How adding smell and taste to a manuscript can draw a reader deeper

One of the hardest things at times to describe in a novel is the sense of taste and smell. They are probably the least mentioned for that very reason. We may say it was a delicious meal of roast, mashed potatoes, and green beans. Or the stench was overwhelming in the closed-off room. We leave a lot to the reader’s imagination. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  We all have our ideas of what that roast tasted like and what constitutes a rank smell.

Taste

We better serve our readers when we can create the smell on the page. It helps them go deeper into our stories. Let’s take these two examples and see what we can do. (When I say we, I am expecting some of you to add your own creation in the comments.)

The meal mentioned above seems pretty common, and delicious is a relative term. I do not find anything delicious about Jalapeno peppers so if they were in the mash potatoes, I would disagree 😊. If the meal is essential to creating your story world or to revealing something about your characters, you need more than delicious.

What does this delicious roast taste like? Taste includes texture.

The Dr. Pepper marinate gave the melt-in-your-mouth pork roast a touch of sweetness. Betty’s mash potatoes reminded Leo of Ma’s home cooking, just a few lumps, and extra pepper. He’d never had green beans laced with bits of bacon, but the flavor made him scoop out another serving. Betty’s food erased the last ten years of loneliness with a meal laced with memories of his childhood.

Okay, not great but you get the point. Texture was added with lumpy potatoes. For Leo that made them delicious because his mother’s always had lumps. Can you see how I tried to give you a bit about Betty’s character? She doesn’t cook with wine, rather soft drinks. Cooking is her love language for sure.

How would you show the reader the delicious meal? Add it to the comments.

Let’s look at the smell reference now.

The overwhelming stench in a room could be anything from stinky shoes to a corpse. The sense of smell is often described with similes.

Jeffrey’s socks would stand like sentinels after he’d worn them for two weeks. Mother used tongs to capture the pair and marched the offending objects to the trash. Her other hand covered her mouth while she made retching noises.  My brother swore his favorite football team did better if he never changed his socks. And I swore if I had to sleep one more night breathing in the scent of raw sewer I would toss his bed out the window with him in it.

Again not great, but you get my point. Can you smell the socks?

Now it’s your turn to paint a scene to describe an overwhelming stench coming from a closed-off room.

We don’t want to fall into purple prose, overwriting descriptions. There are moments where the senses of taste and smell are important in crafting your story. If you understand your character and your setting, then you’ll know which of the five senses will best show the scene to the reader.

In the taste example, we see Leo as a lonely man who loved his childhood. And as I said it appears Betty’s love language is cooking. These could be the beginning of a romantic connection or a mother-son relationship. Food would play a big part in this story no matter what genre it is because I have given it as a connection between these characters.

In the smell example, Jeffrey is superstitious and oblivious to the grief it is causing his family. His long-suffering brother is at his wits’ end. I’d like to know what other ways these brothers are different. Is he the long-suffering younger brother or the patient older brother? This appears to be a smell example for the moment, but in a YA book stinky feet could be referenced throughout the story.

Okay, share your rewrites with me in the comments or post a favorite sensory description from a favorite book or a novel you’ve written.

I’d love to see your examples and it’s a great way to wake up your brain for your writing projects.

 

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A peek at Sherri Stewart’s newest work and a giveaway

Sherri Stewart is my special guest today. Like me, she is a Jubilee Writer. One who started her career later in life. I am so encouraged by her life message and her newest release.

Welcome, Sherri. I always like to start out these interviews learning about my guest’s writing journey.

I came to writing late in life, but my publisher has been helpful in keeping her writers busy writing for new series and collections. I’ve had a lot of careers: French teacher, Principal, Flight Attendant, and Immigration Attorney, which inform my writing a great deal. Word Weavers International opened my eyes to the world of writing and helped me improve. Now I run a freelance editing business and have too much work since March when the pandemic began. I guess there are a lot of writers who dusted off old projects during the last five months.

As busy as you are you’ve managed to get another of your own projects done. Tell us a bit about it.

The Promise Keeper is a romance novella that will also be part of a Christmas collection. The common theme is “Misstletoe,” missed chances. Readers who enjoyed Serendipity, An Affair to Remember, and Sleepless in Seattle will like this book.

I’m intrigued. I loved those movies.

All writers do research on some level to bring realism to their work. How do you research your books?

