Wind chill and other writing devices

Hey all. Gerry Boyle here, wishing you a happy 2014.

The year is off to a chilly, snowy start in my neck of the Maine woods. Temps way below zero every night, remnants of the pre-Christmas ice storm glistening and crackling in the trees, a foot of snow in the last dump and more forecast for today, and a northwest wind building.

Ah, winter.IMG_1222

This isn’t to say I haven’t done my share of grumbling. The best gift I received this year came at 2:34 a.m. Christmas day. Santa (in the form of crews from Central Maine Power) hit the switch and the house came back to life. Me and the cat high-fived.

Nothing against candles and cooking outside on the gas grill, but I’m a sucker for running water. But when the Maine weather stirs itself awake and reminds us that, no, this isn’t North Carolina, I have to smile. In fact, walking today and taking in the ice-bowed birches, birds pecking at crystalized berries on the trees, deer tracks in the snow, I got a jolt of creative energy. It was time to explore yet again this recurring character called Maine.

I haven’t written a winter book in some time and now I’m ready. Darkness at 4 o’clock. The silence of winter nights broken by the sound of trees cracking in the deep woods. Ramshackle compounds on back roads, a chimney spewing woodsmoke. The clues left overnight in new snow. Deer. Coyote. Work boots. You can commit crimes in the Maine winter, but it’s tough to disappear without a trace.IMG_1223

There’s a malevolence to a Maine winter, too, the lethal edge of bitter cold and icy water. Go down in the snow on a sub-zero night–injured, drunk, disoriented–and there’s a good chance you won’t get up. Go down in a snowstorm and there’s a good chance you won’t be found, not before April.

Whoah, this got dark in a hurry, just like the light fading as I write this in the late afternoon. Sorry about that. I really did want to give the Maine winter a shout-out, tell those snowbirds in Florida what they’re missing. Wind-chill advisory for today, exposed skin may be damaged by single-digit temperatures and gusts that have blown in all the way from northern Canada.

So who would be out on a night like this? You’d have to be nuts. Or desperate. Up to no good. Or terrified. Tracks that lead from an abandoned car on a lonely stretch of frozen road, veer into the woods, the wrong way, for a long way. And then end.

Nobody. No body. Nothing.

Chapter 2 ….

Maine winter, a writer’s best friend.


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9 Responses to Wind chill and other writing devices

  1. Gram says:

    The same here in places in Central New England too.

  2. Jule Dupre says:

    Good first chapter, Gerry! When do we get to read chapter 2?

  3. Kim Dunn says:

    Gerry, sounds like a story to read while lounging on a hot beach, so when one gets the chills it won’t be life threatening! Maine winters are only for the bold and the brave. Makes us quite adorably tough. Having grown up in Houlton, most often declared the “coldest place in the country” by Willard Scott when I was a kid (I kid you NOT), I will be eager to check the verisimilitude of your frigid fiction.
    So happy to live in midcoast Maine now, where it is more…balmy!

  4. Wow, did you bring back memories! Which is why 14 years ago, after growing up in NYC, 9 years in Cape Elizabeth, brief stints in both Albany and Syracuse, and an unexpectedly long period in Wisconsin (each move a primary-breadwinner transfer), I made the decision to move to central North Carolina. Its state politics were fairly friendly then, my work was email-manageable, and the weather suited to my temperament. Truth be told, however, in all that welcome sunshine we do get the occasional tornado, power outage, and drought, plus black ice at night whenever any slight snowfall fails to disappear completely in the noonday sun.

    My most vivid memory of a blizzard in Maine was in the mid-1960s when we had to get a front end loader to lift the heavy snow up and out of the driveway and drop it into the backyard. Snow plows were simply not up to the job. But my most constant memory is the damp chill, even now. ‘Scuse me while I turn up the thermostat a notch.

  5. John Clark says:

    -10 on the way to Pittsfield at 9 this morning. Had a heat wave all the way to -9 on the return back to Hartland. Sure keeping library traffic down, but you’re right, this is really good dark theme writing weather.

  6. RedwoodSinger says:

    Winter, a time for waiting renewal. I hate to say it, especially to people who are receiving too much of it, but snow sounds wonderful. Wonderful, so long as the fire is there, and a cup of something warm goes with it. A good winter mystery is fun, too, abd even better if read by a warm fire with a cup of something warm.

  7. soooooo true!

  8. Bill says:

    One of the reasons I got hooked on your books was the tone of Deadline, which in my view all these years later works so well because of the time of year. The mood, the impending doom, the isolation. The book would have been great had it taken place in summer, but it was only enhanced by the winter.

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