Friday, September 16, 2011

"Arranging" a Giveaway and Dark Future Humor

I have a guest today - and she’s offering a giveaway!


And, don’t forget – Monday is the Worst Movies Ever Blogfest! Click the link to sign up and join us in listing up to ten of the worst movies ever made. Remember, must be a theater or video release. SyFy movies don’t count – we already know they suck…

On to my guest, the awesome L.J. Sellers

Finding Humor in a Dark Future

In my new novel, the future is bleak, my characters are flawed, and their quests are intensely personal. Writing this novel could have been depressing, but I set much of the story in an endurance contest called the Gauntlet, which provided some unusual and amusing research moments.

In one competition scene, the protagonist is required to crawl through tunnels. I wanted her experience to seem real, so I left my keyboard and got down on my hands and knees. I crawled around the family room for a few minutes, trying to decide how big the tunnel needed to be and what part of my body would start to hurt first. Of course, my husband walked in as I was crawling and mumbling and said, “When does the barking start?”
It was the first laugh “til your belly hurts” moment I’d had in a long time.

In another phase of the contest, Lara enters a locked-room scenario, in which she must use the items on hand to find a MacGyver-type solution to get out. I admit, I sought help from my husband, who designs and builds things for a living. We came up with a plausible three-step solution, then decided to test the parts of it that we could. Not wanting to give away this scene in the story, let’s just say we headed down to the garage with a box of matches and some potentially combustible material. (It’s Oregon, and it was raining, so we had to stay inside.)

As we struck the matches and cheered for a flame, we remembered catching our three boys doing something similar when they were young. We imagined our kids walking in on us while we attempted to start a fire in the garage, and saying “What the hell?” We laughed until the tears rolled.

It’s good to experience little moments like that when you write gritty thrillers. Otherwise, it’s too easy to get sucked into a dark mode and forget that people and characters can find joy and humor even under stressful circumstances. I also managed to sneak a light moment into the story near the end. And even though The Arranger is set in a bleak world thirteen years from now, the overall theme is an affirmation of the human desire to improve oneself and make a difference in the world around us.

Do you need humor in every novel? Or are some thrillers better without it?

L.J. Sellers is an award-winning journalist and the author of the bestselling Detective Jackson mystery/suspense series: The Sex Club, Secrets to Die For, Thrilled to Death, Passions of the Dead, and Dying for Justice. Her novels have been highly praised by Mystery Scene, Crimespree, and Spinetingler magazines, and the series is on Amazon Kindle’s bestselling police procedural list. L.J. also has three standalone thrillers: The Baby Thief, The Suicide Effect, and The Arranger. 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.

Leave a comment to win a copy of The Arranger! One physical book and two eBooks will be given to three random winners.

Questions for LJ? Ready for the blogfest? Seeing a movie this weekend? (Hopefully it doesn’t end up on your list.) And does anyone want to hear me play guitar? Just kidding – I don’t torture my blogger buddies!

98 comments:

Talli Roland said...

Yay for LJ! I've heard so many great things about her novels and I have yet to read one. I really must rectify that.

Thanks for hosting her, Alex!

Sarah Pearson said...

This sounds like another good read. You definitely need a bit of humour in even the grittiest of stories, nobody lives in a vacuum.

Laila Knight said...

I wish I were into thrillers, but I enjoy them more when they're made into movies. I'm supportive of humor so a little bit here and there doesn't hurt, regardless of genre. :) I am ready for the blogfest, and I really do want to hear you play guitar, Alex.

Isis Rushdan said...

Nice to meet you, LJ. I'm not big on thrillers, but yours sounds good. Always happy to get to know other authors.

Alex, I forgot about the blogfest. Thanks for the reminder. Doing more of the Cambridge Film Festival all weekend. Three movies today. Tinker Tailor Solider Spy last night and the director, screenwriter, John Hurt, and Gary Oldman were there. They walked right in front of me. If I had been a crazy fan, I would've touched Oldman :).

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Thanks for stopping by, Talli!

Laila, you only think you want to hear me play...

Isis, that's really cool!

salarsenッ said...

L.J. sounds fabulous!! Congrats to her many successes. :)

Siv Maria said...

I love thrillers and L.J, hats off to you! Don't think I could do that, will have to check out this book :) And Alex....I would love to hear you play the guitar:)

Rusty Webb said...

Sounds terrific LJ! If you can find humor in the little things then life seems a bit more tolerable.

Alex, you offering to do a performance?

Journaling Woman said...

LJ, I love thrillers. I love humor and want it served up every day. I'd even take it in my morning Cheerios if I could figure out to get laughter in....

