“Tell me about yourself”

Sorry I haven’t posted in a few days; I had company for my birthday over the holiday weekend.  Now I’m back at the old keyboard!

Don’t you love the questions they ask in job interviews?  Some of them are really difficult to answer if you’re not on the career track you’d like to be.  If you’re a new graduate with no experience, it gets even harder.

Most writers don’t get to quit their day jobs, at least not right away.  Freelance writers already have a job, but during tough times they might have to suck it up and work outside their field for a while.  The economy won’t be better for a while yet, sorry to say.  So most of us have to peck out our novels between the eight-to-five slog, on our lunch hours and evenings and weekends.

This is what interviewers want:

  • Tell me about yourself. They want to know if you’re the best person for the position.  They don’t care if you collect those atrocious Precious Moments things.  Keep it about work.
  • What’s your biggest strength? Anything that relates to the job is good.
  • What’s your biggest weakness? An elimination question.  A good answer is that you have something you’re either working to or have already overcome.  This makes you look like a problem-solver.
  • Where do you see yourself in five years? They’re looking for someone who will stick around, because it costs more to hire and train someone.  That’s why companies like to promote from within.  Unfortunately, it’s now rare instead of common for people to stay at one place for that long.  I usually average about four myself.

Sometimes you interview for something you know you’re not going to get, or wouldn’t want to do even if they begged you.  Wouldn’t it be great if you could answer those questions the way you want to?

  • Tell me about yourself. I love to read, nap and watch daytime TV.  In my spare time I sniff glue.
  • What’s your biggest strength? Well, it used to be my enthusiasm, but since this ain’t what I really want to do, I don’t give a crap.
  • What’s your biggest weakness? I hate to get up earlier than eight a.m. or go to bed before eleven.  If I could work, say, nine to noon for the same pay and then go home, that’d be just great.
  • Where do you see yourself in five years? As a cowboy in Argentina, sipping mate and herding cattle and writing about it.

For writers, my ideal day job is one that:

  • Pays the bills. Yes, that’s why we work, people.  Those who get to do what they like and can pay the bills that way are trés lucky.
  • Allows time to think/plan/daydream. Example: mindless tasks during the day give your brain a rest and let you think about what happens next in your book, or sort through your impressions of the day.  Too many interruptions make you frazzled and sap energy.  When it’s time to write, it’s harder to sit down and concentrate.
  • Is interesting enough to keep you engaged at least part of the time. For example, dealing with a variety of people or tasks instead of doing the same thing every day keeps your brain busy and gives you chances to think outside the box once in a while.

I had a temp job once at a personal products factory that was horribly repetitive—putting scented bath salts in tiny plastic bags for eight hours—but the supervisors let the line workers talk.  We had some excellent discussions and everyone worked together much better than if we’d had to stay quiet.  I actually requested the job again if there were openings while I was still temping.

Even if you love your job and don’t plan to leave, everyone can use new challenges.   So we might have to keep working until our books hit, but there are ways to keep ourselves from being bored or burning out.  If you’ve found some, please share in the comments.

Remake Rants

I have a couple of questions for Hollywood.

What happened to original material?  And how about you read a good book once in a while?  Then you’ll know what makes a story.

What’s with all the remakes?  I mean, come on.  Movies that don’t need to be remade, rebooted, and reimagined are coming out in droves.  Television shows, some really terrible, get the full treatment.  Even Avatar, which should have been a triumph, was pretty but had a story so full of tropes it was totally predictable.  Boo!

I get it; it’s about money, guaranteed sales, etc.  Stop playing it safe, Hollywood.  Chris Nolan took a chance on rebooting Batman, and it was worth it.  A very original take on familiar material.  Batman is a pretty good draw, although no amount of money will make me watch Batman Forever or Batman and Robin.  I don’t care if George Clooney comes to my house naked and begs me to watch with him.

