The following facts are all true, no embellishment needed.
Hard hat may be required.
I have a habit of opening big. In my stories, I try to dump the reader right into the deep end with my heroes. My prologues are often filled with sex, violence, heartbreak, action or adventure. I’ve only got 50K words here to work with so there’s no time to ease the reader into the story. However, once the mayhem and angst has sufficiently whet everybody’s appetite, I try to wade us all back to calmer, shallower yet clearer waters. After all, a wading pool is an excellent place to get to know a handsome stranger.
Well, if life imitates art then somebody stole my wading pool.
With a month left until my deadline for Blow Torch, the morning of April 27 broke to the ungodly wail of tornado sirens in North Alabama. (I was visiting my parents for my birthday in the house I grew up in. My timing has always sucked.) By the time the darkened clocks struck ten that same night, over 100 people were dead, hundreds were missing and thousands were now homeless.
I lost no family.
We lost no houses (Although an EF-4 tornado literally ripped to shreds a whole neighborhood only a quarter of a mile away from my sister’s house… my sister’s house where her new precious family was cowered in their bathroom. My parents and I spent the day in and out of the closet… how apropos can you get for a writer of gay romance/erotic, huh?)
We were all blessed to have survived that terrible day. But even blessings can come with a few nasty thorns.
We had no power, no phone, no cell phone for five days. Gas lines were miles long. It took stores days to re-open and when they did it was with minimal power and dwindling supplies. We were lucky and had water. We didn’t even have to boil it before using it.
For that first day, we had no way of knowing whether my sister, her husband and her baby had survived. The roads were blocked by trees and houses. And all we kept hearing on the radio were the reports of death and disaster in her little town.
In the end, nine people died just that sliver of a quarter mile away from her.
My sister, her family and her house all survived.
The second day, my parents’ kitchen caught on fire while we were trying to heat some water. I was the one that found the kitchen in flames. I was the one who screamed her head off for her daddy to come save the day.
We were so, so blessed.
It’s important that I keep saying that.
It’s important that you know that I know that.
See, survivor’s guilt is a real bitch and can screw with your mind like a real motherfucker. Two and half months later and I’m still rolling around in the dirt with it.
It sucks you dry from the inside out. A lot of me is still barren, I think…
Now, this would be the perfect time for that wading pool.
Guess it blew away with the water tower and our neighbor’s trampoline.
Power came back. My scribbles on notebook paper written under a flashlight were transferred to computer and life and Hellesgate went on.
One week later, as many roads were still impassable and scores of people were still missing, food poisoning struck my family.
My sister and my mother were horribly sick for days.
Again, I was spared.
Again, I was lucky and blessed.
Unfortunately, I also went crazy.
It was bad.
I hadn’t had a panic attack that severe in almost ten years. It lasted one whole week, I’m talking a week of 24/7 here. It was terrifying in more ways than I could ever put to words. For days, I didn’t think I’d survive it. Catch the irony here? Dying of survivor’s guilt? How novel.
It took me weeks but I finally was able to crawl out of that whole. I was shaky and sweaty and whole lot worse for wear but I was whole.
I was blessed.
It’s important for me to keep saying that. It’s important for me to keep knowing that.
Blow Torch, however, was in shambles. While a third of it was written and all of it was well plotted out, Hellesgate proved to once again be a slippery bitch.
My computer crashed.
We’re talking big crash.
I was blessed.
I didn’t lose any work. Like a good writer, I had backed everything up. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get to it for several days.
Time was ticking down.
I finally got to go back to my home. Florida never looked so beautiful before… the hailstorm I’m taking as a fluke. It was only quarter size hail, after all.
I was blessed.
Really, I was. Blow Torch got done one day shy of its deadline. Hellesgate, Kansas had been conquered once again.
So, I lost a little sanity along the way? I was working on half a tank before Blow Torch so what’s a few more gallons shy amongst friends?
And if you all are so good as to ask for me to return to Hellesgate for a third visit, I most certainly will. I’m scarred and battle-tested now, and know to bring a little extra Prozac, a fire extinguisher and a tornado shelter with me this next go-around.
Yes, Blow Torch was indeed a dark and twisting road, and I may have lost my wading pool along the way…
But, thank God, I was blessed.