Travel and Writing

Travel and Writing
Terry Odell

Writing While TravelingAs I write this, I’m preparing for a photo safari, led by my son. (And, no, I don’t get a discount.)

As you read this, I should be on a yacht on the Adriatic Sea, traveling from Split to Dubrovnik. If things go as planned, and I did the calendar calculations right, today I’m en route from Korcula to Mljet, where the published itinerary says:

In the morning head further south to the Island of Mljet. Join the Cruise Manager for a stroll to the famous salt lakes in the Mljet National Park. Lunch on board and departure for a small village called Slano on the mainland, a peaceful fishermen’s village and the starting point to Ston, another once fortified small village famous for its oysters situated on Pelješac peninsula. Pelješac peninsula is known as one of the best wine-producing regions in Croatia. After exploring the town, we leave to a small nearby village to enjoy the authentic local oyster tasting. Tonight, enjoy Captain’s dinner and overnight in Slano.

Writing While TravelingA while back, I talked about dealing with far away settings in your writing. What am I going to be doing on this trip as far as writing is concerned? (And being able to write off travel expenses is a great motivation for incorporating the setting into a book.) When we toured the British Isles, I thought I’d write a short, sappy romance and be done with it, but I’m not wired that way. There had to be some sort of mystery. I figure that’s what’s going to come out of this trip, too.

I also have a manuscript due next month, so I’ll be spending some time on that, too. How much is unknown, as we’ll have a busy schedule, but my “spare” time will be divided between researching a new book and working on the one I have to finish.

First, the “Can’t/Won’t do” stuff.

  • Use Croatians as protagonists. That would require far more research then I have time for.
  • Have my protagonists solving crimes. They have no jurisdiction in another country.
  • Opportunities for dead bodies might present themselves (like finding a body in a tun in a whisky distillery in Scotland), but realistically, American citizens can’t investigate crimes in other countries, and if they’re on a tour, they’ll be somewhere else the next day.

The “Can do” stuff.

  • Do informal investigating as long as it doesn’t interfere with the local law enforcement.
  • Offer insights and observations to the officials in charge.

What will I be doing?

  • Taking pictures, of course, both what my first photography instructor called “record shots” and the more creative ones that our group will be taking.
  • Noting the food (a given for me)
  • People watching to come up with and flesh out characters.
  • Talking to others on the tour, and the boat crew.
  • Taking note of the climate.
  • Taking note of anything “Croatian” that will add depth to secondary characters.

What I don’t have is a plot, or much of a plan. I want to let the experience drive the story, not me trying to force a preconceived idea into what I find there.

I do know that I’d like it to continue what I began with Heather’s Chase: Not a sequel, but another stand alone novel marketed as “An International Mystery Romance” which leaves the door open for more. That means I’ll need a hero and heroine. They’ll probably meet on the tour, simply because that’s the genre expectation. They’ll have conflicts, but will be drawn together by the mystery in some way. Maybe working against each other, but eventually, they will have to have that promise of a happily ever after.

As I write this, I have no idea what kind of connectivity we’ll have on this trip. I doubt I’ll be around to respond to comments, but I know everyone here at TKZ will carry on the conversation.

What travels/locations have inspired your writing? What advice do you have to share?


Trusting Uncertainty by Terry OdellAvailable Now Trusting Uncertainty, Book 10 in the Blackthorne, Inc. series.
You can’t go back and fix the past. Moving on means moving forward.


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.

Haiku, Themes, Symbolism, and the Subconscious

Haiku, Themes, Symbolism, and the Subconscious
Terry Odell

Aspens

Photo by Terry Odell

Joyce Hooley’s post on Saturday got me thinking.

I recall learning about haiku in high school, and being a dismal failure at coming up with anything significant. Quoting from Joyce’s post, “at its essence, a haiku is a short poem that uses an image from nature to evoke a particular season in a particular place, and then uses a break in the rhythm of the poem to juxtapose that image with another image, or to juxtapose two aspects of the central image, and thereby prompt reflection.”

