Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Modern Times

My husband went to the South by Southwest Interactive Conference, and he's spending an extra two days in Texas to visit friends. He's gone for a total of seven nights, which is the longest separation of our marriage thus far, beating out the five nights I spent at RWA National last year.

I miss him, and I'm glad I'm not a single parent, nor the wife of a soldier or a National Guard member in the present climate. Wrangling my not-quite-3-year-old all by myself has been a challenge, to say the least.

But we've been in constant touch all week. I call him every night when putting our daughter to bed, because we noticed she settles better if she hears his voice. (I think that way she knows that he hasn't abandoned us, but that he's also not coming home right away.) He called me several times a day during conference breaks, and once we had a gmail chat going where he was in the middle of a workshop and I was commenting on the content of the session as he reported it to me. He's on the way to Houston to see his friends now, and just a few hours ago he called me from a Chick-Fil-A drive-thru line to gloat, because I love Chick-Fil-A beyond reason, but there are none in the Northwest. A little later I called him back to make sure he knew that the 2007 Mariners ads are out, and that I thought the Double Play Twins was the best one. It's an important marker of spring, after all, the next big milestone after pitchers and catchers report but before Easter or Opening Day.

Every once in awhile as a historical fiction writer I'm staggered by the differences between my life and that of the characters I portray. In one of the communities of imaginary people who live in my head (it's a busy, overpopulated place, my brain), I have a brother and sister who are close in affection, but distant in, well, distance. He's a viscount who goes back and forth between his London townhouse and his Gloucestershire estates, while she married beneath her station and eloped to India with her husband to help him make his fortune. Assuming my research has led me right, in the late Age of Sail it took approximately four months for a ship to sail from London to Calcutta. Therefore, James and Anna can never know for sure that all is well with the other and his/her family--no matter how much good news was in the most recent letter, it could've all been undone by tragedy a few weeks later. That, to me, would be weird and scary. I'm too used to the idea that if I want to check on my husband, on the road to Houston, I can do it NOW. But I expect James and Anna got used to it, and just wrote each other book-length letters. Letters that doubtless included the early 19th century equivalent of, "I'm eating Chick-Fil-A and you aren't, ha-ha!" and, "Hey! New Mariners ads!"

Yes, my imaginary people are that real to me. No, I don't plan to attempt an epistolary novel. But if I ever sell these people's story, I suspect excerpts of their correspondence will be a feature of my website.

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