Thursday, June 21, 2018

The Ghost in the Garden. A Flower Girl Mystery, by H.L. Carpenter

Welcome the 1-week Virtual Book Tour for The Ghost in the Gardens (A Flower Girl Mystery) by HL Carpenter.

About The Ghost in the Gardens:

Until the first spooky visit, ten year old Chrysantha Howe doesn't think about ghosts. She thinks about plants.




She has her future planned out, and that future includes plants. Chrys is going to be a plant scientist like her uncle and her favorite teacher, and she's determined to find the very rare Coralroot orchid.
The ghost is not in the plan.
But when her teacher disappears and the police suspect her uncle was involved, Chrys has to figure out what the ghost is trying to tell her—before it's too late.

Follow the Book Tour:

Book Details:

Genre: Middle Grade Paranormal Mystery
Page Count: 152 pages

Publisher: Mirror World Publishing (

Order Links:
Mirror World Publishing:  Ebook  Paperback

Read an Excerpt:

I had the future planned out.

The ghost was not in the plan.

After the first visit, I still didn't really believe in ghosts. But when she came back the second time, I had to change my mind. I hadn't been dreaming and I wasn't crazy. The only other alternative was: I had seen a ghost.

I started researching ghost visitations. What made them stick around in this world? How did they choose who to haunt? Why had no one ever caught a legitimate sighting on video or made a recording?

Mostly what I learned was that people argued a lot about whether ghosts existed. People who believed in ghosts liked other people who believed in ghosts. People who didn't believe in ghosts thought people who did were crazy.

I was not crazy.

Finding out the answers to my questions about ghosts should have been easy. I had my own personal ghost to ask. But every time she visited me, I couldn't say a word. My thoughts got all tangled and my breath stuck in my throat and I got dizzy. Having my own personal ghost was not helpful. The visits were...creepy. Like are-you-here-because-I'm-going-to-die creepy. Maybe the creep factor was why no one had ever documented a ghost.

I shivered, though I hadn't seen the ghost in hours and cheerful sunlight warmed the early June morning. The Water Garden, a magical green fairyland of trickling streams and arched bridges, closed in around me. Shadows shifted. Bushes rustled.

I'd never seen a ghost before, not even when my dad died. Why had one decided to haunt me now?

"Just lucky, I guess," I said. "What do you think, Barkley?"

My long-legged Schnauzer scratched his ear with his hind foot.

"That's what I think too."

I tugged Barkley's ear and picked up one of the quarter-size flat stones scattered beside the path. I tossed the stone into the deep end of the Water Garden pond.

Barkley scrambled to the bank, then yipped and jumped back, almost jerking the leash from my hand. The ruff on his neck rose straight up. He stared at the pond, his lips curled, his teeth bared.

I gripped the red plastic leash more tightly.

The ghost liked water.

Barkley growled.

In the pond, twin black shafts of water shifted into the wavy outline of feminine eyes. Pale lips, reed-thin and white as unearthed slugs, parted. The lips tried to form a word. A gurgle rose from the depths like a deep sigh.


Bubbles roiled the surface of the water.

Barkley growled again. Then he barked, as if to prove the ghost hadn't silenced him.

I tried to speak, to ask the ghost what she wanted. My tongue clung to the roof of my mouth. My lips moved in a quivery jiggle as if I were silently whistling. But I could not force out a sound, much less a whole question.

Maybe if I could think a question, the ghost and I could communicate. Maybe she didn't need actual words to hear me and to answer.

I tipped forward. My glasses slipped down my nose. I wanted to ask her...something...something...important...

What would touching her feel like?

I stretched out my hand.

Meet the Author:

Florida-based mother/daughter author duo HL Carpenter writes family-friendly fiction. The Carpenters write from their studios in Carpenter Country, a magical place that, like their stories, is unreal but not untrue. When they’re not writing, the Carpenters enjoy exploring the Land of What-If and practicing the fine art of Curiosity. Visit to enjoy gift reads and excerpts and to find out what’s happening in Carpenter Country.

