Trading Places

L.J. Sellers is my guest today. We decided to do something fun and trade places for a day, so I am guesting on her BLOG today. I hope you enjoy what she has to say today, and please do check out her books. She writes some terrific mystery/suspense.

What Makes Me Keep Reading
I recently posted on my own blog about what makes me put down a novel, so to be fair, I thought I’d post about what makes me keep reading.

1. A great opening in which something unusual, unexpected, contradictory, or violent happens. For example, in Secret Dead Men by Duane Swierczynski, the third sentence caught my attention. “..but a couple of kids organized an impromptu club with a mandate to experiment on her corpse.”

2. Intriguing characters who are unusual, unexpected, contradictory, complex, or compelling. From the first page of the same story: “Then again, what do I know? I was a dead man impersonating an FBI agent.”

3. Characters who don’t fit the current clichés. I like cops who aren’t cynical, FBI agents who aren’t workaholics that can’t handle relationships, private investigators who aren’t alcoholic loners, and women who are soft on the outside and tough on the inside.

4. Complexity! I like parallel plots, interwoven stories, and multiple points of view. And if it all comes together in a way that surprises me and makes perfect sense, I pick up the next book by that author.

5. Passion about a subject. I like politics, religion, and social issues in novels as long as it works for the story and doesn’t overwhelm it.

6. Multiple plot points and plots twists that leave me thinking: Wow! Stunning, but believable.

7. Moderate levels of crime and violence written with sensitivity to the subject, the victim, and the reader.

8. Just enough detail (setting and character) to make the story real. I like Elmore Leonard’s approach: Only write the parts that people will read.

9. Believable relationships of any and all kinds.

10. Fast-paced narrative with a great balance of dialogue and action, in which the surprises just keep coming.

Of course, these are the kind of stories Maryann and I write. (smile)  What makes you keep reading a novel?


L.J. will give one lucky person an electronic copy of Passions Of the Dead. Leave your e-mail address in the comment box and we will draw the winner at the end of the week.

L.J. Sellers is an award-winning journalist and the author of the Detective Jackson mystery/suspense series. The Sex Club, Secrets to Die For, and Thrilled to Death have been highly praised by Mystery Scene and Spinetingler magazines. Her fourth Jackson story, Passions of the Dead, has just been released. All four novels are on Amazon Kindle’s bestselling police procedural list. L.J. also has two standalone thrillers, The Baby Thief and The Suicide Effect. When not plotting murders, she enjoys performing standup comedy, cycling, social networking, and attending mystery conferences. She’s also been known to jump out of airplanes.

About Passions of the Dead — A working-class family is brutally attacked in their home and only one survives. Detective Jackson is assigned to investigate and soon uncovers a blackmail scheme. But the forensic evidence is confusing, and the girl who survives has no memory of the horrific event.
When another home invasion occurs, Jackson is confident they’ve nailed the perpetrators. Yet the case grows even more entangled. When the survivor disappears, Jackson fears for her life—but can he find her in time to save her?

Read an excerpt  HERE

15 thoughts on “Trading Places”

  1. My heart and soul belong to the crime writing community, but…I read just about anything that sounds interesting minus sci-fi. Ya, if I can’t pronounce the name of the planet or the moon in someones world, I pass on the book. I also have a soft spot for vampires. (Marius, Did you find the scattered notes I left for you in New York?) See…vampires are real, right?

    In all honesty, I love books that have characters I can relate to with story lines that keep me so entertained that I don’t mind missing a meal or two. I haven’t come across a book I haven’t liked but once, and even then, it was probably my own mood that killed it for me.

  2. L.J. just reminded me that some folks don’t like to leave their e-mail addy in a comment. If you would like to be in the drawing for her book, indicate that in your comment and we will track down the winner.

  3. I like science fiction that combines headbanging extrapolation with characters who are real people (whether human or not), and who I genuinely care about. If there’s fresh and witty humor, so much the better.

  4. I agree with all these criteria, LJ. Your post started off a train of thought in me (not necessarily a good thing, but here goes 🙂

    In terms of the grabbers at the start…If they’re not done well, they sometimes have a paradoxical effect on me. Sometimes you can tell the author is going for exactly that grabby effect, and there’s something about trying too hard that makes it all fall apart. If the grabber is organic to the story, then it will keep me reading. But if it’s just a device *to* keep me reading, it doesn’t work.

    Car chases are exciting–but only if the driver was really going somewhere in that car, and the person chasing him has a good reason to catch him.

  5. Good points, Jenny. I agree that some authors try too hard to grab the reader with some big moment that seems out of place. I think characters are what keep us connected to a story,

  6. These days a novel needs to grab me in the first 10 pages or I give up. I love great first sentences and awesome first paragraphs, but what attracts my attention may be different from day to day. There is no one thing that always works.

    I’m at patriciastoltey (at) yahoo dot com

  7. Thanks, everyone, for stopping in. As for opening scenes, for me it doesn’t have to be a big action thing. Sometimes, a single surprising line or thought or characterization is enough to grab me.

  8. I read well, but never liked reading as a child. Now, I’m 58 yo and writing my first novel. I am finding reading is important to a writer. P.S. L.J. – I was born in Eugene 🙂

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