The term  ‘orphaned’ book  usually applies to a book whose acquiring editor has moved on.

In my ‘What’s Your Angle’ blogpost below, I briefly mentioned how the acquiring editor has a vested interest in making sure your book does well. But the way editors hop around, sometimes they leave after your book has gone into production. When that happens, the new editor has almost a vested interest in making sure your book does NOT do well. So your book is basically ‘orphaned’.

But in this case, it’s the author who passed away before her book was published.

It was ten years ago that my friend Linda Smith, only forty years old and a mother of eight, passed away of breast cancer.

(I mention her as one of my mentors in this article:

I still miss talking to Linda.

I miss her mischievous sense of humour.

She was so generous with her help, with her time, with her unequivocal good advice and lack of envy.

She helped me with the opening poem in my book Muslim Child. When I expressed concern that people wouldn’t *get* it like they did my other books, she told me how she’d clutch it to her when she was sick from chemo and how much comfort it gave her. And she helped me with my book Ruler of the Courtyard.

I never got to meet Linda Smith in person. Only online, and we *met* through a mutual friend.

Linda Smith was so talented that when a friend of hers introduced her to her agent, he was able to sell eight books in a flash for her. Two of them were novels only partially completed.

I remember the night I called her and we talked long distance for two hours till about two in the morning. It was getting late, and frankly the call was expensive. She told me about her pet pot-belly pig named Porkchop that had grown to over six hundred pounds and had to be taken to a farm. She told me about her growing up,about spiritual things, about her family, and intimate stuff I can’t talk about.

And when I kept suggesting that I should let her go, she must be tired, she said, no, she was lying down and was fine.

When the call finally ended, I thought we’d talk again.

We never got the chance.

And now, so many years later, I wish we had talked longer. I wish I had not bothered to worry about the expense.

Something similar happened with one of my husband’s cousins who was dying of lupus. She would go on dialysis every week, and at the time, I wasn’t very busy so I’d go over and keep her company till her strength came back somewhat (dialysis can really leave people feeling depleted). 

We’d talk about spiritual things, and one afternoon I was in a bit of a hurry to get home because it was rush hour and I had tons of stuff to do. I thought I’d be back next week, we’d get to talk more then.

The next week plans changed, and my services weren’t required. We never had the chance to talk again in such depth, as we had that afternoon. She had asked me to be one of the ladies that would bathe her in the case of her death, but when the time came I was presenting at an IBBY Congress in South Africa and couldn’t be there.

I miss her too.

And the last time I saw my sister, when she was conscious, and looking healthy, she wanted to take me aside and tell me something but I was angry at her for some reason that was legitimate at the time, but seems silly now, and I didn’t talk to her.

The next time I’d see her was in a hospital bed after she had slipped into a coma.

We *talked* then. Or actually I talked.

Someone had told me that people in comas can still hear you. My mom was in the corner reciting Surah Yasin from the Quran, there was a man on the other side of the curtain divider, hacking and coughing. The hospital machines were beeping and nurses were walking back and forth in their sensible shoes.

My sister was lying there listening to all these sounds and I thought she must be bored out of her mind. And worst of all, the significance of my Mom reciting Surah Yasin would not be lost on her. (We recite it when people are dying)

So instead of reciting Quran or anything religious like that, I started storytelling. I told her that her daughter had got a job at an ice cream parlour and this guy had come in, tasted every flavour and then ordered vanilla.

A groan came out of my sister then. I thought she was in pain so I called the nurse and she assured me that her morphine medication had been topped up.

So I continued talking to her, especially about her kids, about how her son had knocked over the geranium plant on the porch when he’d been driving into her car-port.

Again she groaned. Again I panicked and the nurse reassured me.

I told her that I had ideas for that movie script she’d wanted to work with me on. I said when she got better, we’d get working on it.

My mom had stopped reading the Quran. She was still sitting in the corner, but now she was looking at me and smiling.

I kept blabbering on, even including a bit of gossip I thought she’d find interesting, and again and again my sister would groan, until finally I realized that she wasn’t in pain. She was laughing.

I yakked for about an hour until I really ran out of things to say. The nurse had to do some procedure anyway, so my Mom and me said our salams and left.

The next morning she opened her eyes for a moment. I was astonished. She was staring straight up at the ceiling, she didn’t have the facility to look at us, but she was definitely conscious. Her children were by her side and I told them they should tell their mother what was happening in their lives, that she’d like to hear that. Then I turned to my sister and said, “Wouldn’t you Bushra?”

We were all watching her, and we saw her nod, ever so slightly.

Unfortunately she slipped back into a coma.

A few days later she died.

I helped bathe her body for the burial.

She looked beautiful.

Like Linda Smith, my sister fell victim to breast cancer.

If I can offer any advice, don’t assume you’ll get a chance to finish a conversation. You never know when it’ll be your last chance to talk.

But I want to spread the word about Linda’s new book. She was such a talent!  Her new book is called The Inside Tree.

Please check it out!