Connect with HL Carpenter:

Saturday, May 19, 2018

The Importance of Voice in Writing Fiction

What is Voice?

You may have heard the term voice in writing. However, there are two types of voice in writing fiction. 

One is the voice of the author: How you write and express yourself, tell their stories. That usually comes natural and develops over time.

Another important voice is that of the characters in your story.  Everyone has a unique way of speaking, and giving a strong voice to your characters helps bring them to life. 

To some, character voice comes easy, yet others may struggle with it. Here are a few things to remember when deciding on a voice for your character.

  1. Where are they from? Most regions have a certain dialect. Listen to someone speak from that area and try to mimic their speech pattern.
  1. How old is your character? It’s pretty obvious that someone that is ten years old will have a different way of speaking than say a fifty-year-old.
  1. When does your story take place? Look up words and phrases used during that period.
  1. What is their world view? Does your character have some background issues that fill him or her with sarcasm? Are they optimistic about everything, overly religious, or just plain grumpy/annoying?
  1. Still having problems? Trying interviewing your character and let them tell you about themselves.

And in all of the above, use in moderation. You don’t want to overdo dialects to the point where the reader gets frustrated trying to read it. 

Point of View in Using Voice.

An important rule is to know when you should use your character’s voice or your author’s voice.

If you are writing in first person, every word should be in the narrating character’s voice, except those that are in the dialog of a different character. 

In limited third person narration, the point of view character will usually carry the voice. 

In omniscient point of view, the author’s voice will narrate the story except during dialog. 

The Character Voice in my Series.

In my middle-grade series, The Nikki Landry Swamp Legends, writing in first person, the main character, Nikki, is a young girl growing up in the bayous of Louisiana in the fifties. She lives a simple life, doesn’t care much for school, and would rather be fishing with her Cajun French-speaking papa, or looking for clues to some swamp legend. Proper English is not her strong point. Taking all these things into consideration, I found my way into Nikki’s head.

Her friends, on the other hand, needed to have unique voices of their own. We can’t have them all speaking the same way. Patti is always prim and proper, and tries hopelessly to keep Nikki on the right track, while Spikes uses language typical of fifties’ teens. Together they are the legend busters and each contributes their own “voice” to every conversation.

Here is an excerpt from the Mystery on Lost Lagoon, which includes examples of their voices:

The August air was steamier than a pot of boiled crawfish. Tiny bugs danced like fairies on the gumbo-colored bayou. Cypress trees on a nearby swamp island dipped their moss-draped branches into the still water, trying to stay cool. 
I had been sitting in my new tree house for days trying to catch a cool breeze, and pondering on how to turn a plain old fort into an official club house, when I decided what it needed most of all was furniture. My friend Spikes had come over to help me build some. He was pretty good with tools.
“I saw that strange bird again.” Spikes stood beside me with a hammer in his hand.
“What bird?” I asked, busy with trying to arrange some old boards in the shape of a table, just before they collapsed into a heap. “Drats!” I folded my arms in front of me.
 “You have to lay them on the floor, Tomboy,” he said. “We need to nail them together first.”
“So you have to build it upside down?” I wiped the sweat off my brow with the back of my hand.
Spikes’ real name was Spencer Sikes, but I’d never heard nobody call him that ’cept for his grandpa. He was twelve years old, a whole year and a half older than me. I couldn’t imagine being almost a teenager. Me and him argued a lot, but we always stayed friends. He told me once he only liked me ’cause I wasn’t like other girls, and could climb trees and didn’t mind getting dirty. He sometimes called me Tomboy instead of my real name, Nikki.
He grinned, showing his broken front tooth. “Yeah.”
“We need some nails.”
He reached into his pocket and pulled out a handful of bent nails. “I was over at my grandpa’s yesterday. We took a boat ride out to Flat Lake, and I saw it flying around Pelican Pass, see.”
“Saw what?”

“The bird.” He sounded annoyed. “You know, the one that makes that screeching sound. The same one we saw over in Mossy Swamp.” He sat on the floor and began straightening the nails by laying ’em on their sides and tapping with his hammer.

