Beginnings

Beginnings
Terry Odell

Book beginnings are tough, as evidenced by the interest in The Kill Zone’s First Page Critiques. A blog post I’d read recently talked about having about 250 words to ‘hook’ a reader. That’s not even a full page.

And, it seems, no matter how many books we’ve written, how many times we’ve stared at that cursor on the screen under the words “Chapter One”, it doesn’t get easier.

I know this is a frequent topic her at the Zone, but it hit home (again) as both myself and my critique partner were starting new projects. And, we both were falling into the same old quicksand. She’s more of a planner than I am, and she was starting a new series, so her head was filled with ideas, many of which would fall into the “tell us this later” category. Her first chapter was full of them.

I was going back to my Mapleton Mystery series, so I know most of my main characters. But there were things from the last book that readers might need to know, threads that were left open. Not dangling, not hanging onto cliffs, just springboards to explore in a future book. If you’re interested, I posted an article about endings on my personal blog Monday.

Even “knowing the rules”, when I shared my first draft of page 1 of a new book, a draft I’d set aside to deal with final edits and formatting of Cruising Undercover, an author friend pointed out that my first paragraph was … exposition. In my mind, there was a conflict there, a problem, but there I went, letting my protagonist think about it.

Open with Dialogue. Dialogue is Action.

How many times have I “heard” James Scott Bell and others here pound that advice into us? More than I can count, yet, even knowing this, understanding this, I was so eager to describe the problem so that’s what I did.

This was my opening draft paragraph:

Gordon Hepler held his breath as Angie, his wife, stepped into the house he’d hoped she’d approve of. Not that he didn’t love her—to the moon and back—but her tiny apartment above the Daily Bread diner she ran was … tiny. She’d agreed to consider moving, but so far, she’d found fault with every house they’d looked at. This one—fingers crossed—would meet her criteria. Except for one minor wrinkle, it was perfect.

There was a line of dialogue immediately after this paragraph, but no, I hadn’t opened with it, not to mention loading the paragraph with back story.

Back to that blog post. The author suggested 7 points that should hook readers, and that authors should strive for 4 of them in their first 250 words. Rather than repeat what the contributors to TKZ say in their First Page Critiques, I’m going to open the floor to discussion. Do you agree with these 7 hooks?

  1. Plunge into the action
  2. Communicate a theme
  3. Raise a question that needs answering
  4. Hook the reader’s emotions
  5. Communicate the stakes
  6. Establish tone/voice
  7. Introduce the main character (if possible, by name)

Do you think squeezing 4 of them into half a page is effective? Obviously several can be combined (avoid the laundry list!), but 250 words isn’t much real estate to deal with.

And if you want to read the full article, which contains examples, it’s here.

Floor’s yours.


Cruising Undercover by Terry OdellNow Available for Pre-Order: Cruising Undercover.

Not accepting the assignment could cost him his job. Accepting it could cost him his life.


Terry Odell is an award-winning author of Mystery and Romantic Suspense, although she prefers to think of them all as “Mysteries with Relationships.”

It’s a Touching Good Story

It’s a Touching Good Story
Terry Odell

diagram showing the relationship between the brain and body parts for the sense of touchUse the five senses in your writing. We’ve all heard it. Often, writers consider that a ‘rule’ and try to incorporate all five into every scene. For me, that inches into “laundry list” territory. I liked David Morrell’s approach, which was to assume sight is a given and include two others, varying them across the scenes.

I’ve already talked about the senses of sight and smell. What about touch? It’s an important sense—and a very interesting one. Do your characters utilize it? Notice it? React to it?

What are some ways you can use the sense of touch in your writing?

Common sensations for your characters:

Weight. Heavy or light? Can it be unexpected? My marine mammal specialist Hubster was big into bones. A manatee rib is amazingly heavy for its size. When people pick it up, they’re always compensating as their senses readjust.
Smooth or rough?
Bumpy or deep indentations?
Solid, or does it give?
Warm, hot, or cold?

How does your character react if they come into contact with something painful?

Side note: Our nervous system includes a ‘shortcut’ to react to pain. Grab that hot pan on the stove by mistake? Ever notice that your hand jerks away before you feel the pain? That’s because you’ve got nerve pathways to the spinal cord that cause your muscles to contract while the sensation is still working its way up to the brain, which then interprets the feeling as pain, and that’s when you say ouch. Meanwhile, you’ve avoided potential damage.

diagram of nerves to and from the spinal cord in response to painAre you describing the sensations of walking barefoot through the mud? Trying to get a handhold on a slick surface? What about on the rough stones as the character tries to climb to safety?

How do you describe the sensations? Need a prompt or two? Here are over 200 descriptive words.

If you’ve got your character in the dark (eliminating the sense of sight), touch becomes more predominant. But, dark or not, your characters can feel the stickiness of a bloody wound, the roughness of the ropes they’re tied up with, the warmth of another character’s hand, the hardness of the chair they’re sitting in.

folding metal chairPerhaps more important is that there are two systems of touch. One is the obvious factual description. The chair in the interrogation interview room (have to keep up with the terminology) is cold, hard, and off balance. But there’s also the emotional side of the sense of touch.

There are completely different sensors for physical touch vs emotional touch.

If all you’re writing is what that interview room chair feels like as the character sits there, you’re missing an important way to connect with your readers. Does it trigger a visceral reaction as well as a physical one? Let the readers in on it. Maybe instead of the fear or at least the mental discomfort the cop his hoping for, what if the chair evokes happy memories of sitting at the boisterous kids table at Thanksgiving with all his cousins, joking, flipping mashed potatoes across the room at Great Aunt Martha?

When your character picks up a firearm, it might be feel cool, hard, maybe the grip is rough in his palm. Does picking up the weapon give him a sense of power? Of calmness, knowing he’s now in charge? Or is it an unwelcome foreign object? Something the character has no desire to hold, to be in the same room with, but he now needs it for survival? Or to defend someone he cares about? What emotions would those same sensations trigger in him?

Romance writers might have an edge over mystery writers here, since they’re used to showing emotion, and touch is very important to creating a bond between people. And yeah, it plays a part in sex. Even if you don’t like sex scenes on the page, there’s a lot of touching in foreplay. Touch is connected to the release of pheromones. While for men, it’s the sense of smell that triggers them, for women, it’s physical contact with the partner.

Other interesting facts about the emotional side of touch. An experiment showed that people holding hot drinks when meeting someone rated them warmer, as having a more pro-social personality than if they were holding cold drinks.

