Archive for January, 2011
Happy Birthday, Alice.
To grow old is to lose everything.
Aging, everybody knows it.
Even when we are young,
we glimpse it sometimes, and nod our heads
when a grandfather dies.
Then we row for years on the midsummer
pond, ignorant and content. But a marriage,
that began without harm, scatters
into debris on the shore,
and a friend from school drops
cold on a rocky strand.
If a new love carries us
past middle age, our wife will die
at her strongest and most beautiful.
New women come and go. All go.
The pretty lover who announces
that she is temporary
is temporary. The bold woman,
middle-aged against our old age,
sinks under an anxiety she cannot withstand.
Another friend of decades estranges himself
in words that pollute thirty years.
Let us stifle under mud at the pond’s edge
and affirm that it is fitting
and delicious to lose everything.
– Donald Hall
January 31st, 2011
Staying up late going over the galleys for The Third. They’re due next week. It’s going to be a long, long night, but worth it.
January 29th, 2011
Each new birth is one step closer to the brink of destruction…
“The only way your kids are going to have any future is if we get this world back to a livable condition. The only way we‘re going to do that is with fewer people. People are the problem, not the solution.”
When Ransom Lawe, a recycler in the Pacific Northwest, finds out his wife is pregnant with their third—and therefore illegal—child, he’s forced to choose between the government who proclaims a desire to save the planet and his hope for a place where his family can live in freedom. But with the Census Bureau Sentinels closing in on his wife and unborn child, Ransom’s choice will either save his family or tear them apart forever.
Abel Keogh offers a stark and haunting look at a not-so-distant future in this chilling new novel. Crossing lines between good and evil, freedom and oppression, and political and environmental responsibility, The Third is a gut-wrenching tale of intense loyalty and unconditional love.
Read chapter 1
January 27th, 2011
An anonymous emailer writes:
Just a question about burial arrangements–where should the second wife be buried? My husband was married for 12 years when his wife passed–he has a double place with double marker all filled in except his death with their children on the back. We have been married over 34 years with 2 children together and can’t come to a decision about what is “proper.”
This is a good questions and one that I’ll admit I don’t have a solid answer, in part, because Marathon Girl and I have yet to resolve. (More on that in a minute.)
First, keep in mind that cemeteries and gave sites are for the living – not the dead. They’re places where friends and family can pay their respects and remember that person. The dead don’t care where you burry them. My guess is that they’ll have other things on their mind when they pass on to the next life.
That being said, my ideal solution is one where the widower dies and has a wife buried on either side of him—each with separate headstones. I lean this way solution partially because after the late wife died, I bought another plot next to hers and my family bought a couple plots in the same area. Putting me, Marathon Girl, and the late wife next to each other would be an easy, economical solution. (Side note: the cemetery where the late wife is buried doesn’t allow double headstones so that’s not an issue.)
Marathon Girl wants to bury me and her elsewhere. She has her reasons for this and I completely understand why she feels that way. I’m not offended by this and don’t take her desire as a slight against me, the late wife, or my first marriage. When the topic does come up I joke that whoever dies last will get their way. And, to be honest, unless we can come up with a solution, that’s probably what’s going to happen. It’s not a perfect but it’s not one that we don’t feel is worth arguing about—at least not right now.
For the anonymous emailer, it’s obvious that you’ve talked about the subject. I’d be curious to know what you’d like to do, what your husband wants to do, and why you can’t reach a compromise. Death and burials can be an emotional topic so my suggestion, if you haven’t done so already, is to find the widower’s emotions behind what he wants to do and see if you can reach some kind of compromise based on that knowledge. Just keep in mind that this is a subject not worth arguing over if it’s going to drive a wedge between the two of you.
I wish I had a more concrete answer about what is “proper” for the emailer and everyone else. This is a subject that I’d love to hear what solutions or compromises readers of this blog have reached. Please post your comments and I’ll update this post with insightful comments.
Update: Some great comments on this thread. Annie, Elizabeth, Brenda, and Vickie (did I forget someone?) all suggested cremation as an alternative. This gives people the option of scattering the ashes in more than one location or somewhere far, far away from either spouse. It’s something I hadn’t thought of mostly because it’s frowned upon (but not forbidden) in my faith but I think it’s a good alternative to think about. I appreciate you guys bringing it up.
