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Who Is Agent Dallas?

Who Is Agent Dallas?
Welcome to the Character Blog Hop!

The best thing about crime fiction is the series protagonists you get to know in repeat stories. Today you’ll meet my Agent Dallas. On Friday, you’ll meet characters from Michael Sherer and Gail Carline. Next Monday, authors Tee Burrell and Terry Shames will introduce their characters. See the bios for all four great authors at the end of this Q&A.

What is the name of your character and where did she come from?

Her name is Jamie Dallas, but she goes by Dallas. She’s a fictional FBI agent who specializes in undercover work and infiltrating criminal groups. So she’s got a new undercover name in each book as well. I have fun with those, giving her initials such as F.B.I. and S.O.B. I created Dallas after talking with an FBI agent about the bureau’s use of an undercover agent to help arrest an eco-terrorist group. I had so much fun writing her small part in that story I knew she needed her own series.

When and where is the story set?

Dallas is a series character, and she travels to assignments in different locations. The first story, The Trigger, was set in an isolated community just outside of Redding, California. The second story, The Target, is set in San Diego. I’m plotting the third one now, and I think it’ll be set in Washington DC with some scenes in southern states.

target-cover-v2 medWhat should we know about him/her?

Dallas is perfectly suited to her role as an undercover agent. She lived out of a backpack as a child, constantly on the move from one family member to the next, so she likes to travel. She’s an adrenaline junkie, so the high-risk nature of her work is exciting and addicting for her. Plus, as a kid, her aunt enrolled her in acting lessons, which she loved. In addition, she was kept busy with tennis lessons and chess club and language studies, so Dallas has a whole arsenal of personal talents that help her blend into various groups.

What is the main conflict? What messes up her life?

Dallas’ main issue is an inability to form a long-term relationship. She has deep-rooted trust and abandonment issues that make her want to run if a guy gets serious about her. More important, she loves her job, so she won’t let a relationship interfere with it.

What is the personal goal of the character?

Dallas wants to be the best field agent she can, with a goal of being trusted to work high-level, international assignments.

Is there a working title for this novel, and can we read more about it?

The working title for the third book in the series is The Trap, but it’s not far enough long to share any of the story yet. But you can read more about Agent Dallas on my blog, and you can read reviews of the first two books on Amazon and Goodreads.

When can we expect the book to be published?

The Trap will most likely come out in late December. Before that, Deadly Bonds, the ninth book in my Detective Jackson series, will release in late August.

 

Posting on Friday:

Gayle Carline is regular contributor to Riding Magazine. In March 2005, she began writing a humor column for her local newspaper, the Placentia News-Times, entertaining readers with stories of her life with Dale and their son, Marcus. In 2009, she published her first mystery novel, Freezer Burn, featuring housecleaner-turned-detective Peri Minneopa. She has now published seven books, three Peri Minneopa Mysteries, two humor books, and two books featuring her favorite hobby – horses.

In her spare time, Gayle likes to sit down with friends and laugh over a glass of wine. And maybe plot a little murder and mayhem. She’ll continue to write columns and mysteries as long as there are stories to tell.

http://gaylecarline.com/
http://www.facebook.com/AuthorGayleCarline
http://www.twitter.com/GayleCarline
http://www.amazon.com/Gayle-Carline/e/B002C7FHZW

Michael W. Sherer is the author of Night Tide and soon-to-be-released Night Drop. The first book in the Seattle-based Blake Sanders series, Night Blind, was nominated for an ITW Thriller Award in 2013. His other books include the award-winning Emerson Ward mystery series, the stand-alone suspense novel, Island Life, and the Tess Barrett YA thriller series. He and his family now reside in the Seattle area.

Please visit him at www.michaelwsherer.com or you can follow him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/thrillerauthor and on Twitter @MysteryNovelist. http://www.michaelwsherer.com

Posting next Monday:

Teresa Burrell has dedicated her life to helping children and their families, as a schoolteacher for twelve years and then as a lawyer. She focused her solo practice in juvenile court where she worked primarily with abused minors. She also received several awards from the San Diego Volunteer Lawyer Program for her countless hours of pro bono work with children and families.

Burrell writes legal suspense mysteries incorporating many of her experiences. Her “Advocate Series” consists of five books starting with The Advocate to the most recent, The Advocate’s Ex Parte. She can be found online at www.teresaburrell.com, http://www.facebook.com/theadvocateseries

Should Online Reviews Stay Anoymous?

by L.J. Sellers, author of provocative mysteries & thrillers

Reviews are always a hot topic for authors and readers, but this new legal development could fundamentally change online reviews.

A business owner has sued for the right to see the names of anonymous online reviewers. The owner believes a rash of suddenly negative reviews came from competitors, because he can’t match their complaints and timing to his service records. The reviews hurt his business, and he sued them for defamation, demanding that Yelp turn over their identities. Yelp has refused, claiming first amendment protection. The Virginia state supreme court will decide the case this month.

I’m rooting for the business owner. A good friend lost half her business after one bad posting on Ripoff Report, in which the reviewer used a phony name and made false claims—after she gave him his money back.  As an author, I’m never going to sue any reviewers, but wouldn’t it be nice if they couldn’t hide behind fake internet names?

