Heaven for Book Lovers


Were you at the London Book Fair? Did I miss you? I travelled there on 14th April, and was struck, as I always am when on public transport, by the fact that almost everyone was staring at their phones and swiping or tapping away. Being the possessor of a mobile phone that cost a mere £20 and suits me just fine, I always wonder what on earth they find to look at. Not so many years ago, one would see just about everyone on the Tube reading a book, Kindle or newspaper (yes, I know that some people read books on their phones). So off I went, courtesy of the friendly people at Combined Book Exhibit, who are experts at book promotion: authors can read more about them here:


I was very pleased to meet up with the lovely Claribel Ortega, whose book I was privileged to proofread, The Skinwalker’s Apprentice.  I rarely get to meet my clients so I really couldn’t pass up the chance to meet one who lives in New York!


I must say that it was great to touch base again with my client, romance author Adrienne Vaughan (on the left here), whose new book Scandal of the Seahorse Hotel will be out soon, and I know that thousands of her fans are eagerly awaiting it. Read more here: Adrienne Vaughan.


Also pictured is a new friend and associate, Sarah Houldcroft, of Authors Uncovered; if you are an author looking for any kind of help with your book, then you really should speak to Sarah, as what she doesn’t know about every aspect of book production and promotion could be written on the back of a postage stamp. And finally I’d like to say a big hello to top selling author  Sue Moorcroft, whom I was also delighted to meet (she kindly took the photo above, which is why she’s not in it!)

It’s heaven to be surrounded by books of every kind imaginable, in fact I didn’t know where to turn first. I could have spent days and days just wandering around, to the extent that I realised at 2pm that I hadn’t eaten for 6 hours. So I got back on the Tube, and was surrounded once again by people tapping at their phones. I couldn’t help but think they would have enjoyed reading a book so much more.

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Proofreader Julia’s been to Iceland!

(For the benefit of my British readers, I don’t mean the frozen food store.)storeflag

Actually, I’ve been to the Embassy of Iceland in London, for a book launch for one of my clients; one of the perks of being a proofreader (aside from being able to work from home in your pyjamas, that is) is occasionally being invited to such events, and seeing first-hand the proud debut of a book you’ve helped to work on.  Such a thrill!

When you enter an embassy you are technically on that country’s soil. Never having been to an embassy before, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I did think I would at least see someone wearing a sash and decorations, whom I’d be expected to address as ‘Your Excellency’. No, just normal looking people in office clothes!

The event was the launch of the book Burning Karma by David Rafn Kristjansson. You can find the book on Amazon.com. here or on Amazon.co.uk: here. And here I am with David.


I so much enjoyed meeting the publishers, Wildpressed Books www.wildpressedbooks.com, the brain child of Philip and Tracey Scott-Townsend. If you want real professionals to handle your book, then look no further. Here I am reading the book, hoping not to spot any typos! Tracey (far right) and Philip (white trousers) are also in the photo.

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There are not many Icelandic people in the world, fewer than 400,000 in fact. Their language has changed very little over the centuries, so an Icelandic person who was to travel back in time 1,000 years would be able to understand what his countrymen were saying to him. I find it fascinating to think that behind every Icelandic person there is this mystical land of vikings, volcanoes and sagas. David told us that they have to study the sagas in school. Really made me want to go there.

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It’s a great treat for someone who works from home, to actually get out and meet one’s clients – you know all those people you talk to on Twitter and other social media? They’re real!

All the best with the book, David!

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20 Funniest Typos (updated!)

Every now and then, in my job as a proofreader, I come across a typo that makes me laugh out loud or elicits a ‘Whhhhaaaaaat?!’ – when the author accidentally writes something that ends up having a meaning they really did not intend.  I got the idea for this post while reviewing the work of my author sister, novelist Terry Tyler Terry Tyler’s Books, who said that when writing at speed and getting involved with the story, it’s so easy to type something that you simply can’t believe you did. (Which is another reason not to use that old false friend spellcheck, by the way, because these are mostly genuine words, just in the wrong place.)

I’ve been keeping a list (and I wish I’d started it earlier, I’ve seen some absolute lulus!) I thought I’d share them here for your amusement, and they are all strictly anonymous – I will not reveal my sources. But I and the authors concerned have shared a laugh over their mistakes, and it just proves something that I always maintain, i.e. that one cannot effectively proofread one’s own work.

