What I Write

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Superstorm Sandy -- A Reprise

Many boats left their slips and ended up on land
including atop a nearby bridge.
Storm surge also moved houses and
shifted them into each other.
Stunned townspeople looked on the next morning
at the devastation of business and home alike. Many pitched in
to try to rescue what items they could from the local museum.
Several high tides later, several feet of water still
flooded the road as onlookers checked out the
damage. Boats were piled atop each other
or pushed into buildings.
It's been a year now. I admit I wasn't sure if I was ready to look back, so have used only a few images to set the stage and recycled a piece written shortly after the storm. Some areas still look like a war zone with abandoned homes. Other neighborhoods have returned to normal with only the news reports as a reminder of the horror of a year ago.

Advice often given to authors is to write what you know and to observe the world around you. No, despite the date this is not a comment on All Hallows Eve. For the past year, I've had a unique opportunity to take that second piece of authorly advice. Although I live more than ten miles inland from the ocean and Hurricane Sandy came ashore about 100 miles farther south, her storm surge still threw the boats in our local marinas around like jackstraws and ripped houses from their foundations.

At one point almost the entire state was without power. Some like myself had the luxuries of modern conveniences returned after a week, others took two. A year later, thousands of families are still awaiting restoration until after their home's are repaired and the wiring replaced.

You might ask what that has to do with writing what you know. First, do you write historicals? Try writing with paper and pencil by candlelight. The writing was easy once you tuned out the howl of the wind, but deciphering the cryptic notes the next day was damn near impossible.

I can definitely state that my observations of people, both during the storm and as we rebuild the tens of thousands of damaged homes and lives, will add to the depth of my future characters. The stoic expressions on a woman's face as we emptied her home in preparation for flood cutting (a nice name for gutting down to studs) or the warmth exuded by the hundreds of volunteers helping not only neighbors but strangers, builds one aspect of a character. And in contrast, those few who looted during or after the storm or those who although perfectly able never lift a finger to help themselves.

One thing that has changed over the past year. Rights have been returned, the novel Imprisoned in Stone and several short works released. Now I’m working on the cover for the re-release of the first book of the Dragshi Chronicles, Dragon Destiny, and the introduction of the other three chronicles.

But for now, while I work on integrating what I've seen and learned, I invite you to join me on journeys through the stars or among fantasy worlds of the imagination. Until then, don't forget, a disaster can strike anywhere at almost anytime. Be sure to back up your current books as well as those in production--and your backlist. And don't use just one site or one kind of media. Redundancy can prevent the loss of years of work.

Till the next time. ~ Helen

Water washed over the railing, but
the memorial to 9-11 stood firm.
Although buildings just a few yards away were destroyed,
when the waves retreated the metal from
the tower remained.


  1. Hi, Helen, I lived in Howard Beach, NY during Sandy. Our basement was flooded with about four feet of bay and sewage. My heart goes out to those who still aren't safely and comfortably in their homes.

    I was without electricity, heat, and internet for 12 days. I though didn't write by candlelight. :)

    Good luck with the re-releases of your books!

    I recently moved from the area.

    1. Karen, thanks for stopping by and good luck in your new area. Even a year later, groups were still coming in on a regular basis to help with rebuilds, at least until the colder weather moved in. On some weekends, one coordinating group has had five hundred people working on up to 10 houses at a time. And earlier this month, President Carter and his wife helped on a project in the next town. Even with all the manpower, it still takes time to rebuild a house from the ground up. To all the individual volunteers, church and civic groups, thank you. Your help is appreciated. Helen


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