Friday, April 13, 2018

First Pages in Writing, by Rita Monette

How important are the opening pages of your novel? VERY important. 

First of all, you must keep in mind that busy agents and publishers will usually judge your writing and your book by the first few pages, and oftentimes by page one! 

Also, readers, who might be grabbed by your title, tagline, and your cover blurb, still will judge whether they want to continue to read on by the first chapter, or even the first page. So you’d better work really hard at getting it right.

How do you do that? you might ask. Well here are some well-worn tips to accomplish that.

Prologue or no prologue…that’s a good question.

Although there are quite a few great books on the market that use prologues to introduce their novel, many experts agree, that a good rule of thumb is to leave it off. 

Instead of telling the reader your character’s background and motivations, use your writing skills to weave that information in, letting your reader figure it out. 

I’ve been told most readers don’t bother to read prologues anyway. I know I don’t like them. I usually want to jump right into reading the story. So just jump right in writing it. But where DO we start?

Tension is the key.

Every movie-goer knows that the first scene of a film usually begins with a huge car crash, guns blazing, or a murder... then jumps back to why on earth all this went on. Many books begin this way also. But wild action isn’t always the key. Most times it’s tension.

On page one, feed the reader some intriguing questions they will surely want the answers to. What is your character doing, saying, observing, or thinking that makes the reader want to know what’s going to happen next, or what the character plans to do about the situation at hand?

The Character.

The reader will want to know something about your main character. What is he about? What does he want? Is he relatable or liked enough for them to want to know more and to invest the next few hours of their time in. What is he doing in that first scene that tells us something about his personality, his ambitions, his goals? First impressions count. 

The Setting.

Give the reader an idea of the setting on that first page also. Where is your character? Is the time period important? What is the season? Is it hot, cold? Don’t let the reader have to figure that out as he reads along.
The Hook.

This seems like a lot to cram into a first page, but you want to draw the reader in from the very start. It’s called the “hook.”

Sometimes it takes many re-writes to get those elements in effectively. 


Get an honest opinion from a person or persons…typically not your mother or spouse. Join a critique group or a group like Critique Circle. 

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Whirlpools, Wormholes, and Time Travel


What do wormholes, whirlpools, and time travel have in common? In reality, probably nothing. But in Nikki Landry’s historical, yet fictitious world, legend has it that if you go into Lost Lagoon, you may never return, but just might enter into a land where strange creatures live. 


When a mad scientist arrives in Nikki Landry’s hometown and hears the legend of the mysterious Lost Lagoon, he decides to build a machine that can traverse a whirlpool—which he calculates just might be a wormhole to a prehistoric time. 

Nikki has been warned to stay off Flat Lake due to the frequent whirlpools and strange disappearances. But snooping around Mr. Beekers’ camp boat gets her and her friends kidnapped and taken to a hidden inlet in a swamp off of the large lake. Soon they learn what’s behind the mystery on Lost Lagoon.


In reality, in the South Louisiana bayous, there are many, many salt caverns beneath the ground. There are also oil companies drilling for oil. Those two can spell disaster, especially if those caverns are under a lake. 

One such disaster occurred in November of 1980, when an oil drilling rig and a salt mine created a whirlpool that became large enough to engulf the rig, eleven barges, and a tugboat, sucking water in from the Gulf of Mexico, and changing the landscape—as well as a once shallow fresh water lake—forever. 

While drilling for oil off Lake Peigneur, near New Iberia, Louisiana, a drilling rig owned by Texaco, drilled too far and punctured into an active salt mine. Fishermen on the lake that day saw the whirlpool that began pulling their boat toward it. Luckily they got away before it sucked them into the abyss. Beneath, fifty-five miners, seeing the water rushing in, managed to escape via an elevator. Amazingly, no one lost their life, but it cost Texaco millions of dollars.


