Sunday, August 17, 2008

Tropical storm heading my way? And naming characters

.. href="/css/spellcheck.css" type="text/css" rel="stylesheet"> WARNING: This is a long blog today as I'm combining two posts. WHY am I doing that? Because I just learned a tropical storm is aimed at me. Fun fun fun. Oh the joys of living in South Florida. Again it looks as if a tropical storm is bearing down on us. DH and DD2 tell me we're right in the middle of the storm cone. Oh joy. I'm so thrilled. I'm not only a veteran of the USAF but of many hurricanes, the last being Wilma, a category 3 and the one that did the most damage to my family. I had forgotten that I saw a snippet on the news talking about another storm out in the Atlantic. So when I stopped at Sam's Club this afternoon I merely thought the mad rush was to buy lunch stuff for back to school next week. Still, it looked like a bit much even for that on some people's carts. I remembered halfway through getting a few things at Sam's that our membership might not be current (no one stopped me at the door going in) so I called hubby and he told me our membership had expired and it would be $100 to renew, $100 we don't have right now, so I left and headed to Wal-Mart. But it was in that conversation that he told me to get lots of water and canned Spaghettios in case we did get slammed with the storm. Spaghettios, huh? The hurricane supply of choice? So I ended spending more than twice as much as I had planned, getting stuff that could either store well in case of a hurricane or be eaten for school lunches and quick breakfasts. Like pop tarts, cereal bars, granola bars, fruit, peanut butter and jelly, crackers, and a couple things for the grill like potatoes and corn and hot dogs. Like I mentioned, we survived a lot of hurricanes, way more in Mississippi than in South Florida. It must be that hole in the ozone over the Gulf of Mexico sucking the hurricanes into that zone. Anyway, I have a good idea of what the family will eat and what they won't in the event we lose power and have to rough it. I feel like I'm practically an expert. This is after not only Wilma, but Elena (a cat 3 that hit Mississippi in 83), Andrew, Irene, Erin, Dan, Frederick, Bob, and a few others I don't even remember the names of. I have a morbid curiosity about the storms. I become glued to the news for the day before and several days after the storms, so much my kids beg me to change the station. I don't want anyone to be hurt or lose property, but I can't seem to turn it off or stop thinking about it. Thus I wrote one of my stories, Forbidden Fruit published by New Concepts Publishing, in which there's a cat 3 hurricane. I wrote it before Katrina hit and it was already set to be published if I recall correctly, before Katrina and Wilma hit that year. I've always heard write about what you know and I know hurricanes. Plus I've read several romances in which there's a hurricane or at least a tropical storm featured. But I got blasted by one reader for it, perhaps someone who'd been through Katrina? I'm not sure. Anyway, when I mentioned it to other writers, they thought readers were raw about the subject after such a horrendous event. It was purely bad timing on my part. But could I tell you stories about hurricanes, something this Ohio Buckeye never would have thought possible before I turned 19. The most notable one for me was Hurricane Bob. It was a teeny weeny cat 1 as hurricanes go, but it will live in infamy in my mind. I was an Airman in the US Air Force when Bob hit the Mississippi Gulf Coast and I was stationed at Keesler AFB in Biloxi. Since it was only a cat 1, the base was not shut down and as I was between classes at tech school, I was assigned other duties. That day I was assigned laundry detail. The night before I'd gone to a concert with my friends Mary and Shannon, a couple of real party animals and heavy drinkers. I was not a heavy drinker, but because I was really upset about my ex-boyfriend Bryan hooking up with my friend Gail, I tied on a real doozy. So I had the mother of all hang overs. Well, it was my only ever hang over. So I had to traverse the whipping winds and fierce rains of Bob while I had a monstrous hangover AND Skylab was falling to Earth that same exact day. I felt so horrible, I laid down in the middle of the laundry, not caring if I got caught and reprimanded. Luckily, I didn't get caught. I guess my superiors didn't want to brave the storm to check on laundry. Anyway, if you're facing your first hurricane, or if it's the first time you're taking one seriously (I learned to take them seriously after Elena slammed into us and we were without electricity for three weeks), here is a list of things you should do to prepare. Stock up on non-perishable food. Make sure it's food your family will eat. Don't assume that they will eat anything in an emergency. Some people would rather starve (and do) than eat something unpalatable. Don't forget to have sufficient food on hand for your animals. Water. This is the most essential item in your supplies. You'll need two gallons per day per person in your household. Plan on two weeks. Include your pets in your calculations. Batteries and sources of light, preferably no candles or fire-starting items. A lot of people have life-threatening fires after hurricanes because of candles and kerosene lamps. I found out the hard way and am lucky to live to warn others. Have enough batteries on hand for battery operated radios, TVs, flash lights, and lanterns. Also for alpha smarts, game boys, and other toys to keep you and the kids from getting too bored. A generator and plenty of gas to keep it running. You'll want to keep your refrigerator and freezers going. You might want to do some laundry. Ice. Fill your freezers and refrigerators and coolers with enough ice to keep your food cool for a few days if necessary even if you don't have a generator. Even tropical storms and cat 1 storms can knock out electricity for several days and weeks at a time. Again, I found out the hard way. Grills and enough gas, charcoal, and lighter fluid for your grills. Foil also so you can cook on your grills. NEVER EVER cook on your grills inside because a lot of people have died from carbon monoxide poisoning after storms, too. Paper supplies. Items like paper plates, plastic cups, disposable utensils, napkins, wet wipes, foil so you can cook on the grill, diapers if you have a baby, sanitary items for women, and toilet paper. Don't forget to have lots of trash bags available to dispose of your extra paper trash. Stock up on books to read, coloring books and crayons for the kids, and other old-fashioned games for everybody to play to pass the time. Decks of cards are cheap and excellent. For writers like me, lots of pens and paper, and batteries for your alpha smart. If your laundry's behind, catch up before the storm. You might not be able to wash them for several days or weeks after. Even if you find a working laundromat, they're real zoos with everybody fighting for washers and dryers. Be prepared to share and help less fortunate neighbors. Some people either don't stock up (lack of funds or disbelief there could be a problem) or their wares have been damaged by the storm, and need help. Check on shut ins, friends, neighbors, and relatives as safely as you can. Don't step in standing water after the storm. Be careful what you touch. Many people die after these storms because of electrocution. Also, there's a lot of bad bacteria in the standing water, and maybe even slithering, slimy snakes. Take pictures and inventory of your valuables, car, and house before the storm and store them in a safety deposit box or email the pics and files to a trusted person out of the storm area. You might need it for insurance purposes after. Make sure your animals have collars with name tags, addresses and phone numbers in case they get loose. If you can, board them in a safe shelter. Seek out safe shelter if your home is not strong enough. Consider vacating for cat 3 storms and higher. Definitely for cat 4 and 5 storms. However, leave early enough so you won't get caught in the tangle of traffic leaving your area. It's worse to get caught in your car in the storm than in your house. Hurricane Elena was a mixed up storm. It went from Biloxi, to South Florida, and then back to Biloxi where it finally made land fall. Several people from the air force base where we were stationed drove to South Florida to avoid the storm in Biloxi only to have to turn around and run from the storm again, only to be followed back up the coast. That's crazy. If you're going to run from the storm, get away from the coast. Go inland. Storms are unpredictable. Elena's not the only storm to waver off the predicted path. Irene jumped from Florida's west coast to us on the east coast giving us no warning. Thank God she was merely a cat 1 as we were still all at work and school that day. Jean went all over the frickin' place, in circles. Bring in any loose items from outside. They will probably become projectiles. That said, board up your windows if you don't have hurricane shutters. When Andrew hit, we had boarded up. Luckily as it ripped a huge avocado tree out of the ground and flung it at our sliding glass doors. We would have been in a mess of trouble had it broken that glass and let the storm inside our house. Fill up on all necessary medications. Do so early as possible as everybody will be doing so. Make plans to get disabled relatives and friends to safety. Have a back up plan in case you get stuck at work or on the road. In the case you're in a vital job that you can't get out of work early to secure your loved ones, make sure someone else is in place to do so. Before Hurricane Andrew, the manager of the Walgreens where I was trying to get my kids necessary meds, was freaking out because he needed to leave to get his elderly father to safety and yet, there were customers like me, that still needed his services. By the way, I was stuck waiting several hours at the pharmacy as my kids meds were regulated. It's not that I waited till the last second. If you're on low ground or near the beach, get to higher ground. Hurricane Camille had flood waters so high they went up to and over the second story of houses for about two miles inland. I'm not trying to scare any one but these storms can be very nasty critters. Just take rational precautions. Don't spend your life's savings preparing, either. Most storms fizzle out or move away to hit somebody else. But if you are a victim and you're without electricity (lights, TV, AC, and refrigeration) for a long time, and if the grocery stores and gas stations can't get stocked for several days or weeks and your town starts looking like a war zone, you'll be glad you're prepared and not wondering where you'll get your next meal or how you'll get to your job. (Oh! Fill up your car's gas tank well before a couple hours before the storm unless you just love to wait in long lines and pay exorbitant prices.) One last thing. Don't run outside in the eye of the storm, otherwise known as the calm. Hide in interior rooms without windows . By the way, if the storm hits me and knocks out my electricity, I'll be gone for awhile. I've pre-scheduled by blog posts on for a couple weeks ahead. You'll see new posts there