Chris Kridler is a writer, photographer and storm chaser and author of the Storm Seekers Series of storm-chasing adventures.
Chris Kridler is a writer, photographer and storm chaser and author of the Storm Seekers Series of storm-chasing adventures.
Over the years, I’ve tried some nutty solutions: a metal rack with a 90-degree bend in it, the kind you put in a roasting pan; a child’s lawn chair; and various perches on my center console and passenger seat, depending on whether I had a chase partner. None worked well. I decided this year to get a real laptop mount – but the really nice Ram and JottoDesk mounts aren’t cheap. From what I’ve read online, I also had doubts that there would be one that perfectly fit my current model of car, a 2010 Honda Element. So I did some searching online and found this excellent page put together by Mike Davis, who built a laptop mount for his Toyota Tacoma using PVC that fits into his cup holder. I don’t know Mike, but I’m grateful to him for sharing his design with the world.
Using a cup holder almost sounded too easy. And it is, in a way. I still haven’t been able to achieve the perfect snug fit that he apparently did, but nonetheless, inspired by his design, I’ve put together a pretty functional laptop mount for less than $30. Mine isn’t exactly like Mike’s, so I think it’s worth sharing. Between Mike’s page and my page, perhaps you can find a design that will work for you. I’m no engineer (obviously!), so you’ll have to judge for yourself whether your version safely fits your needs.First, I went to the big box store and played Tinker Toys with the PVC pipe pieces. A two-inch width was the closest to fitting into my cup holders – there are two holders between the front seats. Though you may opt for different pieces, these are the ones I chose – two 90-degree elbows, two 45-degree elbows, and a coupling with vertical ridges that gave me a little more width for a better fit in the cupholder. I couldn’t find the flange I needed to fit the laptop tray, so I bought a drain fitting. While the design that inspired me, as mentioned above, did away with the drain itself, I chose a brass drain so I could put the screws/bolts through its slots when attaching it to the tray.
For the tray, I thought a wooden cutting board might work – it would be thick and already finished, so less work for me. I found one with rubber feet (on clearance, to boot). It seemed perfect – I’d put the “bottom” with the rubber feet on top, to help keep the laptop from sliding around. After installation, the rubber pads have a pretty good grip on the laptop, though Velcro would probably do the job, too. I also nailed a small piece of quarter-round molding to one edge of the platform to keep the laptop from sliding off. Position the piece depending on how your tray is angled. Since mine tends to lean backward a bit, that’s where I put the quarter-round.
My husband helped with assembly of the board to the drain piece. He marked the center of the board and then marked the positions of the three bolts, using the drain as a template. He drilled pilot holes, then used a bigger bit to drill into the top holes slightly so we could counter-sink the bolts (meaning they would not stick up above the surface of the platform). Washers and compression nuts (chosen so they wouldn’t loosen with vibration) secured the bolts.Next, I worked on fitting the bottom piece with the ridges snugly into the cup holder. I’m not sure I succeeded as well as I would have liked. I used a razor knife to gradually trim away the ridges at an angle, since the cup holder is tapered. Mike’s – the one linked above – involves less pipe because the cup holder is higher, so it may be inherently more stable.
I marked the pipes where I wanted them attached, pulled them apart, then used PVC primer and glue to stick them together. I spray-painted the pipe (without the drain/tray piece) a dark brown (I like to think of it as a steampunk brown – ha ha!) so it would blend into the car’s interior a little better.
I did NOT glue the drain/tray piece onto the rest of the pipe, so that I can adjust the angle of the tray if I want to. After some use, I may choose to glue it, but it seems quite tight. I also screwed a small wooden block into the plastic box that surrounds the cup holders to support the elbow of the pipe. I expect I may do more to enhance stability as this setup gets some use. If you decide to do something like this, you’ll have to figure out the best way to make it stable for your vehicle. (See update, below.)Update, April 23: We added a little more stability to the laptop mount last weekend in two ways. The cupholder is actually a piece that nests in a box built into the car and pops out for cleaning. I took it out and cut off the bottom of the cup where the pipe would be inserted. This allowed the pipe to rest deeper in the box and more snugly in the cupholder hole. The snug fit, however, exacerbated the cupholder piece’s desire to pop out, given that its latches aren’t designed to experience the stress of a laptop mount. So we screwed a strip of metal over the cupholder to hold it tightly in its box.
