Best Wishes for a Great 2014

New Year startNew Year’s is my favorite holiday! I love a fresh start and a chance to establish new habits and set new goals. At this point in my life, I’ve kicked most of my bad habits (except Diet Dr. Pepper), so this year’s resolutions are more about what I want to start doing rather than what I need to stop.

My personal list is pretty short and simple: I plan to dance more, maybe even take lessons. I hope to take hand drum lessons too. I’ve had the drum for a couple of years and I want to learn how to really play it. And I want to get out and see more of my gorgeous state this summer, do some hiking.

As for writing and publishing, I’m feeling pretty ambitious for the year. I plan to write and publish two more Agent Dallas books, one of which I’m working on now. The first one releases on New Year’s day and I have a great giveaway planned. I also plan to write Detective Jackson #10 before the year’s over. So here’s the production schedule:

  • January 1: The Trigger (Agent Dallas #1) released
  • January-March: Write Agent Dallas #2
  • May: Publish Agent Dallas #2
  • May-July: Write Jackson #10
  • July 1: Deadly Bonds (Jackson #9) releases
  • September-October: Write Agent Dallas #3
  • December: Publish Agent Dallas #3
  • March 1: Detective Jackson #10 releases


At the end of this year, I’ll have 16 books written—10 Jackson stories, 3 Dallas stories, and 3 standalone thrillers. And the only one that won’t be published until 2015 is Jackson #10. It’s an ambitious schedule but doable. My personal life seems to have settled down a little, and Thomas & Mercer is handling the production and marketing of the Jackson series. What will be challenging is doing all the production and marketing for the Agent Dallas series, which I’m independently publishing. But after this first one, it should get easier.

I will also be moving sometime in the spring, and I’ll also be working on Left Coast Crime 2015 as the co-chair…so I’ll be plenty busy.

I really hope readers like the new series. Agent Dallas has been a lot of fun for me. As much as I love Jackson, it’s nice change of pace to write about someone who is less structured and less encumbered. In other words, Dallas is a little wild, and I’m enjoying her life vicariously. ☺

Happy reading! Happy New Year! Thanks for all your support

Standalone Vs. Series Fiction

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

Sandra Parshall, who happens to be a terrific blogger, posted yesterday about standalone suspense fiction and how she likes it better than crime fiction series, but that few authors are writing it. I’m not sure that’s technically true. Many of us are writing it, but often, one of two things happen. Either the standalone doesn’t sell as well as our series books, or it’s so popular that readers want more, and it ends up launching a new series. Which is what happened with The Sex Club, the first book featuring Detective Jackson.

There are exceptions of course. Gillian Flynn writes popular standalone thrillers and grows her readership with each one. And some series writers have expanded their readerships by writing standalone thrillers (Laura LippmanHarlan Coben). That’s what I hope to do with my new thriller.

Yet, I love the character, and I know I’ll bring her back for more stories. Her setup as an FBI agent who specializes in undercover work is perfect for a series that has a lot of flexibility.

I introduced Agent Dallas in Jackson #8, Crimes of Memory (which will release Oct. 15!). I had so much fun writing her part that I knew she needed her own story. And I had an idea that I really wanted to write about and she was perfect for it. My beta readers loved the story, and I’m still waiting to see if my publisher does too.

More important though will be if readers like it. Especially new readers. I know some of my Jackson fans will pass, just because it’s not a Jackson story. But I hope enough new readers will be interested in the novel to justify the five months I put into researching and writing it.

Here’s a quick description: Agent Dallas goes undercover to find a missing woman who is likely being held captive in an isolated prepper community. What she finds is a lot more terrifying.

Readers: Do you read the standalones of your favorite series authors?

Writers: Do you write series, standalones or both? And what is your experience?

Crimes of Memory (Coming Soon!)

Screen Shot 2013-05-06 at 8.19.10 PMI got some very good news recently. Crimes of Memory (Jackson #8) will be released October 15 instead of next February. Woohoo! I’m working on copyedits now, the cover is almost done, and I expect to see it listed for preorder on Amazon soon.

