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Tornado terrors

April 24, 2011 9 comments

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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