An American Editor

January 3, 2012

Worth Noting: A Poisoned Pen Press Deal

Did you get a new ereader device for the holidays? Are you looking for some mysteries to try? Perhaps a new series of mysteries or some new authors?

Poisoned Pen Press, a publisher of mysteries, is offering a great deal on 10 ebooks that are the first in their series (one is marked as the second in its series, but these are supposed to be the first) — buy 1 or buy all 10 at 99¢ each.

What you receive after buying is a zip file (separate for each book bought) that contains both an ePub and a Mobi file. The ePub is usable on all major devices except the Kindle; the Mobi is for the Kindle.

I haven’t read any of the books yet, but I did buy all 10 yesterday. It is hard to go wrong at 99¢ a book, and I like a good mystery, so I’m willing to give these books and authors a try. If only a couple of the ebooks turn out to be very good or better, I consider this a win.

But a word of warning, and something that I don’t like at Poisoned Pen Press: After you make your purchase, they give you a download link for each book you bought. The link is good for 24 hours; I think it should be good for longer — a lot longer. In addition, you have to download each zip file separately; why not provide a way to download all of them at once?

The other thing I do not like is how the files are named. The zip files are named with a combination of letters and numbers that are nonsensical to the purchaser. The files within the zip files are named similarly. Consequently, once you download the files to your computer, you have no way to identify the book without opening the file in your reader device or software. File naming may become my next crusade :). Why not name the files by author and title?

Yet for the $9.90 I spent on 10 ebooks, I was willing to suffer a little inconvenience. I downloaded the files immediately and then renamed the files.

I don’t know how long this deal will last, so you may want to check it out quickly.

Also, if you haven’t already tried Vicki Tyley’s (see , e.g., Worth Noting: A New Vicki Tyley Mystery) or L.J. Sellers’ (see, e.g., Worth Noting: The Arranger by L.J. Sellers) novels, two authors whose mysteries and suspense novels I highly recommend, you might want to check them out.

September 14, 2011

Worth Noting: The Arranger by L.J. Sellers

Sometimes I hate picking up a new book — when I discover that I have to fight with myself to put the book down, the times when I find I can’t go back to work or can’t go to sleep because the book has grabbed me and simply won’t let me go. Such is the case with The Arranger, the new thriller from L.J. Sellers.

I reviewed Sellers’ writing earlier, calling her a 5-star indie author. (See On Books: Detective Jackson Grows and Grows for my earlier review.) The Arranger simply cements her 5-star status.

The Arranger stars Lara Evans, a homicide detective in the “Detective Jackson” series, now retired and working as a freelance paramedic. I don’t know how Sellers came up with the idea of a series of games as the framework for the story, but I found it reminiscent, in a very broad sense, of The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.

The Arranger is different in every way from the “Detective Jackson” series, but it is as satisfying as any book in the series. The characters are well-formed and interesting. The story is compelling and believable. The writing is gripping and refused to let me go. The ending had a twist, one that I never expected. Let me clarify, however, that this is a thriller and not a mystery. The difference is that in a mystery the author tries to keep you guessing who is the bad person; in the thriller, it doesn’t matter if you know or if you figure it out early in the book. What counts in a thriller are the relationships and the causes and effects.

In The Arranger, Sellers has written a top-notch thriller. If you like thrillers, The Arranger is a 5-star-sure-to-please-can’t-put-down read. As with all her books, it is available at the author’s website and at ebookstores.

July 13, 2011

On Books: Detective Jackson Grows and Grows

One pleasure I get as an editor is the ability to work on subsequent editions of an author’s book and see the author grow book by book. By “grow,” I mean the author’s writing style — communication with the reader — improves. This pleasure is rather limited in my editorial business because of the types of books I edit.

