Tuesday, April 29, 2014

CFC Says Goodbye

by L.J. Sellers, author of provocative mysteries & thrillers

With a great sense of sadness, and a tiny bit of relief, Crime Fiction Collective is saying goodbye. It's been a terrific three years, and the bonds we've formed as friends will last a lifetime. Our core group of bloggers got together at Left Coast Crime in March, 2011, and said, "Hey, we should form a blog."

It's a little ironic that my decision to co-chair LCC 2015—and take on those huge responsibilities—finally led me to realize I didn't have the time and energy to support the blog the way I used to. My fellow bloggers have been feeling the same pinch. The fiction market is insanely competitive, and almost everyone feels like they can't write novels fast enough to make a living or spend the time they should to make their books visible.

So something had to give for most of us. But we plan to stay in touch with each other and our readers. You can find us all online, blogging at our own websites and interacting on Facebook and other social media.

Thanks, everyone, for your terrific support of Crime Fiction Collective. We've enjoyed all the comments and discussions, and have learned a lot from you along the way. Our lives are richer because of the new friendships this blog brought us.

We hope you'll all stay in touch. Happy reading!

Friday, April 25, 2014

Has the FCC Lost Its Mind?

By L.J. Sellers, author of provocative mysteries & thrillers

Net neutrality is a simple concept—we all have equal access to the internet. Yet the underlying structure is complex, and recent FCC proposals could negatively affect us all. Particularly authors who depend on internet exposure to make a living.

The latest proposal: The FCC wants to allow networks and carriers (Comcast!) to create fast lanes, in which certain content providers who pay for the privilege are given preferential treatment. Internet service providers (ISPs) have wanted this for a long time because it gives them the ability to speed up or slow down traffic to certain websites and increase their profit.

Essentially, those who can pay (Google, YouTube, Amazon) will get faster service and more internet visibility, and those who can’t (individuals, startups, artists) will be left with crumbs. Even without digging into specific examples, this seems inherently wrong. According to an article in the Huffington Post, “the net effect will be to tie creators to a small number of large platforms, reduce the choice and leverage of independent artists relative to corporate media, and make it harder for new or marginalized voices to be heard.”

And when you consider that Comcast is about to merge with Time Warner to become a major ISP and is the only ISP available in certain areas, the idea of giving Comcast even more control of the internet seems like a really bad idea. Concentrating power in the hands of a few is always dangerous.

This isn't just about myself as an author/entrepreneur, but as a consumer with a curious intellect who wants to be able to access a vast array of ideas on the internet—with equal speed.

The FCC seems to have lost its mind on both decisions. My personal opinion it that it should block the merger and drop the fast-lane idea. Consumers, who depend on the internet for information, social networking, and many purchases (books!), need a choice of providers and a level playing field.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Taking bets on horses

By Gayle Carline
Mystery Author and Horse Show Competitor

While you are reading this, I am in Burbank, California at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center. I've been there since 6:30 in the morning, which meant I had to get up at 5 a.m. to dress and make the hour-long drive from my house.

Have I ever told you I'm not a morning person?

Me before coffee.

As much as I hate getting up early, I love showing my horse. It's a kind of quiet excitement at the show. You wait for your class, then you hurry up and get you and your horse ready, then you get to the arena and warm-up. Then you wait until your number is called and you perform for the judges.

Me and Snoopy at the Del Mar Arena

It's about two hours' worth of work for a three-minute ride.

Many people have a narrow vision of horse riding. They think jumping is the only equine sport (not true), and that everyone wants to ride their horse in a parade (also not true). When I told one woman that I show my horse, she actually said, "Like in the circus?"

Really not true.

Not jumping, not parading, not in the circus.

There are two types of horse shows. One is a breed show, like Arabian or Quarter horses. At breed shows, there are many types of events, and you can show your horse in any of them. Your only requirements are that you have proof that your horse is registered as that breed, and that you are a member of the breed's organization. The other kind of show is purely an organization show. You must belong to the organization, but they don't care what kind of horse you have. These shows are typically, but not always, event-driven, like jumping or dressage. Think Olympics.

