Writing vs. Life

Do you set goals? For your job? For writing? For health?

Goals

Well, I have done that for many years. In the past I wrote about strategies to help with goal setting and carrying out the actions to meet those goals for this blog.

Those of you have publishers get your writing goals set by them. Those of us who are Indie Published, set our own goals. Or maybe you don’t. 😊 I’ve always had a date I was shooting for when I planned to release a book. (I pretty much need to have a deadline on almost anything I want to be sure to do—otherwise it just doesn’t get done.)

For the last several years I’ve published one book a year. Not nearly as many as some of you. Perhaps not as often as my readers would like either, but that schedule has worked for me. The goal for 2018 was to release Book 4 in The Second Chances Series, ACT OF SURVIVAL. I started writing it last year, but really struggled with the story.

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Then I put it away to write the short story, “the Colonel & Her Major” for my writing chapter’s anthology in honor of our 35th Anniversary. Now it was only a 3500-word short story, but I’d never written a short story before. I discovered it had to be a romance and not a romantic suspense, which I write, because I couldn’t work the suspense into the limited words. So besides never writing a short story before, I’d never written a story with only romance before. So, it took a lot longer than you’d think for such a short piece. I just barely made the deadline. But I did make that deadline. 😊

Anyway, all of that pushed the book into the beginning of this year. The story is set in Wichita Falls, TX, where my husband and I went to college and where we have family living. One of our visits in the spring helped me with the setting. I plugged away until I now have about 35 thousand words. I know. Nothing on a 70-80 K book.

Then we got into the situation where we were selling our 75-year-old church building and buying a new (to us) one. Bob was the lead lawyer on this project and it’s almost complete. We are Presbyterians, and we operate from committees. We have a Session that’s the governing board, on which I sit, and then lots of committees. Well, I’ve taken on the role of the chair of the Relocation Central Commission. We have six committees working on various aspects of the move. It will take a lot of time, but it’s such important work, and I have the skills to do this job. Not everyone does.

IMG_5437 Current church, built for 1500 membership. Like so many main-line churches, our numbers have dropped to about 400.

That is not to say I’m doing this on my own. We have an awesome group on the central commission and people jumped at the chance to serve on the six committees. But I’ve taught meeting leading and chaired or been president of lots of different groups and organizations over the years. This process started several year ago when out of the blue a development company approached us saying they wanted to buy the building. Thus, began five years of wandering in the desert so to speak as deal after deal fell through. At any rate we’re a go now and have about three to four months of intensive work to make the move happen.

IMG_7683 Inside of new facility, a bit of a fixer-upper. 🙂

I gave myself permission to move the deadline for the release of ACT OF SURVIVAL from early fall to late December to even maybe early next year. I write best when I have big chunks of time to dig in. That just didn’t seem like it would happen over the next several months. I will eventually finish writing this book, get it edited, formatted and released. But likely it won’t be in 2018.

The three books in the series are:

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Have you ever had to push your deadlines? How do you feel about doing that? What kinds of things made you push the deadline? As a reader, how important is seeing a book from your favorite author yearly or more often? Love to hear from you.

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Writing Lesson #1 Don’t Rush

Too late - conceptual alarm clock showing that you are too late

Hard lesson learned. I hope this one I never repeat! Let me tell you my sob story. I released my last book, ACT OF BETRAYAL, in October 2017. I had set myself a deadline and by golly, I was going to meet it, and I did.

I’d rewritten and edited. I’d sent it out to be edited. Fixed and sent back. Re-edited again. I mean, I must’ve read this book 15 or twenty times during the editing process.  Toward the very end, I caught that I had used two different names for the heroine’s daughter. Blair and Bailey. (That’s a separate post about names.)

I knew I had a problem. I really couldn’t remember which name went with the daughter in this book. I opened the second book in the series, ACT OF TRUST. Sure enough in black and white, there was the name Blair. Okay, I got it. I went through and made the changes using the Find thingy.

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Problem was, between the time I looked and when I did the process, I mixed up the names. I changed all of the daughter’s name in ACT OF BETRAYAL to “Blair.” You’re thinking, “What?” Well, yeah, I just told you “Blair was in AOT, not AOB. But I mixed it up. The book got uploaded that way, and I ordered 25 print books just like that.

