Wednesday, August 31, 2011

What's Cooking Wednesday, Black Bean and Corn Salad

Thanks to Marcos for yesterday's post. And don't forget: there's still time to get a FREE download of either DANGER IN DEER RIDGE or WHAT'S IN A NAME?

The Hubster hooked up with a group in our community that goes to breakfast once a week. They're called the ROMEOs (Retired Old Men Eating Out). Once a month, they have a pot luck supper which includes spouses. After going to my first, I decided that unless I wanted to eat food that seemed to require mayonnaise, cream, sour cream, or some other gooey, high-fat binder, I needed to bring something a bit closer to healthy as my contribution. And if they don't eat much of it, that means I get to bring home the leftovers.

Here's what I made last time—a compilation of several salad recipes. And, since it's just a salad, feel free to adjust with ingredients more to your liking. It's not like baking, where everything has to be exact. If you like things spicier or not-so-spicy, adjust the seasonings.

Black Bean & Corn Salad

2 cans black beans, rinsed and drained
2 ears corn, kernels removed. (If fresh corn isn't in season, just defrost a package of frozen corn. No cooking either way).
½ red bell pepper, chopped
½ green bell pepper chopped
1 jalapeño pepper, finely diced
3 scallions, sliced
2 tomatoes, chopped

½ c. apricot preserves
3 T lime juice
3 T olive or salad oil
1 t. chili powder (adjust to taste; chili powders differ in strength)
¼ t cumin
1 t. Chili lime seasoning (I used Cholula)
Salt, pepper to taste

Note: I'm one of those who thinks cilantro tastes like soap, so I don't use it, although if you like the flavor, several of the recipes I mingled to make this call for it. Again, it's up to your taste.

Mix everything together. I do it the day before so everything blends.

If you're bringing it to a pot luck, you can just put it all in a bowl, or you can serve it over a bed of lettuce. Or you can add shredded lettuce to the whole shebang right before serving.

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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Love and Murder Walk Hand-In-Hand

Today Marcos M. Villatoro is my guest at Terry’s Place. He’s got some thoughts about how murder’s just not the same without a little romance thrown in (or better, a lot!).

No one wants to read a happy novel. We read novels because of their conflict. It’s conflict that makes us turn the page, greedy to find out what’s going to happen next.

And two of the most tantalizing stress factors in life: Murder and Romance. Murder is chaos, a breakdown in the order of our world. And romance is, well, it’s chaos too. Even a good marriage has its share of turmoil.

So when you put the two hand in hand, you’ve got a real page-turner.

There are several examples of this. One of my favorite examples is the Hannibal Lecter series by Thomas Harris, which I teach at my college. Most folks focus on the serial killer theme in Harris’ books. But really, “The Silence of the Lambs” and the other novels that showcase Lecter are true romances.

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Author's Voice

What I'm reading: Blue Heaven, by C.J. Box

A reminder. I'm giving away e-books for a limited time. If you want one, don't delay. There's a link to the post in the Deals & Steals tab (or scroll down to Sunday's post). And, if I don't respond immediately, it's because I'm out of town for a couple of days. Be patient; I promise to honor all requests.

While at a recent writing seminar, I met several people who had attended the presentation I gave for a local book club. One of them said after hearing me speak, she read one of my books. Her comment was, "You write the same way you talk."

And I think that sums up my author's "voice."

I've discussed voice before, and since Hubster and I are taking off for our "official" anniversary celebration today, I'm going to repeat some points from other posts I've done on voice several years ago.

From what I understand, voice develops as an author writes. I judge the growth of my voice with the increasing ease of writing narrative. Not dialogue, because that is someone else's voice on the page—the character's.

Cowboys don't talk like artists, who don't talk like sailors, who don't talk like politicians. And men don't talk like women, no matter what job each has. When I write my male characters' dialogue, I always go back and cut it down by at least 25%.

But all the other words, the way the sentences are put together, how the paragraphs break—that's the author. And that's where the intangibles lie. When I was starting, and I'd enter contests, I'd get very disparate feedback from judges. Another author told me it meant I had a strong voice, which might or might not appeal to a reader.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

A Free Ebook

Now through Labor Day 2011: Offer has expired. Sorry.

