One of the scary things about being published is that one might (probably will) get something wrong. There it is, for all the world to see, and it can't be fixed.

Something equally vexing to me is that people THINK you've got something wrong. One can't hunt them all down and argue the point, but--well, this one would like to.

It has been pointed out to me, twice now, that I used the word "dollar" in HER HIGHNESS' FIRST MURDER. Yeah, I did, in the idiom "squeeze the last dollar" out of something. It does sound anachronistic, and I probably would not have used it outside the idiom. Still, my unabridged Webster's Dictionary tells me that the word "dollar" was in use in the 1540s as a synonym for a five-shilling coin more often referred to as a crown.

The same two readers took issue with my reference to potatoes, arguing that they came to Europe later in history. Again, sources I find say that the Spanish brought the potato to Europe in 1536. I don't think it's unrealistic to say that ten years later, those useful little tubers might have made their way to a table or two in England.

I did get the rhododenrons wrong. A reader informed me that those flowers did not exist until the 1600s, and he is correct. Having visited England in summer, it seemed to me that they were elementals, existing since time immemorial, but then, I never had a botany class in my life.

I suppose I must accept that I can make mistakes, and that people will be critical, sometimes rightly, sometimes wrongly. I suppose for some there is an urge to tell the author how wrong she is. I once saw an author almost attacked on an elevator by a man who went far past the bounds of decency to show how clever he was in finding mistakes in the author's work.

My guess is that authors in such situations have two reactions. The first is a defensive thought. "We're novelists, not scientists. We try, but we never said our purpose was anything but a good story." Second might be what one would like to say to the self-appointed critic: "When you write your book, have it edited multiple times, and get it published, send me a copy. I'll see what I can find to point out to you."

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Comment by Peg Herring on July 2, 2010 at 10:32pm
That is too funny, Benjamin. It's good to hear I'm not the only one who thinks that.
And Jon, you sound WAY too much like my husband (John). I suppose I could write lots of mysteries from my jail cell after I blow away the critics...that is, if I could hit the broad side of a barn.
Comment by Benjamin Sobieck on July 2, 2010 at 1:53pm
It stems from I'm Smarter than the Author Syndrome. It happens in all forms of media, and it leads people to be total dicks. I remember being chastised for using an alternative (yet still Webster's approved) spelling of a word. Not surprisingly, the person's e-mail was littered with spelling and grammar mistakes. He has the balls to write, "Your welcome, BTW," at the end of the e-mail.
Comment by Jon Loomis on July 2, 2010 at 12:14pm
Blame your copy editor. Or, even better, find a way to let the complainers know what sad little lives they must lead, if that's the kind of thing they obsess over. Seriously--wtf is wrong with people? As for your friend who was accosted on the elevator--another good argument for concealed carry, IMO.
Comment by Peg Herring on July 2, 2010 at 8:58am
A guy who replied on another site told me to be grateful I have readers. Okay, I guess he's got a point!

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