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Posts Tagged ‘LJ Sellers’

author of provocative mysteries and thrillers

The next best thing to reading a great book is talking about it with your friends who’ve read it. That’s why book clubs are so popular and those discussions are so important to readers. I love these talks as much as the next reader, and I sometimes lead the activity for a mystery listserv I participate in. I also love to discuss my own books with groups who contact me, so I have some experience in asking and answering thought-provoking questions. I’ve even posted discussion questions on my website. I thought I’d share some of my insights on what makes for good book discussion questions.

Every novel has specific (and often conflicting) events and character actions that naturally seem ripe for discussion. Do you believe the mayor’s version of what happened to Jessie? Why or why not? And there’s nothing wrong with the standard questions that work for almost any novel. Did the setting enhance the plot or could the story have worked anywhere? What themes did the author weave into the story? Was the antagonist believable?

My favorite questions, though, go beyond specific settings or events:

Motivation. Any question that gets to the heart of a character’s motivation, especially to behave in a socially unacceptable way, will make for a lively discussion.  Jasmine shares privileged information with a reporter. Why Claire says she stole the painting to protect it, but what were her real reasons? I’ve discovered that readers bring their own experiences into a novel and often perceive things in characters that others don’t, even the author. It’s fascinating.

Fate. Questions that discuss the course of events and whether those events are inevitable generate strong reactions from readers. Did the young boy have to die in the end? Could the story have gone in another direction and still been effective?

Coincidence. Does the story rely on a major or minor coincidence? Was it believable and did it work for you? Was the story plausible overall?

Values/beliefs.  In what ways do the events and characters reveal the author’s values or world view? What is the author trying to say about this subject or theme? [Insert hot-button topic here: women, race, sexuality, discrimination.] Did the story make you question any of your own beliefs?

Some of the best book discussions are those in which readers disagree and perceive the story in different ways. Sometimes those talks can make you want to read the novel again and see what you missed.

Do you belong to a book club? What have been your favorite books or subjects to discuss?

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Being a middle child, a nice person, and a workaholic, I’ve spent my life trying to do the right thing and make people happy. As a member of a dysfunctional family, I’ve given up the goal, but as novelist, I’m still trying to satisfy my current readers while reaching out to new ones. Some days though, I’m not sure what I should be doing.

The new catch phrases in marketing are content and engagement. Content seems easy: Just keep writing stories that people want to read. But the experts say that’s not enough. They say I need to pen informative blogs, write short stories to give away, and create entertaining videos. So I’m doing all that.

Engaging readers is a less-concrete concept and I’m starting to think the idea is more hype than practicality. For example, a well-read post recently advised authors to do the following:

  • Listen—Create ways to listen to your readers and collect data about what you hear; use focus groups and surveys to support regular listening mechanisms.
  • Customer knowledge—Find out why people buy your products (or not), why they recommend you to others (or not), why they are repeat buyers. Understand what else they buy. Understand who your buyers are, what segment and communities they belong to.
  • Conversations—Find unique ways of connecting with readers, ways that will enhance your brand as an author, ways that enable dialogue, not one-way broadcast.
  • Collaborate—Go beyond listening and conversation to collaborate with your readers, perhaps testing your products in advance of a full launch or soliciting ideas for additional content.
  • Community—Build a community of your readers. Facilitate mechanisms for readers to interact with one another as part of this community and to broaden the reach to additional readers.

Some of this is intuitive and I’m already doing it. But surveys? As a consumer, I hate surveys, and I’m not likely to ever clutter my readers’ in-boxes with a questionnaire. Collaborate? Meaning ask readers where they’d like me to take the series or characters? I’d get as many different answers as there are readers.

In fact, that’s the biggest problem with engagement. Some readers like to interact with authors. They send e-mails, go to conferences, and participate in online discussions. Many readers, perhaps the majority, would rather not engage with the author. They simply want to read the books and move on. I’ve heard some readers say they don’t even like seeing an author bio in a novel, because they enjoy the story more if they don’t know anything about the author.

I understand and respect this. I also love readers who contact me to talk about my stories. So I’m trying to find the middle ground and make all my readers happy…without wasting time on activities that readers will ignore or find annoying.

Readers: How much and what kind of engagement with a novelist do you want?

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From Bob Mayer . . .

The end of the year is a time to reflect.  I just moved across the country and am settling into a new home so we can be close to our son and daughter-in-law, who expect to deliver their first child in early January.  The fact that I can write for a living anywhere in the country made this possible, and it’s readers who make that possible, so I’m feeling very grateful.

And I’m getting psyched because while 2011 was the year of breaking out in eBooks and starting in audio books, 2012 will be the year of writing, when I can push forward several of my series and introduce some new books.