Spikes stuffed the papers into his shirt. “I need to finish reading this.”
The three of us dashed for the door. But a shadow covered the opening, and Mr. Beekers stepped into it, blocking our way out.
He looked at the broken door and then glanced around his home. “What have y’all done to my house?” he scowled.
“We didn’t do it,” I said. “Honest we didn’t.”
“Don’t lie to me. You kids have been nosing around here before. What do you want here?” 
“Just let us go,” Tim said. “We promise not to come back.”
“No, you’re not going anywhere until I see what you’ve taken...or destroyed.” He stepped in and closed the crooked door behind him. “Now all of you sit.”
Spikes found a chair. Tim and I pushed some newspapers to the side and sat on a tiny sofa with springs poking out. 
“Now, which one of you broke my door in?” 
“It was some men,” Tim said. “I think they were detectives or something. They had on suits and ties, and drove an official looking car.”
Mr. Beekers looked around, then ran to the window. “Where did they go?” 
“They’re from Ohio,” I said. “I think they’re coming back. So you better let us go before they get here. Whatever you did, they might get you for kidnapping us too.”
“Oh, no you don’t,” he said. “I’m not letting you go. You brought them here, didn’t you?” His eyes were wild and his mouth turned into a snarl. His whole face turned really evil looking. “I know what they want, and they won’t get it.” He grabbed up some rope and began to tie Spikes to the chair. 

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The Mystery on Lost Lagoon: A Preview

Here's a short preview of Book #4 in the Nikki Landry Swamp Legend Series, by Rita Monette:

The Mystery on Lost Lagoon
A Nikki Landry Swamp Legend

Brought to you by Mirror World Publishing

(Available November 17, 2017)

Legend has it… if you go onto Lost Lagoon, you never return.

Nikki Landry and her friends are off on a quest to track down a prehistoric-looking bird that’s been flying around a nearby swamp island. 

However, their plans get sidetracked when they meet a stranger in their small town who apparently has some secrets to hide.

The sleuthing group soon learns of a legend about a hidden lagoon. Is it all connected? Before they can find out, they are kidnapped by a mysterious scientist who is on a mission of his own. 

Is there any truth to the legend that says if you go onto Lost Lagoon, you will never return?  Is the eerie whirlpool that sits waiting to suck you in really a wormhole to another world? Who are the Men in Black...and what do they want with Mr. Beekers?

Join Nikki and her friends, and one neurotic parrot, as they discover the truth behind the Mystery on Lost Lagoon. 

Want more? Here's an excerpt:

“What can you tell me about this man,” one of the men asked Mr. Lopez, while laying a picture on the counter.

Mr. Lopez picked up the picture and squinted at it. “What do you want him for?” 

He wasn’t about to give out any information without knowing what the consequences might be. Folks in a small town might gossip, but they weren’t too trusting of men in black suits and sunglasses asking about their neighbors, even if those neighbors were a bit on the strange side.

“We just have a few questions for him,” one of the men said. “His name is Leroy Baker.”

“Can’t say as I recognize him,” Mr. Lopez answered.

“Well, if you do see him, call us.” The man slid a card toward him.

Mr. Lopez tried to give him the picture back.

“No, you keep that...just in case it jars your memory.” They both walked back out the door. They stood just outside talking and wiping the sweat off their foreheads with white handkerchiefs. 

I walked up to the counter and looked at the picture. Mr. Lopez picked it up and threw it in the wastebasket. 

“But that looks like Mr. Beekers,” I said. “Except his hair is shorter and combed.”

“Don’t look like him at all.” He turned around and went back to straightening stuff on his shelf. 

Spikes and I stood looking out the door at the men walking toward their fancy black car. One of ’em tripped over my bike, which had no doubt slid off the sign. He cursed and kicked it.

“Hey,” I pushed the door open. “That’s my bike.”

It wasn’t the prettiest bike around, especially after me and my friends painted it several different colors trying to cover the rusty parts, but it was mine.

“Well, you shouldn’t leave it laying on the ground,” he growled. “It skinned my shoe.”

I glanced down at his shoes. They were pointy-toed and real shiny, except for the scratch.
“Sorry,” I said. “I had it propped up. It must have fell.”

He made a face, then turned toward his car.

Spikes walked up behind me and whispered, “I wonder who they are.”

“Hey, what do you want with that man?” I asked.

Spikes poked me in the side.

