Tornado terrors

I’m an immersion writer.

I’m most productive when I can take a whole day or weekend to do nothing but write.  I’ll get up at 8:30 a.m. to boot up my laptop, and I may still be there at midnight, getting up only for bathroom breaks, maybe a 20 minute nap or to fix something to eat. There’s nothing but the sound of my keyboard, my old dog snoring at my feet, and my chair squeaking when I rock to sort through my thoughts.

I don’t turn on the television. I don’t play the radio. So, when a band of vicious tornadoes tore through North Carolina a week ago, I was blissfully unaware.

Well, if you don’t count the twenty text messages from my partner.

Is it raining there yet? No, I texted back. Do you have the television on? No, I’m writing. There are tornado warnings. Yeah, yeah, those television guys are forever crying wolf over rotating cloud formations that never break through the atmosphere.  I’m busy writing, honey.

I was struggling through a critical “almost first kiss” chapter and could care less what was happening in the rest of the world.

So, imagine my surprise when I booted up my laptop the next morning and did my routine check of news sites.  People were killed on the other side of town! Tornadoes had torn a swath through neighborhoods less than five miles from my house. When I drove into town on Monday afternoon, there was an path of destruction through businesses and an inner-city neighborhood only blocks from where I work. And, once at work, the galleries of photographs taken by my newspaper’s photographers were endless. Homes destroyed. The personal items of the victims were strewn for miles.

Those pictures made me think. If I had known tornadoes were so close, what would I have done?  I would gather my two pups and hunker down in the tub of the interior bathroom. That was a no-brainer.

Hmm. I picture myself standing in the middle of my house with a big green trashbag. What valued items would I stuff in the waterproof bag and make room for in the tub with me and the babies?

Family photographs? Maybe a few. I watch very little television, don’t play computer games, and value silence. So you couldn’t give away my non-HD, non-flat screen TVs. My only stereo is a small off-brand. So what do I have that I value?

Books. I would grab the few copies of my own titles, of course, sweep the whole shelf of Radclyffe books into the bag, 17 Geri Hill titles, all of Kim Baldwin’s (including the Thief series with Xenia), Ali Vali, J.M. Redmann and … no, wait. The bag is getting too full. The tub would be filled with books and there’d be no room for me and the dogs.

So, for future tornadoes, I now have  a plan for the bathtub. Me, the dogs and a water-proof trashbag filled only with a flashdrive containing my current unfinished manuscript, then signed copies or out of print titles I could not easily replace. Like RL Johnson’s “Take Time Out,” the best lesbian basketball story ever written. Susanne M. Beck’s Ice and Angel series and the first printing of Cate Culpepper’s Tristane series.  My homeowners insurance would replace the rest.

And, who knows? Our genre could gain a lot of new readers if a merry band of tornadoes sprinkled North Carolina’s Triangle metropolitan area with copies “Midnight Hunt,”  “The Devil Unleashed,” “Thief of Always” and “Fated Love.”  After all, people need something to read while they’re waiting for their power to be restored.

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  1. //

    I have a wonderful image of lesbian literature falling from the sky. Good one.

  2. //

    Great blog, Jackson. So happy you escaped unscathed and thrilled to hear your first instinct was to include all my books in your mental mad dash for what to protect and save. 🙂 This brought back memories of my own tornado a few years ago. I too looked out over the destruction the next morning and thought about what I’d grab if I had only a few minutes to collect what was most valuable.
    My own choices if it ever happens again (knock wood): the cats, wallet and passport, cellphone and laptop, and the portable hard drive which now contains digital copies of all my manuscripts and other important documents, treasured family photos, and every BSB book ever published.;)

  3. //

    To Kim. Thanks. Nothing like a disaster to get you thinking. I’ve got most of my stuff backed up on flashdrives, but I was thinking that it wouldn’t do me much good if my house burned down or disaster hit when I wasn’t at home. So, I’m shopping for server space to back up my laptop. Dell offers it for a price, but one of the guys at work was telling me about a place on the web called dropbox where you can store information for free. Sounds fishy that it’s free, but I’m going to check into it.

  4. //

    My brother lives and works in Raleigh and thankfully he is fine. I moved from the coast of North Carolina and Hurricane Alley to trade for Oklahoma’s Tornado alley. We’ve actually experienced the moment you describe, what to grab. Two adults, 3 large dogs, and two cats in a small bathroom is comical, add the blankets and mattress, bike helmets, and extra clothing and there isn’t room for much else.
    Several years ago I put all of our family histories, hers and mine, and all the old family pictures we gathered from relatives on a hard drive and saved it online as well. All of my writing backs up three places constantly. We have a plan where Deb grabs the PC and I grab the laptop and we run. Everything else, well what books and clothing i can throw in behind us goes as well. Oh and don’t forget the batteries, flashlight, water, snacks, dog and cat food, and battery operated weather radio.
    I had lived through hurricanes all my life, but nothing prepared me for the devastation of a tornado. They test the tornado sirens here every Saturday year round at noon. It freaks out the tourists. The weather is so ever changing and often volatile in Oklahoma we residence joke about it, because there is nothing else you can do. Will Rogers said, “If you don’t like the weather in Oklahoma, wait two minutes, it’ll change.” The weather stays on most of the local channels all spring. There are drinking games to go with what is said on the weather and who says it. But everyone out here has been touched by a tornado in one way or another. I pray for the residents of North Carolina and hope the healing process is a swift one.

  5. //

    holy cow. you must definitely be “in the zone” when you write! i envy that kind of focus! also can’t wait to read your next book, so i’m thankful you and yours are safe. ;-p

    the next part is about backing up your stuff, read on if you’d like my unsolicited opinion:

    dropbox is free for the first 2 GB. if you need more space, there’s a monthly fee. I don’t actually use it to store things, more for a “go to” place if i need to share files with colleagues. my girlfriend uses crashplan to backup all of her files (she has emails from 1995) although she’s a little more tech savvy and can actually understand what all the differences are. there are online comparisons for the most widely used online backup services (dropbox, crashplan, carbonite, mozy, backblaze, elephantdrive, etc.) and all manner of opinions. mine? use crashplan.

  6. //

    I’d grab both dogs and both cats and Girlfriend. Then I’d grab all of my flash drives(back up data files) and memory cards from camera. Might grab a camera to take pictures for the insurance company. I have a photo album of pictures of my kids when they were little–I’d get that. Okay, I have some chocolate that I got for Easter–I’d grab that too.

    We have a downstiars, so I wouldn’t have to get everyone into the bathtub. I learned a few years ago when we had a flood, that books are easy to replace if you have insurance.

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