First out of the gate will be I, Judas; The 5th Gospel, a thriller that I’ve just about completed where it appears to be the beginning of the Apocalypse and deep in the Amazon, Judas Iscariot is telling his 2,000 year old story to two intrepid survivors of an expedition sent to assassinate him.

A new Duty, Honor, Country will be published, moving Elijah Cord and Lucius Rumble forward from the ending of the first book, starting on the pivotal first night of battle of Shiloh and further into the Civil War.

A new series spinning off of Area 51 will launch in 2012:  Area 51: Nightstalkers.

Chasing The Dead will feature Horace Chase from Chasing the Ghost in a new adventure.

And The Kennedy Endeavor will take the characters from The Jefferson Allegiance and thrust them into another national security issue based on a historical secret dating back to Robert Kennedy, Nikita Khrushchev and the Cuban Missile crisis.

On the non-fiction front, 2012 will bring The Green Beret Survival Guide for the Apocalypse, Zombies and Other Lesser Disasters.  I’ve set up a crossbow range in my new backyard and am honing my skills.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg as there are a couple of other projects in the developmental stage that I’m very excited about.

So, thank you for 2011, and let’s hope 2012 is just as exciting and fulfilling!

From L. J. Sellers . . .

I love this time of year because it marks a milestone, and for me, each New Year is a fresh start. It’s a time to reflect on the past, express gratitude for the bounty in my life, and make plans for the coming year. Last year, I gained a huge new readership, people who love my work and reach out to me to express their enjoyment. This has been such a blessing. Thank you for buying my novels and offering your verbal and emotional support as well. I am deeply grateful.

In 2011, I published four books: 1) Dying for Justice, my best-reviewed novel yet, with nearly all five stars, 2) The Arranger, a futuristic thriller, with almost as many great reviews, 3) Write First, Clean Later, a collection of blogs and nonfiction articles, and 4) Liars, Cheaters & Thieves, my latest Detective Jackson mystery, which released a week ago. Next year, my goal is to write and publish three more novels. I also plan to take some time off in the summer and to read more, year round. Best wishes to all of you in 2012.

From Laura Taylor . . .

Christmas is a time when we gather to celebrate the season and to set goals for the coming year.  Because of you, Readers, 2011 has been a joyous year for me.

I want to take this opportunity to express my heartfelt appreciation to all of my romantic suspense readers for your enthusiastic reception of INTIMATE STRANGERS (which is currently free at Amazon Kindle), FALLEN ANGEL, DESERT ROSE, and MIDNIGHT STORM.  Thanks, too, for all of your supportive emails and 5 star book reviews – they mean the world to me.

I’m particularly blessed to celebrate this holiday season with the release next week of HEARTBREAKER.  2012 will, no doubt, be a hectic year for all of us. Under the heading of setting goals, my publisher will release several more of my romantic suspense novels.  You can visit my website (www.AuthorandEditor.com) for book release updates, or you can contact me on Facebook, Google Plus, and Twitter (AuthorLTaylor).  Drop by and say hello.

Meantime . . . thank you, Readers!  My wish for each of you is a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!  Hugs all around, LT

From C. J. Lyons . . .

During this holiday season I would like to take the time to thank all my readers. 2011 has been a banner year, and I couldn’t have done any of it without you!

2012 looks to be even busier. BLIND FAITH, which debuted at #2 on the New York Times list and spent six weeks on the list, was bought by St. Martins Press and will be re-released in August, followed by two more in the Caitlyn Tierney FBI thriller series.

You guys asked for “More Lucy, please!” so early 2012 will see the release of BLOOD STAINED, the sequel to SNAKE SKIN.

Readers have also been clamoring for Book #3 in the Shadow Ops Series, and it’s coming this summer! Finally Billy and Rose will have their chance at a happily ever after while they search for a traitor in their ranks.

FACE TO FACE, Book #3 of the Hart and Drake medical suspense series, debuted last month and immediately hit bestseller lists on Amazon. More importantly, it led to hundreds of readers writing to me and begging for another Hart and Drake story. I’m working hard to make it so.

While I’m busy writing, please feel free to keep writing or posting on my Facebook page. And if you want to keep up with all things CJ, sign up for my monthly newsletter at http://www.cjlyons.net

As always, thanks for reading!

CJ

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In my personal life I try to be optimistic, but in my fiction I write about my fears. It’s been true since I sat down to write my first novel. At the time, Jeffrey Dahmer was in the news and my greatest fear was that a sexual predator would kidnap and kill one of my three young boys. So I wrote a story about a woman who tracks down her son’s killer. The experience was cathartic, and I continued the practice in future novels, because as it turns out, many readers share the same fears.

