The Passion to Pay-It-Forward by Thomasina Burke

This week, I am thrilled to welcome my guest Author Thomasina Burke, who has kindly come over to share her personal experiences of the devastating Crown King, Arizona fires, and her generous offer to donate 20% of the proceeds of her book, Magic Bridge, to help others rebuild their lives. Eternally altruistic, this not the first time Thomasina has displayed this sort of largesse to others. Read on and discover how passionately she feels.

When I published my book, Magic Bridge, I had no idea that it would take on a life of its own.  I thought it was a sweet story, filled with travel, adventure and the love of a lifetime.  I hoped it would help others to overcome the pain that comes with grief, panic, and sexual abuse, and to treasure each moment with their loved ones.

Thomasina Burke

Somehow, though, it became even more; Magic Bridge has become a vehicle for a number of causes for which I am passionate.  To be able to use something that I have lovingly crafted in order to help others gives me more pleasure than I could have imagined.

I’ll back up for just a second, and give you a brief synopsis and timeline.  Five years ago my husband and I were bumping along a twenty-seven mile dirt road, one that we voluntarily drive every weekend because it lands us in the beautiful hamlet of Crown King, Arizona, where our charming cabin sits on two acres of gorgeous land.  Our hearts were heavy this weekend, as my sister Kelley Bridgette was in the final throes of her long battle against breast cancer, and our thoughts were now turning towards memorializing her life.

That day, my husband uttered these words, “Wouldn’t it be cool to write a book about two people that love each other, enjoyed travelling around the world, and make a promise that they will take the other’s ashes to the places they loved best when the time comes?”  From that weekend forward, as we made our dusty drive, we conceptualized.  Which places of all the places WE have travelled would we choose? Which character would meet their demise?  How?  What kind of journey would the solo character embark on?

So, I wrote that book.  I utilized a creative army of friends that were just able to pull off the enormous task of editing, formatting, cover artwork, creating eBooks, printing, etc.   All along the way I thought each of those was the most difficult; until I had an actual book in my hand with no concept how to undertake the hardest task of all, the beast called Marketing.

Then, a natural disaster occurred which gave me a cause and a platform for my book.  You see, the characters pick seven spots in the world as “their places,” the places that call out to their souls, either through beauty, a lifelong challenge met, or a difficult time in their marriage.  One of those seven places is the hauntingly beautiful Vernazza, Italy, located in the Cinque Terre region of Italy.  A place that my husband and I have visited many times over the years.

Within two weeks of my book’s publication, a horrific flood devastated Vernazza, Italy on October 25, 2011.  After a deluge of nearly fifteen inches of rain in only four hours, a fifteen foot tall wall of water, mud, cars, and debris came coursing through their main street, washing four residents out to sea, and destroying the businesses and houses in its path.  This beautiful little town was torn apart, forcibly evacuated, and destined to become a ghost town but for the efforts of its locals to rebuild their town.

I immediately contacted the “Save Vernazza” team, consisting of three American “ex-pats,” women with a mission to rebuild their town.  I offered proceeds from my book sales towards their rebuilding efforts.  They happily placed me on their website as one of their fundraising partners.

Another type of flood then began, this one a torrent of people from all over the world, those that also loved Vernazza and wanted to purchase my book to support the fundraising efforts.  I spent my evenings packaging up books and sending them throughout the world.  The Rick Steves’ “Europe Through the Back Door” team bought forty for their staff members.   The guys at the local Post Office knew me by name (before I discovered how to print up media mail labels at home).  What a great feeling, getting my books out there for a good cause, helping others through the beauty of the written word.

Then the emails started coming in, first a trickle, and then a cascade from my readers.  The things that they said brought happy tears to my eyes and warmed my soul.  “You captured the essence of Vernazza so beautifully.”  “You have changed my life with your book. “  “I took the time to talk to my parents about their end of life wishes.”  Email after email, telling me how my words had changed their lives in various ways.

The rebuilding efforts in Vernazza have continued over the last seven months, and they have slowly started inviting tourists back to their community.  As one of their fundraising partners, I was invited to come and experience a “behind the scenes tour,” and I will be travelling there in July.  We have come full circle in our good will and giving.

Nearly two weeks ago, I got a phone call from the Fire Chief of the Crown King Fire Department, bearing dreadful news of a fire in our area.  Both my husband and I are volunteer firefighters, he on the Water Tender, and I on Rescue 1, the medical unit.   Chief was summoning us up to Crown King, where a house fire had quickly morphed into a deadly wild land fire.

We never made it up, as the fire snaked its course down the main road, cutting off access and quickly turning into a Federal Type I fire.  Nearly 1200 hotshot crewmembers from around the United States descended upon Crown King, to fight the “Gladiator Fire.”  True gladiators giving of themselves to try to protect our homes, our forest, and our community.

I wanted so badly to be there, providing medical rehabilitation and help in whatever way I could.  Unfortunately, I have a “real job” as a nurse in the Valley of the Sun, and they needed a time commitment of two weeks.  So, I sucked it up, and did the only thing I knew I could do to help; donate book proceeds to the Crown King rebuilding fund.

I contacted every Arizona news station, was featured on several news shows, and got the word out that sales of Magic Bridge would be going to the Crown King fundraising efforts.  I brainstormed with my good friend and publicist, and came up with another feel-good idea, www.ebooks4firefighters.com.  A website in which Independent Authors could donate their eBooks to the brave men and women that often spend months away from their homes, as they go from fire to fire.  If you are an “Indie” and would like to donate your book, please visit this website.

It has been a long two weeks, one filled with ups and downs.  At one point the fire was less than a mile from our cabin.  We’ve had temperatures in the triple digits here in Arizona, coupled with fifty mile an hour winds, low relative humidity, and every other condition that wild land firefighters dread.  Somehow, they have done it.  We just got the word this morning that we can start returning, first the full time residents, and then the part-time cabin owners.

I will be heading up that twenty-seven mile dirt road tomorrow, and I have an idea what I will be seeing.  The road up will be a burned-out moonscape, but eventually I will come to the “real” Magic Bridge, the gateway to Crown King, and enter our delightful, quirky little town.  I’ve heard that the town itself is mostly intact, with towering Ponderosa Pines, rustic cabins, and our historic Main Street housing the Saloon and General Store.  My husband and I will wind our way one more mile up to our cabin, possibly covered in red slurry from the fire suppression efforts, and containing a refrigerator filled with an interesting science experiment of spoiled food.

I will be able to go to bed tomorrow night, lulled by the sound of pine trees rustling in a gentle wind, knowing that Magic Bridge has made a profound impact on other’s lives.  Sometimes, life just doesn’t get any better than that!  I encourage all authors to find their passion, and “pay-it-forward” through their book.

Author Bio

Thomasina Burke is a native Phoenician who loves just about everything in Arizona. She and her husband Bill reside in Phoenix, but every weekend they head up the dirt road to their cabin in Crown King, Arizona. A Registered Nurse and Volunteer Firefighter, she can also be found hiking any of the Phoenix mountains, Irish dancing, or planning a new travel adventure. “Magic Bridge” is her first novel.  She can be reached at tommey@thomasinaburke.com or through her website, http://www.magicbridgethebook.com/

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