I started writing Becky Bright Day and the Sword of Golgotha when Diane was still alive. Of course, when I first started writing it that wasn’t the title. At first, it was D.E. Mon inc., then Lucy and the Sword, then Upper East Side Lucy and the Sword of Golgotha, then Becky Bright Day and the Sword of Golgotha.
There’s a whole story to that title, but I changed the main character’s name in the past few months because someone I’ve never met before is going through her own battle with terminal cancer, and a mutual friend was looking for a treadmill because “Becky’s” broke. She had been using it, (as had Diane) to make treatments more effective and keep her energy levels up. So, Becky got Diane’s treadmill in a whirlwind cross country rescue effort by our mutual friend, and I got to imagine Diane smiling because I gifted it to the universe and it landed in exactly the right place.
My working cover is even “Becky” Bright Day inspired.
Anyway, This story has been more than a year in the making — first started months before Diane passed because she wanted to laugh. And while she could still move around on her own, she would stand behind me and read over my shoulder as I worked, just as she had since my very first story 9 years ago (Waking Wolfe). And as she stood behind me, disrupting my flow of thought with her chuckling, snorts, and the occasional belly laugh, I realized with a paradoxical heartache that this was one of those things I would most miss when she was gone. And I was right.
What I didn’t realize was how much of my confidence as a writer was tied up in her over-the-shoulder review of my work in progress. And when after a couple of months I finally dragged myself out of bed after her passing and started to write again, false start after false start plagued me. Then I remembered The Sword of Golgotha. I remembered her leaning over my back, chin resting on my shoulder, pausing my hand as I typed too fast for her to finish reading through the scroll… and the spontaneous, boisterous laughter she let slip into my ear as she hit punchline after punchline.
So I started in on that again… only three chapters in when I had set it aside before she passed. And I struggled, not only with the story but also trying to think of anything funny to write while my heart and mood felt like a portapotty on the last day of the county fair. (think about it… it’ll come to you)
As the months dragged by and I labored on the manuscript, trying in vain to recreate the magic with which I had started, I began to wonder if I would ever be able to write a decent story again. But as the 11 month anniversary of her passing neared, I found myself hearing her in my head as I wrote. “That’s funny… expand on that.”, “Oh, that broke my heart…but in a good way. Drill down there.”, “Carebear, I almost peed myself reading that paragraph…more of that.”
It’s funny and encouraging, as I read back on my finished first draft, that this story is a map of my journey through grief (at least to the point of grief in which I currently reside). The pure joy and laughter of the confidence in my first few chapters, to the sluggish, painful chapters in the middle, and finally, slowly building to the ridiculous, hilarious, creative last few chapters written in the past month.
I’m still not as confident in my story as I was writing my first 13 novels. But in the arc of Becky Bright Day and the Sword of Golgotha, I can see the progress I’ve made through the past year of anguish. And if nothing else, this work, this, my very first work of pure comedy and satire, I can clearly see the moments I struggled compared to the ones when her voice returned to me as my muse.
I’m still a couple of rewrites, edits, and polishes away from sending it off to my agent for submissions, but for the first time in more than a year, I have hope that my voice has returned. Changed, for certain, by the grief I still carry and the battles we and then I have fought. But it’s there. I can see it…especially at the end when she was in my head once more.
I hope it does well. But more importantly, I hope it is the beginning of a new chapter in my storytelling. One where I know for certain, because of all the obvious mile markers, when I discovered I could hear her voice again. That has brought me the most joy of all.