I'm offering a free download to anyone who wants either WHAT'S IN A NAME? or DANGER IN DEER RIDGE. The hope, of course, is that you'll take a few minutes after reading and post a short review. However, I can't require it, nor would I want to. I'm happy enough that you'd want to read one of my books.

Here's how it works.

1. Decide which book you want. The best way is to go to my website and read the book blurbs, excerpts, and/or first chapter. WHAT'S IN A NAME? is here. DANGER IN DEER RIDGE is here. If one seems to be something you'd enjoy, then:

2. Email me at bookstore (at) terryodell (dot) com with "Free Book" in the subject line. Tell me which book you want, and how you'd like it delivered. Your choices:

3. A gift for your Kindle OR a coupon code to use at Smashwords.

For the Amazon gift, include the email address you use with your Kindle account (not a address) so it will go to the right place. Would you like your copy "Kindlegraphed?" Click here

4. You can leave your review at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads, or the Smashwords site, depending on where you downloaded the book.

5. If you enjoy the book, but you're not into reviewing, word of mouth is still the best advertising, so tell your friends.

6. Let me know how you found this post.

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Friday, August 26, 2011

Friday Field Trip - Limon, Colorado

I'm turning the blog over to Jason again.

All of these images were captured in eastern Colorado, in or around the town of Limon. While Limon is often seen as more of a "pit stop" for travelers along I-70 or US 24 in Colorado, there are actually some cool photographic subjects if you look for them.

I'm leading a workshop there on Sept 10-11, and there is one spot still open.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

A Gift For You

What I'm reading: Betrayal of Trust, by J.A. Jance

A reminder that tonight (7 PM Eastern) I'll be hosting a chat at Savvy Authors. The subject is foreshadowing. Hope some of you can make it.

There's been a lot of talk about reviews around the blogosphere lately. Opinions as to their effectiveness vary. Some say they never read them. Some say they use them to help decide on book purchases. Some (myself included) read them after the fact to see if they agree or disagree with other reviewers.

I don't think there's an answer, but I'm offering a free download to anyone who wants either WHAT'S IN A NAME? or DANGER IN DEER RIDGE. The hope, of course, is that you'll take a few minutes after reading and post a short review. However, I can't require it, nor would I want to. I'm happy enough that you'd want to read one of my books.

Here's how it works.

1. Decide which book you want. The best way is to go to my website and read the book blurbs, excerpts, and/or first chapter. WHAT'S IN A NAME? is here. DANGER IN DEER RIDGE is here. If one seems to be something you'd enjoy, then:

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

What's Cooking Wednesday - Sassy Mojo Pork

Thanks to Linda for reminding us about pitching yesterday.Being prepared to promote ourselves at any moment doesn't come easy for a lot of us. Good advice.

And I'm over at Carolyn Schriber's blog, doing a recap of what's happened since I was her guest a year ago.

Now - Happy Anniversary to the Hubster (and me). This is year number 42 for us. And yes, faithful followers of this blog have seen the picture before. I'm in a rut--I post it every year on August 24th.

As for What's Cooking Wednesday - I'm going to see how the feature goes, so keep the feedback coming. And feel free to share one of your own recipes.

Today's recipe is for a grilled pork tenderloin, a favorite dish  around our house. Easy to mix up the marinade, and Hubster is generally happy to man the grill.

Click for the recipe:

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Who Has to Pitch?

Today I welcome Linda Rohrbough to Terry's Place. Linda has been writing since 1989, and has more than 5,000 articles and seven books to her credit along with national awards for fiction and non-fiction. 

I’ve seen new authors look a little shocked when they figure out they’re going to be pitching their books the entire remainder of their career. Most everyone thinks (and I did, too) that once you get an agent, your pitching days are over. Au contraire. But writers aren’t the only ones who have to pitch.

First, let’s define terms here. When I say pitch in terms of a writer, what I mean is a short dialog about a book that piques the interest of the listener. This is most commonly known as the “elevator pitch.”

