Tornado that hit Moore OK May 3, 1999, killing 36 people. Photo: Julianna Keeping,

I wasn’t aware of it until my publisher, BelleBooks, pointed it out, but May 4th is National Weather Observers Day.  And maybe BelleBooks wasn’t aware of it until I mentioned it, but the month of May marks the climatological peak of tornado season (see graphic below).  On average, more twisters rip across the U. S. in May than in any other month.


Eyewall-cvrOf the four novels I’ve had published so far, my first, Eyewall, remains by far the best seller.  That’s been a little difficult for me to come to grips with, since I don’t think the book necessarily reflects my best writing.  It’s not that it’s bad writing—or it would never have sold as many copies as it has—it’s just that I like to think I grow (get better) as a writer with each new effort.

El Niño and SUPERCELL (the novel)

Tornado_Damage_BirminghamLast week I blogged about El Niño and its connection, or lack thereof, to wintry weather in the Deep South.  This week I’ll take a look at El Niño and its influence on severe storms–supercells and tornadoes–in the same region.

There’s a late-winter/early-spring climatological maximum in Dixie of severe storms (before the focus of the turmoil shifts to the Great Plains), so that’s the season I’ll examine. 

Most people will be happy to learn that El Niño-influenced weather patterns have a damping effect on violent storms at that time of year in the South.  That is, there are fewer slam-bang thunderboomers around as compared to, say, a La Niña year.



imagesAt the beginning of summer I posted a blog detailing my reading goals for the season.   Now that the hours of daylight are dwindling and the leaves are starting to don their autumnal hues, I guess it’s time to see how I did.

Not that great, it turns out.  I had nine books, mostly thrillers, on my to-read list.  I got through three of them and have begun a fourth.  Those completed: Midnight in Europe (Alan Furst), Sand and Fire (Tom Young), and Wayfaring Stranger (James Lee Burke), all of them good.  I’ve posted reviews of each on Goodreads.


303295_443067792410644_2079144761_nEver wonder what a thriller writer reads?

I obviously can’t answer for every such author, but here’s my to-read list for the next few months.  I don’t know if publishers deliberately target this time of year for big releases, but it certainly appears that way, at least this year.  To me, it seems like the literary equivalent of the summer blockbuster movie season.

The writers whose books I’ve queued up are all ones I’ve read before, and who have seldom, if ever, disappointed me.

Here’s my list:

THE DIRECTOR, David Ignatius (contemporary espionage–release date 6/5).


Tornado chasers on the Great Plains.

Tornado chasers on the Great Plains.

As many of you know, I’m a meteorologist in novelist’s clothing.  (Or is it the other way around?)  Well, whatever.  I majored in atmospheric science in college and took a couple of courses in creative writing.  I think I did fairly well in them (it was a long time ago), even though I recall being severely intimidated when I entered a classroom full of English and English Lit majors.

At any rate, though I’ve always been a writer, I really didn’t do much with the creative aspect of it until relatively late in my life.

Think EYEWALL Without the Ocean

“Uh oh,” I said to myself, after reading an email from an old friend of mine who lives in the Pacific Northwest.  “This could be a problem.”

My friend, Barbara, like me, grew up in western Oregon where thunderstorms are few and far between, and supercells—the most violent of all thunderstorms, the kind that spit out tornadoes—virtually nonexistent.

So I probably shouldn’t have been surprised when she, in her email, asked if my new novel, Supercell, was about health or nuclear energy.  WHAT!?  The thought of tornado-spawning thunderstorms never crossed her mind.