Another experiment had people evaluating resumes of others. Resumes on a heavy clipboard resulted in people being considered as having more authority. Not that they would be better in the job, but just more weighty.

Remember, senses don’t exist in a vacuum. The feel of rough burlap when the bad guy puts a hood over his victim will intersect with the sense of smell. Use both to add depth to your story.

Your turn, TKZers. How do you incorporate the sense of touch in your books? Do you connect them to the emotional side? The floor is yours.

Some references for this post:
For more about the science of touch, go here.
For more about incorporating touch into writing, go here.

If you’ll permit a brief moment of BSP, in anticipation of releasing Cruising Undercover, Book 11 in my Blackthorne, Inc. series, the first box set of Blackthorne, Inc. novels, including When Danger Calls, Where Danger Hides, and Rooted in Danger, is on sale for 99 cents this week. Price goes up on July 27th.


Cruising Undercover by Terry OdellNow Available for Pre-Order: Cruising Undercover.

Not accepting the assignment could cost him his job. Accepting it could cost him his life.


Terry Odell is an award-winning author of Mystery and Romantic Suspense, although she prefers to think of them all as “Mysteries with Relationships.”

Publishing Without Writing A Book

Publishing Without Writing A Book
Terry Odell

First – for those who wanted to see Craig Johnson’s presentation at the Mountain of Authors day at the Pikes Peak Library, you can find it here. The original post, also updated, is here.

Bundles of BooksNot all of us are as prolific as others in being able to produce a story monthly, weekly, or daily. I’m a one-at-a-time writer and don’t have three concurrent projects going. Or two. The closest I come is to start a new book while my editor has my completed manuscript. Even then, when I get my edits back, I turn the burner off under the new one and devote all my time and energy getting the completed one ready for release.

What if you really want something new out there. Sales might be slumping. One option is to package your backlist titles—the ones you’ve already completed—and bundle them together. Whether you call it a box set or a book bundle, you have a “new” product to market.

It’s not hard, and you can probably put one together in less than a day.

My thoughts:

I like bundles of three novels. I did this for my Blackthorne, Inc. series, which comprises ten novels. The first nine are “older”, with #10 being the most recently released in the series, and #11 is in the editing process. Another consideration is pricing, since Amazon still sits in the dark ages with it’s 70% royalty limit plunging to 35% for books priced over $9.99. I can price my bundles inside their ceiling, offer the bundle price at a substantial discount to buying the books individually, and not feel that I’m giving them away.

First step, as with any book you’re creating, is to open a new document, and set up the basics. Most channels like 1-inch margins, TNR, 12 point. (The end user has control of these elements, so no point in getting ‘fancy’ with anything here.)

If you’ve been consistent with your formatting (which may not be the case for older books), all you have to do is piggyback them into one new file. Strip out the typical “more by the author,” “a note from the author,” etc., back matter, leaving only the acknowledgements and dedication pages for each file. My preference for acknowledgments is at the end of each book, but some like to put that up front. Your call, but if you’re writing for “me”, then I want to get to the story as soon as possible, and won’t wade through pages of who you’re thanking first. Same goes for reviews of other books. I’m not reading those; I want to read this one.

Create a new title page for the bundle. I simple called mine “The Blackthorne, Inc. Novels, Volume 1, 2, and 3,” respectively. For my copyright page, I gave the date the bundle was released, with the copyright dates of each book beneath:

Copyright © 2018 by Terry Odell
When Danger Calls, copyright © 2010 by Terry Odell
Where Danger Hides, copyright © 2011 by Terry Odell
Rooted in Danger, copyright ©2013 by Terry Odell

I followed with the usual copyright verbiage.

Then, add your books. You can copy and paste, or you can use the Insert tab. It’s Insert>Text>Text From File. Click that and choose your book file. (Click the image to enlarge.)

screenshot of Word showing an arrow to insert a file into a document

Once I had all three books in the master doc, I tweaked the Table of Contents.

My main Table of Contents was set up with only the three books hyperlinked to the title page of each one, which was the only ‘new’ formatting I needed. Word creates hyperlinks in a few keystrokes. I’m sure other software does it, too. It’s under the “Insert” tab: Insert>Link>Insert Link>Place in This Document. (Click the image to enlarge.)screenshot of how to insert a hyperlink in a Word documentFrom there, each individual book already had the heading style, so the chapters met the demands of the sales channels. Rinse and repeat for each book you’re bundling. At the end of the last book, reinsert the normal back matter. I use Draft2Digital for converting my Word file to epub, so getting all the back matter is nothing more than a click for each item. Plus, they automatically update the ‘more by the author’ section to the most recent releases.

Then, you need a cover. I hired my cover artist to do mine. She’s got the skills and while I could probably create one, I prefer to hire out things that will take time and inevitably, frustration.

Book Cover, Blackthorne Inc. Novels Volume 1 by Terry OdellA caveat. Apple does NOT like 3-D in any iteration. My original bundle covers were flat, but they showed the books they contained in 3-D. It’s a common enough ‘problem’ that D2D has an “Apple Cover” option so you can use a separate one for only that channel. This is relatively new, I think, as my first 2 Blackthorne bundles had no issues–either that or Apple operates on the “whim” system, but the cover for #3 was rejected. My cover artist had never heard of the practice, but she did the ‘all flat’ Apple cover for me.

Apple-specific cover for The Blackthorne Inc. Novels, Volume 1 by Terry OdellOne ‘negative’ to book bundles of backlist titles is that the sales channels don’t all regard a bundle of existing books as a ‘new’ release, so they don’t send out the announcements to followers. You still have to do the marketing.

My most recent release was Volume 3, which brought the bundled books up to 9 of the 10 novels. I did this because at the time, I was working on Book 11 and wanted to see if I could spur more interest in the series prior to Cruising Undercover coming out.

A quick mention of audio. I had all the audio files. There was no recording time involved other than a new opening and closing. Bundles sell well on audio subscription services, since listeners want to get the most book for their monthly credit. I haven’t done my Blackthornes in audio, because by the time the format was open to indie authors, I had 8 books in the series, and the cost was prohibitive. I have 11 now, so it’s even more costly, and my ROI wouldn’t justify the expense.

What’s your take on bundles/box sets? Like them as a way to get more books for your bucks? Have you created any? Were you satisfied with the results?


Cruising Undercover by Terry OdellNow Available for Pre-Order: Cruising Undercover.

Not accepting the assignment could cost him his job. Accepting it could cost him his life.


