Storms, children's fantasy, and old ideas with a twist of lemon

Joanne Hall hosts me for today's touring guest blog, in which I discuss children's fantasy literature in general ... and in particular a certain "normal" kid who becomes a famous, magic wielding hero:

The Desert Rocks: A Fantastic Adventure-Book Review of The Bracelet

The Desert Rocks: A Fantastic Adventure-Book Review of The Bracelet: ad·ven·ture    [ad- ven -cher noun 1. an exciting or very unusual experience. 2. participation in exciting undertakings or enterprises 3. a...

A little rain … a lot of wind/lightning/hail/funnel clouds

A little rain … a lot of wind/lightning/hail/funnel clouds

Or, as I like to put it: A little rain, a lot of pain. for me.

fanfiction: Storm Chaser-Walking Dead crossover!

Midwesterners have a way of just dealing with it when disaster strikes. Even in a zombie apocalypse:

I’ve mentioned that I wanted to do some crossover fanfiction involving the Storm Chaser universe, to mark the release of my short story collection. Although I do have a rough draft of a Buffy the Vampire Slayer story done, my wife Emily beat me to the punch with an alternate universe story crossing some characters from Storm Chaser Shorts with The Walking Dead universe. At least, I hope it’s AU! No spoilers.

Here’s the link on my website:

Speak of the Devil: Four Score And Seven Vampires Ago

Speak of the Devil: Four Score And Seven Vampires Ago: "....And that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth. Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got ...

Blog Tour: Interview with characters from Storm Chaser and Storm Chaser Shorts

Blog Tour: Interview with characters from Storm Chaser and Storm Chaser Shorts

A blog tour interview with the Hamlin family from Storm Chaser and Storm Chaser Shorts:

I know what you're thinking: "Mark, when are you going to start a blog tour to celebrate the release of your short story collection, ​Storm Chaser Shorts​?" Of course you were thinking that. Well, how about ... let me check my watch ... right now.

Writing, Weather, and L. Frank Baum

“I stood in the back yard and watched while everything around me turned a strange, sickly green, which seemed to glow as if coming from inside everything.”


My birthday gift from last year made me ruminate. But I took some antacid, and I’m feeling better now.
The rumination, which improves with ibuprofen and ice packs, started with The Annotated Wizard of Oz. Emily saw me lusting after it at a bookstore, to such an extent that they kicked me out so I wouldn’t slobber on the pages. This addition of L. Frank Baum’s classic children’s book was heavier than the Obamacare bill and almost as wordy, although much easier to understand due to a great deal of, as you might imagine, annotation.
I’m a fan of annotation. Well, I’m a fan of history, of which there’s plenty as the book covers Baum’s life and the times he lived in, not to mention the original story itself.
But that’s not what caused the rumination, which I’ve just realized is like unwritten annotation. As I leafed through the book, I began to connect the dots. Not literally – nobody’s marking up that book.
As all 14 of my regular readers know – as I’ve repeated ad nausea to them, total strangers, and everyone in between – I finally got my first novel published last year. But only now have I realized how much my early love of the Oz books is connected to it.
Those of you who know the title of the book, don’t spoil it for the rest of them.
I never made the connection, despite the fact that one of my characters actually mentions Baum’s fairyland. I never made a connection between my writing career and the weather, either, which was foolish of me.
After all, the very first story I ever came up with was about a tornado.
I’ve told the story before, but here’s a quick recap: At a very young age, I dictated to my mother a story about a little boy who gets carried away by a tornado to the Land of Oz. I was too young to write, but she banged the opening out on a little manual typewriter that she later gave me, until I overworked it and the E fell off. Have you ever tried to write a story without any E’s? It’s possible, but not fun.
If I’d finished the story it would no doubt be what today is called a Mary Sue (look it up! It originated with Star Trek, one of my other early fandoms.)  The boy character would save the day and have Dorothy Gale fall madly in love with him (even though she was an older woman), and end up staying in the Emerald City among all his admirers.
I didn’t finish the story, and none of it survives, which is a very good thing.
Eventually my parents got divorced, and I stayed in my childhood home with my father, who worked second shift. One afternoon when I was 11, my brother went off somewhere with his friends, while I stayed home alone. I was drawn outside by a strange stillness.
Standing in the back yard, I watched while everything around me turned a strange, sickly green, which seemed to glow as if coming from inside everything. The moment made such an impression on me that when I started work on Storm Chaser some 25 years later, I wrote it into a scene.
Unknown to me, I’d become a bystander in the April 3rd, 1974 Super Outbreak of storms. Two of the twisters passed through Noble County; according to a map I saw years later, one touched down three miles from where I was standing. The other produced the longest damage path of the day, an F-4 that tore along for 121 miles.
Kinda spooky, ain’t it?
I was mulling all this over, as opposed to milling, which I also do for a small fee, when a writer friend of mine asked how I came up with the idea for Storm Chaser. Ideas, I declared, are like snow squalls – whirling around, filling the area, ready to be nabbed by anyone who wants one.
Now I realize they’re more like summer storms, just over the horizon and ready to strike at any time.
There are some forty official Oz books now, including the fourteen written by Baum, and dozens more unofficial ones. For years I’ve planned to someday write one of my own, but I realize now that Baum not only inspired my love of reading and writing, he inspired my interest in the weather and, ultimately, my first published novel. So in a way, Storm Chaser is an Oz book. (I included a more direct Oz connection in one of the stories from my just-released short story collection, Storm Chaser Shorts.)
Now that I think on it, maybe Baum was fascinated by disaster, himself. After all, in the first story Dorothy hitched a ride to Oz on a tornado, while in the third a Pacific cyclone swept her there and in the fourth a California earthquake started her on the path.
Maybe she saw the writing on the wall by the sixth book, when she decided to move there with her aunt and uncle. For all the dangers in Oz, at least the weather’s nice. While there’s no place like home, home is where you hang your hat (or in her case bonnet).
That’s the story of my rumination, which needed only a bit of mental salve. How strange it is, that it took me this long to realize my first novel emerged directly from my brief flirtation with tornadoes and an author who died almost a century ago. Some ideas get snatched out of the air, but others have to gestate, which is like ruminate only without the need for medications.
Someday I’ll write that Oz book as a tribute, even though at 120 or so Dorothy’s now way too old for me. After all, I owe my writing career to L. Frank Baum.

