THOSE TROUBLESOME TYPOS...

 by (a somewhat embarrassed)  Me... Helen Hollick

"I'd rather readers and reviewers laughed with me - not at me!"


Back in the distant days when novels were written with pen and ink on paper, or laboriously tapped out on a typewriter, typos were a rarity in the published book, for the simple reason the print-face had to be set by hand – and usually a skilled hand. The person checking the ‘proof’ was equally as skilled. Add to that, their (sic) were no spellcheckers to accept their instead of there.

Inevitably, typos appear despite rigorous proof reading by editors and authors. What is annoying, for an author, is when he or she has diligently done his/her best to proof read for errors but there in the published version instead of being full of pride, said author is awash with disappointment because the book is littered with errors. I say disappointment, in fact the feelings range from acute embarrassment to outright rage. I know. I'm feeling it at the moment.

Indie and self-published authors have, for years, been mocked, abused, denigrated (choose a derisive word out of a substantial list) because (as those sneerers have oft said) the quality of writing and production is poor and editing is non-existent. Those of us who are respected indie authors (and in my case reviewers – I recently founded Discovering Diamonds, a review blog for historical fiction) have worked darn hard to prove these accusations wrong. 

We produce good books, we review good books. We expect and intend to publish  professional quality good novels. But we are only human. We are not machines. When I am writing it is the content, the plot, the scene, the character that I am focused on, not the right direction of an apostrophe or of/off - or whatever. I try my best to correct the errors. My team of beta readers try their best. My editors... well, you get the picture. But I hate to admit this, well sorry folks, I am not perfect!


I do take care with my novels. My original indie editions, published by a company which went bankrupt (the managing director turned out to be a con man) were a mess. The correct way to publish an indie book was, I can tell you, a very sharp learning curve! Things still don't always go right though.

I’m not saying there are no typos in – let’s say, Sea Witch, the first of my nautical adventure series, there are a few (possibly more than a few). Reading it through on the Kindle recently I spotted a couple of howlers:  james not James, and Jaw not jaw in the middle of a sentence, as example. (How on earth did they get missed?) But, sorry, I am not spending money on re-editing and reprinting. I can't re-edit myself, and it costs a lot to hire editors, money which has been set aside for the next book, not for one that has already sold several thousand copies and been in print for about nine years. The errors are there, they are now as much a part of the story as is my Jesamiah. I'm not proud of the errors, but, well they're there and there they'll have to stay. 


Having said that, the advantage for the indie writer using POD (Print on Demand – i.e printed when an order is placed, as opposed to many being printed in one go) is that it is possible to do a re-edit and reprint if desired. Errors, for us indies are our responsibility, and we really do try to ensure the end result is 'spotless', but as I have shown, not always  achieved. Some readers tut and moan and complain about typos, most realise they are not intentional errors or don't even see them because they are engrossed in the story. 

I've just discovered that the Kindle version of Pirate Code, for some reason has chunks of text in italics - the error isn't in the book, so I assume its down to technology. 

And then there are mainstream/traditional books. You would expect a professional publishing house to produce quality edited and published books wouldn’t you? Hence this article, my red face, disappointment and annoyance. The last two shrugged aside with  difficulty.

Book. Good.
Face. Red
My latest book Pirates:Truth & Tales, is not an indie book but was commissioned by a publisher, paid for by them, and in-house edited. It is littered with errors. All, so I have been informed by a 'reviewer', 249 of them. They begin on the copyright page, increase a few pages later and go downhill from there.

- in the Timeline 1685 comes before 1684.
- spelling mistakes: hansome, yeilded, acolade…
- verbs don’t agree with their subjects in terms of singular and plural: ‘the ship were in northern waters’, ‘The delight of this adventure story are…’
- ‘off’ and ‘of’ are confused
- apostrophes are misplaced and incorrectly reversed.
- sometimes there is no spacing between words: ‘July1726’
- the author twice misquotes the title of the book as ‘Pirates: Truth and Tale’

I have made light of this public exposure of my embarrassment on Amazon because, well, there is absolutely nothing I can do about it - the exposure or the errors - so no point in ranting and raving. And, I guess, out of 110,000 words the typos could be worse… (Can anyone do the math? What % of 110k is 249?)