  What they wrote What they meant What it looks like
1 On the lamb On the run Sitting on a young sheep
2 It’s a bad wrap I’ve been wrongfully accused I don’t like my lunch order
3 Vualá Voilà I don’t know basic French, and I didn’t bother to Google it
4 Dough-eyed Doe-eyed Eyes like pastry?
5 Martin atmosphere Martian atmosphere Hello, Mr Atmosphere
6 A small vile of liquid A small vial, or glass container, of liquid This liquid’s really nasty!
7 She practised her sign language skills with her two dead colleagues (They weren’t dead then, by the way!) Sounds like a bit of a waste of time.
8 The muscles in his neck were taught Taut What did they learn?
9 He was tempted to eat a second desert Gimme some of that ice cream You going to eat all that sand?
10 On the left was yellow, arid dessert Desert I’d rather have the strawberry cheesecake
11 Henry left the martial home Marital home Because it was a war zone, we assume.
12 She worked in a stationary shop She worked in a stationery shop It didn’t move around, then?
 13 I will stay away from you and your elk I don’t like you or your friends Keep that great brute away from me!
 14 Two policemen were peeing through the window. Peering (I hope!) Surely they could arrest each other for that?
 15 Doug came from Manchester, and spoke with a strong Manchurian accent. Mancunian Oh, he was Anglo-Chinese, was he?
 16 You know what they say, a room wasn’t built in a day! Rome Why not? (And they don’t!)
 17 You could melt butter with the heath between my thighs (from an erotic novel) Heat (although there are better ways to soften butter) Way too many weird mental images right now!
18  He’s regarded as a danger to the pubic. Public Watch out for those sensitive areas, lads.
 19 There were two centuries guarding a gate Sentries Okay, I give up!
20 My knees trebled in anticipation Trembled Ladies and gentlemen, put your hands together for Mr Six-Knees!

I am indebted to my friends Geoff West and Carol Hedges, who spotted nos. 14 and 15 in books they have read.



7 Things you don’t know about me

But after reading this, you will (if you are interested, of course). I’ve been asked by the charming Julie Haiselden (@juliehaiselden) to contribute to her Beautiful Bloggers thread https://jhbooksblog.wordpress.com/, so here’s my contribution – I have to list 7 things you don’t know about me.

  1. I was once woken up by an earthquake in Santiago, Chile. Went downstairs, got talking for hours to a chap who was also scared and didn’t want to go back to his hotel room. We exchanged business cards, and later on when I looked at his, turned out he was the Vice President of 20th Century Fox. I’m still waiting for my callback! 🙂
  2. About 30 years ago (oo-er, doesn’t time fly) I was a blackjack and roulette dealer working in the Ritz Casino in London. Here’s a photo of me and some of my fellow croupiers – get the 1980s big hair and Dynasty-type outfits, ha!Ritz
  3. I once told Steven Tyler of Aerosmith to get his hands off me. Yes, really!!!  He approached to hug me, backstage. Well, who needs to do the groupie fan thing?!  It made him laugh – I suppose it made a change.
  4. In my later years in London I spent my Sundays volunteering for a charity that delivered dinner to housebound Aids sufferers. I recommend doing something for others as a substitute for therapy – now, hear me out on this one! I started this when I was depressed, lonely and looking for something to do. At the end of the day I skipped down the street feeling much better. So, what I’m saying is, even if you do it for ‘selfish’ reasons, volunteer anyway, because the charity and recipients don’t care why you do it, the end result is the same, everyone benefits.
  5. I spent a year learning Norwegian. This was because I was working for the manager of A-ha, and I had to go around the world with them on promotion etc. As you probably know, pretty much all Norwegians speak good English, but I got fed up with not understanding what they were saying to each other! Aha 2
  6. I am eternally grateful that I was accepted into Durham University in the late 1970s. It was like being at university in the 1950s, all gowns and sherry parties with one’s moral tutor! Yes, we were each assigned a moral tutor, and mine was called Henry Tudor, much to my amusement. Not quite sure what they were supposed to tutor us about, though. To live in this beautiful city for 3 years was a great blessing.durham
  7. And for my 7th ‘thing’, I shall say (if Julie will forgive me!) that I will not be nominating 7 other bloggers because I am not a ‘real blogger’, since I put up posts so rarely; not being a creative type I’m hardly ever able to think of anything to write about, so I don’t think I should call myself a blogger when there are writers out there. I’m indebted to Julie for asking me to take part, and thank you for taking the time to read this; I hope it’s entertained you in some small way.