“Why? Do you know him?” one of ’em asked.

“Can’t say as I do or I don’t,” I said. “But in case I do, I’d like to know what you aim to do when you find him.” I took another drink of my Coke. 

“Smart little lady, aren’t you?” the one that kicked my bike said.

“I guess I am. You just don’t look like you’re from around these parts, so I figure it must be important for you to come way out here to find him.”

“Well, I’ll tell you this,” the one that was standing by the driver’s side of the car said, “He’s a criminal, and he’s wanted by the state of Ohio. So if you know something and you don’t tell me, you might get in real trouble for aiding and abetting.” 

I pursed my lips wondering if that meant I’d have to go to jail just for knowing something.

The one standing next to me handed me one of his cards also. Then they both got in the shiny car and drove away. 

I stared at the card. It had gold letters printed on a white background. I read it out loud.
“Jeremiah J. Jenkins, Ph D, Department of Geology, Ohio State University.” 

Spikes took it from my hand. “Well, they ain’t cops.”

Monday, July 3, 2017

I am an American

With the blood of many cultures flowing through my veins, I am an American. I am not a Canadian-French-Spanish-Swedish-Italian-American. I’m an American. My ancestors all came to this country for different reasons, and in my case ended up in the state of Louisiana.

After years of extensive research up and down the branches of my huge family tree, I asked myself, what made them Americans, other than just setting foot on it’s soil, and swearing an oath. 

Each of my ancestors had their own challenges and reasons for coming to this country, and each of their stories are an integral part of what America is today, and who I am as a person. These are just a few.

Depiction of the "Grand Derangement" of the Acadiens
My Acadien (French Canadian) ancestors came here by force in the seventeen hundreds. Expelled by the English Crown because of their French allegiances, they were taken in bonds from their Canadian homes to the colonies of New England to become indentured servants—which meant they were slaves that could buy their way to freedom. Years later, they found their way to the French-controlled areas of Louisiana, where they were granted some land. It was swamp land, but it was land, and it was theirs. They forged a life out of those swamps, built canals and levees to control the water, so cities could be built. They planted sugar cane, trapped and hunted game, and traded with the native Indians. 

Sophia VonHolst [my great grandmother]
daughter of Moritz VonHolst,
from Sweden, and Jack Edmond,from

My Swedish ancestor came to this country in the early eighteen hundreds to escape religious persecution. He made his way to Louisiana to use his skills as a tanner to fill a need in the area for saddles and other leather products. He eventually opened a business, taught his grandchildren how to tan hides and create quality leather products, passing his trade down to his descendants.

Salvador Castigliola from Italy. In front is my
grandmother, Clara Angelina

My Italian ancestor came to this country as a young man in the eighteen hundreds to forge a new life. He started out gathering oysters from the gulf and selling them as a street vendor. He went on to open a restaurant in New Orleans and served up the Italian food he was used to his his old country.

Some came by force and some by choice. But, regardless of how or why they came here, they struggled to overcome the odds against them. Some had many children here, and some lost just as many. They built land out of swamps. They fished the bayous and grew sugarcane, peddled from a cart on the streets of New Orleans.

Their stories vary, but they all had one thing in common. They wanted a better life. So they gave up their country of origin, by force or by choice, and came to a new land, with big hopes and dreams. America offered them a place to use the skills and talents they each possessed to improve their situation…and their new country.

I learned from my ancestors’ stories that everything you want in life takes hard work and an ability to persevere outside of your comfort zone. I became grateful that, through no choice of my own, I was born into a free country and did not have to deal with the extreme challenges and hardships of my ancestors.

Are you an American?

If you are a person born in this great country, or If you came here seeking a better life and have sworn an oath to become a productive citizen; If you respect her constitution and laws; and if you hold her flag high, regardless of the sometimes bad decisions of her temporary leaders, you are an American.

Join me in celebrating America’s birthday. Enjoy some fireworks and have come birthday cake.  Happy Fourth of July!

