Smorgasbord Blog Sitting Special – Interviewing an Editor – Judy Penz Sheluk interviews Lourdes Venard

Today in the blog-sitting special, you get two authors and two editors. Author and Freelance Editor, Judy Penz Sheluk interviews fellow editor and author Lourdes Venard. This is great, since editors are always busy, and it is useful to make new contacts. It is also helpful to find blogs, such as Judy’s, where you can be interviewed.

Interviewing an Editor – Judy Penz Sheluk interviews Lourdes Venard

It’s my honor to introduce Lourdes Venard. I have worked with Lourdes during pre-publication of The Hanged Man’s Noose, as well as in her role as Editor, First Draft, a newsletter for more than 600 members of Sisters in Crime, Guppy Chapter.

Lourdes is the founder of Comma Sense Editing, LLC, which provides services to individual authors, magazines, and other clients. Before founding Comma Sense, she was a writer and editor at major American newspapers, including Newsday, The Miami Herald, Chicago Tribune, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and The Washington Post. In addition to her other duties, Lourdes teaches copyediting through online courses at the University of California, San Diego, and through the Editorial Freelancers Association.

Judy: What steps should a writer take before hiring an editor, and is hiring an editor really necessary?

Lourdes: Whether you are looking for an agent or self-publishing, you need to present your best writing. But before hiring an editor, here are five steps I recommend you take:

1) Don’t hire an editor the day after you’ve typed “The End.” Put your manuscript in the drawer, figuratively speaking. Stephen King waits six weeks between the first and second drafts. Others recommend two to three weeks.

2) During those weeks, read books on the craft of writing, especially on dialogue, pacing, and tension. You may have already read dozens of books, but it never hurts to read a few more or to refresh yourself with books you’ve already read. I recommend Revision & Self-Editing by James Scott Bell. Read other books in your genre to see what they do well.

3) Now, with the detachment you’ve gained from having your manuscript in the drawer and with the knowledge you’ve gained (or have been reminded of), pull your manuscript out again. Read through once, making a list of issues that need to be addressed—scenes that don’t work, weak characters, and plot holes, for instance.

4) If you haven’t joined a writing group yet, do so. Get critiques from writing partners or trusted beta readers. If several readers point to the same problems, take note.

5) Revise again. How many drafts is enough? This is different for every writer, but even seasoned writers like King complete three drafts. Others, even best-selling authors, craft 12 or more drafts before the manuscript is ready.

By this time, you may be so enmeshed in the manuscript that you lack the distance that is needed to look at it with a more critical eye. This is when you turn to a professional editor, who will guide you through any additional changes that the manuscript needs.

Judy: You do copyediting and content (developmental) editing. Can you explain the difference?

Lourdes: This is a good question, as many beginning writers don’t know the difference. Copyediting is mostly a look at grammar and spelling, as well as inconsistencies, factual errors, and large plot holes. This should be the second step of the editing process. The first step should be content or developmental editing—a thorough edit that looks at characterization, point of view, tone, pacing, dialogue, and the overall structure of the book. Most editors provide a critique, or editorial letter, in their developmental edit.

Judy: I often hear writers say that they can’t afford to hire a professional editor, that they have a critique group/partner to help them. What are your thoughts on this?

Lourdes: Critique groups and beta reader are good places to start, and I recommend them. But they shouldn’t replace an experienced editor who has knowledge of the business and knows what acquiring editors and publishers want. Also, some critique partners hesitate to point out all the flaws, or may be too busy with their own work to give the deep look that an editor does. As a developmental editor, I may spend months with an author in a collaborative process that goes back and forth. My intent is not to change an author’s voice, but to enhance and polish their manuscript so that it’s marketable.

Judy: You also offer other services, such as help with synopsis, author bios, agent and publisher query letters, and critiquing. In your experience, which of these services has the greatest demand?

Lourdes: Most of my clients also ask for help with synopses and query letters. I come from a journalism background, where we write to fit a certain space, so I enjoy crafting a one-page synopsis! Query letters are also essential and I work closely with authors to tailor something that will catch an agent’s eye.

Judy: You’ve worked with a lot of beginning writers, myself included. Are there common errors/mistakes that most beginners make?

Lourdes: Yes, I and other editors see the same errors. It’s not surprising, as crafting a book is something one learns with practice. The most common errors are wordiness and including unneeded information, stilted dialogue, head-hopping (suddenly shifting from one point of view to another), telling rather than showing, inconsistencies, narrative issues (from lack of tension to dumping too much backstory), misplaced modifiers, and a manuscript that is either too long or too short. Another very common error is not beginning the story in the right place; writers often want to “set up” the story. But an author only has five pages—and sometimes fewer than that—to grab the eye of an agent or publisher.

