Monday, February 10, 2014

Historical Mistakes

Sure, there’s been many, but without them we wouldn’t be where we are today. Yes, I speak tongue in cheek. Indeed, one person’s mistake is another’s success (or boon or just good fortune depending where the individual stood on the “mistake” at the time). But that’s not what I’m referring to. I make reference here to my content—specifically historical errors in my books. Some I caught in time, some I didn’t. They can be fixed, of course, with a small effort and a little money since all my books are now at Lightning Source, Smashwords, and Amazon (Kindle). For the former I need only $40.00 to re-upload and the last two platforms require only an expenditure of time.

Research in conjunction with the upcoming sequel to my latest novel Camellia Creek has uncovered several errors in previous works I now feel compelled to correct. Students of history will be quicker to pick up on them than the general reader (no one has pointed anything out to me, but that doesn’t necessarily mean folks haven’t noted them). The mistakes are painful to me because I know I was wrong in my assumptions and that resulted in my documenting an incorrect “fact.” The errors appear primarily in the Historical Notes to my novels, but one in Camellia Creek proper has caused me to make an alteration to its sequel, Honor’s Banner. That error is something I can work around, but things would have been a little simpler had I checked rather than assume the obvious was correct. Remember the old adage? “To assume makes an “ass” out of “u” and an “ass” out of “me.” [My marine-corps husband told me that one a lifetime ago. Personally, I don’t believe the navy—that would be an oblique reference to myself—has to take much of an individual effort to make an ass out of a marine since he is so capable on his own.] But, alas, I am talking about me here, am I not? And I messed up.

Except for my misspelling of the name of the freshwater fish bream, a Southern-staple, as brim in The Devil’s Bastard, all my (known) errors deal with the era of the War of Northern Aggression and the tyrannical period that followed, euphemistically called Reconstruction. And, hey, in my defense, that misspelling is not really a “historical” error, and I wrote the name of the darn fish just like it sounds—“brim.” Of course, one might think that in fifty plus years of eating the thing I’d have seen the word in print, which I did after printing up 2,000 copies with an offset printer. That was long ago. The upload to LSI is correct and as disgusted as I was with myself at the time—I’m a Southerner, I really should have known how to spell the name of the fish—I’ve learned to take such embarrassments in stride.

I recently discovered another particularly egregious error in Camellia Creek. In Chapter Twenty-nine my hero, teasing his young wife regarding her belief in ghosts, makes reference to Irwin Russell, who linked the old darkies’ ability to commune with the dead as a gift given the ignorant and childlike.

Born in Mississippi in 1853, Irwin Russell became a renowned author in postbellum days, but though he was alive and kicking at the time of Eli Calhoon’s 1865 reference to him, he would have been only twelve and the work containing Russell’s observation, Christmas in the Quarter, yet to be written. Like the misspelled brim (and believe me, I searched for an alternate spelling) there was no getting around the screw-up short of a revision. Fixed it is, but that doesn’t change the fact there’s probably a hundred copies of Camellia Creek in circulation with that anachronism.

Ah, now space grows short, and I’ve other “mess-ups” to confess. Those I plan to address in upcoming posts. Not only does that afford me the opportunity to acknowledge my mistakes, it will allow me to introduce readers to my work without shoving the books down their throats—part of my non-obtrusive marketing strategy—see my two preceding posts below. It is hoped that, if nothing else, readers will enjoy my take on the history.

Over the next several weeks, I’ll be discussing John Lusk Alcorn and his role in secession (“Historical Note,” Wolf Dawson); President Andrew Johnson (“Historical Note,” Camellia Creek); and Kentucky’s economy prior to and during the War (Camellia Creek proper). I’ll also throw in one or two near misses that I did have the good sense to check before I went to print.

Thanks for reading.


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