Sunday, December 9, 2012

Winter, Reading, and Story...



 Winter, Reading and Story...

 Hello folks, Mark here!

My post this week is a short one because I'm neck deep trying to please my editor and finish what we both hope are final major edits to King's Gambit. If my head doesn't explode, I promise to have something different for January.

In keeping with the season, I had a number of questions running around in my hind brain regarding weather. In Washington, November is the period where the great change usually occurs. Eastern Washington makes the great fade in a month of color transition, scudding clouds and dipping temperatures. Some years we get snow early. I recall several late October snow fests that put a different spin on trick or treating, but most years we get a dusting in November and some "real stuff" in December. I don't mind a white Christmas as long as I don't have to drive in it. I love looking at winter from my deck with the heater going and a good glass of wine or a stiff hot toddy, toasting weather's worst as it advances down the ridgeline to leach all color into shades of black and white.

Snow is really cool when seen from the inside of a clean picture window...

Let me be clear: I don't like the cold. If I am ever able to retire from teaching and can afford it, I will find a place with desert colors and heat. No question. I love my seasons, but my body functions better in the heat. I don't care how old we get, shorts are still cool and most of us appreciate a good tan. :)

But I will say this for winter, in addition to Terri's excellent comments about food last week, I think the season is ready-made for reading. In fact, I think in my life at least, there are two such seasons: summer and winter. I read all the time, but as an educator, those are the times when I can really dig into multiple books, great movies, and great meals. We start break in a week, and I have several tomes waiting my down-time attention. Teachers use such breaks to grade papers and make plans, but we also use that time to treat ourselves to reading stuff we don't teach. These are guilty pleasures times. I'm talking about the full pot of coffee, slippers and the cat and a stack of great books. I'm thinking of those late-night-can't-put-it down-and-gee-no-school-tomorrow-so-go-ahead-and-read-three-more-chapters kind of moments.

Glorious exhaustion.

I could ramble on forever, but I would rather have your responses to several questions:

When do you read the most? Do you tend to read certain kinds of literature according to season?

AND, on a seasonally related front: What are some of your favorite works that use winter as a prime component in the story-line?

Martin's use of the cold in his huge epic is well-documented. Tolkien treated the seasons with the deft skill of a Raphealite artist. Williams used it effectively in his first trilogy. LeGuin made winter a prime motif in Left Hand of Darkness and other early books. I'm sure there are others; post here and let the rest of us know.

AND, on a writerly front: how hard is it to use the cold/winter as an element in one's prose? What challenges confront the writer trying to allow weather to dictate the exploits of his characters?

Questions, questions, questions...ok about some answers!

Happy Holidays!


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Terri-Lynne said...

Robert Holdstock's Mythago Wood, and even more, his Lavondyss, rely heavily upon winter. The winter in his books is actually Ice Age winter, but winter still. Amazing books, btw--espeacially Mythago Wood. History, folklore, and magic all comes together. Fabulous stuff.

I'm like you--summer and winter are the times I get to read more. I'm looking forward to some good December reading...oh, wait...December is almost half over! ;)

I tend to go fluffier in the summer, deeper in the winter. Seems sort of fitting.

Karin Rita Gastreich said...

Patricia McKillip's WINTER ROSE is absolutely brilliant. I haven't come across any other author that has captured winter in words like she did. I felt it to my bones.

And of course, I can't let this opportunity pass without mentioning Laura Ingalls Wilder's THE LONG WINTER, part of the Little House series. I still remember the more harrowing scenes and situations from that book, almost 40 years later.

Frankly, I read whenever I can, and whatever moves me in the moment. But what I'm really looking forward to this winter break is getting the chance to do a little writing.

Terri-Lynne said...

Karin--Winter Rose! Fantastic book. And how could I not think of the Little House books? I remember from Little House in the Big Woods, hot potatoes in their pockets to keep their hands warm, and pouring maple syrup into the snow to make candy.

And who can forget crossing the frozen river, only to have it break up the next day.

A friend of mine wants to write the stories again, but through Ma Ingalls' eyes. Can you imagine what was going through her head every time that fool Charles came up with another hairbrained scheme? And she, the dutiful wife, just sighed and said, "Yes, Charles."

I'd love to see the running commentary in her head!

Eric T Reynolds said...
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Eric T Reynolds said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Eric T Reynolds said...

I have to plug our own Stephen Graham King's novel CHASING COLD which--the first part--takes place on a planet in an eternal ice age called Frostbite. It's a human refugee planet, one of a number of harsh places across the galaxy where humans have been relegated to live after being conquered by an advanced alien race, which claims all the "nice" planets for themselves. Humans have learned to survive by adapting natural caves to habitability and developing innovative ways to grow food. When humans are forced to live in such a place, they adapt not only their technology, but their social customs, all the way down to their sleeping arrangements, some of which may resemble how we lived long ago.

As for THE LONG WINTER, that certainly had an effect on me, too, especially as a kid.

Terri-Lynne said...

Ack! How could I forget Stephen's novel. Good call, Eric!

Heroines of Fantasy said...

Winter Rose is one of my favs by McKillip.

Unknown said...

Winter definitely makes me want to curl up and read more than any other time of the year. There isn't really a specific type of literature I read during winter. I just want to snuggle under a blanket and read all day.

Just for future planning, deserts and heat don't always go together. I live in New mexico and it was 11 degrees here the other day. Which makes it funny when I do write about winter in New Mexico and people will comment about the believability of snow in the desert.

Karin Rita Gastreich said...

Hi DelSheree,

I still remember going to the Grand Canyon during the winter time when I was in high school. The canyon was covered in snow, and it was COLD, even though we were in the desert. Really an amazing experience.

Thanks for stopping by. We're doing build-a-story at the end of the month (starting Dec 24). You must come back to join the fun and contribute a few lines!

Julia said...

I definitely do get to read more during vacations (including the winter one), but never as much as I optimistically think I'm going to, because I still have kids around and they tend to be distracting. :) That being said, Poets of Pevana and A Time Never Lived are both high on my list and I'm hoping to get to them after I finish reading about Steve Jobs for my January book group meeting. ;)

As for writing about winter: I'm a warm climate girl too (helloooo, that's why I live in California!), so it was kind of hard for me to write the snowy winter scenes in ICE WILL REVEAL. Luckily I was writing about how awful all the snow and ice were, rather than how pretty and pleasurable. But I live in fear that people who really know from winter will read those scenes and go "hah, what do YOU know?"