The wood block was trimmed a bit and helps support the elbow of the pipe; it’s also screwed into the box. So while this solution isn’t as elegant as Mike’s, since screws were required, I think it will work pretty well. And I can still remove the mount easily.
The chill has lasted longer than usual this winter here in Florida, but at least we’re not experiencing snowstorm after snowstorm. What we did get was a blast of wind in a squall line Sunday, March 24. I drove out to meet it west of Cocoa.
It was moving so fast (warned with a motion of 55 mph), I couldn’t reach the area of rotation. I didn’t even have time to set up and get nice photos of the green gust front. But I did get video in my car as it blasted me.
Despite tornado warnings, the National Weather Service found only straight-line wind damage in its survey.
It’s not long now until the May chase! Want to see more stormy images? If you’re on Florida’s Space Coast, get a look at my storm photography on exhibit at Titusville’s Downtown Gallery, 335 S. Washington Ave. (321-268-0122), through April 16. There, you can also pick up copies of my Storm Seekers novels, Funnel Vision and Tornado Pinball – or get them online.
I’m also speaking about storm chasing and signing books at Cocoa Beach Library on April 6 at 2 p.m. The program is free.
Late edit: Just added an event – a book signing the evening of April 6 at Coco’s during Cocoa Village’s gallery walk.
Note: Post updated with images from the old Sky Diary site.
I adore soundtracks, and I’m sure it’s partly because they are so rooted in storytelling. It’s no wonder they creep into the way I think about writing.Movie soundtracks have meant a lot to me over the years. As a young moviegoer, I was exposed to a variety of music that I still love – not just original scores, but classical pieces, great jazz (thanks, Woody Allen), and the Great American Songbook. I was also swept away by certain pieces that one hears over and over again whenever someone on TV wants to convey a sense of epic heroism. My heart still leaps when I hear Randy Newman’s “Knock the Cover Off the Ball” from “The Natural.” I want to rush once more unto the breach, or shout into the wind, when I hear Patrick Doyle’s “St. Crispin’s Day” from the Kenneth Branagh version of “Henry V.” And the great John Williams scores from our culture’s most well-known films make up the soundtracks of our lives. Can I help it, then, if I’m constantly creating a soundtrack in my head for each book I write? My first get-out-the-ya-yas, never published novel had a Strauss waltz as its theme (“Artist’s Life”). My two storm-chasing novels also have soundtracks, or perhaps I should call them playlists, since they are not officially sanctioned by artists or composers. It only makes sense that I sometimes borrow from other soundtracks when I find the perfect tunes for my novel playlists.
These collections of tunes help define the story in my head. While my words are designed to create their own emotional world, the music enhances and solidifies my feelings about the characters and their adventures and ordeals. And then, when the book is done, the music helps me relive their stories.It’s self-indulgent, maybe, but these playlists are also a tool. They help me see the “movie” in my head. When I was writing “Funnel Vision,” I went back again and again to listen to Freedy Johnston’s “Bad Reputation.” It spoke to a melancholy streak in Jack’s character, and to the bad reputation he’s earned, from which he may be redeemed. There’s so much strangled emotion in that song, it never fails to move me.
My virtual soundtrack/playlist for the sequel, “Tornado Pinball,” runs the gamut from mainstream rockers to classical drama. And it also borrows from movie soundtracks. Songs written for movies push emotional buttons for me.
Sheryl Crow and John Shanks wrote “Real Gone” for the movie “Cars,” but Crow’s song speaks to the storm-chasing mentality perfectly. “Tailspin” is a great turn by one of my favorite surf bands, Los Straitjackets, and suggests the adrenaline-fueled, airborne follies that take place in the book. And OK Go’s “Here It Goes Again” seems to capture the headlong rush of disastrous attraction (though it may be about something else entirely).
Another great spin on a song that was written for a soundtrack is the Ahn Trio’s performance of “Heart Asks Pleasure First.” Michael Nyman composed this piece for “The Piano,” and I love this version. It’s a romantic, sensual, exhilarating tour de force that has “love scene” written all over it.
Speaking of romance, Ella Fitzgerald’s rendition of “Isn’t This a Lovely Day” is the only song on this list directly referenced in the text, and its stormy setting, along with Ella’s hot-buttered-rum voice, make it irresistible.
