Get real

Look out! The Bill Gates email hoax is going around again. It's hard to believe anyone with a brain would believe Bill Gates will send $245.00 for each email sent to him.

Since this particular urban legend had died away, or so I thought, I wondered why it had started again. Is it naive people who live under rocks and who just got on the Internet who get wind of it and think, "Wow, I must send this to every man, woman, and child I know along with a request that they send it to every man, woman, etc."

I looked this one up at Urban Legends and saw it started making the rounds in September 1999. Guess it reactivated on its anniversary date.

There are many web sites devoted to debunking hoaxes. I just wish people would use at least a couple of their brain cells to check things out before forwarding.

The letters on my delete key are worn away.

Cranky Sling Words out.


We, meaning DH and daughter, can hardly wait for the premiere of Serenity. I hope Joss's movie blows audiences away.

I know all of the fans of Buffy, Angel, and Firefly (also sci fic fans) will be buying tickets. I just hope the rest of the world does too because validation via box office dollars will mean more creative projects from talented Joss Whedon.

So go see Serenity. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll cheer, you'll be on the edge of your seat in suspense. How do I know this? Because Joss and the actors are able to elicit all those emotions. They did it with Firefly, the ill-fated series that Fox doomed to failure with their lackadaisical scheduling and promotion. Based on the trailers I've seen, Serenity is a jewel of mixed genres--action, suspense, comedy, romance--with an appealing hero, a surprising kick butt martial artist, and great fight scenes.

Starts Friday. Sling Words out.

Genetic addiction to all things girly

I must have had one, a lobotomy that is, because I spent the day shoe shopping with my daughter. We were in the eat (junk), drink (caffeine), and be merry (while shopping) mode. The tally? Two pairs of shoes each. Despite other blogging writers who have managed to pare down to a couple of pairs of shoes, I freely admit my love of shoes and purses and clothes and jewelry. Oh my! It must be genetic because my daughter is cursed with the same affection.

What motivates you

I had an interesting conversation with my mom yesterday about fear. We were talking about Hurricane Rita and how frightening it must have been for those trying to evacuate who ran out of gas and were stranded on roadways with no gas, no water, no food, no air conditioning, and night falling.

They say only fear of the dark and fear of falling are genetically encoded in humans. All the other fears, we personally and individually create.

This photograph is of a sculpture created by my daughter Adina when she was a senior in high school and in advanced art. Adina, formerly a commercial artist who now teaches art in high school, selected fear as her focus that year. All art she created interpreted fear in some media. This sculpture won First in state (Texas).

I've often thought this sculpture is particularly illustrative of the destructive power of fear with its cruel, twisted spikes. If you bow to the power of Fear rather than fight it, fear will bore into your soul and eventually destroy you. Writers and other creative souls seem especially prone to fear. Fear of rejection. Fear of failure. Fear of success, whatever you want to call your personal nemesis.

If you suffer from fear, no matter what that fear may be, act in the face of your fear, and you gain power over it instead of letting it rule over you and your life. When fear rules, you lose all that you might otherwise gain.

This is for you, Pat

More of Rita's misdeeds on Mayweather though it doesn't look as if any damage was done to the house itself.

Goodbye, Rita

This photo was the sky above my house last night around seven as seen from the front (west) side of my house.

This photo was taken a few minutes later from the back of my house (northeast corner) and shows the elderly pecan tree which was the source of my anxiety. You can see that's it's tall, but the photo does not show how truly huge the tree is. Its radius is probably 3-4 feet, and its height is 80-90 feet. It's a native pecan tree in an area called Pecan Grove, and it's probably one of the oldest trees in the area.

As most of you know, Rita made landfall at Camerone which is what I predicted a few days ago. So here where I live just southwest of Houston, we had only rain and wind. No damage except for small branches and a small to medium-size hackberry tree which split where the trunk forked. The broken part is lying across the fence and in the neighbor's back yard. Considering we have a multitude of trees, including the sickly hundred year old pecan, this is a miracle in itself.

I feel almost guilty in wanting a tee shirt that says "I survived Rita." With hurricanes, one person's relief is usually another person's misery. Bless those in east Texas and west Louisiana as well as poor old New Orleans who bore the brunt of Rita's force.

We'll start deconstructing the hurricane prep sometime later today. I won't even complain about all the work involved in preparing and in deconstructing. I'm just grateful.

Sling Words out.

Hurricane prep finished

We have done what we could with what we had to make the house ready for the storm.

1. Removed everything from the yard--even the tomato cages. It's all piled in the garage--pot plants, empty flower pots, hoses, garbage cans, etc. Pot plants to big to carry inside are snugged up against the foundation on the lee side of the house (the southwest).

2. A safe room on the southwest side of the house which happens to be our guest room is set up because we have a dying pecan tree that will be vulnerable to the wind. This tree is on the north side of the house and is about a hundred years old. If it goes during the night, we want to all be in the room farthest from it. If it goes, we figure the house will be a total loss. The tree is that big. We just want to be in a position to survive it since we won't see it coming.

