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The “It” Effect…


M. R. Sellars, writes books, brews beer, and pretty much does whatever his wife tells him to do.

This is a typo. This is a typo on drugs… Any questions?

Today’s missive is just a quick Public Service Announcement. Granted, it is as much for my own sanity as it is for serving the public… Actually, it might not serve the public that much… Maybe not at all… But, I’m pretty sure it will make me feel better, so I’m going to do it anyway… (and, as it turns out, it’s nowhere near as quick as I thought it was going to be…)

itsSo, anywho… Long about once each year I receive an email from someone who is itching to tell about “it.” I mean literally, they want to tell me about the word “it.” In particular, the possessive form “its” and the contraction for “it is,” that being “it’s.” You see, these folks are under the impression I don’t know the difference.

To be fair, I can see where they may believe this to be true. I’ll explain that in just a minute. But, moving right along…

Sometimes these folks are exceptionally rude and pedantic about “it.” They have even been known to call me names and write very uppity, nasty, holier-than-thou missives, talking down to me from their crumbling pedestals – I say crumbling because it never fails that the folks who elect to be nasty about “it” send letters and email that are riddled with other typos and horrendous grammatical errors. To their credit, however, they do get “it” correct. But, credit or no, I think these people should seek counseling for anger management and learn to interact with others sans the attitude.

it'sNow, on the other hand, some folks are very nice about it. While the belabored point is still very annoying to me, I can appreciate folks who are nice and to them I raise a glass. Hell, I actually take the time to answer their letters and emails about “it.”

The nasty folks, not so much…

At any rate, time has rolled around again for me to receive an email about “it.” This time the young lady was very nice about it and we exchanged a few notes, played with pencils on the group W bench, and generally had a good time. So, no problem there…

Still, in the interest of trying to make this whole thing go away – which I never, ever will I’m sure – not that I won’t keep trying – we have today’s blog entry.

Around a decade ago, my first novel landed on bookstore shelves. Harm None: A Rowan Gant Investigation. Not my best work… I mean, hell, it’s a first novel. Even so, it’s pretty damn good – in my opinion, anyway. Good enough that it is in its umpteenth printing at this point. But, I’m not here to brag on Harm None. I’m here to apologize for an error that in and of itself is a comedy of errors. A sad, tragic, and painful comedy, but a comedy nonetheless. Both the publisher and I have apologized for this screw-up countless times. However, I suspect I will continue to do so for the rest of my life when I receive my annual complaint email.

You see, it’s like this – As is often done, a manuscript will see a rough layout and be bound with basic cover art, all for the purpose of rushing it out to reviewers. These ARC’s (Advance Reader Copies) are usually either imprinted with the above acronym, the words themselves, or “stickered” as such. This way the reviewer knows that the book is likely to have typos, formatting anomalies, and even grammatical errors which haven’t been fixed yet. The reason this is done is that most all review publications and reviewers are so swamped that it is necessary to provide them with a review copy 4 to 6 months in advance of the book release. Often times the editing process is only just entering its stride at this point, and is far from over.

And so, this brings us to the sad, sad comedy of errors that has plagued me these last 10 years…

When I wrote Harm None I was using an ANCIENT DOS based word processing program, with a very buggy, “freeware”, auto-correcting third-party spelling and grammar checker. Unfortunately, you get what you pay for and while the programmer who wrote this bit of freeware was good with code, s/he wasn’t so stellar with grammar. And so, all of my “its” became “it’s”.

I neglected to double check things after running the checker. My bad.

No biggie though. Editors fix these things, and in fact, the “it’s” that needed to be “its” were corrected. But alas, the tragic comedy still wanted its day in the sun.

Through an unfortunate mix-up, the uncorrected ARC files were mounted when the first print run was scheduled for Harm None. The presses whirred, paper flew, ink splattered, and before anyone caught it, close to 2000 copies of the novel were printed using the wrong signature and cover files.

No worries… The presses were stopped, the proper files mounted, and the process began all over again.

Of course, the not so funny comedy wasn’t through yet.

Through mis-communication, overly efficient workers, and not so divine providence IMHO, books printed from the improper files – which had been set aside to be destroyed – were instead bound, trimmed, stacked, packed, and then shipped.

Shipped to distributors, stores, and the four winds.

The dark and tragic comedy laughed as it watched bookstores, distributors, and even me sell the flawed books to unsuspecting readers, all the while unaware of the ugly practical joke fate was playing upon us.

Then, we found out. Unlike the comedy itself, we did not laugh. In fact, I cried, as did my publisher, publicist, and even some of my friends.

So, there you have it. Something on the order of 1800+ horribly flawed copies of Harm None have been in circulation for 10 years now, and it seems that many of them have found their way into libraries. And, as will happen, I get my annual email/letter from someone who wishes to lecture me – or, more rarely, simply point out in a polite manner – the difference between “its” and “it’s.”

