The aftermath of the storm. A hurricane story that still remains true

Hurricane Florence Storm Track

note – the track has changed a few times since this image was created, but still…

It’s that time of year once again – time to batten down the hatches. For reasons that I hope are somewhat obvious in the image I’ve attached to this post, I may be slow to respond to comments, but I hope you enjoy the post I wrote about another hurricane experience. While I originally wrote this piece a couple of years ago, I find it even truer today than I did when I first published it.

There is a storm coming, and for once I’m not being metaphorical. It’s an actual blow you down and knock you around kind of storm. The kind of storm that gets named as if humanizing it will somehow make it any less dangerous.

This isn’t my first hurricane. That dubious honor goes to a storm known as Hugo. I was just a kid at the time and barely paid attention to the fuss made about the storm on the news. Why should I? It formed far away and was impacting people I’d never met. Going to school and playing with my friends were much more important.

The hurricane weakened as it came in contact with land. I was even less concerned. I went to bed that night thinking that while there might be a few gusts and a little extra rain, the next day would look much like the day before.

When I woke, I noticed that a neighbor’s tree now lay at an angle, its truck split in two. Branches that once reached out and up, not lay on along the street making it appear more like a person performing a yoga child’s pose than a tree. I saw then exactly what a few gusts could do.

But the storm hadn’t just fallen a couple of old trees. The air felt different, so very still and the sky took on an odd yellow, green, gray color. But the most notable difference was the lack of animal sounds. The storm, seemingly, had taken us all by surprise.

Building wrecked by Hugo

What Hugo’s aftermath looked like down the road in SC

We counted ourselves fortunate that there wasn’t more damage. Neighbors helped neighbors. Some offered use of chainsaws, while others helped remove debris. I started to wonder if the storm might actually prove to be a good thing as a party formed in the street in front of my house and several neighbors rolled out their grills to share food with the masses rather than have it spoil in unpowered fridges. No one wanted the hurricane, but at least we all were making the best of the situation. We’d rebuild. We’d grow stronger because that is what we do.

But the power was out and the power stayed out and soon the lasting impacts of the storm began to take their toll. All told, it took nearly two weeks for the power to be restored in the area. My mom, for reasons she hasn’t shared with us, but I suspect have something to do with finding us playing with lit candles without adult supervision, shipped me and my sisters up north to our Grandparents’ house to wait out the repairs like waifs fleeing from war.

I’ve experienced more storms since, some more memorable than others. Storms going by names like Fran, Floyd, and Bonnie. Names that always sound so sweet and unthreatening. It is easy to downplay their danger. Oh, it’s only a category 1 or 2. That’s not all that bad. It’s just wind and no real substance. These things never impact us. We’ll stay indoors today. Maybe stock up on an extra beer or two. And so we go about our day-to-day confident that we’ll be able to ride this storm out the same as we have a dozen times before.

Hurricane Hugo was considered a category 1 storm when its eye crossed over us. That single category 1 storm, which we nearly all ignored, was responsible for multiple deaths, rendered 50,000 people homeless, created damage costing billions, and was able to set back progress by decades, if only temporarily. Hurricanes should never be ignored. Hurricanes always matter.

Okay. You caught me. There is a metaphor here after all.

Matthew (or in this updated post’s case, Florence) isn’t the only storm on the horizon. Another storm is coming. One that affects those in Kansas as well as the coast. But thankfully, while the ocean-churning winds are imminent, we still have a month left to prepare for the other. So, my American friends, take advantage of this time and take this storm seriously. Understand the potential impacts, on others as well as yourself. Research the local issues and the local candidates as much as the national ones. Stock up on pop-tarts and bottled water if that’s your thing. But whatever you do, don’t stay in your homes and think to wait this one out or go out there unprepared.

Never forget, the eye of a hurricane has two walls. While initial after party might be fun – we survived, can you believe it is finally over, I can finally talk to my family a/o neighbors again – the storm’s impact will last longer than you might expect. Elections always matter. So do your homework. And Vote.