Terry Odell is an award-winning author of Mystery and Romantic Suspense, although she prefers to think of them all as “Mysteries with Relationships.”

Library Events, Longmire, and Craig Johnson

Library Events, Longmire, and Craig Johnson
Terry Odell

Library Events***UPDATED to add the link to Johnson’s presentation. Note: His presentation begins at about the 6 minute mark.

I had the pleasure of attending a local library event where Craig Johnson was the invited keynote speaker. I’d heard him speak before, and he’s got a great sense of humor, so I knew his talk would be entertaining. His talk was paired with an “Author Showcase” where 30+ authors, writing in a multitude of genres, were given tables to display their wares. I was fortunate to be accepted.

I’ve done this event before. The structure of this year’s event was different from its predecessors. Previously, there were several “writing-related” panels, separated by breaks where attendees were encouraged to wander the room and look at the authors’ wares. The final presentation was the keynote address, and attendance jumped as “normal readers” came for just that, but there were people at the venue throughout the schedule.

Library EventsMy experience this year. YMMV. This was an event focused on a well-known author. It’s not a craft workshop by any means. The majority of attendees are coming to hear Johnson speak, not buy books. Overall, most people who come to library events aren’t coming to buy books, unless, of course, you’re the keynote speaker, in which case you’ll probably sell a lot of books. Johnson also had a table full of Longmire-related merchandise.

This year, there were no panels. The authors were invited to show up about 2 hours early to set up, have lunch, and a chance to interact with Johnson. The doors were scheduled to open to the public an hour before Johnson was scheduled to speak, during which time attendees were free to roam the showcase tables. Very few did. They were there to listen to Craig Johnson, evidenced by the fact that when the library decided to open doors to the public ahead of their announced time, the ‘early birds’ filed in and found seats even though they had almost two hours to wait. Very few wandered the outskirts of the room where the authors had their tables. At the advertised “doors open at” time, a lot more people filed in and headed straight to Johnson’s table.

Johnson began his talk by saying he comes from a small town of 25 people. He was a rancher, and he still is. He spoke of wanting to become a writer. At the time, noir was the big thing, but he didn’t want that, so he came up with the idea of a small town sheriff. He wrote and rewrote the first few chapters of his manuscript. It was bad, and he knew it. He realized if he was going to write about a small town sheriff, he needed to know more about what the job entailed, so he visited the local sheriff who was willing to speak with him. They chatted for a short while, and Johnson was convinced he now had the answers and was going to write the book and become famous. So much so, that he remodeled his house, updated his ranch structures, and worked on renovating a store for his wife.

When he opened his bottom desk drawer one day (looking for something else, of course), and saw the manuscript, he realized ten years had passed. He happened to run into the sheriff at the gas station one day shortly thereafter and re-introduced himself as the man who’d come to the sheriff for advice for a book. The sheriff’s response was, “This book’s going kind of slow.”

Johnson went home and reworked the first chapter and, late one night, went against his instincts and sent it to the sheriff. Early the next morning, in the ‘quiet time’ while Johnson was on his front porch having his coffee, the sheriff sped down the ranch road and skidded to a stop, got out of his vehicle, and said, “I know who did it!”

He was wrong. In fact, Johnson sent him chapters as he wrote them, and the sheriff was wrong every time.

Johnson went on to talk about the Longmire series. When the producers wanted his input for casting Walt Longmire, Johnson had no idea. All the actors he though would be good for the part were long dead; he wasn’t up to speed on the younger ones. There were two issues to consider: whether to go with a popular actor or an unknown. The popular cowboy-hat-wearing actors, according to Johnson, were a small handful, and people would associate them with previous roles. However, Walt Longmire was supposed to be in his 50s, and unknown actors in that age range were probably unknown because they weren’t very good. The studio sent Johnson a box of CDs with all the auditions for the role, and he begrudgingly, but dutifully watched them. The audition scene was a ‘death notification’ which is one of the most dreaded jobs for law enforcement.

As Johnson told it, he got to the last CD, not having been impressed yet. He saw the actor’s name: Robert Taylor, and his first thought was “They took my advice.” Only the over-30s in the audience got that joke. At any rate, in the audition, when Taylor went to deliver the death notification, he removed his hat and put it over his heart. That gesture—and a comment by Johnson’s wife as she was watching (Oh, my!—and not for the gesture) got Taylor the job.

A member of the audience asked how Johnson and the writers got along. Johnson declined to be in the writer’s room, but asked the scripts be sent to him, and they’d discuss points Johnson disagreed with, usually explaining their rationale. One in particular, was that they wanted to make the main characters 10 years younger. Johnson objected, but their explanation was, “We want this to be a long-running series and can’t have the major players using walkers.”

Johnson spoke of his first invitation to a library event, where the librarian said they were a very small county and didn’t have much to offer in the way of an honorarium. Johnson (after looking up what an honorarium was), said he didn’t like to negotiate, so he’d ask for the same he asked of all libraries. A six-pack of Rainier beer.

Years later, he was invited to another event where the librarian handed him his honorarium, which, due to the rules against alcohol in the building, was wrapped in brown paper, taped, and tied with string. Johnson commented that it looked more like heroin than beer. At any rate, the librarian said  it had been hard to procure the beer, and Johnson said he understood that most bars didn’t serve the “cheap stuff.” She said, no, that wasn’t it. Everyone was out of stock, including the brewery. Johnson called the brewery the next day, and was told that yes, the librarian was right. They had run out. Why the shortage? This was two weeks after Longmire hit the screens, and everyone was drinking Walt’s favorite brew.

Library EventsOther “issues” for being an author with a popular television series as related by Johnson. He was paying for lunch at a café on a road trip. He was wearing one of his ball caps that said “Sheriff, Absaroka County, Wyoming” and the clerk questioned it. Johnson said he wasn’t really the sheriff, and it wasn’t a real county. She came back with “It is, too. That’s Walt Longmire’s County.” He introduced himself and she said, “Huh?” He said he wrote the books the series was based on. She said, “There are books?”

One of the best takeaways for me was in response to a question about the differences in books versus the visual media. He said books have one big advantage—the author sets up words like dominoes, and the first sentences tips the first tile, and they tumble along, propelled by the reader’s imagination.

Other takeaways from the event, on the extremely rare chance someone would invite me to give this kind of a talk:

  • Open with a VERY short background sentence or two.
  • Talk a little bit about how you began writing. Make it a story, not a recitation of events.
  • Talk a little bit about the life of a writer and experiences you’ve had. Johnson spoke of being able to donate generously to his favorite charity.
  • Read a little bit of one of your works. In this presentation, Johnson spoke of going to a high school girls’ basketball game with the father of one of the players. What he saw there led to a scene in one of his books, and he followed that story by reading it.