For the record, I know the difference. And, also for the record, you have my most profuse apologies for this horrible error that has been perpetrated upon you, me, and the rest of the reading public. If I could make those 1800 flawed copies go away, I would. But, I cannot. My Kung-Fu just isn’t that strong…

So, in closing, here is an easy way for you to know if you or your library is in possession of one of these flawed copies of Harm None:


If the cover on your copy of Harm None looks like the picture above, with a delineated grey panel down the center, and a grey box on the back, you are holding either an original ARC or an ARC that should never have been. If this is the case, please don’t email me with a lecture on grammar, spelling, “its vs. it’s”, or any other complaint about formatting or even coffee stains for that matter.


If the cover looks like this one, then you are in possession of a proper and/or later printing. This is not to say you won’t find a latent typo. One or two squeak by now and again, no matter how good the editor. But, look at the copyright page to check the date of the reprint, because reported typos are always fixed in subsequent printings.

On a next to final note – The cover art for Harm None might be changing. I have recently been informed that the Mass Market Paperback editions of the first three Rowan Gant Investigations novels – the only books in the series to have been released as Mass Market originals – are to be discontinued when the current stock runs out.

However, do not fear – the books will remain in print.

They are simply being re-formatted to a 6X9 Trade Paperback size to match the rest of the RGI novels. In making this format switch, it is entirely possible fresh cover art will be employed.

Personally, I’m looking forward to seeing what they do, as I am constantly amazed by the cover art they come up with for all of their titles, not just mine.

Now, for the final note – regarding the flawed copies themselves. I have heard – though I have only the words of some eyewitnesses – that at least one of these flawed copies sold at a charity auction for nearly $200 due to its “rareness.”

Personally, I won’t consider it truly rare until I stop receiving the complaint emails, but hey, if $200 was raised for charity then I am willing to say this tragic comedy had itself a happy ending.

Of course, that note probably isn’t as final as I’d like, because I suspect I’ll be writing about this again just one short year from now, just like I have for the past decade…

More to come…



  1. Whenever I see those first prints, I snatch ’em up. I loves me some “oopsie” Murv schwag. 🙂

    Incidentally, “it’s” is also correct if you are speaking of many copies of the word “it”. An example:

    “Through a series of accidents, copies of _Harm None_ were released with many incorrect plural it’s.”

    Looks oh-so-wrong, doesn’t it? I assure you, it’s correct. 🙂 Of course, most people would go the extra step to clarify by italicizing the word “it” in a sentence whenever they were talking about the word and not its referent meaning, but let that go.

    See how many times I used multiple forms of “it” in this little missive here? Cool,eh?

    Eh, screw it.


  2. Polite or not, I think that would irritate the life out of me. When I’ve done beta reads for friends I know the feedback like this is expected but in a case like this? Write to say you enjoyed the book but leave it at that.

    1. Well, the usual commentary – polite = “the typo was too jarring for me…” or impolite = “since you are an inept #$&&*@11#$…” – includes something on the order of the reading having been unable to either enjoy or even finish reading the book.

  3. Murphy’s Law strikes again – hereinafter, all publishing snafus of this sort shall be attributed to “the Sellars Corollary.” How horrific a way to start your publishing life. I’m happy you’re having the first three novels printed in the current format so I can have a matched set! (But I hope the original ARC files of Harm None have been dropped in the trashcan for good…) I wonder if St. Vidicon of Cathode should be invoked here just in case!

    And hey. I have a RGI question that’s been plaguing me and now is as good a time to ask as any, since my mind took a twisty little trip after referring to the saint above. Are you ever planning to delve into why Ben refuses to acknowledge/embrace his heritage?

    1. It was hinted at (re: his father), and will be expanded upon, assuming the series continues. As I said in the recent “FAQ” posting, that is largely going to depend upon the economy… :-/

  4. It or it’s…my brain wasn’t in ‘editing’ mode so I skipped over whatever ‘it’ issues there were.

    Now, I’m just back to wishing that the library system I worked for would carry more books in the series than just All Acts of Pleasure.

  5. i have the flawed copy! it’s held togther by a rubberband. i bought it at the pagan picnic, and i wont remove it from my collection~ its not that hard to read, and i can switch the errrors it has in my mind, knowing that it isnt at fault!

  6. Sheesh! So many years of possible searching for the “rare” and likely wily, pooched first printing gone! Dang it all anyway.

    Cool as hell that a copy sold for charity. Full of awesome, that is!

    *starts putting together a mental list of hole-in-the-wall book stores to search*

    1. True that… The charity thing, that is… 😉

      The lady that emailed me today – gotta love it, holiday and all – was very nice, just like the gal last year. But some of the wingnuts from years back were downright wicked nasty… O_O

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