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Notes from the Tornado Zone

Tornado Damage Stadley Rough Road

The roads in my neighborhood were a dangerous maze of downed wires — my landline still hasn’t been fixed because they can’t even find some chunk of cable that disappeared. Here, at the corner of Stadley Rough Road and Great Plain, someone had tacked up wires so cars could “pass through.” It wasn’t as easy as it looked.

If you know me personally, then you probably know that a rash of freak storms tore through western Connecticut on May 15, spawning tornados and microbursts. My house got hit. We are not as bad off as some in our communities, but we sustained heavy damage—my bedroom’s not safe so we’re sleeping in the living room, our back porch was destroyed and what’s left of it is unstable, my husband’s car was flattened by falling trees, and all of our bird feeders and porch furniture were hurled everywhere like so many pick-up sticks. All of this, coupled with the estimated 30 trees on our property that are either downed or contorted in dangerous positions that may not last long, has made my life utter chaos.

Tornado damage back porch

Damage to the back porch. In case you’re wondering, those chairs weigh a LOT.

Everyone I love is safe, and everything that got broken is all just stuff. And, as more and more people chimed in on Facebook and reminded me that this was a good thing—“it’s just stuff, no one died”—yes, that’s true, but there was something about it that was bothering me. It made me realize that people who lose everything in devastating events like the Kilauea eruption and Hurricane Harvey aren’t just losing stuff. They are losing memories, stability, and their concept of home and what it means, even if only temporarily. It is also struggling to accept a state of chaos that may last for a long time—others not affected move on, while those that were will still be dealing with upheaval and a lack of normalcy months, if not years, afterward. It’s incredibly isolating.

If there is one thing I’m going to walk away from this with, it’s a new compassion for people who are left with nothing but wreckage. I understand the deep emotional impact now in a way I didn’t before. It’s probably going to change my life in many ways in terms of how I respond to natural disasters and how I can physically help. The first thing I wanted to do was go volunteer at the shelter that was set up here in Brookfield (there were people who suffered total, I mean total losses and we weren’t one of them, by far)—but once I got home, the roads were blocked, so I couldn’t leave.

Sadly, there will be a next time, and I will make sure I get there.

Below, the most important things rescued from my bedroom—I only needed to save them because of what they meant, not because of the items themselves.


Mumble, Dremlite, Pua

Build-A-Bear Mumble, Pua the Pig, and the Penguin Dreamlite—These were all stuffed animals my husband Nathan bought me. Mumble, who is the featured character in the 2006 movie Happy Feet, was the hottest item that Christmas. My husband busted his ass to get that thing for me…I heard the horror story on Christmas Eve of how he conned the lady at the counter to call him the second the shipment arrived. He got me the Penguin Dreamlite when he started working at the movie theatre in 2012—he would often work overnight and he got that to keep me company (I am afraid of the dark sometimes). Pua the Pig was my favorite character in Moana, so he got it for me for my birthday a couple of years ago. I like to cuddle with it…I may be 47, but I’m very in touch with my inner child.

For Kaye who sees everything

For Kaye Who Sees Everything—this painting was a Christmas gift to me from my friend Judith Nagib, who was in the Pencils! Writing Workshop I ran down in Norwalk from 2003-2009.

Uranus by Do'An

Uranus, by dear friend and mentor Do’An. It was the first piece of “real” art I ever owned, and when I look at it, I think of our great times together at Burlington College and how much he taught me about writing—and life.

Untitled by Heather Gleason -- This Poisoned Ground

This painting, by artist Heather Gleason, is untitled, but has an uncanny story. She was painting it at around the same time I was writing my novelette This Poisoned Ground, and it’s incredible how the painting describes what’s happening in the story. Talk about a fine example of the collective unconscious at work (no, we didn’t know each other at the time). You can check out Heather Gleason’s artwork here:

Need a Zombie Fix?


Artist Heather Gleason’s “Spring Mourning.” I own several of her pieces, but not this one. However, what’s interesting is that this creature is similar to what I’d envisioned in “A Bone to Pick”—which I wrote way before I ever saw this piece. In fact, Heather had another piece which was exactly how the story’s landscape looked in my head, but it was sold before I even knew it existed and I can’t find a photo of it to put here. Her “Devil Girl,” which I own, I bought because it symbolically told the story of “This Poisoned Ground.” It’s eerie—it’s like I write things and somehow she paints them later. Visit her website at

If you’re a fan of The Walking Dead, like I am, then you probably watch all the videos on the AMC website in between episodes to get your fix. This week, if you’re looking for something a little different to satisfy that zombie craving, consider gnoshing on my short story “A Bone to Pick,” which took second place in Toasted Cheese’s 2011 Dead of Winter Contest. The year’s theme was “Skull and Bones,” but the story was inspired by a situation in The Walking Dead’s second season.

The story was published in the magazine’s March issue, but with all the wedding craziness that was going on at the time, I never posted about it. Enjoy!


First stop: GARLIC SHOOTERS. What’s a garlic shooter, you ask? Well, it’s ice water, fresh chopped garlic, and fresh-squeezed lemon juice in a shot glass. Best thing for you. And if you want to tank it up for a party…vodka instead of water. Kick. Ass.

I know. It seems that I have vanished these past three weeks—I haven’t been doing much in the way of blogging, the Goodbye Project has stopped just short of Episode 25, and in general, I’ve been kinda quiet on Facebook. What’s going on?

Lots of things, and all good: the second round of edits to my novel Bad Apple, due out this November; preparing for upcoming Halloween events, such as Rock ‘n’ Shock, the Middletown Open Air Festival, and AnthoCon; and writing three brand new ghost stories. It probably didn’t help that I had a piece of wood go through my foot that left me in not such great shape during this time, but it was a chance to get caught up on some reading.

So last Saturday I finally got ready to play catch-up: photos from the Hebron Harvest Fair, announcements of upcoming events and publications, and some fun stuff—like my first-ever series of posts on the classic ghost stories which inspired Disney World’s Haunted Mansion and some news about other writers’ books and publications. I badly needed the day to work.

But last Saturday was also the Hudson Valley Garlic Festival in Saugerties, NY, an event never missed to the point where it’s considered a sacred annual pilgrimage. We purchase our garlic for the year, jam to zydeco by Captain Squeeze & the Zydeco Moshers, do garlic shooters and eat garlic knots and ice cream, buy a new piece of spooky art for my collection from My Eclectic Mind’s Heather Gleason ( and generally come home stinking. Despite all I had to do, I didn’t want to miss it.

And in the end, I was glad I went. My point? Don’t always let your work keep you from the things you enjoy. You might just find that you return to your desk totally re-charged and with more determination, energy and drive than you would if you’d missed out.

Below, pics and vids of this year’s Hudson Valley Garlic Festival.


Charles and I down our first shooter of the day. It’s an annual tradition; the first thing we do when we get on the grounds is make a beeline for the shooters booth!

You’d be surprised at how delicious and refreshing garlic ice cream is. It’s usually vanilla ice cream, and the garlic lends it a smoky flavor. Great stuff.

I’m not a big fan of garlic fudge, but Charles is.

Every year, there’s a roast pig. Here’s this year’s victim.

The smell alone would drive you mad! It smells awesome!

Another annual tradition: GARLIC KNOTS. These are the best garlic knots in the universe. I simply don’t know how to describe them, other than that they make them and let them soak in butter, oil, and, of course…fresh chopped garlic. None of that jar stuff for these folks!

There’s no lack of gusto at the Garlic Fest. These guys from Mirabella’s—just your little friendly neighborhood Italian joint in Saugerties, NY—kept the crowd entertained with their barkering for the afternoon. Check it out in the video below!

Don’t miss Mirabella! Check ’em out on MetroMix:

Throngs shop for garlic at the many, many booths.

It’s Captain Squeeze & the Zydeco Moshers! They always get the crowd moving.

These guys were the first people to pose with my book Skeletons in the Swimmin’ Hole: Tales from Haunted Disney World in 2010! Check out the photo here: Check out Captain Squeeze’s website: and hang out with them on Facebook!

Glued to Captain Squeeze and filming. Yes, that’s a bunch of garlic in my bag…I bought a nice grouping of Bogatyr for my Auntie Del as a gift.

Captain Squeeze & the Zydeco Moshers perform me and my late friend Cyn’s favorite: TREME! The video’s a little jittery until 25 seconds in, then it goes still so you can enjoy it. That’s probably because I was so excited they were playing that song I was jumping around. In case anyone’s wondering? Captain Squeeze is an English Lit teacher in NOLA. And hey….gotta love a sweaty drummer wiping off his face in rhythm to the music. Now THAT’s passion! 

Me, at My Eclectic Mind’s booth. Artist Heather Gleason is seated. The next few photos feature her artwork.

At center—the anxious girl devil, I’d like to call her—is the new piece I bought this year. Last year, I purchased a three-dimensional butterfly. Heather, I’m sure you have titles for these, so if you’re out there, feel free to comment!

Heather posed with Skeletons in the Swimmin’ Hole—Tales from Haunted Disney World at last year’s Garlic Festival. To see that photo, visit here:

Me with the new piece.

A close-up. I don’t own much in the way of art, but the pieces I do own always smack me in the face, as though they were painted just for me. Here, there is a girl too tortured by a demon in her past to face what’s right in front of her. In light of what I’ve been writing this year, it really, really said: YOU MUST OWN ME!

A close-up of the detail in the center of the work.

One of the true treats of the Garlic Festival is getting to drive through Saugerties, which is the perfect setting for a ghost story. What always amazes me about small towns in upstate New York is that they are distinctly different in look and feel from small towns in Vermont from small towns in New Hampshire from small towns in Maine. It’s interesting. I also love Saugerties because it reminds me of the setting of one of my favorite ghost stories, Age of Consent by Howard Mittelmark:

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