All right, TKZers. If you were invited to give a non-craft presentation to readers (or viewers), what would you talk about?


Cruising Undercover by Terry OdellNow Available for Pre-Order: Cruising Undercover.

Not accepting the assignment could cost him his job. Accepting it could cost him his life.


Terry Odell is an award-winning author of Mystery and Romantic Suspense, although she prefers to think of them all as “Mysteries with Relationships.”

Another Take on Book Trailers

Another Take on Book Trailers
Terry Odell

Creating book trailers

On Monday, Kay did an excellent how-to on creating book trailers. She definitely did her homework. Since I’d already written this post, and it gives another method, I decided to go ahead with it. Rarely is there only one way to do things, and opinions always vary.

It’s hard for me to remember my own preferences and prejudices when it comes to marketing (among other things) don’t necessarily represent those of many others. For example, I’ve never seen the draw for book trailers. Books are written words. Trailers are moving pictures. They don’t connect for me, as evidenced by the fact that even though I’ve written more than 30 books and novellas, I’ve never done a trailer. But I’m not everybody, and there are plenty of people who seem to like them. Who knows? They might even be drawn to further investigation of the book in question, and from there, some might go on to buy it.

Thus, as I’m in the “let the book marinate” phase, and it’s not due to my editor for a couple of weeks, I decided to see if creating a trailer for the current manuscript was something I might be able to handle. After all, they wouldn’t still be around if people didn’t like them.

I looked at a few trailers and decided which elements worked for me. Some of them didn’t suck. So, I hunted around for some tutorials. I found a very helpful one, and I’ll provide a link at the end of this post.

Turns out you can make a free book trailer using Canva, a service I’ve been using to create images for blogs and newsletters for some time. Free and familiar seemed like a good starting point. There was a learning curve, but I managed to create a draft trailer in a day, so not a huge time investment. Should I ever want to do another one, it’ll go much faster.

In case anyone here is as behind the times as I am, here’s a nutshell version of how to make a trailer using Canva. You’ll have to play with the elements, but this might help you find them faster than I did. I’m not going into all the image manipulation you can do with Canva. You should get familiar with the sidebar menu choices and know/learn how to do things like adjust an image size, change positions forward and backward, adjust transparency. You can do all of this in the free version to get the basics down. I’m only going into creating a book trailer here.

Note: I have the paid version of Canva, so I have access to more features, but you should be able to create a trailer using what’s available with the free version.

Most book trailers have three things: images, text, and music. That’s what I’ll focus on in this post.

Note: Clicking on the images should enlarge them so you can see more detail.

To start, open Canva and create a new project using the video template. The dimensions are already set, although I haven’t checked to see what it looks like on social media platforms. I’m not a big user of most of them, so I figured YouTube and my website would be where I’d start. You’ll get a screen that looks something like this.

creating a book trailer Those boxes at the bottom are your slides, and hitting the plus symbol opens a new one.

Next, choose an image. It can be a simple background, a photo, or a video clip. I wasn’t ready to try a moving background, so I went with photos. There are a lot of choices under the “photos” option, but since this book is set in Croatia, I had plenty of my own images to choose from. There’s an “upload” section where you can upload your own images. Just make sure you have the rights to use them.

Creating a book trailer

There’s another section where you can add your text. You have a choice of fonts, colors, and can size to fit. You can also play with effects. I like using the Shadow option, and there are further options inside that choice, such as how much to offset the shadow, which direction, and what color.

Creating book trailers

A brief digression. Way back in the day, I used to attend scientific meetings with The Hubster. Most of the time, I was out sightseeing, but occasionally, I sat in on a presentation. At the time, slides (as in 35mm camera images) were the norm. Hubster used to sit at the back of the room and see if he could read the text. He gave his grad students what-fer if they tried to put more than a few lines on a slide. Same went for graphs. Then along came PowerPoint. Wow! The things it could do. And people LOVED it. But the rule here is “Just because you CAN doesn’t mean you SHOULD.” All those dancing words and spiraling transitions between slides actually detract more than enhance. The same holds true for your book trailers.

My advice: Stick with one font. If you have a ‘brand’ font (mine is Americana), use it. On my slides, I did change colors based on the background (In another post, I talked about how the human eye can’t focus on red and blue and the same time, so for my slides with a blue background, I switched away from red text–another one of my brand colors) I’d used on the others.) It’s a good idea to have your text for each slide decided in advance. That way you can copy and paste (avoiding the risk of typos!)

Another thing you can use, since this is a video presentation, is animation. You can animate the entire slide (referred to as a ‘page’ in Canva) or any other elements, such as the text. Just be sure to select which one you want from the menu bar (which I never noticed, but the Canva FAQs were helpful).

Creating book trailersText caveats: Don’t overload the slide with words. Sentences, not paragraphs. Use another slide or slides. The more words, the longer you should leave the slide up there, and there’s a timer setting for each slide. They default to 5 seconds each, but you can adjust as needed.

There are a couple of options for transitions between slides, but when I tried them, I didn’t like the way they looks, so I simply opted for none. Your mileage may vary.

Your final slide(s) should be your marketing pitch. The book cover, genre, announcing it’s available and where (and as I see it, there’s not much point in promoting something people can’t buy or order), review clips if you have them, and your website. If you have a lot of things to add, don’t put them all on the same slide. You can keep the same background image and add text in small portions. However, any links won’t be active, so don’t use too many. (If I’m wrong and someone knows otherwise, give a shout.)

Then there’s music. Kay’s research said most people watch with sound off, but it can’t hurt to have background music for those who enjoy or expect it. Canva has a huge library of options. I found mine by going to the audio tab in the sidebar filtering to trailer music and scrolling.

Creating book trailersCruising Undercover is romantic suspense, so I wanted something that reflected that mood. I also looked for clips longer than my trailer. Once you find the one you like, you add it, and then you can edit which part to use if the selection is longer than your trailer by clicking the three dots and choosing ‘adjust’ to slide the sound back and forth.

Creating a book trailerAnd, speaking of length. This might be one of my prejudices, but if I see a trailer video is anything over 30 seconds, I’m far less likely to watch. (You can see the times for each slide on the above image.)

My trailer is still in draft mode. I plan to release it once the book is ready for pre-order, but here’s a sneak peek for TKZers. (Please don’t share the link.)

