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 was planning to travel north to Kentucky to visit my family this weekend, but thanks to the ice storm that has made the area around my old hometown look like a scene from March of the Penguins I’ll probably be postponing the trip for a few weeks. Despite that fair amount of suckage, I’ll at least be able to work on my edits and, maybe, my query letter.

Here’s some footage from CNN of my hometown:

Embedded video from CNN Video

So, it looks like I’ll have to wait three weeks or so before I make it up there. Maybe it’ll be warmer and less icy then.

Thankfully, I’m home from an unplanned overnight stay at home of the day job, another captive of the brutal ice storm that raged through the middle of the country over the past couple of days. I was also stranded without my laptop, which made things even worse and which also made it impossible to write anything on here for no one to read.

The one upside to the storm, however, was the uncommon display of how nature, like certain women I know, can be beautiful and cruel at the same time. While it kept me from returning home and sleeping in my own bed last night, the storm created a gorgeous glaze over everything that, when the sun came out today, looked like glass covering the trees and fences. It was a glaze the fine people at Krispy Kreme would envy, even as it tore off a substantial branch from a tree overhanging our parking lot at work. I watched it plummet and land in a cloud of powdery snow and was thankful that no cars were passing under at that moment. I’d probably still be doing the paperwork on that one.

Anyway, I’m home and have the next four days off. During those days, I have a serious decision to make, one that will define much of my work for the coming year. I have two ideas in mind for which novel to take on next. One is a historical fiction set in America in the late 19th century. The other is a dark urban fantasy set in the here and now. I see pros and cons for writing both and, by Sunday evening, I want to have started whichever one I choose.

The historical fiction is the clearest in my mind. I have been seeing this story for a long time and I know this one wants to be written more than anything else on my docket. I hear the characters very clearly and know several of the scenes they will have to endure to reach the end of their journey. The main problem, though, is that I’m not sure if I’m good enough yet to tell this tale. I’ve seen a lot of problems with my writing in Gifts of the Hirakee that really make me question whether I have the command of the writing to tell this story they way I want it to be told. I’m not looking to match the great literary figures of our time, of course, but I do want a certain level of refinement that I’ve not had before and I don’t know if I can pull it off without just sounding ridiculous.

The other story, the urban fantasy, is less problematic in that it feels easier. It is less of a departure from what I’ve written before and, therefore, is the more comfortable project. I see this story fairly well, but not as well as the historical and I certainly do not hear the characters here as well as I do in the other. The story seems like it would be marketable, even in this sluggish economy, but the idea behind it isn’t as powerful.

So, the question is this: which story do I write? Do I take a chance on the more challenging work outside my comfort zone and risk writing myself to a dead end? Do I build upon what I know and what I have learned and go with the urban fantasy?

I will gladly listen to any feedback on this topic until my decision is made, so if anyone out there is actually reading this, feel free to comment and help me with this choice.

In other news, my wounded thumb is healing nicely, although it looks like I will have a nice scar across the pad that will make all my old fingerprint files (at least for that thumb) mostly obsolete. This healing could not come at a better time as I now have a full twelve chapters to reread and edit this weekend, although several of those chapters are at the beginning of part two in the book and not very long. The initial comments from my readers are that part two is much stronger than part one, so I’ll also be looking back to determine what I can do to bring part one up to the wonderfully picky standards (see my posts of ‘Sample Editorial Comments’) of my readers.

That’s about it for right now. I’m glad to be home and looking forward to a few days of editing and sleeping, even with a planned road trip to Kentucky with my son thrown in the mix. Maybe I’ll make the five-year old drive so I can keep editing.

We are in the path of a serious ice storm, so I must get home while I can. I also have about ten chapters to edit now, thanks to my super reader coming through with eight today alone. Thanks for making me feel further behind that I already am. On top of this, I have major work going on at the day job that is draining me of everything but frustration.

That said, congrats to Neil Gaiman, winner of this year’s Newberry Medal for The Graveyard Book. I’ve read a couple of Gaiman’s works and he is one of the best out there, so the award is justly given. I keep trying to write like him, but it doesn’t seem to be working that well. Maybe I can shoot for somebody a little less talented and work my way up from there.

Today: Sunny, high of 73.
Tomorrow: Rain, high of 51.
Sunday: Sunny, high of 31.

I’m all for living somewhere with four distinct seasons, but I don’t necessarily need them on consecutive days.

Project Superhero is nearly two-thirds edited this round and, with one more major rewrite to go, I think I should hit my goal of having the thing ready to ship off to my readers by Christmas. I’m happy to say that I’m catching at lot of the mistakes I would have missed before thanks to my new tactic of reading, even if that means silently mouthing, the words as I read them. It’s remarkable how absurd certain things can sound to the ear, things that looked great on paper. It’s truly the equivalent of having a new pair of eyes to evaluate the manuscript, even before another person gets hold of it. By the time I finish a novel, I’m so tired of looking at it that I can’t trust my eyes to tell me the truth of what I’m seeing. I learned this the hard way on my last manuscript, noticing how many stupid mistakes I made and missed. This time, though, I think my manuscript is much cleaner and I’m catching a much higher percentage of the errors that are there. Either that, or I haven’t learned as much as I thought. Either way, my readers will let me know.

Tomorrow, it’s back to work for the weekend. I have more pictures of local houses decorated to extremes for the holidays, but due to a problem with my camera, those will have to wait until tomorrow.

I made it home safely after a somewhat white-knuckled ride and am now facing a Freezing Fog Advisory from my commute in the morning. What. The. Hell? Am I going to step outside in the morn and chip a tooth on a chunk of air? Bloody my nose on a gust of wind?

Anyway, I’m home and that’s what matters. I have two days off on Thursday and Friday to work on various projects, including the all-important laundry. More later if I don’t become encased in frozen fog.

That’s the view outside the hotel right now. Notice I did not say “the view outside my house” because I could not make it home in the midst of the ice storm we are currently experiencing, so I’m holed up at the local Hampton Inn about two miles from work. Road conditions are so bad that I was doing less than ten miles per hour when I pulled into the hotel parking lot and still fish-tailed.

Weather like this is uncommon here in the South and the masses, when faced with such adversity, behave accordingly–mass hysteria, runs on supplies, and horrific driving. A few flakes of snow and people act as though they’re at the beginning of some apocalypse like that in Cormac McCarthy’s Pulitzer winner, The Road. Not that anyone here has read that.

I continue to edit Project Superhero and am nearly three-fourths of the way through. I’m still amazed at how many inconsistencies make their way into a story along the path of composition. For example, my main character’s mother, described as working at a hospital earlier in the novel, suddenly found herself a lifelong housewife later on. This was a troubling mistake for me as a rather key decision made by my main character depended on this piece of information and it took a bit of creative scrambling to reconcile the two parts. Even with a workable solution, though, I may reverse it before I finish. That’s one of the most beautiful parts of the editorial process–changing lives in progress and stitching the scenes together so they blend into a seamless tale. Oh, the power!

And so, dear largely imaginary audience, I continue to plod onward. Still writing, still waiting, still deciding whether my characters have been employed for most of their lives.