Here’s a slide show that looks back at this year’s dramatic skies through photography.
National Novel Writing Month is about two-thirds over, which means some 400,000 official participants – along with folks like myself who just wanted to test their mettle – are churning out copy toward the stated goal of completing a 50,000-word novel in November. I find participating in this process exhilarating. It really pushes me to write, and as a journalist, I’ve always thrived on deadlines. And I get a sense of fellowship with my fellow writers, who are airing their struggles and words of encouragement online in venues such as Twitter.
If you want to look at all these writers as competition – especially with companies jumping up to sell you publishing services at every turn – you wouldn’t be wrong, either. With up to a million books being published in the United States alone each year, the chances of your voice being heard in the wilderness dwindle all the time. But at least we live in an era when we can press the button and put a book out there without being totally at the mercy of the great publishing machine.The bad thing is that anyone can press the button. More opportunity means fewer filters. The signal-to-noise ratio suffers. There’s always a trade-off. But as more self-publishers publish at a professional level, with good editing and book covers, readers start to get some real choice. Of course, readers are paying less and less for books, and therefore authors who are trying to compete on price need to sell a ton of books to make anything off all their hard work. And so the struggle continues.
Struggle or not, I don’t think anyone gets into National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, to make money. It’s not easy to write that many words, as a rule. They’re doing it for the challenge and for the love of the written word.
This time, I’m doing it as an experiment, writing in a genre that’s new to me. Maybe it’s because of my casual approach, but I’ve found this romance manuscript to flow more easily than almost anything else I’ve written, and I’ve already surpassed my 50,000 words. I’m aiming for 70,000 and a complete novel by month’s end. I’ll probably publish this book myself, under a pen name, and because I’ve self-published before, I know a lot of work is still ahead of me. But it’s fun to be in there slugging with all the other NaNoWriMo writers this month, fighting the good fight. No matter how crazy the business has become, it’s still about the words on the page.
Ask not for whom the typewriter dings. It dings for thee.
I’d like to thank all the lovely people who shared and Tweeted the launch of my novel “Zap Bang” this past week – so many great friends and indie authors on Facebook and Twitter. I’ve also appreciated the coverage from Florida Today, Florida Book News and Authors and Book Buzz, and the fun interview in Jaimie M. Engle’s writing blog.
It’s hard to make oneself heard in the noisy world of publishing these days, but I heard the buzz this week! Now I hope more folks will discover the Storm Seekers trilogy over time and get into these storm-chasing adventures the way I have. To that end, “Funnel Vision,” book one, is still on sale this week on Kindle and Nook for 99 cents. You can learn more or buy any of the books via the links on this page.
And – there’s still time to win stuff! The giveaway of the big Storm Seekers Prize Pack ends late Monday evening. Check it out here and enter!
In addition, you can win a paperback of “Zap Bang” on Goodreads. The giveaway ends Sept. 30.
It’s launch day for Zap Bang! That means the third novel in the Storm Seekers trilogy is officially for sale, and I hope you’ll check it out! Here’s what you need to know:
Giveaway: The Storm Seekers Prize Pack Giveaway is under way through Sept. 22. Enter here or on Facebook. The goodies include signed paperbacks, a very cool captured lightning sculpture, a storm T-shirt and more. Via the giveaway, you can Tweet every day to stack up your entries, too.Funnel Vision sale: If you haven’t read the books, now’s a good time to grab the Kindle or Nook editions of Book 1 – Funnel Vision – on sale for 99 cents for a limited time.
Goodreads giveaway: Go to this page on Goodreads to register to win an autographed paperback copy of Zap Bang. The entry period ends Sept. 30.
All about Zap Bang: The sequel to Funnel Vision and Tornado Pinball, Zap Bang concludes the Storm Seekers trilogy with action, drama, humor and romance. Here’s the setup:
For tornado chaser Jack Andreas, an invitation to a lightning study means double the danger. As he sees it, what’s not to love? He’s intrigued by the job and fascinated by pilot Maribeth Lisbon, who must fly a research plane into the zap zone. Maribeth suspects he’s trouble, especially when his charms set off all her alarms. In their way are scheming TV chaser Brad Treat and down-on-his-luck adventurer Aurelius Zane, intent on filming a wedding in front of a twister. The eccentric billionaire who funds the study has a secret agenda. And a mystic with a food truck tests them all. As fearsome storms put them in mortal peril, Jack and Maribeth find their toughest challenge may lie within.
Catch some of the adrenaline in the book trailer:
So there you go. Zap Bang is in the wild, and a wild, lightning-laced adventure it is. I’ll dearly miss writing about these characters, but I hope you’ll enjoy living in their world as much as I have. Happy chasing!
