Guest Post

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Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Editing out the gremlins

cj Sez: How many times have you edited your work, over and over again, only to find another mistake glaring at you from the pages of what you thought was your final edit? Today’s Lyrical Pens guest Judy Penz Sheluk posts her thoughts on the subject. She’s a bona fide, wage-earning editor, so be reassured that, yes, it happens to everybody. Read on:

Judy Says: In my day job, I’m the Senior Editor of New England Antiques Journal, so you’d think that I’d be able to find every single mistake in my own work. And the truth is, I do tend to write “clean,” at least when it comes to spelling, punctuation and grammar. I’m even okay with finding the spots where I’ve inexplicably changed my protagonist’s eyes from brown to green or the antagonist’s body type from slim to stout. But it’s what I like to call the “niggly” stuff that most authors, myself included, have the hardest time finding— not because we don’t want to, but because we’ve written multiple drafts, and read and reread our work so many times.

Here are some examples, found in my “final” draft of my new release, SKELETONS IN THE ATTIC (rest assured, these have been corrected!):

Misty Rivers, psychic to Callie Barnstable, protagonist: “I’ll leave you my card. Please call me if you find yourself needing any assistance, any assistance at all. And thank you for the tea and cookies.”
Editor: The tea was never poured. [Impressive catch]

Callie Barnstable to Royce Ashford, contractor/next-door neighbor/possible love interest: “I really like the way you knocked down that wall in your house.”
Editor: When was she in his house? [Answer: in a previous draft, but certainly not in this one]

Callie: I stopped my Garmin and closed my eyes, trying to remember standing there.
Editor: What’s a Garmin? [Answer: a GPS for running that shows pace/time/mileage etc. When you’re into a sport (I’m a runner), you assume everyone in the world knows the lingo. Bad assumption. I changed it to my GPS wristwatch.]

Does this mean that every single mistake is caught before publication? I wish I could say yes, but the reality is even after beta readers, professional editors, and proofreaders, the odd crazy thing happens. In Skeletons, there’s mention of a “t-shit.” Yes, somehow that slid past countless pairs of eyes and spell checks. It’s almost as if “t-shit” found its way in there on its own after everyone had done their job (something we in the industry like to call “gremlins.”) However, because of the cost and time involved, most publishers have a “rule” that there has to be a specific number (which can vary by publisher) of significant errors before the book is pulled and corrected.

Here’s an interesting blog by professional editor Arlene Prunkl that addresses this very subject:

Have you found errors in books before, and did they make you laugh, cry, care less or cringe?

What goes on behind closed doors doesn’t always stay there…

Calamity (Callie) Barnstable isn’t surprised to learn she’s the sole beneficiary of her late father’s estate, though she is shocked to discover she has inherited a house in the town of Marketville—a house she didn’t know existed. However, there are conditions attached to Callie’s inheritance: she must move to Marketville, live in the house, and solve her mother’s murder.

Callie’s not keen on dredging up a thirty-year-old mystery, but if she doesn’t do it, there’s a scheming psychic named Misty Rivers who is more than happy to expose the Barnstable family secrets. Determined to thwart Misty and fulfill her father’s wishes, Callie accepts the challenge. But is she ready to face the skeletons hidden in the attic?