I’m not a poet, not by any means. My in-person critique group in Orlando included two excellent poets, and my feedback was generally along the lines of  “I think a comma here would help.” Not to say I didn’t appreciate their work, but constructing it on my own wasn’t/isn’t in my makeup.

Nevertheless, I gave Joyce’s challenge a try. I looked out my window, and this is what I came up with.

A breezeless morning
Aspen leaves are motionless
I miss the rustling

Not particularly profound, but for the scientist in me, it met the syllable rules, and that was enough.

Joyce’s reply to my offering”

Because aspens are so often used to portray rustling, shifting, motion, using them to portray stillness is very effective for suggesting a strangeness in that stillness, suggesting restlessness in the viewer…

Did I have any of that in mind when I wrote my little poem? Not a bit of it. Did I even “see” it when I read what I’d written. Nope. When I look out my office window, I see aspen trees. That’s what grows there. I didn’t chose the species, or think about what they meant. I admire Joyce’s ability to see beyond the obvious.

Which (circuitously) brings me to the question of writing fiction. We find underlying themes in our books. Do we know what they are when we start writing? Considering the current WIP (a romantic suspense). It took 32 chapters for Kiera to reveal the piece of her past that could destroy her growing relationship with Frank. Frank was nicer; he told me his problem much earlier in the book. Characters’ pasts shape their futures, and can drive the story. For me, more often than not, it’s discovering a theme, and then going back and “filling in the blanks.” Sometimes, when I consider theme, I think I’m writing one book over and over: a character’s road to self-discovery.

Back in high school English, we read and analyzed works of literature. Mr. Holtby was always asking what the significance of this or that was. As students, we asked whether the authors consciously knew this as they were writing. Why did Hemingway decide the old man’s eyes would be blue? If the book is set in Puerto Rico, don’t most natives have brown eyes? And on and on, through many books. Why was the house yellow? Why was the bird an eagle and not a hawk?

Ultimately, Mr. Holtby suggested that as the authors were writing, some words felt “right” and others didn’t. When I was writing my first novel, Finding Sarah, Randy, the hero was coming home from a rough day. He went down the hall, opened the door to a spare bedroom, and sat down at his grandmother’s piano for the first time since she’d died.

My reaction was, “Randy? Why didn’t you tell me you played the piano?” Going back, however, I discovered that there was only one line I’d written that didn’t go along with his talent.

Some authors need a theme before they start writing. I recall a workshop where the author read us passages of her book, and asked us to identify the theme. Not one of us could. Her theme was “Ties That Bind” and she showed the character strapping on a wristwatch, tying his shoes, and I don’t remember what else. But to the participants, these were merely normal actions in the scene.

I have no answers. What about you? Do you see themes? If you write, do you know them beforehand? Do you go out of your way to include actions that speak to the theme? Is it an after-the-fact process, or do things fall into place from your subconscious?


Trusting Uncertainty by Terry OdellTrusting Uncertainty, Book 10 in the Blackthorne, Inc. series.
You can’t go back and fix the past. Moving on means moving forward.


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.

Reader Friday: Glitches Happen

Reader Friday: Glitches Happen

Glitches Happen

Image by Tumisu from Pixabay

We all deal with typos, but there are some words where our fingers have minds of their own.

For me, I’m forever typing thing instead of think. And I’m constantly leaving out question marks.

Then, there are the words you can’t remember to spell—and even worse when you’re so far off the Spell Checker has no suggestions. For me, it’s bureaucrat and all its variations.

How about you? Recurring typos? Words you can’t spell? (Please don’t tell me you never have these glitches.)

Reader Friday: Tense and Person

Reader Friday: Tense and Person

TenseI’m seeing more and more books written in present tense. Do you like it? Why or why not?

Does it matter whether it’s first or third person?

 

 

 

 


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

Amazon A+ Content

Amazon A+ Content
Terry Odell

Amazon A PlusRecently, Amazon, in an unusual gesture to all indie authors, not only those participating in its “Select” program, opened what it calls A+ content to anyone using KDP to publish. Previously, only traditional publishers could use the feature.

What is it? It’s content that appears on the book’s detail page on Amazon, and provides additional information, allowing authors to give potential readers a deeper look at the author and their work.

