Monthly Archives: October 2013

Hellhound release and acknowledgments

Today is release day for Hellhound, book 5 in my Deadtown series, and although I wish the book well and am happy to send it out into the world–for myself, I’m lying low for this one. As I’ve mentioned on this blog, my husband died last month after a long and difficult illness with many ups and downs. He fought so hard and rallied several times, but he didn’t survive. I haven’t been online much because I’m still in mourning. Most of the time, I’m quite sad and even still in shock. I’m working through those feelings offline, as I should. This blog doesn’t seem like the appropriate place to grieve. In the same vein, I just don’t have the heart to do a blog tour or make a big promotional splash this time around.

But I would like to update Hellhound’s dedication and acknowledgments. I wrote those on the day after Steve had the sudden cardiac arrest that would put him in the ICU for more than three months. After the arrest he was in a coma and on life support, and no one knew whether he’d wake up. The neurologist had told me it would be at least 24–72 hours before we see whether he’d regain consciousness. (It actually took 11 days for him to wake up.) I had copy edits due. I decided to spend those first couple of days finishing the edits and writing my not-yet-written dedication and acknowledgments to keep myself from going crazy with the waiting.

It was a scary time, and I was trying very hard to stay positive. I wanted to dedicate the book to Steve, but what should I say when I didn’t know whether he’d live to see the next week, let alone publication? I thought about simply writing To Steve, but it seemed so plain. I wanted to give the dedication a jolt of positive energy, so I settled on the dedication you see in the book: To Steve, with hope for better times ahead. I wrote those words thinking of all we’d been through and hoping sincerely, with all my heart, that we would share better times going forward.

When I turned to the acknowledgments, my brain just wasn’t working right. I had so many people I wanted to thank, but the faces that flashed through my mind were the legions of hospital workers who’d been taking care of Steve. And, at that moment, I didn’t yet know or had only just met many people who would show kindness and compassion and take excellent care of my husband. Even now, I can’t remember them all: Pam, Zach, Kayla, Christie, Sherrell, Mary, Britney, Kelly, Britnee, Ashley, Stephanie, Donna, Shira, Wendy, Laurie, Rose, Noreen, Bonita, Philip, Caroline (respiratory therapist), Caroline (ICU nurse), Carol, Jesse, Jan, Erin, Raina, Mindy, Moses, Shirley, Jona, Ryan, Dan, Joe, and so many others whose faces I still see clearly even though the names begin to elude me. I’m probably getting some names wrong, too, and I apologize for that. I appreciate each and every person who cared for my husband, chatted with me, and showed us even a little kindness. Steve literally (and I mean literally–I counted) had a dozen specialists working with him. I am especially grateful to Dr. Domat, Dr. Kim, Dr. Okwiya, and Dr. Pessero for their good bedside manner and for trying so hard to help Steve recover. Elena, along with the other medical ethics and palliative care people, also helped us. Special, heartfelt thanks go to Chaplain Sachs; I would have disintegrated into a puddle of tears on the floor without your support and true friendship.

I’m sorry for any omissions. They’re not intentional. Steve truly had an army of caregivers fighting for him, and I appreciate the efforts of each and every person who took care of him. We should have won.

I’d also like to thank the staff of Family House, where I was able to stay at a reasonable cost for a significant part of Steve’s hospitalization. The facility is right across the street from the hospital, and it gave me peace of mind to know that I could be at his bedside in three minutes if necessary–and there were some times when it was necessary. You run a great facility with wonderful staff, and I’m so glad I was able to stay there and get to know some of you.

Steve’s medical issues dominated my life for most of this year–and, to be honest, for several years. There are other people I want to thank, people who had nothing to do with hospitals and health care. First and foremost is Cam Dufty. Cam was the Ace/Roc editor who bought the first Deadtown book, and I have always been grateful for her belief in me and her enjoyment of Vicky and friends. Cam has moved on from the crazy world of trade fiction publishing, but it was always my intention to thank her explicitly in each book of the Deadtown series. In the miasma of stress and worry last spring, I somehow left that mention out. So I’ll say this now: Thank you, Cam, for rescuing Vicky from the slush pile and setting her loose in the world. You were a great editor; you’re an even better friend. You gave me the chance to chase my dream, and anything I manage to accomplish as a writer is built on the foundation you created.