The worst part of this trend is younger people who don’t remember the originals are stuck with the lousy remakes.  And just try to get some of them to watch.  Next time some kid says “Old movies are boring” I’m gonna slap him silly.  Now get off my lawn!

As a rule I tend to boycott remakes, especially of classic films that don’t suffer from having been made before CGI, or 3D or any other acronym of special effects wonderment.

Here’s a list of a few films that should probably have been left alone:

  • The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951). Really?  DTESS is a classic of science fiction starring Michael Rennie and Patricia Neal.  The political stuff alone makes it worth watching.  The world’s reaction to the saucer, and the shooting of Klaatu the moment he steps out of it don’t lose a thing with time.  Neither does Bernard Herrmann’s scary theramin music.  It’s hard to believe this film was made fifty-nine years ago.
  • The Omen (1976). Hands up if you saw this scary evil kid film when it came out or on TV.   If not, you missed something.  Gregory Peck, David Warner and the lovely and incomparable Lee Remick are outstanding in this tale of a diplomat’s son who is also the Anti-Christ.  It’s Gregory Peck, people!  David Warner will be familiar to anyone who saw Titanic; he played Rose’s boyfriend’s evil minion Lovejoy.  Two decent sequels followed.  The film’s composer, Jerry Goldsmith, won the Oscar for Best Original Score.   Who was in the remake?  Anybody remember?  Hmmm?  I didn’t THINK so!

  • The Haunting (1963). Directed by Robert Wise and starring Julie Harris, Claire Bloom and Russ Tamblyn of West Side Story (yes, he’s Amber Tamblyn’s father), this creepy movie was adapted from Shirley Jackson’s novel of the same name.   It’s the scariest haunted house movie ever.  In one scene, the characters wake late at night to a terrifying pounding noise out in the hall, moving down toward the door, which bulges inward in an impossible way.  You don’t see a thing here, but what you think might be on the other side will give you nightmares.  The only palatable thing about the remake was Catherine Zeta-Jones, who is always good even in crap.  I hope they paid her well.

  • Clash of the Titans (1981). Again with the CGI, this time also adding 3D.  The 1981 film starred Harry Hamlin, Burgess Meredith, Maggie Smith (Professor McGonagall!), Claire Bloom (again), and Laurence Olivier as Zeus.  Top that!   Famous stop-motion special effects guru Ray Harryhausen did the creatures.  The original was campy and fun; according to reports, the remake had nothing going for it.  They even showed the Kraken in the trailer; way to spoil the climax of the film before anyone even saw it!  I still might watch it on DVD, but I’m glad I didn’t pay theater prices to see it.  Sam Worthington starred, fresh off Avatar, where he was pretty good despite the weak material.

SSTers, please enjoy a hilarious spoof / review here by leviathan12.


  • Poltergeist (1982). This one is just a rumor, but please, please, don’t.  Just don’t.  Forget the curse; there isn’t one.  Just don’t do it.  You can’t make it scarier than the original and I know you, Hollywood.  You’ll just go too far and bore us to death.  Too much CGI doesn’t work any better than none.  Countless people who saw this one when it came out remember it as one of the scariest films they ever watched.

A couple of exceptions to the “remakes suck” rule are worth mentioning.

  • The Thing (1982). Duuuuude.  If you haven’t seen this, rent it immediately, but don’t watch it alone.  It’s one of the few horror movies that can actually creep me out.  I’m totally jaded, but this got me in a way I can’t even explain.  The original Howard Hawks film from 1951, The Thing from Another World, is based on a novella by John W. Campbell, Jr. called Who Goes There? You can read it online here.  It’s a pretty good film—James Arness of Gunsmoke plays the Thing—but this one is better.  Ennio Morricone, great Italian soundtrack master who scored such films as The Untouchables and The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, wrote some of the scariest music imaginable for this film.  It stars Wilford Brimley, Kurt Russell, Keith David, and Richard Dysart.

