Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Be Prepared

With another massive hurricane bearing down on the U.S. mainland, and with other disasters, natural and man-made, always looming as a possibility, now is as good a time as any to start preparing yourself and your family to survive a disaster.

First--you need a survivor's mindset. The core of this mindset is knowing that you are responsible for your own survival. Know that if the hurricane hits or the earthquake strikes or another terrorist attack takes place, YOU are your own first responder. For situations that you can predict, like a hurricane, get out of the way. Inconvenience versus death--I know which one I'd choose. But some disasters can't be predicted, and that's why it's important to be prepared ahead of time. This isn't an indictment of any level of government (although it's not a bad idea that you hold your local and state governments accountable first, since they're already on the scene). But nobody can be fully prepared for every eventuality. That's why it's ultimately up to you.

Know that you are on your own for at least the first five days of a disaster, and prepare for it. Stockpile non-perishable food and water in water-proof containers. If you can keep the food lightweight (foil packets instead of cans, for instance), do so. Keep a large plastic jar of peanut butter on hand--it's a great source of nutrition, isn't particularly expensive and keeps well. Buy tuna in foil packets. Buy cereal bars. Buy instant oatmeal--it can be mixed with a small amount of water to make a hearty breakfast. Have some plastic bowls and cups on hand. Plastic utensils. And plenty of bottle water--a gallon per day per person is the recommended amount.

Have a couple of changes of clothing available. Hygiene isn't your primary focus in matters like these, but as the flooding in New Orleans showed, you don't know what condition your clothes will be in when you reach safety. If you have a change of clothing where you can reach it, you're ahead of the game.

Stockpile at least five days worth of your prescription medications. I have asthma, and I've already set aside a full 200-dose rescue inhaler for such purposes. I also have a five day supply of my other inhaler, and a three day supply of my two other prescription medications. (I'm working up to stockpiling five days' worth). Also, have a first aid kit with the basic supplies, plus extra pain reliever, anti-biotic ointment or cream, sunscreen, bug repellent and any hygiene items you may need.

Have some basic tools available—manual can opener, bottle opener, hammer, duct tape, plastic sheeting, matches or a lighter, candles, flashlights, etc. You know the drill, and if you don't, there are plenty of places to find a good working list.

Learn first aid and CPR. Keep your car in good working condition and full of gas if you can. Keep your cell phone charged up. Have an evacuation plan—do you have relatives or friends who can take you in? Have a plan for your pets—check with motels in the area to which you plan to evacuate to find out if they'll allow pets. Some do. Most don't. After Katrina, it seems like some of the public shelters are relaxing rules about pets. Check into what's available in your area. Or, if you evacuate ahead of time, you can find a veterinarian in the place to which you plan to evacuate who can board the animals for a few days until the crisis is over. Be sure you have enough carriers for all your animals. Stockpile some pet food along with your food in case you have to shelter in place together.

If you evacuate ahead of time, be sure to take copies of important records, such as birth certificates, social security cards, drivers' licenses, prescriptions, insurance, etc. You'll need those numbers if something happens to your home or property. Go ahead and make copies now and keep them in a zip lock bag or something similarly waterproof and easy to carry.

Everyone in the family should have a contact number to call in case you get separated. One of my contact numbers for my family is my friend Jenn, who lives in New Jersey, several states away. She can act as our clearing house so we can let each other know we got out safely and where we are.

Finally, be a good neighbor. If you know that a neighbor or friend doesn't have a car, for instance, or has health problems, see if you can help your neighbor or friend get to safety while you're getting to safety yourself. Help that neighbor or friend stockpile his or her own disaster kit--pick up some extra peanut butter or an extra pouch of tuna when you go to the grocery store, an extra six-pack of bottled water.

And not to go all Mad Max on you, it's not a bad idea to be prepared to defend yourself and your neighbors from people who will try to take advantage of the crisis. I don't personally own a weapon, but I'm all for personal firearm ownership if you're responsible, careful and well-trained. A group of neighbors banding together with just a few personal weapons among them can keep a whole neighborhood safe from criminals.

I haven't covered everything you'll need for everything that might happen—it's impossible to prepare perfectly for any eventuality. But if you'll do the basics and, most importantly, if you'll maintain a survivor state of mind, you'll have a good chance of being the one still standing when the dust settles.

Here We Go Again

Hurricane Rita is ripping through the Gulf of Mexico. Last I heard, she was already approaching Category Four with miles and miles of warm Gulf water between her and land. Please, if you're on the eastern coast of Texas or anywhere on the coast of Louisiana, take this one seriously. So what if you evacuate and it's not as strong as expected? At least you're alive--better than the alternative.

Vicki Hinze is on top of Rita the way she was with Hurricane Katrina. Once Rita has hit and things settle down, if you can, please check her Hurricane Check-in site:

She's not posting anything on who's safely evacuated ahead of time to keep down the possibility of looting, but do be sure to check in afterwards if you're in the affected area so your fellow writers will know you're okay.

Be safe!

Monday, September 19, 2005

Hell's Belles a Top Pick!

My friend Kristen Robinette's new Harlequin Next! novel, HELL'S BELLES, is a Romantic Times top pick, with four and a half stars! Congratulations, Kris!

Friday, September 16, 2005

Trying to Catch Up

I guess my earlier promise to get back to a more normal blogging schedule fell by the wayside. It's easy to get out of the habit of doing things, and I have been a little busy, what with getting the book out to my editor and catching up on family stuff that fell by the wayside while I was doing that.

