I would like to thank David for hosting Sarah and I today and for helping spread the word about our charity shorts. Please take a moment to learn about each natural disaster that our books benefit and how you can help by donating and getting a great read! Thank you!
When disaster strikes, there's a moment when we forget all boundaries. Geographic, political, and socioeconomic divisions fall, and there, for some of the most painful, beautiful moments in time, we are one.
Then—hour by hour, day by day, week by week—the vast majority of us lucky enough to do so will move on. As the headlines change our focus moves elsewhere, and save for the occasional media update, many of us don't look back.
Some, however, struggle to look ahead. Here's a glimpse at the staggering numbers and the broken realities affected residents of Alabama and Japan must face every day.
ALABAMA TORNADOES – April 27, 2011
An EF-5 tornado, spanning a mile and a half wide, tore through the city of Tuscaloosa. The tornado didn't stop there though, but continued for 80 miles, leaving a visible line through the state of Alabama. The state, already weakened by a series of severe storms and straight-lined winds, suffered considerable damage. At least 28 tornado's touched down on the 27th.
The storm system started on April 25th and ended on April 28th. During that period there were 335 confirmed tornadoes across the country that resulted in an estimated 346 deaths. Tuscaloosa had one of the four largest in that system. Recovery hasn't been easy, as evidenced by these facts reported by blog.al.com.
· 25,081 families were denied FEMA insurance, including many whose homes had been wiped completely off their foundations. FEMA's reason? Insufficient damage.
· Following the April tornadoes, FEMA deployed 523 inspectors to the region. Together, they've inspected over 5,000 properties a day. That's a lot of destruction, folks.
· Of the $4 million in initial FEMA aid for Alabama, $3.1 million went for temporary housing alone.
JAPANESE EARTHQUAKE – March 11, 2011
A 8.9 magnitude earthquake and 30 foot tsunami wave hit Japan's eastern coast, causing unprecedented damage and taking thousands of lives. A June 29 update from Red Cross Japan reveals the following sober statistics:
· 75,215 people from the three most affected prefectures are still living in shelters or other temporary housing. 7,427 are still missing, their loved ones fearing the worst.
· 119,776 claims for unemployment were filed between March 11 and June 8 in the three most affected prefectures.
· 97,183 people have been evacuated from the area surrounding the stricken Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant. 35, 514 have left the Fukushima prefecture, forced to start over with nothing.
You Can Help … Today
Authors Elaina Lee and Sarah Ballance, through the generosity of the Astraea Press charity program, are proud to announce 100% of profits from their novellas below will go toward Alabama and Japan Disaster Relief, respectively. To help raise awareness, every comment on their individual blogs or guest blog posts (including this one!) from July 12 through August 8 will double as an entry into a weekly drawing for a $10 gift e-certificate or a free e-book. Winners will be announced on their blogs and contacted via e-mail. As an additional token of appreciation for your support, if you have purchased either of their titles you are invited to contact Elaina or Sarah for a free gift (while supplies last).
SOURCES: NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2011/04/110428-tuscaloosa-birmingham-alabama-news-tornadoes-science-nation/ | AL.BLOG.COM http://blog.al.com/spotnews/2011/06/alabama_tornado_recovery_fema.html |RED CROSS JAPAN http://www.jrc.or.jp/vcms_lf/kokusai_290611.pdf | Photos by Elaina Lee (July 9, 2011)
After a terrifying encounter with the unexplained, it took ten years and the news of her grandmother’s passing for Emma Grace Hawthorne to return to her childhood home. She sought peace in saying a proper goodbye, but what she found was an old love, a sordid family history, and a wrong only she could right.
Living in the shadow of Hawthorne Manor, Noah Garrett never forgot about Emma Grace. In a house full of secrets, his search for missing documents revealed a truth that could cost him everything. What he found gave Emma the freedom to walk away from the mansion, her heart free and clear, but at what price to Noah?
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The car slowed to a stop and a decade's worth of memories tumbled onto the sun-blanched asphalt.
The hand-painted sign hadn't changed in years. In the thick, damp air filling the Louisiana landscape, the wood display remain inexplicably unaffected. There it sat—every meticulously scripted letter as crisp and clean as the stark white walls of the manor it lauded, oblivious to the passage of time.
Emma Hawthorne tensed in the seat of the Mustang convertible, staring at her past with ice sluicing her spine Anywhere else, the view would have been gorgeous. The drive, lined on both sides with live oak laden with Spanish moss, was the South personified. At the end, Hawthorne Manor held court. Pristine, proud, the boastful antebellum home beamed, lording over its acreage.
But it harbored the unspeakable. No amount of time could erase what happened to her on the other side of the expanse of green lawn. Nothing could change what she'd seen there. Some might say she was crazy—that she'd imagined or invented the whole ordeal—but her scars were all the proof she needed. Whether the shadows lurking behind the façade of the picturesque plantation were real or born of an overactive imagination, there was no way she was going back into that house.
Especially not for a dead woman.
Sparing a glance in the rearview, Emma steeled herself against a trembling in her hands that threatened to overtake her body. She released a pent-up breath, her heart settling into a less acrobatic rhythm at the thought of leaving. She didn't have to stay here.