Being kidnapped and held against my will is another dominant fear for me and millions of other women as well—because it happens!—so the theme occurs often in crime fiction novels, including two of mine (The Baby Thief,  Secrets to Die For). Most of my stories though have elements of fears that are very personal to me. For example, when I wrote The Sex Club, the first book in the Detective Jackson series, my son was in Iraq and I worried constantly that he would die. My sister had just succumbed to cancer and I grieved for her and worried for other members of my family. So Kera, my main female protagonist, was dealing with those elements. Right or wrong, I couldn’t separate those emotions from my writing and they ended up on the page.

Soon after that, my husband was diagnosed with retroperitoneal fibrosis, which triggered all kinds of fears for me. He faced a life of pain, multiple surgeries, and likely an early death. Without being consciously aware that I was doing it at first, my Jackson character started having pain and health issues. Eventually, he was diagnosed with RF, and in Thrilled to Death, he underwent a surgery, very similar to the one my husband experienced. Readers tell me they enjoy characters who are realistic, yet unique, so incorporating true-to-life, frightening details adds richness to my stories while helping me work through emotional challenges.

In late 2009 when I was writing Passions of the Dead, I was dealing with unemployment: mine, my husband’s, my brother’s, and dozens of other people I knew. I witnessed the devastating effect it can have on families. That theme became dominant when I outlined the story. My Jackson novels of course are always about crime, murder in particular, and my main goal is tell a great story. But every fictitious crime needs a unique, complex, and compelling motive, and I look for those motives in the fear I’m experiencing.

Some of my fears are more social and universal. I fear that as a society we have wrongfully imprisoned hundreds, if not thousands, of innocent people. Dozens of news stories about the release of prisoners wrongfully convicted continue to feed this fear, so the issue is part of the plot in Dying for Justice, the fifth Detective Jackson novel.

Right now I fear for the future of our county if the economy doesn’t improve. I alo fear for our comfort and safety if the extreme weather patterns continue and grow worse. So I’m writing a futuristic thriller in which those fears come into play. Guilt and redemption are also prominent themes in The Arranger, my futuristic thriller that released in early September.

Soon I’ll start work on the next Jackson book. I have a list of ideas, many culled from true crime cases found in the news. Regardless of what I decide in the beginning though, you can bet that as the plot develops, whatever fear is most prevalent on my mind will surface in the story.

What are your greatest fears? What fears do you like to read about?

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Why is a crime fiction author writing a futuristic thriller? Because I’ve always wanted to, and I finally found the time, the story, and the courage. As a reader, my love of futuristic thrillers started long ago with a terrific novel by Lawrence Sanders called The Tomorrow File. For the record, he’s my all-time favorite author, and TTF may be one of the best books I’ve ever read, or at least that’s how I remember it.

The story was written in 1975—and takes place in the year 1998. I read it in college and was captivated by Sanders’ vision of the future, in which genetic classifications are based on whether one is natural, produced by artificial insemination, artificial inovulation, cloned, or otherwise created without the necessity for sexual intercourse. The objects (people) of tomorrow eat food synthesized from petroleum and soybeans, and enjoy unrestricted using (sex) and an addictive soft drink called Smack.

The new language took some getting used to, but the story was so engaging with so many twists that it was hard to put down. My husband isn’t much of a reader, but I suggested it to him (back then) and he read it in a weekend and loved it. Most important, the book triggered my fascination with well-told futuristic thrillers, which I distinguish from dystopian fiction, in which society has broken down.

Another of my favorite novels is The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, published ten years after TTF and typically labeled dystopian. The book won numerous awards, was made into a film, and is so well known I won’t bother with the details, except to say it’s a feminist portrayal of the dangers of a conservative society. I admire Atwood immensely for tackling the subject. (I took a stab at that issue when I wrote The Sex Club…but that’s another story.) Reading The Handmaid’s Tale further inspired me to someday write a thriller set in the future.

I don’t mean to imply that The Arranger compares to either of those brilliant and creative works, both of which imagine a shockingly different future. My story is set only 13 years in the future, and I don’t consider it dystopian. It presents a bleak vision of the United States, in that the economy is stagnant, government has shrunk, and people without health insurance are left to fend for themselves. But all that seems quite realistic to me and didn’t require much imagination.

The Gauntlet, however, is an intense physical and mental competition that provides a backdrop for my novel and required me to create entirely fictitious scenarios. I had a blast writing those scenes, and my editor said they left her breathless.

The Arranger is predominately a crime story and a character study. Although it’s different from anything else I’ve written, readers familiar with my work will recognize certain elements that crop up in most of my novels: a strong female protagonist struggling to overcome a troubled past and a complex plot that moves at a rapid pace.

What are your favorite futuristic novels? What themes do like to see in futurism?

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Welcome to Readers Rule! This organization has been formed by authors who have earned the stamp of approval by the most important people in the publishing business: The Readers! Every author listed has had the honor of readers buying at least 100,000 copies of their books. The authors include Bob Mayer, J. Carson Black, LJ. Sellers, Joe Nassise and Ruth Harris.

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