Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Dogs, cats, and exclamation points

A Scottish Deerhound took Best in Show at the Westminster Dog Show this week, and I was thrilled. These huge gentle dogs  are beautiful in their own way, and this one had a marvelous gait. She reminded me so much of the Irish Wolfhound that we once had that I nearly cried. The breeds are similar in size, though the Deerhound has a more pointed nose and the Wolfhound, a more square one. They are absolute pains as puppies, destroying everything in sight, but they grow into delightful loyal and affectionate dogs. I once tripped over ours--Claudine was her improbable name--and couldn't walk for a week. Claudine, a champion bred to a champion, gave us one litter of puppies, and I vividly remember the "limp" puppy in the litter. I wore him in a pocket on my chest, much as mothers wear their babies today, but every time I put him down for her to nurse, Claudine would hide him beneath a sofa cushion or some other out of the way place. She knew what I didn't want to accept--he wasn't meant to make it. And he didn't. I have a lot of dog tragedies in my history but also some very good memories.
My current dog, Scooby, is calming down a bit now that he's eleven-and-a-half. Five-year-old Morgan went happily out to play with him last weekend--she's grown up with a big dog and wasn't one bit intimidated. Jacob, however, is leery of dogs--I think he needs one. He talks about loving Scooby but offered a chance to pet him, he pulls away--makes Scooby nervous, understandably.
On the other hand, my almost-nineteen-year-old cat is more and more like having an infant in the house. He wants to be fed frequently, on demand. Mostly when I'm home in the daytime I can stand it, but he sometimes gets right in my face on my desk, and that's a bit disconcerting. But the other night I was up at two and four-thirty to feed him--now something's not right about that. I put in my time with night feedings a long time ago! Wywy can, however, be very insistent--he works his paws on my legs so that it feels like I'm getting a message. Might be okay if I weren't sleeping soundly. I'm not sure how to handle this problem. A couple of weeks ago I decided it was easier to feed him and go back  to bed than to try to ignore him. But I'm afraid I set a bad precedent.
Turquoise Morning Press sent me a style guide, and I started making my manuscript conform tonight. As a longtime editor, I know you should rarely if ever use exclamation points--I have taken thousands of them out of other people's manuscripts. So I was astounded at how many I found, most of which could easily be replaced by a period or a comma. I left a few--the older Greek man who keeps exclaiming, "Mother of God!" Now that deserves an exclamation point. I may also have missed a few. Next on my list are checking for parenthetical expressions and passive voice. Then a complete read through, checking overuse of italics, ellipses, numbers.Oh, my. I think I know this book by heart! (exclamation point deliberate).

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