Thursday, June 02, 2016

It's Fiction By Camille Minichino - Guest Blogger

With more than 20 novels published, I've had my fair share of errata to apologize for.

There was the time I referred to Cinco de Mayo as Mexican Independence Day, and the book in which my protagonist took out an Exacto knife instead of an  X-Acto knife. Inexcusable.

But every time I share one of these goofs, my husband asks, "Why do they care? It's fiction." Easy for him to say—since he reads only nonfiction, where the lines are (somewhat) clear. If you're making up a story, anything goes, he claims.

But as writers know, readers will accept entire worlds that don't follow even the laws of gravity, but are easily put off by a small discrepancy.

The great cartoonist, Gary Larson made this point. He told of a cartoon in which he pictured the home of a mosquito couple. The male mosquito comes in and puts his hat on a rack. The female mosquito is at the kitchen sink. "Bit 100 people today, honey. How was your day?" (Sorry I have to paraphrase. I couldn't find the original, but I did have a great time searching!) Larson said he got many comments saying "How sexist," or "It's the female mosquito that bites," or "The female mosquito's antennae are less bushy than the male's," and so on.

No one, Larson said, noted that mosquitoes don't talk, don't wear clothes, don't do dishes. As with a novel, readers bought into the mosquito couple's world, but couldn't abide the technical errors.

My taste of this came when I chose my hometown Revere, Massachusetts, as the setting for my first series of novels, the Periodic Table Mysteries. My reasons for choosing a real over a fictional town were many, the first being that I loved Revere. The city had a lot going for it—the site of the first public beach in the country; a boardwalk with a 2-mile stretch of amusements, food concessions, and games; an award-winning (I'm making this part up) banana frozen custard.

This will be easy, I thought. I lived in Revere my first 21 years, still had family and many friends there, visited often. If I forgot a detail (Tuttle Street is now one way), all I had to do was call Verna or Bob or Mrs. Zollo and I'd have all the info I needed. Plus photos.

Imagine my delight when the first in the series, The Hydrogen Murder, was released to a great review in the local paper. The reporter praised my sense of place and the way I'd captured Revere. I was overjoyed, until I read the closing.

Except for "one big error," he said.

Uh-oh. Had my heroine gone the wrong way down Tuttle? Had I put the city hall on the wrong side of Broadway? The post office too close to the police station? Nothing like that. Much worse.

Minichino has a Starbucks in Revere and there is no Starbucks in Revere.

Huh? That was my big error? No mention of the large radiation lab I'd also added to Revere. As in the case of Larson's mosquito family, the reporter bought into the big picture (knowing I needed a lab for my theme), but not into the Starbuck's.

I wonder what "errors" bother the readers of Writing into the Sunset.

* By the way, there is now a Starbucks in Revere. I was ahead of my time, reporter.

Sleuthing Women: 10 First-in-Series Mysteries is a collection of full-length mysteries featuring murder and assorted mayhem by ten critically acclaimed, award-winning, and bestselling authors. Each novel in the set is the first book in an established multi-book series—a total of over 3,000 pages of reading pleasure for lovers of amateur sleuth, caper, and cozy mysteries, with a combined total of over 1700 reviews on Amazon, averaging 4 stars. Titles include:

Assault With a Deadly Glue Gun, an Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery by Lois Winston—Working mom Anastasia is clueless about her husband’s gambling addiction until he permanently cashes in his chips and her comfortable middle-class life craps out. He leaves her with staggering debt, his communist mother, and a loan shark demanding $50,000. Then she’s accused of murder…

Murder Among Neighbors, a Kate Austen Suburban Mystery by Jonnie Jacobs — When Kate Austen’s socialite neighbor, Pepper Livingston, is murdered, Kate becomes involved in a sea of steamy secrets that bring her face to face with shocking truths—and handsome detective Michael Stone.

Skeleton in a Dead Space, a Kelly O’Connell Mystery by Judy AlterReal estate isn’t a dangerous profession until Kelly O’Connell stumbles over a skeleton and runs into serial killers and cold-blooded murderers in a home being renovated in Fort Worth. Kelly barges through life trying to keep from angering her policeman boyfriend Mike and protect her two young daughters.

In for a Penny, a Cleopatra Jones Mystery by Maggie Toussaint—Accountant Cleo faces an unwanted hazard when her golf ball lands on a dead banker. The cops think her BFF shot him, so Cleo sets out to prove them wrong. She ventures into the dating world, wrangles her teens, adopts the victim’s dog, and tries to rein in her mom…until the killer puts a target on Cleo’s back.

The Hydrogen Murder, a Periodic Table Mystery by Camille Minichino—A retired physicist returns to her hometown of Revere, Massachusetts and moves into an apartment above her friends' funeral home. When she signs on to help the Police Department with a science-related homicide, she doesn't realize she may have hundreds of cases ahead of her.