Good luck on your book.

Tonja said...

LJ - I don't usually like thrillers, but your sounds great.

Alex - It's our anniversary. Got no sitter for the babes, so I think we're going to see Cars 2 if it's not too late. Very romantic.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Siv, you only think you do!

Rusty, for cash, and lots of it.

Tonja, why not?

Creepy Query Girl said...

thanks so much for introducing us to LJ and her book! Great review!

L.J. Sellers said...

Good morning. You people are up early! Thanks so much for stopping in. This novel was both challenging and fun to write, and it's really a crime fiction story set in the future...as well as a character study. I appreciate all the good wishes, and I'll keep checking in to see if anyone has any specific questions for me.

L.G.Smith said...

I think there should be a little humor in everything. Enjoyed the guest post!

Heather M. Gardner said...

I want to hear you play guitar.

Sangu said...

Oooh this sounds fantastic! So glad you had LJ on today, Alex.

Charles Gramlich said...

Worst movies! A topic I quite enjoy.

Lydia K said...

So good to meet LJ!

I'm psyched about the Monday blogfest. I keep wondering if someone else will pick my crappy movie.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

LJ, welcome, and yes, up way too early...

Heather, no you don't.

Lydia, I'm worried I will select someone's favorite!

Carol Kilgore said...

LJ, I'm laughing because I often hear, "What are you trying to figure out now?" Glad you didn't burn down your garage :)

Hi, Alex!

Stephen Tremp said...

Good luck to LJ and The Arranger! I'm all set for the Blogfest Monday with some real stinkers. And we saw Contagon this week. Great premise, not so great acting. No twists or turns in the plot. The story was just told and that's about it. I give it a C+.

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

It doesn't have to be humor, but some kind of relief from the tension in a book is a good thing, I think.

Looking forward to reading about the worst movies ever!

Old Kitty said...

Please would you sing as well? Thank you.

Good luck to LJ Sellers! I like her method acting tool for her writing! Yay!

Take care
x

Carolyn V said...

Congrats to LJ! Great guest post!

Worst movies? That sounds awesome. I've seen a few scary ones. ;)

Amy said...

Great to meet you L.J. - I love your advice!

Thank you Alex for sharing her! :)

L. Diane Wolfe said...

LOL! "When does the barking start?"

mshatch said...

I'm ready for the blogfest and The Arranger sounds interesting :)

~Sia McKye~ said...

Oh, that's so funny! I can just picture you crawling around on the floor. "when does the barking start?" lmao.

I love humor. I think in some thrillers it would depend upon the setting and the characters. People face some pretty gruesome things with humor intact. Black humor and wry quips work too. Cops have them, so does the military. The timing is important (doing stand up you understand that)and in some cases it adds a punch to impact of a scene.

Sia McKye's Thoughts...OVER COFFEE

Elizabeth Mueller said...

Comment for LJ: what writers do for their novels! Thanks for sharing your great times!

Comment for the blogfest: I could only think of one movie--I usually avoid bad ones! *ducking*

Don't worry about entering me into the contest!

Have a great weekend, Alex! Thanks for dropping by and saying hi! :)


♥.•*¨Elizabeth¨*•.♥

Can Alex save Winter from the darkness that hunts her?

YA Paranormal Romance, Darkspell coming fall of 2011!

Nancy Thompson said...

I totally "get" this post. I've written a very dark thriller, so dark it brought me down into a rather deep depression about a year ago. It made for some great writing, but it was hard to exist in such a bleak place for the sake of my book. Having a writer friend to exchange emails with allowed me to keep my head above water. We've shared some hilarious moments which helped pull me out of that darkness. Nothing like humor to make everything seem all right.

welcome to my world of poetry said...

Looking forward to Monday's blogfest, I'm sure it will be a success.

Have a good week-end.
Yvonne.

Milo James Fowler said...

MacGyver-type solutions are my favorite.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Hey Carol!

Stephen, glad I didn't waste theater dollars on it then.

Elizabeth, I have quite a list for you.

Kitty, that would be double the torture.

Sia, I like the dry sort of humor.

Elizabeth, all you need is one bad movie!

Nancy, I don't think I could write something so dark. I might never pull out of the funk.

Arlee Bird said...

I liked to do the hands on type of research. In certain literary works humor seems out of place. I like to inject quirky humor into my writing at times, but often no one gets the joke but me.

I am ready for the Bad Movie Blogfest.


Lee
Tossing It Out

L.J. Sellers said...