When did I notice this mixup? I was getting ready to do a reading from ACT OF TRUST and the name jumped off the page flashing like a neon sign.  My heart sank and my stomach tightened and red streaked my face. Oh crap!

I immediately emailed my formatter who laughed and said. No problem. Those things happen all the time. She’d fix it and send me another PDF. Whew! I figuratively wiped my brow. Okay. She sent it back, and I uploaded the corrected e-book to Amazon and everywhere else. Good, right?

Well, I still had these printed books with the wrong name. My brain tells me that I don’t remember names of characters in books I read, so hopefully, folks won’t notice. (Well, except now I’m telling everyone. LOL) Now, I’ve sold most of them and I have a book signing in June and I need corrected print books.

I really hated to go back to the formatter. Figured I should be able to fix the problem myself. Except, of course, the good copy with the right names was one for e-books. No page numbers. So, I went to my PDF for print and tried to edit it. You know there’s a little edit button on the left-hand side. Trick is I didn’t have the right Adobe thingy on my computer. After many aborted efforts, I finally got the right one uploaded for a cost—way more than I wanted to spend.

Now we’re crackin’. Almost. Making edits on a PDF is not as easy as on a Word doc. After days of working on the thing. I literally mean days, and I’m sparing you the gruesome details about times the words ended up on top of each other! GRRR! I had a clean PDF.

So then I got into it with CreateSpace, not realizing a new edition needed a new ISBN! This resulted in me having to call the good people at CreateSpace where Jose was able to delete one of the books, so I could precede. No wait time to talk to a real person, and he was super helpful.

Act of Betrayal

Now I’m waiting to get the proof (for the 4th time—because I kept seeing glitches with the spacing! And still I know there are at least two that I could not fix.)

The lesson I’ve learned is not to rush the editing process. The deadlines I set for myself are good, (and nothing for me gets done without a deadline), but they can and often should be moved. The quality of the product is more important than some arbitrary date I’ve given myself. And secondly, boy do I love my formatter. She’s worth every penny I pay her. I know some people can do this themselves. And Yes, I did get it okay finally, but all time I worked on that is time taken from working on the fourth and last book in my Second Chances Series. Not a good decision.

How about you? Writers, do you format for yourself? Do you hire that done? Or does your publisher do the job? Love to hear from you.

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Spring Time

Well, maybe not where you live, but spring has arrived in North Central Texas. Even before the green stuff sprang from the ground and tree branches, the birds declared it spring. In the morning walking Charley, it’s like hearing a symphony orchestra with all the different birds singing a separate part. And the birds have been carrying on this way for weeks now.

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Our temps still drop occasionally at night into the 40s, but days are routinely hitting the 70s and yes even the low 80s. I almost hesitate to share this with those of you packed under multiple feet of snow from multiple nor-easters. I hope your power is back on. However, you will be the ones smiling this summer when you’re enjoying mid 70s and 80s while we will be sweltering in 105 plus and for as many as 40 days or more in a row at that!

29196692_10210728339155537_7864813871846916096_nD'Ann Burrow Snow Pic from D’Ann Burrow from the 3rd Nor’easter.

It recently came to my attention when I was looking through my books for the word “spring” for one of our Sisterhood of Suspense Sunday Hot Lines that I don’t set novels in the spring time. The stories in my books take place in the fall mostly or the winter or summer. Well, my second published book, TRUTH BE TOLD ends during the spring, but only because I couldn’t tie up the story. Spring wasn’t a main part of the book. Winter was. The majority of the story takes place during the two weeks of the Christmas/New Year’s holiday.

Truth Be Told 300dpi

Then I began to wonder, why don’t I set a story in the spring. I really hate summer, and yet I’ve had several books set in the summer. What is it about a Texas spring that makes me steer away?

