Seasons of Color

Welcome to Kristena Mears, a new guest blogger here at JPC Allen Writes! With fall just around the corner, Kristena writes about the seasons of color and encourages writers to take advantage of colors in their writings.

September is here and with it comes the changing of the seasons. I was never an autumn lover as a child. It signaled the end of summer and the end of fun. Summer had passed and school was back in session. 

I grew up in Northern California. The change of season from summer to autumn didn’t have the beauty I see now in the Mid-West. There are so many colors here in just one leaf. Both areas had the autumn season, both had leaves that turned brown and fall off. In both, flowers die away with the frost. But the colors were different, and this changed the whole flavor of the season.

In the Mid-West, the leaves don’t just turn brown; they turn to crimson, then maroon, then turn into caramel. The dying flowers turn from hot pink to fandango before turning to russet, then ash.

I didn’t appreciate it, but even the slow fade of the seasons in California has worked its way into my writing. Not every scene I write needs these multi-colored descriptions. But it is those that need them I want to focus on today.

When we write, we want to draw our readers in. We want to make them feel the brush of wind blowing through their hair, and feel the need to scratch their arm as we describe the ant crawling its way up over each tiny hair. To do this, we need to draw from each experience and infuse that knowledge into our work. What we see around us, what we feel and experience, these are the images that we put to paper. Both the beauty and the shriveling ugliness.

Then again, is it really ugly? Even the dull and ugly can become beautiful in our words.

Have you ever asked yourself how many colors there are? There are over 18 decillion. Decillion! I didn’t even know that was a number! That’s a one with thirty-three zeros after it.

1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000.

Scientists have determined that we can see about one thousand different levels of just dark and light and one-hundred levels each of green and red. That’s about ten-million colors just with those two spectrums.

Are we using this kind of description in our writing? When we talk about the evening sky, do we take advantage of all the colors available to us? We can say, 
“The reds and golds blended together and slowly faded to black.” 
Or we can say, 
“Crimson swirled with ruby and violet, painting the sky in beauty, before fading into a smoky gray that was swallowed into charcoal.”

When we write, we have many colors to choose from. We don’t need to go overboard and use a distinct color for everything. Sometimes a red gingham dress, or a faded pair of blue jeans, is just a red gingham dress, and a faded pair of blue jean. But variation of color seems to be especially necessary when we are describing nature and seasons. When we describe the colors in the sky, the mountains or forest, we need to convey the beauty of what we want to reveal to our readers, tingle their senses and transport them into the pages.

I know it takes extra effort for me and it never seems to make it into my first draft. But the effort is worth the outcome. Using descriptive wording is the difference between good writing and great writing. God created amazing splendor for us to enjoy. Each season and each part of the world has its own unique magnificence. There are days and places that seem dull. But even the rainy, overcast days and the bleak wastelands have their own distinctive colors. The words we choose can make them extraordinary and leave our readers hungering for more. 

For more posts on writing about nature, click here.

*****

Today it happened. Keturah became a woman. Her plan to escape an arranged marriage worked. She’s now free to find her brother and live as she chooses. But the lies and deceit catch up with her. If she confesses, will it lead to her death? Is there a path to forgiveness? 
Justus’ devotion to Yeshua results in Abba proclaiming him dead to the family. When Justus rescues a child from slavery, Keturah falls in love with the toddler. But the child’s mother returns, and Justus falls in love. Will Keturah’s jealousy destroy all bonds with her brother? Can they save their relationship?Onesimus, a runaway slave, has a secret. Befriending Keturah, he finds she has a secret of her own. Will the two friends be destroyed by what they hide, or can they learn to give everything to God?
Will running set them free or sentence them to death?

*****

Kristena Mears is an award-winning author, blogger and wife of a C&MA minister. She is an inspirational speaker for both small and large groups of all ages. Kristena is a self-proclaimed coffee connoisseur. She loves history, art, travel, and even research. Out of these, her vivid imagination and inspiring stories flow.
When Kristena’s not busy writing or working her full-time job, you’ll probably find her nose in a book or spending time with her husband and best friend, Mark. She takes frequent trips to the zoo. enjoys cooking and dabbling in photography. Kristena lives in the Cincinnati, OH area with her hubby of 40 years. She has three grown children and three grandchildren.
You can find her books on Amazon or wherever books are sold. 
For more information on Kristena Mears, check out her website, kristenamears.com .

