My Books

Anniversary of Tornadoes

TV CoverAlgebra makes me nervous. Letters mixed with numbers doesn’t seem right to me. I’m not the norm in my town of Huntsville, Alabama -one of the top three cities for science, math and tech grads. Yet, I walk amongst them.

Some letter/number combinations are daunting to even the most precise engineer, however. Combos like F4 and F5 strike a different chord, no matter your walk of life in this town. Home of both NASA and the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command, ironically, Huntsville is also targeted as the most tornado-damaged city in the nation.

On this day five years ago, we saw some of the worst devastation on April 27, 2011 from not one, but several invasive tornadoes. One formidable F5 traveled on the ground for over 90 miles to wreak its havoc. But you should see our city now. The land is recovering and beauty has been restored. A wasteland is now a park. We have more shelters, more warning systems, better awareness, which translates to future lives saved.

We are proud, yet humble. Proud of where we are now, compared to then. And humble for what the future holds for us in terms of tornado activity. We keep building and keep hope alive. God bless those who lost what can’t be rebuilt or restored. May your hope be renewed too.

You can read our stories here in Tornado Valley: Huntsville’s Havoc .

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Day of Devastation

TV CoverApril 27, 2011, a difficult day for Alabama to forget. Today marks the four year anniversary of the Day of Devastation when 62 tornadoes touched down in our state, leaving nearly 300 dead.

I met a lady who was untouched by those storms, but later, found a letter that had blown in through her screened porch door. The postmark and address was from Phil Campbell, AL-a town 75 miles away, and one that was levelled by an F5 tornado on that fateful Wednesday.

The letter was nothing much, just some country club dues that someone owed. However, the lady felt she had been sent the letter for a reason, so she drove the 1.5 hr. drive to Phil Campbell to find the addressee. She soon discovered that the person whose name was on the letter died in the F5.

The lady was touched in a small, random way. Many Alabama folks were directly touched when the random tornadoes became very personal to them. My thoughts and prayers go out today for all those victims and those still living with loss. God be with you and your families. We haven’t forgotten and we never will.

The Magic Eraser

Write Baby Write: You Can Do It It had been a long time since I looked under the kitchen sink. “I need to look under here,” I said to my husband, as he prepared a meal for supper club that evening. He just stared, not used to my being in the kitchen while he cooked. Gourmet chefs can be like that.

While deveining shrimp, he stepped over to avoid the cabinet door banging his shins while I searched the cabinet’s contents. Unlike Mother Hubbard, my cupboard was never bare, filled to the brim with stuff I intended to use ‘someday.’ I forgot what I was looking for in the clutter, but spied something else: Magic Erasers. I eased the unopened box toward me while bottles of cleaner toppled like bowling pins. I slammed the cabinet shut before rolling a strike.

The Magic Erasers were an impulse buy during my coupon binge in 2011. Besides twenty jars of free mustard, I often returned from grocery trips with household cleaners for pennies on the dollar after stacking coupons. The Magic Erasers were new-in-the-box, but I doubted they would work four years later. While my husband slaved away in the kitchen, I decided it would be an ideal time for me to try a new product. I wetted one end of the eraser and dabbed it on the wall. I couldn’t’ believe it; the mark disappeared, the mark that had been there since we last moved furniture-could it be seven years ago? The seven-year mark disappeared as did all the others when I erased my whole house. I only stopped when the Magic Eraser disappeared. Indeed it was magic.

Good writing needs a magic eraser too. On a keyboard, it’s called the backspace key. Before computers, we mostly used pencils. My pencil eraser always wore out well before the sharpened writing tip, and I thought that was bad. I was convinced that good writing needed lots of words, the more the better. I was rewarded for adding flab to research papers in order to increase the pages or word count, per a teacher’s requirements. Once I finally learned what an adjective was, I strung them together to make even longer sentences. My daughter did the same on her homemade cards, writing: I love you so, so, so, so, so…much-until her Crayola disappeared like the Magic Eraser. She did this to show me love when she was five years old, but you won’t be showing the reader love if you water down words with over-abundant adjectives to impress them-unless you’re five years old.

Mark Twain once said, “If you find an adjective, kill it.” He even suggested to “substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.”

I’m amazed at the end of every writing piece after performing a document word search for ‘very.’ I need to stock up on Magic Erasers for my ‘verys’ alone. But let’s back up to the pencil. With a pencil, you can’t write and erase at the same time. It’s the same with writing-you can’t erase until after you’ve written. Write first and erase later. And then be ruthless with the ‘verys.’ They are very annoying.

Check out some more encouragement and writing tips in my latest book WRITE, BABY, WRITE: You Can Do It! Available at Amazon

Blog Days of Summer

When I last looked, it was eleven days, nine hours, and fifty-three seconds until autumn. Tell that to my air conditioner. There’s no sign of the heat letting up and the humidity is almost like a second skin now. We’re in ‘the dog days of summer’ and so is my blog. Wikipedia claims this time to be in July and August, but I beg to differ here in the South. More of the same sultry weather is to be expected as the muggy days drag on and on.

Tis the season to complain during this interim. We absolutely hate to wait. We’re afraid of down-time and end up wasting the in-between opportunities because they weren’t in the plan. We have a plan for the future, but we don’t have a plan for right here and now. That could actually be a good thing. Good things come to those who wait, right?

