Archive for the mysteries Category

The Other

Hello Friends and Readers

Despite rumors to the contrary, I have been writing! In fact, my new book, THE OTHER, is available now. I’m excited about this one. It features the Extractor, but it’s also a psychological thriller with a wicked twist. Bestselling thriller author Andrew Kaufman says, “From beginning to end, The Other takes you on a fast-flying, heart-thrashing ride that leaves you begging for more from LJ Sellers.”

 

Here’s the back cover copy:
Logan Wilmont dreams of freedom, but he’s trapped in a mental institution where he doesn’t belong, by a mother who wants to keep him quiet. He knows he quirky, but not insane—except for when he sees the other boy who looks just like him.

His only hope is Rox MacFarlane, an ex-CIA agent who specializes in extractions. Hired by Logan’s aunt, Rox and her partner Marty agree to take on their most difficult case. Penetrating a locked facility is challenging enough, but Logan’s hallucinations work against them, and at times, they’re not even sure they can trust their client.

Yet Rox’s own autism makes her empathize with the teenager, and she’s determined to break him out. As she and Marty plan a rescue, a reporter who’s investigating the psychiatric hospital is brutally murdered, and the clock starts ticking for Logan. Can the Extractors free the boy before his mother silences his secrets once and for all?

The book is available in ebook now and will be in print soon.

Free E-Book or Not?

tbt-frontcoverI’ve been debating whether to offer one of my books for free on Kindle, temporarily, as a promotion. I know other authors have used the tactic successfully. And I’ve given away hundreds of print books and done so happily.But I keep talking myself out of doing a free Kindle e-book. Why? Read more

2010 Resolutions

  1. Call one bookstore every single day. The idea is to introduce myself and my series and to encourage the store to stock some copies. It should only take five minutes. The rule is: I can’t eat lunch until I’ve done it.
  2. Write another novel before the year is over. I’ve written three in the last two years (Jan. 08 to Dec. 09), so I should be able to do this. I think I’ll write something completely different, maybe a futuristic thriller.
  3. Start teaching. Read more

Blog Versus Website (or Blogsite?)

The more I learn the less I know. Especially regarding technology. But I keep trying.

My new plan is to combine my website and blog into a single online presence. It makes sense to me to send readers to one place instead of two. Yet I realize not many authors do this. Is it because website design software typically doesn’t include blogging capabilities? And/or because the free blogging sites (Blogger, Typepad) don’t accommodate web pages?

WordPress.com says you can do it all. Add web pages to your blog or make your blog a sub-page of your website. This is exactly what I want to do—create a blogsite. But so far, I find the setup on WordPress to be less than user friendly. At least in comparison to Blogger. So this could be a long and painful process. Especially the transferring of posted blogs from here to there.

So I’m conducting a survey. Authors: Do you maintain a separate blog and website? If so, why? Do you have more than one blog? And if you combine the two, what software or blogging platform do you use?

Readers: Do you like it when an author’s blog is part of his/her website? Or do you visit author websites looking mostly for book information?

Simplify Your Life

I started a part-time job recently (in addition to my freelance business) and am feeling a little scattered as I try to keep up with everything I have going on. And financially, we’re still struggling. So I’m on a crusade to simply everything—our finances, my promotion efforts, my online presence, my reading materials, even the amount of mail that pours into my house everyday. Most of these efforts are still in progress, but I feel relieved and less stressed already, so I decided to share what I’m doing in hopes that it helps someone else.

Online Presence:
My plan is to combine my blog and website. It makes no sense to send readers in two directions. Once I get this done, every time I post a new blog, I’ll also be adding new content to my website. And I’ll only have to update/freshen in one file. Most likely it will all end up on WordPress. I’d love to have someone design this for me, but no one wants to work that cheap and who can blame them. I also transferred all my domain names to GoDaddy from Yahoo. I’ll save about $130 a year and not have to think twice about spending $7 to register my new book title.

And I signed up for Ping.fm, which posts updates to all my social networking sites at once (Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, and more). This saves time and keeps my MySpace and LinkedIn pages updated now; before I was mostly ignoring them. And I’ve vowed not to join any new networks despite the zillions of invitations I get everyday. I don’t have time to do them right, and I don’t need the guilt for letting them languish.

Personal: I’ve eliminated half of my magazine subscriptions—because I only have time to half read half of them anyway. Down the road (when I’ve paid off the website redesign), I’ll cut the rest, buy a Kindle, and download what I want to read, when I have time. The people who lived in the house before us received every catalog you can imagine, and they didn’t forward any of them to their new residence. So now every time I get an unwanted mailing, I contact the company and make them take our house off their list. It takes time to do that, but it’s less crap on my kitchen table and less paper wasted. Long run, it will save time recycling all of it.