Thursday, June 29, 2017

They Called her Audrey: A Hurricane Survival Story

Sixty years ago, my family survived a devastating hurricane in Cameron, Louisiana...They called her Audrey 

Here are the memories of an eleven-year-old of that event:
Story by Rita Monette

It was late afternoon on June 27, 1957. My sister and I were playing in the yard with our ballerina dolls we’d gotten for Christmas the year before. Mama hollered for us from the back door and told us to get our things inside. The radio had said there was a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico, and it was predicted to hit land in a day or so. But since we lived right on the Gulf, we might get some rising water ahead of it. 

My dad and my brother headed out to the lake to get their crab lines pulled in. We waited for Dad to get home to tell us how bad it was and if we’d have to evacuated. The sun went down and my dad and brother were still not home. I fell asleep on my small bed with the window open, enjoying the unusually cool July breeze that made the curtains billow across my bed. 

I awoke with Mama shaking me, telling me we had to get out, the water was rising fast, and the hurricane seemed to be getting closer.

This was during the days when hurricanes were not tracked as easily. They also were not given categories. Audrey in retrospect was a level five, and came ashore pushing a tidal wave and over a hundred mile-an-hour winds.

“Daddy said the water's rising," she told us. "He's gone to the courthouse to find out if it being used as a shelter. He’ll be back in a little while to get us,” she told us.

While waiting for Dad to come back for us, we helped Mama put things on the tops of the beds and tables so they wouldn’t get wet if the water came into the house. I wanted to take my doll, but she said it would be safe on top of her bed with the rest of the things she wanted to save, such as family photos and documents.

By the time Dad got back home, the water was creeping into the living room. With one last look back at my doll, I stepped carefully down the four plank steps feeling the lukewarm water wash against my legs, then soak into my clothes. The tide had apparently risen several feet since my dad had left, causing him to have to leave his car and come for us on foot. Mama carried my one-year-old brother, and we all held hands to stay together against the current that kept pulling at us. It was dark. Rain was falling at a steady pace. The water covered everything so that it was hard to see or feel where the edge of the road was,  but Dad lead the way, treading through the water that was waist-deep to me. The push of the waves was so strong it was hard to stand. As we got closer to town and the courthouse, it was more shallow, until finally at the top of the court house steps, it was dry. The entrance of the big stone building was filled with other people that had already found their way to safety. The steps did not stay dry very long, as huge waves begin to roll in.

Although Dad said he didn't think the water would get much higher, he took us to the third floor where it was less crowded. Mama laid the blanket she had wrapped around my baby brother on the floor in the hallway. We all used that as our “space,” while others claimed theirs. Before the night was over, all three floors had been filled with the inhabitants of the small fishing town of Cameron.

A chill went through me as my damp skirt still clung to my legs. I sat with my knees pulled against my chest and wiggled my bare toes. “Mama I’m hungry.”

“The water will be down in a little while, and we can go back home,” she assured me.

I looked around. Some of the others had brought baskets of food. I wondered why my parents hadn’t thought of that. 

Me and my younger brother and sister decided to explore the courthouse, telling Mama we wouldn’t be very far away. We spent the next hour exploring, going up and down the stairs. We found an area that was filled with little glass boxes with tiny babies in them. Apparently they had been born too early. We were swiftly shooed away.

We went into a big room with a giant desk and lots of benches. We decided that was the judge's desk.  People had already made a bed on top of it, which I thought was kind of disrespectful at the time. Some people were sprawled out on the long benches that looked like pews. We saw a woman lying on one, screaming, clutching her prayer beads in her hands while tearing at her blouse.  I wondered why she was so upset. We'd been through hurricanes before. We were safe here. Daddy said so.

I don't remember feeling scared. At eleven, I didn't fully understand the power of wind and water. After all, we knew our dad would not let anything bad happen to us.

An announcement came that everyone was to evacuate the first floor.  The water was still rising. We knew Mama was on the third, so we scurried up the stairs ahead of the crowd of terrified people. 

As the daylight approached. Police officers were going up to all of the men and requesting they give up their cigarette lighters and matches due to propane tanks, torn from their lines by the rising water, gas no doubt escaping. They said the tanks may blow up if they were too close to the building and a flame. My dad asked Mom to hide his lighter and cigarettes, promising us that he wouldn't light them up until after it was safe.

