Tuesday, February 05, 2008

A Writer's Worst Nightmare . . .

Last week I received an awful bit of news regarding two of my clients in Texas. James and Livia Reasoner are a husband-and-wife writing team with well over 150 published books between the two of them. Unfortunately, they’ve lost everything—except, thankfully, one another and their family—in a devastating fire that ripped through their home last Tuesday. They’re amazing people. Talking to James last week, he was incredibly upbeat and said, “I told Livia, ‘Everybody has their rough days. We had ours on Tuesday.’”

Some of their most precious possessions—and I’m sure you can relate—were their books. They’ve lost the entire collection of their published works, their valuable research materials, and favorite classics. Then, of course, there was their computer and their works-in-progress. But James was already writing again in a spiral notebook. Not surprising. Both he and Livia are two of the most professional, conscientious writers I’ve ever worked with.

The two of them hold a special place in my heart. There’s no one I’ve worked with longer—since the day I first started as an editorial assistant at Berkley Publishing in 1995. In fact, Livia’s romance novel Mending Fences was my very first acquisition as a young editor. I need to dig through my collection to check, but I’m really hoping I still have a copy of that one to send to her.

The real story here, though, is the amazing support that’s rallied around them. They’re receiving all sorts of wonderful donations in the form of money, clothes, books, etc. Their writing community has gotten the word out quickly and I think all of them, like you, sympathize with the notion of losing an entire library built over two lifetimes. Below I’ve attached a notice issued by the Western Writers of America, for anyone who’d like to help.

Longtime Western writer and WWA member James Reasoner and wife Livia lost their house and studio, and all their belongings, in a fire earlier this week. They're OK, as are their dogs and children, but got out with only their clothes they were wearing. Books, pulps, comics, everything else, gone. "This is totally overwhelming," James says.

To help the family, Western Writers of America and Kensington Books have agreed to make sizable contributions and ask anyone who would also like to contribute to send cash donations to the WWA Executive Director's office in Albuquerque, N.M. Make the check out to Western Writers of America and put in the memo that the money is for the James Reasoner Emergency Fund.

Checks should be mailed to:
MSC06 3770
1 University of New Mexico
Albuquerque, NM 87131-0001

Since James and Livia also lost their sizable library, donations are also being sought to help restock their bookcases whenever they have a new home. Kim Lionetti, Livia's agent at BookEnds, has generously agreed to accept any BOOK donations and keep them until the Reasoners have a place to put them. Books should be sent to:
Kim Lionetti
BookEnds Inc.
136 Long Hill Road
Gillette, NJ 07933

Our thoughts and prayers are with James, Livia and family during this trying time. Thanks for your help.
Johnny D. Boggs
WWA Vice President

Knowing the Reasoners, and seeing the generous support they’ve received, I’m sure they’re going to be just fine. But news like this sure does make you sit back and put everything into perspective, doesn’t it?



Amy said...

That's awful! My heart goes out to the two of them, but thank God they and their family are okay!

There's a reason I'm paranoid enough to make copies of my works-in-progress and keep them in several different places, and that has to be number one on the list.

Chris Redding said...

How awful. My thoughts are with them.
I'm very thankfuly my husband does a full back up that he keeps at his office.
Now I just have to scan in all of our pics, burn them to a cd and put them in the safe deposit box.

Julie Weathers said...

This is terrible news. My heart goes out to them.

I added them to my blog a while back because I found their site to be fascinating.

Shaun Carney said...

It's not just a writer's worst nightmare, but anyone's. By the grace of God, this has never happened to me, but I feel for them. Maybe, if you could post a list of the books you need to send to them, we might be able to track them down.


Anonymous said...

So very sad. And they are displaying such a courageous attitude about it all.

A reminder to all:

Always email your WIP to yourself so that you have it/them backed up on the web. Also handy in the event of computer crash.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I wonder if we might get a list of their favorite authors...and were there favorite children's books, too?

Anonymous said...

Here's a list of their publications: http://home.flash.net/~livia/books.html

Beyond that, they're both fans of the West and had quite a few fiction and nonfiction titles based on those interests. They're also mystery fans. I believe James had a collection of the older pulps that will be difficult to replace.

I'm afraid I don't have anything more specific than that. If they get back to me with something more, I'll let you know.

You can also see James' blog about the fire at http://jamesreasoner.blogspot.com/.

Anonymous said...

How awful! All writers using computers should do automatic online backups, like the ones offered by Mozy.com (no, this isn't an ad!). Backups of up to 2MB are free, and once you've installed the nonburdensome software and set it up (a quick process), it will back up your files every day in the background; you never have to remember to do it! And recovering files is easy (trust me--I've had to do it!). Please, writers, do this!

B.E. Sanderson said...

How horrible. I can't imagine. I'm glad to hear everyone made it out safely, but to loose their books. That's a nightmare for me.

Thank you for giving some hints on the books they lost. I'll see what I have in those categories, and while they may not recover everything they lost, maybe they'll get some new treasures to love in the process.

amanda h said...


This is terrible news. My heart goes out to them. I completely understand what it is to lose everything in an instant. (Don't ask.)

It is overwhelming right now, but they will survive. James has the right attitude. Work, especially writing, helps to heal. That and a really good insurance agent (yes, some exist).

(Strangely, I was just reading "Murder by the Slice.")

My thoughts are with them right now.


Eva Gale said...

Thanks for posting how we can help them.

Anonymous said...


How awful for James and Livia! I'm so glad that they're both safe, though, which is the most important thing of all.

Thanks for sharing the news.


Heather Wardell said...

Just a reminder: emailing files to yourself for backup doesn't do much good if the emails are all downloaded to your computer, which is generally the default for most email programs.

Having a web-based email address (gmail, hotmail, yahoo) to use for backups isn't a bad idea, and then the backups WILL be available.

Heather (a former software developer/computer teacher, who backs up her novel files to: a secure folder on her web site, her Palm handheld, and an external hard drive at home, as well as making sure at least one paper copy of all completed work is outside the house)

Christie Craig said...


Having lost my family home to fire when I was a teenager, I really feel for the Reasoners. Thank you for letting us know.


Anonymous said...

Do you have a list of authors they enjoy reading?


Diana said...

Oh, how sad and scary. I will be keeping the Reasoners in my thoughts.

There's a reason why my husband and I tend to carry our thumb drives everywhere.

Julie Weathers said...

GG, yes, I learned the hard way when I lost a 406 page novel. Computer crashed and the back up disc was corrupted.

Rachel, I'm going to check that out.


Livia J Washburn said...

I'm at our local library while my youngest daughter is trying to find books to teach her next lesson. We're still staying with my parents, trying to get a mobile home set up on our property. We've hit many road blocks. The usual you have to do this before you can do that.

Thank you doesn't seem enough for all the care and help that has been given us. We were pretty lost for a while. For the record we do back up our work on jump drives that we take everywhere with us. I have my newer one that had the one chapter and a few other things. Both of James' were in his computer when he smelled fire. He could get the jump drives or our daughters little dog. He grabbed the dog. The wind was 40-60 mph and the field behind was totally on fire. He had no time to do anything else. If he hadn't been working both jump drives would have been in his pocket.

As for books. How can you live without books? We had so many . . . It wasn't just ours that burned. Both my daughters books burned, too. My oldest is a biology chemistry major who's getting certified to teach and she had many textbooks. My youngest is student teaching in first and second grade and had bought so many books. I don't want anyone going out and buying anything. If you have books you want to get rid of, however. I can get an address on the web soon. I hope we can get moved in by next week. I need to be out there so I can start rebuilding. And I will rebuild!

Livia Washburn Reasoner