Thursday, October 31, 2013

Multi-Cultural Characters

by Deborah J Ledford

I spent my summers growing up in the Great Smoky Mountains of western North Carolina, which is the setting for my Steven Hawk/Inola Walela suspense thriller series. I knew early on that I wanted to present multi-cultural characters from this region in my novels.
Inola Walela, the female lead in my latest novel, CRESCENDO, is the only Native American female on the Bryson City, NC police force. I knew that Steven Hawk’s love interest would be Cherokee from the first moment she came to my mind. The reservation is ten miles from the city featured, so Inola’s heritage made perfect sense given the location. I’m part Eastern Band Cherokee so it was extra important for me to be respectful of Inola’s character. Demeanor, how she carries herself, habits, interaction with her loved ones and peers, are all instrumental elements I kept in mind while creating a believable character of this ethnicity.
I also wanted the Native American element to be instrumental for SNARE, book two of the series. It is always my intent to present Native American characters with respect, so once I decided on the Tribe to focus on I worked closely with the communications director on the Taos Pueblo in New Mexico. Floyd “Mountain Walking Cane” Gomez read every word of the manuscript as I composed each draft. He either approved scenes, characterizations and events, or informed me flat out “No, you cannot use this.” (He told me this a lot!)
From day one, Steven Hawk, the law enforcement male lead in my series, came to me as an African American Southern gentleman; well-educated, quiet but firm, and wise beyond his years. I created Hawk many years ago when the project was first a screenplay. The race of Hawk came into question when it came time to submit the novel to agents—everyone wanted me to change him to a Caucasian to make the novel more “sellable”—but I held fast, deciding to pass on offers and stay true to the character as he first visited my imagination.
Bottom line is, do your research when creating multi-cultural characters. From naming your characters, to being true to the regions where they live, most important of all is to be respectful of your characters no matter their race, culture or upbringing.

Deborah J Ledford’s latest novel, CRESCENDO, is book three of the Steven Hawk/Inola Walela thriller series from Second Wind Publishing. Other novels include SNARE—The Hillerman Sky Award Finalist (LCC Santa Fe) and NM-AZ Book Awards Finalist, and STACCATO. December 2013, her media company, IOF Productions Ltd, will release the audiobook version of CRESCENDO, narrated by film and TV actress Christina Cox (Elysium, Chronicles of Riddick, Dexter, NCIS, 24).

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Mystery of Romance

A guest post by New York Times bestselling author, Jessica Park

When people find out that I’m a writer, one of the first questions they ask (usually after telling me that they TOO have always wanted to be a writer, then launching into an hour-long explanation of their top forty book ideas that, you know, perhaps I might want to write for them) is: “What do you write?”

This is when I freeze. And stammer. I mean, it’s a simple question, right? Or it should be.  

But because I’m me, and complicated, and think that I’m all sorts of unique and rebellious (this alternates with extreme self-loathing and doubt, just so you don’t think I’m a total jerk), answering this question is hard.

I could simply say that I write romance. That Left Drowning is a new adult romance, and Flat-Out Love is a young adult romance. But then I desperately want to qualify those genre labels! My books are more than just romance, I want to explain. There’s romance, but a strong literary style, plenty of humor, intense psychological exploration of ... I don’t know how to answer because it’s impossible to feel that a one-word genre label captures what I hope my stories are about. That’s the neurotic, strung-out, paranoid author in me. I’ve learned to live with it. But my neuroses aside, I think I’m on to something....

One of the things that I’ve worked so hard to do in my books is to incorporate as many layers as I can, to give depth and explore a variety of subjects and angles beyond a linear love story. Family dynamics, trauma, mental health, friendship, survival... You name it. And I’m driven to write about how our pasts catch up with us no matter how hard and how far we run. How we cope, and fail, and succeed in many aspects of our life because of our pasts.

And when we start talking about the past—and about hiding the past—we are really talking about secrets. And secrets inevitably lead to mysteries. And clues. And stupendous scenes of revelation and understanding. Themes and plot designs that we typically associate with being only in true mysteries or thrillers are actually often found in so many other genres.

A really good piece of fiction has to keep readers turning the pages, right? What’s next? It’s about how authors dole out information, tease our readers, lure them in, and make them wonder. Much the way mystery and thriller novels work. In my books Left Drowning and Flat-Out Love, both stories absolutely follow romantic paths, but big questions are also raised early on. There are gaps of information, personality quirks that allude to hidden stories, and discoveries made through conversation and experience. There are the equivalents of crimes, clues, suspects, investigative action... You name it, romance can have it.

