Friday, September 30, 2005

Scenes from a small town

I'm too tired to be brilliant or witty today. That's not to say I am any other day, but I'm still feeling the aftereffects of my enforced evaca-vation. What's an "evaca-vation" you ask? A local DJ coined the term. It describes the combination evacuation those in the path of Rita were required to make, and the mini-family-vacation it became for many of us who escaped Rita's path. A lot of folks spent unexpected time with their families over the several days we were evacuating, including myself. The kids got a lot of our undivided attention, and we drove through some parts of Texas that were quaint and charming that we might never have had the chance to see otherwise.

We even stopped in a small town where my husband's ancestors were born, saw the church in which his father grew up, and took pictures of the gravesite where his grandparents were buried.

This town even had a pretty spiffy monument to General Douglas MacArthur. We didn't get to go in, but I had to take his picture.

Some of the towns we saw looked as if time had passed them right on by, leaving behind nothing but flaking paint and rusted memories.

We even passed through the "goat meat capital of the world," Zephyr, where I took these shots of abandoned cars from circa 1940's.

They reminded me of the pictures I'd taken years before as a child, standing on the Berlin Wall, overlooking the bombed out Potsdam Plaza, which had been blown up during World War II and abandoned until the wall came down fifty years later. Cars just like these littered the streets, crushed and broken apartment buildings gaping open-mouthed at the evidence of violence around them. The memory I have of that place was one of a frozen moment, caught in an elliptical loop, forever playing forwards and backwards. These scenes in Central Texas were more bucollic, but gave me that same sense of time trapped in amber.

I didn't even know places like this still existed in the good ole US of A. Learn something new every day.


Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Oh, yeah, one more thing

For those who asked, I neglected to mention in my previous post that our house was indeed fine. A few downed branches around the yard, lots of leaves, twigs, and various debris lying around, one screen with a rip in it--nothing of importance. DH swept away the leaves, but it's too hot to do anything else right now. Hopefully, the temps will dip below 100 later this week.

Everybody is saying our area dodged a bullet on this one. Thank you, God.


Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Caren Johnson to join Nadia Cornier at new Firebrand Agency

Just read on one of my loops...Caren Johnson of the Peter Rubie Literary Agency (who diss'ed Dreamweaver in the Daphne's--but I'm not bitter, I'm not bitter at all) has left to join Nadia Cornier (formerly of CMA) at Nadia's new agency, Firebrand. Sounds like that will be one hot agency, since both young women are known for their energy and enthusiasm for their clients. Looks like a match made in heaven. It will be interesting to see the clients they take on and what they sell. Definitely an agency to watch.


...and Bad News

Well, we made it home okay from Midland, stopping a day over in Cedar Park in a very nice Holiday Inn Express with plenty of room and no renovations going on below us (we were grateful for the room in Midland, but becoming a little claustrophobic due to the tiny space, the chlorine from the indoor pool, and having to step over carpenters and spackle-guys all the time).
We called a neighbor who had returned to our town to see if power had been restored, and she assured us it had, so we loaded up the SUV and headed home. Only required one detour to bypass the road most traveled. Got home just fine, but walked in to discover that five minutes before we arrived, the power went out again.

The electric company assured us it would only be out for an hour; they were instituting "rolling blackouts" for the duration until all transformers could be repaired from damage to the storm. This did remind us of the "rolling blackouts" we used to experience in Los Angeles during the Enron days. Since our area was barely hit here, we wondered how all this damage had occurred, and uttered ominous mutterings about conspiracies and electric companies that don't plan ahead, gouge customers, and ride on the backs of the least fortunate in order to make as many bucks as possible, but okay, we went along for the ride.