Zap Bang, the third novel in the Storm Seekers trilogy of storm-chasing adventures by Chris Kridler, will be published Sept. 16, and to celebrate, Sky Diary Productions is offering a giveaway! The goodies include:
- Signed copies of the paperbacks of FUNNEL VISION, TORNADO PINBALL and ZAP BANG
- Matching bookmarks
- Captured lightning disc – a 2″ Lichtenberg figure created inside a piece of clear acrylic by a 5-million-volt particle accelerator! (with velvet bag)
- Three 1″ Storm chaser/Funnel Vision pins
- Flashing/thundering lightning bolt keychain
- Storm chaser T-shirt from the Sky Diary Storm Stuff Store (choice of colors)
- Storm chaser decal
The captured lightning is completely cool, and you’ll read about it in Zap Bang. The giveaway ends on Sept. 22, so get in your entries now!
Josh Groban’s “Brave” is a gorgeous song and quite different from a lot of the rockers on my novel playlist.
Every time I write a novel, I feel a compelling need to come up with a soundtrack for it. OK, officially, it’s a playlist of songs that inspire me and, in my mind, illustrate emotions and plot turns with addictive tunes. These are songs I bought so I could listen to them over and over as I write and revise. Right now, if I could wear a groove in my iPod, there would be one where the “Zap Bang” playlist is.I wrote about my playlist for the last novel, “Tornado Pinball,” in a blog post: “A book soundtrack? Playful playlist enhances novel writing and reading.” Other writers get into scoring their books, too. Deborah Harkness, now at the top of the New York Times bestseller list with “The Book of Life,” shared a playlist on the eve of her release, going so far as to hold back the last few songs so they wouldn’t give away the ending. (As I’m looking forward to reading her book, I’m avoiding looking too closely at her song selection until I’ve done so.)
“Zap Bang” will be published in about a month, before the official end of summer. It will conclude the Storm Seekers trilogy with a new adventure starring storm chaser and scientist Jack Andreas and pilot Maribeth Lisbon, whom readers may recall from her appearance in “Tornado Pinball.” They are called to join a lightning study – Jack on the ground, where his expertise chasing tornadoes comes in handy, and Maribeth in the air, flying an A-10 Warthog converted for civilian lightning research. The National Science Foundation is currently converting an A-10 for similar purposes, though it will be focused on tornadoes and hurricanes, not lightning.
Fortunately, the realm of rock and roll is full of great songs that use lightning and thunder as a metaphor. I’ll selectively mention some that appear in the playlist, starting with Pearl Jam’s “Lightning Bolt.” It’s an absolutely fantastic rocker, and it’s how I see Maribeth – she really is a lightning bolt who’s about to shake up Jack’s life. Opposite in tone is Craig Carnelia’s beautiful song “Flight,” performed by Sutton Foster and Megan McGinnis. It speaks to what I think the younger Maribeth must have felt when she first learned to fly, before the hardships she faced later in life; that kind of yearning may be a feeling she needs to rediscover.Speaking of rockers, how can you resist The Strypes’ “Perfect Storm”? Hunter Hayes’ “Storm Warning” gives the playlist a needed country inflection; after all, Tornado Alley is country music central. And “I Don’t Want To (Love You)” by TAT is a frenetic, humorous expression of a feeling many of us can identify with.
The list dips into classic jazz with Johnny Hartman’s “Stairway to the Stars,” which is mentioned in the text. Saxy tune. Pun intended.
Josh Groban’s “Brave” is a transcendent song (complete with a thunder reference) that I see as being about emotional bravery, whereas “No Fear” by The Rasmus has a great chorus that intones “destination darkness” – a place our characters must face. Now, don’t read those lyrics too closely, because if you do, you’ll probably conclude it’s about becoming a vampire. I swear, there are no vampires in my storm-chasing novels. But I dig the dark, urgent tone of the song. And Foo Fighters’ “Learn To Fly” puts me in Jack’s head at a certain point in the story. No spoilers …
I conclude the playlist with a couple of evocative Ryan Farish instrumentals, including the aptly named “Beautiful.” If the Storm Seekers novels, which I consider quite cinematic, were ever made into films, I’d love to see one of his transporting pieces on the soundtrack. Cue the closing credits . . .
And stay tuned. “Zap Bang” is coming very, very soon!
“Into the Storm” is in theaters, and one might call it the first real theatrical film about storm chasing since “Twister” in 1996. I wouldn’t, however, because the film’s “storm chasing” couldn’t be farther from the real thing. This is disaster porn, plain and simple.
