A week before Thanksgiving, a sudden virulent pneumonia sent my husband, Ron, into heart failure. Fifteen days later, his life ended in an ICU when I asked the staff to turn off life support. Knowing this was what he would have wanted was the only comfort my sons and I felt.
In the quiet hush of the nursing unit, our youngest son and I waited for the end, touching and talking to Ron, knowing he could hear us even though he couldn’t open his eyes or respond. Seven hours later, we watched the monitor blip red for the last time as his valiant athlete’s heart gave out. Only a straight red line remained, releasing us from our sad vigil.
My shattered heart said goodbye to the man who had been my college sweetheart and best friend. We had celebrated our 58th wedding anniversary months earlier, and his passing stunned me. My family went into shock. He’d played golf with a friend just ten days before illness struck, and now he was gone?
I was plunged into the post traumatic stress reaction we call grief, but life went on, demanding I take on everything Ron had done for us as well as my responsibilities. The daily rhythm to our marriage vanished and my brain fragmented. Forgetting came easy, focusing was almost impossible. By early afternoon my tears and the emotional drain of losing him had exhausted me. I slept a lot.
People urged me to take time for myself, do something fun. You’ve got to be kidding! I’m drowning under everything that must be done.
Because his mother died at 99, Ron wasn’t prepared to pass at 85. He hadn’t told me how to get into the online stock or bank accounts, what to do with his life insurance or how to prepare our taxes. I didn’t know even little things—like how to set the controller for our lawn sprinklers when to pay the gardener or get the car serviced. My husband had not only taken care of all the usual “man” things around the house—fixing a running toilet or taking out the trash—he’d managed our finances because he had an accounting background. I was a retired RN.
I could have sworn I was the object of some witch’s spell when things began to fall apart—printers and TVs, the electric garage door opener, the cords connecting the wooden blinds in the family room shredded due to age, and the vertical blinds in the living room windows that faced the street stopped closing tightly, and people could see in—see a woman alone—at night.
Chaos. There was no other word for it. How was I going to survive?
My WIP, a novella, had lacked only a thousand words to completion when my old life ended so abruptly. Even had I been able to get my mind in gear, I had no time to write. So I didn’t.
After a couple months, the one pleasure I allowed myself was to let friends drive me to a meeting of our RWA chapter in Orange County, California. I let chatting about writing on the drive in and back, the warm chapter friendships, and discussions about craft and marketing flow around and nurture me.
After one meeting, I came home inspired, opened my computer and reread my novella. Oh, I had no time for this but, when I realized this was a world I could control, I wrote for fifteen minutes.
Deepening my characters as they moved toward their goals in the world I’d created brought surcease from the real one I struggled with every day. Little by little, I finished that thousand words, then it struck home that I’d written myself into a hole: I was rushing the ending.
And so I wrote on. Then, as smooth as silk, I had over 40,000 words and the work was done. Without even thinking about it, I had finished a Book in a Year.
I will never forget Ron or the life we shared. He had a gift for numbers, mine was wrangling words onto paper. I loved him because he encouraged that part of me, love him more deeply now because through the chaos words on paper were what centered me, gave me the courage to figure out my “new life”—as my artist/writer friend, Sheila Hansberger, describes widowhood.
Artists paint, sketch and sculpt, composers compose, and writers write because that is what we do.
It is who we are.
Dee Ann Palmer is a multi-published, award-winning author who writes sensual romance under this name. As Carolina Valdez, she writes explicit gay and m/f romances in several subgenres. She lives in southern California, is a PAN member of RWA, and belongs to Sisters in Crime.
Join us and spend the day with the one and only Deb Dixon, author of the classic GMC: Goal, Motivation, and Conflict and publisher of Belle Books. Deb will lead us through her Book In A Day program. This full-day workshop includes GMC and the Hero’s Journey. It’s affectionately called “Book In A Day” because the workshop provides all the tools a writer needs to pull a book together. Whether you’re a new author or a veteran, you can benefit from her insights!
