Monday, December 27, 2010

Winter Extravaganza: Rebecca Davis

Rebecca Davis is the author of Chasing AllieCat.

SUMMARY: Dumped with relatives in a small Minnesota town for the summer, Sadie Lester is relying on her mountain bike to save her from total boredom. Then she meets Allie, a spiky-haired off-road mountain biker who's training for a major race. Allie leads Sadie and Joe, a cute fellow cyclist, up and down Mount Kato, and the three become close friends. But the exhilarating rush comes to a halt when they find a priest in the woods, badly beaten and near death. After calling for help, Allie disappears from their lives. As they search for Allie and try to find out why she left so suddenly, Sadie and Joe discover more about Allie's past, including her connection to the priest. Only on the day of the big race does Sadie finally learn the complete, startling truth about Allie—and the terrible secret that forced her into hiding. (Publishes on February 8, 2011.)


I’m not gonna lie. I love snow.

That’s not always a popular position to take in Minnesota, when by the first official day of winter on December 21, we had already accumulated about two feet of snow. And in Minnesota, once we’ve got snow on the ground, you have to settle in and either enjoy it or endure it. It’ll be here for five months, like it or not. Yup, almost half the year is winter here.

It’s what everybody talks about. It’s the most-overused conversation starter in the state, I’m sure of it. “Some weather, huh?” “How ‘bout this snow?” “Roads suck, huh?” “Did you get your driveway plowed out?” “What’s with this weather, man?” “I almost slid into a semi truck on the way to school today!” Complaining about it seems to be the norm. Yeah, it’s a lot of work. Yeah, it’s a pain in the butt (or back, or shoulders) to shovel over and over and over, and yeah, it’s a ton of work to plow out your driveway three times in two weeks (once, when we got fourteen inches, it took me twelve hours to plow out the driveway to my old farmhouse with my garden tractor), and yeah, driving on it can be treacherous and it takes longer to get anywhere allowing for slippery roads, so yeah, yeah, snow can be a pain in the butt. And I have at least six friends who have to plow snow for a living when it falls, either city roads or state highways. They don’t love it. So around them, I usually keep my opinion to myself.


On Christmas Day this year, my Newfoundland dog Freya and I went for a long walk across the pasture and through the woods. The snow’s over my knees and over her chest—and she’s a huge dog—she weighs 160 pounds—a giant female even for a giant breed. But we plow through and “talk” to each other all the way. We were literally living our own Christmas card. Snow hanging heavy on all the tree boughs. Snow drifting down in soft flakes—since it never seems to quit falling this year. Snow piling where the wind has whipped it on sides of hills and across open spaces. Snow on the partially iced-in river. The sun only a pale glow through the tissue paper clouds. I fell on a couple logs I couldn’t see under the deep snow, came up covered with snow, and she came bounding over to check on me. We kept plowing along. We were both covered with a layer of white flakes when we got home.

When I was little, I couldn’t wait for the first snow. I’d get out my sled even if there was only a single inch on the ground. Often on Halloween, it seemed. As soon as we got more snow and it stuck, we’d haul our sleds to my Grandpa’s farm, where his pasture had rolling hills and long sled runs. If the temperature was below zero, the creek would freeze, and we could go zipping down the hill, onto the frozen creek, and right through the culvert, out the other side and over the frozen waterfall for one wild ride. If we got going fast enough, we’d smack full-force into the opposite creek bank. It’s a wonder we’re all still alive without serious head trauma.

Of course sometimes when the temps weren’t quite cold enough, the creek would be frozen, but not solid, and we’d break through. Then we’d have to hike back to Grandma’s house to get dry socks and pants, warm up, and start over again. Anyway, the key to loving snow is finding something to love doing outside in it. And dressing for it. They make snowpants and boots and mittens for a reason. In Minnesota, the majority of my friends get out and “just do it”: cross-country skiing (my personal favorite), sledding, snowshoeing, hiking, downhill skiing, snowmobiling, running, and even biking.

Yeah, there’s even such a thing as ice biking. There are races on frozen lakes, but most winter riders simply do it for fun or to commute to work. Minneapolis has been named the bike-friendliest city in the country by Bicycling Magazine. And winter weather doesn’t stop many of the die-hards.

For a few years at Christmas time, my friends and I decorated our bike helmets and our winter riding gear with battery-operated Christmas lights and we rode around downtown Mankato all decked out. Literally. We rode up and down the Old-town shopping district, past as many bars as we could think of, and up and down the streets with locally famous elaborate Christmas decorations, where cars were lined up for blocks to drive slowly looking at pretty lights. When they saw us, they pointed, laughed, rolled down their windows to talk to us. We rode until our toes couldn’t stand it any more. Then we pulled into the Vintage Velo Wine CafĂ© for hot cider.