I am NOT making excuses, and I am not whining or whinging  (well OK I am, but read on…) I made it VERY clear to the publisher that I have an acute degenerative eyesight problem. Believe me, trying to correct nit-pick errors on a printed page with distorted, misted vision is no picnic! Over and again I asked for assurance that the text would be edited, checked and double-checked. Over and again I was assured that it would.
Maybe I am the fool to have trusted the assurances?

Some of the typos are because of my sight (I can’t see that those ‘r’s and ‘s’s have crept in, and ‘. ,” and double letters ii or ll are hard for me to spot.) I rely on a good editor, although I hold my hand up to a couple of senior-moment bloopers: ‘Sloan’ should be ‘Sloane’, ‘Jeffries’ should be ‘Jeffreys’ and what on earth made me put ‘Marie’ Celeste not ‘Mary’ Celeste? Old age is creeping up, obviously. And my favourite treat is rum and raisin ice cream … the printed blooper is ‘as a desert’. *Laugh*. Well I blame that one on the rum!

Small publishers usually do not send out a final version for a last check. I only saw a pre-proofed PDF typeset version, I only got to see the final version once it was printed and published. So not my fault. I didn’t get to see it before publication.
That is not much comfort, mind you.

What do I do? What can I do? 



Not a lot.

I have contacted the publishers who have apologised, although that isn’t a great deal of help to me – the book is out there, for sale, dotted with highly embarrassing errors.

Production seems to have gone awry because the editor looking after my book left shortly before the final stage. Errors such as ‘the ship were in northern waters’ and ‘The delight of this adventure story are…’ were introduced because of this editor’s editing. My original sentences were cut, and the remaining words not double-checked for continuing to make sense. So not all of these are my fault - even if they were they should have been corrected by the publisher's copy editor and the proof reader. According to my notes the ones I picked up from the PDF file were corrected.

The publisher’s representative has said:
I’ve put a note on the file so that before it goes to reprint or paperback the book must be proofread before being released again. In the rare instances where I’ve seen a book with no proof corrections, we tend to find that the corrections are made but then the version that gets uploaded basically just isn’t that corrected version. We have all kinds of checks to make sure the right version goes up – which is where I figure the staff turnover might come in… so it looks like this was some unfortunate combination of errors our end.”

He goes on to say: “[in such instances] Options are recall, pulp and re-release (prohibitively expensive for small publishers in these straitened times) or wait until reprint. And if you print a lot [usually 1000 or so] because you think the book will do well, you can inadvertently let down the author because it means more copies to sell before reprinting.”

And:
 “Sorry again about this – one of the worst things in publishing is how the good things in a book are rather invisible and the errors are glaring, so to have situations like this where you have a bunch of errors makes me very sad, and you have every right to be annoyed. “

So it’s good that the publisher thought the book would do well and have done an initial large print-run – but that means a lot of books with a lot of errors in them. Luckily, judging from Amazon I have some lovely reviews (and I will be delighted to get some more – even if they do mention the (not my fault) typos…) 

So it looks like an incorrect file was uploaded for printing, but the damage is done, not helped by one review on Amazon.co.uk by a company called 'Proof Professor' savaging the book for what is blatantly a promotion for business gain. I don’t mind the mention of these errors – they are there, they are an uncomfortable and highly embarrassing fact, but this particular person from this company makes a regular habit of dissing various authors in exactly the same manner and style. These authors receive spam emails or messages offering a proofing service. When the spam is ignored – surprise, surprise, a bad review appears. A couple of weeks after I ignored him… guess what appeared? Yep. A ‘review’ highlighting the missed errors in 'Pirates'. Errors which I already knew were there, I didn't need his 'kind' offer of telling me about them!

