In the middle of July, 2015, I was invited to stay at a friend’s summer property on the shores of Lake Champlain in Vermont for a week. It was a much needed retreat from the world and a place where I could find the solitude and space to mourn my father’s recent death.
The months of his final illness and then his funeral took a great deal out of me and I wasn’t sure I’d be able to do much more than stare at the water or maybe read a book that week. But because I’m a writer, I never go anywhere without a notebook, my foldable whiteboard, and my computer.
And what I found in that supportive solitude (and among loving friends) was the space and time to start thinking about what would become book 3 in the Halcyone Space series. I ended up writing about 3,000 words, along with some brainstorming that week and when I returned home, I was ready to work again.
Since then, I’ve been working steadily on Dreadnought and Shuttle, and am a handful of scenes away from writing the two most bittersweet words in a writer’s lexicon: “the end.”
This was a book born from grief and yet has nothing to do with loss. Rather, it became a celebration of resilience and survival. And through the course of the story, I also found my resilience, my survival.
It is not a story about family, but of course, not all family is in the accident of birth, and in this third book, my characters have become a family of sorts. I know I found great comfort in returning to the world of Halcyone Space and even on my most frustrating writing days, or the days when grief would overwhelm me, there was a particular joy in the work.
My late father was not much of a reader of fiction. (His love was non-fiction and he was a crossword puzzle fiend.) He always regretted not being able to get through my stories, but he was extremely proud of my writing and my dedication to it. Last winter, I was editing Ithaka Rising and spent many weeks at his hospital bedside working on the manuscript. He was fascinated by the process of writing. He asked me a lot of questions about how I put a story together, both on the big picture level and on the word by word level. I treasure those conversations and his sharing my excitement meant the world to me.
So I am a little sad to see this story draw to a close, because writing it seems so tied to mourning my father’s death. (Which is also a little odd, since a Space Opera tale has nothing to do with my dad, but there you go. These things don’t need to make sense to be true.)
Over the next few days, I will write the concluding scenes and the initial draft of Dreadnought and Shuttle will be finished. Of course, the work is not over yet, and there will be revision and editing and then eventually publication.
It’s funny. I started out planning this post to be a writing process post – hence the photographs at the top which show some of my handwritten notes for book 2 and book 3. I really hadn’t planned on talking about my father and the nature of loss. But there you go. Sometimes the process takes you to unexpected places.
So I will leave you with one of my favorite photos of me and my dad, taken a year and a half ago. And when I start my next novel, I know his essence and his love will be with me, in every word, on every page.