for the hurricane that we anxiously tracked day after day after day.

It takes place after we packed our most precious photo albums and possessions and what we’d need to survive a week away from home into the cars with two kids, two dogs, two cats and a bearded dragon and set off for the Airbnb we’d found that would allow our small farm to take up residence.

It takes place after we arrived safely and told our family and friends that all was well and walked the dogs and fed the cats and ate a frozen pizza at midnight, smiling because we knew we’d see my oldest son soon.

It takes place after I got ready for bed and as I reached into my bag for a charge cord for my phone and found the one I’d brought—and suddenly my world felt like it might just fall apart. A blue cord, that I’d bought because it matched my bedspread so well. It was usually plugged in by my nightstand. It didn’t belong here in this little house and I desperately wished that I’d left it at home.

And that’s when it hit me. Home really might not be there anymore. That charge cord might be all that was left of my bedroom decor. And yes, it’s a trite thing when compared to life and limb, but the nerve-wracking week of preparation and vacillating between staying and going, the exhausting drive to unfamiliar territory where all we can do is wait until we find out if and when we can return home all coalesced for a moment in that blue charge cord I held in my hand and I wished with all my heart that I could be back home.

We know we did the right thing. We heeded the mandatory evacuation order and left. We are not in danger of anything except being inconvenienced as we wait and worry about friends and possessions we left behind. We are together and that is what matters. But every time I look at that blue charge cord, I am homesick, and I know why those who stayed did so. It’s not about possessions or greed or foolishness. It’s about home.

They stayed because they needed to be with the world they knew.

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Poem: Recipe for a Hero

Recipe for a Hero

By Michelle Garren Flye

 

Take shackles and guns in a jungle—

Add a lifetime of service.

Make a decision no one likes

Because you feel it’s right.

Stir ‘til smooth.

 

Take a stand for someone else—

Even if it costs you your love.

Make a play for the disadvantaged

Because you know what’s right.

Blend all well.

 

Take a seat and keep it long past

When others have given up.

Make life difficult for those around you

Because they want you to go away.

Shake ‘em up.

 

Take care, false heroes and prophets—

You don’t belong in this dish.

Make your way to the right side of history

Before the heat gets turned up on you.

Fire it up.

 

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Hacking GoodReads to find your perfect book (and help others find theirs)

I’ve been looking through some GoodReads romance lists and it’s fairly disappointing. Fifty Shades of Grey and its sequels are still listed in top romance categories like “Hottest Adult and Young Adult” (emphasis mine). It’s past time to fight back against this type of thing.

It’s time to hack GoodReads.

I found hope for this in the comments on the “Hottest” and “Most Popular” lists. Romance readers are ready for—and have discovered—indie romances in so many more than fifty shades. Romances by authors of different ethnicities, romances featuring other than the typical male/female couple. Romances without BDSM—remember those?

Are you a reader who’s ready to hack GoodReads and lead the revolution? Here’s a “how-to” guide.

  1. Search for lists with “different” or “indie” in the heading. They’re out there. A list called “Books You Wish More People Knew About” has 16,000+ books!
  2. Create a list! Did you just read the wackiest book ever with a werewolf heroine whose cubs are in school so she joins the PTA? Find some friends who’ve read wacky books that don’t fit into any other lists and make the list. Cross genre is a definite thing in today’s world.
  3. Most of all, if you’ve read a book that you loved, find a list for it! Especially if it’s an indie author. Indie authors would love to see their books on a list where more readers might find it.
  4. Comment on the “Hottest” and “Most Popular” list if you know an author or title which should have been included. You never know when you might be able to point a reader to a book they’ll love but never would have found without you!

The revolution in the publishing industry has begun. Battle lines have been drawn between big publishers and small, between more of the same and originality. The battlefields are places like Amazon, Smashwords, indie book stores, chain bookstores, online ebook retailers and especially a place like GoodReads. What’s at stake? The right of the reader to buy into the ideas of their choosing—not what’s chosen for them.

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Music and the Writer

photography of person holding headphone

Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

It’s a fact of life that music affects humans in a way that very little else does. Throughout the ages, music has developed with human beings. Today, the history of music is studied along with the psychology of music, musical therapy and ethnomusicology—and many other branches of music studies. All because we like to hear pretty sounds.

I’ve never met a writer who doesn’t have a playlist for writing. It varies, and sometimes one song is more strongly featured than others, but almost all of us have music playing in the background when we write. Why is this? Music can inspire and lift the spirits. Music can remind us so strongly of where we’ve been and make us long to go somewhere completely different. Music sets the mood.

Most of the time, my playlist is pretty eclectic. For six months after David Bowie died, I remember I only listened to his music. And then other songs began to sneak in. He’s still pretty heavily featured on my playlists, but it’s not all Bowie all the time like it was. I have some country, some pop, some classic rock, even a bit of classical. Recently, Enrique Iglesias has snuck onto my radar, possibly because of my most recent work-in-progress (more about that later).

Today, I’m over at Laurie’s Thoughts and Reviews promoting Becoming Magic with ten of my favorite playlist songs. Guaranteed, I listened to all ten while writing Becoming Magic. I’m probably listening to them today, too.  Join me over there and leave a comment with your favorite song. I’d love to know what inspires you!

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#AmWriting: What it means to me

mountains nature arrow guide

If only there were a sign that pointed the way. Photo by Jens Johnsson on Pexels.com

You’ve probably seen the hashtag #amwriting before. On Twitter, Facebook, Instagram. I don’t use it very often because if I’m on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram, I’m actually not writing. I’m putting off writing. I’m distracted. I’m looking for a way to get out of writing.

I’m procrastinating, and, as my high school chemistry teacher always said, “Procrastination is the thief of time.”

Today, for instance, I #amwriting. I’m writing guest blogs and interviews for other people as part of my ongoing blog tour for Becoming Magic with Goddess Fish. Meanwhile, my novel writing is at a bit of a crossroads. I have started and stopped several times on my new project. Nicó and Brooke (the heroes of my newest untitled project) have been left wondering what’s to become of them. And poor Galen and Frankie from Magic at Sea! I left them way back last October to finish rewriting Becoming Magic and then realized I needed to write Dickens Magic if I wanted it out before Christmas this year.

Well, Kate and Alex from Dickens Magic are all set. Now I’m torn between the two stories I’ve started, and I have to pick a direction. Or I could always go back to finish up Jack and Kaelyn’s story in Timeless. At least that one’s written. I just have to edit and rewrite and edit again.

That’s what #amwriting means. I #amwriting. I just need to pick a direction. And quit feeding the procrastination thief!

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