Forty-two

So, it’s raining, as it has been for the last few days.  For a couple of those days, I had back spasms and was therefore zoned out on muscle relaxants and pain killers, which you’d think would make some things easier, but — didn’t.

I’m finding the wind and the rain unsettling, which is something of an about-face.  I used to love wild weather.  Well.  Perhaps that’s something for young people, who may not be overly worried about trees, or wires, coming down.

I was born during a hurricane, as my father told me, so maybe I had a predisposition, or even a kinship.  I used to race the wind — at first running; later in my car.  I grew up in Baltimore, which was a thunderstorm-rich area.  I loved the smell of ozone, and would stand outside to watch the lightning crackle across the sky.

The weather in Central Maine doesn’t tend toward violent thunderstorms.  We get your nor’easters — wind and snow; wind and rain; your occasional sou’easter.  Hurricanes, ayuh, we get those, too.  And I find that I’m not a wind-junkie anymore, and that makes me sad.

In other news, I’m writing, slowly, and trying to stay on-topic.  It’s so very weird, not to print out the pages and leave them on the dining room table for Steve to read.  Instead, I print out what I wrote every evening, so I can read it over my  breakfast — that works, pretty much.  The worst part is when, mid-writing, I’ll ask myself, “And why are we doing this, exactly?” — it kind of derails the process.

Still, work is going forward, and I’ll take progress.

Below, proof of coon cats being on the case.


 

 

Keeping on keeping on

So!  What on earth has the woman been doing?

Sorting through photographs, and Steve’s papers, and making some decisions thereby.  Fanac.org was kind enough to take the box of fanzines I gathered, and will be digitizing and putting them on the site as time and volunteers allow.

Steve’s papers include some correspondence with interesting people in the field, and a file drawer of handwritten, unpublished poetry.  Steve had been a traveling poet before I knew him, and he wrote poems like you and I doodle.  By contrast, his fiction is — surprisingly sparse, mostly seeming to be many iterations of the same five or six stories, along with a couple that I dimly recall seeing, that had apparently been pitched in a box in frustration after gathering too many rejections.

The majority of what he left, though, are photographs.  Steve was very rarely without a camera, and thus I am left with many (unsorted) glimpses of cats, daily life, cats, moments from the Liaden Universe® World Tour, time spent with the Friends of Liad, cats, and, err, me, along with pictures of us, and pictures of Steve, because he insisted that I have a camera, too, that being one of the markers of a civilized person to him, though I was never as prolific on film as he was.  Oh, and pictures of cats.

Because of a combination of things — the sparseness of his papers, the convention badges and program books that I had no idea what to do with, the proliferation of personal letters, cards, and photographs, gave me the idea of making what I first conceived of as “a scrapbook,” but which will probably be three, or four, scrapbooks by the time I’m done.  I’m thinking that there will be narrative, written by me, because the pictures are jogging my memory — never robust — and of course Steve left no notes of his own.

I have already sorted some of the photos into the existing album, which is what opened my eyes to the fact that a single album, with dividers, was Just Not Going to Do the Job, and I spent what was probably a stupidly long time looking at how many pictures there are of me, and questioning their part in this project.  In the end, I came to the conclusion that, yes, the pictures of me are part of the narrative; after all, the photographer considered the pictures worth taking.

In addition to the above, I’ve been writing — not as quickly as I’d like, but that’s usually the case — and going to gym, and mostly keeping up with daily life, in this vastly changed environment.  The coon cats are keeping a very close eye on me, which I can hardly blame them for, considering the number of A-List players we’re lost lately.

One thing I haven’t done is an InfoDump, and I really ought to.  Some people will have missed the news about Steve, and there’s the Ribbon Dance eARC to promote, and the upcoming Salvage Right mass market because Life Does Go On, and books are in a very literal sense, my life.

Well.  Maybe this weekend for the InfoDump.

I think that catches us up for right now.

Thank you all for your patience, and for your support down many years through many stories.

