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.”

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.

Don’t Play Coy With Your Readers

Don’t Play Coy With Your Readers
Terry Odell

Don't Play Coy With Readers

Image by Tayeb MEZAHDIA from Pixabay

One of my first writing lessons was Point of View. I learned it was a good idea to stick to one character at a time (and ‘time’ means more than a paragraph or two).

As a reader, I discovered I connected more with characters if I was privy to their thoughts. There are no hard and fast rules about Point of View beyond it’s important that readers can keep track of whose head they’re in.

My preference is to use Deep Point of View, which is sometimes called Close or Intimate, and that’s the focus of today’s post. What you call it isn’t as important as making sure that your readers can’t know anything your POV character doesn’t know. Or see. Or feel. Or smell. Or hear. It’s very close to writing in first person.

POV is a powerful tool, because by controlling the POV character, you control what you reveal to the reader. As I said above, the reader is only privy to what the character knows. On the flip side of that coin, if the POV character sees, smells, feels, or hears something, the reader should, too.

In my current WIP, my female lead knows why she quit her job, and is aware of some less-than-ethical behaviors of her boss. I’m eight chapters in, and she doesn’t want the male lead to know the details yet. But she can feed him bits and pieces as circumstances arise. The way I see it, it’s the author’s responsibility to find legitimate ways to withhold information from readers until it’s time to reveal it.

Which brings me to a couple of recent reads which had my hackles up. Both were written in first person POV. That puts the reader right into that character’s head, the same way Deep POV does.

In one book, the character read a letter; in the second she looked at a photograph. In both instances, the characters had strong emotional reactions to what they’d just seen. These books were both mysteries, and this “secret” information provided important clues.

But—and this is where I would have screamed out loud, had it not been late at night with someone sleeping nearby—both authors opted to hide this information from the reader. They simply avoided the reveal. The characters mulled it over, worried about it, wondered if they should tell another character, weighed the pros and cons. On and on. But never did they mention the name of the person in the photograph or the contents of the letter. The characters knew what they’d seen, so there was no reason the reader shouldn’t other than the author was doing what one of my first critique group leaders called “Playing Coy With the Reader.”

And for me, it’s not fair, not if you’re writing in first person or deep POV. It’s like when a television show character gets a letter, opens it, reads it, and then … cut to commercial without letting the viewer know what it said. If, when the commercial is over, the action picks up where it left off before the break and either shows the letter or the characters talking about it, I’ll accept it as being a way to make sure viewers “stay tuned.”

Now, if the author breaks to a different POV character, I might forgive them if, when we get back to the first character’s POV, we get the reveal. But to put a reader in a character’s head and then yank them out when something important happens is likely to aggravate them rather than heighten the suspense (which is what the author is going for.) To me, it’s a cheat.

In one of the books, the author never put the information out there. In the other, it took a while, but the reveal did come, so I grumbled and gave the author another chance.

And that’s what might happen. Play coy with the reader and you might lose them, not just for this book, but for future books they’ll never read.

In a more distant point of view, where the author is telling the story more than the character, it might not be such an issue, but then—I don’t like distancing points of view. Your mileage may vary.

All right, TKZers. What are your thoughts about authors withholding information a reader should have? Does it add a layer to the read for you, or frustrate you?

(I’m away from cyberspace this morning, but will be back later this afternoon to respond to comments.)


 
Trusting Uncertainty by Terry OdellNow available for Preorder. 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.

Tips for Writing for Television

Tips for Writing for Television
Terry Odell

Writing for Television

Image by Bokskapet from Pixabay

Are you a fan of television mystery shows? Ever thought of writing one? Or any kind of television show? If so, here are some tips to keep in mind.

  1. If staying in a haunted house, women should investigate any strange noises wearing their most revealing underwear.
  2. If being chased through town, you can usually take cover in a passing St. Patrick’s Day parade – at any time of year.
  3. It’s easy for anyone to land a plane, providing there is someone in the control tower to talk you down
  4. Once applied, lipstick will never rub off, even while SCUBA diving.
  5. The ventilation system of any building is a perfect hiding place. No one will ever think of looking for you in there and you can travel to any other part of the building without difficulty.
  6. Should you wish to pass yourself off as a German officer, it will not be necessary to speak the language. A German accent will do.
  7. A man will show no pain while taking the most ferocious beating but will wince when a woman tries to clean his wounds
  8. When paying for a taxi, never look at your wallet as you take out a bill—just grab one at random. It will always be the correct fare.
  9. During all police investigations, it will be necessary to visit a strip club at least once.
  10. Cars and trucks that crash will almost always burst into flames.
  11. A single match will be sufficient to light up a room the size of a football stadium.
  12. Medieval peasants had perfect teeth.
  13. All single women have a cat.
  14. One man shooting at 20 men has a better chance of killing them all than 20 men firing at one.
  15. It does not matter if you are heavily outnumbered in a fight involving martial arts. Your enemies will wait patiently to attack you one by one, by dancing around in a threatening manner until you have knocked out their predecessor.
  16. When you turn out the light to go to bed, everything in your room will still be clearly visible, just slightly bluish
  17. Dogs always know who’s bad and will naturally bark at them.
  18. Rather than wasting bullets, megalomaniacs prefer to kill their archenemies using complicated machinery involving fuses, pulley systems, deadly gases, lasers, and man eating sharks that will allow their captives at least 20 minutes to escape.
  19. A detective can only solve a case once he has been suspended from duty.
  20. If you decide to start dancing in the street, everyone you bump into will know all the steps.