3. The tornado room will be the bathroom next to the guest room. It can be closed off so no windows are in the room. It's on the interior of the house. We've placed a blanket and pillow for each person and our emergency bags. A box holding flashlights, digital camera, weather radio, an old AM transistor radio that has seen us through other storms, and extra batteries is in there too.

4. The patio furniture is in the kitchen.

5. Windows are taped. Some windows which are most vulnerable to the wind and wind-driven rain have been covered with plastic in case they break in an effort to protect the furnishings in those rooms.

6. Doors facing the wind side have been sealed on the outside with duct tape.

7. Oil lamps have been filled. Candles and matches placed in every room.

8. One emergency bag for each of us with medication, glasses, and a change of clothes are in the "safe" room.

9. Rolling file boxes are opened next to the file cabinets. If things get dicey, we'll fill these with emergency papers and hope we have the luxury of throwing them in our 4 wheel drive Tahoe if we have to abandon the house.

10. We've filled every pitcher and carafe with water and have three 6 gallon jerry cans also. This will be for drinking if we lose water. Every bathtub is filled. This is for bathing and flushing.

We fully expect to be without power for a few days if not a week. We've got 2 battery boosters for cars that have AC outlets. These will be used to run an electric skillet to cook or heat food. We also have an adaptor for the car that has an AC outlet so if worse comes to worse, we can crank up one of the vehicles, plug into the thingee and have power.

We have 2 refrigerators full of food and ice that we've been bagging for the last few days in addition to gallon zip bags we've filled with water and froze. We also have cases of drinks. Our neighbor across the street has stocked up on whiskey, beer, and wine along with 2 generators, 35 gallons of gas, and other necessities of life.

Everyone in our neighborhood is home. Where we live, there's a levee built around the whole subdivision, and every house is supposedly built to withstand 150 mph winds so just about everyone has stayed.

We have a battery op TV, decks of cards, Uno, and other games, books, etc. So we plan to make the best of a bad situation.

So that's it. Hope all of you make it through okay.

All that's left is praying and waiting.

Sling Words out.

Evacuation fiasco

Our daughter left this morning at 4:15, headed west from Houston area to San Antonio to stay with one of her brothers. By 11:45, she was less than 45 miles from home. She was down to half a tank of gas and was not even half way to San Antonio which meant of course she either had to refuel or turn around and return home. All gas stations along the way are out of gas.

We advised her to turn around and come back. Being a young woman traveling alone and running out of gas on I-10 is every bit as scary as a Category 5 hurricane out in the Gulf. In 40 minutes she was home. Exhausted, frazzled, and angry, but home.

At this point, Hurricane Rita is aiming more at the Louisiana coast than this part of the Texas coast. Additionally, it has weakened. I have a feeling this particular storm might go into Louisiana at Cameron or New Iberia. God knows, Cameron has been flattened more than once by a hurricane. The good news, if there is any, is that Cameron and the other small towns in the path could easily evacuate. Even the larger towns like Lake Charles aren't as large as Houston which is virtually impossible to evacuate as this exercise proves.

People from Houston have been on the road since the wee hours of the morning. Most haven't even reached the edge of town, and they're running out of gas. Other vehicles are overheating and breaking down for this and other reasons.

I just don't think there's any real way to evacuate a major metropolitan area. I don't care what emergency management says. The only way to do it is to head out as soon as evacuation becomes a possibility, no matter how remote. Unfortunately, most people can't do this. Our daughter is a teacher. Her school decided to cancel classes yesterday. However, by this time, the roads leading away from Houston were already parking lots, there'd already been a run on gas, water, batteries, food, plywood, and other necessities of surviving a storm or evacuating.

Yesterday it was 100 degrees here. Today, it's the same. The wind is negligible at this point. The sun is baking everything. We're digging in and plan to ride it out unless Rita shifts again. In which case, we'll lock up, jump in the four wheel drive Tahoe and head South with plans to make it to Victoria then head north to San Antonio.

Sling Words out.

Computers, hurricanes, and other problems

Gee, I've been kind of off line for about a week now due to technical difficulties. Now, I'm trying to back up files, load up the cars, and head for higher ground.

Unless things change, Hurricane Rita is dropping by for a visit. Hope everything is still standing when we return.

Be safe, Third Coast.

Sling Words out.

Deceptive art of writing fiction

As I said before, I'm rereading one of Jack Bickham's books on writing. I think I have all of his books, but this is one I particularly like. The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes is pithy and easy to read. The chapters are two to three pages long. In an early chapter, Mr. Bickham said: "The writing of fiction is very deceptive. looks easy until you try it."

As a writer with more than a few manuscripts, published and unpublished, behind me, I know this truth in every cell of my brain. This is why I always encourage those who tell me they're going to write a book when they have the time. I tell them to go for it. They may succeed.