I don’t have official back cover copy, but here’s my rough version.

After a leave of absence, Detective Jackson is assigned to investigate the homicide of a man found near a storage unit. Another homeless man is on the scene, his face covered in blood.

In another part of town, a group of eco-terrorists set off a firebomb at a bottled water factory, drawing investigators from the FBI, the ATF, and the Eugene Police Department—who fear another attack is eminent.

Without a full taskforce, Jackson must work the homicide round the clock, and his troubled daughter takes the opportunity to run away. Distracted with worry, Jackson seeks to bring justice for a man who robbed a bank, and in doing so, discovers a shocking connection between the murder and the eco-terrorist crimes.

Solving Crimes with Detective Jackson

Rules of Crime, Detective Jackson’s 7th novel, released this week. For those who haven’t met him yet, here’s a post in Jackson’s perspective.

Actor Hugh Jackman

“Detective Jackson, Eugene Police Department.” That’s how I introduce myself to witnesses and suspects, so that’s why this series is called the Detective Jackson series and not the Wade Jackson series. No one calls me Wade, except my girlfriend Kera, and she doesn’t do it often.

I wake up most mornings at 5:30, even on weekends if I’m working the first few days of a homicide, which often go round-the-clock. Most days, I’m home long enough to have breakfast with my daughter, Katie, then drive her to high school. I was a single parent even before I divorced, because my ex-wife is an alcoholic and not someone Katie can depend on.

And I’m a workaholic, so my daughter is rather self-sufficient. That’s my greatest struggle every day: How do I be a good father to the person I love most in the world and keep my hometown of Eugene, Oregon safe from violent offenders?

At the department, I check my emails and phone messages like any other public servant, but that after that my day gets interesting. My boss, a big gruff woman named Sergeant Lammers, often assigns me a new case or wants an update on the case I’m working. Those are the easy ones. More typically, I get called out to homicide scenes during a date with Kera or on a weekend spent building a trike with my daughter. Murder has no boundaries or patterns, but I seem to catch the toughest cases at the strangest times.

Whenever I get the call, I drop what I’m doing and get out to the crime scene. I like to arrive before the medical examiner does so I have chance to look at the body and the scene up close. On television, the detective often takes a long look around and announces something like “The intruder came in through the window, grabbed the trophy from the fireplace and conked the victim on the head.”

It’s never like that for me. I get cases where a young girl is found dead in a dumpster without a mark on her—and no leads or witnesses. Or a whole family has been assaulted and killed and the evidence is too messy to make sense of. In my last homicide case, a young veteran was found dead in his car with his throat slit.

Solving murders is often tedious work. Hours spent looking at phone or bank records and days spent tracking down family members, boyfriends, and co-workers to interview. The case often breaks because the killer, in desperation, commits another crime or makes a fatal mistake.

Actor Viggo Mortensen

Or often, it’s one of my task force members who sees the connections that lead us to the guilty party. Or a crime lab technician who discovers a key piece of forensic evidence. We’re all part of a team, and we’ve worked together for years. My detective partners are also my best friends, because they’re the only people I really trust. Chasing criminals will do that to you.

The case I’m working now (Rules of Crime) is personal—my ex-wife has been kidnapped, and the FBI is leading the task force. My partner, Detective Lara Evans, is investigating the assault of a young woman who was beaten and dumped at the hospital. Any minute now, we’ll compare notes and discover how these crimes are connected. I hope you’ll be there for the revelation.

And what do you think? Should Hugh Jackman play my part when I make it to the big screen? Or maybe Viggo Mortensen?


ARC Giveaway & New Excerpt

I now have two Jackson stories completed—both with rave reviews from my beta readers—and waiting for them to be released is killing me. My readers often contact me to express their frustration as well. I’m sorry for the delay, but I believe that signing with Thomas & Mercer was the best thing I could do for my career and the long-term viability of the Jackson series.

