Archive for the the writer’s life Category

New Name Contest…FBI Mystery/Thriller

After taking some time in August to ride my bike, work in my yard, and hang out with my granddaughter, I’m busy writing my eighth Detective Jackson novel. It seems a little unreal, like only a few years ago, I was writing Thrilled to Death, the third story, and wondering if the series would ever have enough readers to make it financially worthwhile. But I love writing these stories, so it’s been emotionally rewarding all along, and I’m very grateful for the readers who support me.

And I love getting readers involved in the creativity, even if only to provide many of the names I’ll use. So here’s another chance to get a name of your choice into my next  Jackson story.

For this one, I need the name of an eco-terrorist, a man dedicated to environmental issues, but misguided about how to accomplish his goals. And I need a name for a young female FBI agent who goes undercover to stop him.

What does all this have to do with Jackson? You’ll see! As usual, I’m writing a complex story with multiple crimes and multiple points of view. And I’m trying to give readers something new in every story, so I’m branching out and including broader investigations and more action.

The book I just finished, Rules of Crime, which you helped me find great names for, will be released in late February. It features Jackson, Lara Evans, and Agent Carla River, and some of my beta readers say it’s my best work yet. I hope so! (I hope to have a cover soon too.)

I plan to have this new story submitted to my editor by the end of the year, so hopefully, Amazon will release it mid-2013, a few months after Rules of Crime.

Everyone who submits a name wins a free ebook of their choice, and the people who submit the winning names for my characters win an ebook of their choice AND a print copy of The Baby Thief…if they want it.

As always, I’ll try to use many of the names submitted in other roles: witnesses, family members, etc. Thanks for participating! I can’t wait to see what you have for me this time.

Amazon and Amelia

The last six months have been quite busy! In addition to writing a new Jackson story—which seemed to take forever—we’ve been doing our usual daycare for two little nieces, and loads of daycare for our new baby granddaughter, Amelia. She’s a joyful child and I feel blessed to have her in my life. But I’m definitely not writing as much or as fast as I used to. I hope we can all learn to live with that.

The good news is that I have a solid first draft of my next Jackson story! And I’ll send the final version to my editor within the month. The other good news is that my editor works for Amazon Publishing, which bought my entire backlist and my next two stories. For me, this means security, and my readers will benefit too, because I’ll be able to keep writing instead of going back out and getting an office job when book sales get weak. Which they do every summer/fall.

And I’ll have some help with marketing, which will free up writing time for me. I’m very excited to have a publishing partner. It’s been a lot of work and stress making all this happen on my own.

The only sort-of bad news is that this new Jackson book won’t be published until the end of the year. Amazon plans to release their versions of all the Jackson stories at the same time, and they need a few months to produce them. So I appreciate your patience!

Meanwhile, here’s a video of our granddaughter Amelia. She’s the giggliest baby ever, and you can see what I’m don’t get much done when she’s here.

Amelia Hides the Remote

Amelia Likes to Bounce and Laugh

New Cover, New Opportunities

The Gauntlet Assassin
After changing the name of my futuristic thriller to The Gauntlet Assassin and seeing the uptick in sales, I decided a new title needed a new cover. It took me a long time to find an image I liked. I wanted to represent Lara and the competition, but there’s nothing appropriate out there. I considered paying an artist to create an image, but I realized that the title focused on the antagonist and so should the cover. So here’s what I came up with.

As soon as the new ebook is back from the formatter, I’ll do a giveaway on Amazon and see if I can push sales to a new level. This novel has garnered some of my best reviews.

In other news, I’m struggling to find an affordable Spanish translator for my Jackson series. I thought I had one, but when I had the work evaluated, I decided not to continue with that translator. I haven’t given up, but the search is time-consuming, and I’m way behind on my newest Jackson story. But I’m still hoping to have it published before July.

Another update is that I’ve submitted four of my scripts to Amazon Studios for consideration. Three are comedies, and it would be so much fun to see Addictions or Lost in Hollywood come to life on the screen. It was fun just reading back through the stories.

I also submitted a script for The Baby Thief, which is currently a bestseller on Kindle, ranking at #3 on the medical thriller list. That story was the first publishable novel I wrote, and I worked on it for years. I also landed a major agent for it, then failed to sell it. So it’s gratifying to final have thousands of readers enjoying the story.

Since you folks write to me everyday, asking when my next Jackson story will be available, I’d better get back to work.

PS: Do you like the new cover? Do you know an inexpensive translator?

Confessions of a Communication Junkie

Two recent—and unnerving—events made me realize I’m a bit of communication addict. First, I took my old laptop to the shop to add more RAM and the counter person told me it would take about two hours. I went home cooked and ate dinner, then waited for the call. By eight o’clock, I was jumping out of my skin. When I called to ask about it, the tech guy said my laptop wouldn’t be ready until the next afternoon. My heart rate escalated, I started to hyperventilate, and it was all I could do not to yell at him. The idea of being without my computer for a day was horrifying! I already felt like I had been walking around without arms for four hours.