 

 

 

In which poetry will out

So, I’m not known for my poetry — and justly so.  However, the Late Universal Upheaval has put into my hands two of my very few poems, on paper that is so fragile I fear that they’ll be dust the next time somebody looks into the file.

I therefore transcribe them below, for Posterity.

#

As near as I can tell, these were both written in 1978.  The second has a title; the first does not.  Both are ©Sharon Lee.

A Voice is singing in the Dark
In half a thousand shades
Weaving colors that defy the Night
And will not let it in.

A Singer sings within the Night
Aloud, but quite alone
Building rainbow walls against the Dark
’til rescued by the Dawn.

#

RECOGNITION

Hello.
I know you
Of old.
Very Old . . .
The face you wore was different
And your voice sang greener notes
But I knew you then
As I know you now
And shall know you ever on.

Hello.
I do know you
Very well indeed.
Your favorite color?
Or taste in books?
The music that shades your days?
Mysteries that lack meaning,
Shadowed by what we see
For I know you.
Yes, I know you
Very well indeed.

It’s a wonderful night for a Ribbon Dance

First things being first — I am under the impression that the Ribbon Dance eARC will drop Sometime Today.  Here’s your link to the Baen eARC page.

For those joining us after the break, an eARC is a Baen Tradition, in which electronic A(dvance)R(eading)C(opies) are offered to those readers who Simply Cannot Wait for the release of the hardcover/ebook, three months down the road.  eARCs may contain errors that do not appear in the finished book.  In the case of Ribbon Dance, such errors will be on the level of typos and broken sentences — which is to say, not story-altering.

In other news, tomorrow will be the fourth anniversary of my mastectomy.  Also!  Gifford’s ice cream stand, which is a scant half mile from the Cat Farm, will reopen for the season tomorrow.  No, these things are not related, saving that I may go out for ice cream tomorrow afternoon, in support of local business.

My brother-in-law and nephew came up from mid-Coast for a couple days and helped me get a lot accomplished, including pulling a bunch of boxes out of Steve’s closet, which went in there 6 years ago and were never heard from again, cleaning out the Goblin Room and the Winter Room, clearing the garage, and even doing some needed yard work.  It would have taken me months to do what they did in two days.

I’m left with details in terms of papers and photographs and the … things that one accumulates just by having lived a busy life.

I will say that, having seen Steve’s brother in action — I knew Steve had been getting tired, but not how tired he actually was.  I couldn’t have done anything about it, and I know that, but it still leaves me feeling like I let the side down.

Well.

Monday, I’ll be starting what I hope to be a long-term exercise class at the Community Center, which meets at 8:15 M/W/F.  I have apparently acquired the vice of early rising, so this ought to be perfectly doable, and provide the dual benefits of exercise, and human interaction.

I think that gets us caught up for the moment.

Oh, wait.

Here, have some pictures of coon cats.

Sprite atop the file cabinet
Trooper in my co-pilot’s chair
Firefly at the top of the living room cat tree

And when the stars threw down their spears

It’s a funny thing, how life goes on.  Until it doesn’t, of course, but we’re very good as a species about ignoring that.

So — life.  Much changed, but still moving, still demanding attention, response, thought, and action.

My short-term goal is to find all of Steve’s papers — which is not as easy as you might think — and get them into boxes to send to the archive at Northern Illinois University.  My brother-in-law and nephew are coming up from mid-Coast in a few days to help me, literally, with the heavy lifting, and a Dumpster has been engaged to receive such things as no longer have utility.

My longer-term goals are to finish the sequel to Ribbon Dance — the deadline having been moved from September to November — and start work on the book after that.

In-between all that, there’s the Ordinary:  Litter pans do not clean themselves, after all (well, OK; apparently some litter pans clean themselves); bills still need to be paid; meals eaten; dishes washed; cats scrubbled, groomed, and played with.  Credit where it’s earned:  the coon cats are keeping me to a Tight Schedule, demanding tools down at precisely 7:11 pm, so that Happy Hour may commence (Happy Hour starting with a shared can of gooshy food, after which we — by which I mean, three cats and a woman — make a pile on the sofa for an hour, until it’s time for me to get my meal.)

