CATALYST (Flashpoint #2) is the first book I’ve written in which the setting is a place neither my husband nor I have visited. I tackled this problem with research. Lots and lots of heartbreaking research.

Having achieved independence from Sudan in 2011, South Sudan is the world’s youngest democracy. But South Sudan isn’t a success story of free elections and political autonomy, of a thriving populace emerging from sixty years of war. No this is the worst example of what can happen with a nascent government undermined by corruption, tribalism, and other factors too complex to delve into here. Civil war broke out in South Sudan in 2013. It is estimated that up to 300,000 have been killed in the war. In a country with a population of 12 million, over 3.5 million have been displaced, creating a refugee crisis within South Sudan and the surrounding countries. Fighting has decimated crops and existing agricultural infrastructure. It is estimated 6 million people face starvation, all while women and children are being raped by both government and rebel forces, and male children forced to fight.

Traditional huts in the Sudd swamps of the White Nile near Bor, Bor county, Jonglei, South Sudan (6°21’54.68″N, 31°32’1.96″E)

South Sudan is an incredible, beautiful country covered in tropical forest, swampland, and grasslands. The country is home to a vast array of wildlife including lions, leopards, cheetahs, elephants, giraffes, zebras, hippopotami, chimpanzees, baboons, and monkeys. The Sudd is one of the world’s largest wetlands, during the rainy season the Sudd can extend to an area the size of England.

The country’s vast oil reserves could provide great wealth to the citizens, but control of the resource is likely one of the many causes of the conflict. While South Sudan has over 17,000 km of roads, only 200 km are paved. What little infrastructure existed before 2013 has been destroyed.

It was daunting to craft a romance in this setting. I needed to be respectful of the country’s dire situation while not writing a story so bleak, there was no joy to be found for readers. I hope readers can get lost with Bastian and Brie as they are stranded in the flooded grasslands of South Sudan and feel that irresistible pull that gives them sparks of joy in the midst of a nightmarish situation. And I hope readers will come away with some knowledge about a place that gets little attention. I can’t give South Sudan a happy ending, but I can shine a light on the plight of the people.

Here is part of my author’s note for CATALYST:

The issue of girls in the developing world dropping out of school because they have no way to manage their period is real, as is the crisis of famine and civil war in South Sudan. If any part of this story has touched you, and if you can afford to give to those in desperate need, please join me in donating to a charity that sends reusable menstrual panties to the developing world, and/or food aid to South Sudan. Some suggestions are Days For Girls or Pads4Girls for menstrual products, and World Food Programme or Oxfam for food aid.

Thanksgiving is upon us and I am giving thanks for all I have by donating to these charities and will be donating more as part of my holiday gift giving. With recent earthquakes, fires, and hurricanes, there are so many in need here in the US and all over the globe. I’m listing some of the charities I intend to support and ask that you share your favorite charities in the comments.

World Food Programme



Days For Girls

Heifer International

The Humane Society of the United States

UNIDOS Disaster Relief and Recovery Program to Support Puerto Rico

UNICEF USA Hurricane Relief

Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

Now it’s your turn! Tell me what charities are close to your heart. One commenter will win a signed print copy of CATALYST and I will donate $50 to UNIDOS Disaster Relief and Recovery Program to Support Puerto Rico in the winner’s name.

Four-time Golden Heart® finalist Rachel Grant worked for over a decade as a professional archaeologist and mines her experiences for storylines and settings, which are as diverse as excavating a cemetery underneath an historic art museum in San Francisco, survey and excavation of many prehistoric Native American sites in the Pacific Northwest, researching an historic concrete house in Virginia, and mapping a seventeenth century Spanish and Dutch fort on the island of Sint Maarten in the Netherlands Antilles.

She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and children and can be found on the web at

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