The good news is that I have advanced review copies for Rules of Crime, so it’s starting to feel real, and many of you will get a chance to read it soon. I believe advanced e-books already went out, and it would be nice to hear from someone who got an e-file.

I’m also giving away print ARCs. They haven’t been through a final proofread so there may be typos, and the cover isn’t included, but still, it’s the new Jackson story you’ve been waiting for. If you’re a Jackson fan, leave a comment or email me. And after you’ve read the story, if  you like it, please post a review on Amazon (after it’s available Feb. 26) and/or Goodreads, LibraryThing, Shelfari, or Facebook (anytime). These reviews help the story gain traction with new readers, and I greatly appreciate them.

If you live in Eugene, come see me at Holiday Market at the Lane County Fairgrounds on Saturday, December 8 (10-6) and I’ll give you a copy.


Meanwhile, here’s an unedited excerpt from the Jackson story I just finished.

Tuesday, March 12, 8:22 p.m.

Jerry came too quickly, but before he could mumble an apology, he heard a thump downstairs in the factory. He pushed himself off his scowling mistress, lept from the couch, and grabbed his pants.

“What’s your hurry?” Cindy complained. “Jesus, Jerry. I don’t know why I bother with you.”

“I heard a noise. Someone’s in the building.” He yanked up his pants, not bothering with his shorts, which he couldn’t locate. Jerry regretted getting naked from the waist down. They usually just went at it on the desk, him with his pants around his ankles and her with her skirt pushed up.

Shuffling sounds, like someone moving quickly and quietly, raised the hair on the back of his neck. They weren’t the heavy footsteps of the plant foreman coming back to check the day’s production. Someone sneaky was in the building. “Get your clothes on and get out of here,” he snapped at Cindy, who’d sat up on the couch and now looked concerned.

“You think it’s Ricardo?” She was married to the foreman and had reason to worry.

“I don’t know. Just go.”

Jerry dropped to the couch and pulled on his shoes. His socks never came off, unless he was in the shower. Listening hard, he tried to determine where the intruder was. In the break room? Maybe hoping to steal iPods or drugs from the employee lockers? It didn’t sound like that corner of the building, but what else made sense? The factory filled plastic bottles with local spring water, using standard production equipment. Why would someone come in here?

A protester, Jerry realized. That was why the owner had recently asked him to work an overnight watch shift. Mr. Rockman was worried about the environmentalists, even though they hadn’t been out front recently. Something had happened to make the owner nervous.

Jerry crossed the small upstairs office and peered through the glass at the factory floor below. With the overhead halides off, the production area was illuminated only by small wall lights that cast weird shadows on the machinery. He scanned the floor but didn’t see anything.

When he turned back, Cindy had her skirt and heels on and was reaching for her pink leather jacket. “How do I get past Ricardo if he’s coming up here?”

Jerry had to think. “Stay under the stairs until it’s clear.” Would she be safe? Would their affair get him fired? “I don’t think it’s Ricardo. Stay under there until you hear from me.”

Jerry grabbed his giant flashlight—heavy enough to kill someone if he knocked ‘em upside the head—and followed Cindy out of the office and down the stairs. As a watchman, Jerry wished he could carry a gun, but the owner wouldn’t allow it. Rockman had added a weekend drive-by security detail after protesters picketed the place last year, but all had been quiet. Then recently something had spooked the owner, and he’d added a night and weekend on-premise watch. Jerry hadn’t had any trouble in the two weeks he’d been in the new job. Not wanting to go back to working the line, he was almost grateful for an opportunity to prove he was needed on the watch shift.

At the bottom of the stairs, Cindy turned and slipped into the built-in closet underneath. Jerry moved down the short hallway to the door leading to the factory. Should he call the police now or wait to see what he was dealing with? He didn’t want to risk him and Cindy both getting into hot water with their spouses over some supervisor coming back in for something he’d forgotten.

Jerry stepped into the factory and flipped on a row of overhead lights. “Who’s here?”

