Sunday, June 3, 2012


Detours are generally unwanted interruptions on a journey. I mean, how many people driving along see a sign that says, "Detour Ahead" and think, Ah, good, I was hoping there'd be one of those?

No, the usual reaction is on the lines of, Oh (expletive of your choice), I hope this (second expletive) thing isn't very long.

The past couple of years have been that way for me. A little less than a year ago, I thought I was reaching the end of my big detour. It had been over a year since we learned my husband had cancer, almost twelve months since he died. I was beginning to get the hang of widowhood and wanted to get back into life. My friend Pat and I had an idea for a book we both wanted to work on. Time travel, Vikings, Native Americans, lots of fun stuff. We cobbled together the initial outline.

It wasn't all fireworks and party hats. But I did think I had reached the point where I could start edging into some nice balance of work, chores, friends, and recreation. I hardly ever dissolved in tears at the grocery store when the canned music played certain songs, or when I automatically put one of my husband's favorites into my cart. I could talk to other people for an entire evening without once mentioning my husband's final illness. I could even go for an hour or two without thinking about him or any of our past moments or future plans and dreams.

Pat wrote what she envisioned as the first scene of our book. It was full of action, excitement, and suspense. Pat has a great talent for showing the scenery and filling in bits and pieces of the characters' back story as she goes along, so the reader knows enough about who and where these people are, without slowing down the action. Terrific job. There were a couple of things I didn't agree with, and some unimportant historical details she'd gotten wrong, but easy fixes.

I couldn't do them.

I couldn't even bring myself to send Pat an email telling her why I hadn't responded to what she wrote.

Just then Pat got off on several detours of her own. So she wasn't too concerned about my being slow to dive into our time travel novel.

For my part, I wasn't prepared for the fact that the second year of widowhood is actually the hardest. During the first year, even if you've been expecting it, you're in shock, sort of numb. Yes, you know it happened, you're sad, but it's not quite real yet. In the back of your mind you don't totally accept that this is forever. Also, friends and family are pretty good about rallying around during that first year.

The second year is when it sinks in. The sorrow deepens. The loneliness gets worse. You seriously wonder what your future will be like. Just at the time you're realizing how difficult it will be to go on with your life, most of the people you know decide you should be over your loss. They stop checking in to see how you're doing, stop asking how you are. Some of them even exhort you to snap out of it.

For me, I had a little something to plan for. I had long known that my brother would come live with me when he was through helping our aging parents. They're in their 80s, not in the best of health, and didn't have much to leave him. He didn't have much of his own, either. I at least have a house with extra room, and my husband left a pension, enough to get by on. We'd end our days together, my brother and I. Which was fine, we'd always been close.

Then my brother died.

Following in short order, my mother had another heart attack and my father showed signs of approaching Alzheimer's. After several months of trying to stay strong through this, I caught flu which turned into pneumonia. I've had no medical coverage since my husband died, and won't get my Medicare for another six weeks. It's been a slow recovery.

Hell of a year. I think I'm over the worst of it now, both mentally and physically. I hope I am.

Which brings us more or less up to date. Pat has cleared out a lot of what she's been busy with. She wrote another scene. We spent a weekend together hashing through various problems such as getting our computers to talk to each other. I remembered I was going to write a blog. Today I found out how to access it again--the company had changed hands, and my password wasn't working--and here we are.

I'm hoping this long detour is almost over. It's still to be seen what zigzags lie ahead, or which may have started without our even noticing. It's all a strange new path, there are no maps, and no one knows where it goes. There may be dragons--or at least dragon ships.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

New Directions

You might think from the title of this blog that I'm a little confused about directions. And you'd be right. But that's neither here not there. At least not yet. And there's more than one explanation.

The thing is, I'm moving ahead with my life after being widowed, and stepping out on a new professional path at the same time.  My friend Pat and I are both writers, and we've been tossing around an idea for a novel we'd collaborate on. Last weekend at Westercon in San Jose we decided we had come up with enough ideas, and run into enough serendipitous discoveries, that we're going to have to go ahead with the project. No choice, it's sitting there in our paths demanding we get to work on it.

We plan to write a time travel novel together. A group of Viking re-enactors will go back over a thousand years into the past and meet their real-life counterparts, among other interesting and possibly dangerous characters.

I've never worked with anyone else on fiction before. I've published a short story about a Viking, and am working on a novel about him on my own. Pat has worked with other people in the past, but she's never gone head-to-head with me on a work. We've read each other's writing and made suggestions, which the other person was free to follow or ignore as she saw fit. This time we have to agree on pretty much everything--or else.

We're both fairly hardheaded. Pat has the stronger track record as a writer, but I've worked as a professional editor for more than twenty years, so we're about equal when it comes down to throwing our professional weight around. If we reach a point of serious disagreement things could, as they say, get interesting.

This raises a number of questions. How does a collaboration work? Who does what? How much will be a joint effort? How do disagreements get settled? Can our friendship survive? Will this result in a publishable novel, or merely be an excuse to get together and eat chocolate?

Well, there's one explanation of my title. I'm moving ahead on a new professional path, and it will take me into the past, clear to the days of the Vikings.

The other explanation is that after being married for most of my adult life, I have to learn to live as a single, independent person. I used to know how to do this before I met my husband, but I seem to have lost the knack. So I find myself looking back into my past trying to recover the tools and attitudes I took for granted years ago. I need to resurrect the confidence and abilities from my past in order to move ahead.

Both these journeys hold the promise of some interesting developments and discoveries. I decided to write my own record of what happens and how I handle it, and share it with anyone who might be interested. Let me know if you find it interesting, useful, or horrifying.