Do You Read in Time?

Do you read in time? By that, I mean do you read stories in the month or season in which they are set? Most readers have their favorite Christmas and Halloween stories that they reread around those holidays. Since I love mysteries, and for some reason Christmas and mysteries like to hang out for the holiday season, I have tons to choose from.

But I also read stories which are set during non-holiday times. My brother-in-law, for example, reread The Lord of the Rings trilogy in the early spring each year because the Battle of Pelennor Fields, the epic battle at the end of The Return of the King, is fought in March.

I read Watership Down in June because that’s when the story starts. It covers most of the summer with an epilogue in the fall, but I read it in June because the description of nature is so lush that it seems to fit in that month. For the same reason, I read The Time Machine in summer. The Time Traveler travels to the year 802,701. This England of far in the future is experiencing a gold summer so it makes sense to reread it during this season. I read the mystery stories featuring Uncle Abner as the detective in fall because some of my favorite stories from this series are set them, although others are set in other seasons.

I think I like to read in time because it makes me feel closer to the story, like I’m living it with the characters.

Sometimes, I choose to read a book at the same time I discovered it. I took The Father Hunt by Rex Stout with me on our summer vacation a few years ago. It was so wonderful to rediscover this mystery that I packed it again for our next summer vacation and will continue to do so this year. The flip side of that is that bad circumstances can make me dislike a story. I read a Nero Wolfe novella while driving home from visiting my parents during the holiday season. For some reason, I got car sick while my husband drove. The next time I tried to read the novella, that sensation of nausea came over me again. Fortunately, after a space of several years, I could reread the story with no ill effects.

Write in Time

I also tend to write in time. In A Shadow on the Snow, I have pivotal scene occur during a snowstorm on Valentine’s Day and the novel ends on Good Friday. For the next novel in the series, I open on Memorial Day and plan to wrap it up on Father’s Day. Using the holidays as touchstones isn’t something I thought a lot about. Since family is critical to my stories, it makes sense to work in holidays, which are often the most memorable events in the life of a family.

What do you think? Besides reading Christmas stories at the appropriate time, do you read in time?

Valentine’s Day Isn’t Just for Romance

My family will find it funny for me to do a post on Valentine’s Day as a story starter because I don’t read or write romance. But Valentine’s Day isn’t just for romance. I discovered that while writing my YA mystery, A Shadow on the Snow.

The story is set in rural Ohio from the end of January to the end of March. In the middle, I planned a suspenseful chase through a snowstorm. My main character Rae has been doubting the strength of her new relationship with her newly found father. I realized Valentine’s Day was the perfect day for her to come to grips with these doubts because the day honors all kinds of love. And I could set my snowstorm chase then because in Ohio, we get all kinds of wild, wintery weather in February.

Below are some other ideas for exploring more than romantic love on Valentine’s Day.

Stepparents

A Valentine’s Day story could center on a child coming to some kind of friendly relationship with a stepparent. The child could actually be a child, or a teen, or a middle-aged adult who isn’t sure what to make of a widowed parent’s new spouse.

Grandparents

Explore the relationship between a grandparent and grandchild. Or to give the story a better twist, a great-grandparent and great-grandchild. It could be a simple story of the two characters enjoying each other’s company. Or maybe a deeper one in which the grandparent realizes the grandchild has a serious problem and needs to communicate that to the parents.

Siblings and Cousins

Valentine’s Day is a wonderful day for warring siblings or cousins to bury the hatchet. Or for the reconciliation of any family members.

For more ideas for using Valentine’s Day was writing inspiration, click here.

Now it’s your turn. Since Valentine’s Day isn’t just for romance, what kind of different Valentine’s Day story would you write? Or what non-romantic story have you’ve read set on Valentine’s Day?

Winter Solstice as Writing Inspiration

I am reprinting last year’s Writing in Time as I attempt to finish my WIP by Dec. 7.

Christmas overshadows every other December holiday in America. Yet the winter solstice is the reason we celebrate Christmas in this month. Both the history and nature of the shortest day of the year can provide ideas for using the winter solstice as writing inspiration.

