Stepping Into The 21st Century…

“Mother, it’s time for you to join the 21st century.” This is what my son has been saying for twelve or thirteen years. He said it again a day or two ago. I’ve heard him every time. Gee whizzly—I know it’s a new century. Didn’t I work on a Y2K project?

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The Witches That Fill My Home

I’m not sure when I started collecting witches. I remember going to a public ritual in 1988 or ’89 and seeing someone with a beautiful witch. “Where’d you buy her?” I asked. I went to the same store the very next day. Now I have (I think) 350 witches (not including me and not including the witch doll who rides in the back seat of my car with her own seatbelt). For a long time I thought I had about 200, but when I was interviewed a few years ago, I did a witch census.

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Musical Theater

Just about my favorite thing in the world is musical theater. I go to the theater as often as I can. There’s a lot of live theater in the L.A. Basin, from the Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum (where I’ve seen Shakespeare and Moliere), the Hollywood Bowl and the Pantages to little experimental theaters that do experimental productions to university theater to civic light opera and touring companies

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You know the cliché that working with pagans is like herding cats? Don’t you believe it. Cats are smart. They learn things fast. Herding them merely requires patience and rewards (usually food). Well…yes, this is true of pagans, too. Lots of patience. And the free food.

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Gooder English

What are you writing? I can help you write “gooder English.” That’s the phrase I stole from the Spanish-American performer Charo for engineers who were writing user-hostile computer manuals. I’d just pat the guys on the knee and say, “I can help you make that make sense. Let’s go for gooder English.” The “gooder” makes my authors laugh.

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Why Writers Need Editors

In his comedy, The Clouds, Aristophanes sends a young Athenian man to school at the Thinkery, which is run by Socrates. I wouldn’t even begin to compare myself to Socrates, but I have a pretty good idea what it’s like to live in a Thinkery. I live a wonderful life working and playing with words. I’m blessed to have edited more than 300 books, which—counting the people who have come back to me with their second or third or fourth project—means I’ve helped maybe a couple hundred people make their dreams of holding in their own hands a published book they wrote come true.

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Write A Better Book

What I Can Do to Help You Write a Better Book?

Basically, here’s what you get when you hire me. You send me your book, either all at once or chapter by chapter, and I use MS Word’s Track Changes tool to make corrections in grammar, spelling, punctuation, syntax, and English usage. And I write to you right on the page (not in those annoying comments balloons) and in boldface so you can easily see my comments and questions.

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What Can I Edit?

I’ve worked on both fiction and nonfiction.

I’ve edited more novels than I can remember—romance, action-adventure, science fiction, western, amateur detective/mystery, historical, speculative, horror, young adult…and novels I can only speculate that the author wrote for therapy or wish-fulfillment. (Nothing wrong with that!) I must confess that they’re not all good novels—in one horror novel, a man becomes an ingredient in a kitchen-sized kettle of soup—but I support every author’s right to write his or her book. My job is to help my novelists write the books they want to write.

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The Chicago Manual and The Elements of Style

My primary source for usage, formatting, and other editing issues is the Chicago Manual of Style. I also use William Strunk & E.B. White’s Elements of Style and recommend it to nearly everyone I work with. If you don’t have The Elements of Style, buy your copy now.

Why? Because so many people love participial phrases. But they write things like “Entering the room, the light followed her across the floor.” If you do this, I’ll write you a note: As written, the light entered the room.

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Some Straight Talk About Publishers

Now let me turn to an issue you may not get the straight facts about. I’m speaking from my own experience and from what many of my authors have told me.

The first thing you need to know is that what publishers care about is making money. Great literature is of no interest to them. It used to be, back in the olden days, but now that traditional publishers are mostly gigantic business conglomerates, they couldn’t care less about good writing.

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