Numerous bloggers have discovered, reviewed, and recommended my books, bringing in new readers who would never have found my series otherwise. Some have become good friends, as well. So thanks to Sharon Stogner, Jen Twimom, Natasha Carty, Amber Chalmers (Cymru am byth!), Sullivan McPig, Roxanne Rhoads, Sara M., Spaz P,  Larissa Benoliel, Melliane, Chelle Olson, and Jennifer (The Book Nympho). Thank you so much for reading my books and sharing your thoughts with your readers. And thanks for being patient with me as I find my way through this phase of my life.

To be honest, I still find it hard to read Hellhound’s dedication. I wanted to ask my editor to change it to an “In memoriam” style of dedication, but by the time it was clear that Steve wouldn’t survive, it was too late to change the words on the page. Steve was an author, too (he wrote many more books than I did–more than 130 all told), so he knew how deadlines and production schedules work. Now, I look at that dedication with a tear in my eye and with a vow that everything I ever write will be dedicated to his memory, with love and appreciation.

On not writing and writing again

As my husband’s illness escalated into a health crisis, it became difficult to write. As he was dying, writing became impossible. How could I pay attention to made-up people in my head when one of the people I cared about most in the world was suffering and fading?

And here’s another question: My protagonist is a demon slayer involved in a supernatural war. How can I write about death as entertainment now that I’ve held my husband’s hand as he died?

I’ve had writer’s block before, but nothing like this. This was a complete loss of any sense of purpose. After the agony and loss I’d experienced, how could fiction matter?

It wasn’t just my own loss, either. On any given day, when I scan the headlines, I routinely see that dozens were killed by car bombs in the middle east. Or a disgruntled worker shot former colleagues. Or an estranged spouse killed five people. Or three people died in a car crash. Or the civil war in Syria has caused several hundred more deaths. Or a drone strike had unintended civilian casualties. On and on. Place after place. Day after day. I am conscious now, in a way I wasn’t fully before, of how each of those deaths–every single one of the dozens or hundreds broadcast by each new day’s headlines–causes profound, unimaginable grief to the survivors. To the husbands, wives, parents, children, siblings, friends left behind. Sometimes it seems like the world’s atmosphere is thick with anguished cries of “No!” and “Why?”

Mine are among them. They have brought my life screeching to a halt.

Still, when I think of Steve, I remember how much he celebrated my successes. He told me, many times, that one of his greatest joys in life was watching me blossom. He didn’t care what that blossoming entailed–he would have been just as happy if I’d been writing obscure monographs on medieval hagiography as he was walking into a bookstore and finding my mass-market urban fantasy paperbacks on the shelves. He wanted me to achieve my dreams, whatever they were. And he fully supported me in going after those dreams.

From that perspective, how could I not write?

So I’m making an effort to get back to it. I want to finish Deadtown’s story. I want the readers who have followed my series to get an ending that excites, pleases, and satisfies. As corny as it may sound, I want the blossoming that gave Steve pleasure to achieve fullness. I will not let him down.

Since I’ve been back home, I’ve been taking walks on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings with a local writer friend. On Monday, she suggested that we finish Wednesday’s walk by meeting another writer at a local coffee shop and spending an hour or so writing together. Not talking, not sharing, not critiquing–just writing together.

We did that. And it was great.

There’s something about being in the presence of other writers who are working that makes it impossible to procrastinate. No more letting myself be blocked. I read through the outline for Deadtown 6, looking for a scene I could draft. I found one. And I started to write.

To my surprise and delight, Vicky and crew were right there, waiting for me to give them voice. There was no awkward period of getting reacquainted. As soon as I turned my attention to them, my characters stepped forward. Vicky’s voice was still there, as strong and distinctive as it’s ever been. Mab, always a leader, gave me the first line, and off we went. Just like that.

It’s good to know I can trust my characters; they’re here for me, true to form, when I need them. It’s good to know that I can use fiction to explore some of the thoughts and emotions I’ve encountered in the past year. It’s good to know that my characters are ready and eager to deliver an exciting conclusion to the series. Most of all, it’s good to know I can continue to blossom in the way Steve so enjoyed seeing. This book–and whatever I accomplish in the future–is for him.

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