And here’s the tutorial I found most helpful.

Not interested in video. I blogged about using Canva to create still images for marketing at my own site.


The Blackthorne Inc Novels, Volume 3I’ve bundled books 7-9 in my Blackthorne, Inc. series, and the set is available now.


Terry OdellTerry Odell is an award-winning author of Mystery and Romantic Suspense, although she prefers to think of them all as “Mysteries with Relationships.” Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Thoughts on Thoughts

Thoughts on Thoughts
Terry Odell

Tips on Writing Thoughts

A recent read dealing with the way a debut author dealt with characters’ thoughts triggered this post.

This author handled things differently from my preferences, which pulled me out of the story. Not to say the author was wrong, but it slowed the read. The subject has made it to these pages before, but here’s my take. (For courtesy reasons, I’m not using examples from the author’s book.)

I’m a Deep POV person. Doesn’t matter if I’m writing first (rarely, but I’ve done it) or third (where I’m most comfortable, and which is almost first), I want readers to be inside the characters’ heads. The basic 5 senses are obvious, but how do we show what they’re thinking?

**Note: If you’re following the one POV character per scene “rule”, the reader should be well grounded and know who the POV character is, making it easy to know who’s thinking, but there are still techniques that can help.

When I auditioned narrators for my audiobooks, I gave them passages with dialogue, narrative, and internal monologue and told them I wanted it to be clear which was which for listeners. I had one auditioner come back with a “technique” he was very proud of that made it sound like the characters was in a tunnel for thoughts.

Having no formal education in the craft of writing, I went to workshops and conferences. One book that showed up on almost every presenter’s Suggested Reading list was Self Editing for Fiction Writers by Browne and King. Another handy booklet I picked up was Going Deep with Point of View by Suzanne Brockmann. Together, they laid the foundation for my approach to handling thoughts (among many other things).

What are my thoughts about writing thoughts? My two biggies:

  1. Don’t use speaker attributions/tags to tell the reader someone’s thinking.

If you’ve put the reader in the character’s head, it should be obvious they’re thinking. Per Browne & King, removing “he thought” makes them “unobtrusive to the point of transparency.”

Example:

Had he meant to kill her? Not likely, he thought.

Becomes

Had he meant to kill her? Not likely.

The second gets the same point across and is more effective.

They also suggest using the question technique.

Example:

He wondered why he always ended up killing them.

Becomes

Why did he always end up killing them?

Brockmann says “Anytime you interject she thought, she reflected, she guessed and so forth in this way—that’s you speaking, taking on the voice of the narrator, and your doing this takes the reader outside of the character’s head.”

  1. Beware italics

Italics do have their place, but italicized thoughts should be short—a sentence or two.

My ‘rule of thumb’ is to use italics when the character is talking to himself, and set them off in their own paragraph. Browne & King also suggest it as a useful technique to show a character’s thoughts in the middle of an action scene. Action doesn’t have to be fights and explosions. Here’s an example from my Identity Crisis. The following passage is a mix of narrative and Brett’s thoughts, but there’s only one bit in italics.

After the helicopter had deposited the team five miles down the mountain from the cabin, he, Adam—their team leader—and Fish had hiked up, then taken their positions surrounding the cabin. Since they couldn’t see each other, the only way to communicate was via radio. Then Adam had put the stupid radio silence rule into effect. What did he think? They were all telepathic?

Brett shifted, tightened and released his muscles in an attempt to keep warm. Toes, feet, ankles, calves. Quads, butt, shoulders. After two hours of lying on his belly in the cold, he had doubts he’d be able to move when the order came down. He was an endurance athlete. Not moving wasn’t part of his regimen.

Of course you’ll be able to move. Could be worse. Could be snowing.

Did he detect motion inside the cabin? He adjusted his binoculars. Nothing different. Curtains shifting as the wind blew through rotting walls and broken windows. Brett itched to crawl closer. Hell, just to move, keep the blood flowing.

What does Command know? We’re halfway up a bloody mountain somewhere in Mexico, while they’re sitting on their asses at Ops—where the building was heated, damn it—in San Francisco looking at computer terminals.

Some more examples of the way I handle the technique. Your mileage may vary.

From Falcon’s Prey. Fish is the POV character in this scene. First, a ‘clunky’ version.

“You two are free to get back to whatever you were doing,” Dalton said. “We’ll call if anything changes. Let’s move our seventeen hundred sitrep to eighteen hundred.”

Get back to what they were doing? What did that mean, Fish wondered. Dalton couldn’t think Fish was getting things on with Lexi, could he?

He told himself to chill. He was reading his own thoughts into a casual remark.

He didn’t think he would mind a little diversion. No, for the duration of this assignment, Lexi was the principal. They had plenty to talk about, plenty to catch up on, but getting things on wasn’t one of them.

Fish admitted to himself he had considered it.

Now, the streamlined version, the way it appears in the book. Thoughts should be obvious to the reader.

“You two are free to get back to whatever you were doing,” Dalton said. “We’ll call if anything changes. Let’s move our seventeen hundred sitrep to eighteen hundred.”

Get back to what they were doing? What did that mean? Dalton couldn’t think Fish was getting things on with Lexi, could he?

Chill. You’re reading your own thoughts into a casual remark.

Not that Fish would have minded a little diversion. No, for the duration of this assignment, Lexi was the principal. They had plenty to talk about, plenty to catch up on, but getting things on wasn’t one of them.

Don’t kid yourself. You’ve considered it.

What would the second, cleaner passage look like if all the thoughts were in italics?

“You two are free to get back to whatever you were doing,” Dalton said. “We’ll call if anything changes. Let’s move our seventeen hundred sitrep to eighteen hundred.”

Get back to what they were doing? What did that mean? Dalton couldn’t think Fish was getting things on with Lexi, could he?

Chill. You’re reading your own thoughts into a casual remark.

Not that Fish would have minded a little diversion. No, for the duration of this assignment, Lexi was the principal. They had plenty to talk about, plenty to catch up on, but getting things on wasn’t one of them.

Don’t kid yourself. You’ve considered it.

I don’t know about you, but I find all those italics hard to read—even harder when I’m using my e-reader.

Does this mean you should never use “he thought” in your books? Of course not. It’s only when you’re using them as speaker attributions that you want to be careful. There’s nothing wrong with the “I thought” here:

The bus driver took the corner on two wheels. I was going to die. I thought of all the times my mother had urged me to go to church.

What about you, TKZ peeps? How do you handle character thoughts? Pet peeves, examples of those well done?

