by Annette Dashofy
Note to self: Set future stories in the summer!
A manuscript I wrote several years back (the one that resides in a dark drawer in some undisclosed location) was set in Las Vegas. I’d never been there—still haven’t—but I collected photos and descriptions of the place. I researched it to the point that I held up my end of a conversation about the city with someone who frequented it. I worked on that story in the middle of winter, too. When I headed off to write, I’d say, “I’m going to Las Vegas,” and everyone knew what I meant.
It was nice. I could fool myself into thinking I was there. Warm. Sunshine. (Wistful sigh)
This month has definitely provided a wealth of material for anyone writing about winter. From the three feet of snow to the three foot icicles. Not to mention power outages. I’ve often bragged about my skills at “roughing it.” But roughing it in your own living room isn’t all its cracked up to be.
We were lucky. Our electric only went out for 11 hours. Others around us were without power for over a week. I’m surprised the murder rate hasn’t skyrocketed. Or maybe it has and the bodies are simply buried beneath the snow.
I stopped at a local station for gas. I felt dwarfed—my little Saturn parked amidst a half a dozen monster-sized pickups, all loaded with red gasoline containers. And not a smile on any of the faces of the drivers. At Wal-Mart, the weary shoppers were attired in bulky camo and Carhartts. The women wore no makeup and sported hair that hadn’t seen a shower in days.
Glum. The local population is glum.
And ask me about my Valentine’s Day. Okay, I’ll tell you. I held the aluminum extension ladder while my darling husband knocked down icicles and chiseled ice blocks out of our gutters. While I was holding the ladder, the ice was flying and falling and thunking into me head. My shoulders. My back. OUCH. At one point, I yelled up to Darling Husband and said, “You know…some girls get taken out to dinner on Valentine’s Day.” He grunted and kept on chiseling.
Yes, life is a bit challenging here in southwestern Pennsylvania at the moment. And I can’t even escape into my writing, because it’s more of the same. Snow covers the clues and wipes out the evidence. Eventually, in my story, the snow melts and reveals a clue or two. I’m hoping that it will eventually melt here, too, and reveal everyone’s good humor. I know it’s there somewhere.
So what is the environment of your WIP like? Does it take you somewhere sunny? Or are you, like me, unable to escape the wintery beast even in your prose?