Most of us just ride mountain bikes in the winter for traction, but some of my friends actually ride studded tires in the winter. They put flat-head screws through the tires so they can actually get a grip on the ice. I’ve never done that, but I’ve ridden when it was so cold my water bottle froze solid in the first ten minutes of the ride.

Besides playing in the snow, I love it because dogs love it so much. First snowfall of the season, they snuff around it, bounce, roll and act out exactly what I’d like to do in fresh snow. They make snow dog angels. And they come up with little piles of snow on their noses.

I told this story when I was doing a book talk about my novel
Jake Riley: Irreparably Damaged at Northwest High School in Halifax County, North Carolina. The book doesn’t have any dogs in it, but we were talking about stories in general. I said, “You know, when temps drop near zero, dogs have the curious habit of lifting one foot or the other to get some relief from the cold.” The juniors and seniors looked at me with blank stares. No, they didn’t know. It doesn’t get that cold in North Carolina. “Okay,” I explained, “they do…maybe they lift a paw to give their pads a quick thaw, but mostly I think it’s just to give a cold foot a break. Like sticking a cold hand under your opposite arm to warm it up. Same principle. Anyway, dogs pick up one front paw, then drop it and pick up the other. Norton, our poor brain-damaged pooch—part Retriever, part Husky, and the rest of the parts just plain slow—picked up one front paw and then the other and fell over on his side. He lay there and waited for us to help him.” The students loved the story, but the worst part of the story is, he did it more than once. He didn’t have a very high learning curve. But that’s partly why he was entirely loveable.

Another day, when the temps had been hovering below zero for several weeks on end (I think during the month of January that year, temperature never got up above zero), Norton came charging into the house from the back yard, bolted to the basement, and hid under the laundry table. He had a hawksicle. Some horribly unfortunate hawk had frozen to death trying to tuck its head under its wing. It was frozen solid in that half-tucked position. Solid as rock. As ice anyway. It had plummeted like an iceberg icebird into our yard, and Norton had found it. Determined to keep the two other family dogs from taking it away, he lay under the laundry table trying to chew it up, protecting his treasure with growls. Gross, huh? Besides everything else, hawks are protected species, and it’s illegal to have a dead one in your possession, under the laundry room
table or in your yard, even if Mother Nature herself was the murderer! Norton wasn’t pleased when we had to take the thing away to get rid of the incriminating evidence. Nortie wouldn’t have lasted long in prison for a being a dog felon.

I’m rambling, I think, but those are some of the reasons that winter is magical in Minnesota. It reminds us that we’re powerless against the forces of nature. It provides us with stories. It makes us feel like tough and hearty people to live here. And it’s always a good thing to feel strong, especially in the middle of beauty. And strength and beauty is a great combination—in life, in the world, and in a good story.

Wow thanks for the awesome and intriguing guest post Becky! I really enjoyed hearing about your personal winter stories.


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  1. Aww...Newfies are so adorable!

    I love watching my neighbor's dogs in the snow - they get so excited and jump around, snapping at flakes.

    This book sounds intriguing...adding to my list to read when it comes out.

  2. Agreed - Freya is a beautiful furbaby! Lovely interview, and I'll be looking for Chasing AllieCat! :D

  3. I love snow, too, which is not always a popular sentiment in the western mountains of Maine. We're getting 18 inches of snow today and my husband and I are thrilled. I just got a new pair of snow shoes for Christmas and can't wait to try them out! I think the winter's best appreciated rather than endured...6 months is a long time to waste away, not loving life. Have fun this winter!

  4. This book sounds amazing!

    I can definitely relate to the 2+ feet of snow by the official start date of winter, considering that I grew up in SE Idaho, where winter lasts around 8 months. I don't love snow the whole time, but I will admit there is something super beautiful and magical about it!

  5. Thanks for a beautiful ode to winter, Becky! I also love winter. I tell people who complain about it that they should move and make room for the rest of us!

    I can't wait to read your book. It sounds intriguing and I love the bike aspect!

  6. Wow, your pictures are beautiful! Your dog looks so cute covered in snow. I'm really not much of a snow person. I would much prefer a hot sunny day.

  7. The book sounds like an awesome read.
    I wish I can play in snow like that, your pictures are amazing and look so cool. Love the one of ur cute dog :)

  8. i envy people who live in places that snows. sadly i've never even seen snow except on tv. love the pictures :)


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