The first story I ever wrote was Care Bear fanfic. For third grade. It was a rambling four page adventure detailing Coldheart’s return to the frozen world he’d created. If I recall, it was melting and he was sad. Of course the Care Bears cheered him up somehow. Snowshoes were likely involved. Possibly maple syrup. Maybe cocoa or something that a kid would try to entice you with wanting to make winter fun. I find winter incredibly un-fun now.
The second story I really recall writing – then forcing people to read, editing relentlessly, and tearing my heart out over – was a fifth grade endeavour. It involved a widow, was a monster story and dreadful home invasion, and took place on a bitter winter night. Lofty stakes for a fifth grader. Between Alfred Noyes, Edgar Allan Poe, and Stephen King my little kid horror author brain was coming along quite nicely. For some reason I haven’t written much winter horror and this is a trend to end. What I need to do IS write winter horror. Winter terrifies me.
For years as a kid I’d read the Farmers Almanac. During all seasons, not just winter, I’d peruse the pages and try to call them out when I could then marvel when it was accurate. Of all that deep study I did on the Farmers Almanac, the one thing I looked for was the true deep freeze. It was heralded with the ominous if not cheeky statement that we should ‘Beware the Pogonip!’ This is something I took to be a creature. Not unlike the Loch Ness Monster, it lurked n the frozen dark. Living under the ice, it emerged from pressure cracks and made its way through the air that was impossible to breathe and deadly to most creatures in the north, especially humans. Since the word was s o close to Ogopogo in my tiny cryptozoologist mind, of course the Pogonip was a creature and not just a word or weather pattern. So I did! I did beware the Pogonip! How I lost that fear was simple and the same way most people lose those fears. Or mostly lose them as the case may be. I learned what the pogonip was. I’ve seen this dangerous winter fog and dealt with days of -50 cold. It’s foggy out right now, and while it is nowhere near pogonip levels it reminds me of that monster I’d created. A monster that still lives somewhere. Maybe in a lake. Maybe in the air itself. It certainly lives in the cold.
Last year in February I ended up in the emergency ward with no feeling in my hands. They’d all turned cadaver white and the pain of blood struggling to return was terrifying and excruciating. That’s not what sent me to the hospital though. That’s a pretty normal thing for me in winter, or hell in the summer if I touch cold things. I have Raynaud’s Phenomena which means my small vessels spasm with temperature change instead of adjusting. The formal diagnoses came after this attack. Like I said, the white fingers weren’t what sent me in. What scared me enough to drop what I was doing and go directly to the doctor was my right index finger had begun to turn deep blue and the second phalange blackened. It felt as if I had a hot needle inserted there. This is something I never ever want to experience again. For one thing, it’s an avoidable pain. Stay warm. Like, really warm. Chris bought me heated gloves and I am very particular about when I go out and what things I can touch. My father bought me heated insoles because this happens to my toes too. The top reason though is that I am a writer. Dictation does not suit me at all. I’m using these fingers right now to entertain you with this tidbit and I write longhand almost daily. I’m a fairly tactile person too, even though I dislike being touched for the most part. As stated, it is avoidable so I’ll have to do what I can and sacrifice if need be to keep my digits intact.
I’m not entirely alone as writers go. Sure loads of winter horror is out there, but I mean having it get in the way of writing. When I interviewed Nancy Kilpatrick for Postscripts To Darkness she related her fingers got cold while writing in the winter. She dislikes winter. Leaves Montreal when she can. I can’t say I blame her one bit. It doesn’t stop her from writing and it doesn’t stop me either. Having no fingers though, just might.
So I do fear the cold. Like mad. I do beware the Pogonip and his younger second cousin twice removed that lives in the grocer’s frozen food section. Their pal is found in my cold metal house keys. Sometimes I catch a glimpse of him preparing vegetables for lunch. If I don’t or can’t write something as close to me as my general fear of getting cold and the very real consequences of that – blistering, frostbite, gangrene, amputation, all possibilities starting in October through March – then that old fifth-grade story of the widow having her warm home torn open to the elements may suffice.
Either way, I think I’d like to write some winter horror.