However, that same pleasure occasionally occurs in the fiction I read. Some authors improve subtly, some more dramatically, some maintain an even keel at a high level. Good examples of the latter are Vicki Tyley and Shayne Parkinson; in both cases, the writing has kept an even keel. In Tyley’s case, it is harder to discern changes because her books are not a series that revolves around a continuing group of characters; each book is a fully standalone novel — different characters, different plot twists and turns, different venues. (For a review of Tyley’s books, see On Books: Murder Down Under; for a review of Parkinson’s books, see On Books: The Promises to Keep Quartet.)

And now I can add L.J. Sellers to this “elite” group of indie authors who deliver a 5-star experience from the get-go, except that, in her books, one can see the improvement in writing style as one reads her Detective Jackson Series in order. The books in the series are, in order:

  • The Sex Club
  • Secrets to Die For
  • Thrilled to Death
  • Passions of the Dead
  • Dying for Justice

The first book introduces us to the Eugene, Oregon, violent crime detective squad, with Wade Jackson as the lead character. Jackson is the choice for lead detective when the case seems particularly difficult to solve. He has the solution knack! Jackson, along with the other members of the squad, are the vehicles through which we can watch Sellers’ writing improve with each book. As Jackson grows, so grows Sellers’ communication with her readers.

Sellers humanizes her characters by giving them the attributes of everyday, ordinary people. No superheros, no supercops, no powers of deduction and reasoning that evade otherwise mere mortals and separate mortal from demigod. Jackson, for example, is in the process of divorcing an alcoholic wife and suffering from an illness that he thinks is just too much acid from too many cups of coffee, while trying to protect his teenage daughter from her mother’s alcohol addiction as well as from the usual travails of being a teenager. Lara Evans is the only female on the squad and she is having trouble finding the right soul mate, but has her eye on Jackson. Sophie Speranza is a reporter whose personal life swings between ups and downs but who is tenacious in striving not only for the story but to help Jackson. Lammers is the head honcho, who has promotion ambitions and the presence of a bull, but yet moments of kindness and understanding, as well as insight that comes from experience in a leadership role. And so it goes with each of the core crew of the series.

Sellers tries to balance reader involvement and reader standoffishness, something I discussed in Characterization: How Important is Reader Emotional Involvement? and On Books: Plot-Driven, Character-Driven, Hybrid? (Sellers’ books fit the hybrid category.) Her success in finding that balance improves with each book in the series.

Let’s get something out of the way now: Even though each book is an improvement over the previous book in terms of writing and drawing the reader into the community, each book in the Detective Jackson Series is a 5-star book. (For more on my rating system, see On Books: Indie eBooks Worth Reading (I).) Also worth noting is that the novels remind me of Ed McBain’s 87th Precinct Series. If you like Ed McBain, you will like these books. Although you can read the books in any order, they really do build one on the other and so I suggest reading them in order.

The biggest complaint I have about L.J. Sellers’ Detective Jackson Series is that the author has not made the books available on Smashwords, only at the link provided and at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Finding good indie author books to read is difficult enough; finding ones that are 5-star reads is wearying. But when we find them, we need to support those authors by buying their books because 5-star indie authors are a rare treasure in the ebook age of self-publishing. Sellers’ Detective Jackson Series joins that exalted crowd — the mysteries are different, the plot twists are unusual, the characters are believable, the community semifictional in the sense that her Eugene, Oregon, could as easily be my or your hometown. Sellers has made it easy for the reader to become another partner in the violent-felony squad that Jackson leads. Jackson’s humanness is refreshing and his solving of a crime doesn’t rest on some obscure Holmesian fact — rather, how he solves the cases seems to be how real police solve real cases.

I think that Sellers intends to rise above the ordinary mystery by making her characters our next-door neighbors. Perhaps a bit more conservative than some of us, but not radical in any way; simply a part of our neighborhood. In this endeavor, she succeeds, increasingly so with each book in the series. The Detective Jackson Series joins my hall of fame for 2011; I eagerly await the next book in the series. Now, if she would only make her books more easily accessible to all readers. The lack of easy universal availability is an unnecessary drag on her books.

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