But it was the second incident that made me realize what more specifically what I was hooked on. Two days ago, I received a text while nearing a stoplight (that familiar little beep) and glanced over at my phone to see who it was. I nearly got into a minor fender bender. It was an alarming realization that I’m addicted to communication, particularly, the incoming type. Hearing from friends, readers, and discussion groups (and occasionally publishers and production companies)—at steady intervals throughout the day—is like a stream of endorphins…or little hits of feel-good. Those communications come in various forms; emails, tweets, Facebook/Google posts, blog comments, texts, and phone calls; but almost all are satisfying… and thus addictive.

When I haven’t heard from anyone in awhile, I start to feel anxious and a little bit lonely. Considering that awhile might only mean twenty minutes, I realize the situation has become a little needy and weird.

Admitting I have a problem is the first step, but what to do next? I have no intention of cutting myself off from friends and readers. But I have started turning off my phone when I’m driving and I think I’ll start closing the internet for periods of time when I’m writing. It will be uncomfortable at first—withdrawal always is—but I think it will be mentally healthy in the long run.

Having friends online keeps people like me (who work at home) sane, but the abundance of social networking opportunities and the convenience of cell phones may have tipped the balance too far. So I’m going to practice doing something I used to be good at: being alone and happy in my own thoughts.

Anyone else with this problem? An anecdotes you’d like to share?

The Importance of a Title

The numbers don’t lie. When my thriller was called The Arranger: A Futuristic Thriller, I couldn’t give the book away. After three days on Amazon’s free list (through the Select program), The Arranger managed a mere 1535 downloads, despite a 4.5-start rating and rave reviews. I’d already given away two books that racked up 55,000 downloads between them ,so I understood just how pathetic that number was, and I instinctively knew the problem was the title.

I originally came up with the title because it fit the antagonist, Paul. When I bounced it off my husband, he loved it and pushed for it. I keep thinking about The Gauntlet and he kept saying, “No, it’s been done.” So I put the book out as The Arranger, and that was clearly a mistake, especially when you consider I spent more on promotion for that book than any I’d ever done. <Sigh>

But the giveaway taught me that I needed a new name. And with your help, we came up with one: The Gauntlet Assassin. I made the changes, waited for the ebook to be reformatted with the new cover, and reloaded it to Amazon. Fortunately, I’d saved two days of the five-day giveaway, so I was able to list The Gauntlet Assassin for free for two days. In that time, it had nearly 15,000 downloads, and is now selling well.

Same cover, same description, same great reviews. But clearly the new name appealed to people in a way the original had not. I purposely took “A Futuristic Thriller” out of the title. I think the word future turned a lot of people off and made them think sci-fi or dystopian novel. The book is neither and set only 13 years from now.

The lesson here is that being independent allows me to makes changes and correct my mistakes.

In other news, an established production company saw a review of The Arranger and contacted me about film/TV rights. They’re reading the manuscript now. Wouldn’t it be amazing if this strange little story were made into a blockbuster film? My husband is  counting on it. 🙂

Writers: Have you changed a story’s title or cover to make it marketable?
Readers: How do you feel when writers make such changes?

The Ups and Downs of 2011

I started this year in a very upbeat mode. My Jackson books were gaining steam on Amazon’s Kindle, and I was about to release my fifth in the series. I’d given up freelance work to write and promote full-time. It was a risk, but it was working out. Sales stayed strong through the new release and into the late spring, and I started to think I might even get ahead financially.

Then, inevitably, the Amazon algorithm dropped me to give other books a chance and my sales began to slide. By late fall, I was worried about whether I could continue to support my household. So I worked like a mad woman to finish another novel before the Christmas buying rush.

At my darkest moment —when I started looking for an office job—Amazon offered its Select Program to self-published authors, and I jumped in early with a few books. The giveaways gave me great exposure, and all my book sales responded. Now I’m heading into the new year with strong sales, and feeling optimistic that this time the curve will be different. A quick rise and fall (for some books), followed by a long, slow build for all my novels. Or at least, that’s what I’m hoping for. To gradually expand my readership and the volume of books I offer.

In personal news, our first granddaughter was born, and she’s delightful. My husband started a trike-building business, our oldest son left the Army (and Iraq) for the last time, and our younger sons both experienced huge personal growth this year.

I’m very optimistic about 2012. I have a few resolutions and goals, but I’m also approaching all of it with more flexibility than I’ve allowed myself in the past.

I have about 48 hours left in this year, and I plan to spend it reading, then dancing to Satin Love Orchestra tomorrow night. I also plan to spend the first day of the year reading as well. Then Monday, it’s back to work, writing my new Jackson story.

What are your highlights of 2011? Your plans for 2012?

Strange Email From Amazon

Sorry, but I need to vent a little. An recent email from Amazon had this to say:

During a quality assurance review of your title, we have found the following issue(s): Typos have been found in your book. For example:

  • “blond hair off” should be “blonde hair off”
  • “teen-agers thought” should be “teenagers thought”

Please look for the same kind of errors throughout and make the necessary corrections to the title before republishing it.

Seriously? Of all the millions of books out there—many of which have never been edited—they find fault with blond instead of blonde? And teen-agers instead of teenagers?