Space is limited, so register today.
September 16, 2017
9:00 AM to 5:00 PM
$45 for MCRW Members, $55 for all other RWA Members
Registration Deadline: August 31, 2017
My husband, Will Zeilinger, also a published author, and I decided to come together and write a 1950’s hard-boiled mystery, the Skylar Drake Murder Mystery series.
Having a research buddy makes all the difference in the world when deadlines loom for a manuscript. Alone, research can be a bear. But with two it goes faster and more comprehensive. This can include traveling, libraries and investigating 1950s style restaurants (and food). Splitting the work up and deciding what fits in the story works better with two brains and four eyes.
The results? SLIVERS OF GLASS, STRANGE MARKINGS, DESERT ICE and SPIKE HILL (to be released 2/2018)…and yes, we’re still married.
Janet Elizabeth Lynn
The Dog Days of Summer isn’t just an expression that indicates summer days so hot dogs are driven mad. It’s an actual astronomical event when, Sirius, the dog star rises in conjunction with the sun. The Dog Days are listed as starting on July 3rd and continuing through August 11th.
In my family, the Dog Days of Summer marked the beginning of birthday season. I have three brothers and three sisters. Then there are my children, nieces and nephews, in-laws (or as we insist out-laws) and now the grandchildren and grandnieces and grandnephews. A significant number of them have birthdays in July and August.
Birthdays around our place was always a bit different. With so many relatives we seldom had friends to our birthday celebrations. We rarely severed cake but rather baked from scratch (including the crust) birthday pie. There were favorites – quite a few apple pies, pumpkin (made three days ahead of the feast and refrigerated to the proper coldness), lemon meringue, peach, and rhubarb for my mother.
And when my mémère (French for grandma) was alive, if it was your birthday, you got your nose buttered. It was supposed to make you side through the year to your next birthday.
Now Mémère assured us this was an old French custom, but I never met any other family who practiced nose buttering –even the few friend of mine when we were growing up who also had a mémère and pépère.
So, a few years ago I googled it. Sure enough, other families butter noses, but the articles I read listed the custom is either Scottish or Irish. I suspect Mémère would be upset by these claims as she was very proud of her French ancestry even though the family arrived in the New World well before there was a United States. She and Pépère spoke French at home, and my dad and his siblings didn’t learn English until they went to school.
I must admit that she frequently got things wrong. She was also very proud of being born on June 13th and every year would tell us that she just missed being born on Friday the 13th (it happened to be a Thursday that year). But when she died my aunts found her birth certificate. She wasn’t born on June 13th, that was the day she was baptized. She was really born two days earlier and forever celebrated her birthday on the wrong day.
My aunts were upset, but I would like to think Mémère would not have cared if she had ever noticed. She was happy to have a pie baked by my mom, and she would laugh her head off when we would sneak up and butter her nose so she could slide through another year.
Does your family have different birthday customs? What are they?
Marianne H. Donley makes her home in Tennessee with her husband and son. She is a member of Bethlehem Writers Group, Romance Writers of America, OCC/RWA, and Music City Romance Writers. When Marianne isn’t working on A Slice of Orange, she might be writing short stories, funny romances, or quirky murder mysteries, but this could be a rumor.
If you want to know more about the Dog Days of Summer here are some links:
She marketed a world-class spa when it was still called a gym, did business in China before there were western toilettes at the Great Wall and mucked around with the sheep to find out exactly how her client’s fine wool clothing was manufactured. Then Rebecca wrote her first book and found her passion. Now, over twenty-five books later, she is a USA Today and Amazon bestselling author and writes full-time, penning thrillers that explore the emotional impact of the justice system. She earned her B.A. at Loyola, Chicago and her MBA at Loyola, Los Angeles. Rebecca has taught the Business of Creativity at University of California Long Beach Writers Certificate Program, UCLA and UC Irvine extension. Married to a Los Angeles Superior Court judge, she is the mother of two grown sons and spends her free time traveling, sewing, and playing tennis.
Rebecca’s newest book: