January 17, 2012

Welcome Guest Blogger Terry Odell

Please help me welcome Terry Odell. Terry is here today with a fantastic post about writing "those" books. Welcome Terry.

Thanks so much to Sarah for inviting me to be her guest here today. A little about me. I did NOT write my first book in crayon. I didn't major in English. (I was a Psych major/Biology minor). As a matter of fact, I was a card-carrying AARP member before I even considered writing. But now, I've got 7 novels and an assortment of short stories published. Almost all of them are romance.

So, you write "those" books…I'm sure any romance author has heard it, clearly from someone who's never read a romance. (Confession – I was halfway through writing my first manuscript before I'd read a romance. I thought I was writing a mystery!) Well, yes, I do write "those" books. My publishers call them "Romantic Suspense." Me, I like to think they're "Mysteries With Relationships."

I think one of the lines of demarcation between a mystery and a romantic suspense is the sex. If you're a romance writer, eventually, you're going to have to deal with that moment of relationship consummation. If you're a mystery writer, sure, you can have sex scenes, but the relationships can develop over a series of books, and usually the relationship is secondary, so the sex tends to be more "in passing" rather than a milestone. But in all of my books, the characters have to earn that moment together.

I've been places where readers will ask, "Is there sex in your books?" When I answer in the affirmative, some grin and say, "That's great!" and snatch the book up. Others frown and walk away. I sent a reviewer—who said he reviewed romance as well as mystery—one of my romantic suspense books, figuring it covered both his genres. He refused to review it because it was, in his words, "Porn." Yet the publisher had labeled it "sensual".

I've got some good friends who write erotic romance. As with any book, there are some I enjoy, some I don't care for. For me, a lot of it boils down to vocabulary. Sometimes, it feels like I'm reading an anatomy text. Others, it's just a word that I react to differently. Everyone has trigger words, and there's nothing right or wrong about using them. You just have to know readers will react differently depending on their prior conditioning. For me, there's nothing erotic about the word "pussy" … I get the picture of two sleazy guys in a bar asking the bartender where they can get some of the same. Yet for others, it's a perfectly acceptable word with positive, even sensual, connotations.

In my first book for Five Star, my editor warned me against using the word "penis" because she said their final copy editor wouldn't approve it. She said their readers didn't mind blood and gore in mysteries, but were more picky about the romance vocabulary. (For the record, in my third book with them, the word is there. I didn't avoid it, and the new editor didn't cut it.)

The beauty of the genre is that there's something for everyone. And I'm not ashamed to say I write "those books."

And, here's an excerpt from FINDING SARAH, that book I thought was a mystery when I was writing it. In this scene, Randy and Sarah have finally earned the right to be together. They've had dinner, then returned to his house, ostensibly for ice cream to end the meal, although they both know where the night is going. This excerpt ends at the bedroom door. However, in the book, the reader gets to follow them inside.

He opened the door for her and turned on a lamp by the couch. "You want dessert now?"

"Right after the ice cream."

Randy chuckled. "I'll serve. How about we eat on the couch?"

Sarah settled on the couch and toed off her sneakers and socks while she adjusted the three-way bulb in the lamp to the lowest setting. Candles would be better, but she hadn't thought to bring any.

Randy appeared with two sundaes. "What are you thinking?"


"That was not a 'nothing' look, that was a 'something's missing' look."

"I thought candles would be nice. But they're not important. The moonlight is enough."

Randy set the ice cream on the end table and disappeared down the hall, returning in a moment with a green foil gift box. He arranged half a dozen pillar candles on the coffee table and lit them. The scent of vanilla filled the air. Sarah turned off the lamp and picked up her bowl. An ice cream purist, she turned the spoon over as she put it into her mouth so that the initial sensation on her tongue was the creamy richness of the ice cream. She grinned as Randy followed her example, eyebrows raised.

"This way, you don't get the metallic taste of the spoon," she explained. The scent of the candles intensified the vanilla flavor of the ice cream.

Randy nodded in agreement, matching her bite for bite.

Sarah scraped the remains of the sundae from her bowl. She licked the spoon, enjoying the chocolate's creamy sweetness. She glanced at Randy, sitting beside her in the flickering light. A flush rose to his face as he set his bowl on the coffee table. Lowering her spoon, she glued her eyes to his and let her tongue dance circles around her half open mouth while she savored both the chocolate sauce and the thought of his mouth against hers. The look in his eyes made her forget the chocolate. Her breath quickened.

Randy dipped his fingertip into the chocolate residue in her bowl and brought it to her lips. Her tongue swirled around his finger. He pulled his hand away and covered her lips with his own. She pressed deeper into the kiss, her tongue feeling the chill in his mouth turn hot. Somewhere in the distance, she felt him remove the bowl and spoon from her fingers, heard the soft thud as he placed them on the coffee table, but the kiss took on a life of its own, transcending awareness of anything else.

He pulled her on top of him so that she straddled his lap. She leaned her head into his chest, listened to the pounding of his heart, the rapid rhythm of his breathing. His hands sent shivers down her back as he reached under her sweater and unfastened her bra. Murmurs of pleasure intertwined as one. She wanted his hands to envelop every inch of her. Shifting herself closer into his body, she began rocking gently, her mind oblivious to all but the fluttering sensations building deep within her.

She ran her fingers through his hair, caressed the velvety softness behind his ears, rubbed her hands up and down his back, began working his shirt free of his pants. His hands moved to her chest, kneading her breasts, rolling her nipples under his thumb. Sparks shot through her at his touch. She reached to unbuckle his belt, to touch him, to share the pleasure.

"Sarah," he gasped. "Wait." He put his hands over hers.

She let go of his belt, unable to speak. He couldn't have changed his mind. Not now. Randy put his hands at her waist and shifted her down toward his knees.

"You're making me … I'm so … I'm not sure I can … Oh, God, Sarah, I don't want to spoil it for you. It shouldn't be this quick."

She slid off his lap and ran her fingers across his lips. His breathing was rapid and shallow. She extinguished the candles and extended her hand. "We said we were going to do this in a proper bed. Will you take me there?"

FINDING SARAH is available as an e-book from most e-tailers. There are also some out of print copies still out there (some of which are at my house, and I'm happy to autograph them for readers.)

For more about Terry and her books, visit her website at www.terryodell.com

She'd also love for you to follow her blog, Terry's Place, www.terryodell.blogspot.com
You can find her on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/terry.odell
And at Twitter, she's @authorterryo


Sarah Grimm said...


It's great to have you as a guest today. I have to say, I'm not ashamed I write 'those books' either. Finding Sarah sounds great, I'm adding it to my TBR list now.

Terry Odell said...

Thanks so much for having me, Sarah. And thanks for adding Sarah to your list!

Suzie Tullett said...

Hi, Terry.

I fully appreciate where you're coming from with this post. I write contemporary women's fiction in the main and often get an odd reaction by those who deem my genre too commercial for their taste... Then again, I've had really positive responses from others x

anny cook said...

Heh. I read your books back when you were beginning. They're wonderful. As you said, there's something for everyone! Best wishes.

Terry Odell said...

Suzie - I belong to a book club that seems to think "literary fiction" is what we need to be reading. Yet when the group meets, most of them don't like the book. I'm slogging through one now. I can't say it's badly written, only that I prefer books with a plot and characters I care about.

Everyone's tastes are different. That's why there are so many books.

Thanks for commenting!

Terry's Place
Romance with a Twist--of Mystery

Terry Odell said...

Thanks, Anny! And I hope you're still reading them. I've gotten better. My mom says so!

Terry's Place
Romance with a Twist--of Mystery

pappimoe@aol.com said...

I appreciate your writing journey and writing style. I find myself in the same boat. Writing later in life and a style that mingles romance,suspense and legal thriller. As in my actual life, I'm not easy to label--such a Pisces!!! I'm a few pages away from finishing Deadly Secrets and downloaded Finding Sarah last month. Looking forward to reading it too.

Calisa Rhose said...

Adding another to my tbr, Terry. Nice excerpt! I'm not ashamed I write 'those' books though I'm not totally comfortable with writing sex scenes yet.

Terry Odell said...

pappimoe - we sound very much alike. I had my AARP card before I started writing. I don't like to color inside the lines. And I'm a Pisces, too!

Good luck, and so glad you're enjoying my books.

Calisa - there are so many levels of what you show on the page. You have to be comfortable or it'll show and the readers will know it.

Terry's Place
Romance with a Twist--of Mystery

Vonnie Davis ~ Romance Author said...

