Kage Baker always had a plan.
She made plans compulsively, determinedly. She made lists, with headings and sub-headings and all the alpha-numerical descending gradations we learned in high school essay: 1,2,3 to A,B,C to i, ii,iii to a,b,c and down into some sort of nano-notation you needed a magnifying glass to read or write.
The timeline for her first Company novel was 27 feet long – made of taped together pages of typing paper, in a spectrum of inks and all the fancy scripts Kage knew (which was a lot), it ran around 3 walls of our spare bedroom/library and was notated in English, Latin, Greek and some laboriously reproduced cuneiform symbols. I’m not sure she knew what they meant, but some of them were numbers and she said they were in there for “Sumerian flavour”.
Kage could barely manage Western numbers, and she had all 10 fingers needed for base 10 calculations. The Sumerians used a base 60 system … and evidently “Sumerian flavour” was beer, bread and beans, with garlic and cucumbers.
But her penchant for plans got us through all manner of hard times. And we had our share – evenings that descended into despair by the light of the Lava Lamps, the two of us staring at one another and asking “What the hell do we do now?” It always resolved with Kage grabbing up a pen and a legal pad and making lists: and that always worked. It calmed us down enough to sleep, it gave us a place to start digging our way out of whatever hole we’d fallen into, and we always got out. Lists were Kage’s ultimate fall back plan.
She made a lot of lists, her final year. Almost none of them were about how to survive – she left that up to me, and medicine; her contribution was to work hard at whatever we came up with that might save her. She was brave, steadfast and never shirked; and believe me, Dear Readers – the responsibilities that devolve upon the dying are as tough as can be. She never wept or whined. But she swore me to those carefully outlined lists.
The main one was what I was to do about The Writing. I was to continue it. I was to keep her own stories going, and I was to add to them from her notes, from our conversations, from whatever surfaced in my own rattled brain. It was why she went through all her notes in that last year, getting them into a sort of order – piles, mostly, but sorted more or less by subject and on the stratigraphic system: which, Kage said, worked for geology and so should work for me.
It was why she left me her high school notebooks – her first plan had been to burn them, but instead she left them to me to explore. It was why she left me not one, but two agents; in case one failed. Mind you, Kage never thought either of them would fail – her faith was steady. As it turns out, things have gotten rather wonky; but her plan still works. Because she left me a backup.
This year has been hard and painful. Who knows why? Not me. The psychological analyses, the DYI grief counseling, the Hallmark cards – they all say that by 5 years along, I should find myself content, resigned and functional. Well, they’re all wrong. I feel worse than I have since the first few months Kage was gone, and despair has been my constant companion this year. I’m climbing a cinder cone – climb 13 inches, slide back a foot. I’ve been staycationing in the Slough of Despond, and I don’t even like that damned book … and all of you, Dear Readers, have been inhumanly patient.
But I have The Plan. Kage’s Plan. I know where I have to go, what I have to do.
I’ve spoken severely to one agent, and unhappily terminated our relationship. But that will let me deal better with Kage’s legacy, and it gave me the time and room to plead with an uncertain Italian publisher about a seriously endangered deal. Today I found out that I have saved it – Mondadori will be printing the first two Company books in Bella Italia, in a mass market deal that will give Kage enormous coverage.
Armed with this success, I am negotiating with the backup agent; and I think that all will be well. They are interested, they know Kage’s work and like it, they’re willing to deal with me (and mine) and are already talking about how to announce it. Publicity! Professionalism! A way out of the Slough of Despond! I’ve been leaping up and down for months like a crazed marmot, and suddenly my little claws have caught the edge of a root!
And it’s all happened TODAY. Which happens to be my 62nd birthday. I see the left hand of Beneficent Fate here.
The next story to finish will be “The Teddy Bear Squad”, and that starts today. (Somebody remind me about “mammatus clouds” tomorrow.) The next book to finish will be Marswife; and in the meantime, I have a completely different kind of story done and ready to be examined by my (interested and competent) agent. Those tasks I have feebly plugged away at this last 7 months are not for naught after all. Suddenly, there are lots of nice little check marks to be noted down in the margins of my life.
So happy birthday to me, folks. This may just work after all.