Judy: You published a novel, Publishing for Beginners: What First-Time Authors Need to Know, in October 2014. What prompted you to write it, and what sort of information can readers expect to find in it?

Lourdes: This grew out of questions I kept getting from clients—questions that went beyond editing. Many of them had written good books and self-published, only to see small sales. Others were hoping to publish traditionally and wanted to know how to find an agent. Others were conflicted about which route to take: traditional publishing or indie publishing. So my book covers the differences in publishing routes, as well as querying, editing, marketing, and even financial matters (a chapter written by my husband, an accountant).

Judy: You also edited an anthology of short crime fiction, Mystery in Paradise: 13 Tales of Suspense. How does that process differ from editing a novel?

Lourdes: I’ve edited several collections of short stories, and I love working with shorter fiction. In some ways, writing short is even harder than a novel. You need to create full characters that grab the reader immediately, you need to hide your clues in far fewer words, and your story needs to pack a punch at the end. I love “gotcha” stories that surprise me with their endings. As an editor, I’m working with the author to make sure those elements are in place.

Judy: What’s next for Lourdes Venard?

Lourdes: Because I mostly edit mysteries and crime thrillers, I’m looking to expand Publishing for Beginners, with a focus toward crime fiction authors.

Connect to Lourdes

Amazon author Page:

Now time to find out more about Judy Penz Sheluk.


An Amazon International Bestselling Author, Judy Penz Sheluk’s debut mystery novel, The Hanged Man’s Noose, the first in the Glass Dolphin Mystery series, was published in July 2015. The sequel, A Hole In One, is scheduled for Spring 2018.

Skeletons in the Attic, Judy’s second novel, and the first in her Marketville Mystery series, was first published in August 2016 and re-released in December 2017. Past & Present, the sequel, is scheduled for early 2019.

Judy’s short crime and literary fiction appears in several collections.

In her less mysterious pursuits, Judy works as a freelance writer and editor; her articles have appeared regularly in dozens of U.S. and Canadian consumer and trade publications.

Past editorial responsibilities have included the roles of Senior Editor, Northeast Art & Antiques, Editor, Antiques and Collectibles Showcase, and Editor, Home Builder Magazine. She is currently the Senior Editor for New England Antiques Journal.

Judy is also a member of Sisters in Crime International, Sisters in Crime – Guppies, Sisters in Crime – Toronto, Crime Writers of Canada, International Thriller Writers, Inc. the South Simcoe Arts Council, and the Short Mystery Fiction Society. In addition, Judy has been elected to the 2017-18 Board of Directors for Crime Writers of Canada, as a Director, and as a Regional Representative for Toronto/Southern Ontario.

She lives in Alliston, Ontario, with her husband, Mike, and their golden retriever, Gibbs.

Books by Judy Penz Sheluk

Skeletons in the Attic – A Marketville Mystery which is now available in audio for those who love to listen to their books as well as read them.

About the book

Calamity (Callie) Barnstable isn’t surprised to learn she’s the sole beneficiary of her late father’s estate, though she is shocked to discover she has inherited a house in the town of Marketville—a house she didn’t know existed. However, there are conditions attached to Callie’s inheritance: she must move to Marketville, live in the house, and solve her mother’s murder.

Callie’s not keen on dredging up a thirty-year-old mystery, but if she doesn’t do it, there’s a scheming psychic named Misty Rivers who is more than happy to expose the Barnstable family secrets. Determined to thwart Misty and fulfill her father’s wishes, Callie accepts the challenge. But is she ready to face the skeletons hidden in the attic?

One of the recent reviews for the audio book

Review originally published at Lomeraniel dot com Audiobookreviews.

After reviewing The Hanged Man’s Noose by this same author, and thinking that it was one of the best cozy mysteries I have ever read, I was looking forward to this one.

Calamity Barnstable’s father just died, and she inherits several documents, a house, and a mission: finding who murdered her mother when she was still a child.

After having listened to two books by Judy Penz Sheluk, I can say that she builds interesting and intricate stories with fully fleshed characters. I think this is why her stories work so well. Callie is a woman who I can perfectly relate to, in search for the truth, and trying to make her way in a new place. I especially enjoyed her friendship with Shantal, and the fact that nothing in this story seemed to be just black or white, and no one was what they seem. There are several twists and turns in this book, and I enjoyed it from beginning to end, unable to stop listening and find out the truth.

I have to say that the end was completely unexpected, and after all the buildup I felt a little bit underwhelmed. I don’t know how to explain it but it seems that the story suddenly deflated at that point. It is just a personal impression, and except for that I really loved the book.

Clayra Jordin did a decent job with the narration of this book, but honestly, I think Suzanne T. Fortin, who narrated The Hanged Man’s Noose did much better. Jordin inflected the right amount of emotion to the characters’ interpretations, and her voice was clear, but sadly all characters sounded exactly the same, which made several dialogs quite confusing.