I don’t know the answer to that exactly. I suspect it has something to do with tornadoes and severe weather that attacks our part of the country during the spring. It seems to me I need to take that fear, because it really is a fear, of those storms and put it into the next book I write. Well, the next one after Book 4 of The Second Chances Series, which I’m working on now and should come out late fall. That’s a plan. 🙂

I’m curious, is the time of year an important piece of your books? Is there one season you favor over others? Many, many years ago, I read a romantic suspense book (Sadly, I don’t remember title or author.), and the winter weather was an actual character in this book. The author did a superb job making the reader experience the cold temperatures, and the biting wind. I’ve always remembered that book. And yes, I should turn our spring storms into a character in a book.  Love to hear from you.

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Resolutions/Goals

First, Happy New Year from the Sisterhood of Suspense Blog.  I love new beginnings. The idea of making resolutions or setting goals is exciting to me. As a former educator (are we ever really a former educator?), I believe strongly in the possibility of self-improvement. One way to do that is by setting  Goals

You all know that’s not just saying: “I want to lose weight,” which is wishful thinking at best. Writing down: “I want to lose 20 lbs by May,” that’s a goal. If it’s realistic and you put a plan with that and stick with it, the goal is attainable. That was one of my goals for 2017. Big bomb! Actually, gained a few pounds. ☹ I can rationalize I was still in recovery from my broken ankle and was just going to Pilates once a week instead of twice which I did pre-ankle. However, I just ate whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. For most of us that will guarantee weight gain, especially with limited exercise. LOL

Personal goals I attained for 2017  (I have a file called GOALS on the computer with several years of goals.)

*Walked twice a day with Charley and extra steps to get to 10,000 daily. Only missed a few for the year. Some were during our recent freeze.

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*Found a new GP, who I love.

*Enjoyed the lake. (There’s something sad about having to write that down in your goals. Seems like it should be natural. Not for this workaholic! 😊) IMG_6354 Who knew lakes had waves?

Work goals I attained

*Wrote & Published Book 3. (Book 3 in the series, not the 3rd book.) ACT OF BETRAYAL was released in October of 2017

.Act of Betrayal

*Wrote weekly personal blog and monthly SOS blog.

*Attended several book signings.

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There were others in both categories, but that gives you an idea.

So what’s for 2018?

Personal

*Be healthy which includes losing weight and getting my blood pressure down without meds. (I have started this by doing the Whole 30 this month. You can read about that in my Jan. 11th blog at  https://authormarsharwest.wordpress.com/2018/01/11/  )

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*Enjoy the lake (yeah, I know weird!)

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*Continue church volunteering—which does take significant time, but is important

*Enjoy my family (I’m so blessed they live near.)

Work Related

*Complete the short story for the book my writing chapter is publishing in March

*Write and publish the last book in the Second Chances Series. Looking forward to this. Don’t expect to ever write another series, even though I love reading them!)

*Put out a monthly newsletter (began this in November when my PR co. went out of business. So grateful to them. I’d have never had a newsletter without them.)

*Write personal blog weekly and SOS blog monthly

*Make presentations whenever possible–one is set up for February

*Be supportive of my fellow authors (with FB and Twitter shares & reviews)

To accomplish the first four, I must be much more disciplined about my time. Difficult when I’m easily distracted. LOL

So what about you? Do you set goals? Please share if you’re comfortable. Even if you don’t share, I hope you set them. IMHO, they do make a difference.

Please tell your friends about our Sisterhood of Suspense blog. One of our goals is to post more often. Every Tuesday and Thursday, you’ll find something interesting, educational, or entertaining. Something to make you think. We always love to hear from you.

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Writing Family

Saturday, I went to my writing chapter holiday party. We wore our crazy Christmas sweaters, and did a White Elephant Gift Exchange using “ugly” ornaments. I’d found an ornament that was a small green sweater with snowflakes on the sleeves. Seemed appropriate. We’ve met in the La Hacienda Restaurant for many years now. It takes me 30 minutes to get there. Before we moved to the lake, it took 45 minutes.IMG_6433

I’ve been a member of NTRWA for almost 10 years. I’m a published writer because of the women in this group and the people they connected me to. From the woman who set me up with my first critique partners who I spent three years exchanging twenty pages each week with to the judges who gave me invaluable input on those first chapters in my first books, like maybe I should take a course in GMC, when I didn’t know what those letters stood for. LOL The chapter also introduced me to Margie Lawson who I credit with getting my writing to the place where a publisher wanted it.IMG_6426

In the beginning years I served on various committees, ultimately becoming the president of the group. That’s the year I nearly gave up writing. But because I was president of NTRWA, I had this obligation to write an article for each month’s newsletter. My theme was “Keep On, Keeping On.” I wrote the articles for all writers, but I wrote them especially to myself. I’m so grateful for that year and for the chapter expecting me to keep on keeping on.