I also unsubscribed to many e-newsletters and am resisting the urge to sign up for any more. No matter how great the content, if I don’t have time to read it or follow up, then it’s just another e-mail to process. I also don’t look at e-mail until I’ve hit my word count for the day and/or finished work, so by the time I do, I’m tired and need it to be easy.

I do massive food prep on Sunday and/or Monday, so my lunches are ready to go for each work day and dinners for the next few nights are easy. It helps me hit my word count before work and keeps me from feeling exhausted after dinner.

Finances: We’re refinancing our house and getting enough cash back to pay off our credit card debt. At the same time, we’ll change our payment schedule to every two weeks—and shave seven years off the mortgage. Interest rates are so low now (4.7%) that we’ll end up spending less money on a yearly basis, even taking into account the refi charges and accelerated payments. Long-term, we’ll save a fortune on interest, all our debt will be in one place, and our single payment will be automatic.

In fact, we’re switching every payment that we can to autopay. Which means less mail coming into the house and fewer checks to write. And we’re making many of those payments with the credit card, which builds up flier miles, in case we ever get to go on vacation again. In April, when the option is available, we’ll switch our utility payment to a year-round standard and put it on autopay as well. I’m tired of seeing the winter bills for how much it costs to stay warm. This new way, we’ll pay the same amount every month, and I don’t have to think about it.

I’m still brainstorming ways to simplify (and save money) and if you have great ideas, please share them.

Writing Software

There was long and passionate discussion on a list serv recently (Murder Must Advertise) about writing software. Many people posted about how much they hate Word, especially the 2008 version, and others talked about the alternatives they use. But of course, they all have to copy/paste into Word to send manuscripts to agents and editors—because that’s the industry standard. I’ve always used Word but in a limited way. (I use Quark or InDesign if I have desktop publishing needs.)

But I recently discovered the Notebook Layout View in Word, and I love it! It’s such a convenient way to keep several small idea files in one document without having to scroll. It’s part of how I keep organized while I’m writing.

Which is the subject of my guest blog today at a new site called Better Software to Write. Theresa de Valence is not a only a mystery reviewer, she’s a retired software programmer who’s developing new writing software. So if you have software needs that aren’t being met by your current program, this is your chance to tell somebody who actually plans to do something about it. Stop by and share your piece.

Better Software to Write/How I Write (and Stay Organized)

PS: This is my 100th blog post! Help me celebrate by following.

Meet Karen Olson, Mystery Novelist


If you like mysteries with original flair, great dialogue, and sassy humor, let me introduce novelist Karen Olson. I recently read Shot Girl, featuring newspaper reporter Annie Seymour, and thoroughly enjoyed it. (And as I may have mentioned recently, I don’t finish many of the novels I start.) Shot Girl opens with Annie musing over the dead body of her ex-husband. Who can resist that? Then it gets rolling when the police, while fetching flip-flops from her car for her, find a gun that matches the shell casings by the body. This fast-paced delightful tale is the last installment in the series, but Karen is busy writing another set of mysteries starring a tattoo artist. Sounds like more good fun. Karen was also sporting enough to answer a few questions.

What is the elevator speech for the novel you’re writing now?
The book I’m working on right now is Pretty In Ink, the sequel to The Missing Ink, which will be out in July. Since I’m still not sure just what Pretty in Ink is about (I don’t outline and work by the seat of my pants), here’s my elevator speech for The Missing Ink.

Las Vegas tattooist Brett Kavanaugh gets mixed up in the disappearance of a woman who was last seen in Brett’s shop making an appointment for devotion ink to surprise her fiancé, whose name is not the name she wanted on the tattoo.

What is your best moment as a novelist?
While I’m writing and the story begins to build momentum and it takes on a life of its own.

What is your worst moment as a novelist?
Worrying about whether I’ll get another contract.

If you could get one
do-over in your career, what would it be?
I might not have given Annie as much of a potty mouth. I had no idea how people would react to that, and while it’s not gratuitous at all, I do know I’ve alienated some readers because of it. I do feel like I’ve got a second chance with The Missing Ink, though, and there is no cursing in that book at all. We’ll see if it makes a difference as far as readers are concerned.

What was the last book you read that made you think “I wish I’d written that”?
Stewart O’Nan’s Songs for the Missing.

Where can we find you on the web?
kareneolson.com and Wednesdays at First Offenders

Readers: Don’t you think Karen should let her tattoo artist swear just a little? Do you have a tattoo? Would you read a mystery about a tatooist?

Sex Sells—Or Does It?

Sex sells. That’s what marketers always say. And it seems to be true for tight-fitting jeans and toothpaste. But it is true in crime fiction? In my experience—not necessarily.