I expect readers to disagree, and I understand why anonymity seems important. Because I know so many writers personally, I don’t feel comfortable reviewing most books. But I also never use a made-up persona either. For anything. I stand by my words.

Consumer reviews have become very powerful in influencing buying decisions, subverting the power that marketers once had. Overall, I believe this is a good thing for all of us.

Yet, both authors and readers have abused the ability to post anonymous reviews. Some authors have used it to promote their own work and to trash their competitors. Readers have used it to complain about a book’s price with one-star reviews, and some just spew negativity and hatred wherever they go.

For me, the issue is opinion versus false claims. When someone reads a book and honestly hates it, they have a right to say so. But so many reviews, particularly of products and services, go beyond opinion and make false claims. Don’t those authors or small businesses have a right to counter those claims? Doesn’t the reviewer have an obligation to support those claims—if challenged?

I’m hoping the court decides that Yelp needs to turn over the reviewers’ identity. If it does, a precedent will be set, and more and more businesses will demand that negative/false reviewers produce documentation. That should lead to more and more transparency in online reviews—as the trolls realize they could be identified and held accountable.

What do you think? Does the first amendment guarantee our right to anonymous free speech or just free speech?

Preventing Homelessness

People get into the spirit of giving this time of year, and I love to see it. For my charitable foundation Housing Help, it has been a special blessing.

Recently, a local philanthropist & consultant contacted me and asked if I wanted to discuss my foundation and take advantage of his experience. I was thrilled! All of my previous efforts to network with local groups had been meet with silence. And, other than calling St. Vincent de Paul, I had no idea how to find and screen families in need.

My new mentor put me in touch with Shelter Care, and few days later, Housing Help assisted a single father of two school-age kids, living in Springfield, who needed help with December rent so he wouldn’t lose his new apartment. It was a great feeling to finally accomplish what I’d set out to do years ago when I visualized this foundation.

I posted online about it, and several friends, both online and local, made contributions to the foundation. Thank you! I matched those donations, and we were able to help a second household. Two Eugene single mothers, with a combined three children, had received an eviction notice from their landlord—for no cause. They’d scraped together what they could but had still come up short of the $1300+ needed for first month’s rent plus a security deposit on a new place—which they felt lucky to find and quality for.

Housing Help provided the other half of the move-in costs, and the two families—which had nowhere to go—will have a new home, rather than live in their cars.

This is such a critical service!

I thank everyone who’s donated to this foundation, and I hope you’ll make it a habit. My original goal was to help one family a month. But I want to do more. So I’m aiming for two a month all next year. The list of families in this situation is endless, and not just in Lane County. Millions of people are one paycheck, or one unexpected expense, away from homelessness.

To motivate others to get involved, I’m offering an incentive: Anyone who donates $5 a month all next year, for a total of $60, will get a free book from me with every new release next year. And I plan to publish four! Two are already written and scheduled.

Find out more about the foundation at its website, where you can donate through PayPay (or credit card). A mailing address is listed as well. Or contact me with any questions.

Thank you! And Happy Holidays!

Amazon’s New Programs for Readers, Writers, & Bookstores

The always-innovative Amazon has several new programs, with each tailored to make either readers, writers, or bookstores happy. Yes, I said bookstores, so read on.

For Writers
Gayle mentioned this program yesterday, but it’s worth looking at again. Kindle Countdown Deals allows authors to discount their books to as low as $.99 for a set period of time, but pays a full 70% royalty, even at that price. (Normally a $.99 book earns only a 35% royalty). With the higher royalty, more authors will offer books at the low price, so it’s good for readers too.

Amazon also features those discounted books on a special webpage so readers can find them and know how long the discounted price will continue. It’ll be interesting to see what kind of effect the promotions have on future sales. Note: The program is only available to books that have been in the Select program for 30 days.

For Bookstores

Another new program called Amazon Source allows indie bookstores to profit from the cultural shift toward e-reading. Here are the basic options for bookstores:

  • Sell any Kindle device at a 6% margin (or less, should a store decide to discount), any Kindle accessory at a 35% margin and get 10% of all subsequent ebook sales on sold devices.
  •  Sell any Kindle device at a 9% margin (or less with discounting), any Kindle accessory at a 35% margin and get no part of ebook sales.

I’m hoping bookstores will get on board, increase their profitability, and lose some of their hostility toward Amazon.

For Readers
Amazon also has two new programs designed for readers. Kindle Matchbook launched a month ago and allows publishers and authors to offer readers a discounted (or free) ebook version when readers buy the print book. Readers have been asking for this all along, and it’s a great idea, even if overdue. Those who participate will build reader loyalty.

A fourth new program for readers and writers is launching in December, but I’m sworn to secrecy so you’ll just have to wait for the details.

What do you think? Will the Source program lure bookstores to participate? Writers: Have you participated in any of these yet?