But don't take my word for the nastiness of this person! ALLi (Alliance of Independent Authors) has issued this warning click here :"The threat implicit in these reviews felt clear to their victims: pay me to fix your editing, or I will hurt your reputation. The actions we observed in the course of our investigation and the overall pattern of Proof Professor’s reviews seem to confirm this interpretation."
"While it’s evident that some of the books in question did have errors, that’s irrelevant to the manner in which Proof Professor solicited business. Harassment has no place in the business model of a reputable service, especially when it escalates to invading someone’s home and personal life."

And another puzzle: why did Proof Prof pick on this particular book of mine? He had to buy it, I don’t give freebies. Why didn’t he ‘review’ the cheaper (much cheaper) Sea Witch, or Harold the King, or any one of my (much cheaper) books?

I wonder… could it be because there are not so many typos in these books, so he couldn’t pick on me, make his harassing hurtful and potentially damaging trollish spammy unpleasant comments about them? (And promote his business into the bargain?)
 Just a thought…


Fortunately for Pirates Truth & Tales, the publisher’s bad job of production hasn’t stood in the way of my entertaining writing. The queen of pirate book reviews, the highly professional Cindy Vallar gave it a very fair 5 star review – AND she mentioned the typos, but realised them for what they are: “There are enough misspelled words – not including the differences in spelling between British and American English – and missing words that readers will notice. But there is far more to recommend this book than these minor problems.”

But I now have a dilemma. Do I shrug, smile and take it on the chin, making light of this almighty cock-up, or do I sit here and wring my hands, not mention the book ever again? Like heck I won’t! I enjoyed writing it – and all I can suggest is, buy a copy and laugh at the silly typos. Maybe I should run a competition for ‘spot the bloopers’?

Oh, and yes the title was muddled. Again, not my fault! The publisher didn’t decide on a final sub-title until  the book was ready to go to print. In fact, on Amazon, Goodreads etc, it initially appeared as a completely different sub-title! I only knew the final version myself when the book was delivered to me.

One huge comfort about all this, I am not alone. The big publishers have been slammed for messing up with errors: Penguin, Harper Collins, Bloomsbury, Simon and Schuster... so have the big authors. Fleming's first edition of Moonraker is worth a bomb because of a typo. So is a certain first edition Harry Potter novel. Maybe one day I'll become a really famous author and the books with errors in will become collector's items!

The most famous blooper was in the 1631 edition of a Bible when the word 'not' was missed out from that commandment about committing adultery...  One of Henry Miller's novels is littered with typos (had I better check... is that Miller or Millar?) Twilight has typos, and so does one of the Game Of Thrones novels. Well, frankly if the Starks, Lannisters and Daenerys Targaryen can live with bloopers, then so can I! (Or rather, if the people who made the bloopers manage to stay alive, despite the revenge of the Starks, Lannisters and Daenerys Targaryen... )

I’m wondering, though, perhaps my pirate book was perfectly OK when it went off to be printed, but I do say some not very nice things about some famous pirates such as Charles Vane, Blackbeard and Edward Lowe… 

Hmmm. I wonder if their ghosts sabotaged the file?

"Errors?  I don't care... as long as you mention me...!"

Please do feel free to leave a comment below 
(preferably supportive and encouraging *laugh*)

and if you feel brave enough to read my books I have no objection to an Amazon review mentioning the typos, but maybe mention the entertaining read, the story, the characters etc., as well?


All errors is my own and are probablee delibrate. (sic)

39 comments:

  1. This is a helpful article for anyone involved in writing and publishing. We all aim to write and publish books with as few errors in as possible...but sometimes mistakes slip through, even with hard work and meticulous care. At other times, the business arrangements are such that it simply isn't possible to have total control over the process, and the regrettable result is more than a few errors. What's reassuring here, Helen, is the cooperative approach taken by your publisher. They clearly wanted to work with you to make the situation better for the next print run. That's what is admirable about most of the writing, editing and publishing community: the generosity of support and encouragement, and the willingness to work together to improve quality.