MURDER ON THE HOOF, my latest mystery/romantic-suspense is set at an American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) horse show. It will be released in May and I am both excited and frightened. Not a lot of folks are into the equine world, and maybe a romance combined with murder and mystery and secrets galore will not be enough to coax non-horsey people to enter my world.

Still, I am in love with the story and I will remain its loyal servant. I think it's the perfect horse story for people who aren't into horses - all the excitement with none of the smells.

Here's a snippet to whet your appetite. You can read more on May 21 (for Kindle), or order it in paperback on May 24.

* * * * *

Willie felt the push of the mare’s rising back end, then the upward roll of her shoulders. In a few strides, Belle settled into a gentle rocking-horse rhythm. Willie kept her butt digging into the saddle, her left hand trying not to pull up on the reins, and her right hand trying to stay on her leg. Every four strides or so, she reminded herself to breathe.

It takes a lot of work to look this relaxed, she thought.

There was a cluster of young riders at the end of the arena, sitting around on their horses and talking. Not certain if there was room to pass, and not wanting to disturb them, Willie turned across the arena early.

“Hey, watch out,” a man’s voice barked at her.

She looked up to see the same man who’d nearly run into Emily, now barreling toward her like a freight train. Her first impulse was to stop. She raised the reins and breathed, “Ho,” but saw that she was stopping in his direct path. Her second reaction was pure adrenalin—she kicked the mare, who leaped forward and took off running.

All thoughts of how to ride disappeared from Willie’s brain. She braced her weight into her stirrups and pulled on the reins. The effect was not what she wanted. Belle raised her head and yanked forward, adding a hopping motion to her gallop. Willie grabbed the horn, trying to push herself back into the saddle. Her body shifted to the right with each bump. The rapid jostling kept her powerless to either stop the horse or get back in the middle of it.

Damned if I’m gonna come off. With one final thrust, she shoved her body left and down. Belle slowed for a moment, allowing Willie to bend her knees and sit back. The pair settled to a stop. What felt like a ten-minute nightmare was probably not even worth a rodeo’s eight seconds.

Willie let out a deep sigh and looked down at Belle’s head. Tyler and Emily were already at her side.

“I’m so—” Willie began, then choked on the word “sorry.” I’m such an idiot.

“It’s not your fault,” Emily said, helping her off the horse. “Bobby Fermino is a horse’s ass.”

The golden horse trotted over to them, carrying the smiling Bobby. “I’m so sorry. Are you okay, Miss…?”

Unlike Tyler, his dark eyes bored into her with an intimacy she did not welcome. “Willie,” she managed to force out.

Emily scolded him. “Bobby, you’ve really got to be aware of other riders. My client is a novice, trying out a new horse.”

“Again, my apologies, Willie.” Turning to Emily, he added, “Perhaps you should find a quieter arena for your less experienced riders. Are you horse shopping? I have a little gelding with me that might be more suitable for such a petite lady.” He looked at Willie again and smiled, then called out, “Denny, get the roan out.”

She glanced over at the side of the arena. A dark-eyed, tanned young man in skinny jeans and a fitted olive green T-shirt nodded, then hopped into a golf cart and headed toward the barns. Denny, no doubt.

Bobby wheeled his horse around and galloped across the arena, cutting off another rider. Willie turned to Emily.

“I feel so stupid.”

“Don’t. He took you by surprise. Yeah, you could have done a lot of things better, but at least you stayed on.”

“Barely.” Willie sighed. “I just didn’t want to come off, not in front of these people.” Especially not in front of Tyler Handsome.

Emily put her arm around Willie’s shoulder and gave her a squeeze. “There’s a Mexican proverb—‘It’s not enough for a man to know to ride; he must know how to fall.’”
* * * * *
BeeTeeDubs, the show I'll be at is called the Hollywood Charity Horse Show. Bill Shatner will be there - it's cool!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Thank Goodness For The Fairer Sex

by Michael W. Sherer, thriller author

There are hundreds of reasons I love women, but one of the most important is how much smarter they are than men. (Unfortunately, too many women don’t give themselves credit for it, and more unfortunately most men will never admit it.) I believe one of the reasons they’re smarter is because they read more than men do.

