By Louise Ure
The trade paperback edition of LIARS ANONYMOUS comes out in just two weeks, and with a brand new cover.
Isn’t that gorgeous? Equally eerie as the hard cover design but perhaps more ominous. As it should be.
In preparing for that launch, I was going back through some of the final paperwork on the novel and the plans and decisions made when it first came out. And what I found set me laughing so hard that it made up for a week’s worth of worry, stumbles and rain clouds.
I found a list of comments on the manuscript made by some unnamed copy editor at St. Martins.
Now, I adore copy editors of all shapes and sizes. In FORCING AMARYLLIS one copy editor discovered as we were going to press that I had set a pivotal courtroom scene on a Sunday. In THE FAULT TREE, one eagle-eyed editor noticed that I had moved a character’s cowlick from the front of his head (page 39) to the back of his head (page 225).
These are mistakes up with which readers should not put. I am forever grateful for the tireless efforts, intelligence and thinking that got those errors corrected.
But there’s another kind of copy editor, too. The kind who lives in a bubble of small thinking and even less curiosity … the kind of copy editor who would write this:
From Page 38: I walked farther north, toward a massive cottonwood tree that listed toward the arroyo like a dowsing rod. It stood fifty or sixty feet high, proof that this dry wash had once run full and that there remained enough water under the sand to sustain life. The tree had branched into three separate trunks down near its base, giving it a wide and low canopy of leaves like a sombrero.
(Note to author: Are trees in the southwest even big enough to climb?)
Response to copy editor: Yes, you imbecile. Please reread that part of the sentence where the tree is described as being right on the back of a once water-filled arroyo. And trust the word of someone who grew up there.
From Page 50: I spiked my hair with American Greaser, the only beauty product I use, and put on my favorite “keep your distance” t-shirt: “Some days it’s just not worth chewing through the restraints.” The tattooed jacks around my biceps were clearly visible.
(Note to author: Is it possible to say something this long on a t-shirt?)
Response to copy editor: Yes, you cretin. Especially the size I wear.
From Page 52: “¿Como está Felicia?” the woman beside me asked of the bartender.
(Note to author: “I don’t speak or write Spanish but this looks wrong to me.”)
Response to copy editor: Oh, really? Then maybe you should ask someone who speaks and writes Spanish.
From Page 72: I parked around the corner with a clear view of the back door through a tiny slice of space between a tree and a three-bay body shop. Felicia probably wouldn’t recognize my truck from here and, parked behind the tree the way I was, she wouldn’t be able to see my face either. I’d been there a half hour when the garage closed.
(Note to author: Three-bay body shop? Is this a brand name? I don’t drive so I don’t know.)
Response to copy editor: No, it’s not a brand name. And by the way, I don’t eat tofu but I still know what it is.
From Page 100: Beverly was just as petite as I remembered from our high school days — soft, rounded curves and pouter pigeon breasts — but her face had become that of a disappointed adult, with a built-in scowl and the onset of gray where she parted her hair.
(Note to author: “What kind of breasts do pigeons have?”)
Response to copy editor: Oh, my. Where to begin?
From Page 107: He put my keys and purse down on the concrete slab porch and stepped over to an ice chest near the sliding glass door. He pulled out two bottles of beer, opened them with a hinge on the side of the Igloo and held one out to me.
(Note to author: Are you calling the ice chest an igloo as a joke or is it a brand name of something?)
Response to copy editor: See above-referenced note about tofu. And the one that asks “where to begin?”
From Page 160: I heard the throaty roar of a big V8 outside, bragging on its horsepower and torque. I pulled the curtain to the side.
The black low rider came around again and this time the song blasting from the windows was about the hazards of smuggling. The four bandanaed bobbleheads in the car nodded and swayed to the beat. The guy in the front passenger seat stared at the house, then finger-shot me the way he had at the intersection on Friday.
(Note to author: I cannot verify the meaning of “bobbleheads.”)
Response to copy editor: Well, there you go. I guess there are some mysteries in life that just aren’t meant to be solved.
From Page 198: The setting sun turned the sky to persimmon then to bruise.
(Note to author: Is bruise a color?)
Response to copy editor: In my world, yes. And a noun. And a verb. And a threat.
From Page 216: “I’m telling you, man. I only just heard about it. I was in Nogales when you and the chica came in. I heard you asking about Carlos. That’s why I called.” The kid was flop sweat-nervous, but I didn’t know if he was afraid of Guillermo’s temper or the Braceros’ retribution.
(Note to author: Flop-sweat? What is this?)
Response to copy editor: It’s that unique combination of chills, stinky sweat and light-headedness that overcomes you when you see your career as a copy editor disappearing before your eyes.
From Page 319: Cambria Styles hadn’t changed much in the three years since I’d seen her. Dishwater blond hair, poker-straight almost to her waist. Sallow skin like she was an underwater creature. I reintroduced myself.
(Note to author: What color is dishwater?)
Response to copy editor: Oh, to be so young and innocent.
Of course, I didn’t really write all those nasty replies. But I did use my favorite four-letter word. Often.
What about you, ‘Rati? Any copy editing horror stories to share?