Arlee, that's one of the things I worry about too, that humor will seem out of place in my novels. But Sia is right that law enforcement people use dark humor to keep their jobs from being oppressive at times. So I include an occasional "quip" from the ME or detective to lighten crime scenes.

Michael Offutt said...

All that crawling around probably shows in the authenticity of the writing. I'm intrigued by your process.

Christine Rains said...

Sounds intriguing!

No movies for this weekend, but a new Doctor Who episode is on tomorrow night. I have my monthly writers' group and a birthday party. I hope to get some good suggestions for horrible movies on Monday!

Donna K. Weaver said...

Great suggestions on both research and using humor.

"Of course, my husband walked in as I was crawling and mumbling and said, “When does the barking start?”?

Seriously, I laughed out loud. It's a good think I didn't have anything in my mouth at the time.

Shannon said...

Sounds like a great premise. Best of luck! :)

Alex, the blogfest is a great idea! :)

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

lee, it's ready for YOU!

Christine, you have a great weekend and be prepared for suckage on Monday.

Thanks, Shannon!

Clarissa Draper said...

Wow, I love the research you did for your novel.

Alex, can't wait until Monday.

Siobhan said...

I appreciate a little humor in any type of book, particularly dramas or thrillers. Humor relieves some of the tension. Will have to check this book out.

Helen Ginger said...

I don't need humor in thrillers. But I don't need constant tension, either. You need a second here and there to catch your breath. (Don't enter me in the giveaway. I've read The Arranger and loved it.)

Alex, assuming I can get on a computer Monday, I'll be back. I know exactly which was the worst movie I've ever seen - the only one I've ever walked out of in the opening scene.

Donna Hole said...

Don't torture me Alex: you know I want to hear you play . .

LJ: I've had to consult my geek son on many aspects of a sci-fi tale I'm writing. Research is research - no matter the source. I loved how you describe the prospect of getting caught by your kids. Yeah, I can just see the scene now :) Writers do have to do some crazy things for creative inspiration.

As for humor in a thriller; I think there is always room for a little humor to break up the tension and let the reader breathe for a moment or two.

The book sounds like a lot of intensity and adventure; I hope I get to win a copy.

Have a good weekend Alex and LJ.

........dhole

M Pax said...

Congrats, LJ. Sounds like an intense story. I'll put it on my list. :)

Ready for Monday ... sort of. Not sure i came up with enough movies.

Sarah Ahiers (Falen) said...

ooh i hope i remember to write my blogfest post...

And LJs book sounds awesome! Throw my name in that drawing

Ann Best said...

I tried to get SOME humor in my somewhat sad memoir. Humor is SO important, I think, in life and thus literature, since literature mirrors life!

L.J., your novel sounds wonderful. I'd love to read it--and also your other novels. I love detective/murder/suspense--my favorite genre next to memoir. I'm glad I met you because now whenever I think about tunnels or matches, I'll think of you and your husband, and relax into laughter.

Thank you for hosting her, Alex.
Ann Best, Author of In the Mirror, A Memoir of Shattered Secrets

Leovi said...

Monday will see the films appear. Some of the movies I've seen are so bad that I'm ashamed to say.

L.J. Sellers said...

Thanks, Helen, for the shout out! And for Ann and others, I'm glad I was able to make you smile.

As for crime fiction research, I once found myself on the way to a murder scene, nearly giddy with excitement at being able to experience the real thing. Then I remembered that someone was dead...and felt ashamed of my Castle-like moment.

Rhonda @Laugh Quotes said...

Thanks for the introduction to L.J. Your book sounds great. Hoping to win a copy ;)

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Clarissa, glad you're excited!

Helen, can't wait to hear what it was then!

Donna, no really, you don't!

Mary, you just needed between one and ten.

Sarah, I hope you do as well.

Leovi, I really can't wait to see your list.

Jeffrey Beesler said...

I think most novels could benefit from a good laugh or two every now and then. It helps to diffuse the tension in the story, break it up so that the reader can get a breather.

Super Happy Jen said...

The Last Airbender is the worst movie of all time. Today I was trying to think of a movie that was worse and nothing sprang to mind.

And even the most serious stories needs some comic relief. Lucky for me people tend to think I'm hilarious even when I'm serious.

Any advice for an author at the beginning of her career? (me)

alexia said...

What fun! I've done some pretty interesting internet research for some of my books, but never anything like that. Cool story!

Pat Tillett said...

Your book sounds interesting and exciting... Thanks for telling us about it!

Amity said...

Movie treats from HBO this weekend would satiate my longings to see some good movies and Oh I just watched but not completely last night...I love You, Man!