The statistics are out for 2013, and once again women surpassed men in the number of books they read. According to Pew Research, 76 percent of all adult Americans (18 and over) read at least one book last year. But that breaks down to about 69 percent of men and 82 percent of women.

Not only are more women reading than men, they also read at greater rates than men do. The average number of books read by all adults last year was 12, and the median number was five (meaning half of all adults read more than five and half read less). Both numbers are higher if you include only adults who read at least one book—a mean of 16 books and a median of 7. But here again, women outpaced men by a substantial margin. Women read an average of 14 books, compared to 10 for men. 

And all the talk about readers forsaking print books for e-books is just that—talk. The research says that 69 percent of adults read a book in print form, 28 percent read one in e-format, and 14 percent listened to an audiobook. But while the number of books read in e-format increased last year, people are still reading books in print; only five percent of people who read a book last year said they read an e-book without reading a print book. At least 87 percent of those who read an e-book also read book in print, and 35 percent of print book readers also read a book in e-format. 

Some authors are also voracious readers. I’m one of them, so I wouldn’t be one of the “typical” Americans surveyed by the research company. But I know that my reading volume pales in comparison to that of many women, particularly fans of the mystery and thriller genres. And though the research doesn’t touch on genres, I’d be willing to bet that women’s reading interests are much broader than men’s, too. No wonder they’re smarter than we are!

Obviously, building readership is important to authors like me. Sometimes I wonder if that’s an uphill battle because of the way reader numbers skew by gender. With fewer men reading books than women, it’s more difficult to “acquire” a male fan. I think men are more likely to read books written by men (again, I think I’m atypical in that I enjoy books by women with female protagonists as much or more than the opposite). On the other hand, because women are more willing to read a broader range of books from different points of view, perhaps that offsets the lower number of male readers there are from which to draw.

Things could be worse—a lot worse. A Reading Agency study in Britain conducted by OnePoll found that 63 percent of British men don’t read asmuch as they think they should, and 46 percent said they read less than they did in the past. Worse, 75 percent would rather see a film or television adaptation than read the book. (The numbers for women were the opposite—75 percent said they’d rather read a book than see a movie or TV adaptation.) Worst of all, 30 percent of British men admit they haven’t picked up a book since required to in school.

Readers, how do you stack up against these numbers? What types of books do you like to read, and in what formats?

Personally, I’m raising a glass to women everywhere. Keep reading, ladies.

Michael W. Sherer is the author of Night Tide, the second novel in the Blake Sanders thriller series. The first in the Seattle-based series, Night Blind, was nominated for an ITW Thriller Award in 2013. His other books include the award-winning Emerson Ward mystery series, the stand-alone suspense novel, Island Life, and the Tess Barrett YA thriller series.

He and his family now reside in the Seattle area. Please visit him at www.michaelwsherer.com or you can follow him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/thrillerauthor and on Twitter @MysteryNovelist.

Monday, April 21, 2014

When multitasking is not your forté

by A.M. Khalifa, thriller writer, Google+

This is my last post as a regular contributor to Crime Fiction Collective for now. Thank you L.J., Peg and others for hosting me, and Jodie for inviting me in the first place. The experience has been tremendous, and I would strongly recommend group blogging as a fun and interactive way to engage with savvy readers and talented writers. But being the great multi-tasker that I am not, I am stepping aside to focus on reigning in my numerous wayward writing projects. I am working on the last installment in a collection of romantic suspense shorts about strong women struggling to find their place in life. And not one but two full length novels this year, one of which is the sequel to my critically acclaimed debut, Terminal Rage. I will be blogging erratically on my site, so you can join the conversation here. And you know how writers love seeing their email list swell, so do sign up below to my newsletter for periodic updates on my writing adventure.