The Blackthorne Inc Novels, Volume 3And a quick moment of BSP. I’d bundled books 7-9 in my Blackthorne, Inc. series, and the set is available now.


Terry OdellTerry Odell is an award-winning author of Mystery and Romantic Suspense, although she prefers to think of them all as “Mysteries with Relationships.” Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

The Nearest Exit May Be Behind You

The Nearest Exit May Be Behind You
Terry Odell

scene endingsKeeping readers turning pages is a big thing for authors. Who doesn’t love a message saying “I stayed up all night reading your book”? I’m closing in on ‘the end’ of my first draft of my new book, Cruising Undercover. One of the things I look at on my read through is how I end my scenes. Will a reader be invested enough to turn the page? This is a topic that’s been covered here before, but even though I’m writing novel number thirty-something, it’s a piece of the craft I have to revisit every time. I thought a refresher or reminder might be worthwhile.

I’m a “self taught” author. That’s not to say I never took classes or workshops, but I was a Psychology major/Biology minor in college. I took the requisite English classes—the ones you couldn’t graduate without. I got decent grades, but I learned more about how to string words together in high school than in those few college classes. I never took a “How to Write” class. The writing courses I took were at conferences or online.

Writing began as a whim. Could I do it? When that moved from writing fan fiction to attempting an actual, original novel, I simply sat down and wrote. My first manuscript was my writing class. That manuscript was one long (140K words) puppy. And there were no chapter breaks. That’s not to say I was trying to avoid using chapter breaks. Rather, it was because I didn’t really know where to put them.

Readers look for reasons to put the book down. They have chores, or work. Kids. Schedules. Bedtimes. Chapter breaks are logical stopping points. Long before I started writing, I learned that if I was going to get any sleep, I had to stop reading mid-page.

A former critique partner referred to these endings as landings. Others have called them hooks.

What makes a reader say Okay, I’ll read a little longer?

Cliffhangers are a tried and true way to get readers to keep going. Leave the character with a dilemma. Jump cuts have been discussed here as well. Since most of my books have alternating POV characters, I often leave one character hanging while I shift to the other’s POV. Since these POV shifts mean each scene has to be a mini-chapter, they need their page-turning landings.

They don’t always have to be character in peril cliffhangers.

You can leave readers with a question they want answered. It could be a phone ringing or a knock at the door. (I use these too often in my first drafts and have to go back and mix things up. You don’t want your chapters to be monotonous or predictable.)

Short chapters, or short scenes are another way, which seems to be a current trend. I recall a workshop given by the late Barbara Parker who told of going to the pool in her apartment complex and asking a woman reading there if she liked the book. The answer, after a moment or two of reflecting, was, “Well, the chapters are short.”

**Personal note: I’m not fond of the super-short chapter. To me, it screams gimmick. Not only that, in a print book, it’s an extreme waste of paper. It’s as if the author or publisher is trying to meet a page count quota and all those short chapters make the book seem longer than the story actually is.

Back to my learning the craft of landings. When I went back and added breaks to my endless tome, I discovered that I’d ended every chapter or scene either with someone driving away or going to sleep. They were, to my still learning the craft mind, logical stopping places. But not exactly page-turners.

More often than not, the best exit was behind where I’d put my break. I’d gone too far, feeling the need to wrap things up. Sometimes a sentence or two was all I needed to cut—usually those extras leaned into telling rather than showing. Sometimes several paragraphs. Once I accepted that those words might still be good, they just weren’t good where they were sitting, it was easier to cut them. I hardly ever needed them, but I felt better knowing that hadn’t been destroyed.

An example of a scene ending from a very early version of what ended up becoming Finding Sarah:
Sarah didn’t care; she cried great gulping sobs until exhaustion overcame her and she slept.

A better version of the ‘end with bedtime’ scenario adds a question:
As she drifted off, she heard a man’s voice from the main house. Had Jeffrey come home?

Here are a couple of examples of “non-cliffhanger, non-action-filled” chapter endings:

From Forgotten in Death, by JD Robb:
Kneeling, she pulled off the work gloves, then resealed her hands. And took a closer look at her second and third victims of the morning.

From A Thousand Bones, by P.J. Parrish
He took another drag on his Camel. “Maybe I will have something else for you as well.”
“What?” Joe asked.
He smiled. “A little surprise.”

What about you TKZ peeps? Do you struggle with ending scenes and chapters? Do you tend to overwrite? What tips can you offer for keeping readers turning pages?



Available Now. In the Crosshairs, Book 4 in my Triple-D Romantic Suspense series.

 

 

 

Terry Odell is an award-winning author of Mystery and Romantic Suspense, although she prefers to think of them all as “Mysteries with Relationships.”

Speed Dating and Swag

Speed Dating and Swag
Terry Odell

author swagI’m hardly a marketing guru—it’s the least favorite part of writing for me—but I made some observations at the Left Coast Crime conference and thought I’d share them.

As I mentioned earlier, Left Coast Crime is a reader-focused conference, which means it’s a place where readers come to meet authors, both familiar and new. It’s an ideal opportunity for us lesser-knowns to make connections.

Any writing conference I’ve been to, whether reader or author/craft focused, has a giveaway table where authors leave freebies—swag. With several hundred authors vying for attention, it’s important that these items entice readers (and authors are readers, too) to pick them up. Anything left on the tables after the conference closes will be trashed by the hotel staff, so you might be carting home a lot of what you brought.

The most common items are paper goods. Bookmarks dominate. How effective are they? With so many people using e-readers these days, they don’t serve the same purpose—something that the reader will encounter every time they pick up their book.

author swagI think bookmarks are more effective when handed our personally, like a business card, but even then, they are likely to end up in the hotel room wastebasket. I stopped getting bookmarks made years ago, but I do have business cards with QR codes to my website and Facebook Author Page on the back.

author swagSome bookmarks that did entice people to pick them up were dual-purpose, like these.

author swagA tradition at Left Coast Crime is their Author Speed Dating event. How it works: Tables for ten (There were 40 this year) are set up in a large meeting room. Two seats at each table are reserved for authors. The authors rotate from table to table and each has two minutes to talk/pitch/promote themselves and/or their books. They also bring swag to distribute at each table.

My observations.

The two-minute rule was enforced, which means authors had to be well prepared. Since handing out swag eats up precious seconds, authors were advised to let their partner hand out the swag while they talked. A fair number of them weren’t able to follow this simple direction. Some overran their time, ignoring the bell and finishing their prepared talks, eating up their partner’s time or having to arrive late to the next table.