First, I read every book I can find on the period and place in which the book takes place. I watch every documentary on Prime and on YouTube. There’s a goldmine of information on YouTube. So for my latest release, The Promise Keeper, the characters meet in London at an Eagles’ concert, so I bought tickets to their concert at Wembley Stadium, and if the characters eat at a specific restaurant, I eat at the restaurant—even order the same food. I walk the streets to get a feel for the architecture, the atmosphere, the smells, etc. Sadly, because of the COVID virus, I had to cancel my trip to the UK. But I’ve been studying the Welsh language for the last six months, and I’ve watched every travel film I could find on Wales. Fortunately, some of the book took place in Atlanta so we were able to visit without fear of spreading the virus to other lands.

I appreciate that you didn’t let COVID keep you from your research. There is so much available information out there without traveling to a location. I love how immersed you get in your research. Can’t wait to read The Promise Keeper. We authors often get a germ of an idea that evolves from there. What inspired you to write your book?

I’m not a big chick-flick fan, but I have my favorites—Julia Roberts in My Best Friend’s Wedding, Sandra Bullock in Miss Congeniality, and Kate Beckinsale in Serendipity. In fact, it was Serendipity that made me start thinking, what if? There’s something charming about destiny bringing two people together, yet it’s even more exciting if the God who created us has a special someone in mind for us, and He brings us together in creative ways. That’s the essence of the providence of God. So I started thinking: What if God had two Americans who live far apart meet up in another country? Since they’d eventually return to their own homes, they’d have to make plans to meet up sometime in the future. Wales came to mind. I don’t know why because I’ve never been there, but since choosing Wales, I’ve fallen in love with the country and have been studying Welsh, which is a daunting language.

Wow! What a wonderful premise. Thank you so much for giving us a peek into your writing process and your upcoming novella.

A bit more about my guest:

Sherri Stewart loves a clean novel, sprinkled with romance, and a strong message that challenges her faith. She spends her working hours with books—either editing others’ manuscripts or writing her own. Her passion is traveling to the settings of her books, sampling the food, and visiting the sites. Sadly, her research for The Promise Keeper trip to Wales and London was canceled due to COVID, but she did visit Atlanta, and she’s still learning Welsh for a future visit. A recent widow, Sherri lives in the Orlando area with her lazy dog, Lily, and her son, Joshua, who can fix anything. She shares recipes, tidbits of the book’s locations, and pix in her newsletter. Subscribe at http://eepurl.com/gZ-mv9

A giveaway- who doesn’t love those.

 Sherri will do a giveaway of The Promise Keeper. Leave a comment here on teh blog for a chance to win. She’ll choose a winner on Friday to receive either a paperback or e-book copy.

Link for The Promise Keeper: https://amzn.to/2Y07QP0

 

Connect with Sherri Stewart

https://www.amazon.com/author/sherristewart/ 

https://www.facebook.com/sherristewartauthor/

https://twitter.com/machere

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/758893.Sherri_Stewart

www.stewartwriting.com

https://www.instagram.com/stewart_sherri/

https://www.bookbub.com/profile/sherri-stewart

 

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Show some love, do a book review

We all have our favorite authors, favorite genre, even favorite plot lines. Yet how many of us write reviews when we finish a book. I try hard to write reviews for every book I read. Sometimes I’m an epic fail. Book reviews don’t have to be very long. I’m not sure how many people take the time to read a long one. I know I don’t. Often we are intimidated by those professional sounding reviews that talk about things like POV. All authors need reviews. It shows publishers that the author has fans. It helps the author get noticed. Amazon gives them more screen time if the reviews reach the key levels of 50 and 100.

Your review can be a few lines, a few words even.

I loved the story.

This is my favorite author. This book did not disappoint.

I love Mail Order Bride stories, and this was delightful.

The characters were so real.

I dreamt about the story and what was going to happen next with the characters.

You don’t have to give a 4 or 5-star review. Sometimes 2 stars reviews can help with sales too.

I prefer the bedroom door closed. (Someone else might like it open.)

The story world was so weird. (another sale to those who love weird.)

I wish I’d read the first book in the series then things might have made more sense. (Possible series sale.)

Each of these comments is short but lets the author know why you gave it a lower rating.

If you are worried about typos

Amazon and Goodreads catch them and highlight so you can correct them before you post it.

The authors you love have a better chance to get more contracts with lots of reviews.

Show some love by praising their work for others to read.

It only takes a few minutes of your time to write one. I posted six this week. None of them are more than a paragraph. And two of the books were 2-stars.