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Writers all around me were selling their books. I had accumulated enough rejections to paper a room. And then there were all the ones that just never got back to me. Don’t you hate when that happens? Both my critique partners had sold, and something changes when that happens. Your goals change. Your obligations change. And so you move on. One of the things I’ve learned is everyone must find their own way in this business. We learn from others, but ultimately we have to write to find our voice and to make it happen.

If you’re like me, its hard to find time to write during the holidays. The wonderful thing is whenever we make time to get to the computer or laptop or you few amazing folks who still pick up a pencil to write, we can find that joy of spewing out words, telling our tales of murder, suspense, and romance. And what a joy and what a privilege it is to say “I am a writer.”  “I am an author.” “People read my books.”IMG_6427

Pretty amazing, huh?

As grateful as I am to be apart of NTRWA, I’m also thankful to be a part of this blog. Writing is a solitary business. My writing chapter and you in Sisterhood of Suspense connect me to real people who share my dreams and aspirations. I am blessed to be a part of you all.

Readers, don’t forget to participate in our contest and to sign up for our members’ individual newsletters, follow us on FB, check out our websites, and of course, leave a review after you read one of our books. Besides each other, we need you readers, too.

Whatever you are celebrating at this time of year, I wish you joy and peace, love and family.

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Scents, Aromas, & Emotions

Yesterday I finished up my container of Jergens Lotion. It was the kind with Shea Butter, super good for dry skin and has a nice scent. It’s a large container as you can see, and I’ve used it for a long time.

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When I reached under the sink to see what else was there, I pulled out the Jergens with the original scent. I slathered it on my legs and arms.

And I was instantly back in my mother’s bathroom. Now she’s been gone for over 14 years, but that scent said MOTHER in all capital letters. My mother was never a “little old lady.” In fact, when she was in the retirement center, she worried about the “little old ladies” who didn’t have someone to speak up for them.

Isn’t it interesting how an aroma or scent can do that? Old Spice makes me think of my father. The smell of Popcorn also makes think of my dad. I grew up eating it and later popping it for my family.

I use scents in my writing, trying to capture that emotion that we connect with certain things in our past like….

Fireplaces. I LOVE the smell of wood burning in a fireplace. It makes me feel safe and cozy. Sometimes I have word burning fireplaces in my books and sometimes gas ones. Depends on what the characters and story needs. In one book  I created two fireplaces. 🙂

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Smells can also be bad, the dead skunk that you pass on the highway, rotten eggs, throw-up. Sorry, but it’s that smell that makes others throw up. Likewise, dirty diapers.  I’ll be happy to never smell that again. LOL

So, what are some smells that move you emotionally? What food smells make you hungry. Authors, what scents do you use in your writing? Love to hear from you.

And sense I won’t be posting here again until after my favorite holiday, let me wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving filled with family, friends, and good food.

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Writers & Tragedies

Do you use current events in your writing? I do especially on my personal blog Thoughts on Thursday. I try to make these SOS posts timely, too. And I’ve used real events as inspiration for a couple of my books. I have a good friend who was inspired to write a book after Ike hit the Gulf Coast.

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Water in Houston above a raised highway during Harvey.

My books are based in real locations and lend themselves to adding in events we read about in the daily news. (And of course, what pops up on TV, FB, Twitter, etc.)

Book 2 The Second Chances Series, ACT OF TRUST, bounces off the idea of a woman who loses her husband on 9/11. But the story takes place 14 years later, so I don’t feel like I’m capitalizing on someone else’s heartbreak. And I send a portion of the sale of each book to the 9/11 Memorial and Gardens. (Maybe that’s from guilt?)