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    1. Thanks Helen - the situation I'm in with Pirates (which I absolutely loved writing and was so excited about) does make me value my other 'indie' side, where I am in control - errors an' all. It is the spiteful nature of this particular 'reviewer' that is upsetting for me and the authors he has targeted. Yes the typos are there, yes the errors (hugely embarrassing) are there , and no I am not whining but it, but blatant sniping and being cruel is not helpful to anyone. I'm being as honest and open about the mix-up with the files and the subsequent errors, but I'd far rather readers laughed WITH me not AT me!

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  2. Sliver my tinders, Helen, how I can simperthize. Warm tanks for you ammuzing plog and your "Pirates: tuth and Nail". Sorry -- that should be "Prates: Truth and Wail" of course...

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    1. Blimey Peter (or am I talking to Jenno?) you've hit the nail on the 'ead - maybe the Prate an' all! *laugh*

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  3. What publication is error free? Yes, as an author I am annoyed by the typos; but what matters is - was the story a good one, well written, engaging? If you focus on the odd typo and forget the plot - well then truly, you HAVE LOST THE PLOT!

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    1. Unfortunately in my case it isn't the odd typo - a pre-edited file has been printed BUT I would like to think that the book is still highly enjoyable, even if pirates did sabotage it! *laugh*

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  4. I suspect 'speed' might be a factor: speed to meet deadlines, speed to get the book printed, speed to run a spell check - which is quick but not the be all and end all. There, Their, They're, Helen, all will come out in The Wash (if Jesemiah ever sails to East Angular. Meanwhile, do keep on writing - content is what draws a reader....

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    1. Thanks Richard - you are completely right - the turn-around for pirates was very (too) quick, but again as this was mainstream I had no control over the process. Another lseeon for indie authors - take your time!

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  5. Nobody is perfect and the major problem with editing a novel is, that one starts to read it and the moment one starts reading it, one is no more looking for typos and other mistakes. The next thing is, no editor will find 100% of the mistakes and errors, the normal outcome is that 10% of typos etc will celebrate survival.
    The question here is, how many errors and typos had been in the manuscript and how many made it into the final book? The answer to that will also answer whether the editor did a good job or did not.
    And with a total amount of 0,25% of misspelled words (and grammar errors) the editor obviously did a fantastic job. 99,75% of the words and grammar is right.
    Don't feel ashamed of 0,25% but be happy about the 99,75%.

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    1. You've cheered me up enormously Krishan! 99.75% correct text is not as good as 100% or even 99.95% but it's still a huge proportion of correct text!

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    2. Sure, 99,75% is not 100% but...
      ...there is no book available on the market that is 100% free of errors, mistakes and typos. So something with 99% is already at the top100 of perfect books list, maybe you missed the Top10, but I don't think so, at least with the new published books you might be at that highest spot with your 99,75% (For German books I can tell you, that already 99% would be the top, they are full of typos and errors these days - and I mean the traditional published books from the best publishing houses.)

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  6. I have just read the Watchdog Advisory report from ALLi and couldn't agree more. Clearly they have looked at the whole thing very thoroughly indeed and go well beyond the (founded) accusation of 'trolling'. Let us hope it has the desired effect....but I won't hold my breath!

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  7. Helen, I can imagine you're feeling pretty awful inside your head right now! Don't - you're an amazingly helpful person, and excellent writer. I too read the Watch Dog report by ALLI - so pleased it's out in the open! I've shared it many times on Twitter, and it's been reshared many times. I found this pain-in-the-butt Proffessor now follows my Wordpress website! "Better not mess with this Scorpio" - He obviously went out of his way to find my site! Seriously, he's been shown up for what he is. Thank goodness! He needed to be highlighted - and by golly he has... Helen, head up my girl - hold it high. You write amazing books. Be proud of what you do. Knowing your eyesight isn't great, I marvel at what you do. I think you're amazing. Smile... the Professor has been named and shamed. Great. There's a word I only use on special occasions at times like these...B and ends with s. Onward and upward, Helen me dear. Fabulous Blog.