  • Little Shop of Horrors (1986). A campy musical adaptation of a 1960 Roger Corman vehicle, this is a delight.  It was originally done off-Broadway.  The songs are great, the story is fun and the actors enjoyed themselves hugely.  I’ve seen the original; it was Jack Nicholson’s first credited film appearance (he played the masochistic dental patient) and was hysterically funny.   Apparently, the musical had a much blacker ending than the film and they changed it, but this one is good too.  Rick Moranis, Ellen Green (who played Audrey in the stage version) and Steve Martin as the dentist star.

Both these films are a good example of doing something fresh with the original material.  We need more original screenplays or works adapted that are new to the screen.  Watchmen may have been flawed, but it was damned enjoyable.  They tried, by God.  They got good actors and really gave it a go.  Comic and other genre movies are getting a good trial right now.  If you treat the material seriously you’ve got a winner, not just from established fans but the new ones.  Look at The Dark Knight; Heath Ledger won an Oscar not because he died, but because he took an iconic character and made something out of it that was more than a cartoon.

Take The Lord of the RingsReturn of the King won Best Picture.  Let me reiterate:  a fantasy film won Best Picture.  Geeks everywhere creamed their jeans over that one.  Yes, it had loads of CGI and couldn’t have been done as well without it, but talk about using it responsibly.  Hell, yeah.  Thank you, Peter Jackson, for creating such a masterful adaptation and opening the door to a whole new world of filmmaking.  There are a ton of books out there that would make great movies, some fantasy, some not.

Grow a pair, Hollywood.   Audiences are more sophisticated than they were.  People are tired of CGI; it can’t carry a film if there’s no story, and the same is true for 3D.  Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland was good but didn’t need the 3D.  Avatar did because the story was so weak.  Audiences, do your part by not paying to see lousy remakes of good films, or crappy TV shows.  Let’s raise the standards of our entertainment by demanding quality content.

Got any good remakes you’d like to suggest?  Please share in the comments.

Music of the Hemispheres

A recent post by Arlee Bird at tossing it out inspired me today.  I was trying to get caught up on my blog reading, and came across this post regarding the necessity of music programs in schools.  Take a minute to read if you like.

My reaction was to post this comment:

Education in the arts is important for cultural development. Not only does it expose students to the richness and diversity of their own culture, but music is a fantastic way to expose them to others as well. I belong to a music website where all the people come together to enjoy soundtracks, and a ton of them live halfway around the world. Yet we all have this in common, and we have become friends. We don’t need anything more to divide us; it’s a global community. Keep art and music education. Support it and fight for it.

Disclaimer: I don’t have any children but if I did, they WOULD have this. I would see to it. If the school couldn’t provide it, I would. It’s too important.

I’m a bit biased, being musical myself.  My mother plays the piano like a virtuoso and I grew up listening to Chopin, Grieg, Beethoven (my favorite) and a ton of other classical pieces.  I took piano lessons myself.   Sadly that seems to be something I’m destined never to master.  I studied vocal performance in college, although I didn’t graduate, since I minored in partying.  Ha!

I remember taking music classes in grade school.  It was required.  Our teacher held a talent show every year and under her iron rule, only her pets were chosen to perform.  I wasn’t one of them and was never picked.  But I loved music class despite her obvious contempt for me.  It was one place I excelled.  We listened to and played/sang all kinds of music, from classical to folk tunes from other lands.  I continued with choir in high school and college.  Some of my best memories from then are from choir performances at other schools and music contests.

We had exposure to rhythm and theory, all of which are good for developing brains.  Here is an article from the Harvard Gazette that, while kind of old, backs me up.  And from a 2007 article about a Stanford University study, “Music engages the brain over a period of time…and the process of listening to music could be a way that the brain sharpens its ability to anticipate events and sustain attention.”