I'm giving myself a week or two to do nothing but read. I'm trying to concentrate on the newest Intrigues, both to reinforce in my mind what the line is looking for and because I love Intrigues in general.

Up first: RELENTLESS by Jan Hambright. The cover sucked me in—very eerie with a strong sense of foreboding. Also, this book is Jan's debut, so it should provide a good example of what sort of story Intrigue is buying these days.

Have I mentioned how much I like the new Intrigue covers? They've managed to hold onto the "brand" while opening up the cover art to new fonts, more mainstream visuals, more author branding (at least, for the bigger name authors) and a lot of focus on capturing the tone of the books. I'm eager to see what they come up with for FORBIDDEN TERRITORY.

All of the Harlequin/Silhouette lines seem to be going this direction with their covers. I think it's a very good move for the company.

Monday, September 12, 2005

The New Normal

I haven't forgotten the victims of Hurricane Katrina; on the contrary, my continued concern for people I personally know who are affected has kept me too busy to post to my blog. But as life is starting to go on for those affected, it goes on for me, so I'm going to try to get back to a more normal posting schedule. However, I've added Hurricane Katrina disaster relief links on the right side of this blog, so if you haven't given, or if you have a little extra when the bills are paid, please consider giving more.

Over the weekend, I finished the first draft of my revisions on my June 2006 Intrigue, and I also finished revisions of those revisions based on a friend's notes. Last night, I added a couple of things that I felt the book needed and now I'm just about ready to send it off to the editor eighteen days early.

Up next—a new project. I'm hoping to get the first draft finished by the time I hear back from my editor on another book she's considering as well as the revisions on the one she bought.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Never Forget

Four years ago today, nineteen terrorists killed 3,049 people in New York City, Washington D.C. and Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Soon after, I channeled some of my feelings about that event into a piece of art I titled "Ghosts of Manhattan." On the fourth anniversary of 9/11, I thought I'd share it with you.


Friday, September 02, 2005

Relief Effort for the Soldiers

Suzanne McMinn points out a good cause to support during this time of crisis: Soldiers' Angels. Many in the military deployed in Iraq, Afghanistan and other parts of the world have lost everything in the hurricane and aftermath. Consider giving to this fund that will directly help the men and women on the frontlines during this time of grave need.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Still More Katrina

Note—I'll be updating this post throughout the day as I uncover new information about relief efforts for those affected by Hurricane Katrina. Check back often.

Once again, Instapundit has the links. has also put together a list of links for relief efforts.

And don't forget the FEMA list I linked to yesterday.

A warning, by the way—e-mail scams have already begun. Just know that legitimate charitable organizations aren't e-mailing you to solicit your donation. Scammers can be very sophisticated, putting up what look like reputable websites for donation funds. Stick either with the charities you normally give to, the charities recommended by reputable organizations like FEMA, or help individuals that you personally know are affected by the devastation.

Speaking of which, I'm getting news trickling in about romance writers affected by the hurricane:

Writer Larissa Ione lost her home. Some friends have started a fund-raising drive for her: Please help if you can.

Delores Fossen was also affected by the hurricane and has asked for everyone's prayers.

Kelley St. John has family affected by the storm, but she's personally okay. She also mentions that in the Alabama town where she lives, the local school is opening their gym at night to the refugees so their kids can have somewhere to run and play. They're also giving them free admission to the high school football game over the weekend and free meals at the concession stand. It's a small thing, but sometimes in situations like this, those small things mean a lot to a family who's lost everything. If you have refugees in your area and you have contacts with schools or local governments, give someone a call and see if your town can't do a little extra to help out the affected people sheltering in your area.

Vicki Hinze has a Hurricane Check In page for writers in the affected areas. If you're in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana or Florida, drop her an e-mail so she can put your name on the list so others who might be worried about you will know you're safe.

I'm personally looking for information about my friend Giselle Carmichael, a writer who lives in Biloxi. If anyone has heard from her, please let me know. I'm worried about her.


The Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity is collecting eyeglasses and disposable contact lenses for people affected by the hurricane. You forget how every tiny part of a person's life is changed when disaster hits. This particular relief drive is a vivid reminder.


Following are a few news stories of interest:

The BIRMINGHAM NEWS is reporting that Jefferson County is opening up some hospital and nursing home facilities to take in refugees with medical problems.

There's also a B'HAM NEWS report on some Birmingham doctors helping a New Orleans hospital evacuate premature babies to Birmingham facilities.

Also, Gov. Bob Riley of Alabama is offering lodging at all 22 Alabama State Parks to refugees of the hurricane. Several of these parks have very nice, motel-like facilities as well as camping areas for people with access to that sort of gear. The linked press release tells people what to do to take advantage of this offer of temporary housing--basically, FEMA is coordinating the effort. I suspect this is going on in other states surrounding the affected areas.


National Review Online has good advice from Karen Woods of the Acton Institute about complex needs verses simple needs in a time of crisis.


Don't forget the animals! Here are some links to organizations helping with pet rescue:

Humane Society
Houston SPCA
Humane Society of Northwest Louisiana
Noah's Wish

Plus, Petco stores are asking customers to round up their purchases to the nearest dollar, and all the extra money will go to the Petco Foundation to aid in their animal rescue efforts.

One organization I do not recommend sending any money to—ever— is PETA, for reasons I've outlined in the past.