Curious (or procrastinating work on the WIP?), I gave it a look.

Amazon has its own “how to” but I thought I’d run through my experiences here. Note: I’m not much of a techie, but I’m willing to try new things. This post is more of a starting point than a tutorial.

Here we go:

(Click on any image to enlarge.)

From your KDP Dashboard, click the “Marketing” tab at the top.Amazon A PlusScroll down to the A+ Content section, and click the down arrow for marketplace. I stuck with Amazon.com for starters, but if you don’t choose one, you can’t move on. (You have to do this every time you come back to work on a project.)
Amazon A PlusThen, click the Manage A+ Content button right below the marketplace.

On the next screen, at the far right, there’s a “Start creating A+ content” button on the right. After trying other options, such as searching for an ASIN, or even plugging in an ASIN, I found this to be the most efficient.

Amazon A PlusAfter that, you assign your content a name. It doesn’t show anywhere; it’s so you can keep track. I used the name of the book I was creating the content for. Duh.

I suggest studying their module examples. They’re not completely user-friendly, but they are a good starting point for how each module works. Just beware. Every module has its own set of rules as to what you can add and where it has to go. Their suggestions aren’t always the best for what you want to do. I’ll go into this in more detail later in this post.

Then, you click the “Add Module” and the fun begins. For starters, it’s best to stick to no more than three. For “branding” purposes, I am using my website header from the “Standard Company Logo” Module for all the content I create, although I had to resize it to the required 600×180.

Some Examples

My advice is to start with something simple. I chose two of my stand alone books, Heather’s Chase, and What’s in a Name? to practice on.

For Heather’s Chase, I used the standard company Logo, the Standard Single Left Image, and the Standard Multiple Image Module A.

What I learned. The multiples images in the last image don’t show up all at once. To see the text for each, the reader has to hover the cursor or tap.

Amazon A PlusFor What’s in a Name? I used the Standard Company Logo, the “Standard Image & Dark Text Overlay, the Standard Single Left Image, and the Standard Single Right Image modules.

Amazon A PlusHow it works

When you click the “Add Module” button, you’ll see a bunch of choices, all about dogs. Not much help for genre fiction writers. Also, each module has an image size “recommendation” which means, “this is the size we accept.” Trouble is, except for the standard logo module, you don’t see sizes until you select the module. There’s not a lot of flexibility here, at least not that I found, so my advice is to use a photo editing program to size your images to the same dimensions each module allows. I use Canva or Photoshop, depending on the image I’m starting with. The aspect ratios of book covers mean you’ll have to get creative.

Using Canva, I create a template of the acceptable dimensions and work from there. This is what I did for Heather’s Chase, where the image size was 300×300. The cover image alone wouldn’t have worked, so I added the background.

Amazon A PlusAfter having my two stand alone projects approved, I decided to move on to a series. I tried to use the Amazon-suggested module for a series, thinking I’d use it on one of my box set pages. My plan was to have it show on the box set book detail page, with images and short tag lines for each of the 3 books in the set, so readers would know what was included.

My troubles: The image size template is 150×300, which creates a tall, skinny book. Since the entire book shows, I thought I could deal with it. Because I was required to include the ASIN for each image, the finished product would show up on the book detail pages for the box set AND the three novels it includes, which I didn’t want. After much discussion with KDP reps (who are still learning how all this works), I ended up abandoning that project. This is what it would have looked like, had I been able to convince the program I only wanted it to show on the box set page.

Amazon A PlusI moved on to a different module for general information about my Mapleton mystery series, something that I could use on all the books in that series.

I chose the Standard Single Image & Sidebar module. There are two places for images in that module. One was 300×400, and the other 350×175. Again, I went to Canva for a quick way to create images with the book covers that fit those dimensions. Then, it’s a matter of plugging things in and filling the blanks.

Amazon A+Other Tips

ASINs: Although the field says “search” it’s much more efficient to copy your ASIN into that box and hit “Enter.” It should bring up the book, and it’ll tell you if it’s eligible. It should be, so you click the “Assign” button.