There are multiple instrumentals here; I chose Holst’s “Mars, the Bringer of War” from his Planets suite for two reasons: One, it’s the perfect building, driving kind of classical piece that elevates an action-filled climax; and two, it’s a bit of a play on the idea that the Bubble, the device at the heart of “Tornado Pinball,” uses Mars-probe technology for its landing (er, bouncing) system.
For pure, over-the-top rocking out, Shinedown’s “Adrenaline” does the job. The lyric “It’s the love of the chase” crystallizes this choice for me. I could go on about the other songs, but I’ll simply say they capture the novel’s characters and emotions when I listen to them. I not only hear the “movie”; I can see it in my head. Maybe you will, too.
Here’s my “Tornado Pinball” playlist. I hope you enjoy it.
I’m excited to note “Tornado Pinball” is already available in paperback, on Kindle and on Nook, with more formats pending. I’d marked Feb. 28 as my launch day, and a cool Storm Seekers prize pack giveaway ends at midnight Thursday night. So enter now! It’s free to enter, no obligation, and so on and so forth. Enter on my FUNNEL VISION Facebook page, and happy chasing!
The giveaways continue with five free copies up for grab on Goodreads – and you have until March 22 to enter the Goodreads “Tornado Pinball” giveaway. Come on over and say hi.
Giveaway ends March 22, 2013.
See the giveaway details
Welcome to the NEXT BIG THING Blog Hop.
What is a blog hop? Basically, it’s a way for readers to discover authors new to them. On this stop on the blog hop, you’ll find a bit of information on me and my books, as well as links to other authors whose work you can explore. They’ll be blogging next week.
Thanks to writer Christine Edwards for asking me to participate in this blog hop. She wrote last week about her zombie novel-in-progress. You can find her blog and learn more about her work at http://christinedwards.blogspot.com. Follow her on Twitter @cedwards001.
In this blog hop, authors answer ten questions about a current book or work-in-progress (giving you a sneak peek). We’ve also included some behind-the-scenes information about how and why we write what we write. Feel free to share your questions or comments.
Here is my Next Big Thing!
1: What is the working title of your book?
My new novel, to be published later this month, is called “Tornado Pinball.” It’s the sequel to “Funnel Vision,” the storm-chasing adventure I published last year, part of the Storm Seekers series.
2: Where did the idea come from for the book?
I’ve been chasing storms since 1997. It’s my passion. I’ve met a lot of fascinating people during my travels in Tornado Alley who are just as obsessed with the sky. I liked the idea of exploring why they chase, their relationships, and how they find happiness in the pursuit of tornadoes. And, of course, I wanted to tell a good story.
“Funnel Vision” mixes personal drama with exciting storm chases, as does “Tornado Pinball,” but the new book also gives me an opportunity to satirize the media culture that now surrounds storm chasing.
3: What genre does your book come under?
“Tornado Pinball” is definitely an adventure, although it has elements of drama, humor and romance, along with literary ambitions. It’s a novel for grown-ups — i.e., there are four-letter words and intimate scenes.
4: Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
This is such a tough question. One reason: If a movie were to be made, given how long things take, all these folks may have aged out of the roles.
I introduce a new female character in “Tornado Pinball”: Saffire, a smart, sexy Hollywood personality with a geeky streak. Jack, with his penchant for women (and blondes), can’t help but pursue her. I can see Hayden Panettiere play the part, though she’s a bit young; but let’s face it, she’s great at everything – she’d also be a good Shannon (Judy’s flirty sister in “Funnel Vision”). An actress who has Saffire’s look is Tamsin Egerton, though I haven’t seen her work. (Just make her a darker shade of blond.)
Jack co-stars in the first book and stars in the second. Since his green eyes are such an important part of his look, the actor who plays him has to have stunning ones. Ian Somerhalder, anyone? Unless that model who’s on the front of the books is available and speaks English. Ha, ha. Anyway, attitude is everything with the character of Jack. Good luck, casting directors.
5: What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Though I can sum it up in a sentence, it’s more fun to offer you the back-cover copy:
Just when TV shows about storm chasing can’t get any more extreme, along comes a production company with the ultimate exploit: the Bubble, a manned tornado probe. As the reluctant consultant, expert storm chaser Jack Andreas must get the show’s nervous star, failed tour operator Brad Treat, into a twister. But Jack is losing his customary cool as a comedy of errors unfolds. Distracting him is co-star Saffire, a Hollywood actress who is more than she seems, and producer Wynda, who will do anything to make her documentary succeed. The daring star of another show pursues them, desperate for a shot with his own flying machine. As the disasters mount, will Jack be able to launch their device into a tornado?