The presentations varied from rehearsed and memorized speeches to stumbling or rambling attempts to summarize the gist of their stories. The best ones were those who knew their material well enough to make it sound off the cuff. Those attending are going to be listening to eighty two-minute presentations in a room that’s probably not going to have the best acoustics. Being able to be heard was challenge enough for some.

Takeaway: if you’re doing a presentation like this, adhere to the time constraints. Practice your material until it doesn’t sound practiced. If the organizers offer advice, take it.

And now, back to the swag. Handing out swag to a captive audience is better than leaving it on a giant table. But remember the purpose of the swag. To make people want to know more about you and your books.

Here are some swag items handed out at the Speed Dating event that, in my opinion, missed the mark.

author swagFrom left to right. A nice, sturdy magnet. A vial of perfume. A cute magnet. A pin-on button.

Problems with all of them: What are they about? Would you even know they were from an author? Because by the time you get home with them, you’ll have no recollection of who gave them to you. (Note: some swag was handed out in cute little pouches and may have included something about the author, but once you take the items out of the pouch, all connections are lost.) With the perfume, you’re risking the recipient not liking it. With a pin, would readers wear them? Pin them to something else?

Better ideas are things that readers will have a reason to keep and use. Every time they use them, they (one hopes) will remember the author. One author had Hershey’s Miniatures relabeled with his book cover. Great idea—until you eat the candy. Will they save the label? Maybe. I didn’t, but they worked in that I struck up a conversation with that author and did look him up.

author swagI know my lip balm is what people remember about me. Sticky notes, pens, pencils, coasters, magnets that do mention the author, and even a jar opener/gripper thing make for better swag. More expensive, yes. But if you’re spending money, it ought to be working for you.

Your turn. What swag are you likely to pick up? If you hand out swag, what’s been effective?


Available Now. In the Crosshairs, Book 4 in my Triple-D Romantic Suspense series.

Changing Your Life Won’t Make Things Easier
There’s more to ranch life than minding cattle. After his stint as an army Ranger, Frank Wembly loves the peaceful life as a cowboy.

Financial advisor Kiera O’Leary sets off to pursue her dream of being a photographer until a car-meets-cow incident forces a shift in plans. Instead, she finds herself in the middle of a mystery, one with potentially deadly consequences.


Terry OdellTerry Odell is an award-winning author of Mystery and Romantic Suspense, although she prefers to think of them all as “Mysteries with Relationships.” Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Reader Conferences – Sliding Back Into the Groove

Reader Conferences – Sliding Back Into the Groove
Terry Odell

Left Coast CrimeI very recently returned from my first in person author/reader get together since the pandemic began: Left Coast Crime in Albuquerque, NM. I refer to this as a way to ease into dealing with being surrounded by people, inundated with information, and having to speak in semi-coherent sentences.

Left Coast Crime is a Reader-based conference. Presentations are panels of authors addressing a topic, not craft workshops. Thus, in a Writer-based conference, a workshop or discussion of setting, for example, would focus on how to deal with setting in your books. What to include, what not to include, examples of vocabulary, why it’s important, etc. In a Reader-based conference, the panelists will be authors selected because their books are set in “interesting” places and they’ll talk about the locales they use.

A Reader-based conference gives you the chance to talk to … readers. If you’re me, it’s likely very few have heard of me (unless they’ve picked up my lip balm—I get lots of “I love your lip balm”; very few “I love your books.”)

If you’re an introvert or just need to get away, for a writer, a Reader-based conference allows more chances to escape to your room or a quiet corner without the guilt of missing Very Important Craft Information.

However, there was the opportunity for learning craft in a pre-conference add-on workshop given by David (Rambo) Morrell, and I attended it. Four hours, even with breaks, is a lot of brain time, but I survived—in part, I think, because he spent quite a bit of time talking to aspiring or new writers, so I could coast in neutral for brief periods of time. Not that his “beginner” advice didn’t contain gems, but they broke through any mental meanderings.

Some of my takeaways from his talk:

He first addressed what it takes to be a serious writer, going into Myers Briggs personality tests. Basically, you have to know how long you can sit at the keyboard in isolation and maintain your focus. If you need to interact with people, this could be your biggest problem. Bottom line: whatever your approach, you have to have a schedule and stick to it. Morrell said Stephen King claims he writes 5 pages every day except Christmas and his birthday, which isn’t true. He writes on those two days as well, but he didn’t think people would believe it.

Next, you need to know why you want to write and what you hope to accomplish. (Hint: a goal of being a best-selling author and making a ton of money isn’t a smart move.) Morrell’s goal was to write something that would influence other people the way Stirling Silliphant, the screenwriter of so many shows Morrell watched as a youth, affected him.

Per Morrell: Being a writer is an insane thing to want to do. Become a hermit to write something other people will find interesting.

Two mantras Morrell gave as advice.

  1. Be a first rate version of yourself and not a 2nd rate version of another author.
  2. Don’t chase the market; you’ll always see its backside.

He mentioned Nicholas Sparks as an exception. He looked for a niche and found there were virtually no other men writing romance, so he exploited it.

Other bits:

  • If you set out to write the book you want, you’ve met your goal when you finish even if it doesn’t sell.
  • If your goal was to write a best-seller you’re imitating and you won’t have anything to show for it.

As a professional, if something interests you, you ask yourself WHY? Look at how it was made rather than plot. He spoke of the importance of awareness and told the story of not being able to come up with the character’s name in First Blood. He was busy working, and didn’t appreciate his wife interrupting to show him the apples she’d bought. He gave her noncommittal responses until she insisted he EAT one of these apples. Reluctantly, he did, and it was exceptional. He asked her what kind of an apple it was, and she said, “It’s a Rambo apple.” Ta Da.

He gave us an exercise to do when starting a project—have a conversation with yourself and write it out. Pages and pages of dialogue, what you want to write about and how you’re going to do it. Eventually, you’ll have enough information to start writing the book. It’s writing on the page. Writing is a perishable skill. If you don’t write something every day, it won’t stay with you. The conversation will help bring you back when you get stuck.

Other questions Morrell threw at us:

What can you do that nobody else can do? What is your dominant emotion? Examples: Anger, lust, envy, fear. Find yours and dig deep into it.

Morrell does his homework, probably more than most of us are willing or able to do. He studied photography, got a pilot’s license, drove race cars to be aware of what his protagonists could do.