Once you’ve done this, you can still go back and edit, but you’ll have to hit the “Assign” button again every time you want to move forward. The program remembers the ASIN, but it’s not intuitive that you need to click that button every time you want to make forward progress. You can’t jump around in the steps.

I was satisfied with my Mapleton Mystery results, and this one was approved quickly, so—what the heck?—I created one for my Triple-D Ranch series using the same format. I’m working on book 4 now, so I figured it couldn’t hurt to have something more detailed on the pages for the first 3. When Book 4 comes out, I’ll go back and edit.

Amazon A PlusThings to note

When you add an image, you have to assign keywords. If you remove the image for any reason, the keywords disappear, too, so it’s a good idea to have them written somewhere you can copy and paste instead of retyping.

You can create the modules in any order and then use the up and down arrows to move them around.

Amazon has to approve all content, and it can take a week.

The content appears on the page under “From the Publisher” so readers have to scroll down a bit to see it, but at least it’s not the last item on the page. It should show up right after the “Also Bought” carousel.

If you want to see how it looks “in action”, you can find one here.

Overall, the editing process is cumbersome. I don’t think there’s anything I can say here that will eliminate trial and error if you want to give the content creation a go.

Once you’re satisfied, you click Review and Submit, and then wait for Amazon to give the thumbs up or thumbs down. So far, all of mine have been accepted.

Has anyone else here used A+? Have you found an easier way to do it?

To those of you observing Yom Kippur, G’mar chatima tova. And may you have an easy fast.

Reader Friday: Everyday Superpowers

Reader Friday: Everyday Superpowers

What’s one everyday superpower you have?
What’s one you wished you had?

I’ll go first: I can fold a king-size fitted sheet.
I wish I could judge the right size container for leftovers.

Repeat for one of your characters.

 

 


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

Reader Friday – Holiday Weekends

Reader Friday – Holiday Weekends

Labor Day Weekend

Image by Hai Nguyen Tien from Pixabay

We’re heading into the Labor Day weekend. As a writer who’s retired from the traditional workforce, one day is like the next, and many holidays simply slide on by. What about you?

Do long weekends make a difference in your routine?

(For the record, our Monday celebration will be a traditional Rosh Hashana dinner with family up here on the mountain. Happy 5782, everyone.)

 


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

Weather … or Not?

Weather … or Not?
Terry Odell

Weather in Novels

Image by David Mark from Pixabay

Not long ago, James Scott Bell talked about using setting to create conflict, and I mentioned including weather as well.Weather can be used to set the mood, be a portent of things to come. We attribute human emotions and behavior to the weather with things like whispering winds and sullen clouds. (Points if you know the term for this.)

There are those who say opening a book with the weather violates one of Elmore Leonard’s “rules” but the rest of that rule is often omitted. It says (bold text is mine):

“Never open a book with weather. If it’s only to create atmosphere, and not a character’s reaction to the weather, you don’t want to go on too long. The reader is apt to leaf ahead looking for people.

For me, the weather should be woven in with the story, not become a “Stop Everything! I need to describe the weather” moment. (Something that bugs me with character descriptions as well.)

It’s a matter of Show, Don’t Tell. I write in Deep POV, and everything needs to be filtered through the characters’ senses.

I grew up in Los Angeles, where we had earthquakes every now and then, and wildfires in the canyons where we lived, but no real “weather.” Winter rains, which created the mudslides from the wildfires was pretty much the extent of things. Seasons were marked by the calendar more than the weather.

Then I moved to south Florida, where there were two seasons: Summer and February 3rd. But there was weather. Hot, humid, and lots of afternoon thunderstorms. In Miami, the difference between daytime high and nighttime low temperatures was a few degrees. Orlando, our next home, was slightly more bearable with a greater difference between day and night.

Now, I live in the mountains of Colorado, where we get four seasons, sometimes irrespective of the calendar.

My point? If I’m reading a book where I’m familiar with the weather, I need to see characters dealing with it. If someone’s racing down the streets of Miami in August, I want to see them sweat. Heck, if they’re meandering down the streets of Miami in August, I want to see them sweat.

Since I started this post by mentioning showing rather than telling, and what my feelings are about using weather, I should show you some examples from my own work.