Some of the elements of a good pitch is it has an easy, effortless quality for the listener – meaning it’s clean and without verbal clutter. It should be packed with emotional hooks that engage the listener. And at the end it should be tied up with a neat concept that's memorable and universal. All this has to be done in a few sentences, I suggest three, so it’s easily deliverable in an elevator at a length of 1 to 2 minutes or less.

Now, the reason writers never stop doing this is because if they succeed, they are going to be eternally faced with talking about their work in an effective way to people they don’t know: book store owners, librarians, people in readers groups, potential fans at book signings, and even people they meet while shopping.

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Nose Knows

What I'm reading: Breaking Loose by Tara Janzen.

What's in a Name? is the Frugal Find of the Day. Please check it out (and send friends that way!)

On Saturday, I went to a small writing seminar, focused on writing crime/mystery stories. One of the presenters was a bloodhound handler, and I found her talk fascinating. Through her talk, I discovered that despite my research for a scene in Finding Sarah, I didn't know the right questions to research, so I have an error in that scene. Once the rights revert to me, you can be sure I'm going to fix it!

(And no, I'm not going to tell you what the mistake was. If you've read the book, then you can check for yourself.)

Our speaker was Ingela Tapper, and she provided a most entertaining session. Highlights of the session:

The bloodhound breed goes back to the 7th century. They are "man trackers" and work on recognizing and finding a specific scent.

They can be cross trained to find live victims/suspects, as well as cadavers.

Almost all the training involves teaching the human to learn to read the dog. The dogs know what they're doing and should be trusted to do their jobs. They become single-minded about finding their target, and their handler has to be in excellent physical shape to keep up. Ingela is a very slight woman, and she mentioned going airborne behind her dogs, which often outweighed her by more than 25 pounds.

Bloodhound anatomy is designed for tracking. Their ears and facial skin folds trap the scent in a kind of "scent bank". Also, their large paws will stir up the scent for trails more than 24 hours old.

These dogs are also prolific at saliva production. This moistens the scent and helps them find scent trails over 36 – 48 hours old.

Much of Ingela's work involves finding missing children, and she says in about 75% of the cases, there's a criminal element involved. Usually the abductors are people known to the family. But she's also helped track and find murderers and criminals such as bank robbers.

The best scent items are items containing bodily fluids of the missing person. She says the best item for tracking a missing young child is a dirty diaper, but any used underwear or socks also make excellent scent items for the dog.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Friday Field Trip - Cripple Creek and Victor

While I was at RomCon, Hubster went out and about. These pictures are some he took on his sojourn to the Cripple Creek/Victor area.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Reader Reviews - Yes or No?

What I'm reading: Shadows of Yesterday, by Sandra Brown

I hope you enjoyed yesterday's recipe. I'd love some honest feedback as to whether you think having a "foodie day" here would add to the blog. I'd be delighted to share favorite recipes from my readers. Or would you simply skip Wednesdays? If you'd like me to continue, please let me know in the comments, or click the +1 button. Feedback really helps.

One of the loops I'm on had an interesting discussion of reviews: Did we give them, did we like them, did they do anything for sales. Now, my publisher that targets the library market wants reviews, and they definitely drive library sales. My Publishers Weekly review for WHERE DANGER HIDES has placed it in more than twice the libraries, many of them ordering multiple copies, than my non-reviewed WHEN DANGER CALLS. But what about "non-professional reviews"? I'm talking about reviews from readers, and not those posted on dedicated review sites.

If you've noticed, I don't do reviews here. I'll post whatever I might be reading, but I don't offer my opinion. And if a book triggers a discussion topic, I don't usually mention it by name. Why?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

What's Coooking Wednesday? Almond Torte

What I'm reading: Breaking Silence, by Linda Castillo

Thanks to DeAnna for yesterday's post. Thought provoking and informative.

After Monday's post about marketing, I thought I'd follow up with a bit more discussion.

There are all sorts of opinions on what works where. Do people care if you tweet (or Google+ or Facebook--not sure what the right verbs are for those) about the mundane? Although most say they don't care, for some reason, I get the most feedback to my Facebook posts when I share pictures of food. I posted a picture of the cake I made for our community picnic last weekend, and had a LOT more action over there than when I talk about writing.