What does music do for you?  I’m listening to my soundtrack channel right now.  It’s helping me think.  At the moment, an amazing piece by Serge Prokofiev is playing.  Classical finds its way into soundtracks, you know.  Platoon had Barbers Adagio for Strings, 10 had Ravel’s Bolero, and the list goes on.

When I listen, my body relaxes, my brain unwinds and my blood pressure surely drops.  I have a day job that has been slowly becoming more stressful over time.  When I come home, I listen to my music and chat with my online friends and I feel the day fall away from me.

It helps me concentrate while I write and evokes emotions that find their way into my prose.   I wrote the entire first draft of Rose’s Hostage while listening to the soundtrack of Black Hawk Down.  I have not seen that movie and now I don’t want to, because certain segments of the music are indelibly impressed on scenes from my book.  I also like to create playlists that mirror my characters; it helps me understand the workings of their minds.  It’s like that old game, “Boxers or Briefs?” where you guess what kind of underpants someone would wear.  What kind of music would this person like?  Why?  What does he/she hate and why?

How does music inspire you or enrich your life and art?  Do you have memories from school of music ed?  Please share in the comments.

Courage, the Lion said

The definition of the word escapes us.  We think bravery and courage are the warrior, cop or firefighter charging in, kicking ass and taking names, leaping into action at the slightest hint of danger, to serve, save and protect.

In truth, courage doesn’t mean fearless.  Courage is what we show when we are afraid but we do it anyway.

Courage in daily life can be large, as in pulling someone from burning wreckage, or small, when you make an effort to smile at a coworker instead of snapping on a hellish day.  Courage is standing up for your beliefs, even if it makes you unpopular.  It’s saying “I don’t like what you said” when someone makes a remark you find offensive.  It’s apologizing when you do that yourself, and admitting you made a mistake.

Writers have to have courage to start their careers.  Countless writers never send in their work, or even show it to anyone because they are afraid.  They make up excuses not to do so, and sometimes they even write secretly to avoid the questions.  It’s perfectly okay to do it for yourself if that’s what makes you happy.  But if you have any intention of being published, then you must take yourself in hand and do what you can to improve your work, and put it out there.  You have to, because no one ever published a trunk novel that stayed in the trunk.  I must say, I’ve read a lot of novels that should have stayed in the trunk!

I talked to someone recently who writes and shows it to no one but her husband.  He thinks she’s great.  She has the fear greeblies, however, and some of them look like the following.  To her and others who may be on the fence, here are my recommendations:

  • It’s not edited. Some people think they need a professional editor to work on their material.  That’s an option but it’s an expensive one, if you want to hire someone good.  Learning to edit is part of your craft and there are numerous books out there that can help you.  Do your research and acquire this valuable skill.  You don’t need to pay anyone; you can (and should) polish your own work.

Check out Self Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Brown and Dave King and Write Tight by William Brohaugh.  I noticed you can get a used copy of the first one for $1.23.  Even I can afford that, and I’m flat broke right now.  These books are a good start.

Eventually, you may join a writer’s group and put your work out there for critiquing.  There are writers’ forums online if you can’t find a group in your area.  Scary, but necessary.  A good group will help you grow and can point out things you don’t see, in a nonconfrontational manner.

  • I don’t know anything about publishing. Again, there are tons of source material out there.  I have recommended several websites in other posts.  Google it; no one is keeping this information from you.

  • I don’t know anything about marketing. Well, neither do I, but I’m trying to learn.  You don’t need a degree in it to build a platform for your writing career and again, there are tons of helps.  How to Get Happily Published by Judith Applebaum has a great deal of marketing information for writers.  I actually had to buy this for a class and hung on to it.

  • I sent out a query and no one replied / they said no / I got a form letter. Yes, this happens.  You can learn how to do this too.  Even a great query might not sell your book.  Maybe it’s not the right time for that book, or maybe it’s not the right book for you.  Go on to the next one and try again.