Once you know your direction, you’ll find the questions you’ll need to answer. Fill in the blanks, one step after another until you find the story and where it begins. He adamantly cautioned against starting with a flashback. Emphatically. His example: “She woke up with the worst hangover she’d ever had”…and then the story shifts to where and what resulted in that hangover. If it’s important, start there. He related this to a sign Frank Sinatra had on the door to his house: “You’d better have a damn good reason for ringing this bell.” Because it felt right isn’t an acceptable answer.

  • We all find archetypal situations inherently interesting. “A stranger comes to town.”
  • Daydreams are an excellent source of information.
  • To tighten dialogue, take out every other response.

On the use of senses. Morrell suggests taking sight for granted, then including two others, but ‘sneak them in’ so it isn’t obvious. The object is to make the reader feel, not see. Be very light. Don’t tip your hand. Makes a book feel three dimensional.

(I liked this better than the “use all 5 senses in every scene” approach, which to me, often feels forced.)

The writer’s job is to keep the audience paying attention. You have to decide if the window they’re looking through is cleaned by Windex, or if it’s stained glass. Whatever you do, you need to be clear and not require the reader to do extra work.

One thing (probably the only thing) David Morrell and I have in common is part of our writing process. We both believe in printing out the day’s work and looking at it away from the “office.” I do it in bed at night, and he does it as his first step of work the next day. Seeing it “off screen” helps fool the brain into thinking we’re seeing it for the first time.

In his words: Yesterday’s work is terrible the next day. Writing is Fixing. We think, “In my head it was a lot better.” Our task  is to make them the same.

What about you, TKZ peeps? Have you joined the live and in person group yet? Did it take readjusting?


In the Crosshairs by Terry OdellAvailable Now. In the Crosshairs, Book 4 in my Triple-D Romantic Suspense series.

Changing Your Life Won’t Make Things Easier
There’s more to ranch life than minding cattle. After his stint as an army Ranger, Frank Wembly loves the peaceful life as a cowboy.

Financial advisor Kiera O’Leary sets off to pursue her dream of being a photographer until a car-meets-cow incident forces a shift in plans. Instead, she finds herself in the middle of a mystery, one with potentially deadly consequences.

R.U.E. Pitfalls

R.U.E. Pitfalls
Terry Odell

Resist the Urge to ExplainA comment by Garry Rodgers to one of Debbie Burke’s posts a while back made me check the archives. I thought for sure I’d written a TKZ post on the subject of R.U.E., but apparently I hadn’t.

When I starting playing around with writing, I belonged to an in person critique group (The Pregnant Pigs, but that’s irrelevant here) and we normally worked with hard copies of our chapters. I was the novice in the group, and my chapters often came back with RUE sprinkled through the pages.

What did that mean? “Resist the Urge to Explain,” they said. “What was I doing wrong?” I asked. And they proceeded to tell me.

As authors, we want to make sure our reader’s “get it,” so we tend to go overboard with information, explaining far too much.

Here’s a simple example: “Mary laughed so hard, she was afraid she’d pulled a stomach muscle. Susie had just told the funniest joke Mary had ever heard.”  The second sentence isn’t needed; it’s explaining something the reader would be able to figure out in context.

Another pitfall—telling something, then going on to show it. Let’s say you’re beginning to understand the “show don’t tell” advice everyone gives you, and you put the action on the page. For the sake of example, a simplistic passage might be written as follows:

After Bill cancelled their date, claiming his aunt was sick, Mary was depressed. She took one bite of chocolate cake, then pushed the plate away.

The second sentence shows what the first tells. If you find this in your writing, use your delete key on that first sentence. A better approach:

Mary had been looking forward to her date with Bill for weeks, but he’d cancelled, giving some excuse about a sick aunt. She moved the chocolate cake around the plate with her fork, then pushed it away.

The reader gets the information, and can see that Mary’s depressed without having to be told. You can use the same to show other emotions. Maybe Mary was angry, not depressed, after Bill cancelled. Maybe she throws the whole cake against the wall.

What about this?

Mary’s feet felt like lead. She couldn’t run fast enough to escape the man chasing behind her.

Cut the first sentence. You don’t need both. What about:  Mary ran, but her feet refused to move fast enough to escape the man chasing her. Or, Mary’s feet moved as though encased in lead shoes.

Sometimes, we tell the reader too much.

Mary twirled up two strands of spaghetti and waited for the excess sauce to drip onto her plate. Leaning forward, she manipulated the fork into her mouth, then wiped her mouth with her napkin. She was a very careful eater because she hated getting stains on her clothes.

Don’t insult your reader with the last sentence. No need to explain. We can see for ourselves Mary is a meticulous eater.

Another common place writers need to Resist the Urge to Explain is in dialogue. Too often, we tack on tags or beats that tell the reader what the dialogue has already shown. Are you adding adverbs to your dialogue tags?

“I’m sorry,” Tom said apologetically.

Those adverbs are usually signals that you’re telling something the dialogue should be showing. They’re propping up your dialogue, and if it needs propping, it wasn’t strong enough to begin with. All that ‘scaffolding’ merely calls attention to the weak structure beneath.

Will your reader notice these differences? Probably not, but they might not enjoy the read even if they can’t explain why. However, agents and editors are tuned into them, and if you’re submitting, you don’t want to send up any red flags.

Even for experience authors, it’s easy to fall into these traps in early drafts. Some tips:

Check your manuscript for ‘emotion’ words, especially if they’re preceded by “was” or include “felt.” Are you describing your character’s feelings? Don’t tell us how your character feels. Show us.

Check your dialogue tags and beats. Are they consistent with the words being spoken? If so, you don’t need them. If not, your readers will be confused, trying to reconcile dialogue with the action.

Readers are smart. Don’t patronize them by ‘talking down’ to them.

What about you, TKZers? How do you avoid “overselling” in your manuscripts?
Any encounters of RUE from other authors that slog the read?


In the Crosshairs by Terry OdellAvailable Now. In the Crosshairs, Book 4 in my Triple-D Romantic Suspense series.

Changing Your Life Won’t Make Things Easier
There’s more to ranch life than minding cattle. After his stint as an army Ranger, Frank Wembly loves the peaceful life as a cowboy.

Financial advisor Kiera O’Leary sets off to pursue her dream of being a photographer until a car-meets-cow incident forces a shift in plans. Instead, she finds herself in the middle of a mystery, one with potentially deadly consequences.

Terry Odell is an award-winning author of Mystery and Romantic Suspense, although she prefers to think of them all as “Mysteries with Relationships.” Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.