From Seeing Red, my collection of short stories set in central Florida: The protagonist is James Kirkland, a homicide detective.

Nobody in central Florida survived without some kind of air-conditioning, but Red’s old place had window units that should have been replaced a decade ago. Combined with the loose panes on his jalousie windows, he might as well be living outside. Another reason I didn’t visit often. And with today’s forecast calling for the 90s in both degrees and humidity, not a place I wanted to be.

We agreed to meet back at Central Ops after lunch and spend some quality time with the murder book and white board, thereby avoiding being caught in the daily afternoon thunderstorms. I changed from my department-mandated suit into attire more appropriate for tromping through the non-air conditioned woods, although I did pack the suit into my go bag, where I always kept a change of clothes.

Another approach, and one I feel can be significant, is to show weather that goes against type. Every now and then, it gets cold in central Florida, as in freeze warnings cold. How do your characters deal with that?

Here, Detective Kirkland shows up at a murder scene and is talking to the ME, who speaks first.

“I’d say he’s been dead two, maybe three days, given the cold snap, the open window, and no heat.”

Hardly anyone in central Florida used heat. We had maybe ten days a year where the temperatures dipped below forty. Our luck to be in the midst of three of them, complete with freeze warnings.

The wind chill kicked in and I crossed my arms trying to keep warm. I wore the same slacks and sport coat I’d put on this morning when it was sunny.

Or, from Danger in Deer Ridge, a book set in the Colorado mountains

A gust of wind swirled through the lot. Scattered raindrops painted dots on the asphalt, interspersed with bouncing hail. Elizabeth wrapped her arms around herself. “What happened to the sunshine?”

Grinch gazed at the rapidly darkening skies. “I guess the front got here sooner than expected. They’re talking snow flurries, but it was supposed to hit well after midnight.”

“Snow? It’s June,” Elizabeth said.

“Welcome to the Colorado mountains.” Grinch grinned, grabbed Dylan’s hand and jogged toward his truck. “Where you can get all four seasons in a day.”

From Deadly Puzzles, a Mapleton mystery set in Colorado in February

In the few minutes they’d been talking, the storm had turned violent, the wind and snow threatening to carry them down the hillside as if they were debris in an avalanche. Gordon grabbed for Wardell’s hand. “To my car,” Gordon shouted, his words barely audible above the howling wind. Ice pellets stung as they salted his face.

His Maglite was useless. He shoved it into his parka pocket. Grabbing tree trunks for support with one hand, dragging Wardell with the other, Gordon plodded ahead, one booted foot at a time. Next tree. Hang on. Find your balance.

“Can you see the road?” he shouted, inches from Wardell’s ear.

“No. Snow.”

Once they got closer to the road, his car’s flashers and the flares should guide them. No sense of direction. Only up. Up. Step. Grab. Balance. Breathe. Step. Up. Balance. Breathe. Up. Breathe. Up. Breathe. Up.

A glimmer of blinking red broke through the white curtain. Shifting his direction, Gordon resumed the climb. Why did a quarter of a mile going down turn into two miles going up?

All of these examples show the weather playing an antagonistic role. Why not people picnicking on a sunny day? Enjoying themselves at the beach?

Nothing says you can’t do that, but as our JSB says, we don’t want to see Happy People in Happy Land. There need to be some ants at that picnic, and sand fleas on the beach.

What’s your take on weather in novels? Share examples of what works for you. Or what doesn’t, and why.


Trusting Uncertainty by Terry OdellAvailable Now Trusting Uncertainty, Book 10 in the Blackthorne, Inc. series.
You can’t go back and fix the past. Moving on means moving forward.


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.

Another Dark and Stormy Night

Another Dark and Stormy Night
Terry Odell

Bulwer-LyttonIt’s time for a fun break. I look forward to the annual announcement of winners and dishonorable mentions of the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest. For those who might be unfamiliar with it, here’s the skinny from their website.

Since 1982 the Bulwer Lytton Fiction Contest has challenged participants to write an atrocious opening sentence to the worst novel never written. The whimsical literary competition honors Sir Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, whose 1830 novel Paul Clifford begins with “It was a dark and stormy night.”