I'll be glad when I "mature" enough to progress from feeling as if I must defend my beloved genre to a more "Yeah, so???" response. I keep thinking I'll leve my writers' group here in our city. Although I am published and most are not, and am contracted for more which upon their release will make me the most published of the group, I am treated like the redheaded step-child.

One man, a newspaper writer, chants his mantra--"Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl." It's formula writing. Then sneers as if someone broke wind in his vacinity.

Great post and loved the excerpt.

Terry Odell said...

Vonnie - tell him to write one. I recall talking to a mystery author who absolutely could NOT comprehend that as a romantic suspense author, you have to have three complete story and character arcs. Hero, heroine and mystery. Deadly Secrets was actually "easier" to write because I didn't have to wrap up that HEA at the end of the book.

Terry's Place
Romance with a Twist--of Mystery

Book Talk Romanc said...

I really appreciate you comment about the main characters need to earn the right.... I believe that is what takes the scenes from sex to love. There is a difference. I agree also that the words have a lot to do with weather I even finish a book.
I am currently writing my first book (been a member of aarp for 10 years).
Love your work.

Terry Odell said...

Jeannie - yes, I write love scenes, not sex scenes. I've read some sex-filled erotica books and frankly, many of them bore me when they're repeated over and over. I'm in it for what's going on in the character's head, not how many positions they can get through in 300 pages.

Terry's Place
Romance with a Twist--of Mystery

Susan Macatee said...

Loved the excerpt, Terry! I started reading romances in my thirties while a stay-at-home mom. Before that I'd primarily read mystery, suspense and science fiction books.

But romances hooked me and I decided that's what I wanted to write. They are the best stories out there. Very uplifting and inspirational no matter the genre. It's no wonder romance is the best selling genre of all.

Terry Odell said...

Susan - can't have a romance without ice cream! Glad you enjoyed the excerpt.

Terry's Place
Romance with a Twist--of Mystery

Anonymous said...

I think romantic erotica as a genre has the widest heat range of anything we write, since our vision of erotica can be so broad. My work definitely doesn't stop at the bedroom door, and is explicit, but I feel comfortable that it fits within the generally accepted definition of the genre. OTOH there is nothing to say you cant stop well short of the doorway and be far less explicit...

Thought-provoking post - thanks.

Terry Odell said...

erika, there are SO many sub-genres in romance, and SO many different heat levels. There's something for everyone. I remember one of my early crit partners saying, "OK, I can see that they're having sex, but for 20 PAGES?!?

Terry's Place
Romance with a Twist--of Mystery

Margaret Tanner said...

Hi Terry,
I hate the sneers of some people "Oh you write romance? Of course you're not a real writer" that type of comment infuriates me. Romance stories and stories with romance in them keep the book industry afloat.

Great excerpt too.



Terry Odell said...

Thanks, Margaret. It's not the destination, it's the journey, and a good writer will make you enjoy the trip.

Terry's Place
Romance with a Twist--of Mystery

Mackenzie Crowne said...

Your post made me smile, Terry. As for sneering literary snobs, one of these days I am going to work up the courage to say - So, as a reader you look down your nose at the romance genre? Considering the crowd of romance readers out there, how many people, do you think, are looking down their noses at your lofty opinion?
Great excerpt by the way.

Terry Odell said...

A famous romance author was confronted with that sort of an attitude at a signing. The person said, "Oh, I don't read those books", and she said, "Why? No pictures?"

I'll repeat -- anyone who says someday when they have a free weekend, they'll write a romance novel ought to try it.

Glad you liked the excerpt. I just typed 'the end' on the next book in this series.

Julie Robinson said...

Thank you for sticking up for romance. It's really odd that people who aren't offended by blood and guts are offended by sex, a natural expression of love between a man and a woman. Murder is not natural, though it does happen. I really liked the witty reply about the pictures.

Terry Odell said...

Thanks, Julie. There's nothing wrong with wanting to know everything will work out in the end.

Janice Seagraves said...

Hi Terry,

Great excerpt. I like the how you described the scent of the candles with the taste of ice cream. I could almost smell it and taste it myself. Good job.

My BIL announced after hearing that I got my first book published that it had to be one of those romance books with lots of sex in it.


Terry Odell said...

Janice, thanks. And I hope your BIL meant his comment in the nicest way.