Mistakes Happen

I’ve often mentioned that John D. McDonald was a favorite author of mine in my late teens, twenties, and thirties. I liked him enough that I collected all of them, including The Girl, The Gold Watch, and Everything. I lost that collection in my divorce. I got the kids; my first husband got John D. McDonald. Luckily, my second husband, with the help of the folks at the Seattle Mystery Bookshop, replaced them all.

So I liked John D. McDonald. I loved Travis Magee. I read all of the books. One day, reading along in one of his books, he had a fictional character in Phoenix meet up with someone at the corner of First Avenue and Central. There’s only one problem with that. In Phoenix the numbered Streets are on the east side of Central, the numbered avenues are on the west side of Central, and never the twain shall meet.

This was a very long time ago, long before computers and e-mail. Long before being able to Google a city and looks at a satellite view of a city street. In fact, I believe I made a reference to that interesting part of Phoenix geography in a recent Ali book. I read the passage in John D. McDonald’s and realized it was wrong. What did I do about that? Did I haul out my typewriter and stationery and fire off a snail-mail letter to John D. McDonald telling him he was full of it? No, I did not. I decided that, in this instance, I knew more about Phoenix than he did. I finished reading the book and enjoyed it.

In one of my books, I made up what I thought was a fictional organization, a religious sect. For reasons that will soon become obvious, I will not mention the name here. The problem is, there really IS a group that goes by that name and their ideas are diametrically opposed to the ones I gave my fictional group. They must have a committee of people whose job it is to shut down anything they consider to be bad press. The reason I say it’s a committee effort, is that periodically I’ll receive a flurry of e-mails denouncing my fictional use of my fictional group. There is one trait all the members of the REAL group seem to have in common, based on what’s called “anecdotal evidence” from their correspondence with me: THEY HAVE NO SENSE OF HUMOR!!! AT ALL!!

I have a new book coming out this week, Second Watch. Someone has already pointed out that there’s a mistake in the name of one of the characters who had one name in previous books and whose name is different in this one. (I’m not going to specify. Some of you will notice. For others, it’ll go right over your heads, just like it did mine.)

Let me point out that the twenty-one Beaumont books have been written over a period of more than thirty years with more twice that many books featuring other characters written during that same period of time. I’m sure as old readers and, hopefully, new ones go through the Beaumont “canon,” they will discover a dropped stitch or two. A remark about a character, said in passing in one of the books, may not register in my head when I’m writing another book fifteen years or so down the line. If you find one of those errors, give yourself a pat on the back and tell yourself that you’re smarter than the average author. You’re welcome to fire off an irate e-mail if that’s what floats your boat, but remember, I’ve been writing for a long time, and I’ve received a lot of letters like that. It turns out, my authorial errors fill volumes. (Those of you who have written to me regarding helicopters and appaloosa horses, know who you are!)

Some of you already know that I spent five years as a K-12 librarian on the Tohono O’odham Reservation in Arizona. One of my friends there, Loretta Ramon Hawk, did beadwork. I still have the bracelet she gave me. It’s a treasure. She told me that in Native American artistry–basket weaving, pottery making, and beadwork, there always has to be at least one mistake because only the Great Spirit is perfect.

Apparently books shouldn’t be perfect, either.

43 thoughts on “Mistakes Happen

  1. Loved the Blog. People can be so picky. Everybody is human or almost everybody. I love your books flaws and all. As Ziva David would say “IT IS WHAT IT IS”.

  2. Mistakes like you mention are just part of being human, and as I get older I seem to make more of them. LOL. As an avid reader (over 400 books last year) I seem to spot little errors more often, but the only ones that really bother me are from authors who rely on spell check for editing Grrrrrrr. Thanks keep up the great work

  3. You cannot please everyone, you are not perfect.. You spoke of a sense of humor it seems only comedians are left having them. Kinda sad isn’t it. We keep taking ourselves to seriously. .. I love jokes and a good bellie laugh especially at my self . ( you may have noticed I can’t spell worth a damn) lol life is to short to worry about that. Sorry got off subject. If you make a mistake it’s ok by me I’m so into you book while I read that if I find the mistake it is usually on the 3-4 reading . Thanks for the HOURS of pleasure your books have given me.

  4. Very refreshing take on making mistakes. I make them all the time. It saddens me to no end that we have become a society so quick to judge others and villify them for honest mistakes or for disagreeing with us. I am a Sheriff Brady, JP Beaumont and Ali Reynolds fan….Keep those books coming!

  5. Some people really love to find a mistake in someone else’s work. Personally, I would rather being working or just enjoying someone else’s hard work writing a book than trying to find “gotcha” slips. I thoroughly enjoy your books and if there is a mistake, I don’t see it because I’m wrapped up in the characters and the plot. Thank you for your hard work writing such great novels.

  6. One of the gods of mythology-Hubris-was involved in perfection, too, not just the Great Spirit! So, whenever I perform and goof, I consider it an offering! I love your books, and for those whiners, they did find your book listed under “fiction”. Maybe they should look up that word!