The contest receives thousands of entries each year, and every summer our Panel of Undistinguished Judges convenes to select winners and dishonorable mentions for such categories as Purpose Prose and Vile Puns.

Last year, PJ Parrish did an in-depth analysis of several entries. But, as I said, I’m posting this as a fun break. For those who want to work, feel free to look at these openings as if they were submitted for First Page Critiques here at TKZ. Do they meet the criteria? Start with action? Identify the protagonist? Establish setting? Make you want to keep reading?

The 2021 Grand Prize goes to Stu Duval of Auckland, New Zealand.

“A lecherous sunrise flaunted itself over a flatulent sea, ripping the obsidian bodice of night asunder with its rapacious fingers of gold, thus exposing her dusky bosom to the dawn’s ogling stare.”

More winners in other categories

Grand Panjandrum’s Special Award

“Victor Frankenstein admired his masterpiece stretched out on the lab slab; it was almost human, OK, no conscience or social awareness, and not too bright, but a little plastic surgery to hide the scars and bolts, maybe a spray tan and a hairdo, and this guy could run for President!”  David Hynes, Bromma, Sweden


Adventure

“When I asked our novice Safari guide Guy Pommeroy to identify what that roaring sound was he replied (and these were his last words), “It sounds to me like someone with a bad case of bronchitis; I’ll check and be right back.” Greg Homer, San Vito, Costa Rica


Crime & Detective

“The Big Joe Palooka murder wasn’t just another killing, another homicide, another manslaughter, another slaying, another hit, another whack, another rubbing-out, another bumping-off, another assassination, another liquidation, another extermination, another execution—but it was nothing new for Johnny Synonymous, Obsessive-Compulsive Crime Fighter.”  Paul Scheeler, Buffalo, NY


Dark & Stormy

“It was a dark and stormy . . . morning, Gotcha! — this is just the first of innumerable twists and turns that you, dear Reader, will struggle to keep abreast of as I unfold my tale of adventure as second plumber aboard the hapless SS Hotdog during that fateful summer of 1974.”  Louise Taylor, Paris, France


Historical Fiction

“Choking back his frustration at his parents, Marcus Licinius Junius Dextus Sextus Gnaeus Castor Ligantor Germanicus barked his name *again* at the boatman holding the list, certain that the man was toying with him, whilst in the background Mount Vesuvius rumbled like a pregnant woman with severe morning sickness.” Dave Hurt, Harrogate, England


Romance

“Their eyes had met and they’d had coffee, but now Miss latte-mocha-with-a-chai-twist bid a wistful adieu to Mr. black-cup-of-Joe-strong-enough-to-walk-over-and-beat-up-the-cheese-Danish, and they parted.”  CP Marsh, Urbana, IL


Science Fiction

“Believe it or not Ripley refrained from firing her laser at the alien creature lurking in the starship’s ceiling above the crew’s happy hour gathering, its dripping secretions burning through the titanium floor like it was made of cheap wet toilet paper, when she discovered by sheer accident that just one drop of the oozing substance reacted with the contents of her cocktail glass to produce a martini so perfect that 007 himself would have betrayed Queen and country for just one sip, as long as it was shaken and not stirred.”  Reinhold Friebertshauser, Chagrin Falls, OH


Western

“After commandeering the Black Dog Saloon for a day and a half to lay out every map, zoning ordinance, and land deed in the Territory, and after checking and rechecking their cartographic calculations, Tumbleweed Mulligan and Johnny “Trigger” McAllister were forced to admit that there might just be room in this town for the both of them.”  Ben Connor, Wilmington, Delaware


Vile Puns

“One time at the hoagie shop the actress Ms. O’Hara asked what the tiny pimiento-stuffed thing in my cheddar-bread sandwich was and I had to respond: “Wee olive in a yellow sub, Maureen.”  Fr. Jerry Kopacek, Elma, IA


Purple Prose

“She had a deep, throaty laugh, like the sound a dog makes right before it throws up.”  Janie Doohan, Walla Walla, WA


See the complete list, including the “Dishonorable Mentions.”