If they've been particularly condescending in their assumption that free time is all that is needed to write successfully (of course, I'm thinking of one particular individual here), I stand a good chance of being greatly amused when I bump into them in the future. I've yet to hear anything but hemming and hawing from those who've actually tried to turn their idea into a book.

More is required than leisure time to successfully write. If you want to write, you must be willing to work hard. Writing is hard on the anatomy, the brain, and the emotions. I think it was Earl Nightingale who said: "There are no bargains at the counter of success. You must pay full price."

Make a Fool of Yourself

Written Wisdom

Quote of the Week (to be chanted when the fear of the blank page grips you.)

Out of the mouth of Cynthia Heimel: "When in doubt, make a fool of yourself. There is a microscopically thin line between being brilliantly creative and acting like the most gigantic idiot on earth. So what the hell, leap!"

Difficult decisions

Hello. My name is Joan. And I'm addicted to the Internet.


Now is the time that tries a writer's soul. If you're a writer, you know what time I mean. The time when it seems as if you'll never, ever, finish your work in progress. Yep. I'm there. So I've looked over my available time--the usual 24 hours we all have--and have kept a log for a week now in which I've tried to determine where those hours and my energy go.

The good news is I now know how much time I spend at my daily activities.

The bad news is that too much of my time is spent on the Net, keeping up with all the news on all the lists to which I'm subscribed. In the beginning, this was just a few lists. Now, it's more than two dozen. Even though I'm on digest, this takes a lot of time even though some lists don't post every day. They are balanced by the lists that have multiple digests each day. Even though I mostly lurk, I realize now that the lists and the blogs I read have taken over my free time as well as my writing time.

Sooooo.... I've made the difficult decision to back away from the web. I bit the bullet, notified some of the lists to send me private email if they needed me, and then I clicked NO MAIL on all my lists. I nearly broke out in a cold sweat thinking about mornings without dozens of emails and digests, but I did it anyway.

I'll keep up with this blog and let you know if this makes a significant difference in my writing output. So if you too have begun to suspect too much time is spent keeping up with the online writing community, I'll let you know if this is an improvement.

Sling Words out.

Onward and upward...sort of

In keeping with my desire to get back to nattering on about writing, I searched my brain this A.M. for something about which to natter and came up, well, blank.

So I'll take the easy way out and do a baby step toward that goal. Here's a quote I particularly like about writing which is, unfortunately, too true.

Out of the mouth of Fran Lebowitz: "If you have a burning, restless urge to write or paint, simply eat something sweet and the feeling will pass."

Gosh, if my diet only allowed me to have waffles and maple syrup for breakfast. I do make the absolute best Pecan Waffles, and I heat the maple syrup which makes the combo simply irresistible.

Sling Words out--going for a walk (since it's only 80F. this morning) to take my mind off waffles.

Relatives update

Had a list of 23 relatives to look for. Found one, my cousin Wilma, who with her family, is safe. Her brother and the other cousins haven't been heard from. None of the phones were working in the 601 area code. The search continues.

Thanks for all the emails and comments. I and my family appreciate your kind regards.

Tomorrow I'll get back to more writerly ramblings.

Sling Words out.

Looking for relatives

Today is devoted to more phone calls to locate about a dozen relatives who haven't been heard from since Katrina visited. These are cousins scattered across the Gulf Coast from LA to MS.

Sling Words out.

Help hurricane survivors

The Truth Laid Bare is trying to organize bloggers' donation efforts. They've asked bloggers to register their blog and write about disaster relief efforts so I've done that. There are many organizations ramping up to help with disaster relief so I've included a list of the major ones below.

If you want to read more about what bloggers are trying to do, then visit these links: Glenn's roundup post at Instapundit, Technorati flood aid, and Hurricane Katrina.

Places where you can find out how you can help, what is needed, and how to donate.

American Red Cross

America's Second Harvest

Catholic Charities

Churches of Christ Disaster Relief Effort

Episcopal Relief

Lakewood Church/Joel Osteen working with other Houston area churches and Houston Mayor Bill White to raise the $5 million needed to feed several thousand refugees who will be living in the AstroDome for a month.

Lutheran Disaster Response

Presbyterian Disaster Relief

Salation Army

Soldiers' Angels Katrina Relief

Southern Baptist Disaster Relief

United Jewish Communities

United Methodist Church Relief

For helping pets or livestock:

Humane Society

Noah's Wish

Donate please

My family in Louisiana is all right, but we haven't been able to find out about relatives in Mississippi yet.

The storm damage is overwhelming in terms of human suffering. Please, if you can donate money, blood, food, bottled water, diapers, or whatever, do so. Then a month from now, do it again. The need for these contributions will be ongoing.

It would be "nice" if other countries would send aid in some way. I know some of you are in foreign countries since I seem to have a lot of readers in northern Europe. If you are a citizen of a foreign country, please email your government and urge them to help.

Sling Words out.