A few days before leaving for the ultimate New England road trip—eleven states plus the providence of Quebec—I received the copyedited version of Maid of Murder back from my publisher. My stomach dropped. How I was going to re-read the manuscript and approve the changes when I would be spending ten of the next fourteen days in a car? I did the only thing that I could do. I printed out the 246 page manuscript, hole punched it, and slapped it into a binder before hitting the road. I think it is important to note that the binder weighs more that my infant niece and my printer is still recovering from the experience.
Readers may not realize how many times an author reads his or her work before publication. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve read Maid, and I gave up counting the number of drafts four years ago. When I reached draft number twelve, I decided numbering the drafts was futile. The most important thing was that each draft, whatever its number, was better than the last.
I spent the majority of my time in New England in Vermont, the Green Mountain State. It’s a beautiful place, and the mountains are as green as advertised. I stayed at a resort on the top of a mountain not far from the Ben and Jerry’s Factory. (And before you ask—yes, I did take the ice cream making tour and have the T-shirt to prove it.) On top of the mountain, there was zero cell phone reception no matter what network you may be on. This was a good thing as there was less distraction from the important task at hand.
In the early morning, I would awake, sit in an old wooden rocker and read the manuscript, poring over every sentence one last time while eating a bowl of Fruit Loops. Even considering the Fruit Loops—brain food to be sure—the experience was very Waldenesque. However, the only thing Maid of Murder and Walden have in common is they were both written in English. And please be sure, that I don’t place myself up there next to Thoreau. Nevertheless, on that last day in Vermont, when I had finished re-reading the manuscript for the umpteenth time, I felt good about it. It is done, finished, this is what it will be. There are no more edits, no more drafts, no more chances to stop the presses. I may have even felt the same peace that Thoreau had felt in his own patch of the New England woods. I like to think that I had.