So -- why not share it here? And if people are interested, maybe I'll continue this "What's Cooking Wednesday" as a regular feature. And I'd love some reader guests -- my Tuesdays aren't restricted to writers, although that seems to be where they come from. But the topic isn't restricted to writing. Travel and hobbies are also popular topics.

OK -- here's this week's recipe: Almond Torte.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Getting Your Hands Dirty as a Professional Writer

Today my guest is author DeAnna Knippling, who's got some excellent advice about becoming a professional writer. And while DeAnna is holding down the fort
at Terry's Place, I'm doing my monthly post at The Blood Red Pencil. Welcome, DeAnna.

The publishing world is full of the controversy between independent and traditional publishing, but the real secret is that professional writers need to take control of their writing business, no matter which side of the coin they're on (or both).

When did business get to be a dirty word, when it came to writing?

Probably back in prehistoric times, when one Neanderthal looked at another and said, "You know, that story was pretty good. What you need is a wider audience. I can get you that...for 87.5% of your total meat and flint intake, less 15%. But don't worry. You'll probably make more money with me than you could on your own. I mean, you do want to spend all your time telling stories, right?"

As far as I can tell, most writers, most of the time, will opt to let someone else take care of the business for them, especially after a lengthy explanation of why they really shouldn’t do it themselves. (If you can figure out what day of the week it is and guesstimate a tip at a restaurant, you have all the basic talent at math you really need.) It's true that learning how to write is an intense, time-consuming process and that you have to budget your time to focus on writing. But putting your financial future in someone else's hands is almost never a good idea...unless you never plan to make money or get published.

But, short of going to college for an MBA in running your writing business, what do you do?

Monday, August 15, 2011


What I'm  reading: The Search, by Nora Roberts

I came home from RomCon with lots of swag. I'm sure the authors spent a lot of money on it. But Does It Sell Books? I don't know. I've offered my excess swag to anyone who asks for it. So far, no takers. (Check the Deals & Steals tab)

At the RomCon reader forum, the discussion of book trailers came up. While many of the readers raved about some of the trailers they'd seen, not one said that they'd ever bought a book because of a trailer.

Nowadays, whether you've got a print deal with a traditional publisher, or are publishing yourself, marketing and promotion become part of the drill. Note: if you're a best-selling author, the publishers will probably handle much of this for you, because they're going to want to earn back that huge advance they gave you. But for the rest of us, we've had to become our own promoters.

This not only takes away from writing time, but it can cost money. As they say, it takes money to make money. But, in most cases, it's really tough to know how effective marketing attempts are.

I'll go out on a limb and say there aren't a lot of book sales via the social networking sites. At least I haven't seen any uptick in sales when I've used them to point out sales on my books, or other marketing deals. And if all you use the social media sites for is marketing, you'll probably turn off readers more than you'll increase sales.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Friday Field Trip - Africa 2

When I was visiting my parents, my mom shared a few pictures she'd taken on an African safari years ago. I thought I'd share some of them, plus some of my own from my 2007 trip that I didn't put up in my February post. Enjoy.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

RomCon Report 3

One thing there's a lot of at reading/writing conferences is swag, or all those free giveaways. RomCon was no different. Everything from business cards to bookmarks to notepads to pens to postcards to excerpt booklets. Plus the slightly more unusual: a tape measure, luggage tag, and a gizmo I had to Google to discover it's actual use.

And of course, there are books

Sunday morning, I opted to go to a discussion group run the by The Book Reading Gals. Although it was designed as a place where readers could discuss their favorite books, authors, genres (and pet peeves), authors were allowed to attend. After all, we probably read a lot more books than we write.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

RomCon Report 2

Thanks to Sharon for yesterday's post. Lots of things to think about. Being a writer is a lot more than writing books, isn't it?

Back to RomCon.