Needless to say, six hours later, the blackout had yet to roll on. With 100+ degree temperatures and high humidity, even an hour without the A/C can make for a tough time--not to mention one cannot open windows in the house without swarms of no-see-ums and mosquitoes bypassing the tiniest cracks in the screen to get in. Add in the fact that we'd been traveling for days, and all we wanted was a shower, a cool room, and time to relax, we were not happy campers. So, out we went again at 10:00pm, kids in tow, looking for a cool place to relax and to call motels from. We wound up in the Chic-fil-a, dialing every budget hotel we could find with no luck. We finally "resorted" to calling a resort that still had a room and power on. At that point, since I had been ordered back to work the next morning, getting a shower and a good night's sleep seemed well worth the price.

We stopped by the house again just to check to see if the power was on, and yes, it had returned (can I get an amen?). Ran next door to drag our mechanically inclined neighbor over to help us get our gas water heater pilot relit so we could have that shower (so what if my DH and I both have five degrees between us? That doesn't mean we actually have any worthwhile skills or anything, like lighting pilot lights). Emptied the 'fridge of all the food that had died and spawned alien afterbirths in the bottom of the freezer, dumped the dirty laundry in the washer, and collapsed in the bed at 1:00am. Rose at 6:00 am to get ready and drive the 50 mins to the university to teach a full day's schedule. And experienced similar power outages there, half-filled classes, and finally an hour-and-forty-five minute return trip home, weaving in and out of the abandoned vehicles by the side of the road and the evacuees returning from the Dallas/Ft. Worth area. Power outages continued at home throughout the evening.

What a day. As my sis said, "What's next, locusts?"


Saturday, September 24, 2005

Good News

I just spoke to an official from my town who says it fared pretty well in the storm. Only one of the villages has lost power, and though there are a number of trees down in the roads and a few on houses, no flooding has occurred. He said they're driving the neighborhoods to see what trees are down, and there was a large one in ours, but he wasn't aware of any on houses. If our house survived the winds, we might be okay.

The officials in Texas are saying to stay put for now, so we'll stay in Midland one more day, head towards Austin tomorrow and stay near there for a day, then make our way home.

Wish us luck. Right now we're heading out for brunch. Ah, the life of an evacuee...


Friday, September 23, 2005

Defining Our Terms

We've talked it over, and we have come up with the "correct" terms by which to define ourselves. We are not refugees from Rita, we are evacuees.

We think an "evacuee" is someone who still has a home to go back to after the hurricane. A "refugee" is someone whose home has been destroyed.

Signed, TJB
(still an evacuee, and happy to be, all things considered)

The Waiting is the Hardest Part

Well, now that we are safe here in a hotel in the Midlands, we're discovering that the waiting is the hardest part. We have been checking the news to see where Rita might make landfall, and though the news is better that she's turning to the east more (at least, better for us; bad for those folks in Galveston/Louisiana area), it is likely that our area will still be affected by 3-4 category winds.

The kids are bored, but have been pretty good so far, all things considered. We're trying to figure out how to entertain twin eight year old boys in Midland, TX, which from what we can tell is an oil town, and not much else. It does have the distinction of being President Bush's (the current) home town, where he met and married his wife. The rumor is that there is a movie theater in town, so I'll be checking to see if there are any kid flicks playing.

The most exciting part of our visit so far was trying to figure out how the shower operated in our bathroom. Can anyone tell me why someone doesn't come up with a universal standard for operating hotel shower faucets in America? Every time I go to a hotel, I wind up puzzling over how the darn shower head works. Does it pull out with the handle on the bottom, or pull up with the button on the faucet, or turn with the doo-hickey on the side of the showerhead? This one did none of those. It was bad enough for me to call in my DH, who is a PhD professor with no practical sense whatsoever, to see if he could figure it out. He couldn't. I was so desperate for a shower after having missed mine for two days, I finally turned the taps up full blast and sat down in the tub as the levels rose (there was no tub plug, so a bath was out of the question), and splashed around like a duck. DH finally went to the front desk, fought the lines of people from Houston trying to register for rooms that don't exist, and discovered that there was a little pull down nipple-thingy fitted into the actual faucet head that operates the shower. Oh, yeah, that was obvious. Can't believe I missed that.

So, the adventure continues...


