THE GLAMOUR OF STORM CHASING

I’m writing this as our chase team presses through an electric night bound for Wichita, Kansas, from the Texas Panhandle. We won’t arrive in Wichita until the wee hours of Tuesday. Then, after a few hours of sleep, we’ll push even farther north, hoping to capitalize on what should be a turbulent day along and ahead of a cold front.

Today (Monday), quite frankly, was a bit of a disappointment. We tracked a couple of high-based supercells across the Panhandle, but never met with the awesome, in-your-face display of meteorology we did Sunday when we were in nature’s delivery room to witness the birth of a supercell on steroids.

BIRTH OF A HIGH PLAINS MONSTER

With other members of my chase group, I’m standing on the high plains of the Texas Panhandle, west of Lubbock. A stiff wind, inflow to a supercell aborning, slams into my back as I snap pictures of the strengthening storm. I struggle to stay upright; to hold the camera steady. Daggers of lightning lance into the field in front of us.

Our tour guide, Roger Hill, raising his voice to be heard over the galloping wind, says, “This thing could turn into a real monster.”

COYOTES, CULVERTS AND COUNTY ROADS

It’s dark as a coal mine as we pull off a deserted county road just south of the Red River. In the distance, maybe 20 miles off, twin thunderstorms launch volleys of lightning at each other. A duel in the night.

I’m nearest the door in the Silver Lining Tours van, so I’m first out, stepping cautiously onto the mesquite plain. I take two steps back from the van to allow the door to swing open. I take another step, but there’s nothing to step onto. I go down, sprawling on my side into a dry culvert with little prickly things lining the bottom.

YELLOW BRICK ROADKILL?

Friday I leave for Oklahoma City where my week-long quest for the wily, or sometimes not so wily, tornado will begin.

My wife is absolutely convinced I’m a dead man walking; certain I’ll get swept up like Dorothy and end up as road kill on the Yellow Brick Freeway.

More likely, if conditions ripe for twisters go into hibernation, I’ll die of boredom.

But no matter. My primary goal, believe it or not, is not to get up close and personal with a Great Plains’ monster—-though I’m not averse to that—-but to learn how tornado chasers operate. To see what their daily routine is, what meteorological parameters they examine, what monitoring equipment they employ, and how they communicate with each other during a pursuit.

A QUICK AND DEADLY START

The tornado season is off to a quick and deadly start this year. Devastating storms hammered parts of mid-America over the past couple of days. And although there’s a bit of a lull today, already another significant threat looms for tomorrow.

The Storm Prediction Center warns that numerous fast-moving supercell storms as well as a few exceptionally violent tornadoes are likely on Friday. The area at greatest risk extends from the mid-Ohio Valley southward into northeast Mississippi and northern Alabama.

Tomorrow night the threat is expected to do some saber rattling where I live, in metro Atlanta. (Why do the big storms here always seem to rumble in when it’s dark?)

WHAT DOES AN AUTHOR DO BETWEEN BOOKS?

So what does an author do between books?

Well, to be blunt, there is no such thing as “between” books. “Among” books maybe, or “all done” with books perhaps, but no “between.”

At the moment, I’m still dealing with Eyewall; plotting strategy for the release of ______ (yes, sad to report, there’s still no official title for novel number two); and working on Supercell, novel number three.

I’m currently QCing the audio version of Eyewall. Marshall Seese, the narrator, shoots me several chapters each week and I listen to and critique each one. He’s about halfway through the book and thinks he’ll be done by early April. I can’t wait. Marshall is doing an absolutely super job.

STAND BACK, MY HEAD MAY EXPLODE

Before I became a published novelist, authors who had broken trail ahead of me warned that I, as a writer of fiction, would probably always have three books in my head: the one most recently published, the one currently being written, and the one after that.

I didn’t quite believe that, or at least thought it bizarre, since my head tends to explode, or at least wobble violently and belch smoke, if I have to think about more than one thing at a time.

YOU KNOW IT’S GOING TO BE A BAD DAY WHEN…

You know it’s going to be a bad day when…

Your wife tells you you’ve got your shirt on backwards. Well, look, it was early. I wasn’t totally awake when I got dressed. And I thought it was just a high-necked tee shirt.

Ironically, however, it’s turning out to be a good day. Thanks to my friend and fellow International Thriller Writer, Allan Leverone, I found out that Eyewall is a finalist in the EPIC eBook Awards Suspense/Thriller category.

Okay, so you’ve read Eyewall and maybe are looking forward–gee, I hope so–to something else authored by yours truly. But my next novel, whatever it’s called (more on that later) won’t be out for about a year.