Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Funny Side of Authoring

I figure it's time to lighten up....sometimes I forget to stop and laugh a little. I hope you enjoy the following:

Everyone Should Have a Cool Editor in Their Book Life

What would I have done without Catherine Noble in my book life? My first novel, Evil in the Mirror, needed an editor and proofer. Thanks to my friend and high school classmate Nancy Bradley, she led me to Catherine (Cat). Cat agreed to whip the novel into shape for a very fair sum of money. Of course, I had no idea what she had in mind, but let’s face it, when you have no clue, lose the ego! Dear Cat, I stand before you naked in my stupidity. I barely graduated high school, and the rest of my education is from the school of hard knocks—you can bet she was impressed with those credentials!

One of her first e-mail questions was if I had a Thesaurus. My response to her was simple, “No, I don’t own one. That’s why I hired an editor to make it all better. I thought a Thesaurus was a pre-historic dinosaur until you ruined it for me!” It was at that point that I think she might have been reconsidering her assignment, but since Cat is a schoolteacher, she took pity on me and continued with the challenge.

In the same e-mail, Cat stated that my book was at the seventh-grade level and would appeal to many adults. What a coincidence! I graduated from high school with a seventh- grade education and then joined the ranks of construction workers who were undereducated and overpaid. As soon as the construction industry recovers from this current recession, there will be plenty of people to buy my book! She also mentioned that I was not to take her criticism personally, because this was all business. My reply to that statement was also simple. “In no way do I take your critiqués personally. You are an angel sent from the big writer in the sky to make my dream and passion come true. Yesterday I couldn’t even spell author, and now I are one!”

By the way, part of my motivation is that someday I am going to be able to speak to high school students about the importance of an education, especially in today’s world. Public speaking has always been a passion too. That is how I managed to graduate from high school in the first place.

Cat also pointed out that her knees were bruised from crawling through all the clichés in my book, but that she would prevail. What the heck was that about? I thought clichés were the backbone of American literature. “Pick yourself up, Cat, dust yourself off, bandage your knees, and suck it up. Forward, Ms. Cat, and damn the clichés!” At which point, all the horrible clichés were promptly deleted from the novel.

Since Cat is an educator, her hours are far different than mine. I am up at two in the morning raring to get to work writing. OK, that may be an exaggeration. I get up in a sixty-seven-year-old’s style…something akin to doing the moonwalk first thing in the morning.

There was no doubt that Cat and I needed to communicate with more than just e-mails. Enter Skype; at which point Cat called it “new fangled technology and doubted she would use it.” Yeah, baby, now I feel vindicated. I may be only seventh-grade material, but at least I am a seventh-grade techno nerd! It was now that I realized maybe, just maybe, her critiqués were being taken a little too personally. Oh well, I haven’t made a mistake since “what time is it?” Ms. Cat discovered she could use Skype in her teaching duties, and that is a good thing. My next challenge is to get her interested in Twitter.

Cat was impressed with my sense of humor and stated flatly that I should write a humorous novel. “Right, Cat, how in the world can I do that after writing a gross murder mystery? No problemo, my next book will somehow be funny as aliens from outer space are eating babies, while their mothers are looking on in horror! So much for the Sci-Fi novel I had started a couple of weeks ago.”

The whole humor thing started with our first e-mail exchange. I addressed the correspondence “Howdy from Arizona” because I didn’t know if “Cat Noble” was a personal name or a business name and asked very politely if they could edit and proof my novel. I received a terse message back that Catherine Noble was her name and only her friends called her Cat. She then acquiesced just enough to state, because I was a personal friend of Nancy Bradley (a well-respected author in her own right), I could, by proxy, call her Cat.

So that’s the way you want it, Ms. Cat? Let the humor begin! I immediately responded with this, knowing she lives in California. “I just love your name. No woman could be so lucky as to have a name like yours! Are you a movie star or a famous singer? OK, enough of my humor, or lack of, depending on your point of view. Will you edit and proof my book?” Humor won the day, and the fact that she is getting paid does not negate the role humor played, right? Don’t answer that! OK, I will answer it. Here is her reply:

“Hello Mitt,

I will have to re-read your other message to get all of the juicy tidbits…I am on my way out the door, but here is the essential information:
Ms. Catherine Noble
000 Dollywood Ave.
Los Angeles, California
You apparently have my phone number, as you called and left a message on Thursday. Nevertheless, it is (333) 444-5555.
Will write later.
Thank you for the job (and, yes, the financial arrangements are acceptable)!


I still can’t figure out what the “juicy tidbits” were about, but it is obvious I have her hook, line and sinker, as long as she gets the check in the mail! Of course, I didn’t remember I had called and left her a message before I asked for her phone number via e-mail, thus proving the rumor that I was a moron!

Cat and I communicate at least twice a week now. She sends me questions like— “Were there handicap parking lanes in 1968 Tucson, Arizona? I don’t believe they were passed into law until the ‘80s.” I beg to differ, Ms. Cat. I remember parking in one and getting my butt chewed out by an irate man with crutches who wanted to beat my head to a pulp! Oh, I remember now, that was 1984, not 1968. With my memory, there is no doubt I was born old. Another question was: “Were large Dodge motors called a Hemi that long ago?” Got ya, Cat, and it feels so good! I wasn’t so lucky with—“You refer to the feeling of shooting another human being as “it sucks. That slang didn’t appear until the ‘80s.” “So what’s your point, Cat?” Darn smarty pants schoolmarm!

In reality, Cat’s changes are turning my diamond-in-the-rough murder mystery into a polished, sparkling gem. I see now that editing and proofing are the keys to success for any author. Success is not only measured by how many books you sell, but it is also measured by the fact that you finished writing them. I’ve started many books in my life, but only managed to complete this first novel recently. I still say, “Better late than never.” This cliché is for Cat, just to keep her on her toes.

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