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The first book I wrote was based on a $13 million embezzlement scheme in my school district. (Unfortunately, no one will ever see this book because I knew nothing about the craft of writing romance. Great story. No craft. I was the queen of head-hopping! LOL)

I guess where I’m going with all this is a question.  Will you consider using any of the too-numerous-to-mention-disasters we’ve experienced for the last 6-9 months in your writing?  This is short for me, but I’d really love to hear from authors and from readers, do you read disaster stories?

Don’t forget to sign up for our contest and please follow me on social media. 😊

 

sisterhood-of-suspensesall-hallows-eve-giveaway (1)

ENTER HERE

Enter the Sisterhood of Suspense’s Rafflecopter #Giveaway for your chance at some page-turning reads!

Size 7 Lia Sophia trio of rings donated by Marian Lanouette

Notecard Collection donated by Sharon Wray

All She Wanted by Kathryn Jane (e-copy edition)

The Rebel’s Redemption by Jacquie Biggar (audiobook edition)

Partners: Odyssey of the Phoenix by McKenna Sinclair

A Midnight Clear by Jeannie Hall

Hearts Unloched by Claire Gem

Too Many Women in The Room by Joanne Guidoccio

$10 Amazon gift card donated by S.A. Taylor

$5 Starbucks gift card donated by Vicki Batman

Act of Trust by Marsha R. West

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Celebrating Book #6 Release

Celebrating Book #6 Release

Last week I released my 6th published book. ACT OF BETRAYAL, is Book 3 in The Second Chances Series, which covers the lives of four women in their mid-40s who’ve been friends since they met at summer camp when they were kids.

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The first book signing I’ll have for this book is Saturday, Oct. 30 in the Decatur Public Library. I’ll get to do a book reading, and speak about the publishing business, as well as sell books. Decatur is a small town about an hour north west of Fort Worth. I’m hoping a few friends from the northwest side of the metroplex will come up, but this gives me an opportunity to meet with a whole different bunch of folks. Love it.

Decatur

So here’s the blurb:

A cosmetics company owner in Dallas, Devon Moore, wants to save her company from bankruptcy, but her ex-husband’s embezzlement sends her into dangerous waters trying to pay back his clients, replace the money he stole from her company and keep her, her daughter, and her parents safe.
Private Investigator, Brett Townsend, wants to find who is threatening his new client and locate the missing money. He suspects the beautiful Devon hasn’t been completely honest with him. A wife, even an ex-wife, has to know, doesn’t she? When she is attacked twice and her daughter is kidnapped, he adjusts his thinking.

Despite Brett’s initial doubts about whether Devon really knew about the money her ex-husband stole, still he’s attracted to the redheaded beauty and admires her love of her daughter for whom she’ll do anything. Their attraction for each other sizzles under the surface of all they do.

Will they reclaim the stolen money and find the bad guys in time to save her business and the lives of her daughter, parents, and Devon?

           ~~~

Here are the links:

Amazon   http://amzn.to/2wfyMKD

B & N  http://bit.ly/2wAWqnT

KOBO  http://bit.ly/2ftRfAf

Please, please if you read the book, leave a review. None of those yet. And if you read ACT OF TRUST, Book 2 and didn’t leave a review, please do so. Thanks so very much.

What’s your experience with book signings at libraries? Love to hear from you.

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Disasters, 2, 3, & 4…

Wow! What’s Mother Nature so angry about? The last post I wrote on Aug. 30 was about Hurricane Harvey hitting the Gulf Coast of Texas.  Now here we are not quite two weeks later and Hurricane Irma has torn up the Caribbean and the entire state of Florida, followed close on its heels by Jose and then Katia. That doesn’t even mention the category 8 earthquake in Mexico, or the never ending horrific fires engulfing our friends in Western Canada and the US. Whew! 2017 will be in the record books for sure, but not in a good way.

Can we just go back to watching Disaster Movies instead of experiencing them?

I do realize this is hurricane season, and it’s common to have a number of them hurling themselves around, but WOW! This is bizarre and scary.

(And yesterday was September 11 and the 16th anniversary of that disaster. Here’s a link to offer support for the museum site. info@911memorial.org   You can also  listen to podcasts of people’s memories of that day., Our City, Our Story.)