Okay, tongue was inserted firmly in cheek. But sometimes, you just want to sit back and have some fun.

Any favorites among these? Any to add?


Trusting Uncertainty by Terry OdellNow available for Preorder. 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.

Who’s A Best-Selling Author?

Who’s A Best-Selling Author?
Terry Odell

Best-selling authors

Can you read those “Best Seller” banners at the top of the book images? Those were put there by Amazon and Barnes & Noble, not me.

Pretty impressive, right?

I should rush right out and change all my book covers so they proclaim my status. Plaster it on my website, add it to my email signature line.

But let’s step back and be realistic.

A while back, I attended a conference workshop on becoming a best-selling author, thinking I might pick up a few tips. Nothing she said was anything different than advice I’d already heard dozens of times. When I walked out was when the presenter said that if you could be in the top 100 on an Amazon genre list, you could promote yourself as a best-selling author. Note: she said “Genre List,” not overall sales. Another route was to make the top 100 in a Genre list on Amazon’s “New Releases page.”

Yes, I got those banners from Barnes & Noble and Amazon. But how?

I was fortunate to garner a BookBub Featured Deal promotion slot. For which I paid a pretty penny, mind you. Getting the BookBub acceptance is as much luck as it is having a first-rate product. They hold their algorithm cards close to the vest, but I’m convinced a lot has to do with timing, how much of a price drop you’re willing to take, and maybe reviews, although they’ll be the first to point out that many of their deals have very few reviews. In this case, my submission was for a 3-book set. The set itself didn’t have many reviews, but the individual books did, and one had won a respected award. But, it could just as easily have been numbering all the submissions in any given genre and using a random number generator to pick.

So, for one day, my Blackthorne Inc. Novels, Volume 1 was featured in the BookBub newsletter. Sales skyrocketed, which is the usual case. Not a huge moneymaker, since I’d dropped the price to 99 cents, which lowers the royalty rate (except at Nook, which pays 70% regardless of price).

Because those skyrocketing sales brought the book to #1 in 3 sub-genres, they garnered me those Best Seller banners.

Best-selling authorsBest-selling authorsBest-selling authorsDo I consider myself a best-selling author? Did I write a best-seller? No. One day’s sales, stimulated by an ad, are not my criteria for touting myself as a best-selling author. Yet I’m fully aware that there are those out there who would milk those banners for everything they’re worth.

Realistically, when I see an author I’ve never heard of touting themselves as ‘best-selling’ authors, I’m going to look up their books on Amazon. When I see that they’re ranked in the hundreds of thousands—or, in some cases, millions, I have to wonder. Odds are, they’re looking at a fleeting moment of good sales/rankings based on an ad. And that they received that ranking for a relatively obscure genre, not overall sales.

And popping back to that workshop where making the top 100 in “New Releases” was grounds for declaring oneself a best-selling author? I have a new release coming out this summer. I put it up for preorder and used BookBub for a pre-order ad. These are different from Featured Deals, and are dirt cheap in comparison. The flip side is they go only to your BookBub followers who agree to notification, so it’s a teeny-tiny pool relative to their regular newsletter. (At least it is for me, since I don’t have that many followers on BookBub.) On a positive note, when you’re a tiny fish in a big ocean, it doesn’t take very many sales to boost the new release in genre categories. Based on the workshop speaker, I’m a best-selling author because of that as well. I think my upcoming Trusting Uncertainty hit #50 in one sub genre, and hung on by its toenails in the 80s and 90s in two others.

Early on the day of the new release ad, I checked (because of course I did).

And look who else I’m sharing the stage with.

Best-selling authorsHowever, unlike Mr. Gilstrap, who has a much larger body of top-sellers, I can’t, with clear conscience, declare myself an author of best-selling books, or a best selling author. (I do, however use “award winning author” because I have won awards for my books.)

What’s your take, TKZers?


