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. 

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Shadow of the Hawk, by K.S. Jones

Since I'm a big K.S. Jones fan, I had to do another post and a review about her award winning book, Shadow of the Hawk. 

It is May 1932 and life in the timbered rise and fall of Western Arkansas has just gotten harder for sixteen-year-old Sooze Williams. With debt mounting and both friends and family fleeing, Sooze is determined to ‘do the right thing’. She promises her heart to a well-to-do man believing true love is just another loss along the way. But when her uncle is murdered and family is accused of the crime, Sooze vows not to be beaten. Is salvation within her grasp by relying solely on truth, or is it in the security of her intended’s money? Sooze must decide before it’s too late.

My Review 

Shadow of the Hawk is one of the best books I’ve read in a long while. Although, It is written for the young adult audience, I believe all ages will find it captivating. 

The story is about a family trying to survive harsh drought conditions in 1930s Arkansas during the great depression. The family with four children, from 18 years down to 6 weeks old, has decided to stay and keep their modest farm going while most of the folks in Coaldale are leaving for California to escape the dust bowl and to find work. 

Ms. Jones’ finely-tuned writing skills will awaken all of your senses by ushering you through the details of their meager meals, to experiencing the wildflowers in the fields and the grit in the air. You will share the family’s emotions through losing friends, falling in love, fighting for their lives as they know it, as well as the tragedy and death of loved ones. 

I loved her well-developed characters, from Rebellious David, responsible Sooze, Spunky Cora, to innocent baby Grace. The love and devotion of the parents for each other and for their family really shows through in the story.  I especially loved the court scene when Sooze has to testify on her brother’s behalf. 

Shadow of the Hawk, Ms. Jones’ debut Novel, has already won several literary awards. There is no doubt in my mind it will win even more. 

About K. S. Jones

Born and raised in California's San Joaquin Valley, I learned early that a good cotton crop would buy us our most prized possessions -- shoes and books. 

As each farming day ended, my father would retreat to the 'bunkhouse' to write magazine stories and articles for Golden West and True West. Alongside him was my mother, a newspaper journalist. Following in their footsteps seemed the natural thing to do, so when Tipton Elementary announced a school-wide American Legion essay contest, I picked up my stubby pencil and a blank page and looked to my father for guidance. "Write what you know," he said. At my young age, cotton-farming was king. This essay became my first writing award, being bested only by my older sister. 

Throughout my teens and early twenties, I sought the life of a writer in every nook, cranny, and corner I could find, but only minor writing successes found their way to me. It seemed I worked every job available trying to help pay the bills while raising my family: telephone operator, telemarketer, airline reservations, radio sales, receptionist, real estate agent, property manager, escrow officer, until one day I realized how fast time was carrying my dream away. 

Determined to be a published novelist, I began setting my alarm at 4am every morning and wrote like mad for 3 hours, then showered, dressed, and rushed to work. By day's end, I was simply too tired to write, but at 4am the next morning I was up and at my keyboard once again. It took another two years before I finished the novel I had been researching and writing for more than fifteen years: Shadow of the Hawk. Pinned to my computer on those exhaustive days were the trimmed lyrics from Sarah McLachlan: "I am so tired, but I can't sleep ... Standin' on the edge of something much too deep."

Then, one early morning, word came that I had won the Southern Writers 2014 Short Story contest. A writing dream had come true! While reveling in that wonderful glow of "I am a good writer!" I watched as another email popped in -- a publisher was offering a contract on my novel. I think all writers wonder how they'll react when an offer arrives. For me, I planned to call/text/email/shout the news to everyone I knew, but instead I sat staring at the two emails. Were they truly addressed to me? That same week, two other publishing offers arrived for the same book.

So long ago, my childhood dream while I sat perched high in an apricot tree reading The Grapes of Wrath, To Kill a Mockingbird, Call of the Wild, Lord of the Rings, The Time Machine, and so many more, was to be a writer ... and I am so afraid to open my eyes. 

Shadow of the Hawk is my debut novel. Black Lightning is my first middle-grade novel.


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Thursday, June 22, 2017

Lost and Found by Sharon Ledwith

Fairy Falls was bores-ville from the get-go. Then the animals started talking... 