Some of the best reviews I received for my novel, The Sex Club, started out with a disclaimer like this: “I didn’t think I would like this book, but . . .” The readers/reviewers went on to say that the title (and sometimes the cover) had originally turned them away, but that they’d read it because another reader raved about it. They ended up loving the story, but still, their initial aversion concerned me. So I asked members of Dorothly L (a mystery discussion forum) what they thought about the title. Many said they would never pick up the novel in a bookstore or library because of the title.

So then I wondered: How many bookstores and libraries had decided not to stock my novel because of the title? From the comments of a few, I believe there might be many. After realizing this painful reality, I started adding this footnote to all my communications about the novel: “Despite the title, the story isn’t X-rated.”

It is not a good sign when you have to explain or make excuses for your title.

On the other hand, many writers on the CrimeSpace and Facebook networking sites have posted great comments about The Sex Club’s cover and title. One writer posted, “Judging by the title, that’s a book I HAVE to read RIGHT NOW.” Many others have simply said, “Love the cover!”

During a discussion with writers about the word sex in a crime fiction title, the reaction was also mixed. One writer said, “If sex is in the title, isn’t that a lot of emphasis, leading the buyer to think the book might be in the wrong section of the bookstore?” A quick search of Amazon brought up only one other mystery title with the word sex —Sex and Murder (A Paul Turner Mystery). But at least that author was smart enough to get the word murder in the title too.

My conclusions: 1) If I had it to do all over again, I’d change the name, 2) Bookstores and libraries are critical to sales, and authors can’t afford to alienate them or their patrons, 3) Mystery readers prefer dead bodies to warm ones.

What’s your reaction? Do you shy away from books with sex in the title? Do you mind a little sex in your mysteries or do prefer that the characters stay on task?

Name That Character

I’m at that point in my new story where I need to settle on some character names. I’m writing a series, so the recurring character names are decided (like them or not). For others, I often grab a moniker for the moment and keep going if the writing is flowing, then go back and search/replace when the perfect name comes to me. Sometimes, the first name that comes to me is the right name. I love it when that happens.

I have also changed the name of main characters after writing the entire novel. I hate when I have to do that. After thinking about a character as “Sierra” for six months, it’s hard to let go of that identity. And now it’s hard to remember her new name when I’m discussing the novel, which is embarrassing. But I changed it because I had too many female characters whose names ended with “a” (the schwa sound).

What I need now are bad guy names, and I feel stumped. So I’m having a contest.(My brother asked me to name one of the antagonists after him, so one down, two to go.) One of the bad guys runs a strip club and various other sleazy deals, and the other is the ultimate con man/misogynist, who puts on one face for the public while engaging in the worst sort of behavior behind the scenes. That’s all I can say without giving away the mystery.

I’ll give away two copies of THE SEX CLUB — one to each of the top two submissions. You can post your submissions in the comments section, which could be fun for others and/or e-mail them to me, using the link on the right.

True character-naming story: When I was writing THE SEX CLUB and needed a name for the psycho bomber lady, I picked Ruth because it’s short, strong, and Biblical. I picked Greiner because it’s the name of a street near my house. Three years later, I was horrified to learn there was a woman named Ruth Greiner who is an avid mystery reader, leads a mystery book club, and is on the same popular mystery list serv that I am. She got wind of the name through a review of THE SEX CLUB in Mystery Scene magazine and e-mailed me to express her displeasure. (So don’t submit one of your relative’s names, unless he/she never reads anything but Mad magazine.)

Even if you don’t enter the contest, share your “I wish I could take it back” character-naming story!

Podcasting with NetDrag

My podcasting venture has begun. I had a conversation last weekend with Ken Lewis, who is the police chief of Rogue River, Oregon; the author of the mystery/suspense novel, Little Blue Whales; and the host of NetDrag, a podcast featuring crime writers. It was a great conversation (although I sound like I have a little marble under my tongue) and those who have listened said they loved it.

We talked about mystery conferences, Oregon writers, THE SEX CLUB, and the difficulties of finding a publisher if your story has young victims or deals with controversial issues. Ken gave my detective an 8 (out of 10) for believability, and that’s high praise coming from a police officer. He also said my story/mystery stumped him and that he felt Detective Jackson’s bafflement and anguish every step of the way.

Check it out here: NetDrag

I was a little nervous about being recorded, but the conversation was so relaxed and enjoyable, I soon forgot about that. For the mechanics of it, we both called in to a service that he’s subscribed to that records the conversations and allows him to make minor edits.

My next step is to do my own podcasting by recording the first chapter of THE SEX CLUB and making it available. I have everything in place but the time.

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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