This weekend there was some sad news with the passing of fantasy and suspense author and my good friend Roxanne Conrad, better known by her pen name, Rachel Caine. You may know her from her Weather Wardens series, or possibly the Great Library books, or possibly the Morganville Vampires series.
Rox was one of the first writer friends I ever made. I met her when I was about a year out of college at the first writing conference I went to. I don’t remember how we got started talking, but based on what I know about her personality and about my personality, I suspect she took pity on me when I looked lonely and awkward and struck up a conversation. Her first book had come out, so I was in awe of a “real” author. I was just at that point in my life when I’d decided I was going to actually do something about that lifelong dream, and that conference was a big leap for me. We bonded over the fact that we both loved the books of Katherine Kurtz, and I remember her getting out the Locus magazine she had with her so we could look to see if there were any new books coming out.
I ran into her at a few events over the next ten or so years, but I really got to know her better around the time my Enchanted, Inc. books started coming out. She was already well known as Rachel Caine for the Weather Wardens series, and since they were both in the contemporary/urban fantasy realm, we ended up on a lot of panels together at conventions. At the same time, I became part of a group of friends she was also part of, and we frequently gathered at her home, where she was always a gracious hostess. We did a few booksignings together, since we were among the local authors publishing in the same general category. Her Great Library series, which had a bit of steampunk flavor, launched at about the same time my Rebels series came out, and we had a joint launch event at my neighborhood library, along with our other friend, P.N. Elrod.
Rox was one of the most generous people I’ve ever met. If anyone had a need, she’d jump in to take care of it. She was great about paying it forward and boosting other authors, often bringing her friends along with her on trips to various events. She once brought me to a convention in Denver where she was one of the guests of honor, since she had to leave from there to go on a book tour and she needed someone to travel home on the train with her husband (you need two people to get the good kind of compartment that he likes). I don’t know if she remembered that first conversation we had, but one of the other guests of honor was Katherine Kurtz, and thanks to Rox I got to meet one of my writing idols. At the convention’s booksigning, Rox arranged for me to sit next to Katherine.
Rox was truly a writing machine, and so dedicated to her work. At many a convention, if you walked through the lobby early in the morning, she’d be there, typing away, getting her words in even though she was at an event. I don’t even manage to write blog posts while I’m at conventions. Cancer barely slowed her down. She kept on writing.
My last real social outing before the pandemic hit was going to a writing group meeting with Rox. I’d mentioned on Twitter that I needed to find some local writing groups, and she invited me to join her for a meeting with the local Sisters in Crime group. She’d joined but hadn’t been to a meeting yet, and it would be easier for us to face it together, and my house was on her way there, so she offered to pick me up. So, she dragged me out of my house on a cold, rainy Sunday afternoon, and since it was a bit of a drive, we had a nice long chat along the way. Then there was the sneaking around the library, looking for a way into the meeting room that wouldn’t have us barging in behind the speaker when we got there late, thanks to traffic. It turns out, that was the last time I saw her.
The loss isn’t entirely real yet. I’ll notice it at the next convention when we aren’t on any panels together.
I think my favorite book of hers was a one-off, Prince of Shadows, which was a take on Romeo and Juliet that actually fixes it. It’s told from the perspective of one of the other characters, and it shows what was really going on behind the scenes to make events work out like they do in the play. I’ve decided that it’s canon for me, so I imagine all that going on in the background now when I see a production of that story (though I’m still figuring out how it might work into West Side Story).
Farewell, my friend, and thank you for all the support and kindness over the years.