Friday, February 23, 2007

Copyediting, Spring and the Long Path Home

To quote Dickens, "It was the best of times; it was the worst of times."

North Texas in the spring is the most wonderful of places. Yesterday--even though we could still have an ice storm at any moment--it felt like spring. When the birds are nesting, they sing in a different way, and when I stepped out on my patio in the morning, they were in full chorus. The hyacinth bulbs around my front entrance are coming up with an optimism I find touching.

But it's also a hard time. Tribble, my more-than-twenty-year-old cat, has begun her final journey, and I'm determined to make the experience as easy for her as possible. I've known for some weeks that she has diabetes, but made the decision not to address the disease with twice-daily insulin injections. She hates going to the vet, and she hates being medicated. I cannot see putting her through what she won't be able to understand and will regard as torture. Fortunately, Tim, my wonderful vet, shares my feelings. We both regard death as the last great healer.

Because the weather has been so nice, I've been putting my two younger cats, Bob and Dinah, out every morning so that they wouldn't wart Tribble all day. Tribble greets me each night, sitting on top of my closed laptop, the first place she knows I'll go.

Last night when I got home, Tribble wasn't waiting for me. She didn't come when I called. My heart sank. I checked all her favorite hiding spots--under my bed, on the windowseat in the bay window, in the laundry basket--but couldn't find her anywhere. I let the two younger cats back into the house in the hope they would go to her. Neither did.

I searched and called for her for nearly an hour without success. Recently Tribble has been drinking out of a tall slurpy glass (so she doesn't have to bend her arthritic knees). She had polished off about eight ounces of water during the day (the symptom that clued me in to her diabetes in the first place), but her food stood untouched.

During the search, I checked my front porch, thinking perhaps she had slipped out of the house when I wasn't looking.

Tribble wasn't outside, but there were two things that should have filled me with joy: My copyedits from NAL and the next installment on my book advance.

I curled up on my bed with the copyedits, trying to ignore my worry over Tribble.

The edits were very interesting. I want to share the things I learned:

1) Don't set your format to hyphenate. Recently Nathan Bransford had said this in his blog, and I was surprised to see that comment. But my copyeditor had removed all of the automatic hyphens from my manuscript.

2) I have always used three asterisks (* * *) to indicate a change of scene. My copyeditor removed all of these and left the blank space in their place.

3) I had always heard that a writer indicates italics by underlining. In recent years, I've heard that digital printing has changed this and that a writer now simply goes ahead and uses italics, which I did. My copyeditor underlined all the italicized places and wrote "ital" in the margins.

4) The copyeditor had checked for copyrights and trademarks. She changed my generic "bubble wrap" to "Bubble Wrap" to reflect the trademark of the Sealed Air Company. She corrected my misuse of a Zane Gray title, "The Riders of the Purple Sage" to read "Riders of the Purple Sage."

5) The copyeditor left me a note on EVERY non-punctuation change with a little "AU: okay to change?" in red pencil. I was instructed to use a different colored PENCIL to indicate my agreement or disagreement.

Tracy, my editor, had told me the copyeditor had a light touch. She certainly did. I was able to run through the first hundred pages in about thirty minutes. I'd told my friends I might not be able to hang out this weekend because I needed to get the copyedits back by March 1. At this rate, getting them done will be a breeze.

By the time I'd finished my hundred pages, my anxiety over Tribble was pretty high. I was debating whether to call a friend to come over and help me search for a body. In a last ditch effort, I got a flashlight and went from room to room searching.

My study has three seven-foot tall double deep bookcases. I took the flashlight and searched behind each grouping of books. On the second case, Tribble peered up at me from behind a row of hardbacks by Dennis Lehane. I was so relieved, I almost cried. I didn't disturb her; just returned to my laptop to start this post.

Now that she'd been discovered, she came out, jumped on my knee to help her reach my desk and sat next to the laptop. I offered her a fresh can of her favorite catfood flavor. She wouldn't eat. I offered her my secret weapon: lamb-flavored Gerber's baby food. Cats LOVE lamb-flavored Gerber's. She wouldn't touch it. I finally brought her a dish of kitten kibble--a major no-no for a geriatric cat because of the high levels of protein. But would you deny an eighty-five-year-old woman a cigarette because of the fear that it would shorten her life? Me either. Tribble ate the whole dish.

Tribble is curled up beside me right now. A few minutes ago, she began purring. I have to believe this is the right thing to do--although holding my breath when I come home every day will be tough.

I'm grateful for the twenty plus years we've had together. My charge now is to offer my little calico Manx a dignified, peaceful ending.


Marie Tuhart said...


I hope Tribble goes peacefully and it doesn't cause you too much anxiety or pain. Losing a pet is the same a losing a family member. Hang in there.

Glad the copy edits are going easy for you.

Maya Reynolds said...

Thanks, Marie. Although the pain of losing Tribble won't compare to your recent loss, it will be hard.

Warm regards,


Maria Zannini said...

God bless, Maya.

My heart goes to you. Talk to you soon.


B.E. Sanderson said...

Dang. I'm so sorry to hear about your kitty. Your story makes me want to snatch my cat up and snuggle her for all she's worth. I think you're doing the right thing, and I only hope I'll have that kind of courage when the time comes for my baby.

Sherrill Quinn said...

I lost my sweet kitty 5 years ago and I still miss him. Pets give such unconditional love, it's so hard to lose them, no matter how long they've been with you. But even harder when they've been such an integral part of your life for such a long time.


Maya Reynolds said...

Thanks, Maria: I hope you're feeling better.

Oh, B.E., please give your cat a hug for me. Thank you.

Sherrill: You know what's it's like. This will be the fourth cat I've lost. I spent a small fortune trying to delay the inevitable the first time. Then I realized I was being selfish. I was trying to keep Shibumi alive for myself, not for him. Pets give us so much, including their trust. I think that trust requires us to do the best for them, including walking that long path home with them.

Alex Adams said...


Pets are the best people in the world.

Maya Reynolds said...

Alex: Amen.

Thanks for your post.