One of the things that an author dreads more than anything is this sentence--"I loved your book, but..." It's that "but" that always means that somehow you've messed up. It's hard for some people to understand that all books are written, corrected and produced by human beings. Imperfect human beings who make mistakes. Despite the fact that I reread my manuscripts ten to twenty times and they are also read by professional copy editors, creative editors and grammar police, mistakes just happen. Editors are horribly overworked in these days of corporate mergers and things are done too fast, that's just the way of the today's world. Most editors work seventy hour weeks and are extremely dedicated. They suffer, as I do, with every mistake that gets through.
The fans I truly appreciate are the ones who can point out errors without being snippy. They are dear to my heart! Not all readers are so understanding and polite. I've actually had angry readers tell me they will never read anything by me again because of errors in the book. They scold me! Honestly, I just don't know what to say to people like that. So, I just don't answer them. Life is too short to spend my time answering unreasonably angry and petty people.
Now, for the fun part. In "Tumbling Blocks" I had a wonderful woman named Margaret, email me and point out that on page 137 I had a character whistling the song "The City of New Orleans." I attributed the song to Woody Guthrie. She kindly told me (after saying she liked my books!) that it was actually Arlo Guthrie who sang that song. Picture me hitting my head! Of course, I knew that! I'm a baby boomer. I think I was thinking Arlo and wrote Woody. And maybe my copy editor was young and may not even have known either singer! I'm not sure why it got through, but it did. It's gets more interesting though. Margaret went on to tell me that actually it was Steve Goodman, the author of the song, who sang it first. He was a very popular folk singer and songwriter from Chicago. He died of leukemia in 1984. She knew all this because he was her brother-in-law. I thanked her for her information and promised it would be changed by the time the paperback came out. That's the general rule, by the way. If you catch a mistake in between the hardback and paperback, I can usually change it (usually it needs to be to me seven or eight months before the paperback comes out, which for my books tends to be in October since my books are published in May). After it's out in paperback, it's very hard to get errors changed. Usually they'll only change something if there's some legal issue they are worried about.
But, back to Steve Goodman. Margaret very kindly sent me a CD with fifteen versions of "The City of New Orleans" on it. It's naturally one of my favorite CD's! Steve Goodman sings it first, then Arlo Guthrie, then Willie Nelson. (Steve and Willie's versions are my favorites). There are lots of cool covers of it. Margaret told me it's been recorded by over 100 different artists and has even been sung from the space shuttle.
Steve still has many loyal fans out there! I was given a CD of his music by a fan in Ohio when I was on tour and was also contacted by, Susan, the General Manager of Dirty Linen magazine who not only told me about Steve, but sent me a bunch of copies of her magazine which celebrates and promotes folk, world and alternative country music. (I'm old enough to remember when alternative country was real country music!)
So, this was a wonderful error, a lucky one for me. I learned about a new singer (I've since bought some of his CD's) and had a wonderful correspondence with his sister-in-law. I even mailed a copy of "Tumbling Blocks" to his widow with the page corrected. He's a great singer and I recommend his music highly. I'm not much of a baseball fan, but I love the song "Go, Cubs, Go!" Yes, this mistake was one I was happy I made.