The Apothecary Diaries - Volume 10 - Chapter Aft

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Editor’s Notes

The Apothecary Diaries Diaries

Vol. 10

The Thousand Diversions of Sasha McGlynn

Hey everyone! How did you like volume 10? It felt like it had everything, didn’t it? Politics. Romance. Action. Intrigue.


Oh, but I forgot to introduce myself! I’m Sasha McGlynn, the editor for The Apothecary Diaries. I’ve had the pleasure of working with the translator, Kevin Steinbach, for over seven years now! In that time, we’ve forged ourselves into a fine-tuned machine: he turns Japanese text into English, and I give it the ol’ spit and shine! I’m the yin to his yang. The X to his Y. The...Gaoshun to his Jinshi? You get the idea.

Kevin did a great job last volume discussing the overall editing process, so I’d like to take some time to go a bit further into the details of what I do. Let you in on something you don’t see in the final product. So follow along, won’t you? And watch your step; there are rabbit holes everywhere...

As Kevin said last volume, once he’s finished translating a part of a novel, he passes the file to me. He’s already made notes that will help with my editing, and has flagged any passages that may need discussion.

When editing, there are multiple mini-tasks I’m handling as I go. These include checking for:

•    Spelling. Are all the words spelled correctly following our house dictionary, the J-Novel Club style guide, and the series glossary?

•    Grammar and punctuation. Are the words in the right order? Is there subject-verb agreement? Is the verb tense correct throughout?

•    Voice. Each character tends to speak a certain way and use (or not use) certain vocabulary. For example, when Nianzhen is telling the story about his past, Kevin wrote: People began to agree that it was as she said: we were the cause of this disaster, for having vitiated the ritual observance. I flagged vitiated and commented that Nianzhen, with his lowly background, was not likely to use this kind of word choice. We changed it to interrupted in the final version: People began to agree that it was as she said: we were the cause of this disaster, for having interrupted the ritual observance. 

Most of these tasks are fairly superficial; I’m making changes to sentences and paragraphs so the text follows specific rules and the reader isn’t taken out of the story by grammatical errors or out-of-character vocabulary choices. Checking spelling and grammar are the absolute minimum an editor does to get the job done; adjusting the voice of the text is a further step that allows the readers to immerse themselves more deeply into a story.

As I make my way through the manuscript doing the general edits I mentioned above, I occasionally come across one of my favorite parts of editing.


The Apothecary Diaries is based on the real world, and therefore follows real-world science and logic. When the story presents an idea I’m not confident in, I venture forth and research the topic to ensure that we’re using the right words to describe it, and that the information we’re providing in the translation is accurate. Natsu Hyuuga, the author, excels at adding flavor to the world of The Apothecary Diaries, so my research may be as easy as looking at beauty websites for makeup terminology or as in-depth as learning about treatments for complications during pregnancy. For me, putting the pieces together to understand the right language or approach is a bit like solving a mystery of my own—for a few minutes, I get to be in Maomao’s shoes! While what I discover may not make it directly onto the final page, learning more about what the author has written allows us to more easily describe it for English-language readers.

I’ve Fallen into a Rabbit Hole and I Can’t Get Out

Occasionally, though, when doing my research, I dig deep. Perhaps too deep. And sometimes, what I look into is nothing but a quick aside in the text that will ultimately have no impact on the story at large. These are the trips down rabbit holes. Looking up the meaning of a strange term may lead to learning a bit of weird trivia, which leads to another, which reminds me of that slightly related thing I was thinking about a few weeks ago. For example, one time I looked up pictures of Tang-dynasty kitchens and cooking utensils and ended up selecting color palettes for my walls before I forced myself back to the manuscript.

In honor of all those rabbit holes, I’d like to share some fun facts and search terms I’ve lost myself in while working on The Apothecary Diaries. Perhaps you’ll recognize where in the series I must have lost myself; others can only be explained by my twisted sense of curiosity. Regardless, they make for great stories, and who knows? Maybe we’ll be able to use what I learned in later volumes.


•    Datura stramonium, known as thornapple in The Apothecary Diaries, is also called the zombie cucumber.

•    Moving the left arm and the left leg at the same time (or the right arm and the right leg) is called ipsilateral movement.

•    Most calico cats are female, with only a small percentage being male. Calicos are viewed as lucky in multiple cultures, both Eastern and Western.

•    Autopsy and necropsy are terms used to describe cutting open a body to find the cause of death. Autopsy is the term for humans; necropsy is used for other animals. Dissection is the act of opening a body (human or otherwise) to study its anatomy.

•    Lice die at temperatures over 130 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Search Engine Rabbit Holes have included:

•    Paper pulp and papermaking

•    Alternatives to catnip

•    Cultures where women have face tattoos

•    Natural dye fixatives for plant fibers vs. protein-based fibers

•    Types of parasitic fungus

•    The Last of Us concept art

•    Symptoms of shock

•    How pH affects hydrangeas

•    Human-hair underwear

•    Crochet underwear patterns

•    Vocabulary for different kinds of feces

•    Types of poisonous seaweed

•    Glow-in-the-dark mushrooms

•    History of high heels

•    When did barbers first start also being surgeons?

•    Lazy ironing techniques

•    Chinese apothecary cabinets

•    Chinese apothecary cabinets for sale near me

•    Affordable Chinese apothecary cabinets for sale near me

•    DIY Chinese apothecary cabinet instructions

•    Dollhouse Chinese apothecary cabinets for sale near me

•    Letter-sealing techniques

•    Anatomy of wheat

•    Anatomy of sweet potatoes

•    Decaying process of severed limbs

•    How to prepare a grasshopper to eat

•    Grasshopper recipes

•    Photographs of grasshopper dissections

•    Bleeding in corpses in various stages of death

•    Signs of arsenic poisoning

•    The history of lace

•    The “proper” way to drink tea with milk

•    Fun science experiments for kids

•    Closets

•    Things babies shouldn’t eat

•    Tang-dynasty metalwork

•    Egg-laying behaviors of the duck

•    Foods that increase a woman’s chest size

•    Foods that prevent erections

I could keep going...but that might be a good place to stop for now. I hope this very incomplete tour has given you a peek at just how wide-ranging an editor’s job can really be. It’s part of what makes it such a satisfying profession. Until next time, have fun, read widely, and don’t be afraid of those rabbit holes! You never know where they might lead.

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