The other point that Carol brought up and something I didn’t think about was honoring the new marriage. Commitment to the first wife spouse ends at death and when widowers remarry, our obligations change. (Of course one could argue that once the second wife or the widower dies, then their obligations change again. J)
Again this is a personal decision that should be discussed by both parties but one that I would hope wouldn’t cause an irreconcilable difference between a couple. In the end it doesn’t matter where the person is buried. When someone dies, he or she will always live in the hearts and minds of those who knew him or her and they can be remembered and honored wherever the living reside.
January 26th, 2011
In the comment section (#25) of a recent Widower Wednesday post, Annabelle writes:
I have looked at this site a few times before deciding to go ahead and give things a go with the guy I have been dating for the past 3 months. After being convinced and seeing good signs he had moved on and wanted a new start I decided to give him a go.
But yesterday – like so many stories I have read – the same thing has happened to me like so many others and I really believed it would not…..
I have heard it all, I love you, I want to build a future with you, you are amazing and then yesterday – he feels a difference in how I feel for him and how he feels for me.
She goes on to describe the widowers actions and how she felt when the widower suddenly and unexpectedly ended the relationship. Then she asks the following question:
This is so confusing….. is it over or do you think I should just walk away and not even give him a second chance?
Whether or not to give a widower a second chance is a great question and, unfortunately, one that many women who date widowers have to answer.
There’s a part of me is sympathetic to the widowers who end relationships only to think they might have made mistakes. I know what it’s like to want to date again and have a serious, committed relationship while still trying to sort out the internal feelings of grief and moving on. These feelings can lead to conflicting emotions and uncertainty about whether the relationship they’re in is the right one.
And I’ve personally benefited from second chances. Those who have read Room for Two or have been following this blog for awhile know that if it wasn’t for a second chance, my relationship with Marathon Girl would have ended after our first date. (Of course, my second chance involved a second date. I never got serious with Marathon Girl’s hopes only to abruptly end the relationship because I of mixed emotions.)
However, I also know what it’s like to start and continue a relationship just for the sake of having someone fill the hole in one’s the heart. I know what it’s like to tell someone you love them when deep down you know the relationship isn’t right just because you miss having someone special in your life and, later, to unceremoniously dump them. Personally, I think most widowers who ask for second chances fall into this category.
Widowers who tell their girlfriends they love them and want to spend their life with them only to dump them usually aren’t worthy of second chances. In my mind most widower come crawling back because they miss the company, companionship, sex, and other benefits of a relationship – not because they’re ready to move on. Widowers will pursue women they truly love. They won’t unexpectedly end the relationship or have doubts about moving on. They’ll figure out a way to check their emotions and make things work.
So, should you give your widower a second chance? Generally I advise against it. Most women who email me that have given their widower second, third, or even fourth chances generally end up getting their heart broken again and again. I think the saying “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me” applies to this situation.
However, if your gut (not your heart) tells you he’s worthy of a second chance, draw a line in the sand and take control of the relationship. Let the widower know how you expect to be treated and that if you have the feeling he’s not ready to move on or is serious about the relationship, you’ll end the relationship. Keep your eyes wide open for any red flags. And it he steps out of line, don’t hesitate to end things.
January 19th, 2011
The edits for the first half of The Third are in. Time to hunker down and get to work.
Update 1/16: Edits are complete and on their way back to the editor. Hoping to have the other half wrapped up this week!
Update 1/17: Received the second half of edits from the editor. Getting back to work.
January 15th, 2011
Note: Be sure to read the Update/Correction below.
Most of my published author friends have a book or two that’s saved on their hard drive that will never see the light of day. They’re usually books that the author wrote early in their careers—usually before they had any kind of publishing contract. They could never find a publisher for the novel (or didn’t try) and moved on to other projects. Though the books were never published, they served as good learning experiences for the authors on what to do (or what not to do) when writing fiction.
I have one of these “learning” books on my hard drive. Between Room for Two and The Third, I wrote a novel titled Angel of Light. It was my first real attempt to write a novel and I’ll flat out admit that it sucks. However, writing Angel of Light was a good learning experience for me. It taught me that I write better with an outline, that I need to work on my dialogue, and that I do a decent job hooking the reader at the end of every chapter. Without putting effort into writing that book, odds are The Third would have never been good enough to find a publisher.