I suddenly felt snooooooozzyyyy in the middle of the movie so off I went to bed na :(

The author featured in your blog must be a very good one, who loves detective stories, dark one I guess?

I wish I could get a copy of any of her bestsellers in the bookstore soon...but whewww....when did I have time to read a novel when all I did is buy and let them gather dusts in the bookshelves?

I am so preoccupied with experimental baking of cakes, pastries and other goodies...:))) Some turned out disasters and others a hit...success!!!

I wanna get rich baking...ha ha ha...and my next project is how to make fondant cakes...yeyyy!!!That must be fun na!!!

But I will not stop blogging, I write in between office, baking...that would be fine...busy life indeed!

Ella said...

Congrats this sounds great! I love how involved your became in acting your scenes out, your tunnel moments!
You crack me up...I do stuff like this a lot and get caught. You should what I recently shoved in my printer that raised a lot of eyebrows(art related). I loved you n' your husband having fun and releasing your inner teen child ;D
I'm intrigued~
I would love a chance to win. Thrillers rock almost as much as Ninjas! Happy Weekend to you and Alex~

Angela Orlowski-Peart said...

Congratulations, L.J.! I read thrillers sometimes and would love to try yours. I'm adding it to my to-read-soon list :-)

Enid Wilson said...

Testing is good, make everything real in the story. Congratulations LJ.

Every Savage Can Reproduce

BornStoryteller said...

OK..."when does the barking start" just made me laugh, and a good laugh first thing in the morning...priceless.

Thanks for introducing her to me/us. I love finding new writers. Right now, I'm reading all the new ones from authors I already read: Jim Butcher, Charlene Harris, Carrie Vaughn, Kim Harrison and Cherie Priest: all in a pile, one by one.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Happy Jen, it was a bad movie! And if you need advice, you've come to the right place - there are so many blogging authors here willing to help.

Amity, don't you dare stop blogging. And maybe you'll win one of the books!

Ella, good luck!

Pk Hrezo said...

That is so funny, LJ! THe things we do for stories! But ya hafta know, right?
And Alex, I just passed on my oxblood Fender Telecaster to my six year old son. He's enamored with it already. I sure hope he takes it up....

Liza said...

Your tunnel experience brought to mind a true life experience when I got caught in a culvert while kayaking. Too hard to explain, but just think darkness, spiderwebs and panic. Love the image of you crawling around, but especially the laughter!

Tara Tyler said...

i'm looking foward to your worst movie-fest.
i cant enter because all the worst movies i've seen are because they were...forgettable! and i have a bad memory anyway...
but i'm sure i'll be like, "oh yeah, i remember that!" when i read all the entries =)

Monti said...

Interesting interview, Alex. Thanks for having LJ. I would never be dare devil enough to jump from a plane. Don't think I want to write depressing novels. Some of the scenes in mine are depressing, but they all have happy endings. Love the imagery of you on the floor figuring out the tunnel scenario!

Happy writing,
Monti
NotesAlongTheWay

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

PK, your son is lucky young man!!!

Tara, you won't want to remember, but I'm sure you will!

L.J. Sellers said...

Monti, even though my stories are gritty, I write satisfying, even upbeat, endings. I like to leave readers feeling positive if I can.

Thanks, everyone, for the good wishes!

Dafeenah said...

A new author to add to my TBR list!! yay and I vote you play guitar for us... a live video feed...

WritingNut said...

Definitely sounds like a great read! I feel like watching old movies this weekend, but I really should be writing. And yes! I would love to hear you play! :)

Suze said...

You should totally upload an mp3 or wav file of you shredding on guitar!!

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

Grown up kids sure remember those things they can throw in your face when they catch you doing something you told them never to do.
I do like at least a little humor in even the darkest of books or movies.
Looking forward to hearing what movies everyone thinks are terrible.

Patricia Stoltey said...

I had a couple of great laughs reading this post, L.J., especially imagining you down on the floor pretending to be in a tunnel. I'll be reading this novel for sure.

Thanks for having L.J. as your guest, Alex.

Carolina Valdez Miller said...

I love that she put herself through the same hoops she puts her characters through!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Dafeenah, live????

WritingNut and Suze, I would so disappoint.

Patricia, glad you enjoyed it!

getyourselfconnected said...

Thanks for the note Alex, Monday is on like Donkey Kong.

Leovi said...

I guess the funny scene when her husband entered. I think the first thing that hurts the knees, no?

GYPSYWOMAN said...

greetings alex - oh, dear - another great book for my stack of to be read - not an author with whom i was familiar so even better - thanks so much for the intro! hope all is well in your world! have a great remainder of the weekend!

ediFanoB said...