First, editing styles and word-use changes over time. Second, who gives a crap? These are not errors, not compared to some of the stuff I’ve found in my other books. And when I think about some of the manuscripts I evaluated for iUniverse that are now selling on Amazon through KDP, I shudder at the bad grammar, incoherent sentence structure, and lack of punctuation.

So I have to wonder: Why The Sex Club? A book written by a seasoned journalist and edited by a professional? Did some readers complain because they didn’t like the title and content? And did that complaint trigger a “quality assurance review”? Is Amazon just going through the motions to make the complainers happy? For those of you not familiar with my work, the book is a PG mystery.

The upside is that Amazon didn’t necessarily require me to do anything. The email says “before republishing it.” Since I don’t plan to republish it, I think I’m okay to let it go.

But it’s kind of annoying, and it makes me wonder what the heck is going on. I think Amazon is right to conduct quality reviews, and I think it should refuse to publish some of the crap that it does. But its email to me makes no sense at all.

Anyone else had this experience?

The New Jackson Story Is Here

As you may have heard, the new Jackson story, Liars, Cheaters & Thieves, is now available. With each of these novels, I try to feature different crimes, different types of victims, and different story structures. In this one, the victims are male military veterans, a subject I’ve wanted to write about for a while.

But I didn’t want to immerse the plot in the military culture, so like my other Jackson stories, it’s set in Eugene. Liars, Cheaters, & Thieves also includes some features unique to Eugene that I’ve been wanting to work into a story, so you’ll get to know my hometown a little better.

Here’s the back cover copy:
Thursday night, a young veteran’s throat is slashed in a parking lot. Friday morning, an older women dies of a heart attack when she realizes her bank account has been cleaned out. The homicide-scene evidence points to the man’s cheating wife, but when Detective Jackson finds bizarre materials in their home and a link to a phony charity, the case gets complicated. When another man is killed, Jackson and his team decide to follow the money—but can they find the trail before anyone else is murdered?

I’m giving away a free ebook to anyone who comments or subscribes to my blog or newsletter today. In addition to commenting, email me and let me know if you want a mobi (Kindle) or epub file.

I’ve already got an idea for my next Jackson story, but I’d love to hear suggestions for subjects or social issues that interest you.

Thanks for stopping at my blog and supporting my work.

The Exclusivity Dilemma

Amazon often dominates my thoughts these days. Like many other authors, because of Amazon’s KDP self-publishing program, I now have readers and I’m able to make a small living. So I’m deeply grateful to Amazon, even loyal. As an author, I’m also entirely dependent on the company. If it kicked me out of the KDP program, I’d have to go back to freelance editing, and I would write far fewer novels.

Yet, I don’t want to see Amazon become a monopoly or have it be the only place my books are available. I want readers to have choices. Still, to survive financially, I may have to climb on board the Amazon train and let go of the idea that I’m an independent author.

Two issues are on deck for me right now. First, is the lending library that everyone’s buzzing about and some are calling predatory. Amazon called me two weeks ago to pitch KDP Select to me personally. Surprised by the contact, I assume it’s because I have ten books on the market and sold quite a few on Kindle last year.

My only concern was the exclusivity issue, but in the end, I decided to enroll two of my standalone thrillers. Which means I had to pull those books from all other e-readers. I wasn’t making enough money on them from any other sources for it to be a financial decision. My hesitation was based only on my commitment to give readers full access to my books.

But the promotional opportunity Amazon offered—a five-day giveaway of the books—was hard to resist. The exposure could be invaluable. Right now, The Suicide Effect is being downloaded in record numbers. Because I have nine other books for new readers to buy, this could turn out well for me. I’ll know in the next month or so.

The other issue is the possibility of becoming an Amazon-published author. I have two thrillers in submission to Thomas & Mercer, with the hope that Amazon will buy the rights and republish them as T&M titles. If that happens—and I hope it does—those books would then be sold exclusively by Amazon. The benefit to me would be Amazon’s incredible marketing machine, which would expose my entire body of work to thousands of new readers.

So my commitment to full access for readers is eroding. After last year’s run-up in sales, followed by the inevitable decline when the Amazon algorithm dropped me (as it eventually does), I came to the conclusion that Amazon already owns me…if I want to be a full-time novelist. The struggle to resist is futile.

So I’m tempted to simply get it over with and put all my books in the lending program and give up on selling them anywhere else. I believe I’ll end up there someday anyway. It wouldn’t change my finances enough to worry about, but it would make me feel guilty about denying my books to readers who don’t do business with Amazon.

What do you think?

Preview of the New Jackson Story

The new Jackson story is nearly finished, and I’m happy to report I have a title, a cover design, and back cover text. I’m also still on track to release the novel late next month, and my new website will be up next week. I’m excited about all the changes, and I hope you will be too. Here’s the preview of Liars, Cheaters &  Thieves. Read more

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I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. The characters were compelling, the procedural work was dead-on, and the story was enthralling. Definitely recommended.”
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The author expertly intertwines multiple story lines, presents readers with fully realized characters that readers will feel they know, and keeps the action and suspense levels high. That’s a lot to expect from an author but L. J. Sellers delivers.” ~OverMyDeadBody
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