Guest blogger Julie Holmes: Writing by the Seasons

It’s finally starting to feel like fall in central Pennsylvania after an unseasonably warm October. That change in temps is the perfect intro for my next guest who takes an in-depth look at using the seasons to influence the plot of your story.

Julie Holmes blogs at Facets of a Muse and is an uber supportive friend and blogger. She’s got a fun and quirky sense of humor that shows in posts about her muse (who is always drafting mine for pub crawls), the writing life, gardening and cats. You can’t go wrong with cats. Just saying.

Hop over to Julie’s, check out her blog, then show her some comment luv below. She’s placed her own wonderful spin on writing for the seasons. Take it away, Julie…

~ooOOoo~

Hello! *waves* A hearty “Thank You” to Mae for once again inviting me to guest on her blog. This is a nice place, Mae. Can’t wait to hear more about your new series (hint 🙂 ).

Since Mae left me up to my own devices when it came to a subject for a guest post (insert evil laugh here 😀 ), I shuffled through my mental idea bag as an October rainstorm poured outside. Not to mention Mae’s recent post about writing by the seasons on Story Empire. Well, it seems Mother Nature is trying to get my attention.

Living in Minnesota allows me the privilege of experiencing all four seasons. Each season seems to have its own attitudes and personality. Spring is hopeful and happy—most of the time. When Spring is moody and rainy, she often makes up for it with rainbows.

beautiful rainbow over open field

Summer is brilliant and fun-loving, but sometimes likes to be the center of attention a little too much with blasting heat or angry storms.

golf course backed by lake

Autumn is quiet, the friend you call when you want a companion on a walk. Sometimes she can be a blowhard, which just ruins her dye job.

autumn bank and tree in fiery colors over dark lake

And winter, well, they don’t call it the Old Man for nothing. Winter’s attitude swings from peaceful stillness to howling bluster.

cluster of trees covered with snow

Okay, I know not everyone has all four seasons, and if they do, they may not be as distinct as they are in the upper Midwest. When you experience one or more of the seasons, using the seasons as part of your setting is almost second nature. The fun comes in when you use the season as more than just the backdrop for your story.

Say you’re writing a romance. Summer just begs to be the backdrop. Think walks along the beach or summer dresses or lounging in the sun. Eating dinner on a patio. Barbeques. Pretty typical fare, right? Well, unless it’s one of those holiday romance stories about Christmas parties and sleigh rides and cuddling by the fireplace. Still, pretty typical.

Okay, now give the season a bigger part in the story. Maybe switch it up a bit. Spring rains, thunderstorms, and wind. The heroine gets stuck in the mud, and the hunky neighbor guy stops to tow her out. If it hadn’t been spring and rainy, it wouldn’t have been muddy, and the hunky neighbor would have to have another excuse to cross paths with the heroine.

Let’s try autumn. Falling leaves, apple cider, pumpkin patches, harvest, Halloween. Our heroine is helping her grandfather get the harvest in. Her grandfather has a heart attack, and can’t finish getting the harvest in. She can’t do it alone. Along comes the hunky grandson of her grandfather’s “arch enemy”, who offers to help bring in the harvest.

Hmm. What about winter? Winter’s easy. PIck anything: furnace goes out, roads blocked by a snowstorm, the holidays. It’s a gimmee, that FREE space on the bingo card.

For example, in my upcoming book, I use winter as my season character. One of the key scenes between the main female character and main male character takes place only because of a blizzard. The blizzard forces them together, because the female protagonist can’t easily get to a safe refuge, and the male protagonist won’t let her stay alone. (You’ll have to read the book for the rest—mwahahahaha!)

In the second book, spring is my chosen season, because the snow melt of spring causes rivers to run high and fast, perfect for disposing of a body. And they’re cold, which hampers the M.E. determining time of death. On a less morbid note, the awakening of spring flowers and fresh leaves on the trees has a romantic effect on the story. Sudden spring storms can also toss wrenches into plans.

Summer offers possibilities beyond outdoor concerts and swimsuits. How about a gardener who has a family emergency and asks the neighbor to water the garden. Guess what? The neighbor either forgets and the garden dries up, or the neighbor remembers, but it rains for three days straight, and the garden drowns. What does the gardener do upon returning home? If they got along before the emergency, do they still get along? What if the gardener was growing his prize-winning dahlias? Or a special tomato hybrid he was betting on to help him win first place at the state fair?

Use the season as more than just window dressing. Use it to enhance conflict. The key is to use the season to affect the choices the protagonist or antagonist must make in the story. Those choices can take the story in one direction or another. Use it to make solving the crime more difficult, to force two opposing characters together, to make characters take alternate routes that take them to no-man’s land or paradise.

Try to utilize the season in a way that is unexpected. A sudden summer deluge can cause a mudslide that can keep the bad guys from getting to the hero, or strand the heroine with no way of contacting help. A fall bonfire can get out of control, a hay ride can be the vehicle of romance, or a leaf pile can cover a body. And there’s Halloween. Let your imagination run.

Another hearty thank you to Mae for hosting me. I’m off to check out the changing leaves and figure out how I can cast my favorite season in a story.