I leave you with two short clips from London and Sydney exploring with members of the public what the title Terminal Rage conjures up in their mind.

Goodbye for now, but I am sure you will be seeing me around these parts, popping up every now and then. Thank you again for a wonderful run!

Sign up to my newsletter below to get:

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My romantic suspense, The Italian Laundromat is currently discounted at 99 cents on Amazon!

A.M. Khalifa's critically acclaimed debut novel, Terminal Rage, was recently described by Publishers Weekly as "dizzying, intricate, and entertaining." 

Foreword Clarion says, "Khalifa manages to pull off something that is often difficult to do in the crime-thriller genre—he keeps the novel unpredictable and lays out a plot so twisted that the puzzle picture morphs as more pieces are added."

The ebook version of Terminal Rage is available for $2.99 on Amazon.

Ruthless People

Blood Always Tells  by Hilary Davidson (Forge hardcover, 15 April 2014).

Dominique Monaghan finds out that her married lover is cheating on both her and his wife, and decides to get even by blackmailing him.  Her plan is to confront him when they are at Gary's country home for the weekend, but before she can do it, they are both kidnapped.

The kidnappers load them into the back of a van and drive for a few hours.  They end up at an isolated house that looks creepy enough to be haunted.  Dominique and Gary are forced inside and shut in separate rooms.  But Dominique is nothing if not resourceful, and she manages to steal a cell-phone long enough to call her big brother Desmond.

Desmond is the quintessential Good Guy and spends a lot of time volunteering for Causes. He feels like he's been cleaning up Dominique's messes forever.  He happens to be on a date when he talks to his sister, and when he hears her convoluted tale he rushes off to find her.

But what he discovers when he arrives creates more questions than answers, and he ends up on a lengthy quest that involves multiple law enforcement agencies, a couple of shady lawyers, and Gary's wealthy socialite wife.

The plot of this standalone contains many twists, but it's not unwieldy.  It's a different type of novel than Davidson's Lily Moore series, but still gripping and suspenseful.  You may find yourself reading long into the night rather than put this book down.

FTC Full Disclosure:  Many thanks to the author for the Advance Reading Copy.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Finalist is Fabulous

by Peg Brantley
Evocative Characters. Intriguing Crime. Compelling Stories.
Available through Amazon
or your neighborhood bookstore,
 including Tattered Cover.

Well. Now that I'm here, what can I say?

The last couple of weeks have been pretty huge for me (nothing compared to the other writers on this blog, but still) and I was looking forward to sharing the news with everyone at CFC—but now that I'm actually writing this post I'm suddenly shy.

Huh? Just go already...

Okay. I found out while LoML and I were on our road trip, post-(the fabulous) Left Coast Crime, that The Sacrifice was a finalist in the Adult Fiction category for the Colorado Authors' League awards.

Cool, right?

So I arrive home and realize that on May 14th I'll be doing a joint presentation with Jenny Milchman at Tattered Cover Book Store. Jenny's book, Cover of Snow, is a finalist for the Mary Higgins Clark award (which is a way big deal, a part of the Edgars and everything) and is also nominated for a Barry Award. Obviously, Jenny is no slouch. Suddenly I feel like maybe I'm pulling my weight (at least a little) for our Tattered Cover gig.

And wouldn't it be extra cool if I actually had some books to sell when we were there?

Long story short(er), just prior to submitting The Sacrifice for vetting via Tattered Cover I received this email:

Colorado Humanities & Center for the Book is pleased to announce that your entry, The Sacrifice, has been selected as a finalist in the 2014 Colorado Book Awards Suspense/Thriller Genre Fiction category.

An exciting thing with the Colorado Book Awards is that they're announced in June at the Hotel Jerome in Aspen, a locale that plays a part in my stories.

I'm pretty pumped.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month

In 1983 April was proclaimed Child Abuse Prevention Month by the president. I don’t know how April was chosen but it doesn’t matter. The important thing is that we have a month where there is an extra effort made to stop this awful behavior that is so rampant in our society. 

