We Survived Hurricane Sandy

Wonder how long before that’s on a bumper sticker?
Anyway, Hurricane Sandy has come and gone – or as she was called by many, Frankenstorm. She was big enough on her own, but she also combined with other systems which turned her into a giant, with brutal winds, nasty heavy rain and storm surges we’ve never seen the likes of before, bearing down on the East Coast like a gigantic bat out of hell. And for some people, hell is what she brought.
New York City didn’t fare so well. The flooding boggles my mind. I’ve never seen anything like this in this area in my lifetime. When I see the images of what happened in lower Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens (OMG! Breezy Point!) it makes me realize just how lucky we were. I have no doubt that New Yorkers will come through this with their usual hardy yet blasé attitude, and will make everything better and stronger than ever.
I live in New Jersey, though, and as I mentioned, we were relatively lucky – we lost power, schools were (and still are for now) closed, and even my office closed for two days. Unfortunately, I have to go back tomorrow. My street survived without too many catastrophes – a few big branches down, some people’s cars were damaged, but the power was the worst of it here. And we had a generator that we ran intermittently to keep the fridge going. Borrowed dad’s spare – seriously, how many people do you know who have a SPARE generator? Only my dad! lol
However, once you left my nice section of the street (I live on a long, straight boulevard), it turned into a war zone. Trees down everywhere, roads impassable and closed, dangling wires, etc. It was pretty bad, and though we were lucky to get our power back relatively quickly, others are still out and will be for days to come. My parents, who live one town over, will be out for at least a week, if not more. One of their neighbors’ trees came down and took everything with it – wires, telephone poles, other trees. Even ripped the meter off one of another neighbor’s house!
But all in all, it wasn’t as bad here as it could have been. Other places were literally demolished. The horrific nightmare that assaulted the Jersey Shore will haunt me for some time.  My beloved Stone Harbor was under several feet of water last night, though now that it’s receded a bit it looks to have survived mostly intact. Our house on 98thStreet appears to be still standing.  Considering the storm came ashore right about there, the lovely seaside haven is very lucky. I’ve seen the devastation done to other places on the shore, and it just makes my heart ache. As a born and bred Jersey Girl, I spent a good portion of my summers on the shore, in one town or another, with friends or with family. It hurts to know the shoreline will never be the same. I don’t know when I’ll get back to see everything, most likely next spring or summer, but I am expecting changes, and I’m reasonably sure I won’t be too happy about most of them. I’ve been able to view many pictures some of the hardier souls took as they braved the onslaught, and I know they likely don’t come close to the reality of seeing it firsthand. If you’ve ever been to Seaside or Point Pleasant, you know how nice those boardwalks are, and how much fun. Well, now many of them are pretty much gone. But I have faith in our Jersey folks – we are a tough bunch and we don’t back down. We’ll rebuild with our usual “we ain’t gonna take this crap” attitude. Sandy, you may have made us stumble, but we’ll never fall.
I say this because if you ever have the chance and can take the time to really explore NJ, you’ll realize just how critical this state is to the forming of our entire country. The place is covered with historic landmarks, and so many of them date back to pre-Revolutionary War years. Many of our successes were planned and strategized here, fought here, and yes, we lost some crucial battles. But without NJ, there might not even be a USA! I think that points to our resilience, and as difficult a time as many of us here in the Garden State are having, we will prevail and we will go on, bigger and better than before!

The NJRWA Conference – A Rousing Success

Last weekend, I attended the NJRWA Put your Heart in a Book conference. I’ve been to it before, many years back. For the last several years, it usually coincided with day job travel, so I haven’t attended in quite some time. This year worked out perfectly, and since 2012 was fairly successful on the writing front, the opportunity to participate in everything I could was impossible to resist. I registered, reserved a room for the entire weekend, and signed up for the bookfair.
Of course, at the time I registered, I didn’t know there was a brick wall coming up to slam into me – the whole Noble disaster. But as it turned out, the conference ended up being a perfect opportunity to spread the word about that mess and the lack of ethics behind it all. I shared the information in a roundtable session moderated by Heather Graham (fangirl moment #1). I outlined a bunch of the tactics others have experienced at the hands of Noble and anyone affiliated with them. The outright contempt that past and current management subjects their authors to, FOR NO REASON, was met with contempt of its own. I had other opportunities to share this information throughout the conference as well, and I did. Because as I learned this weekend, word spreads, but until someone hears it from the horse’s mouth, everything is questionable.
Case in point – Jennifer Probst. (Jen, get ready! lol)  I have known Jennifer Probst for close to twenty years now. Back in the day, she was a regular in our critique group. We were sorry when life, as it will do, kept her from coming anymore. But the best part about Jen is not only is she lots of fun, she is one of the biggest cheerleaders in our chapter! Seriously – I suspect she has a stash of pom-poms in her house somewhere. Her excitement for her fellow writers and friends is that genuine, enthusiastic and infectious. 😀 Anyway, as some of you might have heard, Jen’s book, The Marriage Bargain, topped all the bestseller lists and got her an awesome deal with Simon & Schuster. Her name and Entangled Publishing are on the map. One of the roundtables I attended at the PAN retreat was moderated by Bob Mayer. He mentioned Jen’s story in his presentation, about 10 minutes before she came in. Once he knew she was there, he asked her to tell her story. When she finished, he admitted he’d heard at least 14 different versions of the story from 14 different people, and none of them said anything like what she did.
That whole point brought home how important spreading the word about Noble, face to face, with the facts, had become. So in that respect, the conference was a great success. People heard it – and I bet they’ll share it as well. Writers like to talk as much as they like to write and read. Besides, truth trumps the BS every time!
Anyway, one of the things I like best about this conference is that the content – workshops, special events, social gatherings – are on a caliber of National’s conference, but on a much more intimate level. There aren’t 3,000 women running around a hotel/resort, there’re 300. Or thereabouts, could be more, but anyway… There’s time to talk to people, to truly meet them and spend some time relaxing over a drink, or a snack, or just catching our breath in the lobby. The workshops are top-notch and I learned a lot in every single one I attended.  Since I’ve gone back to more regularly writing historical, I was very interested in the workshop hosted by Eliza Knight and Kimberly Killion, “Corsets, Codpieces and Kilts… Oh My!” It was very informative – some of it I knew, a lot of it I didn’t. It was probably also one of the most fun workshops I’d attended – quite hysterical at moments – and I will be using a bunch of the info I picked up.
Of course the booksigning was lots of fun too – I sat behind Jen! And Mary Jo Putney! (fangirl moment #3)  And then realized Eliza Knight was right across from Jen! (fangirl moment #4 – and not a pretty one, I’m afraid. lol).
On Saturday night, a bunch of us grabbed dinner in the hotel bar, and Heather Graham joined us (fangirl moment #5). That was the most fun I’d had in a long time – I surprised myself by being fairly calm and somewhat civilized! lol  Seriously, Heather has an awesome sense of humor and she and her husband were genuinely regular – like the crew I hang with in my neighborhood – and fun. And Heather seriously rocked it during the party Saturday night – she’s got an amazing singing voice too!
Bottom line – one of the best cons I’ve attended, for many reasons. Some of them fun – like hanging with my friends and making new ones, and the opportunities available to me as a published author – and they will be remembered for years with lots of fondness. Some reasons not-so-fun, but important, and I got to be a part of that as well. There’s still a ways to go, and NJRWA’s conference was the perfect place to continue that progression, on several and very different levels.
Here’s hoping the stars line up so I can go again next year!