The other day in a drug store, I stopped to look at a display of home weather station devices. As I compared wired and wireless thermometers and moisture sensors, another customer, an elderly man with a watermelon of a belly under a forest green shirt wandered over to kibitz.
After we had discussed the merits of the systems offered and their price tags, he asked me, “Why do you want one?”
“Oh, I like weather,” I said.
The answer seemed to puzzle him. “Are you meteorologist?” he persisted.
“No.” I searched for a more complete answer to give him, but I didn’t have one. “I just like weather.”
And I do. Weather is an essential element of setting. Readers won’t sit still for long descriptions of locale. By using weather I can place my reader inside the setting.
One of the fun parts of writing SEALed With a Kiss was that I got to do a hurricane. Not a super dramatic Category Five like you see on TV. I wanted a real, far more common, Category One, depicted as it’s experienced by people who really live on North Carolina’s coast. The film footage of stoplights swinging wildly and waves crashing over seawalls, so beloved by TV cameras, are sights you will never see—if you’ve got a lick of sense. You’ll find shelter and see only the inside of it, until the storm passes.
I like to use weather, not so much to give the characters an obstacle to overcome, as to reveal character, establish mood and even to subtly underscore the theme.
SEALed With a Promise, although also set in Eastern North Carolina, is a different story and required different weather. The story begins about a month after SEALed With A Kiss, which puts it near the end of November.
The likelihood of hurricanes notwithstanding, Fall brings the best, most enjoyable weather to Eastern North Carolina of the whole year.
First of all, Fall is a season which lasts a long, long time—unlike Spring which can come and be gone in a month, or winter which rarely gets serious for more than a couple of months.
In Fall, the energy-sapping heat and humidity relent. Mosquitoes, flies, and gnats abate their annoyance. One miraculously perfect, seventy-eight degree, bright blue-and-gold day follows the next. Without the heat haze, the air is preternaturally clear, bright sun sparkles off every surface, and shadows are so sharp and dense they appear to be cut from midnight blue fabric and draped across lawns and streets and houses.
Everyday, people exclaim at the beautiful weather. And the next day, they exclaim that the perfection has miraculously happened again.
Caleb, called Do-Lord by his SEAL friends, meets Emmie at the wedding of Jax and Pickett on one of those Fall days, so perfect that linen-covered tables for a wedding breakfast have been set out of doors, even though it’s the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Caleb comes from Alabama trailer trash. For the first time he’s in a place where people are actually living the idyll of Southern hospitality and graciousness. The perfect weather underscores that these people can have anything they want.
He—who has never even been to a wedding before, much less one among the upper crust—is meeting the challenge with a SEAL’s competence and adaptability, but on the inside he’s aware he’s faking it. He isn’t one of them and he doesn’t belong.
But his nemesis, Senator Teague Calhoun, does.
When Emmie, best friend of the bride, comes to him needing his covert operative skills for her cockamamie a scheme to liberate the wedding cake, he suddenly sees beyond her spinsterish exterior. She is one of these people, but she’s not. A fling with her would provide the cover he needs to infiltrate Calhoun’s world. If they’re a couple, he can hide in plain sight while he gathers the intelligence he needs to bring Calhoun down, something he’s waited seventeen years to do.
And it won’t be a hardship duty. The more he sees of Emmie, the prettier she gets, and the more he’s captured by her quirky charm. For the first time in his life, he grants himself a luxury he’s never had before: time.
A season which seems to offer a respite from time’s relentless passage is the perfect setting to underscore themes of time and timelessness I explored in SEALed With A Promise. A romance, though, is most of all about the progress of a relationship. For fun, I enjoyed letting the weather change every time Caleb and Emmie entered a new season in their relationship.
Night before last, channel surfing, I came across a weather station just as the meteorologist said, "In this part of North Carolina, May is the most dangerous month. "
Wouldn't that be a great opening sentence for a book?
So what’s your favorite season, or setting?