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 Alter—Real 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 Santangelo—Carol 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 Dahlke—When 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 Haven—Just 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 Hansen—When 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.
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 www.minichino.com.