Friday, December 28, 2007

Abandonment

"If you've ever written a book, it's not really finished but abandoned.”

Lemony Snicket (aka Daniel Handler)

Rick’s blog (below) got me thinking about my own ‘finished’ experiences. While I’ve had a few plot/character issues to resolve as well the occasional ‘somebody else must have written that’ sections to revise, what drove me nuts were the number of errors that slipped past me to end up in print.

I can’t fault Rose – who reads all my stuff before anyone else – or my proofreaders, Deana Costanza and Joanne LaFave, or my editor, the legendary Barbara Peters. They spotted all the typos and spelling errors and the miss-tagged dialog bits. A few still creep in – that’s the magic of publishing, the gremlins in the presses, Deus ex machine – and folks from around the world seem to enjoy emailing me to tell me just where they are in the books. But those don’t bug me.

The ones that do bug me, the ones that keep me up at night, are the things I know are wrong that I should have made right – from little things like naming somebody Mahet when I meant Mehmet, to big things like saying the Monkey Bar was south of the Lanta Merry Huts when I knew full well it was north, or implying that the fictitious Bollywood movie in Out of Order wasn’t a hit. Each of my books contain several of these blunders, but there is one error that looms above all the others, the one that I regret most of all since it is something I hold sacred, and I went and profaned the hell out of it.

In Relative Danger, Doug is drinking at the Long Bar in Singapore and I have the bartender serve him up a Hurricane. Nothing wrong there – great bar, great city, great drink. And to this day I might not have ever known that there was a problem if it hadn’t been pointed out to me by my fellow inebriate, the eagle-eyed Tim Burke. Tim was kind enough not to say it to my face, passing the news of my failure through his brother-in-law, my best friend Rick Roth. Rick knew I’d want the bad news fast and unfiltered – “Tim says to tell you that a Hurricane is red, not blue.”

Shock. Disbelief. Panic. Shame. I felt it all, and all at the same time. I grabbed a copy of the book and, sure enough, there it was, page 198, right at the start of Chapter 26. I knew what a Hurricane looked like, I had even consumed a few right there at the Long Bar, part of an epic head-to-head competition that included Rose, an AWOL Australian private and a vacationing college student from New Zealand. I know that drink, I have made that drink with my own two hands, and yet I got it wrong.

And I call myself a writer.

Just in case you’re wondering:

1 oz vodka, 1/4 oz grenadine syrup, 1 oz gin, 1 oz light rum, 1/2 oz 151 rum,1 oz amaretto almond liqueur, 1 oz triple sec, grapefruit juice, pineapple juice

Pour all but the juices, in order listed, into a hurricane glass three-quarters filled with ice. Fill with equal parts of grapefruit and pineapple juice, and serve.

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