New Orleans has always been one of my favorite cities, totally unique, historical, and filled with the best and most curious of fantasy, the darker side of man, and some of the best of all that we have to offer as people as well. I've often used the setting in books. In October, I have a book coming out called GHOST WALK, which takes place in New Orleans. To that end, I was in New Orleans the Sunday before Katrina.
It was a great time for my family; we were filming a little ad piece which will still run with different wording, but the important part for me was that it was something in which a great company and my entire family (except for Derek, who was in the Ukraine) was involved. My nephew, his fiancee, and one son had never been there before. Though there was a lot of work involved, they were able to see a great deal. The wonder of New Orleans. The incredible architecture. Yes, the wildness of Bourbon Street. The shops with something different--sure, there were chain stores in the malls--but there were dress shops where the clothing was designed by owners and locals, jewelry shops, antiques, books . . . all unique to New Orleans. We stuffed ourselve on crawfish, shrimp, and spicy dishes. We listened to the jazz bands, enjoyed the talented performers on the street. Cafe au lait and beignets at Cafe du Monde.
When we left the city, I had to go to Chicago after a day home in Miami. When I left home, Katrina wasn't much more than an annoyance hampering the Bahamas. By Thursday night she had taken a sudden turn, become a category one, and then sped into Miami hours before scheduled. I was able to get through to my husband and Chynna who were busy patching up windows. My one son wound up stuck out with his friend; when they headed home, they nearly ran over a man who had fallen in the road. They were able to call 911 and get help, block off the street with their cars, and we believe he survived. As a Mom I was upset that they hadn't realized that storms change; as a human being, I'm glad they might have saved a life.
On Friday, I didn't think I'd get home. They did finally open MIA. When I saw the destruction caused by Katrina when she was at a "1" status, I called friends in the New Orleans area. Eleven people died in Florida, a small number compared with the massive tragedy that will come from other states, but just as heart wrenching for the families and loved ones. As I write this, we're still without power here eleven days after the strike; lights are still down, crews are still picking up. And all this is so SO minor. Every day, I wake up grateful that we're not under twenty feet of water. A dear friend and book seller, Molly Bolden, from Houma, made it to her family's home in Marietta Florida; she is still waiting for her daughter to try to reach her from Bay St. Louis, Miss.
As I said earlier, our ad piece is being worded differently, but it will still show. It will direct people to a site at Harlequin where donations may be given. I will be doing some autographings; wherever I go, I intend to buy the books myself. The books will then be sold at a discount. The entire price charged for the books will go to the Red Cross through the Mira/Harlequin Red Cross donation. Also, anyone who is interested may donate through the Harlequin site, then email or write to me through firstname.lastname@example.org and receive a free CD with the original music recorded for the advertisement. The song has become incredibly ironic, but is still filled with love for what has always been and will again be the incredible haunting and historic quality of New Orleans.
Due to the situation, autographings are still being planned. Please watch the web sites.
PS--I know the heart of America is great; people are already contributing with their souls and pockets. But the need will go on, and literally hundreds of thousands will continue to need help to get their feet back on the ground.