Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Scent of Murder

James O. Born

I do occasionally write something other than this blog.  Since I didn't have a particular topic for "How to Write a Novel," I thought I'd give you a glimpse of my upcoming novel, Scent of Murder, which will be released by Forge Books on April 7.

First, I would like to extend my thanks to the great people at Tor/Forge for their tremendous input.  Starting with my editor, Bob Gleason, who made me take a look at the narrative and consider things I had never thought of.  Add to this input from Associate Publisher Linda Quinton, who has a deep understanding and love of dogs and a broad knowledge of marketing and I truly feel like this  a much better novel.  That is what being part of a team really means.  The fantastic cover speaks for itself, conveying an excellent image of the opening scenes and overall tone of the book.

In a way, this is another lesson in how to write a novel.  A book from a publisher is in no way a solitary effort.  I may have started working on the novel by myself in my office, but ultimately it was in my best interest to open my mind to other opinions.  It's easy to say I work in real life as a law enforcement officer and have seen first hand what K-9s can do.  The real issue is how to convey that in a compelling and interesting way.  Both Bob and Linda helped me in ways I never would have imagined.

Finding a way to integrate the K-9 heroes of the book into the actual investigation in the novel was a challenge from the beginning.  Bob convinced me to create a point of view for one of the dogs.  He told me to read White Fang by Jack London.  That is the kind of instruction that helps you as a writer.  I read the book and studied the technique.  I didn't copy it or try to imitate Jack London.  And in the end it made the novel more interesting.

My new business/book cards
Linda read the manuscript and had suggestions about making some of the police work more subtle so that it might appeal to an audience in addition to the police procedural fans.  She had me bring out elements of the dogs and gave me suggestions that never would have occurred to me.  The fact that an associate publisher was interested in my manuscript was fantastic in itself.

Now I'm working with my publicist, Emily Mullen, who did a great job on Border War, to work out dates and appearances for bookstores and create a marketing plan which will give the book the best possible chance to succeed.  That is no small task in this era of shrinking sales and a crowded market.

Elayne Becker has been right on top of everything since the moment she took on the new job.  Not bad for a girl from Georgia stuck in New York.

Normally this could be a stressful time for a writer, but the fact that everyone on this team knows what they are doing and the book is something new for me, makes me not only confident, but excited about the novel's release.

The lesson here is, "no one can be a success in publishing on their own."

Obviously I will have more to share about the novel as the release draws near.  I have some new friends in the dog community as well as the law enforcement arena who have shown a lot of interest in the novel.  It is a realistic view of what police K-9s are involved in every day, as well as the relationship they have with their handlers.  It's hard to tell who's actually in charge sometimes.  Take a look at the Amazon description and feel free to e-mail me any questions at or in the comments.  If you haven't already, join my Facebook author page.

Here are a few dog photos to give you an idea of the world of police dogs.

Me and K-9 Hutch
My choice for a cover


  1. Is this coauthored? I like your police novels. Gives us a new perspective of American law enforcement.


  2. from Jacqueline: Very much looking forward to this one, Jim. I love books with smart, intelligent working dog characters (I loved Suspect by Robert Crais - Maggie the ex military dog with PTSD was the most memorable character). My brother had two ex-police dogs (a story there), and they were just the very best dogs. Loved them! So, this one is on my shopping list.

  3. Looking forward to this, James O. Will you please feature my cat Scooter in the sequel? She can sniff out any trace of butter on any surface. Quite amazing, actually.

  4. James O. Born1/22/2015 9:59 AM

    Robert, this was a solo effort.
    Jackie, I hope your brother didn't steal the police dogs and is now a fugitive. Just a story idea.

    Patty, Done. Scooter the cat.

    1. from Jacqueline: The dogs came to him willingly - without cuffs. One was being laid off from the local Police Active League (his name was Pal) as it was being disbanded, and he needed a home, and the other one came because my brother was doing so well with Pal. They've gone to the big retirement home in the sky now - Pal passed away in my brother's arms at the age of 15, Quince during surgery to remove a tumor. My brother now has another German Shepherd, but one without a background in law enforcement.

  5. Love the photos. I was reminded of an Alexander McCall Smith story about Freddie the drug sniffing dog at the airport who retired and became a pet to a wine merchant.

    Look forward to reading your book.


  6. Best cover I've seen in a long time!