For those of you who don’t live in the Plains states or the South, you really don’t understand how great the weather is here. Sure, New England has its colorful falls and mild summers. The Rockies have their snow-capped mountain glory. And, of course, the West Coat has fun, fun, fun ’til daddy takes the t-bird away. Still, we have one thing here in abundance that most parts of the country–the world, even–do not have.

We have tornadoes. Lots and lots of tornadoes. And I love them.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I do understand how dangerous these meteorological monsters are and how much damage they cause to life and property. Few probably know it better. A few years ago, a dear friend of mine and my wife’s was killed, along with her husband, when a tornado wiped their house clean off its foundation. About that same time, my father was nearly killed when a twister swept through the middle of the factory where he works. I’ve known several people over the years who have either been affected personally, or who knows someone who has been affected, by these violent storms.

I don’t care. I love them anyway. I understand that there are forces on earth that do more damage, that dwarf the mere tornado in terms of scale and power, but nothing packs so large a punch in so small a space as a tornadic funnel. A good EF 4 twister, bearing winds of more than 200 miles an hour, can drive a two by four through a large tree trunk. A hurricane may look more impressive in a satellite or radar view, but to the naked eye, such a huge storm loses scale. It just becomes a very violent storm. With a tornado, you can see the damn thing coming for you like some twisting devil from Hell, tearing up all in its path. Even after the skies have cleared, you can follow the path of the tornado and tell how wide it was, how long it was on the ground and, with a little experience, how fast the winds were moving. Hurricane damage is impressive–look at the aftermath of Katrina–but it’s so widespread that it overwhelms the senses. With a tornado, the funnel may hit one house, skip over the one next to it, and demolish the house on the other side. There’s a level of unpredictability to a tornado, even in this day of advanced meteorology, that you don’t get from any other type of weather.

Now, at this point you are probably wondering if there is a point to this post. There is. At some point in the nebulous future, I want to do two things related to tornadoes. First, I want to spend a spring in Texas or Oklahoma chasing tornadoes. My wife thinks I’m crazy for this (well, not just for this) and is very reluctant to let me go, so I’m waiting for some time when I can sneak out and not be missed for a month or two. Second, I want to write a book where a tornado, or an outbreak of tornadoes, is not only important to the story, but is almost a central character, possibly even the antagonist. I know not everyone shares my fascination in this area, but I think the inherent drama of tornadic weather would lend itself to a great, great novel. Think of how The Perfect Storm translated from nonfiction to the screen and imagine that with tornadoes.

My question, dear readers (both of you), is whether/weather or not there are any novels out there like this already. I certainly don’t want to rehash what someone else has already done, so I need to know what’s out there. If anyone knows of a title or finds one that has tornadoes as a central device, let me know about it so I can look it up.

In the meantime, I just found out a few days ago that our normally-locked-down intranet at work can actually pull up weather radar through one of the weather sites. So much getting anything done at work when it storms. Ever.

I sent out a couple of queries for what has again become Gifts of the Hirakee. Considering all the problems I’ve had coming up with a good title, I thought about just calling it Gone with the Wind and calling it good. Instead, however, I’m back to where I started and I think I’ll stay there this time.

I’m still picking out agents and sending out the queries in small batches in the small amount of time I have available to compose them. While I have the basic body of the letter down, I have to think of how to personalize each one before I send it. Of course, I will update on here with any responses, good or bad, as I receive them.

Work on the Wielder of the Soul is coming along quite well, although I will probably go back and edit some things tonight before I begin any new composition. I think I have gotten a little ahead of myself in the story and, not wanting to give away too much too soon or front load the story too much info dumping early on, I’m going to go back and tinker a bit with the exposition. After the action-packed opening scene, I want to slow things down a bit before I ramp them up to another high-energy scene in an upcoming chapter. Also, I need to do a bit more establishment of character before it will mean much to the reader if they are in trouble or not.

All in all, great fun.

Here’s the progress on my Nashville-based urban fantasy, including a soul-wielding Knight, his rather incompetent guardian angel, an amnesiac love interest, a giant Catholic priest, and loads and loads of creatures from Hell:

Today would have been my grandmother’s 86th birthday had she not passed away in 1998. She used to live way, way out in the country in Breckenridge County, Kentucky, and I would often spend large chunks of my summer vacations at her house exploring the woods and cornfields, sleeping on a feather mattress, and catching up on my pleasure reading. I first read the Lord of the Rings trilogy during a weekend at her house and still remember lying in bed at four in the morning, an oscillating fan providing the only noise, and getting lost in Middle Earth.

There are many other memories of that place as well. My grandmother sometimes grew strawberries and other assorted fruits and vegetables in her various gardens. Grape vines grew on a structure near her garage and I can remember checking them during every visit to see if the grapes were ripe enough to eat. Gooseberry plants grew near a shed on the other end of the house and I had to compete with the martins that nested near there for the berries. Usually I lost. I can remember the year the tornado picked the barn up and set it back down, in far worse condition, a few yards away. The first time I saw the Goodyear blimp in person was in the front yard there, flying overhead with its fans whirring louder, for a few minutes, louder than the cicadas. I fell in the creek near the house once in November while out with my dad and had to walk home shivering from the cold and listening to my father try to contain his laughter. There were long walks along the gravel road that led to the house, walks where I would invent stories of the fantastic not too far removed from what I do today.

Not surprisingly, that house is one of the places I return to often in my dreams. There is some connection that keeps drawing me back, some psychic link I’ve never fully understood and, for the most part, never really wanted to. Some places should stay the way we see them as children, full of laughter and imagination, and though I have been back to that house, at least driven by it, since my grandmother moved away nearly fifteen years ago, the place still remains as a haven of my childhood. I suppose that someday I will have to write a story about it, or at least set there. Why let a good psychic link go to waste?

So, happy birthday Mamaw!

I’ve finished the first two chapters of Wielder and I’m happy so far with how things are going. There’s a point early on, after the initial difficulty of getting started, where the story starts to take on a life of its own. This, as most writers will probably attest, is a great time in the developmental arc of a story. It’s the honeymoon phase where the writer is getting to know the characters and the setting, not just as thoughts floating around inside his head like a bingo ball, but as tangible eating-sleeping-breathing beings that, to some degree are taking on a life of their own.

That’s the real magic.

With this new novel, I’m learning about my main character, Fort, and what kind of person he is. Before I started on the novel, all I knew about him was where he fit into my story and, vaguely, what I wanted him to do. Now, I’m turning more of that control over to him and, so far, I’m pleased with the results. He’s not exactly who I thought he would be and is, instead, better in many ways. There is a certain depth that comes to characters writing this way, a depth I don’t think I could achieve by careful plotting and planning before the actual composition begins.

My female lead, a very mysterious figure here in the beginning, is also developing a distinct personality that becomes clearer with each new question I ask about her in the writing process. Right now, she does not even have a name thanks to a case of amnesia, but already her character is coming out and working on its own, like an old-fashioned top after the string has been yanked away. If I can keep her spinning through the entire coarse of the novel, she should be great fun.

I’ve also thrown in appearances by a few supporting characters. Lionel, an angel, looks like he will be my comic relief throughout what will otherwise be a pretty dark tale. Also, Father Luther Ross, who popped out of my head just last night, has already started on his own unique path–as only a 7’4″ priest could do.

At this stage, I’m even enjoying the villains. Actually, I’m especially enjoying the villains. I haven’t brought the main bad guy on stage yet, but he’s there, sitting in his little tower, waiting for his queue to come out and wreak havoc. He has sent an emissary though and the result was an interesting scene in a Nashville McDonald’s. Again, nothing I had planned ahead of time. I just let the story go where it wanted to go.

So, the honeymoon continues. Hopefully, it will last about as long as it takes me to finish the book. As long as I stay interested in the characters–and they seem pretty cool so far–that should take care of itself.

So, here’s the progress on my Nashville-based contemporary fantasy, including a soul-wielding Knight, his rather incompetent guardian angel, an amnesiac love interest, a giant Catholic priest, and loads and loads of creatures from Hell: