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 or you can follow him on Facebook at 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:

 exclusive free fiction
 writing tips
 publishing insight
 Hollywood for writers: exciting insight on the film adaptation of Terminal Rage as it happens
 counter-terrorism scoops and analysis
 book giveaways and competitions

* indicates required field

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.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Book Festivals — do you or don’t you?

Sheila Lowe, mystery author and forensic handwriting examiner
Yesterday, I spent the afternoon at the LA Times Festival of Books, dividing my time between Mystery Ink bookstore and Sisters in Crime/LA. The weather was blessedly cool—in past years the Festival has been held on the last weekend of April, when it’s already warming up, but with Passover sharing that weekend at times, the dates have shifted. In any case, there seemed to be a host of people pushing strollers, walking around, checking out the many booths and listening to speakers on various stages. 

Certainly, TC Boyle, who signed next to me in the 11-12 hour, had a long line of fans waiting to get his autograph. TC was new to me, but it turns out he’s written a lot of popular books. He had a kind of rangy Mick Jagger rock star look as he stood in front of the booth, meeting and greeting his readers without the table blocking them from him. Unlike some other well-known authors with whom I’ve shared table space at similar events (e.g., like the one who left in a huff because the folding chair didn't suit), I appreciated that when his line ebbed, TC took the time to introduce himself to Cara and me and shake hands.

Seated on my other side was the always charming Cara Black, who was generous enough to talk up my books as well as her own when visitors stopped by to look at what we were offering. One of the pleasures of signing books at festivals is meeting authors you admire, for their work and/or as people.

In my second stint of the day, at the SinC/LA booth, I sat between Mar Preston, whom I had met a couple of years ago at Derek Pacifico’s Homicide School for Writers, and Laurie Stevens, who brought us chocolate. We liked her a lot.

A couple of young men (20s) stopped by and asked what Sisters in Crime was. “Nuns with bad habits,” I cracked. Luckily, they had a sense of humor and got the joke. Both said they enjoyed mysteries and we each gave them our elevator pitch. They didn’t buy any books for us to sign, but they took our bookmarks, so I’m hoping maybe they’ll download the e-versions. Besides, I’m just happy to see young people reading mystery. Or reading anything.

The next visitors made my day by getting excited to see my current book, WHAT SHE SAW, and to learn that INKSLINGERS BALL is being released on June 10th. They encouraged me to write faster and I invited them to my book launch party.

I can’t say I signed a huge number of books yesterday, but enough to justify the 120 mile round trip and $10 parking fee. There have been years when I signed more books at a festival, but I keep showing up because you never know who you’ll meet, or what your presence might mean to someone else. Is it worth it? You tell me. What’s your perception of big public events like these? Do you sign a lot of books? As a reader, do you buy books at festivals? Is it important to you to have the author sign? I’m interested in your take.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Does Your Nature Influence Your Protagonist?

by AD Starrling

I often get asked whether I project my own personality onto that of my fictional characters or even give them traits that I wished I possessed. I normally say no. But I believe the answer is more complex than a simple yea or nay.

Consider Lucas Soul, the protagonist of Soul Meaning (Seventeen Book #1). He is warm, kind, honest, stubborn, self-sacrificing, and has a dry sense of humor. As one reviewer described him, he’s a quiet kinda guy, with an undercurrent of pure steel. Although Lucas is a great fighter, he only does so when challenged and in self-defense.

Do I want to be Lucas Soul? No. Does he share some of my traits? Yes. The warmth, the kindness, and the sense of humor.

Alexa King, the protagonist of King’s Crusade (Seventeen Book #2), is another kettle of fish. She is cold (to start off with), ruthless, focused, and would just as well kill you as look at you. She is the ultimate warrior and likes nothing better than being in a fight ring with someone who can challenge her physically.

Do I want to be Alexa King? No. Quite frankly, she scares the bejeezus out of me. Does she share any of my traits? Yes. The focus, the fighting spirit, and the determination to win.

I do not write myself into any of my characters. Not deliberately anyway. But I probably do so subconsciously to some extent. I know I respect all the above traits in my protagonists because I see them as positive attributes.

I also know that there are certain things I wouldn’t let my protagonists do, because I personally couldn’t/wouldn’t do those very things. I’m not talking stuff like kicking the bad guys’ asses and even killing them (Lord knows there’s plenty of that in my books!), but instead things like cruelty to children and animals, racism, dishonesty for reasons of self-interest (I do tell the occasional white lie when the situation calls for it), sexual discrimination, and others.

There have been times when I’ve paused in the middle of writing a scene and thought, ‘Nope, that’s not right. He/she would never say/do that,’ subconsciously meaning ‘I would never say/do that.’

As fiction writers, it is our duty to write interesting, fun characters that our readers will root for. Ultimately, we want our readers to give a damn whether our protagonist lives or dies. But I do wonder how much of our personality bleeds into those of our protagonists.

I have no problem writing about the bad guys in my books. Greene’s Calling is the first novel where there are several scenes from the bad guys’ POV, which my editors and beta readers enjoyed immensely. There is one particularly vicious soul I thought I might struggle to portray, but her feelings actually came very easily to me. This did worry me slightly.

Coming at this from another angle then, do I bestow any of my negative personality traits, fears, and insecurities onto my protagonists? I suspect not. I don’t believe they would appeal to readers if I did.

I have yet to write an antihero. I think I would find the process quite challenging as I like my protagonists to “shine a light into the darkness," and not the other way around. I would have to dig deep to make my readers care for an antihero. Yet, I do like antiheroes. Edmund Blackadder, Dexter, Hannibal Lecter, Hellboy, Daryl Dixon, or even Spike of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fame come to mind. Maybe it’s the “bad boy syndrome” that attracts readers to this type of character. Maybe it’s the deep-rooted human instinct to find a spark of goodness in everyone, to want to see such a character redeem him/herself through a selfless act of kindness, even if he/she is a monster.

For the writers among you, are there things that are a definite no-no for your characters? Or are you ruthless in what you would have them do for the sake of the plot?

Readers, do you think writers live vicariously through their protagonists?

AD Starrling is the author of the award-winning and nominated supernatural thriller series Seventeen. She lives in England, where she spends her time writing fast-paced, action-packed thrillers, and juggling babies in the intensive care unit where she works as a part-time Pediatrician.

Soul Meaning (Seventeen Book #1) Second Edition and King’s Crusade (Seventeen Book #2) Revised Edition have just been released, with Greene’s Calling (Seventeen Book #3) scheduled for release in June 2014.