6: Is your book self-published, published by an independent publisher, or represented by an agency?
I published “Funnel Vision” through my own company, and I’m also publishing “Tornado Pinball.” It took me a long time to decide to publish the book myself, given the stigma long associated with self-published books and my past experience as a book critic. I’d tried the traditional route, and big changes in publishing convinced me to take a chance on self-publishing. I blogged about my choice here.
7: How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
I wrote it in less than a year, but more than half of it was written in November, when I participated informally in National Novel Writing Month. I’d already started the book and wanted to use that month to finish it. I highly recommend NaNoWriMo as a way to improve one’s writing habits.
8: What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
I have carefully avoided reading other novels about storm chasers, given that I’m writing about them. When I’m done with my Storm Seekers series (I foresee writing three books, for now), I look forward to reading Jenna Blum’s “The Stormchasers.” In terms of sensibility, I think readers whose tastes fall somewhere between Nicholas Evans (character-driven books influenced by nature) and Carl Hiaasen (satirical novels in which place has a strong role), with a dash of Michael Crichton (scientific thriller), might like my work.
9: Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I wrote a couple of (unpublished) novels before I decided to write about storm chasers. The diverse, interesting, wonderful, crazy people of the storm chasing community, of which I count myself a part, were my chief inspiration. I’m especially interested in the tribal culture of the storm-chasing community.
Other people inspire me, too. I’m always intrigued by the factors that drive different personalities. Sometimes it’s just something someone says, or sometimes it’s a pattern of behavior. None of my characters are based on specific people, but they have traits inspired by life and my own imagination.
10: What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
One thing I strive to do as I write fiction about storm chasers is to make it as authentic as possible. Readers can get a real sense of what storm chasing is like. As much as I enjoy the movie “Twister,” it’s somewhat lacking in reality. While some of the adventures in my novels are more extreme than what I’ve experienced — you’ll know it when you read it — the driving, the bad hotels, the forecasting and the friendships all are grounded in reality. Meanwhile, some of the extreme situations in the books aren’t far from what I HAVE experienced, including intense hail barrages during chases like this one.
And joining me on the blog hop next week …
Below you will find the authors who will be joining me virtually, via blog, next Wednesday, Feb. 13. Please be sure to bookmark their sites.
1. Corey Schubert and Eric La Fuente, whose “Die, Maniacs, Die!” horror script is in production and who are working on a new novel.
2. Mark Robinson, a talented storm chaser and writer and star of Canada’s “Storm Hunters,” who is working on a new book. Follow him on Twitter @StormhunterTWN.
You can find me on Twitter @ChrisKridler. Happy reading and writing!
The video shows tornadoes and timelapses of supercells in Tornado Alley, as well as beautiful Florida shelf clouds.
See the storm chasing reports index for more from 2012 and other years.
I’ve heard it said that one of the issues novice writers face is figuring out to what genre their writing belongs. This very question makes a lot of assumptions: that a writer will stick with one genre; that her book will fit neatly into one genre; and that genres have any meaning at all for regular people who just want to read a good book.
Genres have always been important to marketing books, so many writers write to a genre. They want their books to fit well into a BISAC category (which classifies your book and helps determine things like bookshelf location and Amazon categories), so booksellers know where to put it and readers know where to find it.
Then there are those of us who write the book we want to write and have more than a little trouble figuring out where it belongs. It’s an adventure story with literary ambition, drama, humor and a touch of romance, for instance (is it literary? upmarket? general fiction? or simply adventure?). That’s how I’d describe my first novel, “Funnel Vision,” but a description like that doesn’t much help a writer choose one genre. Problematically, no matter what genre you choose or how you market a novel, readers are going to have their own idea of what the book is.
