Heat, cold, rain, drought – weather drives life on a very basic level in all parts of the world.
Aching bones predict a coming cold snap, a herd of cows lying down (not just a few napping) portend impending rain, thunder in winter forecasts snow will follow seven to ten days later, and so forth.
And, any culture born from agricultural roots, like the Midwest and the South, have learned to respond accordingly. If winter’s coming to the Midwest and granny says to go ahead and dig her hole next to grandpa in the family cemetery before the ground freezes, you better do it. Everybody knows the old and infirm seem to drop along with the outdoor temperature every year. Likewise, heat, the most basic measure of Southern weather, generally slows everything down in the sultry states because we’re familiar with the dangers of dehydration and heat stroke.
Writers, however, turn up the heat to bring our stories to a boil rather than slow them. Heat between two characters is the heartbeat of a romance. Heat brings tingle to a sex scene. Heat accelerates the pace of the plot to a breathless ending.
Considering that heat was the theme, my timing was a little off when I found my rhythm while writing Swelter.
I had signed a contract with a deadline, then procrastinated getting started.
I always intend to write during the summer months but find it difficult with so many book events during the warm months. I still work a full-time job that pays my mortgage, so my writing time is mainly on weekends. This past summer, I had six weekends in a row booked with travel. So, no writing.
Autumn was rolling in when I whipped out the first chapters to introduce my two characters to the readers and to each other. Then I suddenly had writer’s block over what to do next. I struggled through those fall months, then went to visit a close friend, VK Powell, for one of our frequent brainstorming sessions. She’s a master plotter and lives in an awesome high rise condo where one wall is all glass and looks out over a downtown city park. So, as is our custom, we imbibed – I’m partial to whiskey and she likes vodka – and brainstormed while I paced and stared out at the city lights. She was left with empty liquor bottles, and I went home filled with inspiration.
Only now, it was the dead of winter.
So, I jacked up the furnace and turned on the gas logs in the fireplace until I was sweating and The Terrors, my three rescued terrier mixes, had their tongues hanging out.
The heat building in Swelter is three-pronged: chemistry between August and Teal; temperatures baking the Texas Panhandle; and plot tension as danger escalates.
In a nutshell: Congressional aide Teal Giovanni is fleeing the media and her shattered life after her affair with a married senator makes prime time news. Betrayed by her lover/law partner, August Reese is hiding out at a small cattle ranch to testify against a drug kingpin. Attraction sparks when Teal’s aging Honda blows its engine on a steamy stretch of Texas blacktop, and she’s rescued by August. But just as that spark bursts into flame, their worst nightmare comes calling. Will they survive or swelter as the heat becomes unbearable?
Why the Texas Panhandle? I’ve always been fascinated by places like Caprock Canyon State Park, red rock giants carved out and standing tall against the skyline. Besides, what’s sexier than cowgirls in boots and chaps?
The book’s title? Well, when temperatures become too hot to withstand, it’s not uncommon to hear a Southerner to proclaim: “I’m just about to swelter.”
Since Swelter was written in winter, it only seems appropriate to have it turn up the heat with December release to warm your holiday. Hope you enjoy the ride.
Parting note: Leave a comment on the Bold Strokes blog site by 10 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 10, and I’ll announce two winners on Sunday, Dec. 11, to receive autographed copies (ebook copies if you live outside the U.S.) of Swelter.