I stopped yesterday before I mentioned the Western dinner. To be perfectly honest, my budget doesn't usually allow the "high-priced" hotel events. Having been on the conference planning side for years in my previous life, I know there aren't many economical options when dealing with hotels and their food and beverage services. But, since the theme was Western, and I'm now an official 'Westerner', it wasn't like I had to deal with buying anything new. I did buy them recently, but not exclusively for the conference.

I hooked up with Nancy and Donna, two of my buddies, and we worked our way through the chow line. Now, unlike most writing conferences, where the icebreaking question is, "What do you write," here it's "What do you read?" Everyone was friendly, and it really doesn't matter if you know a lot of people when you mingle at these events.

After eating, I let Nancy be the brave soul who tried the mechanical bull. Too risky for my back. But I did let one of the cowhands try to teach me how to rope a calf. Let's just say the cattle population of Colorado (and the entire US, for that matter) has nothing to worry about. I got the theory down, but execution left a lot to be desired. (Unless you were the calf). And no, they weren't live, just metal mockups.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Letting Go

My guest today is author Sharon Hamilton, who writes paranormal romance and contemporary SEAL romance in Northern California. 

Is this Indie craze for you? Are you too late?

There are so many wonderful opportunities today for authors, especially with the rise of the Indie publishing wave. At the recent RWA Convention in NYC, I heard it said that this phenomenon is broadening the window a bit, giving readers more variety, and therefore expanding the numbers of authors who can participate. Indie has not only changed the lives of authors, but it has changed strategy for literary agents, and for publishers as well. The reader is now getting a plethora of new authors to explore, getting these books faster and cheaper. Will more books be sold? Are readers reading more than before? I don’t know the answer to those questions.

As with any changing market trend, there are pros and cons. Just when we think we’ve learned how it all works, everything changes again. Authors who never made much money on their books that languished out of print can resurrect them, dust them off, edit and re-launched in eBook format, where they can keep the lion’s share of the profits. This new life has brought instant riches for not only NYC best-selling authors, but mid-list authors as well. Author’s backlists are paying some serious bills, and allowing some to look forward to an actual retirement. Every week we are flooded with names of people making mega six figure incomes. It all looks so easy.

Monday, August 08, 2011

RomCon Report 1

From last week's guest post. Colleen & Shaun have announced Cindy as the winner of How to Write a Dick: A Guide for Writing Fictional Sleuths from a Couple of Real-Life Sleuths

What I'm reading: Silver Lies, by Anne Parker (book club); First Thrills (anthology), Lee Child (editor)

I'm writing this after nearly three full days of conference activities (especially if you count drive time in your day), so forgive any incoherence.

RomCon is a reader-focused conference, so very little in the way of craft type workshops, but a lot of information nevertheless.

First off, the conference has a 'buddy' program, where attendees are matched and an author is part of each group. I want to say how thrilled I was to meet and spend time with Heather, Donna, and Nancy, and I hope they weren't disappointed that they didn't get a more famous author assigned to them.

First event was a welcome, where Sue Grimshaw, who's always keeping her finger on the pulse of the marketplace took a brief survey of the group. Bottom line: almost every person at the conference reads both print and e-books, and shops in brick and mortar stores as well as on line.

After that, I was one of the authors participating in a Build a Hero game. Two authors (I was fortunate to be paired with the wonderful Robyn Carr) sat at a table with a group of readers, and we were given worksheets to determine what a "perfect" hero would be. We discussed his appearance, background, fears, goals, desires, what he would never do, and any other characteristics we felt were important.

It was fun and interesting, as we were required to come to a consensus, and with ten individuals with ten different ideas of what makes a perfect hero, the discussions were both heated and funny. One thing we discussed was the fact that the worksheet didn't really have any place to consider the plot (although we kept getting sidetracked with plot ideas. It also didn't allow for the difference in the character at the beginning of the book compared with the ending.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Friday Field Trip - WODOC

I'm in Denver at RomCon, but while I'm gone, here are some more pictures I took on my recent trip to Los Angeles.