This is the first book in a series, and I hope Judy Penz Sheluk hurries up and writes the sequels. She has me really hooked up to her cozy mysteries.  

Read the  reviews for the book and buy in print and audio:

And Amazon UK:

Also by Judy Penz Sheluk

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Read the reviews and buy all the books:

And Amazon UK:

Read more reviews and follow Judy on Goodreads:

Connect to Judy


My thanks to Judy and to Lourdes for blog sitting today and I am sure they would love your feedback and questions. Thanks Sally



Smorgasbord Blog Sitting Specials – The Menu and Contributors February 15th – 20th.

Here is the menu for posts while I am away for a few days in Portsmouth to visit my sisters for a girls long weekend. I will be offline but I am leaving you in the very capable hands of my blog sitters.

I am here as usual until Wednesday and then handing over the reins on Thursday 15th until Tuesday 20th.  I have scheduled some of my regular posts such as Letters from America, Laughter Lines, Cafe Updates, Sally’s Drive Time Playlist etc in their regular slots.

I will respond to comments on my return, but as always your likes, shares and comments will be much appreciated.

Thursday 15th February.

A warm welcome to a new contributor Cage Dunn, an Australian author who shares his thoughts on the life and commitment of a storyteller. 10.30 am.

Vicki Steward will be sharing her home town of Glastonbury where she has lived more or less permanently since 1993. Glastonbury is renowned for his music festival but it is a town that attracts not just musicians but those who wish to sample a life that is rich in diversity. 13.30

Friday 16th February

In the usual Friday Spot just after midnight.. writer in residence Paul Andruss explores some of the more complex and sometimes chemically enhanced writing styles of the rich and famous.

Very pleased to hand over the blog to the very capable hands of author Lillian Csernica who asks the question… Where will your writing take you? And what will learn about on the way? 13.30

Today a post from Rowena Newton of Beyond the Flow, who has faced some life threatening and changing challenges but clearly faces the long-term issues with positivity and a love of life. 15.30

Saturday 17th February.

Just after Midnight – Welcome to a treat straight from the Kosher Kitchen of Dolly Aizenman along with the history behind the recipe. As we anticipate a royal wedding in the UK in the spring perhaps I should forward this to the parties concerned. The wedding feast for the Tudor Court.

The entertaining John W. Howell is going to share what not to do if you suddenly come into a windfall.. such as the mega-millions from a lottery win… I am off to spend my fiver! 10.30am

Very pleased to hand you over to another blog sitter this afternoon. Author M.J. Mallon. (Marjorie). An adventure in Scotland when Marjorie and her mother visited the famous Kelpies on their trip to Edinburgh. 15.30

Sunday 18th February

Just after Midnight – Most of you will be familiar with Carol Taylor and her cooking and food posts and her new weekly food column. Today as part of the blog sitting series, Carol shares a life changing and emotive experience from a few years ago. This post might give you a different perspective about those who live on the streets.

This week my lovely friend Debby, D.G. Kaye is taking over the hot seat in the Open House Interview and will sharing the background to why she rights non-fiction and memoirs, her publishing adventures, favourite music and the one big adventure she would like to experience. 10.30am

I have another treat for you with the next blog sitting post. Jennie Fitzkee has a wonderful blog where she shares stories of her life as a pre-school teacher. But in this post Jennie shares a hidden talent… well hidden from us up to now! The Wedding Dancer. 15.30

Monday 19th February

Just after Midnight -Today in the blog-sitting special, you get two authors and two editors. Author and Freelance Editor, Judy Penz Sheluk interviews fellow editor and author Lourdes Venard. This is great, since editors are always busy, and it is useful to make new contacts. It is also helpful to find blogs, such as Judy’s, where you can be interviewed.

A welcome to Jacqui Murray to the blog sitting series with her first post for Smorgasbord. Most of us are on a learning curve when it comes to blogging, however long we might have been at the task. Jacqui shares some very important elements that are important to remember when posting. 10.30am

Time for one of the wonderfully amusing posts from author Linda Bethea about her fabulous mother Kathleen Holdaway Swain. Linda’s stories about her mother have always entertained and enlightened me and this story has changed by shopping trips for the better! 13.30

Tuesday 20th February

Just after Midnight – A welcome back to to Debby Gies with one of the posts from her archives to share with us today.  When this post appeared last year it was met with rave reviews and for weeks on Facebook we were all announcing to the world our new status.. A Perennial Woman..

Blog sitting today is children’s author Jemima Pett with a science fiction short story.  Xanadu is stranded on an alien planet having crash landed…10.30am

I hope you will stop by and I am sure that you will enjoy these posts from my blog sitting team.. they are amazing and I am sure would be delighted to help you out next time you are away too.. They come highly recommended.  Thanks Sally