Many ancient cultures, according to The Christmas Encyclopedia by William D. Crump, figured out which day in the northern hemisphere had the shortest amount of daylight, all without the help of computers. Babylonians, Syrians, Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, pre-Christian Celtic and Germanic tribes celebrated this time of year. Egyptians commemorated the birth of Ra, the sun god. Babylonians and Syrians saw the solstice as a symbol of returning fertility to the land. During the Celtic and Germanic holiday of Yule, noisy celebrations warded off evil spirits that roamed in the darkness.

In a brilliant move of counter-programming, the Catholic Church decided to celebrate Jesus’ birth in December and compete against pagan holidays. We still use some of the pagan traditions. Christianity has given them new meanings to pagan customs, like lighting candles and decorating with evergreens.

The juxtaposition of the most hours of darkness and the happiest holiday on the Christian calendar makes a great symbol for the journey of a character. As December grows darker, the character experiences more and more adversity, hitting bottom on the day of the solstice. Then on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, hope is restored. The day with the most darkness is also a fitting setting for the climax of a thriller or mystery. The hero and villain confront each other on a night when evil seems to be at the height of its powers.

For speculative fiction, a villain reaches her most powerful state during the winter solstice. The hero, whose powers are at their weakest, must come up with a way to stop the villain from taking advantage of the solstice.

How can you use the winter solstice as writing inspiration?

Fall Weather as Writing Inspiration

Fall is the best time of year in Buckeye State. Cool nights, warms days, and little precipitation allows people to enjoy the fun and wonders of fall. So it was fairly easy for me to use fall weather as writing inspiration.

Harvest

Farmers in my county are in full harvest mode. Combines of all sizes are collecting the corn and soybean crops. If I wanted to write about that kind of harvest, I’d have to do research and interview farmers from my church. But one harvest I am familiar with is black walnuts.

Black walnut trees are plentiful on our property as well as all over the county. The trees drop their nuts, usually, the last week of September or the first week of October. Getting the meat out of a black walnut is a laborious process–the green husk must be removed and the black gunk (I tried to find a precise term for this stuff and couldn’t) between the husk and nut stains everything, but the hardest part, literally, is cracking the nut itself.

Black walnuts are much, much tougher than English walnuts. It took us years before we found an effective tool to break the shells without straining our muscles or dodging shell shrapnel as a less helpful nut cracker turned some nuts into mini bombs.

The whole process is ripe (pun intended) for a humorous story about a family tackling a black walnut harvest. Or it could be a family drama in which the harvest ties generations together.

Indian summer

We’re experiencing one right now in my county. Wikipedia states that Indian summer is a warm, dry period in October or November after a frost. The Old Farmer’s Almanac has a much more detailed definition. Either way, this kind of weather allows us to experience one last shot of summer before winter settles in.

That makes me think of using this weather phenomenon as a setting for a main character who gets one last chance to achieve something. I’m not the first writer to think of it. I found on Wikipedia that William Dean Howell’s wrote a novel in 1886 entitled Indian Summer about a man who falls in love in middle age.

Indian summer seems like the perfect backdrop for a reconciliation between friends, or relatives, or husband and wife. I could also use it for a character who gave up some passion that he loves, maybe painting, for a more traditional job and gets another chance to follow his dream. Any story about a loss and then an unexpected hope of recovery will work.

Blue Moon of Halloween

I hope those of you who celebrate Halloween got to experience the blue moon. It was a perfectly clear night at our house, and the full moonlight was magical. My husband and I took a walk into the woods under its silver glow. I’ve written before about how to use a full moon night as writing inspiration. What intrigues me was the fact that there hasn’t been a blue moon on Halloween since 1944.

What if in the waining days of World War II, the Nazis unleash some horrible evil force or entity that was only accessible on Halloween under a blue moon? A young soldier, who witnessed this act, has dedicated his life to fighitng it. Now that 2020 was arrived with another blue moon on Halloween, he has a chance to destroy the evil. But he’s in his nineties. He must assemble a team to help him. A group of Neo-Nazis could be defending the evil. I could even work in how the pandemic is hampering the good guys’ efforts.

What’s fall like where you live? How could you use fall weather as writing inspiration?

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