According to Children’s Bureau (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) there were 686,000 children abused or neglected in the fifty U.S. states, DC, and Puerto Rico. Of those, 1640 died. Many of those could have been prevented with good community programs in place such as early childhood development programs, parental support, and maternal mental health.

The Child Welfare Information Gateway provides some good information on how to help your community prevent child abuse.

This is a cause that is very near and dear to my heart. I have spent a great deal of my life fighting this battle. I worked as a child advocate for many years and I continue to do what I can to prevent child abuse. This is a cause you can join as well. Many businesses are joining this fight, and for those of you who can, getting personally involved is the best way. There’s a wonderful program called Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) that offers hands on volunteer work through the juvenile court system. It’s a great way to provide direct help to abused children.

So, what does this have to do with writing? Writing about the juvenile court system is what I have done for the past ten years. I write mysteries to entertain. I chose the subject matter not only because I have first hand knowledge of it, but also because I hope to raise awareness of the problem.

Writers: Do you include tidbits (or vast amounts) of information that help educate the reader?

Readers: Do you read novels for pure enjoyment or do you hope to glean some knowledge from your fiction as well?

Teresa Burrell
Author of The Advocate Series

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

New Non-Scientific Information About Not Good Enough Syndrome

By Andrew E. Kaufman, author of psychological thrillers 

I’m reaching a point in my current manuscript where I feel as though I’m starting to get a handle on things.

Well, that’s a relative term.

One never truly has a handle on things when one suffers from what is known as Not Good Enough Syndrome. You may have heard of this affliction. It’s non-specific, widely undocumented, and for the most part, difficult to diagnose.
Symptoms may include:

  • Self doubt
  • Self-loathing
  • Second-guessing everything.
  • Not liking anything.
  • Lack of inspiration, ideas, or sanity.
  • Isolated episodes of global panic (with intermittent aspirations of world-building).
  • Private, self-contained tantrums, which can range in severity.

 And there are subcategories, and of course, I have a few of those as well. Currently I’m in the throes of, There Aren’t Enough Damned Twists in this Book! (Yes! There is an actual exclamation point at the end! A demarcation of severity!)

Here are how my symptoms express themselves: If you have a thriller, then you’ve got to have twists. The problem—at least for me—is they never come easily. Hard as I try, I’m never able to simply think those up. Usually, they must arrive on their own terms.  What this means is, there’s a lot of waiting. Some non-secular praying to nobody in particular. Perhaps what might even resemble a highly specialized, ancient ritual (translation: A lot of stomping and often loud, nonverbal communication).

This is my process, and as weird as it might be, and as hard as I’ve tried to change it, I’ve come to accept that I can’t.  In some ways, I suppose, this has benefits, because it doesn’t often allow me the luxury of resting on my laurels—that’s another condition known as, Good Enough Syndrome (or in the layman’s vernacular, Just Plain Lazy).

So, what’s the prognosis? The treatment? How does one manage such seemingly unmanageable symptoms? After years of intensive study and observation, I’ve found a few tactics.  Just in case you, or someone you love, suffers, I’ll share my detailed and highly non-scientific findings:
  • Allow the ideas and words to come, and DON’T PANIC when they won’t—they will. They always do.
  • Know that the harder the struggle (and if you don’t give up) the better the work.
  • Never (Never!) compare your work to someone else’s. You are not them, and they are not you. Doing this will only take you to the Dark Place. I’ve been there. Trust me, It’s ugly.
  • Exercise will clear the cobwebs and help hasten the muse.
  • Externalizing your thought process is like breathing fresh air. It can be as easy has having someone sit and listen while you ramble on.
  • Music can stir the emotions and ignite ideas in ways few other things can.
  • Understand that anxiety will distort things and take you to Crazy Town.  Another ugly place.
  • When you’ve reached a clear impasse, it’s time to stop.
  • Don’t forget why you write.
Back to work for me.

Onward, brave soldiers.