I hate winter.
As each day gets shorter and nights get longer and increasingly colder, people around me die. That, dear reader, is a fact.
It seems like all my good friends and close family members chose to die between November 1st and March 1st: President Kennedy in November; my mother and my wife in January; my father, my nephew, my aunts and uncles in December; Rocky Wood and Chellis French last week; just the night before last there was a fatal automobile crash directly in front of my house that distracted me from writing with dozens of red and blue flashing lights and wailing sirens; Elizabeth got a phone call yesterday that the pastor of her church passed away; and early this morning I was awakened by more sirens because the old guy across the street kicked the bucket. I was once again reminded how fragile life can be as winter steals precious time from my life and the lives of others.
I have tried to protect myself and my house from death’s intrusion by surrounding the place with huge living trees and a berm of thick bushes. Twice in the twenty-some years I have lived here those trees and bushes intervened to save my life by stopping careening cars from crashing through the front of my house. I live on one of the busiest east-west thruways connecting the city of Rockford with Chicago, and cars daily race past my house at dangerously high rates of speed. I have witnessed automobiles crash into my big magnolia trees, and I have had my picture window punctured by bullets during drive-bys while I sat near the window writing. Not all of these things happen only in winter, of course. But it seems attempts on my life happen more frequently between the first of November and the first of March.
My thesis and dissertation advisors insistently reminded me throughout grad school that correlation does not prove causation, and I rationally realize that darkness alone does not cause death. After all, Elvis died in August, and plenty of people do die during daylight hours. But I see the grinning spectre of death hanging around my house during the darkness of winter, waiting patiently for me to emerge from my fortress. Let him wait, I say. I don’t plan to venture out into that long goodnight anytime soon.
This is the mood that infects my writing in winter. I have half a dozen short stories currently in progress, plus three new novels. All focus on death and dying. Come spring, my writing will focus on rebirth. Writers cannot help but be affected by their environment, and that includes weather and diminished daylight. Several of my writer friends have found their output in winter adversely affected by bouts of illness. Other friends have mentioned debilitating depression. I empathize with them. Winter takes its inevitable toll on all of us. I hate winter with a passion.
My protagonists are survivors who battle darkness to emerge victorious from winter, and the eight protagonists of my upcoming Abandoned-series of novels are able to consciously choose when to die. They cannot escape death entirely, although some of my antagonists try. Only one of the Abandoned novels was written in winter. It’s titled Winds. It’s followed by Darkness and then by Light. The fifth novel is entitled Time. Abandoned will be published next March by Eldritch Press. They are all stand-alone novels with some recurring characters. Each is around 120,000 words. That’s nearly a million words devoted to the themes of death, dying, and rebirth.
In each of those novels, a primary protagonist dies. I want readers to know that death is not the end of the adventure but the beginning. Yes, dear reader, there is light at the end of the tunnel, and day always follows night.
So be of good cheer, and don’t let the darkness get to you. Celebrate the holidays and the return of the Light.