It’s your opinion

Reviews are opinions and everyone has different expectations of what they want in a book. Romance readers have a hot-o-meter when it comes to sexual tension. Historical readers want accuracy in setting and culture. Fantasy and otherworldly fans may gravitate toward specific characters ie.. vampires, aliens, or shapeshifters. All of these expectations determine the kind of review the reader will give.

Some readers are afraid if they give a negative review the author may respond with angry comments. Most authors don’t. As I said reviews are opinions and an author who isn’t thick-skinned enough to handle a less than stellar review without waging a war against the commenter probably should find another profession.

Writers, do you post reviews of books you read?

No. Do you claim you don’t have time? You had time to read it. Use the review writing as an opportunity to warm up your brain for the projects you’re creating. Besides if you write reviews, those authors may return the favor.  And I am going to pretend there are no authors out there who never read. Writing reviews should be part of your marketing strategy. It shows you are part of the reading community. And readers love to talk about books.

No need to write a new review for each book sale site

Everyone can cut and paste the same review on Amazon, Goodreads, Target, Walmart, Barnes & Noble, and any other site where you buy books. It’s especially helpful to post reviews directly on the publisher’s website.

Please, please, please write reviews.

 

 

Great Summer Reads to add to your TBR pile

As always I’m feeding my reading addiction. Last week I mentioned closing books that were poorly written. Let me share some that kept me engaged from page one and did it all right IMHO. Here are a few new books I recommend you add to your TBR pile.

This first one is a historical romance set in WWI. I loved it because the author captured the cultural and historical time period so well. Loosely based on her own grandparents’ love story Patti Stockwell made Three Little Things feel oh so warm and inviting while at the same time giving the reader a realistic view of what wartime both at home and abroad was like.

Wartime Romance

Three Little Things  buy link 

One forbidden love. Two broken hearts. Three little things.

Hattie Waltz should forget the troubled neighbor leaving for boot camp in 1917. He forgot about her ages ago. It had always been the Waltzs verses the Kregers, his family pitted against hers. When she hands him a farewell gift, a chemistry lesson unfolds. The good kind.

Arno Kreger can’t leave Iowa or his old man fast enough. He’s eager to prove his worth on the battlefield and stop blaming himself for his brother’s death. Before entering the train, he bumps into Hattie. He’s loved her forever, always from the sidelines, because nobody crosses Hattie’s pa.

One innocent letter soon morphs into many. Arno and Hattie share three little secrets in each letter and grow closer together. But he’s on his way to a war across the ocean, and she’s still in her father’s house. Their newfound love will need to survive dangers on both fronts.

A Crime Suspense

Tom Threadgill is a new author to me. I had a chance to grab a ARC copy Collision of Lies and was totally engaged. The twists in the plot were so unique to any other crime suspense I have read in the past. I’m always impressed when a man can write a female character that doesn’t act and sound like a man. Maya is a clever, ambitious Hispanic female. I also appreciate that there is no swearing. Yep, a cop drama where the police are tough without tossing out unnecessary curse words. They still come across as tough guys.

Collision of Lies buy link

Three years ago, a collision between a fast-moving freight train and a school bus full of kids led to devastation and grief on an unimaginable scale. But a fresh clue leads San Antonio police detective Amara Alvarez to the unlikely conclusion that one of the children may still be alive. If she’s correct, everything law enforcement believes about the accident is a lie.

With time running out, Amara must convince others–and herself–that despite all evidence to the contrary, the boy lives. And she will do everything in her power to bring him home.

A fresh voice in suspense, Tom Threadgill will have you questioning everything as you fly through the pages of this enthralling story.

Novella Collection

Courting Calamity  buy link

My last recommendation is a historical romance novella collection Courting Calamity. Some novellas feel incomplete when you reach the end of the required word count. But not these four. There is so much realism and history in each story. And the focus of each is different.  They are in chronological order by time period spanning thirty years.

Lady and the Tramps by Jennifer Uhlarik has a lot of suspense as a Wells Fargo Agents helps a lovely woman who is the guardian of eight orphan children while he pursues the men who robbed the train. All the clues that were carefully laid out to get the reader to the end of the story are mixed with well-research historical accuracy. The epilogue is sigh worthy.

The Second Hand Bride of Polecat Creek by Kathleen Y’Barbo was a fun read. Again the story is historically accurate and full of interesting characters.  By the time Zeke and Lizzy get together the small town of Polecat Creek has warmed your heart.

