Sunday, December 6, 2009

Oops - My Bad


Gabriella Herkert

Catnapped and Doggone

You’d have to read the dedication in my first book, Catnapped, to know what I think of the mistakes in my books. I do what every self-respecting toddler does, I blame them on other people. Which is handy since there are plenty. The truth is, they're all mine. Each and every boo-boo has my paw prints on it. I make mistakes of fact and timing and plot and character. I am ever grateful for the readers who accept the unseen wink and cut me a little slack. But I’m also grateful for the eagle-eyed readers who let nothing get by them.
It wasn’t the worst mistake I ever made (I sometimes cut my own hair – believe me that is far worse than anything that could end up on a piece of paper) but my most memorable spotting situation arose when I received an email in response to my first book about three weeks after it came out from an avid mystery reader. Three weeks. That is real time for a first time author without a major publicity storm surrounding her. My fabulous feline character Flash, the only character in my debut based on an actual “person,” had mysteriously changed color. You have to understand, Flash was real. She lived to be nearly twenty years old and I saw her every day for the first thirteen years of her life before I went away to college and in the middle of the story, for no reason whatsoever, she went from gray to black. Clairol take me away.

That’s bad, I know. But it got worse. The reader didn’t tell me exactly where it happened. Just “in the middle.” I had no doubt whatsoever that the amazing Mood-Ring Cat did magically change color. This reader quoted entire passages, told me that the clothes I put on Russ in one scene didn’t match (I write what I know) and gave me page number references for three typos. I knew she was right. Flash had somehow gone dark. I wrote to thank her for reading the book with such care but couldn’t admit I didn’t know when I’d gone off the tracks. I reread the entire manuscript twice and couldn’t spot the mistake. I went out and bought a copy of the finished book, for full price mind you, at a big name bookstore to see if somehow Flash had managed to get Crayolaed in the final version when the manuscript had stayed true to her natural coloring. I couldn’t go to the Seattle Mystery Bookshop because they know me there and would ask me why I needed to buy a copy of my own book. What would I say? I’m checking page by page to see if my fur ball ended up with an editorial dye job? And forget about using Microsoft’s magical search engine to find the problem. Any idea how often a mystery writer uses the word black in a four hundred page book? Night is black. Clouds are black. Guns are black. Black is the new black and it’s on every page.

It took me longer to find the paint job than it had taken that amazing reader to write to me. I became obsessed. Crazed. Nuttier than I already was which is pretty darn nuts. But darned if that reader wasn’t right. And if anyone reading this decides to duplicate my lunacy, I’ll send the first person who sends me a correct page reference a fleece vest with the Catnapped logo.

Thanks for reading. And letting me know when age has impaired my ability to match my own socks.

Gabi

14 comments:

Joshua Corin said...

Well, look at it this way, it isn't often that a reader provides us with a treasure map...and the treasure map is our own novel...and the treasure is a glitch.

Actually, thank God it isn't often.

Gabi said...

You're right. It was a little like a teenage scavenger hunt. Great really except for the hair pulling, high pitched screaming and general obsessive compulsiveness I exhibited.

Kelli Stanley said...

LOL ... at least no bras in the fridge. Right, Gabs? ;)

But surely your cat was one of those special breeds that changes their color ... feles mutata, I think. ;)

xoxo

Kelli

Gabi said...

Kelli,
You're right. She was incredibly special and now that I have a latin term (provided by you thank you very much) I believe I've crossed into the paranormal genre. Next thing you know, the Horse in Horsewhipped will be a Horse Whisperer who can communicate with Bambi's mom and Ol' Yeller.

Kelli Stanley said...

That would make him a horse of different color, too!! ;)

Hey, if Jane Austen can go paranormal ... ;)

xoxo

Kelli

Shane Gericke said...

More about bras in the fridge, if you please ...

Gabi said...

You're such a guy, Shane.

Whitewing said...

Gabi, you are in good company. I broke up when one of Nancy Pickard's heroes had his eyes change from bright blue to a melting brown between chapters.

Jeri

Gabi said...

At least a change in eye color can be explained by contact lenses. The only thing that explains a gray cat turning black is a tragic craft room accident.

Jen Forbus said...

Or a roll in the paint!! Or like in 101 Dalmations, they all rolled in the fireplace soot! That's it! It was a disguise. My white cat has often come up from the basement rather grayish. :)

So, was it only in the final copy? It was a change made by the publisher?

Sophie Littlefield said...

OMG, I so love this Gabi :)

In my YA I modeled my main char after my daughter, but when the cover folks were doing their thing they came up with a dark-haired, teal-eyed girl. I loved the cover and said sure, change away, but I'm worried that somehow a reference or two will get left in and then I'll have the amazing color-changing character too...

And Gabi - my son not only cut my daughter's hair but he cut all her eyelashes off (he was 5) I think you should post pictures!!

Shane Gericke said...

Guilty ... and prideful :-)

Gabi said...

I'm sorry to say, Jen, it was all my fault. I'd forgotten about the Dalmation to Labrador conversion in 101. Just thinking about it makes me smile and wonder if Koko the wonder dog is really black or just needs a bath.

Gabi said...

I'm not posting any after-non-professional-in-a-mood haircut pictures. And if anyone has any, well, let's just say you won't be around long enough to spend the blackmail money.