One of the lessons most these author friends have continually taught is not to be tempted to rewrite these books or resubmit them for publication no matter how much the author is in love with them. Why? Because making these books public generally drags down an author’s career not only in terms of sales but loyal readers. Once an author puts crap out there, he or she risks that it will be the first book a reader picks up. And if the book is awful, odds are they’re never going to touch another one of your books again. That’s why, aside from Marathon Girl, no one will ever read Angel of Light. I will never rewrite it or even attempt to have it published. It will remain on my computer until they pry it from my cold, dead fingers. (Even then I hope to have the presence of mind to nuke that part of the hard drive before I pass on.)
So it’s sad when a talented author like Harlan Coben makes this mistake with his novel Play Dead. I like Coben’s novels and have been reading them voraciously since I discovered his books last year. But Play Dead is a torture to read. The characters have no depth and the reader hardly cares about them. The dialogue sucks. The plot had enough big holes that a three 747s could easily fly through them. The only reason I kept reading the book was because I thought there was no way the book could get any worse.
I was wrong. It got worse. Way worse. When I done reading it, I felt like I had been forced to watch Glitter and Gigli at the same time! As a result there are hours of my life and a million brains cells that I’ll never get back.
Granted, Coben warns the reader at the beginning of the book that he hasn’t “read Play Dead in at least twenty years” and that “it’s exact book I wrote when I was in my early twenties, just a naive lad working in the travel industry….”He also accurately compares the book to “that essay you wrote when you were in school, the one that got you an A-plus on, the one your teacher called “inspired”—and one day you’re going through your drawer and you find it and you read it and your heart sinks and you say, ‘Man, what was I thinking?’”
My question to Coben is this: since you knew this book sucked, what were you thinking by publishing it? Play Dead reads just like one of those novels that never should have been published—EVER. Even you seem to know this but pushed it through anyway? Are you short on cash? Is someone blackmailng you?
I only wish I had read the warning before I started reading chapter 1 because I never would have read it otherwise.
For readers, unless you’re looking for 101 class on how not to write a novel, avoid even touching Play Dead. Your brain cells will thank you for it.
Update/Correction: Harlan Coben came across this review and emailed me a correction that I’ll pass on. Apparently Play Dead was Coben’s first novel and was published back in 1990. The version I was reading is a 2010 reprint. It’s NOT a book that he pulled out of the drawer after 20 years and decided to push through the publishing mill.
This error was my mistake. After I finished reading Play Dead and seeing how it wasn’t even close to the quality of other Coben novels I’ve read, I flipped to the beginning of the novel where I read his author’s note. After reading that and seeing the 2010 copyright date, I wrongly assumed it was something he decided to publish after he had become a successful writer.
So, I apologize for the misunderstanding, Mr. Coben. I appreciate you taking the time to email me and offer the correction. So you know, I’ve enjoyed every other book of yours thus far and am looking forward to reading Live Wire when it’s released in March. Had I known this was your first novel when I was reading it, I would have been a bit more understanding as a reader. You’re a talented writer and have come a long way since Play Dead.
For readers, I retract the reasons behind the publication of Play Dead but stand by my review of the book. It isn’t Coben’s finest work.If you’re interested in reading his novels, I suggest starting with some of his standalone novels like Just One Look or Hold Tight. If you enjoy those, then check out his Myron Bolitar novels staring with Deal Breaker.
January 14th, 2011
Today’s Widower Wednesday question comes from a recent widower with a young child who’s is in his first serious relationship since the wife died. He’s crazy about the new woman in his life and feels incredibly lucky and blessed to have found love again. There’s just one problem: his girlfriend refuses to meet or spend any time with the late wife’s family. In addition, the girlfriend makes small complaints when the widower wants to take his child and spend time with them. The widower wants to know if he’s asking too much by wanting the girlfriend to meet the late wife’s family and spend some time with them occasionally.
Everyone comes into a relationship with some sort of past. Relationships with widowers usually involve knowing and spending time with the late wife’s family—especially if there are children from the first marriage. A lot of women are uncomfortable meeting or spending time with the late wife’s family and I don’t blame them for feeling that way considering how poorly they’re sometimes treated.