About Lost and Found:

The Fairy Falls Animal Shelter is in trouble. Money trouble. It’s up to an old calico cat named Whiskey—a shelter cat who has mastered the skill of observation—to find a new human pack leader so that their home will be saved. With the help of Nobel, the leader of the shelter dogs, the animals set out to use the ancient skill of telepathy to contact any human who bothers to listen to them. Unfortunately for fifteen-year-old Meagan Walsh, she hears them, loud and clear.

Forced to live with her Aunt Izzy in the safe and quiet town of Fairy Falls, Meagan is caught stealing and is sentenced to do community hours at the animal shelter where her aunt works. Realizing Meagan can hear her, Whiskey realizes that Meagan just might have the pack leader qualities necessary to save the animals. Avoiding Whiskey and the rest of shelter animals becomes impossible for Meagan, so she finally gives in and promises to help them. Meagan, along with her newfound friends, Reid Robertson and Natalie Knight, discover that someone in Fairy Falls is not only out to destroy the shelter, but the animals as well. Can Meagan convince her aunt and co-workers that the animals are in danger? If she fails, then all the animals’ voices will be silenced forever.

Book Details:

Kindle File Size: 667 KB
Print Length: 203 pages
Publication Date: June 17, 2017

Publisher: Mirror World Publishing

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Lost and Found, the first in Sharon Ledwith's Mysterious Tales from Fairy Falls, is the tale of a wise old calico shelter cat named Whiskey and a rebellious teen named Meagan Walsh, who team up to save the Fairy Falls Animal Shelter and the animals who live there, while learning their true purpose. 

When Whiskey learns that the shelter is in trouble, she becomes determined to find a human to communicate with. Meagan has always been able to talk to animals, but kept it hidden from everyone but her late mother. When she is "forced" to work at the animal shelter, and learns what's happening to the animals, Meagan reluctantly becomes a "pack leader" to help solve the mystery of who might be sabotaging the shelter.

Lost and found is a fast-paced mystery and psychic adventure sure to please readers of all ages. 

Meet the Author:

Sharon Ledwith is the author of the middle-grade/young adult time travel adventure series, THE LAST TIMEKEEPERS, and the teen psychic mystery series, MYSTERIOUS TALES FROM FAIRY FALLS. When not writing, researching, or revising, she enjoys reading, exercising, anything arcane, and an occasional dram of scotch. Sharon lives a serene, yet busy life in a southern tourist region of Ontario, Canada, with her hubby, one spoiled yellow Labrador and a moody calico cat.

Learn more about Sharon Ledwith on her WEBSITE and BLOG. Look up her AMAZON AUTHOR page for a list of current books. Stay connected on FACEBOOK, TWITTER, GOOGLE+, and GOODREADS.

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Escape to the past and have a blast.

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Sunday, June 18, 2017

Obsession by JoAnne Keltner

For Two Days Only - Grab Obsession by JoAnne Keltner for only $0.99!!

Some obsessions know no boundary…not even death.

About the Book:

Abby had the perfect life: shopping sprees at the mall, a pool in her backyard, a dream bedroom, a BFF… That is, until her family moved to the backwoods of Wisconsin.

Abby plans to prove this backwoods dump is no place for a thirteen-year-old. So when her parents hire a carpenter and his son, Greg, she hangs out with the older boy to make her parents worry. But Greg turns out to be a total creep, and although Abby tells him she doesn’t like him, he continues to make her life miserable, watching her, trying to get close to her, threatening her.

What’s creepier is the mysterious brown-haired girl that keeps appearing and disappearing without saying a word. When Abby finds the girl's diary in the outbuilding, she learns that they share a common enemy, Greg.

Will they share the same fate too?

Grab Your Copy for $0.99:

Meet the Author:

JoAnne Keltner is the author of Goth Girl, Virgin Queen (Solstice Publishing, 2015) and Obsession (Musa Publishing, 2013 ed.). As an only child and avid daydreamer, she spent hours alone in her backyard on the South Side of Chicago, which she imagined to be everything from an alien planet to Antarctica. She currently lives in Raleigh, North Carolina, with her husband, four dogs, cat, and three chickens. When she isn’t writing or freelance editing, she’s obsessively streaming popular TV shows.

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