For Love of Rats

Blackberry 003After a bit of an absence, I have enough energy for a blog entry today. I am not going to write about writing today, other than to say I have started the process of setting up my author’s accounts with the epublishing websites, and the frightening prospect of researching tax laws.

Nor will I comment, as I’m sure some will expect, on the horrors of 12-14-12. I have no words. I can’t imagine a worse way to lose a loved one than to have them maliciously, deliberately, and violently taken from you. I ache for the Newtown, CT.

No, I am writing about a different kind of pain. It is nothing like the devestation too many parents are feeling, and will continue to feel for the rest of their lives. Many will probably find it silly and self-indulgent at a time like this, but it is personal and painful to me and my family, if not to anybody else.

I lost my smallest friend on Friday when she made her journey to the rainbow bridge. She had been sick for more than six weeks. Two vet visits bought her a couple pretty good weeks, but she had steadily been in decline so it wasn’t unexpected, but in a way watching her hurting, then bouncing back to almost her old self, then sliding back, a little faster and further each time until I knew there were to be no more bounces, was more painful than losing her to something swift and sudden.

Many people have questioned me, now and in the past, asking why I would chose something with such a short lifespan, or simply, often with a hint of disgust, “Why a rat?”

First, as I have said to others, just like there is no such thing as “just a dog” or “just a cat” or “just an animal” (an attitude I have encountered but refuse to even try and understand), there is no “just a rat.” Not to those of us rattie lovers who appreciate the company of our dear little friends. Friendlier than other pocket pets, they have less tendancy to bite than any other small animal I have had experience with, and for those with the patience they can even be taught tricks. Some will even teach themselves. I saw them described in a rattie forum onlone (I wish I could remember where so I could give credit!) as a little rodent dog, which is pretty accurate. I got the idea for a rat as a pet from the movie “The Abyss” and got my first one at the age of 16, and have never regretted that decision.

“But doesn’t it hurt to lose them?” I am asked. Of course it does. If it doesn’t hurt to lose a pet, you shouldn’t have one in the first place. It’s the good that makes the tears worth it. Madame Mim was my little buddy, one of the most playful and hyper rats I’ve ever had, yet she was incredibly gentle and very much a lady. She loved to play and explore, and the computer room is entirely too quiet without her begging for a treat, running in her wheel, or climbing all over me as I attempt to type. Yes, a rat has a lifespan of a year and a half to three years and are prone to some heatlh issues, but for the time they’re with you they are good company.

And Madame Mim was more than company, she was with us through some tough times. She was still a baby when we were evacuated from our house due to the possibility of a flood (we took no damage due to a lucky break with slightly higher elevetion than most of our neighborhood, but too many neighbors did). She put up with a week in a hotel room, then a month in a trailer that was crooked on its foundation and had holes in the floor. She cheered me up to no end and made me laugh when I didn’t want to.

I will get other rats, within a few months, perhaps even weeks, and they will make me laugh and smile. But it won’t be quite the same, just like no dog exactly fills the space another once occupied. New enjoyment will enliven the cage, but never take her place. Nor should it.

To all you animal lovers, especially the ones who are fans of their rattie friends, I wish you and your furry companions long life and good health, whatever that means for your particular species. To those that don’t understand, I’m sorry.

Good night. Sorry for any misspellings or typos. I lost my glasses and the screen is a bit hard to see. And I’m too lazy to run it through spellcheck. (Not that it’s always reliable. Just ask those people whose friends post autocorrects from cell phones on Facebook.)

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Another Kind of Editing

I got some advice today stating that I should worry about myself first.  Mostly it was intended to refer to my health and my exhaustion level (being a writer with a full-time [some fools would say “real”] job and a chronic health condition can be a challenge sometimes, especially since I haven’t been able to take my medications the way I should).  Strongly implied, though, was the opinion that I should worry about my own writing first, especially since I don’t get as much done as I would like even when feeling in top form.  (Oh, to be able to spend those nine hours a day with pen or word processing program in hand).

Why did I get this advice?  Because I received what I feel is a deep honor–being asked to help edit someone else’s work.  I was even offered payment, though I refused.  I am not a profesisonal and will, after all, only be offering my personal opinion except when it comes to concrete issues like typos or spelling (nowadays make that spellCHECK) mistakes.  Any other changes made will be carefully noted with whys, wherefores, and how the passage originally read as I certainly don’t expect all suggestions, if any, to be taken.

Some will ask why I accepted, with various reasons why I shouldn’t.  You could lose a friend, some will say.  (Actually, this WAS said, but to someone else in the same situation).  Possible, yes, I suppose, but I certainly plan nothing insulting, especially since I already know this particular friend IS a good writer, and I would never tell her she NEEDS to change anything.  And she has never struck me as one of those “every word is golden” writers who feels like it all flows fully-formed and perfect the first time she sets pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard).  And yes, I do know writers like that, who are deeply offended if anyone suggests their first draft is less than bestseller material, no matter how well-intentioned the critique or how good the suggestions are.  And I don’t think there’s any danger of either of us getting jealous thinking the other is a better writer because from what I’ve read of hers, our styles are COMPLETELY different, all they way down to basic plot.  She usually swings more to the dark side, and while I definitely dabble with that to some extent, mine tends far more to the . . . er . . . light-to-medium grey.  Everything else has a different flavor, too.  I think it will actually be a good way to challenge myself, to keep any changes I suggest in line with her style instead of mine.  Which is a nice lead-in to the next well-meaning advice.

Keep your writing time for your own work, others will tell me (and have, in a slightly different circumstance).  Well, in a way I am.  The first step in learning how to write is reading, after all, and editing someone else just might give me a fresh eye when it comes time to do the same to my own.  Practice makes perfect, after all.  Except when it comes to writing there’s no such thing as perfect.  It’s not like math, there’s no one answer to it.  I suppose you could be technically perfect, meaning you follow every grammar rule to the letter (ha, ha, ha), but that even sounds like something dry.  Come on, use your artistic license to spice it up!  Use an occasional sentence fragment for emphasis!  We all do it!  Well, at least all the writers I read are happily guilty.

So, do I feel dumb for accepting the responsibility of editing someone else?  Nope.  The only thing that I have issues with is that it will probably take me longer than I’d like–for her sake not mine.  I have gotten a start, not too far yet, and the only thing I feel is a little uneasiness and a sense that it’s something I don’t have a right to do.  Yet I’ve found in my own work that another set of eyes is incredibly helpful.  I’ve taken many suggested changes to heart, rejected many others, and improved my writing as a result.  I can only hope I can have the same effect for someone else.

Anyway, I should get back to work either way, on hers or mine.  Especially since I’m breaking all “rules” of blogging (or “common sense” of blogging more like) and typing directly into the post, sans editing or proofreading, so all the warts will show.  I know not everyone will agree with me about editing someone else in the midst of trying to self publish, find an agent for another one, and being in the middle of waiting for a rejection from a publisher on yet another.  Oh, and trying to get one polished to send to another small publisher.  But it feels like the right thing to do, so no one’s going to talk me out of it.

G’night, all.  Best wishes from a fellow hopefull writer.