Not far up the street from my parents' house is a place that might look familiar to anyone who watches television or goes to the movies. Franklin Canyon Park, which is frequently invaded by Hollywood film crews is part of the National Park system. WODOC, which is the William O. Douglas Outdoor Classroom is part of the area. We went up and walked around a bit while I was in LA. Here are some pictures.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

RomCon - A Reader-focused Conference

What I'm reading: A Moment in Time, by Deb Stover

Don't forget to leave a comment on Tuesday's post for a chance to win Colleen & Shaun's book. (And even if you don't want the book, it's a great post.)

This afternoon, I'm heading down the mountain to visit with family, spend the night, and save about an hour of early-morning mountain drive time on my way to RomCon first thing tomorrow morning.

RomCon is a readers' conference. Instead of the things I'm used to a writing conferences, like craft-focused workshops and speakers, this one is all about readers getting to meet and mingle with authors. Last year I was on the 'reader' side of the conference, but this time, I'm an official author attendee.

I don't pretend that there will be people dying to meet me—or even recognize my name. But from a professional standpoint, one hopes that by the end of the conference there will be a few people who do know who I am and what I write.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Non-Writing Aspects of Writing

Today, I'm over at author Kelly McClymer's blog, where I'm talking about some of the "non-writing" parts of being a writer, including the dreaded cover blurbs. I've got an offer for a free copy of one of my books, so please drop by to see how to get one. It's not a contest, just an offer.

And, in other news: 

I just found out last night that The Red Room has chosen DANGER IN DEER RIDGE as their book of the day today.

Have you checked the Deals & Steals tab this month? There's a limited time (2 weeks) offer on discounted books at All Romance eBooks.

And don't forget to leave a comment on yesterday's post for a chance to win a free book.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Writing a Rural Surveillance

Today I'm welcoming a writing/private investigating duo, Colleen Collins & Shaun Kaufman, who are going to give us some handy hints about private investigators and surveillance. They're giving away a copy of their book, so be sure to read through and leave a comment. You have until Friday to leave a comment, but I won't get the winner posted until Monday because I'll be off the grid at RomCon.

When many people think of a private investigator, they think “surveillance.” Typical images that come to mind are the PI in his vehicle following a subject’s car through traffic or a PI parked somewhere, watching the subject’s residence or work. If a writer is crafting a city surveillance, she’ll take into consideration such things as the flow of traffic, how closely the PI follows the subject’s vehicle, and possible side streets the PI might take.

But what if your story is set in the country? Or your big-city investigator must travel to a rural area to conduct a surveillance? Here’s some tips from a couple of real-life PIs for writing a rural surveillance starring your fictional PI.

Know the area: In our part of the country, we have some impressive, wide-open stretches of country outside of “the big cities.” When we’re going into a rural area, we’ll first check online maps (for example, MapQuest and Google Earth). Have your fictional PI do the same. We’ve scheduled rural surveillances in areas that are so remote, they don’t even show up in online maps! In such cases, we contact the sheriff’s office for that region and request help with directions and maps.

On the other hand, if you’re looking for more conflict in your story, have your sleuth circling around and attracting unwanted attention in that small town!

Monday, August 01, 2011

Research the Details—But…

What I'm reading: Rogue Warrior by Richard Marcinko; One True Love, by Barbara Freethy.

I recently read a book where a character was learning to fly a small jet. The character was already an experienced pilot, but hadn't been trained on this type of aircraft. The author is also a pilot, and as I read the scene—pages and pages of it—it was clear enough to me that the author was simply showing his readers how much he knew about the topic.

To me, it was a hair-pulling couple of chapters. Maybe pilots enjoy it, but to me, it would be like showing a person learning how to drive a car, and following the along as they learned where to put the key, how to turn it, where the brakes were, and then followed along every inch of driveway and road on their first excursion. Had absolutely nothing to do with the story other than getting the character qualified so he could drive the company plane.

The trick to showing details is not to show the reader how much research you've done, but to use only what the POV character needs to show in the scene. If it's a naïve character, then they're likely to be thinking more about the details, either a how-to, or a more detailed description as they absorb new surroundings. But if they're experienced, then they're probably barely going to think about things. How often do you walk into your bedroom and notice the color of paint on the wall, or the precise shade of blue of your bedspread?