Retirement Can Be Murder, A Baby Boomer Mystery by Susan SantangeloCarol Andrews dreads her husband Jim’s upcoming retirement more than a root canal without Novocain. She can’t imagine anything worse than having an at-home husband with time on his hands and nothing to fill it—until Jim is suspected of murdering his retirement coach.

Dead Air, A Talk Radio Mystery by Mary Kennedy—Psychologist Maggie Walsh moves from NY to Florida to become the host of WYME's On the Couch with Maggie Walsh. When her guest, New Age prophet Guru Sanjay Gingii, turns up dead, her new roommate Lark becomes the prime suspect. Maggie must prove Lark innocent while dealing with a killer who needs more than just therapy.

A Dead Red Cadillac, A Dead Red Mystery by RP DahlkeWhen her vintage Cadillac is found tail-fins up in a nearby lake, the police ask aero-ag pilot Lalla Bains why an elderly widowed piano teacher is found strapped in the driver’s seat. Lalla confronts suspects, informants, cross-dressers, drug-running crop dusters, and a crazy Chihuahua on her quest to find the killer.

Murder is a Family Business, an Alvarez Family Murder Mystery by Heather HavenJust because a man cheats on his wife and makes Danny DeVito look tall, dark and handsome, is that any reason to kill him? The reluctant and quirky PI, Lee Alvarez, has her work cut out for her when the man is murdered on her watch. Of all the nerve.

Murder, Honey, a Carol Sabala Mystery by Vinnie HansenWhen the head chef collapses into baker Carol Sabala’s cookie dough, she is thrust into her first murder investigation. Suspects abound at Archibald’s, the swanky Santa Cruz restaurant where Carol works. The head chef cut a swath of people who wanted him dead from ex-lovers to bitter rivals to greedy relatives.

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Bio: Camille Minichino, a retired physicist turned writer, is the author of more than twenty mystery novels in four series: the Periodic Table Mysteries; the Miniature Mysteries (as Margaret Grace); the Professor Sophie Knowles Mysteries (as Ada Madison); and the Postmistress Mysteries (as Jean Flowers). She has also written short stories and articles.

Camille is past president and board member of three major writers organizations and is currently serves on the Board of NorCal MWA. She teaches writing in the San Francisco Bay Area. Visit her at


Susan Santangelo said...

I feel your pain! I was so worried about this happening to me that I decided it was safer to make up a fictional town in my Baby Boomer mysteries by combining the names of two Connecticut towns into one. And, believe it or not, I still get emails from readers who see through my clever ruse and correct me!

Heather Haven said...

As usual, Camille writes of a fictional writer's dilemma with humor and style. It is amazing what a reader will accept and what they won't. But we writers keep on making up stuff and writing! I keep hoping one of these days I'll get it right.

Camille Minichino said...

Great to visiting this beautiful site!

Susan -- I've found that also. Even with fictional sites, people want to know "what's the real town"?

Thanks for visiting, Heather!

Jonnie Jacobs said...

Loved the mosquito story (hadn't heard it before), and so true! Like Susan, above, I made up the fictional town of Walnut Hills, and the places in it, yet people have told me they "know exactly" which building I was referring to, or which corner. Thanks for the laughs, Camille.

Vinnie/ said...

Great point, Camille! These "mistakes" do make for wonderful story telling. I remember Sue Grafton speaking at Left Coast Crime in Monterey about how her heroine Kinsey Milhone left her keys in the car, but yet they magically appeared out of her pocket at a crucial moment. Grafton said her true fans simply explained to the ignorant that Kinsey had two sets of keys. :)

And yes, you are a woman ahead of the times.

Camille Minichino said...

Delighted to have those 2 new examples, Jonnie and Vinnie!

I've also had at least 3 friends positive that they are "Rose" in my first books.

Dr. Mary Kennedy said...

A wonderful blog, Camille, so happy to be part of the Sleuthing Women boxed set. What a wonderful background you have. A true Renaissance woman!

Maggie Toussaint said...

Nice post, Camille. I'm not as brave as you, locationally speaking. I make up my towns where there are murders or crime. I use real nearby towns to ground the stories in readers' minds to the region. What's hard for me is that I didn't initially have a good method of keeping track of roads and landmarks in my fictional towns. Then I hit upon the time-honored way for remembering where things are -- drawing a map. That is something that will easily transfer through a series along with character bios. My editor caught a boo-boo in a book before it went to print, and it was much like Sue Grafton's key issue you mentioned. I had a gun that appeared and disappeared at will. But we got that one fixed before we went to print.

In my dystopian fiction series, I have an interesting response to what I did to the news people 50 years in the future. A few readers thought it was not credible that the news people would be so scantily clad and intimate during broadcasting. The statement I was making was that news broadcasting has changed so much in my lifetime, it's already barely recognizable to what it was 60 years ago. No one had trouble with all distance travel being through underground tubes, with all vehicles controlled by an autopilot device. Doesn't it seem more preposterous to you that an entire travel network could be built underground in the next 50 years? It is amazing what people will accept and what they won't.