What say you, TKZers. Want to tackle critiquing any of these?


Trusting Uncertainty by Terry OdellAvailable Now Trusting Uncertainty, Book 10 in the Blackthorne, Inc. series.
You can’t go back and fix the past. Moving on means moving forward.


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.

Book Blurbs and Pets

Book Blurbs and Pets
Terry Odell

Book Blurbs and Pets

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

I’ve been with my current editor since my first Blackthorne, Inc. novel (2007), with only a couple of exceptions. She now has her own small publishing company, but has been kind enough to keep me on in a freelance basis. She asked if I would read one of her debut author’s upcoming releases and provide a one-or-two-sentence “blurb.” She said it was a romantic suspense, which is a genre I’m familiar and comfortable with.

Now, I don’t put much stock in author recommendations. I had to grovel for them for that first Blackthorne book, and dreaded doing it. I was an unknown with a couple of books out from a digital-first publisher. (No Amazon yet.) Who’d want to spend time on me? But grovel I did.

One author acquaintance said, “Sure. Send me three quotes and I’ll cobble something together.” Never even asked to read the book. Another said she’d read just enough to see that I knew what I was doing.

Nevertheless, because saying “No” has always been a monumental task for me, I agreed to go along with my editor’s request.

I was reading along, some hiccups due to my internal editor refusing to shut up, but overall, the writing was clean and easy to read. It was a little slow-moving for my taste, as the suspense element wasn’t brought in until later than I would have expected, but then … about ¾ of the way through the book …

The protagonist, who by now had received threatening emails and phone calls, came home to find a box on her doorstep. Upon opening it, she discovered the mutilated body of a cat. Not just any cat, but a stray she’d semi-adopted.

Mind you, this was not a serial killer, dark mystery/thriller type book. This was, overall, a romance with some suspense elements. And a mutilated cat.

Very early in my writing career (2004 according to my files), I attended my first writer’s conference. At a workshop given by the late Barbara Parker, she said she’d made the unforgivable mistake of having a mutilated cat show up in a box on the doorstep at the protagonist’s house. And, even worse, the protagonist had a young daughter. Parker said readers sent hate mail, and warned that killing a pet was an absolute no-no. Her book was a legal mystery, so her audience wasn’t romance-oriented, yet they still screamed.

I told her my manuscript for the as of then unpublished Finding Sarah included a character with 2 cats, and I had poisoned them (you’ll never know the delight you can light up in someone’s eyes until you holler between your office and the Hubster’s and say, “I need a way to poison a cat.”) My plan was to have one survive. The incident would 1) force my character to deal with emotions he’d denied; and 2) provide a critical clue for solving the overall mystery.

She gave me an emphatic “NO.” — Spoiler Alert— So, in the final version, both cats survived.

I passed this information on to my editor, who said she was warned against harming children or dogs, but nobody’d ever mentioned cats, and that she would bring it up with the author. Whether there are any changes remains to be seen.

At this point, I asked a couple of my best-selling authors of romance and romantic suspense friends what they thought. I knew my editor wanted my quote to appear in the soon-to-be-published book, but I was very uncomfortable putting my name on a book that would likely anger readers.

One said she refuses to blurb books anymore, saying there’s nothing to gain. (She also suggested I have my assistant be the one to tell my editor, but my dog can’t type.) The other author said “never recommend a book that you don’t love madly.” Until the cat incident, the book was good, but I wasn’t madly in love with it.

Ultimately, I told my editor I wasn’t comfortable putting my name on the book, and she said she understood, and another author she’d asked to read it said something similar.

All right, TKZers. Floor is open for discussion, either on the harming pets topic or book blurbs in general. I know of numerous authors, who when asked, “What do you read?” will say, “About all I get to read these days are books my publisher sends for blurbs.” Are their recommendations enough to sway you to buy books? Or do you think they’re writing what their publishers want to hear? If you were asked to blurb a book, where would you draw the line?


Trusting Uncertainty by Terry OdellAvailable Now

Trusting Uncertainty, Book 10 in the Blackthorne, Inc. series.
You can’t go back and fix the past. Moving on means moving forward.

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.