Most of the fear comes from ignorance.  The more you learn, the more confident you’ll become. Fear can’t control you if you know how to handle it.  Things aren’t as scary if you know what to do.  That’s why people are urged to practice disaster preparedness.  And it applies to any situation, not just writing.

If there was a time when you managed to do something despite your fear, please share your tale of courage with us in the comments.  

Leaving…for now

It’s sad when you can’t keep doing something you wanted to very much.

I had the GREATEST idea ever for a book; I know what’s going to happen, I know who most of the characters are and there is a terrific supporting character who would be a hoot if it ever became a film.  But something is happening, or rather not happening, with this book.   It’s like my brain is constipated and I push and squeeze but nothing comes out.

Poo analogy aside, I read a post today at Help! I Need A Publisher! that made me realize what might be wrong.  Please go and read it; I’ll wait.

Essentially, what Nicola Morgan says is that a great idea isn’t enough; it has to have a point.  She also says, “Beginning writers may find themselves spending too long nurturing a dud idea.”

I don’t think the idea is a dud.  I do think it’s not the right time to write it.  I might not have the right mindset here.   The bits I’ve shared with other people—a pivotal scene I wrote for a class assignment and the bare bones of the thing with a family member—were well received.  In fact, I get nagged about “When you gonna finish it?”

The truth?  I don’t know.

At first I wondered if I was afraid, that it was such a good idea that the concept of possibly writing a breakout novel was too intimidating and I was unconsciously sabotaging myself.  But that just doesn’t ring true.  There is a lot of detail I would have to research, but it’s not that big a deal to do it.  Some of it I already know; the rest I can find or make up easily.  I want to write the book, so it’s not that.  I’ve written some of it but I just can’t go any farther right now.

Then I thought:  Am I so in love still with Rose’s Hostage, the book I’m querying now, that I can’t let it go enough to immerse myself in the other world?  Especially since I have a sequel planned?  Possibly.  I need to do the research for that sequel now because if I should move for any reason, I would lose access to a resource right in my backyard.

What to do?  It’s a quandary for sure.  These kinds of decisions can be painful, but writers have to make them.  If you begin a story that sounded great in your head but looks stupid on the page, it’s no big deal.  Shred those pages.  Delete that file.  It’s much harder to give up on something that shows promise.

Don’t delete the one you give up on for a while.  Keep it.  It might kindle within you in time; I’m certainly not letting mine go yet.  But I think it needs to cook a bit.  Perhaps it needs more attention than I can give right now, and the Universe has plans for me so I can write it the way it deserves.  Let’s hope so.  I’ve been searching for a voice for this piece, a structure and a point of view that will make it as special as I think it can be.  When I find it, I’ll let you know.

If you’ve had to give up on something you thought was good but you knew it wasn’t working, please share in the comments.

Cattle Crazing

Here’s a little flash fiction for you, inspired by a typo Redjack Ryan made in chat. Don’t ask me where this came from, because I have NO idea. Sometimes my brain farts out the weirdest stuff.

“Dad!” Terri said, and I slammed on the brakes. “What are those cows doing?”

The afternoon sunlight slanted into the car, and I slipped my sunglasses up on my head and squinted, following her pointing finger.

It was only a herd of cattle in a field, a serenely blue pond some distance behind them. But something very wrong had caught my daughter’s attention. Instead of standing or lying peaceably in the bright green grass, they ran back and forth behind the fence, shaking their heads and bawling so loud I could hear them over the car’s air conditioner.

“I don’t know, but—hey!” I reached out to stop her but she was out of the car and to the fence. Animal lover, couldn’t stand to watch anything in pain. At twelve, she already knew she wanted to be a vet when she grew up. She had more pets than I was comfortable with, but Anne encouraged her. She always let the kids pursue their interests, saying it wasn’t good to stifle them.

The cows kept jerking back and forth. They had begun to shiver. It was the most bizarre thing I’d ever seen. The calves followed their mothers, blatting pitifully. Their knobby legs shook. I was scared they’d all bust through the fence and run Terri down. I got out and went to her side.