Let the South win this one. She was going home.
A split second after she decided to go, something caught her eye. She blinked, trying to see through the swaying canopy of leaves and moss, certain a figure stood atop the widow's walk straddling the roofline of the house. But no one—
Something brushed the car, rocking it. Swallowing panic, Emma tried to tear her focus from Hawthorne Manor, but fear kept her from looking anywhere else. Time and distance hadn't done her any favors; she was a fool for coming anywhere near this place, much less with the ragtop down.
The car rocked harder. The something refused to be ignored.
Fighting the grip of panic tightening her throat—fighting the ghosts of her past—Emma forced herself to look away from the house, toward the intrusion over her left shoulder.
The first thing she saw was an aged set of gnarled fingers resting on the door, blue automotive paint showing through an ugly translucence.
The second was the face—withered, centurion, and expressionless. Haunting.
It couldn't be her.
Noah Garrett tore down the drive, slapping through a muggy afternoon haze comprised of mosquitoes and humidity. He couldn't know that scream, but he felt the connection the moment the sound of her fear pierced the thick air.
The one reason he allowed himself to stagnate on the old plantation, long after life and reason moved on without him. Long after she had.
A blue Mustang sat at the end of the driveway. He wondered if it could be hers—even as he knew it impossible—but she was nowhere in sight.
He slowed to a trot. The sprint left him drenched with sweat and not entirely disappointed his imagination had gotten away from him. His dream of one more chance to see Emma Grace had never included himself as a dripping mess. He wiped the moisture from his brow, fast concluding the car must belong to a tourist. They often parked at the end of the drive and took pictures of the condescending mansion most thought beautiful. He assumed the intrusion seemed small to their frequent guests, but the constant ding of the hidden bell announcing a visitor could drive a man to the edge.
As if losing Emma Grace hadn't already accomplished that.
Noah closed in on the convertible, giving the nearby grounds a cursory look. The lawn was meticulous, the beds overflowing with sprays of purple garden phlox which trailed around the bend in the road and disappeared. A riot of white and rust-red irises backed the smaller purple flowers, their leaves deep green and glossy. Overhead, Spanish moss swayed only occasionally atop a maze of live oak, more likely a result of a passing swarm of insects than an actual air current. The land was still. If there were tourists snapping photos of the historic plantation—or doing anything else—he didn't see them. But someone had been there, the seemingly familiar scream so real.
Wasn't it always?
Resigned to another night alone with his memories, Noah pivoted.
And found himself nose to nose with Emma Grace.
Astounded, he opened his mouth, then closed it. He wanted to reach for her, but his arms refused the notion; they hung uselessly by his sides, the effort futile. His mouth wasn't much on cooperation, either. Finally, he found his tongue. "Em—"
Her expression cut him off. Green eyes wide, skin pale, her small frame shaking, she spoke. "I saw her, Noah. She's back." The words, nearly soundless, seemed to catch in the thick air. Lingering. Threatening.
And ripping the heart from his chest.
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In silence, they walked the corridor flanking the stairs to the
second story. Kyle stayed behind, digging through the plate of
refreshments. They passed two doors and Caylie began to wonder
just how large his home was. She dared not look around too much,
afraid she'd grow jealous and feel even more insignificant than she
already did. There were no disillusions in her life, she knew she
was poor. Never before though had she felt impoverished. Until
now. However, she did keep a roof over hers and Kyle's head and
they never went without a meal. Those were at least things she
could be proud of. He opened a door to the left and motioned
ʺOn the desk. May I ask first though, who you're calling?"
With a sheepish smile, she held up the card. ʺA cab, I...
accidentally locked my keys in my car this afternoon."
He stepped inside and closed the door. ʺI can give you a ride
Shaking her head, she took the card between both her hands
and stared down at it. Anything not to look at him and his way too
handsome face and the body that proved he did hard labor. A few
strands of gray stood out in his dark brown hair, slight lines
appeared when he smiled, but other than that, the man was still
dangerously good-looking. Only now he had a few years that took
away that fresh-from-school look and a filled out frame that came
with manhood. Alone in a room with him was so not where she
wanted to be.
ʺI couldn't possibly ask for anything more from you. We
have done more than enough."
ʺNo," he said softly and the light, musky scent of his cologne
filled her nose as he moved closer. ʺYour brother has done enough.
You did nothing but return what was stolen, hours after it
happened, I might add. You did me a huge favor, especially since
my mother happened to show up to get a good look at the urn."
ʺSomething you wouldn't have even had to worry about if
my brother hadn't taken it in the first place." She shook her head
and put some distance between them, moving towards the phone.
ʺI'm sorry, I can't accept anything else from you. Agreeing not to
press charges and then giving my brother an opportunity to do
some good...it's more than enough, more than I could thank you
Before she could reach the phone, his hand wrapped around
her upper arm. His touch sent waves of longing through her body.
Not wanting to feel anything stronger, she brushed his hand away,
thankful he released her without hesitation. His eyes darkened
with anger and something she couldn't place and wasn't sure if she
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