Lights! Camera! Action! My appearance on BBC1’s ‘Pointless’

Do you watch the quiz show, Pointless, weekdays on BBC 1 at 5.15 p.m? Ever wonder what goes on behind the scenes, and how you get to appear on it?

I love this show, and I’ve always thought I’d like to take part. Not that I’m a perennial TV quiz addict, far from it, but there’s something about this one that really hooks me. Also, I think Alexander Armstrong and Richard Osman are staggeringly brilliant and funny, and I really wanted to meet them!


So I downloaded the entry form, all 12 pages of it, and asked my oldest friend Christine if she would enter with me as a pair. Sent it off on a Tuesday, and got the call from Pointless two days later, asking us if we would go for an audition!

Off we went to our audition, along with 6 other pairs, to a conference room in a London hotel. There, we had to fill in another form and complete a general knowledge paper. Blimey, I thought, I’m not applying for the position of chairman of ICI, it’s just a TV quiz show. But apparently they are inundated with entries, and only take 1 in 30 of the pairs that apply. This was followed by a mini-game of Pointless with the production team, and then individual interviews on camera.

By the time we left, we were all fired up with enthusiasm and very keen to be chosen to be on the show. 2 weeks later we had the email – we’d been shortlisted! And a few weeks after that – yes, yes, the phone call, we’re going to be on the show, yippee!

And the rules and regulations! We had to take 5 different outfits so that Wardrobe could decide what looked best on screen, and were told to turn up with no make-up on at all, because that would be done by their make-up artists. Yikes! I said that Joan Collins does her own make-up, why couldn’t I, but apparently they won’t let you. Here are my before and after make-up shots.


We spent the first day hanging around in the green room, awaiting our turn, which depended on which pair got eliminated when. As it turned out, we wouldn’t be on until the next day, so we were packed off to spend the night at a nearby hotel. We were a strange mixture of excited, mentally exhausted, and scared stiff of making idiots of ourselves by freezing in front of the cameras the next day. Did we have an early night after a light dinner with no alcohol? Alas no, dear reader, we were drinking in the bar with a couple of other contestants (identical twins from Glasgow – well done for winning the jackpot, Brendan and Paddy!) but still managed to get ourselves to bed at a fairly sensible time.

The next day we were told we were on first, and then taken to have a look at the studio before the audience came in. Very exciting to stand on the podiums and see the score tower and the question board. They let us take a few photos, and here is the (regrettably blurry, but taken with a cheap camera phone in a hurry) one of me sitting at Richard’s desk!

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By this time we were just gagging to get on with it. Alexander and Richard came over and introduced themselves, and a more charming, well-mannered pair of blokes you could not wish to meet.

I must tell you, it’s all very well sitting on the sofa and shouting answers at the TV screen, but when you’re actually on the show, with the cameras, production crew and audience all around you, and knowing that this is going to be televised nationwide, it’s very hard not to get complete brain freeze! My mental processes went like this: ‘I can only think of one answer, at least I think it’s right, what will I do if someone says it before me, OMG, Alexander’s coming to me next, what if I say something stupid like Blackadder sticking a pencil up his nose and saying ‘Wibble’, I can’t remember anyone who ever starred in any film ever, what’s a film, what’s my name, I don’t like what I’m wearing, do I look like a rabbit caught in the headlights, I bet this make-up makes me look like a drag queen, whose stupid idea was this anyway?’

Anyway, we’re not allowed to say anything about the questions or the results on social media, but I can tell you that Christine and I were very pleased with our performance, we felt we acquitted ourselves well. Our episodes will be shown on Monday 25th and Tuesday 26th April, BBC 1 at 5.15 p.m. if you would like to see how we got on.  (The second episode is better if you don’t feel like sitting through both of them!)

Five Ways to Spot the Wrong Proofreader!

You’re an author, and you’ve finished editing your book. You now want to find someone to proofread it for you – smart move! If you’re submitting to an agent/publisher, you want to give your manuscript every possible advantage. If you’re self-publishing, the last thing you want is reviews saying ‘good story, but it could do with proper proofreading’.

