Monday, December 19, 2005

Farewell, My Friend

I learned this morning that I've lost someone very important to me in my personal and writing life. I know a lot of my friends who read this journal knew her too and have already heard the news, but even my readers who came here because they read my book might know of my friend Rosa if they read the dedication page of Enchanted, Inc..

I don't know how many people are lucky enough to come across someone they just click with. You might come from different parts of the country and from entirely different backgrounds, and may even have entirely different personalities, but you find that you see the world in much the same way and share tastes in so many things that you can just start talking about a favorite book, TV show or movie without bothering to check if the other person knows about it because you know she will. That was the way Rosa and I were.

We met online by discussing Firefly, first discovering we had similar perspectives on the plots and characters, and then starting to gradually discover we had so many other things in common. We met for the first time in person in the Philadelphia airport when she met my plane as we were both on our way to Wildwood, NJ, for a Firefly Shindig. I knew who she was right away, and it never felt like this was someone I'd just met. We'd read so many of the same books, had the same favorite authors, liked the same quirky old movies, knew all the same Broadway musicals. She's about the only other person I know of under the age of 75 with whom I wouldn't feel at all self-conscious about having my car radio set to the oldies/big band station (Radio for People Who Remember World War II!). In fact, we ended up listening to that station almost exclusively as we drove across Texas, when we weren't singing along with musicals. She became my stand-by roommate for any kind of get-together or gathering, and there generally wasn't a lot of sleeping because we'd discover yet another book we both loved, and we'd be up half the night talking about it.

But she was also critical to my writing life. In fact, I'm not sure Enchanted, Inc. would have come to life if it hadn't been for her. I was really doubting myself and my writing after a flurry of rejections on anything I tried to write. I finally sat down and wrote three chapters of this quirky idea I had. Mom liked them, but she's Mom. I knew Rosa had my taste in books, and she was about the only person I knew who was a big fan of both chick lit and fantasy, so I asked her if she wanted to read this thing I'd started. She was willing, so I e-mailed it to her, and it was largely her enthusiasm that gave me the courage to submit that proposal to an editor. Then she wanted to know the rest of the story, so I kept writing, sending her a chapter at a time as I wrote. She gave me feedback when something wasn't quite clear, but more important, she was excited about it, and that kept me excited enough to keep writing.

When I landed an agent for that book, she sent me a box of Godiva chocolates (want to know how to land on a book's dedication page? That works). When the book sold, she said she wasn't surprised at all. She'd had total faith that it would sell. When the book came out, she and her friends bought out the entire stock at one Borders store. We repeated the process as I wrote Once Upon Stilettos, though now I wish I'd sent her the final version instead of making her wait for it in book form. She's the only person I ever told how I planned to end the series and what the real story with Owen is, and now I'm very glad I told her because at least she got to know that much. We brainstormed ideas in Internet chats and in phone calls.

She was diagnosed with cancer in October, but every time I talked to her, she remained her chipper self, like this was only a minor inconvenience she had to deal with before getting on with her life, and she'd much rather be talking about books, movies and how cute Sean Maher's smile was. I guess because of that I didn't realize quite how serious it was (one of the hazards of long-distance friendship) and I kept thinking there would be time in the future to really catch up. For now, she had to concentrate on resting and getting well. I sent her a postcard from New York a little more than a week ago, with a picture from a setting for a scene in the new book and a tease about how she'd be seeing how that played out soon enough. But yesterday her pain and suffering came to an end, cutting short a vibrant life.

I'm swinging wildly between tears and numbness. I'm not sure I can bring myself to write today. Then again, writing is about the greatest tribute I can think of for Rosa, and she'd be the first to tell me to finish the story right away.

So, now you know the story behind the Rosa the book was dedicated to. I'm going to miss her a lot, and I won't be able to write about Owen without thinking of her (she claimed to have first dibs on him).

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