Sunday, January 25, 2015

What natural disaster frightens you most?

From Wikipedia Commons

That's easy for me to answer: Wildfire. I was living in San Francisco when the Oakland wildfire of 1991 happened. I was entirely safe--there was a big body of water between me and it--but my heart was still pounding hard for hours. My logical mind could not convince my body that I was safe.

This was before the internet was anything but a few thousand nerds sending text over phone lines, I didn't own (and don't) a television, and I had no radio on, so the disaster made itself made aware to me directly. I was sitting and reading a novel in front of a window. Suddenly, the sky changed colors. The smoke cloud had dimmed the sun, coloring everything a strange burnt orange. I could hardly breathe--not because of the smoke, which was well above me, but because of the adrenaline surge. An animal urge to flee swept over me, and I had to hold on to my chair not to follow that imperative and run barefoot out of my house, trying to escape the danger. My body knew instinctively what it was. (Who knew that knowledge of wildfire was hardwired in humans, too?) I didn't have to see the flames or hear the crackling of popping trees or smell the smoke--I was still plenty scared.

It was hours before the adrenaline buzz left me, and the whole time, I thought, I'd take another Loma Prieta quake before this, any ol' day.

I also had a heart-in-throat moment the only time I saw a wedge tornado in the distance. They're mean-looking. (Beautiful, too, if kept at a distance.)

Earthquakes have been exhilarating to me. When they fade, the adrenaline rush is a positive one--like skydiving's rush or the rush I got scuba-diving when learning to doff and don. I don't mean to be insensitive to anyone who has lost a loved one in a quake, but for me, it's been a thrill ride every time. I hope I'm never in a situation where it's otherwise.

The only volcanic eruptions I've experienced have been St. Helens' minor ones from a distance (pretty, and safe if you're not right on top of it), and Kilauea (the kindest eruptions imaginable--slow-moving and lovely to view). I stood at the edge of the ocean, on the moving lava of Kilauea; as the red-hot lava at the leading edge of the flow hit the water, clouds of steam rained little glass shards over me, and it was beautiful and filled my heart with joy. I don't know that I've every felt more connected to Nature than at that moment.

I've been in three ex-hurricanes (2014, in Arizona, which should be against the law or something--seriously, Arizona? Hurricanes?) which had no more wind than any other rain storm, but I've never been in a real, powerful hurricane at its peak. They sure look scary. I've been hit by a downburst of over 100mph, while in an RV--that was a little worrisome, but it was over with in a couple minutes, and the RV was still upright, much to my surprise.

For real terror, for me, it's wildfire. I'll no doubt write a novel about wildfire within the next three years--but I suspect it'll upset me to write it, to mentally put myself into the midst of the smoke and flames.

How about you? Through personal experience, or what you've seen on the news, which natural disaster frightens you the most?

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Rent it!

My novel Quake is now exclusive to Amazon, which means you can rent it as a Prime or KU subscriber ( or you can purchase it, of course).

A deep rumble in the earth, a screeching noise, and the world begins to shake, throwing people off their feet and hurling buildings to the ground. The New Madrid Fault has ruptured again, wreaking havoc over seven states.

Gale Swanton, city planner for a small Missouri river town, is left in charge when the city manager and mayor are both killed. He struggles to help the townsfolk in the face of broken water mains and impassable roads, with little help from a FEMA overwhelmed by the vast destruction in St. Louis and Memphis.

Tempers fray as food and drinking water run low. Gale and his RN husband struggle to hold together a crumbling community and protect its citizens from their own worst instincts.

Pass the word!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

What are your favorite disaster movies?

From wikipedia
I'm a sucker for natural disaster movies, even the bad ones. I do prefer if the science is right, and I grudgingly accept "mostly right." Tell me an interesting story, with characters I like, too. Some of my favorites are:

Dante's Peak. While some portrayals of the eruption were wrong, and other bits were understandably changed for the movie (if you portrayed ash realistically, it'd be a movie with voices coming out of impenetrable gray stuff, which would be a waste of attractive actors), the special effects were way cool for the time--and they still hold up.

Supervolcano, BBC. A two-part show about a Yellowstone supereruption (which you shouldn't spend a second worrying about--you're far more likely to be eaten by a lion or killed by a cow in your lifetime). It has all the science right, it bothers to explain a good deal of it without slowing down the action, and it portrays officials as trying to do their best/their jobs, which I think is what would happen in a major disaster. I wish Hollywood usually did half so well with sticking to the facts as the British filmmakers did here.

The Great Los Angeles Earthquake. Another made-for-TV movie. Again, they have a lot of the science right. I dislike the one-dimensional bad guy character (played by "the Paper Chase guy," as we MSTies call him), but the time frame, what an earthquake is like, what can go wrong, and the aftermath is much like I'd expect it to be IRL. There'd be even more looting in an urban area, I suspect, but the confusion and horror, I believed. And remember, to relatives in the New Madrid Seismic Zone, that's what'd happen to a prepared city! If another big New Madrid quake happens (as it did in my novel Quake), you guys are in serious trouble.

Deep Impact. As with other Hollywood films, I force myself to be happy when they get half of the science right. Here, they probably didn't even hit 50% (by the time an asteroid was visible with a tiny backyard scope, everyone on the planet would know about it, and if you explode one, the mass isn't changed, so you're still going to get superheating of atmosphere, so li'l Frodo and his wife there would have been flash fried at the end, and American politicians don't get to decide what celestial objects are named--international scientists do, via well-established convention--and so on). But hey, I liked it anyway.

In my opinion, there hasn't been a great weather disaster movie yet. I wish someone would make one. There are plenty of real-life weather disasters to choose from.

And I'll add three human-caused disaster movies I like:

The Day After. Yet another TV movie (Made for TV movies get a bad rap--and probably deservedly so--but with disaster stories, TV seems to do better than film). Nuclear holocaust. Shocking upon first viewing, back when. Spoiler: things don't turn out very well.

Testamant. A nuclear disaster film without any explosions. Follows residents of one small town as radiation sickness takes them out one by one. Elegiac, touching, and very well acted.

Virus. (復活の日 Fukkatsu no hi) Japanese 1980 film, partly in English. Multiple disasters lead to an end-of-world scenario. Unknown/under-appreciated in the US. Find the long version, if you can.

Tell me yours! (even if it is Sharknado.)

Wednesday, January 7, 2015


I'm back to work (after a holiday break) on a final revision of Gray, my next natural disaster thriller. I'll be serializing what I have written, which had become too unwieldy to be one book.

I've found a spot to end the first book that should be a satisfying ending for anyone not wishing to read further in the series. Though it's full-novel length, at 55,000 words right now, I'm going to make this a 99-cent book permanently. Current projected release date is February 15.

Happy New Year to everyone.