Type M is pleased to welcome guest blogger Mary Anna Evans, author of the wonderful Faye Longchamp Mystery series. Faye lives the exciting life of an archaeologist, and Mary Anna envies her a little. In her latest Faye Longchamp mystery, Mary Anna takes Faye to Oklahoma, which I, Donis, think is a very fine thing indeed. Find Mary Anna on Facebook and Twitter, where she runs regular contests for her followers, who can win books, swag, or the chance to have a character named after them!
This should be no surprise to anyone who has read my work, since Artifacts closes with the mother of all hurricanes. To research that story, I read a book called Florida's Hurricane History from cover to cover, but I also dredged my own memory for colorful details. When I was seven years old, Hurricane Camille blew ashore 60 miles south of me and roared over my head. When you read that Faye is hearing the trunks of thick-bored pine trees snap, know that I remember that sound. And if, perchance, you should read in Burials about Faye experiencing extreme weather in the form of severe thunderstorms and maybe a tornado in Oklahoma, know that I have personal experience with those, too. I grew up in Mississippi, which weather aficionados have dubbed with its own stormy nickname--Dixie Alley. I've lived through enough hurricanes, tornadoes, and near-misses to know that it's all fun and games until The Weather Channel sends Jim Cantore to town.
So what does it feel like to be way too close to a tornado?
Well, a tornado took out my school's football stands and field house when I was eight, just a short walk from my classroom. I should have been able to see it happen, but all I can tell you is that the sky turned so black that we couldn't see even that short distance. When I was in the fifth grade, a funnel cloud skirted our elementary school campus, but I can't tell you much because we were all in the hall, sitting on the concrete floor with our heads between our knees. The same thing happened when I was a student at Ole Miss, but we were all ushered to the library basement, where we could trust that we'd be safe, unless all the floors, ceilings, books, shelves, and furniture on the upper floors caved in on us.
Fortunately (fortunately?), I can tell you more about the tornado that interrupted my eighth-grade English class. The sky turned green. (Yes, it really does that.) The clouds were a shade of purple that was somehow both deep and bright. As they lowered over us, daytime went nighttime-dark and the streetlights came on. We were herded into the hall to, once again, sit on the concrete floor with our heads between our knees, but this time there were skylights over us. And this time I peeked.
Those purple clouds roiled above the skylights and they dropped hailstones the size of softballs. The hail hit the roof with loud thunks and clanks, and the sky got even darker. The sound of the wind did indeed sound like a locomotive, just as every witness of a tornado has always said. Later, school gossips said that our school principal was outside watching the storm as it happened. Now that I'm an adult, I'm guessing that he was wondering what he'd do to protect us all, if things turned bad, but the gossip among youngsters was more lurid. Everyone said that he had to wrap his arms and legs around a post just to keep from being blown away. Remembering the force of the wind's gusts, I do not doubt it.
I'm writing this post on the sunniest of days, but a thunderstorm just two nights ago brought marble-sized hail to my Oklahoma back yard. It took those icy nuggets for a reminder that the earth is big and that I am small. And I took it for a sign that the tornado gracing the cover of my brand-new book was just the right image to usher it out into the world.
Happy spring to you all!
Visit Mary Anna's website at http://maryannaevans.com