The cavernous room was quiet except for the hum of the halides. Jerry moved toward the break room. If it was an intruder, how did he get in? Had Cindy failed to close the door properly when she came through?

Jerry strode past the bottling line and toward the short hall leading to the break room and employee lockers. A squatting figure jumped up and bolted out of the dark. The man in the ski mask shoved past him, brushing his shoulder. Jerry swung his flashlight and missed. The intruder ran for the side door. Jerry reached in his pants pocket for his cell phone and dialed 911.

“What is your emergency?” The woman’s voice was calm, almost bored.

“This is Jerry Bromwell, night watchman at the Rock Spring bottling plant. We have an intruder.”

“Are you in danger?” He had her attention now.

“No, just get some cops out here to catch him. He’s wearing a ski mask and dark clothes.” Jerry stepped into the hall where the man had been kneeling, but realized he’d passed the light switch, which was just outside the opening.

“What’s your location?”

“Rock Spring Drive, just off Laurel Hill.” He flipped on his flashlight and squatted.

“Any other description of the intruder?”

Jerry couldn’t process what she was saying. The thing on the floor had his full attention. His heart skipped a beat as he realized what he was seeing. “I think it’s a pipebomb.”

“Get out of the building and get clear,” the dispatcher commanded. “I’ll send the bomb squad.”

Jerry was already speed walking toward the side exit. The overhead doors were closer, but they took too long to unlock and open. He wanted to run but was afraid. Afraid of what? That his pounding footsteps would set it off?

He wasn’t ready to die. He had a lot of hunting, and screwing, and Duck football left in his life. Oh shit! Cindy was still in the closet. Jerry stopped. Was it safe to go back for her? How much time had the bomber given himself? Just enough or maybe a good five minutes?

Fuck! Jerry spun and ran past the hallway and down the bottling line.

“Cindy! Come out. We gotta get out of here!” He yelled at the top of his voice. He needed her to respond to his panic.

As he approached the stairs, the closet door opened and she stepped out. “What’s going on?”

“There’s a bomb!”

“No shit?” She trotted toward him.

Jerry grabbed her arm and ran toward the exit, pulling her along. He hated passing the hallway, but it was the fastest way out. Like most factories, this one had no windows. And the damn overhead doors in front took too long to open.

Jerry’s adrenaline pumped so hard he could have made it to the red Exit sign in five seconds flat. But Cindy wore heels and a skirt and didn’t know how to run. She dragged him down, and he wanted to let go of her.

But he couldn’t. Her whimpering brought out his protective side.

Something snapped and Cindy went down, making him stumble and let go of her. She let out a cry as she landed on her knees on the concrete floor.

“My heel broke.” She sobbed and pushed to her feet.

Gritting his teeth, Jerry grabbed her hand and started to run again. With a broken heel, Cindy shuffled even slower. Jerry fought the urge to curse at her.

Finally, they reached the door and he grabbed the wide metal handle. He pushed open with one hand and pulled Cindy through with the other.

Behind them the pipebomb exploded. It carried little force, but the sudden noise made Cindy trip and fall again. She landed on her hands and knees on the asphalt this time.

Jerry helped her up and saw blood dripping down her shins. “Are you all right?”

“Yes. But shit! How will I explain this?” She gestured at her scraped knees.

“You fell. It happens. Now get out of here before the cops come.”

She gave him a look.

“Get in your car and go. If anyone learns you were here, it could ruin both our marriages.”

Jerry pulled her toward her car. Once she was inside, he noticed the dirt smudge on her face and reached to wipe it off. She slapped at his hand. “I can’t go home like this.”

“Go get cleaned up. Buy a pair of pants before you go home. Just go. We can’t get caught.” Jerry couldn’t bear the thought of his wife leaving him and taking his little girl.

Once his mistress was on the road, he breathed a sigh of relief. Now he just had to get his story straight. He’d saved Cindy’s life by going back for her, but he couldn’t ever tell anyone she had been there. His one chance to be a hero. Disappointed, he glanced back at the factory. Still standing. Damn. He wouldn’t even get some time off out of this.