"n my new novel, the future is bleak, my characters are flawed, and their quests are intensely personal. Writing this novel could have been depressing, but I set much of the story in an endurance contest called the Gauntlet, which provided some unusual and amusing research moments."

After reading these introducing words I could not withstand to enter the competition. I would like to know the novel behind these words.

I mentioned the giveaway on my blog.

Ciara said...

I'm looking forward to viewing all the movie blog fest posts. I won't be posting but I'll be visiting. :) It's nice to meet you L.J.

L.J. Sellers said...

Thanks, ediFanoB, for the shout out on your blog.

tfwalsh said...

Love the sound of your book... flawed characters are the most intriguing...

Empty Nest Insider said...

LJ's book sounds like a great read! Looking forward to Monday's best of the worst! Julie

Kimberly said...

This book sounds really good. I love that LJ tries things out - I do the same thing. :)

damyantiwrites said...

"it’s too easy to get sucked into a dark mode and forget that people and characters can find joy and humor even under stressful circumstances."

So very well said. Looking up the book now. Thanks for the post, LJ, and thanks for hosting her, Alex!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Connecte, glad you're ready!

Edi, that's great! I'm sure LJ will appreciate it.

Julie, it will be the best of the worst all right!

Melissa Bradley said...

LJ your book sounds fantastic and I love anecdotes. :) My family rolls their eyes when I have them help me figure out some plot elements. "You're walking down the street and werewolf jumps out. Do you run? Freeze up?" My nephew says "I'd crap my pants."

I always have a sense of humor about me, even in crisis so I try to that with my characters. It breaks things up and makes the situation seem more immediate.

Jan Morrison said...

this was a great post! Thanks so much Alex for hosting LJ! I don't need humour in a book but I like it when it appears. I think I'm known as pretty funny by my friends etc...but I don't know how much of that gets into my writing. ah well.

Michael Di Gesu said...

I LOVE a good thriller every now and then... This one sounds really interesting.

LJ, you have a very impressive list of published books... Plus all the other fun things you're involved in. Congrats on living life to the fullest!

The Blogger Girlz said...

Gotta love finding humor in crazy things we do as writers.

Also, I've chosen you for The Versatile Blogger Award.
If you opt to participate please go to my blog for details.
http://thebloggergirlz.blogspot.com/2011/09/versatile-blogger-award.html
You have an amazing blog!

-Aaron

Lynda R Young said...

Ha, love the sound of this book.

I think writers inevitably convince their families they are somehow a little crazy. That's when you know you are getting it right ;)

And yes, humour is vital.

L.J. Sellers said...

Melissa and Jan, thanks for the compliments and for sharing.

Michael, after a layoff in early 2008, I committed myself to writing full time and it paid off for me. I feel very blessed.

Lynda, yes, you have to be a little crazy to write and market fiction. :)

Doralynn Kennedy said...

Hi Alex, thanks for having L.J. in today.

L.J., this sounds like a great read. I love gritty thrillers. And it sounds like you had some fun writing it. "We headed down to the garage with a box of matches and some potentially combustible material." LOL. That sounds like something the ATF would be interested in!

Rawknrobyn.blogspot.com said...

Humor is so necessary, especially in dark stories or real-life situations. It's very nice to see a human side to such an accomplished author.

LJ, down the lines of Michael's comment, you were writing well BEFORE 2008. Yes? You didn't crank out all those books since then, did you? I'm equally impressed by the fact you've jumped out of airplanes.

Alex, sorry I'm not participating. I haven't seen any bad movies of which I didn't repress the memory (except Killer Clowns from Outer Space). I don't have 10, much less two. It'll be fun to read the posts, though.

xoRobyn

Joanne Brothwell said...

Great interview! I must say, I really must read the crawling tunnel scene now!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Aaron, thank you! I've recieved it before, but I appreciate it.

Robyn, you did remember a bad one though!

Thanks everyone! The winners of LJ's books will be announced next Friday.

Mel Corbett said...

I don't really read a lot of thrillers, but when I do I enjoy a splash of light heartedness in them, though I may have an odd sense of humor too. So I guess it just depends.

Also, Alex, I've awarded you with the Versatile blogger award but only if you want it.

Suze said...

Alex, I wanted to make sure you read my response to your comment so I cut and paste, below:

'I can't describe how reading your comment made me feel. I had a brief conversation with my mom today about this and had essentially decided to do just that. How killer of you to affirm me in my choice. To quote an incredibly cool blogging friend, 'YOU ROCK.' '

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Oh Suze, thanks so much! Do it! make it wonderful and get yourself an agent and a big book deal.