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    1. Thanks Caz - I do want to make it quite clear that I am not annoyed at the typos being highlighted (embarrassed yes, but not annoyed!) but it's the method this 'Professor' uses that is at issue. Targeting authors/publishers who ignore his spam emails and then resorting to troll tactics when we challenge his underhand methods is unacceptable.

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    2. Professor (snot) is a stalker!! And he's been 'Shown Up' BIG time - and on Twitter. Rejoice! If I didn't have a kidney infection, I'd have a very large G & T - Yes, I think He is snot! Skin like a crocodile, thick!! He should now disappear from social media in shame! B......s The word will travel far and wide, a huge well done to ALLI for making it/him public!

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  8. I'm so glad that ALLi outed this horrid so-called proofreader for harrassing authors! You are an amazing person and talented writer - you have nothing to be embarrassed about in my humble opinion. While I hate that Amazon deleted my review of the book, what I'd said was that the book was full of informative and entertaining information and that obviously the publisher had failed to properly proof the book before publishing. And that was what happened. You suffer from a debilitating eye condition so you always amaze me with your accomplishments despite your handicap. I hope the book sells like gang busters if only to prove that the typos really aren't hindering the content at all. Keep your chin up and keep writing!!

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  9. Gutting for you, Helen, particularly as this book was published professionally. In fact, when I read the book, I didn't notice much amiss. There may have been one or two I picked up (I don't remember those) but your writing is so entertaining, it makes it easy to miss typos etc altogether. And surely, it's the entertainment people are after. I have read traditionally published books by big names which still have the odd error in them. And one of my favourite authors ebooks ha serror stha trun like that all the way through. She is published traditionally and presumably is not responsible for the way they are converted, but these were so bad, I even started to count them. I gave up after the first hundred.
    Anyway, whether or not your books contain errors, you are still one of the most entertaining authors out there. I'm actually reading The Hollow Crown again for the third or fourth time and still enjoying your beautiful writing. But, it is sad when people resprt to these type of tactics to promote their businesses. Surely Amazon will pick up on this eventually.
    A few typos don't ruin an excellent book, so chin up. We've got your back. I'd rather read a fantastic book with a few errors than a perfect one which doesn't grab me. There's a huge difference between the odd slip and a book full of them, too. Hold your head up high, Missus, your fans all think you are a fab writer. One of the queens of the genre. I speaks as I finds.

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    1. There's a few typos in Crown too... but that is also mainstream! William Heinemann!

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    2. Well, I'm too busy enjoying it to notice. That's my measure of a good book. ������

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  10. "For you know this first, that in the last days there will come ridiculers with their ridicule, proceeding according to their own desires . . ." 2 Peter 3:3.

    That truth applies to far more than just God's word. Ridiculing others is exactly what some perverse persons live for. Want to have fun with them? Critique their work, then sit back and watch them go out of their minds. LOL

    Persons who "live" for this sort of thing are never able to take what they themselves dish out. This "Proof Professor" fits that description perfectly. I shall not bother perusing his critiques, as my own opinion is that such persons are to be devoutly ignored.

    Keep on writing, Mrs. Hollick. The naysayers have no hold upon your readers.

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    1. thank you - there are errors, that I am not disputing - but the 'pointing out of errors' needs to be balanced by the overall enjoyability!

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    2. No one is perfect and expecting it of ourselves is just foolhardy. The story telling is all that should matter.