New Story, Names Needed

Believe or not, I’m already writing a new Jackson story, and I’m very excited about this one. I even have a working title, but it’s is too early too share. I have an interview set up with an FBI agent, and I’m considering add a new character…who my spin off into her own series someday. (We’ll see how I feel in May.)

But what I need right now from my faithful readers is your participation again. I need names and lots of them. In my past two novels, I included dozens of the names you suggested, so I hope you’ve had a chance to pick up the books and see your contributions. One reader contacted me with so much excitement (!!!!) about her name being in Liars, Cheaters & Thieves, I could hear her squealing across the county.

Many of the names I need will be witnesses, neighbors, and victim’s family members, so they don’t need any special connotations. Just reader friendly.

But one suspect in particular is a white, upperclass male who lost a lot of money in the recession and is very angry about it. Another suspect is a young Hispanic gang member with a lot to prove to his peers.

And of course, I need a name for my female FBI agent…who may be with me for a while. (So this is important, and I reserve the right to change at the last minute.)

Everyone who participates gets a free ebook of their choice, and I’ll also pick one or two favorites, who will receive a print book of their choice, or of my latest Jackson book: Liars, Cheaters & Thieves.

It’s fun for everyone if you leave your suggestions in the comments, but please also email me with your choice of ebook and file type (mobi or epub).

Thanks again for you help in the past, now let’s see what you’ve got!

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.

Secrets to Die For is now $.99

If you’ve wanted to try my series, here’s a great opportunity. SECRETS TO DIE FOR  is only $.99 on Kindle for this week only. The story has a 4.5-start rating on Amazon with 19 reviews and has been highly praised by Mystery Scene and Crimespree magazines. This is the first book I wrote that was labeled “A Detective Jackson Mystery,” so it’s a great place to start. I hope you’ll check it out.  Amazon link

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What’s Wrong with Good Guys?

A post on on Salon about detectives said most characters “…fail to capture our imaginations the way a gritty detective with a bad attitude and a drinking problem does.”

It went on to say: “But even cops get boring after several decades of prime real estate on the small screen. That’s why we need shows about time-traveling cops (Life on Mars), clairvoyant cops (The Mentalist, Medium), teenage detectives (Veronica Mars), obsessive-compulsive detectives (Monk), evil cops (The Shield), cops who work the system (The Wire) and many, many more.”

Does this premise apply to TV watchers only or has the need for quirky/morally-challenged/addicted cops taken over detective novels as well? Do cops have to have a “bad attitude and a drinking problem” or some other major character flaw to be interesting? What’s wrong with regular a good guy/gal who has a clear understanding of what’s right and wrong? A detective/FBI agent who is sober, thoughtful, and doing his/her best to balance work and family?

I say nothing is! In fact, my recurring Detective Jackson is such a character. He’s not perfect, but his flaws are minor. If I had a daughter, I wouldn’t mind if she got involved with him. That’s not a bad test for whether your cop character is a good person: Would you want your daughter to date him? Would you be upset if your son married her?

Of course, there are the much-loved, loner-type Jack characters (Jack Reacher, Jack Taylor, etc.) who are fun to read, but in reality would cause sane women to run in the other direction.

Most of us read a mix of crime stories, from cozies to slasher/serial killers. But who are your favorite cop characters? Are they datable? Or are you attracted to those with “a drinking problem and a bad attitude”?

New Book Cover (or Lazy Woman's Blog)

After 17 straight days of blogging, I’m giving my readers a rest. (I never actually run out of things to say.) I’m in the middle of revamping my website, with the main purpose of putting up a mock book cover for Secrets to Die For. . . so readers don’t think I’m a one-book wonder. This is what my good friend and talented graphic artist Gwen Rhoads came up with on short notice.

The blurb (which will eventually go on the back cover) reads:
A brutal murder, conflicting evidence, and a target victim with a secret to hide—can Detective Jackson uncover the truth in time to save her?