Terry Odell

Biography

I was born and raised in Los Angeles, California, a rare native for many years.  I graduated from UCLA, and worked in the LA County secondary school system, teaching junior high school science, until we moved to Florida.

I can’t remember learning to read, only that I always did.  My parents tell people they had to move from our first home because I finished the library.  Learning to write is another story.  In some ways, I’ve always been a writer—I just never put the words on paper.  Most of my ideas were based on books or television shows or movies I thought I could “improve” with my own plot or character changes.  But my ‘real’ writing was usually more technical.  I wrote curriculum or training manuals.

I discovered fan fiction, which was a great training ground once I decided I could handle all the boring typing mechanics.  Writing dialogue with all those commas and quotation marks in the right places was a major headache—too much work.  I could enjoy my stories in my head and not have to do all that technical stuff.

But, one weekend, when I was home alone, I decided to try to rework a story that had been rattling around in my head for years.  It had started as a vague MacGyver story, but turned into a Highlander one, because that was what I was reading at the time.  I sent it to someone whose work I’d been editing, and she gently guided me through fixing my hack mistakes.

The gauntlet had been thrown.  There were ‘rules’ I had to learn, and since I had no more wall space for needlepoint, writing became a challenge and a new creative outlet.  My stories were well-received in the Highlander fandom world, but I wanted to try writing original characters.

I discovered a writing group at iVillage, but found the short story format very hard to master.  I’d write a beginning, a middle, and more and more middle, so I moved to novels where I could develop the characters in more depth and finally get to a satisfying ‘the end.’
Ironically, my first publications were short stories, with no mystery whatsoever, available from The Wild Rose Press.

An avid mystery reader, I thought I’d try writing a mystery, but as my daughters pointed out, it was more of a romance.  (Mom, she noticed his brown eyes were flecked with hazel on page 10.  It’s a romance!) I realized that even when reading a mystery, I was captivated by the relationships between the characters – Faye Kellerman’s Rina and Peter, Barbara Parker’s Gail and Anthony, even Laurie R. King’s Mary and Sherlock.  Even in books without continuing relationships, I was still watching characters hook up more than paying attention to the crime—on the first read.  Of course, this means I read almost every book twice; once for the relationship, once for the mystery.

I joined the Romance Writers of America and its Central Florida chapter, to learn about the other side of writing—the business side as I move to the next step:  getting my work off my hard drive and out where others can see it. Since then, we’ve moved from Florida to the mountains of Colorado, and in addition to RWA, I belong to the Mystery Writers of America, and the International Thriller Writers. I love looking out my windows at the wildlife as I write.

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