Speak of the Devil: A Day In The Life Of Godzilla

Speak of the Devil: A Day In The Life Of Godzilla: 7:05 AM. Waking up on floor of Pacific Ocean. Don't really understand reasons why giant lizard monsters can sleep underwater. Should cons...

The Desert Rocks: Lessons in Distraction

The Desert Rocks: Lessons in Distraction: Not quite Godzilla but almost . See my friend William Kendall’s blog this week and read about Godzilla.   Speak of The Devil and Godzilla (P...

Bill Cosby's nephew

I'm being followed on Twitter by Braxton A. Cosby -- the nephew of comedian Bill Cosby.

(And yes, I did confirm he's who he says he is.)

It's not as big a deal as I could make it out to be: He's a writer, you see, and the majority of a writer's Twitter connections seem to be other writers. Still, it's an odd feeling, to have any degree of connection to my favorite childhood humorist. I haven't had a chance to read his fiction, but if he has a fraction of his uncle's creative talent he's worth checking out.

Medical with a side of ick

Yes, yes, I know … I was supposed to spend the weekend promoting (i.e. pushing, and/or selling) my short story collection. Well, let me tell you a short story: In the last week and a half my grandmother was taken by ambulance to the hospital (she’s back home now), my mother came down with pneumonia, Emily’s aunt was hospitalized, Emily was diagnosed with pharyngitis, and … well, is it any wonder that I started suffering abdominal pain? Ulcer, here I come.

Except that after all the blood draws, x-rays, and other tests I’d just as soon not mention, I didn’t have an ulcer. Lower left quadrant pain, for you armchair doctors. Care to guess? No fair looking it up on the internet …

Right – diverticulitis. Very good. It has to do with the large intestine, and it’s pain with a load of ick. Speaking of load, guess what they’re going to do to confirm it and rule out other problems? Hint: I’m approaching the age when I’m supposed to have it periodically, anyway. Another hint: There’s more ick involved.

That’s right! My very first colonoscopy! It’s important, as we get older, to keep our minds flexible by trying new things.

Although I suspect my mind isn’t the area where flexibility will be a problem.

Say … I’ll bet I could get a column out of this.

Oh, I almost forgot: Give my gut something to smile about: Go check out Storm Chaser Shorts at

Now I’m getting this mental imagine of my gut smiling. Ick.