Thursday, September 22, 2005

Any Port in a Storm

Well, we are safe and sound, if exhausted. We never made it to Carlsbad, unfortunately. After driving for about 12 straight hours and only getting to Ozona, TX, we realized we were too exhausted to try and make it to New Mexico. Except for a short one hour nap in a parking lot, we'd been up for twenty-four hours. After packing all of our possessions that would fit in our SUV and saying goodbye to our neighbor who decided to try to sit it out because his boss refused to let his people go until Saturday (projected landfall), we were beat before we even took off. Then sitting in the parking lot that was the freeway for hours didn't help. We did fine on gas, though, and took turns driving, and tried to push on, but we knew we were done for.

We used our cell to find a Holiday Inn closer in, and got one of the last rooms. Almost everyone we met in the gas stations, rest stops, and in the hotel line was fleeing the Texas coast. Reports from the papers estimated that over a million people were on the roads, and I believe it. Once we got west of Austin, however, things thinned out.

Everyone has the same dazed look on their face, and many are accepting that they may not see their homes again. Even if the projected landfall turns out to be farther east than predicted, we'll probably still see significant damage. Our property is heavily wooded (as is our whole town), and the officials were recommending voluntary evacuation for our area as a result of danger from falling trees and power lines. Since we couldn't find anything closer, we had to press on.

Even if the house survives, the fact that the electricity, gas, and water will be shut down for up to two weeks means we probably won't be able to go back into the house for a while. We work an hour away from where we live, and though they shut down the campus we teach at for Thursday and Friday, school will be in session again next week (unless the city is underwater, of course). So, we have to find a way to get close enough to work to continue to do our jobs while we wait for our home to be habitable. And I still have 75 papers to grade! Reckon I'll be sitting in front of the big screen TV in the lobby of the Holiday Inn tomorrow, grading papers and waiting to see where Rita makes landfall.

I think, BTW, we saw every small town West Texas has to offer. Most everyone was friendly, and I had to laugh at some of the old-style gas stations and businesses we saw. In one tiny town, right across the street from each other (Main Street, and the ONLY street), were two businesses that made me go "hmmmm"--the Doughnut and Seafood Shop (yuck) and the Drive-Thru Liquor Depot. Can anyone think of two combinations of things that go together less? And I lost count of the number of pawn and gun shops. Deer processing is apparently a big business in west Texas, too. And speaking of the roads, I've never seen so much road kill in my life, including a few Bambis. The skunks, rodents, raccoons, etc go without saying, but when we saw the vultures, I knew we'd seen it all. I expected to hear that music that always precedes Clint Eastwood's entrance in those old spaghetti westerns at that point.

Well, that's it from the front. Keep those prayers coming that our home will be spared, as well as no lives lost from this killer storm.


Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Moving out

Just a quick post to tell you we are going to have to go to New Mexico in order to get out of the path of the storm. There were no hotels between here and there, nor were there any between here and Tennessee, which was our other option, that are available. Unbelievable. Between the Katrina refugees and everyone trying to get out for Rita, there just wasn't anything left. Dallas and Ft. Worth will get a large part of the tropical winds once Rita makes landfall, as will San Antonio, so those are not an option. Anything south is out, most things north are out, and east would be good if it already hadn't been beaten up by Katrina. Therefore, we're going to make a brutal 10 hour drive first thing in the morning and go as west as we can get in one day, and that's Whites City, NM. Hope the name isn't an indication of our welcome there (har har).

The good thing is it is near Carlsbad Caverns, a place I've always wanted to visit, so we'll spend a day or two doing that.

Take care, wish us luck that our house is still standing since we didn't have any plywood to board it up, and it has glass windows all the way around the house (21 of them) and two skylights. Pretty much we expect to see an oak tree sticking out of some part of the house when we get back--we're hoping for minimal damage so we can come home sooner rather than later.


Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Wish Us Luck

Well, word comes now that my new home may be in the direct path of the oncoming hurricane, Rita, evil twin to Katrina. Currently the meteorologists are projecting the path will bring the hurricane to our front door. A category 4 will wreak havoc and devastation to this area. All of this is terrible news for a couple of reasons: the people who recently relocated to this area from Louisiana had just begun to settle in, and now they may be forced to evacuate again; and on a personal level, we've only been in our new home for about two months, and much of the furniture and goods we have are brand new. We had figured when we moved, why pay moving costs on the old stuff when we could sell it and buy new stuff? The heartbreaker is, there is a distinct possibility if Rita makes landfall here, we could lose it all, and our dream of owning our first home would have a serious damper on it.

So, wish us all luck. If you pray, I'd be happy to accept those on our behalf. I'll try to keep you up to date on what is going on. Our plan is to evacuate if by Thursday the storm is still predicted to make landfall here. We'd go earlier, but it is unlikely our jobs or the schools will close down until the last possible moment. It's going to be a nightmare getting out of town either way. Today, Wednesday, I tried to buy water, but all the stores had been cleaned out. There are already long lines at the gas pumps to fill up cars. DH and I will be putting together emergency supplies tomorrow and packing sleeping bags and clothing, just in case. We'll be gathering together all of our important papers, emergency food, first aid kits, and getting emergency cash, too. I was able to purchase stable food supplies, so we got lucky there. Oh, yeah, and somewhere in there I have to grade 75 Freshman Composition papers to return to my students by Thursday. Ack!

Frankly, in some ways, this is just surreal. At least we have warning...In Los Angeles, we didn't have tornadoes or hurricanes, but when an earthquake hit, it was without warning. Of course, we didn't have "earthquake seasons" either. Here, even if we survive this, we always have next year's hurricane season to look forward to. Yeesh.


Friday, September 16, 2005

News on New Orleans agent Pam Ahearn

Word comes that agent Pamela Ahearn, whose offices were located in New Orleans when Katrina hit, is fine and operating out of New York for the indefinite future. She is still accepting requested submissions at the address below:

Pamela Ahearn, 57 Brompton Road, Garden City, NY 11530.

Let's wish her all the best as she gets situated in her new location.


Wednesday, September 14, 2005

I Love L.A.

God, I miss Los Angeles. Don’t get me wrong; my new home is great. The people are friendly and hard working, the city isn’t too crowded, and the teenagers call me ma’am.

But it’s just not home. Home is a place paved with concrete, where the sun shines down on incongruent palm trees, and jacarandas drop purple blossoms on your freshly washed car at night. Home is a place where a nanosecond is defined by the time it takes the streetlight to change to green and the idiot behind you to honk his horn. It’s where drivers aim for pedestrians in the crosswalk and pick their teeth with jaywalkers’ bones, not where they politely hold up traffic so you can sprint across against the light.

Home is where the teenagers not only wear gothic, but really think they’re vampires, and God help you if you cross their paths alone at night. Home is where I can get a craving for a barbeque chicken pizza (no cheese) at 2:00am on Christmas Eve, and by gosh I can find someone to serve me one. It’s where the only rainbows you usually see are in the colors of the people around you, but no one ever utters the words “colored people.”

Home is where my friends are. Home is where my extended family is.

I love L.A. And I always will.


Saturday, September 10, 2005

I'm from LA, but I'm not from Louisiana

Funny thing has been happening lately. As I've mentioned already, we have recently relocated to the northern suburb of a city that's taking in many refugees from New Orleans. That's not the funny part.

The funny part (as in funny "strange," not funny "ha ha") is that lately, whenever I go out in public, I have people stopping me to ask if I'm from Louisiana (they say this with a sympathetic look, of course). The first time it happened was in a church we were visiting for the first time. I figured, well okay, maybe it's because they have several people here from New Orleans who are visiting, and they know I'm a stranger. Easy to see how someone could make that assumption.

Then it happened again, at a store. And two more times after that in other places. Now, I'm beginning to feel self-conscious. The only reason I can figure is this: I'm from Los Angeles. It is most likely obvious to anyone that (say this with a SOUTHERN accent) "You ain't from around here, are ya?" And, my coloring might lead one to suppose I could be Creole, which, yes, there are a lot of Creole folks from New Orleans, though I'm not.