In the planning stages are a return to the gym (I had cancelled my membership, because the cash, it was not flowing), which is in the Community Center, where  there are people.  I’m also going to have to look around me for a book, lunch, or sewing club.  I score pretty high as an Introvert, not to mention a tendency toward Black Knighthood, but even I need some human contact.

Under Ordinary:  I believe that the eARC of Ribbon Dance is due to drop on March 15 — so, yanno, Watch the Skies.

I do want to mention that people had asked for a place to write about Steve and how he touched their lives.  I’ve set up a page here for that purpose.  If you choose to contribute, please understand that you are not required to be Solemn.  Steve loved to laugh, and was rarely solemn himself.

And I think that catches us up.  Everybody stay safe.

Today’s blog title brought to you by William Blake, The Tiger.*

_________
*Steve was born in a Year of the Tiger

Sunday in the new world

I want to thank everyone who sent condolences on Steve’s passing, and also everyone who sent donations in lieu of flowers.  I can’t possibly thank you all individually, but know that I’m grateful.

On the Theme of not being able to answer every question individually, I’m going to answer a bunch of them here, and then post links to this post everywhere.  I think this should catch most people.

So!  The first question —  Will I be continuing the Liaden series?
Yes, it is my intention to continue writing in the Liaden Universe®, at least to the point of finishing out the remaining three books contracted with Baen.  There will be some changes in how things go forward, which are inevitable, given Circumstances.  Trade Lanes is off the table, at least for now.  It is possible that it will never be written, but — I’m new at this, so let’s just not say “never” and instead say “we’ll see.”

I’m about 1/3 of the way through the book following Ribbon Dance, and have Extensive Notes for the book after that.  The sequel is due at Baen in September.  The deadline may have to be renegotiated; I don’t know that yet — see “new at this,” above — and I’ll have to talk with Madames the Agent and the Publisher.

Question the Second:  How am I doing?
I have no idea.  I have moments of relative peace — work is going to be a refuge, I can already see that — moments of immobilizing terror, and breathtaking pain.  I’m assuming these things are standard, but I’ve never lost my best friend, spouse, and creative partner before.

The cats have been a comfort, piling on whenever I land in a place and stay still long enough.

Local friends have also been keeping an eye on me, to the extent that I allow it; it’s hard to ask for help, and I’m not Steve, who loved people and made connections the way the rest of us breathe.  I’m a more … private person, a fact that it will do us all good to remember, going forward.  If I’m testy, sarcastic, or clueless — recall that I’ve always been that way, and that Steve always did the heavy interpersonal lifting.

Question the Third:  What am I doing?
Cleaning off Steve’s desk — he was a pile maker — in the hope that I’ll find all the account numbers and passwords and whatnot that I’ll need in order to do all the Stuff that attends a death, starting — well.  Tomorrow.  I did do this once, a couple years ago, long distance, when my father died.  At least this time, I know the broad outline of the Things To Be dealt with.

Referencing work as a refuge, I’ll be — today or tomorrow — converting my reading nook to a dedicated writing space, since my desktop is bearing the weight of the Stuff-coping.  A quiet space and a quiet computer will help me think.

Other than that, I’m trying to breathe, and not succumb to the Black Dog.  As a friend who knows me well wrote in her condolence card, “Be Strong.  The cats need you.”

Question the Fourth:  How can I help?
By being patient, of course, and realizing that this is a House in mourning, therefore instant answers will not be available.

Kind people have been sending gift cards, which I greatly appreciate, and which, I suspect, will come in extremely handy while the Accountant’s Guild clarifies my financial situation, going forward.

If you would like to donate a gift card  “in lieu of flowers” as many people have said, an Amazon gift card to rolanniATgmailDOTcom will be greatly appreciated, as will Hannaford gift cards, or Petco gift cards.

If you prefer to donate cash online, there’s the Patreon page, PayPalME, or you may buy me a Ko-Fi (which is PayPal by another process).