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  11. It was clear from his comment that the only person the Proof Professor was pleasing was himself. (Nasty schoolboy glee comes to mind.) In no way was his post meant to be helpful, only meanly destructive.
    Frankly, who would employ such a man to edit their book? It would be demeaning to put one's work in his hands. His post says all you need to know about him: Ego Rampant, slashing with a red blade. How silly and unnecessary.
    We'd all far rather read your words, Helen, however imperfect the publisher has made them (and really, how hard could it have been to make sure they had the right copy to print?).
    Write on secure in the knowledge that your readers will never be dissuaded by a typo, or by a man shouting, 'There's a typo!' as though it were a hanging offence. Lorraine Swoboda

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    1. I am not so upset for myself - frankly this guy can do me little damage as I am somewhat 'entrenched' with my wonderful readers and friends world wide (I've been writing for over twenty years - LOL one day I might even get a perfctly produced book!) but he uses the same tactics for new and novice authors. Deliberately trashing in public on Amazon and Goodreads authors who have proudly produced their first book is unacceptable. Doing so is unhelpful and spiteful.

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  12. Darlin', there's not a single book you've written - not a single WORD - that doesn't rise (far!) above any error in proof, no matter the reason. And, for the record, I proofed Sea Witch (lo, those many years ago) and found darned little to edit!! ;-)
    OX Jansy

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    1. LOL there are errors, but I would hope the reader Voyaging with Jesamiah is so engrossed in the adventure that they don't notice the slips.
      Hope you liked the pic of that Sparrer' feller up above!

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  13. One last comment, this nutty professor has really lost it. His Cover photo, piece of 'art' (not) on twitter shows everyone just how insane he really is - I'm also hopeful that #Alli have sent the report to Amazon. They really need to see it in black and white. He needs banning from Amazon and Twitter. Have to say, the Watch Dog report is certainly being shared...won't be doing his business any good at all. Delighted! Keep sharing... I'm sure it's playing with his mind right now. B------s ~ Won't be long before he goes out of business. Prof Snot -

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    1. some of his emails to me have been most weird #non-understanable

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  14. Wow! I'm amazed. And disappointed. These things should not happen. Perhaps if your publisher changed the policy and let the author see the cover and the final copy before printing 1000 copies, both your and his/her interests would be well served.
    Gosh, I hope I haven't left any errors in this comment!
    Thanks for your awesome sense of humour in all of this, Helen!

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    1. I think the problem comes with the need to get books published quickly, and because machines are used and not the human eye/brain.

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  15. Have had it confirmed from Alli that they have brought it to the attention of Amazon. Thank goodness.
    Hope you're feeling easier on, or is it, in? the head about all this, Helen? You've lots of support from around the world.

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    1. Amazon has had this reported many times, alas.

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    2. It's my understanding that this kind of bullying etc., is breaking the Law. Makes it a police matter. My understanding

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  16. Please see our reply here:
    http://www.proofprofessor.com/#/alli-reply/4593848999

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  17. I have just watched the episode of Escape to the Country featuring you and your family. You were so warm and charming it piqued my curiosity, so I googled your name and read your blog - I haven't yet read any of your books, but will do so. I'm a fairly pedantic myself; I was a secretary for over 40 years and understand how easy it is to miss errors occasionally, only to see them glaringly obvious a little too late to do anything about them. I wish you and your family well for your life in the country.

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    1. Hello Aussie Mum! Thank you! We bought the first house we were shown and love living here in Devon (even if it is pouring with rain at the moment!) I sort-of keep a diary, although I'm a bit lax with keeping it up to date, but you might be interested in a quick browse. Click here: Leaning On Th Gate (hope the link works)

      I'm trying to shrug off the errors, as someone else said above, the vast % of the book does not have typos, and, well, there is nothing I can do about it!

      If you would like to subscribe to my newsletter I'm running a giveaway competition at the moment to win one of my books (no obligation to join up of course!)
      Subscribe to my newsletter

      It's wonderful that EttC is still being shown, my daughter Kathy and I had a fabulous few days filming with the crew, and well, we all ended up living in the next best place to paradise!

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Helen