I’m trying to make some sense of this whole ‘time on my hands’ theme without copping a guilt trip. I know the movers and shakers of this world share no sympathy with me and secretly relish every chance to share war stories about all-important busyness in every season. I was once one of them, the queen of the hive, in fact.

Lately, I have found that it is a blessing not to be busy at all times. This is not to be confused with being lazy. Laziness is doing nothing when you should be doing something-the whole ‘idleness is the Devil’s workshop’ kind of thing. Believe it or not, there are some times when you’re not supposed to be doing anything. It’s called REST. Isn’t it silly to stress over rest? We strive for rest and get it, but feel guilty for enjoying it, and do our best to whittle it away until we’re finally busy again.

Doing nothing can be good for you. I believe a spectrum of opportunities exists for everyone. When we are in position at the same time that opportunities line up, we can reach up and grab those opportunities that were always there. Many times this happens when we’re in-between projects or on our way to somewhere else. We often see the lack of events as delays, even interruptions to our rhythm, instead of the opportunities that they are. Rest assured, if we are busy, we won’t see them at all.

Let’s hang in there for the dog days of summer. Change is a-coming, but it might not be today. Meanwhile, the electric meter spikes along with the heat, but let’s try to submit, if just for a day, to the rhythm of something else besides ourselves. In other words, get busy resting.

Check out some more encouragement and writing tips in my latest book WRITE, BABY, WRITE: You Can Do It! Available at Amazon ($3.99)

Mr. Write

25th Anniversary! A quarter of a century. When you put it that way, it sounds like a long time. Today, my husband and I celebrate twenty-five years of marriage, our silver anniversary. We might not want to mention the silver too much though. Because of my paint fetish, entire rooms in our home change colors with the seasons. The downstairs looks as if the Jolly Green Giant scattered Skittles on the walls. My husband handles my painting sprees well. The only time I saw him visibly flinch was when I sponge-painted our master bedroom metallic silver. We’ve been celebrating this silver anniversary for some time now, and I get the feeling he’s looking forward to another year soon.

I certainly married my Mr. Right. Not only that, I married my Mr. Write. Randy is my agent, my beta reader, webmaster, social media manager, and everything that I’m not when it comes to writing. I still haven’t figured out exactly who “they” is, but “they” say writers should choose one person to whom they are writing and write for that person only. Randy is that person that I write to and for. He’s the one. He is the second set of eyes for all my written material. Sometimes those words are for our eyes only and the rest of the world never gets to see them.

Every writer needs someone she can trust, no matter what pops out of her fingers onto the paper. That can be a tall order. Randy readily volunteered to lead Team Shelly, even when our team only had two people. Besides my writing confidante, Randy is the gatekeeper who protects my writing psyche. He is a real life Billy Goat’s Gruff for anyone trying to cross the bridge to me. The trolls don’t get to pass. I receive only the glowing book reviews from him. Imagine my surprise when Amazon’s marketing referred me to my own book, thinking I would like to read it and buy it. I was very surprised that Tornado Valley: Huntsville’s Havoc, received four out of five stars. However, what’s most important to me is that my husband still thinks I am five out of five stars.

Happy Anniversary, Randy! Thank you for twenty-five adventurous years. I eagerly await our Golden Anniversary. I wonder if Behr Satin paint comes in gold?

Check out some more encouragement and writing tips in my latest book WRITE, BABY, WRITE: You Can Do It! Available at Amazon ($2.99)

A Weird Writer’s Block

You thought you’d heard them all! When it comes to excuses for not writing, you’ve heard ones like: I might not have it in me anymore, I don’t have time, and what if no one likes it? Or worse, what if no one cares? Well, I’ve got a new one for the books. I’m afraid to write because I’ll gain weight.

My latest book, WRITE, BABY, WRITE: You Can Do It! even dealt with the whole writer’s block issue. But it didn’t deal with my gaining fifteen pounds in the process of writing it. Yep, I took the whole ‘butt in chair’ principle to heart in order to finish writing. Indeed, I finished. Unfortunately my butt paid the price. Instead of writing in solitude, my constant companions were three nosy cats and three (or was it thirteen?) not-so-nutritious donuts. I thought it would be okay since the donuts were the little ones. Not so. I also have my neighbor to thank for introducing me to sea-salt caramel gelato. My figure didn’t stand a chance after chapter one.

Now that the book is in the care of Amazon, I can focus on my health. After three months of staying faithful to the free Lose-it app, http://www.loseit.com, and keeping my butt out of the chair by exercising it, I’m back down to my pre-writing weight. This whole scenario strangely sounds like having a baby. I would argue that birthing a book takes as much out of you, except you’ll be lucky if the book incubation period is only nine months.
I am finally ready to face the blinking cursor again. I can kiss the weight gain excuse goodbye. But first, I am taking one proactive step before I begin my next book. My writing computer has been moved to an upstairs bedroom furthest from the kitchen. My bottom will actually have to leave the chair to go to the kitchen. By the way, have you tried the sea-salt caramel gelato?

WRITE, BABY, WRITE: You Can Do It!
Available at: Amazon ($0.99)