Reading Round Up – End of Summer Edition – Part Two

When I started compiling the books that I have enjoyed reading this summer, it quickly became apparent that one post would not do these books justice. Well, it might, but it would be really long. Therefore, I decided to emulate the majority of books I’ve been reading this summer by breaking up my narrative into more than one part. (This post includes affiliate links)

Maybe it the fact that this summer has been relatively cooler and rainier this year than most (with the exception of this past week which was brutally hot), or maybe it is the fact that I am already seeing ads for the return of pumpkin spice lattes. In any case, I found myself on a rather supernatural/paranormal mash-up kick in the final weeks of August.

Ella, the Slayer (Serenity House) (Volume 1)

by A. W. Exley

The flu pandemic of 1918 took millions of souls within a few short weeks. Except it wasn’t flu, and death gave them back.

What happens when you mix a retelling of a fairy-tale classic, historical fiction centered around the Spanish Flu, and throw in Zombies? Ella, the Slayer – that’s what. The term ‘mash-up’ hardly seems adequate to describe all the genres this story blends together.

Though Ella is the legitimate daughter of the lord of the manor, she serves as a chambermaid to her vain and calculating stepmother and step-sisters. If the name wasn’t enough of a giveaway, it quickly becomes apparent that this is a story of Cinderella. Except in this story, leaving a party by midnight is the least of Ella’s problems. There’s also the dead to contend with too.

I found myself stopping at odd points in the book to explain to my friends what new mash-up I’d discovered next as I turned the pages. Normally, I would consider anything that forces me out of a story as a negative, but this was one of those exceptions that prove the rule. I flew through this book.

I will say, however, that the ending was frustrating. When given the chance to tie the story off nicely as a stand-alone novel, the author chose instead to leave it open for a sequel. I don’t normally mind cliff-hangers, as I can appreciate the sales strategy behind them, but in this case, it left me questioning a character’s competence.

Even so, I still would recommend this book to people who enjoy both Jane Austen and the Walking Dead. Compared to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, I found Ella to be the better story.

Dearly, Departed: A Zombie Novel (Gone with the Respiration)

By Lia Habel

Can a proper young Victorian lady find true love in the arms of a dashing zombie?

If mash-ups were stew, Dearly Departed’s would be Steampunk meat with bits of Zombies potatoes simmering in a YA broth. It would also include a pinch of Post-apocalyptic spice and a hint of Government Conspiracy thrown in for added flavor.

Daughter of a national hero, Nora Dearly has always found holographs of historical battles and news reports of more recent fighting at the border far more interesting than learning how to conform to her high-mannered society’s social complexities. Unfortunately for Nora, the war she’s been so fascinated by is about to come much closer to home.

Nora has barely returned from a year away at school when her home is attacked. Not being the proper New Victorian lady prone to cowering in fear, she races to defend herself, only to learn that the invaders are the undead. But not all Zombies are re-born (as it were) equal. Some still have managed to cling to their former humanity and are, in fact, a special convert unit sent to specifically to escort her back to Base-Z where Nora learns that the existence of Zombies is only one of many secrets.

I found it slightly harder to suspend disbelief with this one, though it was still entertaining enough to keep the pages turning. I enjoyed the small details scattered throughout that made it easy to imagine this future world featuring modern technology alongside parasols and petticoats. I also liked the supporting characters, particularly Nora’s best friend Pamela, who in mind opinion, actually had the more impressive character arc.

Murder Any Witch Way: A Brimstone Bay Mystery (Brimstone Bay Mysteries Book 1)

By N.M. Howell

Being a witch is hard. It’s even harder when you live in a town that doesn’t believe in witches.

Murder Any Witch Way was a different sort of mash-up. It is part Supernatural Fantasy and part Cozy Mystery. Set in the fictional New England town of Brimstone Bay and only a short drive from Boston, Murder Any Witch way features River, a journalist working at the local paper.

River likes her town, but at times finds it dull compared to New York City where she used to live. Therefore, she is overjoyed to cover an upcoming Paranormal Festival thinking it might provide a little more exciting news than the day’s birthdays or anniversaries.

She was hoping to get a feature. Instead, she finds a murder victim.

Being a journalist is what River does to pay the bills, but what River is, is a witch. Having the ability to see and interact with ghosts as well as perform magic, River has talents at her disposal that the sheriff’s office lacks. When additional bodies are discovered, River knows that it is up to her (and those like her) to solve the mystery before the killer strikes again.

