Saturday, January 9, 2010 By: Suzanne

The Endless Search

Ever have one of those authors that you simply never give up on? I have an author that I discovered many years ago and fell in love with. Unfortunately she has given up on my favorite series of hers but I never give up on her. I started reading The Ruins of Ambrai by Melanie Rawn when the second book The Mageborn Traitor was released. I had to look on Wikipedia to remember when exactly that was. March 1, 1997. Almost 13 years ago now. The funny thing is, now that I look that date up it's no wonder I remember the book so well. I seriously don't think I picked up the first book on the very day the second was released because I remember that day all too well. But I know it was close to this time and I know now why I continue to obsess about this series.
March 1, 1997 is the day that Arkadelphia, Arkansas, where I was living in at the time for college, was completely destroyed by an F4 tornado. It also happens to be my birthday; I was turning 20. At the time I was dating someone that I thought I was going to marry. Thank goodness for both of us it never happened, but we were very happy at that time. We had gone to visit my mom and my best friend from high school for the day (they only lived an hour away), to have dinner with them and celebrate my birthday. We stopped at a pawn shop about 15 minutes away from our destination so he could look at amps or guitars or some such. (I didn't play guitar then, though I wanted to learn). While there we learned from the guy working that a tornado was headed right for us. He had the news on and we watched the weather. We decided to stay there for a little while just in case. I stepped just outside the door and was shocked by the change in the weather. Just a few minutes before the sun had been shining. Not brightly but it had been there. Now the sky was a greenish-grey and the wind was blowing something fierce. Just as I called to my boyfriend to come see, I saw insulation flying through the air.
"I think maybe we should go back inside," I said.
"Ummm, yeah, good idea," he muttered.
So we rode the little tornado out, it wasn't much there and we thought we had a cute story to tell friends later.
When we went to dinner, the restaurant had the news on. It was one of those places like Chili's or Applebees or somesuch that always has the tvs on over the bar playing some game or news. On the all the channels was the news of the terrible tornados that whipped across Arkansas, Texas, and Louisanna. So many tornados that day all over the region that I doubt they ever knew exactly how many. I was shocked.

"I guess we weren't the only ones to see a tornado today!" I joked. But my mood quickly turned sour when I realized what they were showing. The pictures of devastation were just way too familiar.

"It's Arkadelphia," I breathlessly said to everyone at the table. "And that's the pharmacy that Kelli works at." It was leveled. There was truly nothing left of the building and I could not remember if Kelli (my roommate) was working that day. I tried immediately to call her, yet she didn't answer. I didn't know it at the time, but there were just not enough phone lines left in Arkadelphia to handle to normal amount of calls it gets, much less the massive amounts of people calling for help or people calling to see if loved ones were all right. I was simply frantic. I listened though when everyone said there was nothing I could do. I stayed, had dinner, and we left right after to go home and assess what we had left to go back to.

I will say right away, we were all very lucky. According to old reports (cause I couldn't remember this part) only 5 people died. It was shocking. You should have seen the devastation. The entire downtown was destroyed. I'm not exaggerating. There was was no building left standing downtown. This is where Kelli's work was. Kelli was not at work that day. She was not one of the few who died. In fact, she just had a baby two months ago. Everyone say congrats to Kelli!

Unfortunately for the town, most of the damage was done in the parts that were solely town. What I mean by this is, there are two universities in Arkadelphia. I highly doubt if they were not there that the town would survive. However, the most destruction was done in places that had nothing to do with either college. That turned out to be lucky for me and my friends though, in more ways than one. Our apartment and all the dorms being used were untouched. The universities had very little damage. As I recall the most damage was actually done to a dorm that was not used anymore. Just as the semester was ending, Kelli and I wanted to find a place off campus to live. Our campus apartment had some serious flaws and we needed a cheaper place to live.
An interesting side note. The pipes in that apartment popped constantly. It was loud so that you couldn't help but notice and be bothered by it. Unless you lived there. I remember going to the apartment with Kelli before I moved in and asking her what that noise was. She said, "What noise?" And cocked her head to listen. "Oh yeah, that's the pipes." She was serious. She had gotten so used to it that she didn't hear it anymore. I had almost the exact same conversation with a friend just a few months later, only I was the one saying "What noise?"

We found a couple new trailers for rent right where some houses had been destroyed and torn down. Another plus for us. I hate to list all the good things we got out of this tragedy, but they are there. My boyfriend and his friends rented the other trailer and we were suddenly party central. I'm sure the neighbor were overjoyed with us for the year we lived there but they had their moments too. We moved in during finals. I was deperately trying to study while listening to the constant pounding of hammers all around me as the town tried to recover. I tried to find some pictures, I figured there would be several but I guess the internet just was not as popular then as it is now so I couldn't find too many. Here's a good one to illustrate what I'm talking about.

It took me some digging but I found this one too:

So now, after all these years, is it any wonder that I still remember Melanie Rawn's books so well? The other day on Walking in the Mountains, JhanaJian brought up the subject of awareness. Mainly the post discussed how the two opposing forces of war and mediation can both bring us to a heightened sense of awareness. I believe this tornado did that for me at the time. I have read several of Melanie Rawn's other books, yet I remain spellbound (pun intended) by this incomplete series. I so aware of myself and my surroundings at this time of my life that I can sometimes remember whole conversations. I have a hard time some days remembering conversations from yesterday.

Many promises have been made that this series will be completed one day, yet Rawn continues to put it off, writing about other places and other characters. It is very possible The Captal's Tower (the third book) will never be written. But I never give up hope. Every so often I go on a search to see if there is any information about it. Everytime I find out about another story she did for a collection or a new book in different series she is writing. I am happy she got passed what ever difficulty she had. I'm not sure what it is but she has alluded to it in the notes of other books. This makes me not so anxious, knowing she has had some writer's block or personal problems or something that keeps her away from this series. But I loved this series and continue to hope that one day she will find her way back to it. And I never give up the search.


Simcha said...

Wow! I've always been terrified of tornadoes and I'm quite thankful that I've never encountered one, though there was one in Altlanta right before I visited it once.
I've been meaning to reread these books by Rawn, since I know I must have read them, many years ago, but I can't recall a single thing about them. I've actually been making a concerted effort lately to reread some of these books that I read when I was first began reading fantasy, though it's hard to get myself to reread books when there are so many new books coming out all the time that also want to read.

Tonya said...

She's a wonderful writer but I would suggest reading one of the other series since it doesn't seem as if she's ever going to finish the Exiles series.