In sensibility, Steven Quale’s film is closer to a TV movie, with a grim main plot (tornadoes terrorize a small town, especially its teenagers, while the incompetent “chasers” try to film and survive them) and one outlandish but funny subplot (YouTube-loving rednecks chase the tornadoes, slapstick-style).
What does “Into the Storm” have going for it? Incredible computer graphics. These are among the best stormy special effects I’ve ever seen. But they are supported by a story and characters that inspire more unintentional laughter than suspense and thrills. Cool tornado sequences do not equate to great drama or exciting action. There’s a lot of drudgery between the tornadoes, and even the deaths are highly predictable.“Twister” was no masterpiece, but it did have a sense of humor, memorable characters and dialogue, and a compelling story arc. The script in “Into the Storm” lacks those, but it may be remembered (by storm chasers, at least) for its loopy inaccuracies. When the supposedly multi-degreed researcher (Sarah Ann Callies) says the “systems” are too chaotic to track, or when said researcher/forecaster is taken completely by surprise by hail and tornadoes and gets her warnings from television, or when the radar displayed on their wall of monitors doesn’t match the weather, or when the chase team keeps talking about seeing a “vortex,” or when the team just sits around waiting for storms that supposedly are already in progress, you have to wonder what kind of stupid chasers they are. It’s especially disheartening that Callies’ character, the one major female role in the film, is such a dolt. But nobody in this film can be called a genius. With a $50 million budget, could the filmmakers not have taken a storm chaser out to dinner and asked a few questions about how storms and chasing really work?
The chasers drive around in a tank reminiscent of Sean Casey’s Tornado Intercept Vehicle, helmed by a jerk named Pete (Matt Walsh). But like all of the characters, he is barely developed and kind of bland. I can’t blame the actors entirely. They didn’t have much to work with. Perhaps most sympathetic is Richard Armitage as the dad/school official who tries to get everyone to safety. He’s dour but believable.
Credibility in the film is further strained by its halfhearted documentary style. The story is supposedly told through various video camera footage — including excruciatingly long speeches by teens in peril – but not convincingly so.
By the time the “eye of the tornado” appears, some audience giggling is inevitable. I hated to laugh at all of these earnest folks, especially when some of the movie seems inspired by (one might say exploits) the deadly Joplin tornado, but I fear it’s just too silly to take seriously. And it really wants you to take it seriously. If you added some sharks, it would be a different story.
Chris Kridler is a storm chaser who once wrote movie reviews for The Baltimore Sun and has penned her own storm-chasing adventures, the Storm Seekers trilogy.
One of the reasons I moved to Florida in 1999 was to enjoy the lightning storms. I was living in the mid-Atlantic and had gotten into chasing storms in Tornado Alley two years earlier. I looked into moving to Oklahoma, but career and geography conspired to bring me to Florida. The one thing I didn’t realize was that so few of the lightning storms in the Sunshine State are at night. Most happen during the day. And getting to a storm an hour away in Florida is not nearly as easy as getting to one in Tornado Alley. Why? It’s not just because of the traffic and road network. It’s because Florida storms tend to be short-lived; by the time you hit the road to catch that storm 45 miles away, it’s faded to a misty memory.This past week was par for the course – and the one night a little lightning hung on after dark on the east coast, where I live, I didn’t get to it until it was nearly gone. But I’ve had a crazy smorgasbord of storms upon which to feast, yielding a nice photo or two almost every day. Florida has amazing striated shelf clouds, formed by cool air pushing out from thunderstorms. And boundary collisions tend to cause quick funnels and tornadoes; I was at a small get-together at a friend’s house when a funnel cloud (not a tornado, because it didn’t connect with the ground, at least that we saw) formed beyond their neighbors’ houses. My camera got soaking wet as I ran out in the rain in my bathing suit to try to shoot photos. What a week!
Meanwhile, I’ve been working late on revisions and editing of “Zap Bang,” the final novel in the Storm Seekers trilogy. I’m thrilled to be wrapping up the story and heartbroken to be leaving these characters. It’s coming very soon!
A note for e-mail subscribers: I am phasing out the Feedburner e-mail service, since Google no longer supports it and I can no longer access it. Please use the link to the right on my site to sign up for the new e-mail list; if you get two copies, please unsubscribe from the Feedburner e-mail. I’m sorry for the inconvenience, but I’m at the mercy of the vagaries of the mega-corporation.
Nature paralleled the unnatural on Wednesday of this week when a beautiful striated shelf cloud moved over Cocoa, Florida, the Indian River Lagoon and the bridge over the S.R. 520 Causeway. It originated from a barely-moving severe storm farther west that sent out an outflow boundary. The shelf cloud almost mirrored the curve of the bridge as it went overhead.
See the set of photos from this day here.