   Leith Hampton placed the will in front of him, smoothing an invisible crease with a well-manicured hand, the nails showing evidence of a vigorous buffing. I wondered what kind of man went in for a mani-pedi—I was surmising on the pedi—and decided it was the kind of man who billed his services out for five hundred dollars an hour.
   He cleared his throat and stared at me with those intense blue eyes. “Are you sure you’re ready, Calamity? I know how close you were to your father.”
   I flinched at the Calamity. Folks called me Callie or they didn’t call me at all. Only my dad had been allowed to call me Calamity, and even then only when he was seriously annoyed with me, and never in public. It was a deal we’d made back in elementary school. Kids can be cruel enough without the added incentive of a name like Calamity.
As for being ready, I’d been ready for the past ninety-plus minutes. I’d been ready since I first got the call telling me my father had been involved in an unfortunate occupational accident. That’s how the detached voice on the other end of the phone had put it. An unfortunate occupational accident.
   I knew at some point I’d have to face the fact that my dad wasn’t coming back, that we’d never again argue over politics or share a laugh while watching an episode of The Big Bang Theory. Knew that one day I’d sit down and have a good long cry, but right now wasn’t the time, and this certainly wasn’t the place. I’d long ago learned to store my feelings into carefully constructed compartments. I leveled Leith with a dry-eyed stare and nodded.
   “I’m ready.”

Judy Penz Sheluk’s debut mystery novel, The Hanged Man’s Noose, was published in July 2015. Skeletons in the Attic, the first book in her Marketville Mystery Series, was published in August 2016.

Her short crime fiction appears in World Enough and Crime, The Whole She-Bang 2, Flash and Bang and Live Free or Tri. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, Crime Writers of Canada, International Thriller Writers and the Short Mystery Fiction Society.

Find Judy on her website/blog at, where she interviews other authors and blogs about the writing life.

Find Skeletons in the Attic:

cj Sez: Gremlins are a special curse for me. I’ve usually got the manuscript open on the computer and correcting things as the pages roll out of the printer. Great excerpt from Skeletons in the Attic; sounds like a marvelous read. Best wishes for great sales and marvelous reviews…and thanks so much for the post. And readers, tell us about the gremlins that haunt you.

Okay, you-all guys keep on keeping on, and I’ll try to do the same. I do want to pass along the good news that publisher Crimson Romance has included DEADLY STAR in their California Kisses bundle, slated to release on January 30. The bundle of TEN romance novels is priced at .99 cents and will remain on sale for a minimum of six months. Watch for it, and of course, I’ll be reminding you.

In the meantime . . . CHOOSING CARTER is part of a thoughtful and frugal holiday gift idea: More Than Friends”is a bundle of six novels offered by Crimson Romance on Amazon. For 99 cents, you can buy hours and hours of reading enjoyment for yourself, a BFF, or a grab-bag party gift. Check it out at…

Think of it . . . a purchase now, a purchase later, and you can own sixteen romance novels for about two bucks. Can we say, "Super bargain?"
Amazon Central Author Page:
Choosing Carter  -- Kindle  /  Nook  /  Kobo   /  iTunes/iBook
Deadly Star --  Kindle  / Nook  / Kobo


  1. Thanks for inviting me to share my gremlins! I'm always happy to answer any questions.

  2. I was appalled to notice in my book Timelost Lover, about a year after publication, an error I made and missed, my editor missed and the line editor missed. In a scene taking place in 1912, there is a reference to the eclectic light in the elevator.

    Not even sure what that would look like.

  3. Replies
    1. Thanks Kaye. Do you have a gremlin story to share?

    2. I do. A sharp-eyed copy editor noticed I had changed my protag's car in one scene. She didn't know that it belonged to a protag from another series! SMH! Glad she caught that.

      No one caught this and it never got corrected, but I requested to have an orange truck on the cover of my first Imogene book. I got it--it was a beautiful cover. THEN I realized that the orange truck is in the SECOND book, the one I was currently writing. I call this foreshadowing, way ahead.

    3. OMG, that is really funny! Thanks for sharing that.

  4. Hi, Judy! Lordy, I think I've turned in a decent manuscript only to get back something worthy of groaning at. But I plow through and whip the baby into shape, glad someone else has my back. Hugs!

    1. Vicki!
      The groans...yes...topic for another day. Sometimes I'm like...WOW, I wrote that. And other times, it's like, wow...I wrote that.

  5. Judy, thanks for sharing. I got a giggle out of this one. It's truly amazing how we can see our own mistakes. And lovely typo - at least it made us laugh.


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