“Honey, come on. It’s dangerous to stand here when they’re acting like that,” I said. I tugged at her elbow, but she clung to the fence, fingers laced between the barbed wire.

“Dad, maybe we ought to tell someone.” Big blue eyes, flooded with concerned tears, softened my heart. I patted her shoulder.

“We’ll drive up the road and see if the owner’s home,” I told her. Reluctantly she started back to the car. I looked for just a few seconds more. The cows had stopped leaping and now stood frozen, still shivering.

I became aware of a high-pitched hum, like power lines. It grew more intense, and I wondered if that wasn’t the cause of the cows’ behavior. The hum deepened and my teeth clenched as it threatened to shake my skull apart.

Terri cried out. Her hands were clamped over her ears and she fell to her knees. Before I could get to her, a huge shadow fell over us. The air temperature dropped like before a storm; must have been ten or fifteen degrees in just a few seconds. I looked up and nearly peed myself.

An enormous…thing filled the sky. It stretched as far as I could see, in all directions, shifting blackly over my head. White lights stuttered, blinking, all over it. A patch of night had come alive. It spread out like a hovering oil slick.

A bone-chilling silence descended. Even the locusts stopped buzzing. That scared me more than the patch. When the bugs stop talking, there’s something going down.

The lights brightened, and beams shot out of them, straight down. Each one hit an animal, and they vanished, inexplicably. One minute there, the next gone. Just the calves.

“Terri!” I yelled. “Get in the car! NOW!”

The mother cows bawled louder. I thought, If a cow could scream…

“Daddy, it hurrrts!” she shrieked, and rolled over on her side, still clutching her ears. I ran toward her but before I got two steps, a beam flashed in front of me, blinding me. I covered my eyes, rubbed them and gradually the blue-white cleared. Blinking, I looked at the spot where my daughter lay.

She was gone. Hollow terror drained every ounce of strength from me. My guts were water and my throat exploded at the sky.

“TERRI! OH GOD, GIVE HER BACK!”

The starlit patch shimmied, a ripple passing through it, and then it contracted swiftly, becoming impossibly small in an instant. I could only watch as it hurtled upward. My legs gave way and I fell bawling on the shadow-cooled ground. The sunlight hit my eyes like a blow. All the cows ran, following it, and stood, confused, at the other end of the pasture.

I sat for several hours, crying and muddy, but neither she nor the calves came back. The farmer called the sheriff. I think they’ll drag the pond even though I told them they’d never find her. They don’t believe me. How could they not believe me?

Just the calves.

If Wishes Were Horses…

…beggars would ride. Yes, I know my Mother Goose. Would that I were riding that horse!

Another Reply O’ Doom this week. Well, right back out there, baby!

This weekend I plan to do some revision, actually work on something new and take time to review my queries. Perhaps that is my weak spot, not that the book can’t be sold.

I find myself saying a lot “I WISH.” So even though once again I’m bushed from the day job, I thought I’d make a quick list of all my writing-related wishes. Can I make some of them come true? Let’s see.

I WISH…
That someone I query will be intrigued enough to actually ask to see my manuscript.

I CAN…
Make this happen by improving my queries and targeting them better. I can read up on effective queries and check the bookstore for titles like mine, perhaps query those agencies.

I WISH…
Whoever reads it will love it and want to represent me.

I CAN…
Keep trying. This is the only way. And keep writing other books, because this one may get read but it may never sell. That’s the way it goes sometimes.

I WISH…
I could win enough money from Publisher’s Clearinghouse Sweepstakes to write full-time.

I CAN…
Keep sending in those entries! In the meantime, take better care of my finances, get bills paid off and save what little I can. Once I’m making some money with my writing, continue these good habits. Being self-employed will require more money savvy and discipline and I need to work on that. So I should begin practicing that now, with an eye to the future.

