Setting: Your Own Back Yard
copyright 2011 aaron paul lazar
Enroute to my booksigning yesterday in the Finger Lakes region of Western New York, I had the weirdest experience. For a good fifteen minutes, a burning scent filled the car. Acrid. Disgusting. But I couldn't see any source of it - either on the roadside or ahead of me. I kept checking my temperature gauge, concerned that somehow something was going wrong beneath the hood of my one year old Camry. But no smoke rose nor did any weird noises or flames erupt.
Puzzled, I zoomed south on Route 390, driving over the undulating hills with isolated touches of red or bronze flashing in the woods and fields. Fall hasn't come to our region yet, although we've had a few cold mornings lately. It was gorgeous, as always, but I still smelled that strong odor. Could there be a forest fire? Why didn't I see smoke?
I was really getting worried until I flew around a curve and saw the culprit. There, before me, was a giant truck spewing an acrid plume - and I mean PLUME - of gray smoke, so thick that when I approached I could barely see the road.
Fear gripped me, and A headline popped into my head. AUTHOR DIES IN EXPLOSION PASSING BURNING TRUCK. With renewed determination, I carefully passed him, wondering why he wasn't stopping. It was at that point that I saw flames leaping out of the open topped trailer.
How could he not know something was wrong?
I flashed my lights, beeped my horn, got by him, and promptly called 911. He didn't slow down, kept chugging along. With a prayer for his safety, I kept going after the police promised to track him down.
I have no idea what happened and whether or not the cops were able to locate him and stop him before his vehicle blew up, but man, was it scary.
Fortunately, it wasn't an omen of my day to come. On the way to the event, I started to relax again, loving the way the heavy pinot noir grapes hung on the vines in fields by the road, rejoicing in the sparkling aquamarine water of the narrow lake and the quaint cottages dotting the shore.
The booksigning at Heron Hill Winery overlooking Keuka Lake was lovely, especially after the sun came out just in time for us to witness the annual parade of the seaplanes flying low over the lake. I love this place, and I love the people who run it. They are so welcoming, it's like greeting old friends each time I visit.
The pictures above were taken outside the tent where I signed books - also where an annual Harvest Wine Tour took place. The winery is perched high on the western bluff overlooking the lake.
I had lovely conversations with wine and book lovers from all parts of the country, connecting with them in the way only readers and writers can - sharing the love of favorite authors, talking about plots and characters in the sun while sipping wine. It was pure joy.
But one resounding theme kept coming back to me. So many folks love reading about a specific setting or locale. Whether they'd attended school at Geneseo in the Genesee Valley, lived in Rochester, summer camped on the lake, or simply adored this part of the country, they all perked up when they discovered my books were based in the Finger Lakes and Genesee Valley region of New York.
Of course, how can I blame them? There's so much beauty here, it stuns me time and time again, in spite of the fact that I live here!
A friend who suprised me with a visit yesterday said it best, actually. Paul had moved from our region a year ago to the Albany area, headed for a super job, but had to leave his home of many years. He popped into the signing with a big smile. Of course, he had to endure several bear hugs from me.
While we drank the new 2009 dry Riesling and looked over the vineyards and lake below, he mused about someday moving here. On the drive down, he said he was so overtaken by the beauty of the area, it took his breath away and made his heart swell.
I loved hearing him speak about it, because it mirrored my own passion for the area.
My characters do have excursions to Maine and Europe, and will probably tour new parts of the world in the future, but I'm glad I chose to base my books right here in my own back yard. I'm blessed to live here, and thank God every day for the beauty that surrounds me.
Where do your characters live? What settings have you chosen for your scenes? Share below in the comments section, and remember to write like the wind!
Aaron Paul Lazar
P.S. We had my daughter's wedding last month in the same region, overlooking Keuka Lake. So beautiful! Above is a family photo.