I'm just hoping it's not the "I just relocated, I have no idea how to find the post office or grocery store, and I'm still up to my armpits in packing boxes" look I'm sporting these days. Or that I look desperate and destitute.

Guess it's just one of those things that make you go, "hmmmmm."


Golden Heart scores

Hey, been busy for the last few days so I haven't posted. However, several folks had told me privately they were interested in my scores on the Golden Heart that put me in the finalist category for paranormals. Well, the scores were pretty good, but not so high as I figured I had to score to make that final. I know I judged the long historical category, and I did give out one perfect 9 and an 8.5, so I figured the same was probably true of other judges. Guess not, from the scoop on the loop (GH Finalists loop that is). Doesn't look like a whole lot of perfect scores there, either. Looks like we had some tough judges this year.

Here's what I received:

8.1, 8, 8.5, 7.8, 8.3=40.70.

Top quarter final scores had to be greater or equal to 37.60.

I'm happy I finaled, but not surprised I didn't win. Better luck next time, huh?


Thursday, September 08, 2005

More editor changes

Here are more editor changes at the various houses, for those of you keeping track of such things:

Avalon: Orly Trieber, assistant editor, has been removed from the list of acquiring editors.
Avon: Selina McLemore has left Avon books. She is now an editor with Red Dress Ink.
May Chen is now listed as associate editor at Avon.
Berkley/Jove: Susan McCarty is a new assistant editor at Berkley/Jove.
Silhouette: Demetria Lucas, associate editor, has been added to the list of acquiring editors for Silhouette Books.
Harlequin: Superromance's Johanna Raisanen is now listed as associate editor.


Monday, September 05, 2005


We've heard so much and seen so much about the destruction caused by Katrina these days that I just want to make a comment. I live in a Southwestern state that is taking in many of the refugees from Katrina. The response to the many and ongoing needs by the folks in this area has been amazing.

Let me be the first to say that southern hospitality is alive and well, folks. The many churches and aid organizations have banded together to adopt families living as refugees in local hotels. These folks have stepped forward and said, simply, "We will provide for their needs through God's grace and mercy." No fanfare, no chest-beating. They've turned to their church membership, who have responded in droves. You can't go down the street without seeing donation centers, and firefighters standing on the corner collecting donations in their yellow and black boots. Families are opening their homes to total strangers, offering to host them until they can get back on their feet. Schools are sending home flyers asking that clothing in good condition be donated to the cause, and grocery stores are setting up food donations that can be given directly to the victims in our area.

We've been looking for a new home church, and yesterday we visited one for the first time. While we were there, the pastor introduced at least twenty refugees from Katrina that they had invited to attend the church, then prayed over them and offered them any help they needed. The members of this church, as have many others, reached out, and the gratitude on the faces of the people there was clear evidence of faith in action. These people put their money where there mouth is, and all I want to say to that is "amen."

Many of the refugees have decided to relocate to this city, and no wonder--these folks are some of the most incredible I have ever met in terms of sheer friendliness and willingness to help.

If you haven't had an opportunity to donate yet, think about sending a monetary donation to the Salvation Army, which has very low operating costs--ensuring that most of the money goes directly to those in need.

Take care,

More info on Nadia

If you are interested in getting the scoop on Nadia Cornier's new agency, Firebrand, you can read about it in her latest blog post at


Sunday, September 04, 2005

Nadia Cornier Leaves CMA

Just heard on another loop that agent Nadia Cornier is leaving The Creative MediaAgency and starting her own agency, the Firebrand Agency. CMA is a well-respected agency, so that's interesting news. I hear Nadia has been making quite a few sales herself. I was scheduled to pitch to one of her collegues at CMA in Reno, Lisa VanAuken, but since she'd already very nicely turned down my Golden Heart manuscript, didn't seem to be any point. Paige Wheeler, CMA agency head, is Linda O. Johnston's agent (Linda is one of the sweetest and most helpful ladies I know, and author of a great new mystery series featuring a crime-fighting pet-sitter).