The Bride of Basswood Hill by Gabrielle Meyer

The author decided to write the story of Alex, the one who didn’t get the girl, from The Tale of Two Hearts novella in the Of Rags to Riches novella collection. This is a marriage of convenience story matching a wealthy man with a poor Italian immigrant. Taking places in 1900 Minnesota the setting is beautiful and the characters are compelling. Add a few surprises twists and continuous page-turning is inevitable.

Echoes of the Heart by Amanda Barrett takes place in New York City in 1909. This is a tale of poor immigrant factory workers who find love in the midst of union riots and unbelievable circumstances. This is not your typical romantic setting. The twists in the plot are based on actual historical accounts while Aileen and Lorenzo are fictitious.  After reading the final word I had mixed emotions. I was happy for the couple but the historical events made me sad.

Heroes Needed for Four Damsels in Distress

Despite determination to be strong and independent, four women of bygone days are in need of a hero.
 
Lady and the Tramps by Jennifer Uhlarik
California, 1874
When outlaws steal a deed from Mattie Welling, her dreams for her eight orphan charges from New York City are dashed. Can Wells Fargo detective Jake Hickens be trusted to pick up the pieces?

The Secondhand Bride of Polecat Creek by Kathleen Y’Barbo
Texas, 1890
When Zeke Wyatt returns home to Polecat Creek intent on making good on his promise to marry his childhood sweetheart, he finds she’s run off in his absence, leaving her kid sister to care for her aging parents and the mercantile. Can Zeke finally settle down, or will he leave another sister with a broken heart?

The Bride of Basswood Hill by Gabrielle Meyer
Minnesota, 1900
When wealthy lumber baron, Charles Alexander, unexpectedly finds himself married to an Italian immigrant, Sofia Bellini, he must do all he can to protect her from the society she’s ill-prepared to navigate. But when he falls in love with his pretty bride, he will have to make a difficult choice: will he go through with the annulment they had planned?

Echoes of the Heart by Amanda Barratt
New York City, 1911
Irish immigrant Aileen O’Connor is willing to work to survive in the land of opportunity. But when her sister is accosted on the streets, she’s forced to accept the help of policeman Sean Doyle, a widower with a young son. When tragedy engulfs the city, will Sean and Aileen’s newfound love survive the raging flames?

My Writing Rant: Don’t make me trip over mistakes

Believable characters keep the reader turning pages.

I’m on a rant today. As I’ve mentioned before I love to read. I’m addicted to reading. But what I don’t like is being disappointed. Yeah, a plot can be disappointing, or characters can become blah. That’s not what I’m talking about.

The thing that drives me crazy is opening a novel and tripping over lots of amateur mistakes. Things that should have been fixed long before the publish button was pushed. I’ll admit that I’m a bit blind to my own mistakes. Okay, a lot blind. I need my critique partners, editors, and my Grammar Nazi husband to help me see what I don’t. When I read other authors’ works those same mistakes are glaring.

Some examples

Double word typos like the the.

Wrong tenses

No: He focuses on the past.

Yes: He focused on the past.

Lots and lots of backstory dump.

And the one oh so important thing. POV. If the scene or chapter is written from Sally’s point of view, she can’t describe her face. As the reader, you are looking through her eyes. And, you can’t know what the other character is thinking unless Sally is a mind reader.

It is easy to add a beat that is in the wrong POV. For example, Sally knew Mark was hurting from his past relationship.  How can she know at that moment he is hurting? If Mark turns away, changes the subject or fidgets with his keys when he sees his ex, then Sally would know or guess.

Don’t do it

My rant today is don’t publish that book until it has been thoroughly edited. Make sure it’s been through critique groups, proofreaders, beta readers, and your local grammar expert. Then do the rewrites and corrections, and run it through again. Three or more edits are not uncommon. The cleaner your manuscript the more satisfied the reader will be because they aren’t jerked out of the story due to amateur errors on your part.

Self-published work should shine

For those of you who self-publish, it is even more important that your work is stellar. Self-publication has been labeled something that publishers don’t want. It’s probably not true, but typos, grammar errors, and POV confusion will make the reader feel that way.

Help is available

If you don’t know who to contact ask other authors who they use. Be willing to pay top dollar for those edits. There are lots of books, blogs, vlogs, and websites on every aspect of writing and editing.  Learn about POV and how to sprinkle your character’s backstory throughout the novel rather than dumping it at the beginning of the chapter that introduces your newest character. Bleh!

Writing a novel is hard work and learning the craft is even more so. Don’t get in a hurry to get your book out there. Take the time to make it shine. End of rant.

What is a glaring error that pulls you out of a story?