If you want to send a card, the best address is:
Sharon Lee
PO Box 1586
Waterville ME 04903

. . . I think that’s the full list of repeating queries.  Again, thank you all for your support and your love, down so very many years.  Group hug.

Here’s a picture of the reading-soon-to-be writing nook.  Coon cat provided for scale:

The end of the world as we know it

For those who missed the news, Steve died, very suddenly, last night.  He had gone down to the basement where we’re accustomed to walk every day for a figure-8 mile or two, which was our Plan for Keeping Fit through the Maine winters.  He was, he said, going to finish up his daily laps.  I told him, as I often did, to “have a good walk!”  and he answered, cheerfully, as he often did, “I will have a good walk!”

Finishing up the laps should have taken about a half-hour, but I was writing and not keeping track of time, so it was close onto an hour when it occurred to me that I hadn’t heard him come upstairs, announcing to the house that he had achieved both heart-points and steps!

I walked back to his office, thinking he might’ve slipped past me, but he wasn’t there.  I went downstairs.

Steve was face down on the floor, and he wasn’t breathing.  I called 911, the operator walked me through getting him turned over and starting CPR, which I kept up until a policeman arrived, closely followed by EMTs, firefighters, and life-saving persons of all orders.  They labored for . . . I’m not quite sure, really.  A Long Time.  In the end, having hit him with everything they had, they just couldn’t get his heart to beat on its own.

After the EMTs left, I waited, in the company of the policeman and the City of Waterville’s chaplin.  I called my brother-in-law in Maryland to tell him the news, and asked him to call the rest of Steve’s family.  The policeman called Steve’s cardiologist, and got his agreement to sign off on the death certificate, which meant we didn’t have to wait another Long Time for the medical examiner.  After a slightly Less Long Time, the funeral people came and took Steve away.

And here we are.

I was “with” Steve Miller for 47 years, many years past half of my lifetime.  During our time together, he saved my life several times, taught me to write, provided me with adventures — some, to be sure, inadvertent — with cats, with enthusiasm, and courage.  He was proud of me; he liked taking care of me; and from the first he was unabashed and generous in his love.  He was an original thinker, and bouncing ideas around with him — whether we were trying to figure out dinner or the plot of the next novel — was a rare intoxication.

If I said he was a perfect angel, no one will be believe that — least of all me.  What he was, was a good person, who tried his best to be kind, who genuinely liked people, and had the gift of making lasting connections.

I want to go back to what I said up there, about Steve liking to “take care” of me.  The walking course in the basement?  Steve created that when I was recovering from cancer, and was gritting my teeth and pushing myself to walk in circles around the main floor of the house, trying to get my strength back.  The basement was cool and sheltered; I could sit down if my strength suddenly ran out — and he could keep an eye on me.  Ahem.  It was only one of the many gifts of, “Let me make this easier for you” that he gave me — and us — during our time together.

And yesterday’s event, as much as I wish it had never happened, was, in its way, one last gift of ease, if not comfort.  Steve had seen both of his parents go into  slow declines, ending in hospice care, and he had a horror of being in a similar situation.

As far as I can understand it, yesterday’s event was one quick bolt out of the blue after a perfectly usual day of writing, correspondence, plans for bringing a new cat into the house, and more plans of what he wanted to do — tomorrow.

I am not at all happy to have lost him, but I am happy that he was spared the decline he feared.

One more note:  People have been asking me How I’m Doing.  I’m trying to understand what happened.  I’m trying to gather up various paperworks, as one must. I have the passwords to both his computers, so that makes doing needed tasks much easier — again.  I’ve been sticking pretty close to my desk in my office, because that’s . . . usual.  Our days were Steve at his desk, me at mine, a chat-window open in the margin for random observation, news of interest, cat reports, and questions about what might be for supper.  So, sitting here at my desk is . . . a breathing space, when I can forget for a few minutes that he’s not sitting at his.

The chat-window, though, is dark.

Thanks to everyone who sent — who are sending! — condolences.  I can’t possible answer all of you individually.  Your love and support means a lot.