Sue and I only met in the flesh twice, when we were both on horse-oriented panels at a Norwescon and again at a SpoCon a few years back. This was the beginning of a long and pleasurable e-mail correspondence that leaked over into Face Book on occasion.
In 2013, I contributed an article about jousting for her "Horses in Fiction" blog (http://blog.sabolichbooks.com), and continued to check the site and read her posts every time she made a new one. I didn't always comment; in fact, I think I only did so once or twice. But I always enjoyed her posts and found them informative and well-written. She had a wry sense of humor and a deep well of wisdom and common sense I very much enjoyed tapping into.
We kept promising we'd get together at the next convention and spend time getting to know one another better, digging into our mutual interests, of which there were several aside from horses and writing. She invited me to visit her home, back before her health began to deteriorate, to meet her menagerie and spend a day or two shooting the breeze. One thing after another always seemed to get in the way. "Oh, well, next time," we'd say.
"Next time" is never going to happen now. And now that the opportunity to spend more time with her is gone, the only way I can honor her memory is by turning more people on to her books. Her physical presence may have passed, but her voice continues to speak through her stories. Her mind, imagination, and artistry still shine through on every page.
Sue wrote primarily Fantasy, but it wasn't like anyone else's. Everything she wrote was unique, filled with unexpected twists and turns…and yet richly fulfilling.
I read The Mask of God when it first came out largely because it was a gift. The blurb on the back led me to make all sorts of pre-judgments about it. Not only was I wrong, I was delighted to realize how wonderfully wrong I was. The book sucked me in and held me by the throat the whole time. I was frustrated to discover that the next one was two years away. Now that the entire Fate's Arrow series is out, I'm re-reading the earlier ones before moving forward, and finding my original impressions haven't changed. Sue masterfully blended SF and Fantasy, and layered the plot with subtle tension and vivid action sequences in often brilliant prose. The elaborate, initially baffling machinations among the mysterious deities—or creatures worshipped as deities, anyway—that drive and control the action behind the scenes was weirdly intriguing, and grew more so with each book.
Better yet, the very real, compelling, and genuinely loving relationship dynamic among the three brothers who in the first book comprise the ruling family of Ariel was a wonderful change from the cliché of back-stabbing, Machiavellian sibling rivalry that seems to be the standard in novels. I can't really describe the plot, because the best I could do without giving too much away would make it sound like many other, more familiar and far lesser books out there, and it is nothing like any of those. I promise. Read them for yourself. See what I mean.
I don't read romance. Not even so-called "paranormal romance." But the concept of In Heaven's Shadow convinced me to pick it up, and, again, I found the book impossible to put down. Sue's background as a historian brought the Shenandoah Valley of the Civil War to life, creating a place and time filled with horror, and yet achingly beautiful. Her ability to weave a lovely, haunting story out of so many odd and disparate threads, to put you firmly in Lilith's POV and hold you there no matter how alien her thoughts, beliefs, cultural viewpoint, and pure innocence of character might be, was nothing less than spellbinding.
I could go into raptures about her Masters of the Elements series, but it has already been extensively praised by readers on Amazon, Goodreads, and many other review sites, far more thoroughly than I have room for her. Ditto her short story collection, Out of the Vaults (which reminded me of The Librarian or Night at the Museum film series, only done much, much better). Her other short stories, in anthologies such as No Man's Land, Wolfsong, and Gears and Levers, are among the best offerings in the books, each entirely different from the others, but all of them marvelous reads.
Sue is gone. I can't talk to my friend anymore. But I can still enjoy her humor, her wisdom, her sometimes mischievous sense of irony, her craftsmanship, her poetry, the sheer brilliance of her spirit, every time I open one of her books. Her gift lives on, and always will. So long as her work is read, enjoyed, and passed on, her voice will never truly be silenced.