But how to find the right proofreader? There are so many out there to choose from, and you don’t know which ones are the best. I get so angry when I see hard-working writers being conned (yes, conned) by many of the new companies that have appeared since the boom in self-publishing, who make grandiose claims about their clear-up rate. Some try to lure clients in with low prices, but using their services might be a false economy if you then have to get the job done again by someone who knows what they’re doing. So how can you make an educated choice?

Here are some suggestions, based on my own experience and those of my clients. Please be careful before you spend your hard-earned cash.

  1. Web sites that claim to use ‘custom-made software’, whatever that’s supposed to be. I recently worked on a book that had previously been ‘proofread’ by a company that used this system. I found over 70 typos in the first half hour. The company’s website states that ‘human-eye proofreading can miss errors and it’s slow’. I say – there is no substitute for a good proofreader who’s spent years at their craft, you can’t cut corners!
  2. Check credentials! Sure, lots of people can produce various testimonials, but you want to make sure that these are from real authors whom you can contact, who can tell you about their experience with your potential proofreader. Don’t trust credentials that don’t give proper contact details.
  3. Those who base their reputation upon having taken a course in proofreading – oh dear me. Sure, we can all learn something every day, and anyone will learn one or two things from these courses; however, unless you can already do the job, based on experience and education (neither of which can be rushed) the course will not make you any more qualified to proofread someone’s book than anyone else with a basic knowledge of spelling and grammar. Also, these courses are not recognised by the publishing industry.
  4. Friends and family – listen, absolutely no offence meant to your best mate/mother/cousin/friend’s daughter, really! It’s always a good idea to get another pair of eyes to look over your manuscript. But, and it’s a big but, these people don’t have the right approach to your work; even if they think they are impartial, they can’t be. They may subconsciously not wish to offend you by finding too many errors, for example. Also, you can’t really criticise them if they mess up. One of my clients told me that his wife, who worked as a proofreader, had already gone through his novella; I found over 300 errors. I would say, don’t rely entirely on someone you already know, although the service is free. (I’ll make an exception if they earn their living as a proofreader and are doing you a favour, in that case go right ahead!)
  5. Those who make cut-price rates their USP. The standard of service should always be the most important factor when you choose your proofreader. A good proofreader knows his/her worth, and is confident that it is worth paying for.

I was prompted to write this post by my experience in Point 1. A client had paid money to someone who claimed to be able to do the job, and then he had to pay for it to be done again. I don’t think that’s fair.

Why Proofreading is the New Rock ‘n’ Roll …

… or why a good proofreader is actually part of the creative process of your book.

I read in the Observer a wonderful interview with Mary Norris, who does what I do for a living, i.e. she’s a proofreader and copy editor; the difference being that she’s worked for the last 20 years at the New Yorker, which makes me greatly in awe of her. I revere the New Yorker more than almost any other publication, not only for its content, but also its covers, its history, and its famous building, the first sight of which a few years ago gave me goose bumps.

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Mary explains the value of copy editing and proofreading in an inspiring way that makes me want to share it with you, so I quote:

Some might wonder why we still need copy editors when we have spell-check. It does catch typos. But the reason that the spell-checker will never replace the copy editor is that it doesn’t recognise the context. The English language is full of words that are just waiting to be misspelled, and the world is full of sticklers, waiting to pounce. Ours is not a phonetic language, like Italian, Spanish and Modern Greek, where certain letters and combinations of letters can be relied on to produce consistent sounds. English has many silent letters. And its motley origins make it fiendishly difficult to untangle.

‘One of the things I like about my job is that it draws on the entire person: not just your knowledge of grammar and punctuation and usage and foreign languages and literature, but also your experience of travel, gardening, shipping, singing, plumbing, Catholicism, midwesternism, mozzarella, the A train, New Jersey. And in turn it feeds you more experience.’

I could not agree more.  Every time I begin working with a new client, I learn page by page what their personal idiosyncrasies are. As I do so, I learn what I can bring to the table, in terms of suggestions, alterations that improve rather than merely correct, and an understanding of the author’s unique style. You see, we proofreaders aren’t just sitting there waiting to pounce on the misplaced apostrophe; with our experience we are able to help your book be the best it can be, in ways we don’t even know until we’ve met you.

Here’s what some of my clients have said about my behind-the-scenes contribution to their work: My Testimonials

And to all proofreaders, copy editors, editors, authors, and lovers of the English language, I recommend this book:

Between You and Me, by Mary Norris