11 Years Ago, When The World Changed

First, if you haven’t already, please click here to go to the short, two-question poll I ran on Sunday. Your answers are anonymous, and they will really help me as I plan promotion for my upcoming releases in October and November. And to those who’ve already filled it out, THANK YOU!

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Bellaire Drive (site of Suzanne’s former house)

I considered not marking the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina this year–the 11th anniversary isn’t one of those “magical” numbers, after all, but after all the flooding in Louisiana earlier this month, from which so many people are still trying to recover, it’s made those memories close to the surface.

If you’re reading this blog as it goes live on Tuesday morning, August 30, here was my world exactly 11 years ago. I was in a small Days Inn hotel room in Bossier City, Louisiana (next to Shreveport, just east of Dallas, Texas). I sat on one of the beds with my friend Lora. My mom was trying to fend off the 90-pound, aptly named Tanker as he and Shane bounced around on the other bed. We were watching the TV in horror. In tears. In shock. Praying we’d wake up.

The hotel was crammed full of people. There were at least 10 stuffed in the room next door to us. At least half of the hotel was taken up with Louisiana State Police canine search and rescue teams, waiting for the storm to move through so they could head for the coast and look for survivors–and bodies.

Suzanne's house...and stuff.

Suzanne’s house…and stuff.

About 1,600 people died in the city of New Orleans eleven years ago, not directly from Hurricane Katrina, which made landfall first in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, and then in Slidell, Louisiana, east of the city. They didn’t die from the 150-mph winds that blew through downtown New Orleans (and blew a 60-foot cedar tree onto my house). They died because the levees around the city had been poorly built and maintained due to shortcuts and greed, and then collapsed under the pressure of the storm surge in Lake Pontchartrain. They died because they were too poor to leave. They died because they thought it couldn’t really happen to us, that 85 percent of our city couldn’t be sent under water up to twelve feet deep in only a few hours. And because it took too damn long for help to arrive. Politicians were too busy finger-pointing and bickering to take charge. The Red Cross thought it was too dangerous.

The scabs were ripped off every wound in our broken city. Wounds of poverty and racism and crime and corruption.

Lakeview near 17th Street Canal breach

Lakeview near 17th Street Canal breach

Did we learn anything from it? I don’t know. There’s a big honking flood gate at the head of the 17th Street Canal, two blocks from my former home and the main source of flooding in the city itself. For a while after those of us who were able went back to rebuild, everyone was extremely kind. Positive. Anxious to see the rebuilding of New Orleans as a chance to get it right.

Then the crime returned. We measured our days in horror stories, in seeing who didn’t come back, in seeing who died, who lost jobs, who moved away. We waited too long for the normalities we took for granted–trash pickup, potable water, mail delivery, the destroyed streetcars–to resume. We grew short-tempered. We forgot to be grateful we’d survived. Half-gutted houses and trash heaps became the new normal. Promised assistance for rebuilding didn’t arrive. Insurance companies gave us the runaround and wriggled out of everything they could.

Louisiana Avenue, near Suzanne's house.

Louisiana Avenue, near Suzanne’s house.

And yet, here I am eleven years later, contemplating a future that never would have happened without the events of those days. I would never have left New Orleans or been so homesick and traumatized that I’d decide to write a little book called ROYAL STREET.

How do I feel about Katrina now? I’ll let DJ  Jaco say it for me. These lines appear at the end of ROYAL STREET, but they were the first lines I wrote:

I wished Katrina had never happened, that the city I love so much hadn’t been so broken, its spirit so damaged, its naïve joy replaced by sorrow and cynicism and anger. Yet I know a lot of things I’ve come to love since the storm would never have been in my life without the pain.

Katrina took, and she gave.

irony

Scene-Snippet Sunday and Weekly Winners

Happy Sunday! You might (or might not) have noticed that I kind of disappeared a couple of days last week. I try not to do that but, hey, the day job’s out of control, a new book is due by mid-March, and revisions on another book is due in a week. Ohhhhh, and you know what that means, right? BELLE CHASSE is back in play.

So let’s have a snippet, shall we?

In this scene, DJ receives a couple of notes in her hideout in Barataria.

“Jolie, you might want to read these. I saw they were written to you so did not continue to read.” Jean handed me the papers Dominique had brought.

            The first one I opened was short, and typed:

Ms. Jaco:

My disappointment in you continues unabated, as I have been made aware that, no doubt at your selfish insistence and the use of your feminine wiles, Alexander Warin has betrayed the trust of myself and the Interspecies Council. He will be tried for treason at noon on December 27 and, if found guilty by majority vote, will face immediate execution. 

—Wm Zrakovi, First Elder

             My guilt swelled on instinct, but anger rapidly replaced it as I handed the note to Jean. Feminine wiles, my ass.

            I unfolded the second sheet of paper, this one hand-written and scribbled hastily, judging by the uneven lines and messy scrawl. This note, from my Uncle Lennox, scared me more.

DJ:

I’ve been trying to clear Alex, but Zrakovi has constructed an airtight case. Z will try to use the threat of his execution to trap you, but I don’t believe it is a bluff, nor does Alex. I talked to Alex this morning and we both agree—you must stay away from New Orleans. Alex might be beyond your ability to save,

Lennox

Ruh-roh. Well, this can’t lead to anything good.

Stay tuned….

The following sales are ongoing:

ROYAL STREET. The ebook is on sale for $2.99 at these links: Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook, ebooks.com,Google Play, iBooks, and Kobo.

Both books in The Collectors series are on sale for $1.99 for Kindle. LOVELY, DARK, AND DEEP was the winner in suspense of both the Holt Medallion and the Booksellers Best Award. DEADLY, CALM, AND COLD was a finalist in the Booksellers Best Award (beaten out by its sibling–LOL.) Click here for Lovely, Dark, and Deep and click here for Deadly, Calm, and Cold.

Now, did you win a book this week? It was a slim week, so only one giveaway (note that the Juliette Cross giveaway will be handled by her tour organizer):

CARINA OLSEN won the Reader’s Choice Giveaway last week, and has chosen to pick a book. I think you’re outside the U.S., so please choose whatever you’d like from Book Depository up to USD$15. You can email me a link to the buy page at suzannej3523@gmail.com. Congrats!

Stop by tomorrow for a new Reader’s Choice Giveaway!