Here’s a slide show that looks back at this year’s dramatic skies through photography.
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!
“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.
Catch up on all the chases on my 2014 storm reports page on SkyDiary.com. More updates are in the works. You can see where I am during active storm chases on the map on the tracking page. And please follow me on Twitter for the latest!
I’m waiting for the right time to go storm chasing – perhaps as soon as the coming week – and working on “Zap Bang,” the third novel in the Storm Seekers trilogy. Here’s a teaser for you – a book trailer. If this were a movie, this would be the action trailer, which would be accompanied by a softer trailer that shows the humor and relationships between the characters. Unfortunately, the latter would require actors and a big-time Hollywood production. So until there’s a movie, ahem, here you go – the dark, dramatic side of “Zap Bang.”
Want to know more? Here’s the working summary of the novel, which is the sequel to “Funnel Vision” and “Tornado Pinball”:
The Storm Seekers trilogy concludes with a new storm-chasing adventure, “Zap Bang.” Expert storm chaser Jack Andreas is called to join a lightning study that will put him in the path of the tornado – and into the secretive world of pilot Maribeth Lisbon, tasked with flying a converted warplane into the zap zone. They intersect with Jack’s undeservedly famous nemesis Brad Treat and down-on-his-luck adventurer Aurelius Zane as the two men host a show that’s trying to get a young couple married in front of a twister. The antics of the TV chasers, the lightning experiment’s eccentric benefactor and a food-truck-driving mystic lead to dangerous complications, as Jack and Maribeth find their most arduous challenge may lie within.By the way, I think “the zap zone” is to “Zap Bang” what “the suck zone” was to “Twister.” R.I.P. Dusty.
Stay tuned for details on the novel. Look on the upper right of the page to subscribe to blog posts by e-mail to get all the latest storm-chasing reports and book news.
Late last March, I got to chase a great squall line event, too. These kinds of Florida storms are good warm-ups for my Tornado Alley trip, when I get to learn all over again how to juggle cameras, radar, navigation and driving while trying to capture the storms of the Great Plains. I expect to head out in May and will be posting regular updates. I’m happy to note that I’m again among several storm chasers with whom Midland is partnering to show off the capabilities of its cameras. New this year is the XTC-400 HD Wearable Video Camera. I’m looking forward to trying it out, hopefully on a mothership supercell! Wide-angle lenses do amazing things to mothership supercells.
In 2013, I saw a lot of extreme weather, most of it packed into less than three weeks during my annual whirlwind tour of Tornado Alley. Yet I still curse myself for not being in better position on some of the storms I saw and for missing others. Such is always the way of the perfectionist; that drive is a blessing and a curse, since perfection is never possible, except, perhaps, in the sweeping curves of a supercell at sunset. I’ll leave perfection to nature and post my imperfections right here.