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From USA TODAY bestselling author Annette Dashofy comes the latest in her multi-award-nominated Zoe Chambers mystery series. And this one’s definitely another page-turner.
On the way to the emergency room, an elderly woman regains consciousness long enough to inform paramedic Zoe Chambers that her fall down the basement steps was no accident. Before she can say more, she succumbs to her injuries, launching Zoe and Police Chief Pete Adams into the investigation of a burglary ring targeting the area’s vulnerable senior citizens.
Zoe—in spite of Pete’s objections—takes it upon herself to act as protection detail after the con men, disguised as water company employees, set their sights on Zoe’s beloved former landlady. It’s a decision that eventually puts Zoe in harm’s way.
With Zoe already recovering from one close call, Pete must race against time to stop the crime ring—and a dangerous killer—before they strike again.
My Use of Weather in Storytelling
I’m often asked about my use of weather in my books. In Uneasy Prey, I’ve thrust Paramedic Zoe Chambers and Police Chief Pete Adams into a blast of January winter for the first time since my debut novel, Circle of Influence. Why does weather play such an important part in my stories?
I guess the answer to that comes in two parts. First, I grew up in a farming family. We always kept a close watch on the weather forecast. In the summer, we scheduled hay baling around a string of dry days. If the cut hay got wet before we could stow it safely in the barn, it would mold and be worthless as feed. Worse, if we baled it when it was damp, it would ferment, combust, and potentially start a barn fire. In the winter, we had to arrange for the livestock to be brought in or sheltered with plenty of extra feed if a blizzard was in the forecast.
But even without the farming background, Pennsylvanians tend to obsess over the weather. It looks like snow! Better run to the store and get milk, bread, and toilet paper! Life revolves around Storm Tracker.
In all honesty, I feel I’d be cheating my readers if I didn’t include the weather as another character in stories set here. Not only would I be remiss to ignore such a big part of local life, but it’s also a great tool. Need an obstacle or plot complication? A cell phone is dropped and lost in several feet of snow. A vehicle slides off the icy road and gets stuck. And of course, snow and rain play havoc with evidence left out in the elements.
I remember when I still lived with my parents, my mom was a soap opera fanatic and picked up on their use of weather in storytelling. If they mentioned a storm coming, Mom would say, “Someone’s going to die. Bad things happen on the soaps when there’s a storm.”
When I teach writing classes, I try to stress the use of all the senses. Weather, especially winter, provides an abundance of opportunities for sensory experiences. The biting cold can sting your character’s cheeks. A whipping wind snatches their breath away. A bowl of hot soup or a cup of hot coffee never tasted so good as when it also takes away the chill. People don’t take a leisurely stroll when it’s 12 degrees out. They hustle from the car to their office. They bundle up in Arctic-style coats and boots, go inside and overheat, then step back outside where the layer of sweat turns icy against their skin.
Yes, I take it as a compliment when a reader in sunny California tells me my book made them cold!
Sunshine, which is rare here in the southwest corner of the state, makes us happy (are you suddenly humming a John Denver tune?). The long gloomy days of fall and winter gives us (me) Seasonal Affected Disorder. Spring is a rebirth. Summer is three solid months of sweat and humidity. Autumn refreshes the soul. The potential to mirror a theme knows no bounds.
I know many writing instructors frown upon the use of weather and advise novice authors to avoid it. The trick, I think, is to not pound the reader over the head with pages and pages of it. Weather is a secondary character, not a main one. To use a food analogy, it’s like any good spice.A sprinkle adds depth and flavor. Too much turns a story unpalatable.
As long as I write stories set in Pennsylvania (or anywhere with changeable skies), I’ll include storms, biting cold, steamy summers, and drenching rains as an unescapable part of life.
And now please excuse me. I need to warm up with a cup of hot cocoa!
About the Author
Annette Dashofy is the USA Today best-selling author of the Zoe Chambers mystery series about a paramedic and deputy coroner in rural Pennsylvania’s tight-knit Vance Township. CIRCLE OF INFLUENCE was a finalist for the Agatha Award for Best First Novel of 2014 and BRIDGES BURNEDwas nominated for the 2015 Agatha for Best Contemporary Novel. UNEASY PREY, the sixth in the series, is set for release on March 27.
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