I WISH…
People would be more understanding of how hard it is to write.

I CAN…
Ignore people who don’t get it. I shouldn’t let them dismiss or diminish what I am doing. It’s not a hobby; I’m trying to start a new career. It may not pay for a while but I fully intend to do my best to get it off the ground. I’m the only one who can decide when to abandon the effort.

I WISH…
My writing will get better and better.

I CAN…
Read. Practice. Study on my own. Keep practicing. Set a schedule to do “homework,” and do writing exercises weekly. I have plenty of books to get me going.

I WISH…
That I would never run out of ideas.

I CAN…
Use the ones I have; there will be more if I keep the imagination flowing by tapping the well.

I WISH…
Personal things will work out in my favor so I don’t have to worry about them anymore.

I CAN…
Try to keep a neutral countenance in certain places, if not a cheerful one. I should not waste energy on people who don’t care about me and only use me. I must not let them have power over me. They may have power for now. They can be mean or arbitrary or unfair, but they can never make me feel bad about myself. I rock and always will.

I WISH…
To make my friends and family proud of me.

I CAN…
Do my best and try, always try, even if I don’t make it. I can remember to tell them how I feel about them, because life is short and I may never get the chance. So all of you, I love you and thanks for your support! *HUGS*

I WISH…
To do the same for my readers, to please them and make them happy they took a chance on me.

I CAN…
Remember to say thank you every time someone tells me he/she liked what I wrote, and respond to as many blog comments as I can as long as I can. I appreciate each and every one of them. Also, I can listen to any legitimate feedback they give and weigh it carefully when I make my next writing choices.

These are but a few of my wishes; I’ll leave out the ones about cookies magically losing all calories but no taste, and that my car could fly so I wouldn’t have to tailgate some slowpoke for ten blocks.

If you have any creative or professional wishes that keep you going, please share them in the comments.

Write On!

Gah, I nearly forgot about the reflection post.  Work has been so crazy lately, I barely have enough energy left to do anything after.  When it gets like that, it’s time to take stock.  This post will be short, because I packed twenty-nine sample boxes today and my hands don’t want to do anything else.

I really enjoyed doing the challenge.  It was tough going sometimes, but I kept with it.  I only missed one post, and that was the Y one, and only because I made notes and left the file on my computer at work instead of saving it to my flash drive.

A lot of the posts were written while I was at work, on my lunch hour.  I drag my laptop in with me and write then sometimes.  I usually spend fifteen minutes yammering with the plant guys before they go back to the slog and I get down to business.  Today I read them a bit of my book; they all wanted to hear the dirty parts, ha ha.  Not likely. I need to tell them, “If I read you that part, you won’t have any reason to buy the book!”

One or two posts had to wait until I got home.  If they were kind of clunky, that’s probably why.  As for Saturday’s posts, I decided to make them about anything I want, rather than just writing or art.   I think I’ll keep that tradition, just to make it more interesting.   I might even write a bit of flash or continuing fiction.  Let me think about that a bit.

Thank you to everyone who stopped by my blog and commented.   I greatly appreciate the time you took to read my posts.  I hope to visit yours again soon.  Meanwhile, everybody write on!

Rats, I can’t seem to get the Blog Hop link code to work.  I’m sorry.  I wanted to join the fun!

Duck and Cover

Since severe weather season is upon us in the Ozarks, I thought I would share my scary story with you.  First, a little background.  When I’m not writing, I work for a manufacturer in my city’s industrial park.  We’re out east of the city, in a big bare spot carved out for the park.  Last year, on May 8th, my workplace got hit with a tornado.

That morning, the TV weather warned that a derecho was on the way.  Meteorologists expected high winds, possible tornadic activity and heavy rains from this storm, sometimes known as an inland hurricane.

The sky was utterly black; the streetlights were still on.  As I drove, I felt a creepy unease.  For some reason I had worn my watch that day, which I usually don’t.  I glanced at it.  It was ten to eight; it could have been midnight.