Bouchercon 2012

I’m happy to be in Cleveland at Bouchercon with so many people who love crime fiction as much as I do. I had a lovely dinner last night with Neil Plakcy, Tim Hallinan, Barbara Fister, Katherine Clark, and Les Blatt. We talked about the genre, of course, and what defines cozy and what “dark” really means in connection with crime fiction. Neither Tim or I see our work as dark, but many readers do. Tim told us all about his next book, and Neil talked about how he ended up writing stories with dogs. It was fun to get the inside track.

This afternoon I was on a panel called The Ebook Revolution, but I’m happy to report we didn’t talk about self-publishing. We talked about where readers can find quality crime fiction online is a sea of new authors and books. Neil Plakcy moderated, and book blogger Erin Mitchell talked about her process for finding what she wants to review. Author Conda Douglas was on the panel too, and talked a bit about Goodreads.

I gave a list of the sites I’ve been reviewed on: OverMyDeadBody: Fresh Fiction, RT Reviews, Readers Favorite Awards, Buried Under Books. and BookTrib.

I mentioned the print magazines that have run reviews of my books.: Mystery Scene, Crimespree, Suspense, and Spinetingler. As well as the newsletter I subscribe to: All Mystery.

I also talked about the collective sites where you can find great mysteries and thrillers by authors you know are bestsellers or award winners: KillerThrillers, Top Suspense, and Readers Rule.

We also talked about where we network with readers, and I mentioned Goodreads, LibraryThing, Shelfari, Dorothy L, and 4 Mystery Addicts. All great places to meet readers with like-minded preferences for crime fiction. After the panel I gave away 15 print copies of The Sex Club.

This evening, I attended the opening ceremonies at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, an event sponsored by Thomas & Mercer, my new publisher. Great fun! (And bought a t-shirt for the husband of course.)

 

 

 

Asking for Support

Today, I’m doing something I rarely ever do and asking readers for their help. The fact that you buy and read my books is truly enough and for that I’m grateful. But I have special circumstances, and if you’ve read Dying for Justice and liked it, I’d love for you to post a review and rating on Amazon.

The short weird story is that after 27 reviews—22 of which are 5-star, and 5 are 4-star—a reader posted a one-star review. I wouldn’t care except that one-star reviews really hurt a book’s Amazon ranking. Immediately after it posted, my ranking dropped, and the book disappeared off the police procedural bestseller list.

This breaks my heart because Dying for Justice is, overall, my best-rated book, and the one that more readers have contacted me to rave about. If the reviewer had posted a legitimate negative comment, I would have simply let it go. But he talked about other writers and novels and never mentioned a thing about my story, until one broad comment near the end that was aimed at me personally. It’s also the only book review he’s ever posted on Amazon.

I’m hoping enough of you will post positive reviews that mathematically his ranking will be diluted. The reviews don’t have to be long, a sentence or two is enough, because clicking a rating will help the most. I also wouldn’t mind if you voted down his review as “unhelpful.” ☺

I’m not asking anyone to post a review you don’t believe in. But many of you have taken the time to write to me about this book, and if you could spend a few more minutes supporting it, I would be very grateful. All I can promise in return is another Jackson story in June. (And more book giveaways on Amazon to come!)

Thanks again for all your support.

All Amazon!

I finally did it. I pulled all my books from B&N and enrolled the rest of the Detective Jackson novels in Amazon’s Select program. My apologies to Nook owners! But the royalties from Kindle Owners Lending Library (KOLL) are too good to pass up.

In December, Amazon paid $1.70 per “borrow.” I made more money in one month from KOLL, with only half my books enrolled, than I’ve made from B&N in the last year. Sorry again to Nook owners, but I just can’t sell books there. Which has always been puzzle to me…because I sell so well on Amazon.

So it’s done. I’m exclusive. The move is not necessarily permanent, but I have a feeling my Amazon KOLL royalties will continue grow along with sales. And as I mentioned in a previous blog: Amazon already owns me. I might as well profit as much as I can from it.

The hardest part will be not giving away ebooks from my blog…or through LibraryThing or Goodreads. The exclusivity clause prevents it, and I’ll miss that interaction with readers. I love giving books away! But I can still give away my print books, and more important, I can give away ebooks through Amazon. And I have to remind everyone that Kindle apps are available on almost every device, and you can read Kindle books online, directly from Amazon now in the “cloud.”

So my ebooks are still available to nearly anyone with a computer, mobile phone, or tablet. And I’m sleeping better at night, knowing that as long as Amazon is doing well, so am I.

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?

2012 New Year’s Resolutions

I’m keeping my resolutions simple this year:

  • Worry less
  • Promote less
  • Eat less
  • Dance/play more
  • Read more
  • Write more

Oh, and most important: TAKE A VACATION!
Best wishes for 2012!

Writer Promo Swaps

Writers have always exchanged high-praise blurbs with each other (with the most famous example being the writer who blurbed himself using one of his pseudonyms). But lately I’ve been exploring other types of promotional swaps that are less direct, but also effective. For example, a group of us who have been networking through a Yahoo group recently paired off to post articles about each other on Wikipedia. Read more

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Five-Time Readers Favorite Award Winner!

LATEST REVIEWS

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. The characters were compelling, the procedural work was dead-on, and the story was enthralling. Definitely recommended.”
~Michelle Gagnon, author of Boneyard
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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