They can happen when reading a website, or the back cover of a book, or a deal gone terribly wrong, or a paragraph that begins with "Else." I'm referring to WTF moments. I have to imagine they happen to authors/readers a great deal. What are yours?

Click here to see my own example.

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Usually, in such situations, I say "My goodness, young man! You really have screwed the pooch this time!"
I was signing stock at Murder by the Book in Houston. David Thompson says to me, "Why don't you have any bookmarks?"

"Everybody has bookmarks," I say. "Why add to the trash?"

"Well, if you had bookmarks, every time someone bought a Janet Evanovich or a Carl Hiiasen book, I'd stick one of your bookmarks inside."

WTF! How stupid was I? I had bookmarks printed and shipped to him in six days.
It must have been my fault for not clarifying the intention of my last novel (not part of the series), but I was really taken aback when 3 rejections from romance publishers arrived in short succession in my mailbox. Absolutely nothing in that book fits formula romance. In fact I did my best to keep the subplot's love story realistic rather than "romantic." It was a rather major misunderstanding (I recall my agent pointing out that the relationships were flawed and should perhaps be rewritten, and my refusing to rewrite while agreeing that nothing was perfect in the novel) that will probably mean that the book won't be published.

In any case, I was thunderstruck to discover that my literary thriller was being marketed as romance.
This isn't a publishing story, but when I was at University I was recruited to write for a TV comedy pilot. I had some sketch comedy experience, and the producer ran my material past test audiences and it tested very high.

But then everything started to go wrong.

The producer started running everything, and I mean everything through a marketing firm. We started out as a sketch comedy show, like SCTV or Monty Python, then they wanted us to make all about everyday household stuff, then they wanted to add "candid camera" segments, and then the marketing people said that we had to rewrite the show as sketches about daily life, with candid camera gags, and somehow make it all fit into a sitcom about angels. (The angels were added onto the concept because of a successful cream cheese ad featuring an angel.)

We went home for Xmas vacation, came back after New Years, and the production company was belly up. The money people bugged out when they saw what a dog's breakfast the show had become, and the only people that got paid were the very same market research people who made it into a dog's breakfast.

I have 2 more WTF moments, but then I'd just be venting.
Yuck!
Last one was yesterday. I got a phone call from a "book publicist" who was interested in talking to me about doing online promotion for my book MANY BLOODY RETURNS.

1) Her English was terrible. Not a good sign.

2) It's not MY book. It's an anthology, and I had a co-editor. So it's OUR book, not my book.

3) MANY BLOODY RETURNS came out in hardback in Sept. 07, and in trade paperback in January. So it's not exactly fresh.

4) The book hit the NYT best seller list in hardback and trade paper, so I don't think we needed her help.

So I just explained points #3 and #4, and hung up.

Sheesh.
My favourite was a blooper that happened to my husband at his work. He writes and edits a number of economic newsletters and on-line editorials. Occasionally his large Canadian office of a US Media Company (I won't say the name) will hire him a helper to do minor copy-editing or research.

One of his many newsletters was going out monthly by both email and snail mail. The cover letter began: To Whom It May Concern.

Well, along came the month of June. You guessed it. The young temp hired as a copy-editor used her word processing tool to change all reference to the month of May to read "June".

And so the cover letter read:
TO WHOM IT JUNE CONCERN
Ha Ha Ha
That's funny -- partially because I once created havoc in a novel in a similar way. Those neat features can turn into devils.
They are so very useful, but not as useful as a good pair of eyes. Wish mine were younger!
That's great Donna.

I'm sure Benjamin can attest to this - at a daily where I was city editor, there was a "game" among the 6 or 7 people on the copy desk to see who could write the most headlines with sexual innuendo in them. The managing editor made it very clear that part of my job was to catch and change these headlines.

One Monday, I walk in to the morning editor's meeting, and blown up about 400%, hanging on the wall, is the page from Saturday's coverage of the Friday night football games. With a red face, I was defending all the headlines while the other editors were laughing. The one that completely went over my head used the mascot names in the headline and generated TONS of responses on the web site - most off color.

Panthers bust Trojans
That's a great. Thanks.
Oh, doubla Ha Ha!! I love it, and so do the Panthers!

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