Trusting Uncertainty by Terry OdellNow available for Preorder. 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.

When the Right Word is Wrong

When the Right Word is Wrong
Terry Odell

As writers, we deal in words. Thousands of words. And we’re always looking for the right word to use. But what happens when the right word is wrong?

For example, I was reading a draft chapter from one of my writing pals. She’d written something about a man pulling up the collar of his t-shirt to wipe sweat off his face. My comment to her was, “T-shirts don’t have collars.” Her reply was “Yes, that’s what I was taught when I took sewing classes.” I recalled that when I worked a temp job, our jackets were provided, but we were told to wear shirts with collars, and the accepted attire was either a blouse with a collar or a polo shirt, but absolutely no t-shirts. Being curious, I hit the search engines and looked up t-shirts.

Merriam-Webster said this: a collarless short-sleeved or sleeveless usually cotton undershirt; also :  an outer shirt of similar design

Wikipedia had this to say: a style of unisex fabric shirt, named after the T shape of the body and sleeves. It is normally associated with short sleeves, a round neckline, known as a crew neck, with no collar.

So, I was “right”—to a degree. Will readers stop reading to research words, especially ones they assume they know the meaning of? Not likely (as authors, we hate to pull anyone out of the read). However, some readers won’t notice it, because they consider the neckline of a t-shirt a collar. Others might hiccup, thinking the same way I did. Will it spoil the read? No.

Is there a solution? Maybe. When in doubt, I’d go with the dictionary definition. That way, if someone is puzzled enough to wonder, when they look it up, they’ll see the author was right.

Another example. My Triple-D Ranch series includes a character who runs a cooking school. I was writing a scene where she was teaching her students about the various pots and pans they’d be using. She was talking about the differences between frying pans and sauté pans (based on my trip through the Google Machine). I ran my draft by my (former) chef brother to see if I got things right. He came back and told me all my research was “wrong” because anyone trained in cooking wouldn’t use those terms, and proceeded (at some length) to set me straight. And therein lies the rub. He’s not my “target” reader, but he knows of what he speaks. Other readers might, too. And just as many would “know” that they’re right about the differences between sauté pans and frying pans. Either way, I’m right for some, and I’m wrong for some.

What did I end up writing? My instructor now says,

“Most cooking techniques and terminology we use comes from the French. However, a lot of names have been Americanized, and none of you will be ready for a fancy French restaurant simply by completing this course. You’ll be cooks, not chefs. So, I’m not going to dwell on terminology too much. As long as you can match the right tool with the right task, you’ll do fine.”

And then there’s the most important part about choosing the right word. POV.

Example 1

My characters were in a café, and it was one where customers place their orders at the counter, and the clerk hands them a metal stand with their order number on it to display on their table so the servers can find them.

First, I’d shown the heroine entering the café and placing her order.

She paid for her meal, accepted the metal holder with the number eighteen from the clerk, and found a small table in the back of the crowded café, inhaling the blend of aromas as she waited for her order to be ready.

In the next scene, the hero arrives and places his order.

At the counter, Bailey ordered a burger—a man had to eat, right?—and carried his stand with its number to Tyrone’s table.

My critique partner had trouble with the word “stand” in the second example, and asked what they were really called, and maybe I should use that definition instead.

So, I took a quick trip through Google and learned they’re called “Table Number Stands,” so my use of the term is correct.

Example 2

My character was at an event in a hotel, and she was going to leave, so she wanted to get rid of the half-empty glass she was carrying.

I’ve been to enough events at hotels or banquet halls, and I know the catering people normally have trays on stands set up at various places around the room where guests can deposit their used dishes. But I didn’t know what they were called.

But you know what? I forgot one crucial aspect. Would the character know?

What if my research showed the aforementioned table number stands were called Grabbendernummers. Then, I could have written, “Bailey carried his Grabbendernummer to the table.” But would he know that?

You see, it doesn’t really matter what you, the author knows or doesn’t know about something. It’s what the character knows. If my character with the half-empty glass were in the catering business, then yes, she’d refer to that tray by a proper name, if it had one. (And per my brother the chef and all the Googling I’d done, there isn’t a specific term for them.) So, my heroine, would simply see the tray on a stand. It might be black, or brown, or covered with linens, but she’s going to think of it as a tray.

Yes, do your research. But if you want to save a lot of time—especially if you’re easily sidetracked while looking something up—ask yourself if the character would know whatever you’re researching first. Just because the author knows (or looked up) what a particular object is called, in Deep POV, it’s the character who has to know it. The character is going to use whatever vocabulary exists in his head, not the author’s.

Are you a stickler for the correct word? Do your characters know them?


Trusting Uncertainty by Terry OdellNow available for Preorder. 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.