Monday, September 7, 2020

Heather's Chase

Congratulations to "Elizabeth H.", the winner in Terry's giveaway. Please contact JUST ROMANTIC SUSPENSE to claim your prize!

When the Hubster and I decided to celebrate our 50th anniversary with a trip to the British Isles, of course I had “book” in the back of my mind. However, an international setting wouldn’t have worked with any of my existing series, and since I never plot in advance, I decided to enjoy our tour, taking pictures and notes of what we were seeing and doing and just wait and see what might bubble to the surface.

Our trip began in Northern Ireland with a visit to our daughter, who had pointed out that she moved there 12 years ago and we’d never visited. From there, we had a couple days in London where I got to meet one of my critique partners face to face for the first time. Given we’d been in our little group for about 15 years, that was another “it’s about time” moment.
From there, we visited Scotland, and then Ireland.

Things I’ve learned about setting a book in real places, especially distant ones.
Less is more. My first drafts went into phenomenal detail about absolutely everything. Airports. Train stations. Hotels. Food. All the places we stopped, what we saw on the drives. Given we were traveling for well over two weeks, that would have been a LONG book. A sense of place is good. Overwhelming readers is not. I had to keep reminding myself to make sure everything related to the plot and characters. I wasn’t writing a travelogue.

Stay true to time. Readers familiar with the area will know that you can’t get from A to B in two hours, or that when you’ve had your characters on their bus for five hours, it’s really a twenty-minute drive.

You’ll always miss something. Unless you’ve got your plot mapped out before your trip, once  you start writing, you’ll have a scene to write and—lo and behold—you missed taking a picture, or didn’t take the right notes. I spent a LOT of time on the internet rechecking facts, looking at maps, and refamiliarizing myself with some of the attractions we visited. If I couldn’t find exactly what I needed, I reminded myself I was writing fiction—another reason not to name real places. On the occasions where my characters were eating in real, named places, I made sure I had pictures and menus. Same for attractions.

Don’t make up real stuff. One of the reasons I made this book a stand alone was because our trip didn’t include visits to police departments (although I snapped a picture of a vehicle in Ireland, “just in case”). Also, it would be unrealistic for my American characters to have any access to law enforcement in several different countries.

Be nice. I also opted not to name the specific hotels or restaurants (mostly). For one thing, it gave me the freedom to change the d├ęcor, layout, amenities, or the restaurant menus. And, if something “bad” happened, I wasn’t going to incur the wrath of those establishments.
It's about flavor. Although my characters didn’t visit Northern Ireland, I did include a character from the same town we’d visited when we stayed with my daughter. I made sure she vetted all his dialogue. For example, people in Northern Ireland use the word “wee” as a meaningless adjective. I was asked for my wee credit card, given a wee receipt, offered a wee bag for my purchases. My British critique partner was very helpful with vocabulary as well.

All in all, I had a great time ‘revisiting’ my trip to the British Isles while I was writing the book, and being able to incorporate my experiences into Heather’s Chase.

The cover pictures were taken on my trip, as well as a whole lot more. Want to see them? Go to the book page on my website and scroll down to “Special Features” for links. You’ll find references to many of them in the book.

Here’s a short excerpt.

Ian unloaded Heather’s luggage, handed her off to a doorman who brought the bags inside. Heather took in the Art Deco design as she stepped across the gleaming marble lobby floor, with its black inlaid compass encircled by cream and rust diamond shapes. She made her way to the desk where a smiling receptionist welcomed her.
She accepted the key, listened to the receptionist’s summary of hotel amenities, including the bar, restaurant, and complimentary breakfast. “The bellman will deliver your luggage to your room,” the woman said.
Heather wasn’t tuned in to the British accents yet. To her American ear, everything the receptionist said sounded… elegant.
In her room—luggage already inside—a bowl of fruit sat on a small round table, a card welcoming her to the hotel. Nice. Melinda’s doing, or part of the tour package? Or had Gerry included the nicety when he’d been making his arrangements?
A pang of sadness blanketed her as she thought of Gerry, knowing he was dying, still making all these plans for her.

You can find Heather’s Chase at most digital outlets via this link.

Because of the pandemic, I’ve been doing a lot of on-line shopping. That means I’m getting boxes, and they need to be recycled. I’ll take one of those boxes and put some books in it—some new, some gently read. It’ll be a random selection from my shelves. US only, please.

Terry Odell took up writing when she ran out of space on her walls for needlepoint and needed another creative outlet. She began writing what she though was a mystery, until her daughters told her it was a romance. She discovered the romantic suspense genre and dove in, although she prefers to think of her books as “Mysteries With Relationships.”  She write the Mapleton Mysteries, Pine Hills Police, Triple-D Ranch, and Blackthorne, Inc. series. Check out her website for more. And, I’d love it if you’d sign up for my newsletter.

Giveaway ends 11:59pm EST Sept 8th. Due to GDPR regulations you no longer need to submit your email address in the comments. If you have been selected as a winner your name will be posted at the top of the post. You may then contact to claim your prize. Your email address will be shared with the author/publicist providing the giveaway. 


  1. Terry, It sounds like you had a wonderful trip. Minus the people you visited, it is pretty much the trip that is next on our list. I was planning it for next year, but with not much travel going on right now, next year will be crowded. So it looks like 2022 will be the year we go and that will be our 50th anniversary. Books are better when the author has personal experience with the area it is set in or the events and careers included. It adds so much to the feel of the story. There are several authors whose books and series are set in areas where we have traveled. Reading scenes, I know exactly where the characters are standing and what the area is like. That definitely puts you firmly in the story. I am sure your book will reflect your first hand experiences and be the richer for it.
    Take good care of yourself, and stay safe and healthy.

  2. Thanks, Patricia. Yes, the hard part about this book was leaving things out. We had such a great time. I know you will, too.

  3. Happy anniversary. I just celebrated 26 years. Would love to go to the British Isles. Always looks beautiful when I see it in pics or videos. Love mysteries and would love the goodie box. Thank you for the chance

    1. Good luck, and by all means, plan a trip across the pond. I hope you followed the link in my post to see some of the pictures I took. The cover image is the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland.

  4. Your trip sounds fantastic. I've been to London and Oxford. I canceled a trip to London and Edinburgh due to the pandemic, but I'm hoping we can reschedule that trip for 2021 or 2022. I enjoy your blog and your books. Thanks

  5. Thanks, Teresa. We were lucky that we were in and out before the pandemic hit. I'd love to go back and see more someday.

  6. sounds like it was fun

  7. Happy Anniversary Terry!!! That trip is a dream vacation of mine! Glad you had such a wonderful experience!

    1. Thanks, Elizabeth. Hard to believe the trip was a year ago, and we've had our 51st anniversary (at home, take-out dinner).

  8. Happy 50th! Wow! One day I hope to visit Ireland...

  9. Wonderful trip! I have traveled south of the US and around most of the states but really wanted to go to the British Isles and especially London to visit the Inns of Court since I am an attorney but never made it. Thanks for the chance!

    1. When our daughter pointed out she's been living in Northern Ireland for 12 years and we'd never visited, we knew we had to go, and we decided to make it a major trip. These days, virtual trips are about all we can do, so I'm glad I was able to provide you with a taste of what it was like.

  10. Happy 50th Anniversary! Sounds like a lovely trip. I am a wee bit envious! It is doubtful I will ever get there, but I can look at books, brochures, and televison travel shows and dream.


    1. I hope you enjoyed the pictures on my website, Karin. Maybe your dream will come true one day.


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