However, I have a problem when the girlfriend refuses to meet them or even consider getting to know them. It seems like the larger issue is that she doesn’t want to admit or acknowledge the widower’s past marriage and that by refusing to be part of it, the late wife’s family, the late wife, and the widower’s past will magically disappear.
Having a successful relationship with a widower means accepting the fact that the late wife, in some small way, is always going to be part of the relationship with a widower. Like it or not, the widower’s previous marriage made him the man he is today. By cutting the late wife’s family out of the picture and refusing to even meet them, the girlfriend is denying a chance to get to know people who have influenced on who the widower is. At the very least she should try to spend some time with these people and give them a chance as they’ll probably play some role in her relationship with the widower if it’s too continue.
In any case, the late wife’s family is going to become a much bigger issue as the relationships goes on. She may only make a small fuss now when the widower wants to see them, but the complaints are going to get bigger and louder the longer the relationship goes on. Personally, I don’t see a future with her unless she’s willing to at least meet the late wife’s family and be more open to the widower’s past.
January 12th, 2011
Just met the editor for The Third via email. I lucked out and got one that likes speculative fiction. Sounds like she’ll be fun to work with.
Anyway, I should receive her comments, edits and suggested changes in the next week or two. The Third is scheduled to go to press February 14. That means it should be available to buy some time in March.
That also means the cover should be coming my way soon too. For some reason I’m really excited to see what they come up with.
January 6th, 2011
Before I get to today’s column, a few housecleaning items: if you’ve emailed me in the last 7-10 days, please be patient for a response. I took a break from email over the Christmas/New Year holiday and am slowing catching up. You should hear from me in the next few days.
Also, if you missed the announcement yesterday regarding some of my articles being published in an upcoming grief anthology, read it here.
Now on to today’s column.
A common question that finds its way into my email box is how long it takes for a widower to stop grieving and be fully willing to start a new life. Generally these questions come from women who love the widower they’re dating but feel like Number Two or a third wheel in the relationship. When they talk to the widower about the relationship, they widower tells them that he’s still having a hard time and needs some more time before he can fully commit. He also usually asks the woman to patiently wait awhile longer for him to sort out his feelings.
My answer has two parts.
First, everyone grieves at different speeds. Some people can move on from a tragedy much faster than others. However, keep in mind that most widowers generally start dating before they’re ready to commit to long term relationships. Of course, that usually doesn’t stop him from telling the woman how much he loves her and he wants to spend the rest of his life with her. Many widowers start relationships and say thing they don’t really mean. Then, say, a few months in, they realize they aren’t sure if the relationships is right for them. The woman picks up on their hesitation but thinks that he’ll snap out of it and love her once he’s had time to grieve.
Second, in order for someone to change – in this case, put feelings for the late wife aside and commit to a new partner and new life – they have to have a strong reason to make that change. With widowers, they’ll stop grieving and move on when the find someone that they want to start a new life with. Widowers who commit themselves to relationships before they’re emotionally ready to make that commitment often find themselves feeling stuck. They like the attention, sex, and other benefits that come with the relationship even if they aren’t sure the relationship is one they want to stick out long term. So they ask the woman to wait while they figure things out.
In the end, the questions these women need to ask is how long their willing to wait for the widower to make up his mind. A week? A month? A year?
I’m of the opinion that if the widower isn’t making you number one now, things aren’t going to change. They might, but odds are he started the relationship before he was emotionally ready.
January 5th, 2011
Longtime readers will recall that I used to write occasional articles on widowerhood for a group called Open to Hope. It’s been several years since I’ve penned anything for them but over the weekend I found out that two of my articles 10 Dating Tips for Widowers and Widowers and My Life, Seven Years Later were selected to be published in an upcoming anthology tentatively titled Open to Hope: Inspirational Stories of Grief. The anthology will be published by Brown & Company.
A publication date has yet to be announced, but I’ll let you know when it’s available.
January 4th, 2011
Lake Superior State University released its 2011 list of words that should be “Be Banished from the Queen’s English for Mis-use, Over-use and General Uselessness.”
The word that received the most nominations? Viral.
Ironically, the university’s banished word web page has a link to share it on Facebook and Twitter.
January 2nd, 2011