everyday from me for at least a week (2 or 3 if I find time to write that many blogs - I still have to finish a book trailer and send a requested manuscript and do laundry, etc.). Don't forget about my new release, "Submissive Dreams" a BDSM treat available at Here's my original blog post intended for today:I love names and naming. When I was expecting each of my five kids, I thought about their names throughout the entire pregnancy. Even when I had a favorite name picked out, I still kept looking just in case I found one I liked better. I didn't always, but I still enjoyed coming up with names. (The only exception was with DD2 because DH put her name on our tax records before she was born so I was just praying she really was a girl like the amniocentesis claimed and not a boy. I don't remember how or why he did that, but he really did.) I'm still like that with naming the characters in my stories. Often I start with one name and change it later - sometimes several times and sometimes while it's in official edits. Right now I have a story that I've not exactly contracted but I have handed in and was asked to add words to, that I'm considering changing the name. The heroine's name is now "Tiffany" which is a pretty name. However, it doesn't feel right for the character. I don't always give my characters my favorite names like I always thought I would. Rather, I often name the character what feels right for them. Sometimes, I hate to admit it but will anyway; the characters tell me what their name is. I thought I'd use the names "Colleen" and "Leslie" for two of my heroines long ago as I've always liked the names. However, they've never seemed right for any of my heroines. Yet, they're on the many name lists I've made. Yeah, I'm a list maker, not just about names, but just about everything. It helps me a lot in my day job to keep track of things. But for personal use, I like to come up with names. My kids and hubby think I'm nuts even though they know I'm an author. (They all know when my monthly royalties are due and often pounce on me for some of those $.) What I even find nuts, is that I have these lists of names I really like, but by the time I start a new story, either the character tells me their names, or I'm looking for something completely different I'd not thought of before because by now, I'm tired of the names on my list. Tiffany's hero is "Dax", a name that wasn't on any of my lists, a name I'd not thought of until I was watching a movie with Dax Shephard at the time I started this new story. "Oh," I thought. "There's a different, nice sounding name." So, I grabbed it without consulting my list. Since I originally wrote this post (I pre-scheduled it on my blog for tomorrow), I read where another author considers the name "Tiffany" a "hooker's name" or a slut's name. She went further to say that she couldn't take seriously a character named "Tiffany" or any other hooker's name and would stop reading the book.I know people named "Tiffany" that aren't sluts or hookers. They're normal people. Still, this really makes me wonder if I should not use the name "Tiffany"? But then again, I don't know what different names turn off different people. I don't have a crystal ball. I'm' still happy with Dax as my hero's name, but I'm debating if I want to make "Tiffany" "Brittany" or "Leslie" (maybe I finally found a story for Leslie), or "Rachel". We'll see. I'll probably change it to something that's not any one of the names on this list or my list of favorite names knowing me. This Monday, August 18th, I have a novelette coming out by Total-E-Bound called "Submissive Dreams" (obviously a BDSM story). I finally found a home for two of my favorite names: Stacey and Brandon. Finally, the names seemed right for the characters. I wondered why I hadn't used "Brandon" a long time ago as I really like it. Actually, however, "Brandon" in this story usually goes by "Brand". He's just not a pure "Brandon", but oh well. For secondary characters in particular, I often check out the popular baby name lists for the year of their birth and choose one of them. For historicals, I've been known to check out genealogy sites for names used in the years my stories are set. Usually, I don't name characters because of their name's meaning. But I have on occasion. My heroine in "Wishcraft" published by is Felicia Heks. Felicia's a spell-casting wish. "Heks" not only sounds like "hex", but means "witch" in German. So in this case, I did just that.I suppose all writers have to think about names to some degree. However, there are people online who love names and who aren't writers or expectant parents, who just love them and have loops devoted to them. You'll want to see what Amarinda Jones, Anika Hamilton, Anny Cook, Barbara Huffert, Brynn Paulin, Bronwyn Green, Dakota Rebel, Kelly Kirch, Molly Daniels, and Sandra Cox are up to, so make sure to visit them also. :)


Phoenix said...

So much to think about in a storm. I'm of the belief that when you learn something important like this, you'll have the need to use it. :( So now I'm thinking I'll be living in a location where there's a hurricane in the next 10 years.


Unknown said...

Sorry to bum you out. I hope you never get a hurricane. I wouldn't wish them on anybody.

C. said...

1) Good luck with that storm, love. I hope it isn't what it's expected. Hurricanes are pretty scary stuff.

2) I'm surprised I'm still able to write with all the drool and heart pounding going on seeing the new cover of the new book. Yum. Talk about MY fantasy come true. D/s fic. is HAWT. Well written D/s fic. is...*sighs*,

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