As the day progressed, the water began sloshing up onto the stairway to the second floor. We played a game of seeing how long we could sit on a step before the water would chase us up to a higher one. We would go back and report to Mom that the water was coming up fast, not realizing that we were feeding into her fear, that she no doubt tried to hide from us kids.

With people beginning to crowd onto the third floor, there was more panic. It was getting stuffy and smelly. Bathrooms overflowed, and those that had to go, went where they could. 

People gathered at the large glass windows, wringing their hands, and murmuring or crying. We joined them to see what was happening outside, and saw houses floating by with people on the roofs screaming and shouting for someone to help them. No one watching could save them. They floated away, some being swept into the raging water, trying to hang on to whatever they could grab. We watched as the muddy water rushed further and further in from the Gulf, taking debris from crushed houses, downed trees, and propane tanks with it. Police officers urged people to stay away from the windows. The fear and panic around me began to sink into my chest.  Were we really safe? What about all those people that needed help and no one to help them? How much longer can the wind blow and the water rise?

The day went on and the storm surged on, wind howling and windows breaking from things flying against them, Some people screamed in fear. but my dad and my mom stayed outwardly calm, probably for us kids. I don’t know if either one of them ate at all that day. My baby brother had a bottle that was now empty. The three of us kids had gathered a few chips and cookies that people had given us from their own baskets. We munched on those, while Mom and Dad refused to take any. 

It began to get dark again, but the electricity in the courthouse had long since gone out. We huddled in our little spot throughout the night listening to the wind as it howled. An occasional tiny light appeared as someone took their chances with the gas leaks and lit up a cigarette.

As daylight appeared through the window, people started moving around, some gathering at the windows to see what was going on. The winds had quieted down and the water had stopped rising. By midday, you could begin to see the horrible site the waters and winds had left behind. The water started to recede as fast as it had come in.

Mama got up and went to the window for the first time. She spotted our house and called us to look. Sure enough there was a house upside down on the street in front of the courthouse, Mom's hand-made lime-green curtains flapping in the wind.

Daddy was gone, and we went to look for him. We found him on the first floor with a group of people that were coming into the building. They had the most terrified look on their faces. Some looked like ghosts. Some were crying uncontrollably. I listened as they blurted out their stories. Some talked about spending the storm in a tree, clinging to their families, some of which had been swept away. I saw my uncle and some of my cousins. They had spent the storm in a two-story farm house outside of town. A rescue squad had gone out and rescued them and brought them to the one intact building in Cameron. The court house. Five hundred men, women, and children are said to have lost their lives that day.

Dad and a group of men left to go out looking or more survivors and food for their families. They came back later that day with cans of food. He opened a can of beans with his knife and handed it to me. I ate it with my dirty fingers. It was the best tasting pork and beans I’d ever eaten.

Dad had also gone into our upside-down house and found the refrigerator right side up. Apparently it had floated upright due to being sealed. A glass gallon jug of milk sat intact on one of the shelves. My baby brother had milk for his bottle.

The following morning, we were escorted out of the court house in a long trail that had been laid with boards in order to keep people from stepping on power lines or boards with nails in them. We went single file to the river where we got on tug boats that took us to Lake Charles, a town a little higher up. We were herded into a school stadium that was lined with army cots, where we were fed hot soup and fresh cold water.

After listening to some of the survivors' stories, of being surprised by the tidal wave storm in the middle of the night, I became grateful that my dad, being a fisherman on the lake that day, anticipated what was coming out on the Gulf, and got us to shelter before our house got swept away and us drowned. 

For everyone Audrey touched that day, it changed their lives forever. And for years after, those that survived measured time by before, during, or after the hurricane.

The photo left is from a New Orleans newspaper, snapped at the arena where we were taken after leaving the courthouse. Mama had told us to look up at the cameraman so that Grandma, who lived in New Orleans, would see it and know that we were alive. 

Pictured are Mom holding my baby brother, Dad to the right of her, me, my sister, and brother up front.