This was definitely a nice book to ease myself into the Halloween spirit, even if October is still weeks again and now I can’t wait for the leaves to start changing and the air to take on the crispness of Fall. It’s somewhat predictable, but then again so are the movies Hocus Pocus and Practical Magic, and I still like those too.


Reading Round Up – End of Summer Edition

One of the best parts about going on vacation is it gives me the ability to attack my ever unruly to-read list. Unfortunately, my list is rather like a hydra, as I usually wind up adding three more books to its roster with every completed novel – but I like to pretend I’m making some headway. Therefore, I thought I would share a few books I’ve been reading this summer with you. (This post includes affiliate links)

Victor (Eden East Novels)

by Sacha Black

When Eden East kills someone, she expects them to stay dead. It’s only polite, after all.

This is the second installment in the Eden East novels and takes place shortly after the events of Sacha Black’s bestselling, Keepers.

Eden hasn’t been home since her parent’s funeral, a fact that is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore considering she is the heir to the Elemental throne. Unfortunately, both duty and her grief for her parents will have to wait as an enemy she thought was vanquished, returns from the dead, triggering a prophecy that could spell the end for Truitinor.

The book itself is written for a Young Adult audience, and while it was well-written overall, the story at times was a little too angsty for me. There is a romance element throughout that features very prominently in the story (especially in the first half), which does occasionally take away from the action. However, the dialogue and characters themselves remain just as relatable as they were in the first installment. If anything, I found myself sympathizing more with the supporting characters than I had before.

While I do recommend you start this series with the first book, there is enough background context for a person to follow the story even if you haven’t. Though – seriously why would you when the first book is also a fun quick read?


by Elsie Chapman

Two of you exist. Only one will survive.

Set in the not too distant future, mankind has finally found the elusive cure for the common cold. That cure resulted in the nasty side effect of universal and irreversible infertility. Life has continued, but it too comes at a price.

Every child born has an identical clone and both are the result of a blend of genetic material from two sets of parents. West knows her Alt is out there. She also knows that before she reaches the age of twenty, she’ll have to kill her. In a city of limited resources and citizen soldiers, there is only room for the fittest. May the best one win.

Dualed is much like Hunger Games in that it involves teenagers battling to the death in a dystopian future. As a result, violence and death are prominent themes. However, while both are described in explicit terms, I did not find the description of either to be gratuitous. That being said, this is not a book for everyone and those who might be triggered by scenes involving guns or knives should definitely pick up something else to read.

Awesome pun of a title aside, Dualed is a story about survival, self-worth, and family. I also found it to be one of those stories that linger with you well after you reach the end. It left me wondering about the group of people in charge known as the Board.  For example, what possessed them to start the kill-or-be-killed requirement in the first place? Lucky for me, there is a sequel (and so my to-read list remains alive and well) so I may yet find my answers.

Flicker: Ember in Space Book One

by Rebecca Rode

Getting sold to the empire was never part of the plan.

Set in the distant future, Ember is a poor Roma girl struggling to save enough to care for her ailing father by telling fortunes for space-tourists visiting Earth. Her talent, however, goes beyond simple card reading. Ember is able not only to see the future but capable of touching a person’s aura or internal spark with only her mind. While some might view her ability as a gift, others view her as a weapon.

Betrayed by her tribe, Ember is taken off-world to be tested for inclusion into the Empire’s Flicker program. The fact that Ember has no desire to be part of this elite fighting force, or be involved in the Empire’s war is irrelevant. Failure to do as the Empire bids will result in the destruction of everything and everyone Ember has ever loved. However, compliance might well cost Ember her soul.

This book had moments of Enders Game mixed with Divergent. Ember is a flawed but fantastic character who can drink the other guys under the table while still maintaining her sensitive side. There is also romance, though it is not central to the plot, and enjoyable three-dimensional supporting characters with problems of their own.

This is also yet another book that promises the action will continue in the form of a sequel (which has also been added to my to-read list).


Greetings from the edge

My manuscript for Uncertain Confidence is back from the editor and filled with red ink. I’m just shy of the half-way mark on the first draft of the next book in my Project Gene Assist series, school (complete with homework and scouting) resumes next week, and because apparently, I’ve lost my mind somewhere along the way, I’ve accepted new responsibilities at work.