  7. Oh, dear. Why can’t people just read a book and enjoy it? I don’t look for errors and if I do happen to spot something I know isn’t right I ignore it. A book is a book and something to be enjoyed. I wish more readers had a sense of humor.

  8. I love that Native American tradition and love your books. What a task to keep all the details straight! Thank you for the many hours of reading enjoyment you’ve provided me and others over the years. I look forward to even more 🙂

  9. It amazes me that fiction readers have become such sticklers for the truth. Fiction is made up! When Dan Brown’s novel (fiction) The Davinci Code came out causing all the uproar, I wondered why everyone was taking sides and stands over a piece of fiction. One of the things I like about writing fiction is I can move a street in one town to another and put a coffee shop in Long Beach on the coast of Oregon if I choose. And as for changing characters names….well many of us have changed our names over a period of years. I read to watch your plots twist and turn. I read to be surprised and entertained. I don’t read to notice what you called someone 11 years or so ago. If I did notice it, I’d be able to live with the mystery. Fiction is fiction….there are elements of truth in it, but I don’t think we are meant to hold fiction to some litnus test of fact. It’s fiction folks. Get over it.

  10. Dear Ms. Jance,
    I love your books – Beau, Ali, Joanna, After the Fire… I haven’t found one that I regretted reading.
    I do have one request, well two, to make of you. First, please keep writing! Second, please ask someone teach Gene Engene how to pronounce Northwest place names before he gives voice to another Beaumont book? As someone who grew up near Seattle, it’s distracting. Not so much that I’ll give up on the series mind you! I just may take to books that I read rather than ones I listen to.
    All the best,
    Linda Vinson

  11. I am always amazed that withe the anonymity of the Internet that people feel so free to attack and/or criticize. Perhaps a good dose of kindness and appreciation would be good for their souls/psyches. After all it is called Fiction!!!

  12. I finished Second Watch in one day. I loved it and love all of your novels. I’ve read all of them and didn’t catch a name change and don’t care about it either. The story is what I read for and get caught up in the happenings not little details/mistakes. Keep writing and do it FAST. I love how you have Joanna and Beaumont intermingle. Thank you for being a wonderful story teller.

  13. Received your book today. Can hardly wait to dig in. I tend to not look for errors in books but some are glaring and I know there are more than there used to be. In the front of many author’s books, the tributes to many people connected with the books, such as readers, editors, etc etc make me wonder how they miss the obvious errors. Characters who are a different name in one chapter only. Living in So Cal, I find many inconsistencies in geography! The plot and intrigue are the main interests that I care about. I too loved Travis McGee and the John McDonald books. I recently found two in the library and re-read them. I had so many favorite authors who were men and now most of what I read is written by women!! Life evolves.

  14. I don’t usually notice errors in a well written book. Authors like you that tell such a good story carry me along on a wonderful journey with old friends like Beau, Joanna, Ali, and the Walkers. I didn’t notice there is only one space after a period and I certainly am not going to get out a map and check for accuracy. I’m going to read and enjoy. Thank you for so many hours of pleasure.

  15. Judy, you were the one who told me long ago, early in my writing career (and you changed my life that day. Thanks for that) that you can’t please everyone and there’s always going to be a critic, that it happens to all successful writers.

    You told me, too, that you were positive now that I would become successful, because it happened to me and you wished me luck along the way. While I’ve not achieved what others might believe is “success” by traditional standards, I love what I do, it makes me smile, it fills a void in my life I couldn’t get anywhere else and I travel a great deal , which is a love of mine, as well as the writing. To me, that’s good enough.

    You’re the one who taught me that everyone has critics. The best way to handle them is to let them spew their venom and move on, shaking it off like water from a duck’s back. It was good advice then, it’s good advice now.

  16. I love what you say about mistakes and the ‘beauty’ in Native American cultures. We are all a ‘work in progress’ in our own lives. None of us are perfect and ‘do’ make mistakes. To me, any errors I read in a book are similar.
    I would hope that we would all just sit back and enjoy the stories themselves. A lot of time and effort goes into each one. My belief is that if I see a mistake and get caught up in it, the worthiness of the story gets lost. This makes us lose focus of the purpose of the book or story itself. Hopefully others will agree with me.
    I get so drawn into your books,, ‘if’ there is an error of any type, the story is so engrossing it is overlooked. I never want to lose focus of what you are trying to accomplish and teach us through your stories, and there are lessons to be learned from them! Your heroes and heroines have inspired me in my personal life. Why would I want to lose sight of something so positive and life-changing? Keep writing!

  17. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to not make mistakes? Those that “don’t” make them but bring up mistakes of others have to be very boring people. I love your books. People need to get a life and move on to more important issues than an error a book.

  18. I bought it today , yeah, at Costco. Now to find a special time to read it.
    Maybe on the front porch this afternoon with our Australian Shephard resting by my side. ( a little larger than Bella.) Thanks for being my favorite author.

  19. The same principle applies in quilting. My wife and daughter always have a little mistake in their creations. When is the next Walker family book coming?

  20. I love all your books and don’t know how you keep everything straight. I especially love Beau. In fact I have a crush on him. My only request is that I fell in love with Gene Engene when he was narrating the books and no one quite lives up to him. It would be great to have him narrate them again. Otherwise, keep writing. You are loved and appreciated. Just started listening to Second Watch last night.

  21. If a story is interesting and the characters are vibrant I don’t notice mistakes and I don’t go looking for them either. I make enough of my own. Every time one of your books comes out I celebrate by reading it. You’ve never failed to keep me wrapped up in your characters’ worlds. Thanks.

  22. Caught another in Second Watch … where Beau and Mel went to meet his aunt. In #20 he flew into Beaumont, TX, in #21 to Houston … 90 miles to the west. Caught that ’cause I’m from Beaumont. And on a VERY positive note … I’ve read all of the Beau, Joanna and Ali books. The only problem I have with any of them is putting them down once I start reading. I keep hoping some day to travel to Bisbee, Sedona and Seattle just to see “where it all happened.” Looking forward to the next Brady book.

  23. Well let me say this about that . . . all I care about is a good story you have consistently delivered these treats to us readers through all your series. Thank you for bringing me such joy in reading your work.

  24. I like to say that the last perfect man to walk the earth was Jesus and they crucified him. I make mistakes all the time. Some of them, I even celebrate. It’s the mistakes that make it art. Have a happy day.

  25. Aside from any ‘mistakes’ you may have written (though I can’t find them)… your books are the BEST thing and BEST pleasure I have discovered! In the last 5 years, I have read over 40 of your books with J.P. Beaumont being my absolute favorite along with Ali and Joanna. I’m so glad to have the opportunity to read your creative mind!!!

    Thank you so much and can’t wait to read the new J.P. novel!


  26. I love all your books they are great.I have read all the Ali Reynolds and most of the Joanna Brady.I will soon start on your older series.About your mistakes we all make them.Some people are so unhappy they want us all to be.

  27. I so enjoy reading your blog! You always have great advise and aren’t afraid to tell it like it is! I used to try my hardest to make as few mistakes as I could, but as I have gotten older (in my 60’s now), I realize that mistakes are a part of life and no one is immune. Your books have been great reads for many years and I regard you as one of my favorite authors. I love the fact that you are “real” just like the rest of us (albeit you’re a great writer and most of us only wish). I knew this the moment I listened to your talk at a book signing in Portland. Keep up the good work!

  28. I am a quilter. Old quilting lore is that many years ago, women (the primary quilters 50-60 year ago) would DELIBERATELY include a mistake in their quilts (i.e., a block upside down or a point not aligned perfectly) because “there was only One who was perfect, & He had holes in His hands & feet.”

  29. I am sorry but I appear to be in the minority. I feel that it is very distracting to have authors make glaring mistakes in their books. One author I read who bragged about her “meticulous research” put a river in downtown Seattle several years ago. That was enough to ruin the book for me. One reason that I have always enjoyed Beaumont books is the way she knew and portrayed Seattle warts and all. However glaring errors such as characters aging at different rates annoy me. It makes me wonder if perhaps the author just doesn’t care or can’t keep their facts straight. Several authors I have read talk about keeping story bibles or notebooks so that they don’t make errors. I can see an editor not catching it but really I feel that it is the authors job to keep their stories straight. Like I said just one woman’s opinion.

  30. I adore your books and have ties to both Seattle and the southwest. Most of my reading these days is done via books on CD. Here is the mountains of western NC there’s a ton of driving so lots of time to listen. You stories make time fly and make me have to come up with excuses to drive more towards the climax.

    As to people having problems with your books….as one comment said…”classy answer”. I would add that your stories and characters float my boat, ignore them. A dozen red raspberries to them. Keep up the excellent work. You are one of my 3 favorite authors of the last 20 yrs.

    • Dear Madeleine

      Thank you for the kind words. The ancient sacred charge of the storyteller is to beguile the time, and time spent in cars is often time in need of beguiling.



  31. I am with Teri Anne here, at least for major errors. having said that I just finished “Second Watch” and did not notice the error, even watching for it! The thing that bothers me most is more than a typo/ wrong name for minor character error; it is major illogic. I have trouble each time I read an Ali Reynolds book ( which does not stop me reading them!) in trying to make sense of the relative ages of Ali and her mother. Careful checking between books and estimating time elapsed between then gives me a maximum of 16 years between their ages. Which sounds rather short. I see that Ali had to be old enough to be dismissed as over tha hill, and her mother young enough for her lifestyle but it still bothers me….
    Having now complained, I also have to say …one of my favourite authors!!!

  32. Don’t bite my head off here, but Beau talks about never going to Vietnam, or being in the armed services in “Payment in Kind”.. I really liked Second Watch anyway- think it rates as one of your best. Keep up the good work! (& take some gingko for that memory thing..?)
    P.S.-And is Kelly’s husbands name Jeff or Jeremy? Also, did her daughter’s name change from Karen Louise toKayla, & I missed that book?

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