Guest Post: Mary Feliz

Welcome back to longtime Mysterista friend Mary Feliz. Sometimes life imitates art and sometimes it feels like the other way around. But authors don’t cause that…or do they?

Do writers cause disasters? Predict them?

Cover_Disorderly Conduct (Book 4)Creation isn’t causation, but sometimes it feels that way when a novel’s plot becomes the day’s leading news story.

In Disorderly Conduct a wildfire threatens to overtake my characters’ home in the foothills above Silicon Valley. Fire season is a significant a part of California’s climate calendar, so what could be more appropriate than forcing Maggie, Max and the kids into the path of a campfire run amok?

My own experiences with wildfire are limited to detours and coping with smoke and soot blown from distant blazes. But stories of others’ closer encounters abound, and I was confident in creating a realistic but imaginary scenario for the McDonald’s and their neighbors. To create the dramatic opening, I relied on a mash-up of stories from the Oakland Hills Fire Storm in 1990.

It must have worked. My Kensington editor decreed “it’s a bit eerie” when, within a month of typing “The End,” a terrifying fire scenario erupted in Santa Rosa and became national news. Dry conditions and high winds turned sparking electrical wires into an inferno that plowed straight through my nephew’s school, burning it to the ground.

My sister awoke in the middle of the night to a glow on the horizon and asthma-inducing clouds of smoke clogging the air. Her husband dashed to help out at the winery operations he manages. She packed emergency bags while her offspring slept.

Dog with First-Aid-KitIt was the start of an ongoing nightmare that left friends, family, coworkers, and the school with no place to call home. Horror stories were endless, as were uplifting tales of neighbors helping neighbors. Fundraisers followed, helping the newly homeless and giving purpose to those who’d lost their sense of security. My nephew’s school missed only a few days and was temporarily rehoused in neighboring schools.

Statewide, those of us who believed it couldn’t happen to us were forced to accept we’re all at risk. The Santa Rosa fire jumped a freeway, burned irrigated fields, and left charred swathes of suburban homes and businesses. Previously, we’d known that hillsides were vulnerable to conditions that create firestorms, which in turn generate their own weather and confound all predictive models. Naively, those of us who live and work on the flat portions of Silicon Valley told ourselves that concrete pavement, fire retardant roofing shingles, and local fast-responding firefighters protected us. We believed that wide roadways gave us quick exit routes that would serve us well.

We were wrong. Recent fires have erupted so quickly that only the well-prepared have time to escape.

The answer? Assume it can happen to you. Have an escape plan for yourself and your animals. Adapt your strategy as the mobility of youngsters and the elderly change. Make sure everyone in the family knows your emergency protocol and their roles in it.

While it’s unlikely that an imaginative author is to blame for any disasters that befall you, your region undoubtedly has natural disasters and emergency situations of its own. It’s never too early to start planning. The chapter headings in my most recent mystery, Disorderly Conduct, offer emergency planning tips and resources.


About the book

Professional organizer Maggie McDonald balances a fastidious career with friends, family, and a spunky Golden Retriever. But add a fiery murder mystery to the mix, and Maggie wonders if she’s found a mess even she can’t tidy up . . .

With a devastating wildfire spreading to Silicon Valley, Maggie preps her family for evacuation. The heat rises when firefighters discover a dead body belonging to the husband of Maggie’s best friend Tess Olmos. Tess becomes the prime suspect in what’s shaping up to become a double murder case. Determined to set the record straight, Maggie sorts in an investigation more dangerous than the flames approaching her home. When her own loved ones are threatened, can she catch the meticulous killer before everything falls apart?


2017Feliz5773_C5x7WebMary Feliz writes the Maggie McDonald Mysteries featuring a Silicon Valley professional organizer and her sidekick golden retriever. She’s worked for Fortune 500 firms and mom and pop enterprises, competed in whale boat races and done synchronized swimming. She attends organizing conferences in her character’s stead, but Maggie’s skills leave her in the dust. Address to Die For, the first book in the series, was named a Best Book of 2017 by Kirkus Reviews. All of her books have spent time on the Amazon best seller list.


10 thoughts on “Guest Post: Mary Feliz”

  1. That must be so scary. The worst disaster that happens near me are floods, especially in the low-lying areas near the rivers. There is a natural catch basin not far away; a sudden storm overwhelmed the storm sewers, leading to complete submersion of vehicles within minutes. I remember that after a woman was killed, the city installed bigger sewers and an early warning system to keep people off the road once a sensor is tripped.

    Luckily, we live up a hill with good drainage. If the river ever rises to our level, it’ll be time to build an Ark.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Flash floods are so scary…particularly for those who don’t know what low-lying areas are prone to them. My 91-year-old mom lives in a situation similar to yours–high up on a hill. She and her neighbors keep on watchful eye on the weather report and stay put during and following downpours fearing they’ll be cut off and unable to return home.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Thanks for visiting, Mary! I did have something like that happen, where a real life event mirrored something in my book which was a major clue, so I won’t go into it. But, thank you for advice on fire preparedness. In Alaska, it’s earthquake preparedness. Every April, on the anniversary of the 1964 Good Friday earthquake, kids come home from school with lists of stuff we should have and I replenish my supplies. Recently the joint military base published a disaster preparedness contemplating twelve weeks of isolation. Don’t know what they know that I don’t know but it’s a bit unnerving.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Yikes. Twelve weeks? That’s seems an abundance of caution! I went through the 1989 Loma Prieta Quake in California with a tiny baby. My husband and I were sure we were handling it all with aplomb, but for nearly a year afterwards, every time a big truck when by, we grabbed hold of a solid object for support. Control freaks don’t like being reminded that Mother Nature is in control!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Wow, Mary, flash fires, and earthquakes, both terrify me. Living in Florida means hurricane preparedness is a way of life, and living in the crown of Maine means being ready to live in -40 without power or “mod cons” in the event of ice storms or blizzards, but both of those events come with some warning–which gives options.

    My very first book (it’s under the bed) takes place in Sint Maarten and it has a scene where hurricane winds push Carribean waters over the roads into the salt pond. Two years later Hurricane Marilyn hit the islands, it happened.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Sadly, fires are so timely, especially here in the west. They are so scary! We were evacuated once, and even though we had prepared for it, once the reverse 911 call came through, we couldn’t think straight.

    As for floods, we are on a hilltop too, and well out of the flood plain, but then we had a 1000 year flood, and ground waters ended up flooding us. So important to respect Mother Nature!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Mary, I think that most readers, (me included), want plots that skate just on the edge between our own reality and the danger that we NEVER want to experience.

    Here in Southern California we have fires and floods. I live in a canyon area and being at the bottom, all the rain runs downhill toward us. We have drains, and I check to be sure they are clear.

    We had two disastrous fires recently. In fact the second one was a few weeks after the first and was caused by “leftovers” from the first. We absolutely have an evacuation plan including a video of the house and contents stored in the cloud, and a “go” shelf in the closet with family photo albums, backpack with first aid kit and “stuff” and sensible shoes for everyone. In an emergency we would grab the computer and the stuff from the closet and be off.

    Perhaps I should add a good thriller to the shelf!


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