So with all that going on, what do I do?

I get the heck out of Dodge, that’s what.

So greetings from the edge and the area where the land meets the sea. I’m not getting much of anything done, but that is exactly what a vacation is meant to be.

The wine is excellent, but the food even better. It’s difficult to write a post when there’s little reason to be inside – especially considering the beauty that is the weather.

Morning rises up from the ocean depths

Moon floating high above the waves

Her Royal Highness – exhausted after a day of swimming

Tag, You’re It or It’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt

It started out as a simple notification. I’d been tagged on Twitter. Tagged for what, I didn’t know, but tagged all the same.

I opened the app. A lovely photograph filled my screen taken by another blogger who has frequently entertained me with her travel stories and photographs of parts known, as well as less discovered. But what was it doing on my Twitter feed?

The only information I could find was the hashtag, #7dayphotochallenge. No pictures. No explanations.

Being the sucker for friendly hashtag games, I clicked to learn more.

Following the tag, I saw a number of other posts featuring images of nature or various things around the house. The game seemed easy enough. I found a decent enough picture to share and tagged a couple other nice people I follow.

The following day, another photograph appeared in my feed posted by the same person who’d tagged me in the first place. However, this time other twitter handles were mentioned. It began to dawn on me then that this was one of the more run-of-the-mill twitter games.

I suppose the whole “#7day” part of the hashtag thing should have probably clued me in, but in my defense, I was somewhat distracted at the time by the pretty landscape. So I looked around the room, snapped a photo, and tagged another nice person.

It dawned on me then, that I may have made a tactical mistake. Before, I might have been able to pass off the first photo as a fluke or humoring a friend. But now, now I was invested.

I posted a third then started preparing my whole strategy for pictures 4,5,6, and 7.

Suddenly, this whole game thing was beginning to seem like work. Fun work, mind you. But work.

And I still didn’t have a clue what in the world purpose of the game was or the rules were – other than no people, no explanations.

I found myself thinking of a special I’d seen on Netflix a while ago called The Push. The film documented a social experiment designed to answer the following: could a regular person be manipulated into pushing another person off the top of a building based on nothing more than the power of suggestion and the perception of authority. It was a modern take on the Milgram experiment.

The experiment started by first identifying people who are more susceptible to suggestion than others. Potential subjects were sent into a room where a pair of people in on the experiment stood or sat whenever a bell rang. Those who joined in the exercise without ever once asking why the first few people were standing one moment and sitting the next were invited to the next round.

Once the subject was selected, he or she would be gradually conditioned to accept increasingly risky commands leading up to one final choice – would they continue to allow social pressures to influence their behavior, or would they stand up to something that they, being good people, knew to be morally repugnant?

Watching the experiment play out on the screen, I’d like to think I wouldn’t – that I’d draw a line in the sand before the situation progressed that far – but now, given how readily I jumped into a game that everyone else seemed to be playing no questions asked, it makes me start to wonder.

I like to think that people are good and well-intentioned overall. However, we can get carried away by an idea. Then, suddenly we find ourselves backed into a corner, blocked by the rigidness of our beliefs as much as by those who oppose them. At this point, it is only natural to forget about the larger implications and instead try to seek the protection of the closest group at hand. We then do or say whatever we can that either requires the least amount of thought or provides the most immediate relief. And this is when the bad stuff tends to happen.

People, for the most part, aren’t naturally bad in my opinion, but people sure can be lazy.

I’ve included a clip from a recent episode of Last Week Tonight on the topic of astroturfing, which was not a term I was familiar with, but now makes complete sense. The clip is NSFW, so wait until sensitive ears are not around before you watch it, but its worth the watch all the same. It’s a great reminder of the risk of getting so caught up in the group-think, emotional side of things, we forget to ask if what we are doing or saying is truly best, or based on any fact from the start.

If you aren’t able to view the clip, let me repeat with his key point: “It is now even more incumbent on us to use our judgment diligently.” So never forget to use yours. I’ll do the same.

Because while it’s easier than ever to get swept up in a trend, it’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt.