True confessions time. I am not perfect. (Shocker, I know!) Can you spy the anachronisms in each of these excerpts from books I’ve written?
“The carpentry shop door creaked open and Olivia started. Croome stood framed in the threshold, eyes narrowed suspiciously, fowling piece in hand. …“I seen the door open to this ol’ place and thought a raccoon or a tramp must have got inside.”
“Only teasing you, lass,” Mac said. “Often carry a gun when I walk about on my duties. Never know when a wild dog or mangy wolf might decide to harass me or the livestock.”
His gaze swept her person, head to toe, and back again, like a hummingbird hovering over a bloom. “You look beautiful,” he breathed.
Some time ago, a reader from England sent me an email with the subject: Lost in Translation. She wrote: “There are no raccoons in England, so it would be impossible for one to get into the wood-worker’s hut.”
Who knew they didn’t have raccoons in England? I do now! This writing biz sure keeps me humble.
As an American author writing books set in England 200 years ago, I try hard to get my facts right, check every word in dialogue to make sure it was in use then, etc. But obviously I am fallible and mistakes have slipped through despite my best efforts. Ever since the “raccoon incident,” I have tried to become even more vigilant, especially about the animal kingdom. (And don’t even get me started about England’s flora! :))
Unfortunately, that one raccoon lives on in England within the pages of The Silent Governess, except for copies from the most recent printings. Thankfully I caught the second error before the book was finalized.
What? No wolves in England either? But what about “Little Red Riding Hood” and “The Three Little Pigs” and their nemesis, the big bad wolf? I almost didn’t check that one, but I’m glad I did. Guess what? Wolves have been all but extinct in England for hundreds of years. So I went searching for alternatives. Some other big bad animal to replace that mangy wolf, to justify my land agent carrying a gun. No bears. No cougars. Polecats sounded like a potential wild-cat-type critter, but alas, they are really glorified ferrets. Hardly the frightening menace I was looking for. So what did I have to resort to? The all ferocious, stuff of legends and Grimm’s fairy tales…badger? Come on, England, is that the best you’ve got?
So yes, now that line in The Secret of Pembrooke Park (December 2014) reads: “Never know when a wild dog or mangy badger might decide to harass me or the livestock.”
Don’t laugh! At least now you know the rest of the story.
Last week, I avoided a hummingbird near-miss in my current work-in-progress. Hummingbirds have never been found in the wild anywhere in Europe. So, I’m trying to come up with possible substitutes.
His gaze swept her person, head to toe, and back again, like a _______ hovering over a bloom.
Like a…hawk moth? (A what?! Apparently a moth that looks like a hummingbird. Yeah, I had never heard of one either… According to RSPB.org, a “hummingbird hawk moth is so similar to the tiny American bird that there are hundreds of cases of mistaken identity every year.”)
Like a butterfly? (Gak. Feels too cliché.)
Like a honeybee? (Ouch!)
I’m open to suggestions.
In the meantime, don’t leave me hanging here. Ever spied an anachronism (or faunachronism :)) in a book you were reading? Or if you are a writer, made a blunder of your own? Tell me I’m not the only fallible author out there!
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