Friday, September 02, 2005

May You Burn in Hell, Spam Creature of the Night

Well, I've been forced to turn on the "word verification" feature in my blog because a spammer posted a comment on my site. So now, if you want to respond with a comment (and I hope you do, because I love seeing them), you'll just need to verify that you are a real person first by typing in the word you see on the screen when it asks after you post. I'm sorry about that, but these DIRTY ROTTEN SONS OF DOGS are spoiling the fun for everybody.

What I want to know is, why do they think that sending me junk mail over the internet that I then have to deal with, or pay someone to remove by buying software that will deal with it, is going to encourage me to buy their product? I don't understand spammers. They're like men who whistle and hoot houndog noises at pretty women walking by, or guys with those little playboy flaps on their pickup trucks. Do they really think a woman is going to turn around, get all googly-eyed, and say, "Why, yes, I really would like to date you. You appear to be so trustworthy and classy, how could I not?"

Who buys stuff from spammers to encourage them to do this? I can't imagine they would continue unless they're making a profit, right? Now, I know the regular readers of my blog (all five or six of you) would never do that, but let me give the rest of you a hint: these people are not your friends. Don't believe them when they say they can get you Viagra for half the price, or that Lolitas and boys want to do it for you on their website, first visit is free, or they are from Nigeria and they need help recovering money from their government and if you'd only give them your bank account number, they'll cut you in, or Bank of America needs to check its records for security reasons and would you please send them all your pertinant information in a reply. They will not do these things, but they will take your money to South America and you will never see it again.

Trust me. Auntie TJB wouldn't lie to you.

And if you're out there, spammer, stop posting spam to my site (you dirty rotten so-and-so, you).


And the answer is...

Hey, I almost forgot to annouce the winners of my contest! Turns out we have two winners and an honorable mention, which works out nicely since we only had three contestants (hee hee).

Cara was our top scorer, answering every question perfectly. That, of course, is frightening, because it means she thinks like me. I'm sorry for you, Cara, but glad you participated.

TSJ was our next highest rated scorer, answering 5 out of 6 questions correctly.

Rae is our honorable mention, and she wins just for being the first to play. Thanks, Rae!

Ladies, send me your mailing address via private e-mail and tell me which prize you want, and I'll get those right out to you. The prize choices for our winners are the $10 gift certificate to Barnes & Nobles, the $10 gift certificate to Starbucks, or one of the following books (first come, first serve, so if you want one of the books, let me know which one quick):

Christina Dodd's Scandalous Again (Romance)
Susan Kearney's The Challange (Paranormal Romance)
J.M. Coetzee's Elizabeth Costello (Literary Fiction--hardback)
Frank Peretti's The Visitation (Christian Suspense Fiction--hardback)
Jill Marie Landis' Lover's Lane (Contemporary Romance--hardback)

And in case you're wondering, the answers to the questions are as follows:

Q1: "What is the air speed velocity of an unladen swallow?"
Two possible answers: "An African or a European?" or "What...I don't know that! Aaaahhhh!" (From Monty Python's Search for the Holy Grail)

Q2: What is the correct response to this comment: "Well, I didn't expect the Spanish Inquisition."
A: "No one expects the Spanish Inquisition." (Monty Python's Flying Circus)

Q3: According to Jenny Cruisie, the Romance Writers of America is: a. Anti-woman b. racist c. politically right-winged d. all of the above

A: d. all of the above

Q4: How big was the tree roach that attacked TJB's toe (hint: answer posted in one of her blogs)?
As big as my thumb

Q5: Which one of these men is not a member of the Four Tops?
a. Levi Stubbs
b. Lawrence Payton
c. Russell Thompkins

A: c: Russell Thompkins

Q6: Rick, Victor, Sam and Ilsa. Name the movie.
A: Casablanca (but of course...)

Hope you had fun!