At work things were as usual, but people got up occasionally and went to the windows to check out the sky.  It had lightened enough so the streetlights were off, but still scary dark.  I had the radar up on my computer, as did several others.  Around 8:30, the National Weather Service put out a tornado warning for my city.  We stopped working altogether and gathered near the bathrooms, our safe place.  A vendor came in for his weekly visit and we invited him to shelter with us.

Suddenly the wind rose sharply, and the building began to shake.  Our safety manager yelled “GO! and we all broke and ran for the bathrooms.

Inside, we could hear the building creak and the wind howl.  The lights went off and the emergency lamps came on.  I was so scared I grabbed a coworker’s hand and held on tight, until gradually the winds began to subside and silence crept over us.  We could hear something creaking and flapping and I said, “Something’s loose.”

We came out and immediately went to the windows, which fortunately were still intact.  Our plant across the street had been hit.  An enormous section of the roof lay gnarled up on the ground east of the building like a giant, crumpled gum wrapper.

Weirdly, a plant worker’s pickup truck, which had been parked on the west end of the parking lot near the access road in front of the stricken building, was now out on the access road, pointed back at Plant 1, where the office was.  Although the Weather Service never confirmed it, that’s when I knew for sure it was a tornado; it had blown the roof off one way, and moved the truck the other.

Little chopped green bits of leaves had been plastered all over the windows and when I went out later, I found them all over the door.   A semi trailer that had been parked at Plant 2’s dock was blown over.  We were all afraid it had crushed our shipping manager’s car, but he’d parked on the other side and it was okay.   He later said he hated that car and he wished it had!

The wind picked up again, and the radio blared high wind warnings until 1 p.m.  No one could go outside for a while.  When it began to slack off, the vendor excused himself and left, and people ventured out and discovered that windows in several vehicles had been broken.

Mine was okay because it was parked between two of my coworkers.  A small tree we liked to park near in hot weather was completely uprooted.  The tornado had snapped the power pole behind us clean in half, and tried to suck the big company name letters off the building.  Several of them were broken and some were gone.

It a very scary and exhausting day, but it could have been much worse.  No employees in the office or the plants were injured.  This was a very bad storm that killed at least four people in other counties in my state and destroyed numerous homes, businesses and schools.  The governor had to declare a disaster area.  That seems to be something we are starting to get used to hearing in this area, unfortunately.   Between ice storms (that’s another story), flooding and tornadoes, I think I’m ready to move!

Here is a reminder of storm safety.

  • Severe storm hazards include tornadoes, powerful straight-line winds, flooding and lightning.   In an electrical storm, stay indoors, away from windows and off the phone (landlines mostly).  Don’t take a bath or shower during a lightning storm either.  Yes, it can get you there; Mythbusters confirmed it.

If you’re caught outside in lightning, experts advise not lying on the ground.  Lightning travels through the ground and you don’t want to expose yourself to it.  Instead, crouch down and cover your  ears.  Be a basketball with feet.

  • In a tornado, seek shelter in an interior room, away from windows.  A closet or bathroom is good if you don’t have a basement.  Sit next to the wall and cover your head.  DO NOT GO OUTSIDE TO LOOK AT THE TORNADO.  Flying debris can kill you!

Outside, get out of your car and into a ditch or low-lying area.  Lie flat and cover your head.

DO NOT seek shelter in an overpass; it acts as a wind tunnel.

  • Straight-line winds can reach up to 80 miles an hour and cause as much damage as tornadoes.  Safety tips are the same as for tornadoes.  In a car, pull off the road.  High-profile vehicles are especially vulnerable.
  • Floods kill the most people in storms.  NEVER drive your car into flood waters!  You can be swept away in less than two feet of water.   Remember, turn around, don’t drown!

The links contain more information about severe weather hazards.  You can read about the May 8th, 2009 derecho on its Wikipedia page.