Science fiction means a lot of things to a lot of people, from speculative tales to hard-science space epics. “Women’s fiction” is a loaded term, given that some folks (like me) don’t want to see women placed in some sort of literary ghetto, but then again, maybe it’s a good marketing tag. At least you know it’s not going to be about machine guns or explosions; it’s going to be about relationships. And romance is an amalgam of so many different genres these days, I’m amazed the category is still so well-defined. But one thing I’ve learned from interviewing various romance authors is that books placed in that genre are still expected to have one essential ingredient: the HEA, or Happily Ever After, in which Person A and Person B end up together (or whatever polyamorous or creature combination it may involve).This concept is really important to people who expect the HEA when they pick up a novel labeled Romance. I recently read a review of my novel that was filled with frustration, partly because “Funnel Vision” didn’t follow the conventional romance path. Well, that’s because it’s not a romance. I’ve resisted marketing it as such; I call it an adventure. It has strong romantic elements — it has relationships — but they are part of a larger story, and the ending, which I hope is a satisfying one, may be unexpected.
Complicating matters: Some of the kind people who have reviewed the novel on Amazon have called it a romance. And some of those folks are not regular romance readers, and don’t know about the HEA rule, and see the relationships and sensual scenes and figure, well, that’s a pretty good descriptor. As a writer, all I can do is sit back and wonder (a) whether I don’t know what genre my book is in; or (b) if the romance genre should be a lot wider than currently defined.
I’ve always been a big fan of what used to be called Romances — romantic adventures with strong chivalric elements, such as Dumas’ “The Three Musketeers” — which had tales of love but were more driven by adventures and characters than whatever the ending “had” to be. Don’t many of the best stories have great love stories without being labeled romances? And don’t many of those stories conclude with tragedy or bittersweet partings? The kind of ending filled with longing that makes the heart ache at least as much as any neat-as-a-bow HEA? Would “Casablanca” have been what it was if Rick and Ilsa had run off together? Would “Gone with the Wind” resonate so much if Rhett had actually given a damn and not walked off into the fog?
And would you call these stories romances? Maybe. I’d call them great stories, period, with great characters and great writing (movie or book). Romance — that is, love or lust or longing — is such an important part of life, and such an important shaper of character, that it’s vital to any story that involves people interacting with one another. So I suppose I’ll keep writing what I call adventures, with romantic inclinations and actions I draw from the characters, whose lives are not all that tidy.
I have no beef with HEA romances. They’re great fun and wonderful escapism, and after years of pretty much ignoring the genre, I started reading a smattering of romances a couple of years ago, inspired by all the smart, talented local authors I’ve met. They’ve written terrific stories. I think we even share some of the same sensibilities. But I’m a sappy romantic and a cynic wrapped up in one, with an inclination toward satire, and my books reflect my slightly twisted view of reality. You’ll see that approach even more emphatically in the pending sequel to “Funnel Vision,” “Tornado Pinball.”
Writing to a genre may help you find a traditional publisher or cash in on popular categories as a self-publisher, but one beautiful thing that comes along with self-publishing is the freedom to write the book you want to write, write it well, and damn the rules. As a writer of fiction that defies categorization, all you can do is pick the best genre for your book and hope readers are willing to forget definitions and preconceptions and go along for the ride. And if you’re not sure, there’s always Fiction / General, even if that’s a tall mountain to climb on the Amazon charts.
I’m excited to be doing a book signing with three other Space Coast authors on Dec. 7 at Eau Gallie Arts District’s First Friday from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. This time, in addition to the gallery walk and vendors, there’s a Christmas tree lighting complete with a visit from Santa and entertainment. We’ll be in a tent on Highland Avenue. Who’s “we”? There’s Terry Cronin, who will be signing his entertaining “Skinvestigator” mysteries, about a crime-solving dermatologist; Karlene Conroy, co-author of “The Don Quixote Girls,” about four sandwich generation girlfriends and the issues they face together; and Carol Ann Didier, author of the “Apache Warrior” romance trilogy. And I’ll be signing my storm-chasing adventure “Funnel Vision.” I’m very close to finishing the sequel, “Tornado Pinball,” and I’ll be writing a lot more about that and my National Novel Writing Month experience, which is almost over … just a couple more chapters …
The Eau Gallie Arts District is the Eau Gallie neighborhood of Melbourne, Florida, centered at Highland Avenue and Eau Gallie Boulevard. There’s a lot of great energy there right now, with new galleries and big changes at the Foosaner Art Museum (formerly the Brevard Art Museum). This will be a fun night.
Signed books make nice Christmas presents. So there’s your commercial announcement du jour. Have a great day.