 

A Bouquet of Flowers in Winter

I miss spring. I miss summer.

The northeast is still in the grip of winter and it’s far from pleasant. This past weekend we had such lovely highs as -5 degrees Fahrenheit (with the wind chill). My husband and I are convinced humans were not meant to live in this type of weather. We are warm weather creatures, especially as we age. The photo below is a view of what I was greeted with when I stepped outside over the weekend. Very pretty, yes, but wretchedly cold. Especially when the wind was whipping snow all over the place throughout the day.

A split rail fence and tree covered with snow

Hubby and I are looking forward to spring when we can once again set up our back porch and deck. When I think spring, I imagine robins, Easter, bunny rabbits, and . . . flowers. Who doesn’t like the bright and colorful blooms that transform gardens and homes into a vibrant tapestry of color? But flowers are much more than just a gardener’s delight. They can be used for pressing, in aromatherapy, and in recipes, to name a few applications.

I’m delighted to announce that my friend and sister author Sandra Cox is offering FLOWER GARDENS AND MORE for just $.99 on Amazon through February 21st.  Check out the blurb for this book that will have you thinking spring:

BLURB:

FLOWER GARDENS AND MORE gives basic information on flowers, different gardens, planting instructions and composting. This book also details uses for flowers after they bloom that include: aromatherapy, pressing, and recipes for edibles. In addition there’s information on carnivorous plants, floriography and a quick reference chart. Wondering about zones? Which flowers are poisonous to your pets? Find the answers in this handy little book. There’s even a florascope personality test.

Graphic advertising sale of book Flower Gardens and More has sun and daisies

If you’re thinking spring like I am, go grab a bouquet of flowers and download FLOWER GARDENS AND MORE. It’s the perfect way to embrace a bit of spring during these blustery cold days of winter.

Purchase from Amazon for $.99 through February 21st

Connect with Sandra at the following haunts:
Blog 
Twitter 
Facebook 

Digging Out by Mae Clair

I live in a northeastern state which means we have unpredictable winters. The last few have been cold, but we’ve been spared any major snowfall. Until recently. I’m sure most of you know a storm of historic proportions hammered the east coast over the weekend. It is now officially the Blizzard of 2016. To put that in perspective, our last blizzards occurred in 1996 and 1993.

In my area, Old Man Winter hit us with the largest snowfall on record—30.2 inches in a single day. Ugh!

The snow started Friday night, about an hour before I left work, and continued all day Saturday until approximately seven o’clock that night. At times we were getting an inch or two per hour.

Below is a shot taken from my front door looking down my driveway. The lump on the right side is my husband’s Jeep Grand Cherokee. And the light in the bottom left is the top of our lamppost, peeking out above the deluge.

Blizzard of 2016 snowfall showing buried vehicle and very top of lamppost peeking about the snow

Hubby spent that night snowblowing our drive and half of our neighbor’s (she’s an older woman) while I spent over an hour cleaning off his Jeep. The next day after the plow came through we were back at it again.

Check out this lovely image of my mailbox.

Blizzard of 2016, mailbox buried in snow mound

After digging it out and removing the snow row the plow left at the foot of our driveway, we headed next door to our neighbor. By that point, the snow was above my knees, much too deep for the blower. So I spent the time knocking down row after row with a shovel while DH followed behind with the snow blower. He wanted me to take over the blower, but I’m not very good with anything mechanical and gas-powered, unless it’s a car. 🙂

Monday the roads were a mess. We went out in the morning but were back by the afternoon. I used the time to change a major thread in my current WIP. That involved its own kind of digging out—going back through and reworking the thread wherever it cropped up in the story. I had hoped to use the time for writing, but the edit took longer than anticipated. No worries, as I had taken off work on Tuesday and planned to spend the day writing.

Tuesday morning arrived with freezing rain that turned the roads into a skating rink. I was glad I didn’t have to inch my way into work. Before I opened my WIP, I had a promo card I needed to create for A THOUSAND YESTERYEARS. I figured it would take me no more than a half hour. Multiple computer issues, browser issues, three calls to tech support, and a glaring mistake on my end, and I finally finished the project—two and a half hours later. The low point came after I had created a rack card in Photoshop and then inadvertently saved something over the file.

The next few minutes involved choice words, the uncontrollable urge to sob, and two Excedrin.

Then it was back at it again.

When I finally completed the thing I needed to get out of the house. Hubby and I did some errands but it was far from relaxing. More like a Christmas rush. I don’t know if the whole world no longer holds day jobs, or just that everyone who hadn’t been out for the last three days decided to hit the roadways and flock to the stores. Insane!

We grabbed a late lunch to unwind. Finally a place free of crowds and mountains of snow in the parking lots. As I type this, I’m getting ready to hit the WIP again. The downside is I had planned to put a huge dent in the project with 4 days off in a row. Instead I reworked a single thread and managed a paltry 2059 in word count.

Which means…I’ve still got a lot of digging out to do. Hopefully, your last few days have been far more productive than mine. If I don’t see snow again until next year, I’ll count it a blessing!