Amongst the horror are all the wonderful stories of heroism and people helping others regardless of who they are, the color of their skin, or their religion. Those behaviors are the only thing that make these disasters at all bearable.

Plus, as I said on Aug. 30—a good romance book to take you away and to give you hope in a happily ever after.

So into all this mess, on Sept. 21, I’m releasing my sixth book, ACT OF BETRAYAL, Book 3 in the Second Chances Series. Right now, you can pre-order it for $1.99 before it goes live for its regular price of $4.99. It’s on three major sites, Amazon, B & N, and KOBO.  The print will be available soon thereafter. ACT OF BETRAYAL Pre-Sale

Here are direct links:

Amazon  http://amzn.to/2wuqPFc  

B & N        http://bit.ly/2wAWqnT

KOBO    http://bit.ly/2wkBfGW

The setting for this book is Dallas, but my characters are much nicer than those in the TV show named for the city. Oh, I’ve got a really bad guy, of course, and my usual generational thing going. I did not grow up in that kind of situation, but as an adult that’s the life I’ve experienced. So, family is important to me and that shows up in my stories. When I began writing, I didn’t realize I’d write about older characters or that families would play such a strong place in my stories.

Do you like stories about families or do you prefer reading a story just about the guy and the girl? Do you read or write disaster stories? Have you or your family and friends been impacted by this rash of recent  disasters? I hope you take advantage of all the opportunities to give support, and I hope and pray all your family and friends are okay.

Don’t forget our fall Giveaway.

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Disasters!

I’d planned to post about writing today, but Hurricane Harvey hitting South Texas last Friday has changed things. I live in Fort Worth, Texas, way north of the coast, so I and my family are not in harm’s way.  I’m grateful, but mindful of the extreme situation in which many Texans are existing.

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The small town of Rockport on the coast, one we’ve visited a couple of times, was flattened by the Hurricane itself. Victoria has been without water, electricity, gas and food for days. Lots of empty shelves in stores. Harvey came on land just north of Corpus Christi, which I believe got electricity restored on Sunday. One of the good stories.

But poor Houston and the larger Houston area. Houston is used to floods. It’s flat. A little rain and Houston floods. But what’s going on there and has been since last Friday, August 25 is apocalyptic. No one has ever seen anything like it. IMG_6031

Many rescues. Still more to come. Water up to and over the second floor of houses. When the advice is to stay in your house and only call if there’s an emergency, most of us would assume water getting in is an emergency. That’s not the case this time.

When you hear a water plant is submerged…well, that’s hard to imagine.IMG_6036

People were rescued from houses with water up to their chest. I’ve heard stories of people wading through waist high and higher for hours trying to get higher ground. Carrying their babies, children, and dogs. People were advised to not go in their attics because they couldn’t be rescued from there. But my stars if your second floor is beginning to flood…

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Unfortunately, the rain continues and two reservoirs had to have controlled release, which impacts already flooded areas and areas that hadn’t flooded yet. They could have as much as 50 inches, which is more than Houston gets in a year!

The loss and trauma from this storm is hard to fathom and will last for months and probably years.

IMG_6034 This reporter is standing on a bridge where water is normally 10 feet below!

However, wonderful things come about when disasters happen. People helping others regardless of color of skin, religion, sexual orientation. The best of America rises in these situations. The country comes together.

Governors of other states have sent rescue workers, boats, and even cots.

What can we do? Pray and send money to the American Red Cross. Here’s the link.

https://www.redcross.org/donate/hurricane-harvey

As writers what can we do? Write stories honoring the heroism of people in these tragedies. The second book in my Second Chances Series, ACT OF TRUST, honors those who lost loved ones on 9/11.  I imagine I’ll write one about Harvey, but not now, not until people have come through this terrible time.

I remember hearing a famous writer at an RWA conference (and no I can’t remember her name!), tell about her family’s experience of floods in South Texas and how the romance books in the Walmart where they went to buy tooth-paste and underwear brought her mother and her comfort. In the darkest times, we need to have faith in happily ever afters, and we can provide those.

Have you experienced a disaster? What helped you get through? Sisterhood of Suspense

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