I’ve been mixing up my romance with mystery, literary fiction, and humor—plus lord knows what else—and having a blast. And it’s why I encourage readers to stretch beyond what they think they love (only romance, only crime fiction, only sci fi); elements we love in one category are so often found in another.

The hard lines that we believe separate genres are often much more fluid than we know, and fluidity can be magic.

Jessica is the author of New York Times bestselling FLAT-OUT LOVE, RELATIVELY FAMOUS, and her latest NA novel, LEFT DROWNING. She lives in New Hampshire where she spends an obscene amount time thinking about rocker boys and their guitars, complex caffeinated beverages, and tropical vacations. On the rare occasions that she is able to focus on other things, she writes.

FInd her at:

Monday, October 28, 2013

Online Broadcasting

By Sheila Lowe, author and handwriting analyst

I've just returned from hosting a conference at the beach in Oxnard, California--not for writers, but handwriting analysts. As president of the American Handwriting Analysis Foundation (AHAF) I'm proud to say that this conference was the absolute best. In fact, it was so good that even the most critical person in the group--a professional Mr. Crabbypants--had only positive comments. Now I'm back home, wondering once again why it takes twice as many days to catch up as the number of days you were away. Lexie the Very Bad Cat was as happy to see me as I was to see her, though, and only bit me hard enough to draw blood once. The last of my out-of-town company is leaving in the morning and I'm edging back into my routine, catching up on a couple hundred emails and reminding myself to eat more moderately (I gained four pounds).

I'm already thinking ahead to Left Coast Crime in Monterrey next March, and Bouchercon, later in the year. How many of you will be there? Does location influence whether you'll make the effort to attend? One of several important innovations we offered at the AHAF conference was live broadcasting. We used, which is the best videoconferencing system I've seen. Incredibly, Nick Chong, Mr. Zoom himself, came to the conference to help us set up. That's about a 1000 mile round trip on his own dime (really, fifty cents, adjusted for inflation). I suggest checking out Zoom for yourself for free:

About twelve people around the world who were unable to attend in person watched the proceedings from their homes, and were even able to ask questions of the speakers. This was done at very low cost to the conference (just the internet hookup at the hotel) and the online registrations more than paid for it. So I'm wondering how many of you have attended webinars or other online conferences, and what your experience has been. I would love to see the mystery conference community avail itself of such a service.

Even though it's best to attend in person, financial, health, or other reasons keep many away. A couple of weeks ago, there was an MWA University event in San Diego that I would love to have attended, but it was on the day before I was scheduled to appear at a book club in Solvang, about 300 miles north of San Diego. If live broadcasting had been offered, I could have benefited from the University (which I heard was a wonderful event).

Your thoughts and comments on this subject would be warmly welcomed. Meanwhile, if you're in the L.A. area on Saturday, I'll be signing WHAT SHE SAW at The Best of VC Marketplace, a wonderful little store in the agricultural museum in Santa Paula from 12-3, along with several other authors. I'd love to meet you.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

A Movie in My Head: The Fast-Growing World of Audiobooks

by Basil Sands, author & audiobook narrator 
 Basil Sands midnight sun audio cover
Do you listen to audiobooks? Have you published any of your own books as audiobooks? If not, why not?

Audiobooks are one of the fastest growing waves in the publishing world right now. More and more book lovers are reading with their ears. According to Audio Publishers Association, audiobook consumption went up 16% from 2011 to 2012, with over 7100 titles published in audio in 2012. Audiobook download revenue went up an amazing 32.7% in that same period.

So how do we get into this party? That depends on who owns the audio rights to your book.

 Publisher-owned audio rights

The vast majority of traditionally published book deals in the last few years include audio rights. The most common approach is for the print publisher to sell the audio rights to an audio publisher and you, the writer, get a share of that amount which could be up to 50% (minus agent’s 15%). The largest publishing houses have their own audiobook production wing, so if they plan to make the audiobook, that is usually included in the initial contract. A terrific blog post on the details of this process from an agent’s perspective can be found here.  

Author-owned audio rights

Authors can hold their own rights. If you’re self-published, this means you have always had the option of paying a studio to record your works, but the cost has generally been prohibitive and did not include distribution and marketing. Which meant that after spending several thousand dollars creating an audiobook, you had a handful of CD copies and little else. In 2009-2010, companies like Crossroad Press came up with the idea of doing a royalty-sharing production system where narrators recorded books on the basis of sharing the royalties among the author, publisher and narrator.  

Where to start?

Enter the undisputed king of self-published audiobooks,, aka Audiobook Creation Exchange, which happens to be a subsidiary of the undisputed king of self-published ebooks, Amazon…go figure. Having been on the ground at the intro of ACX as both an author and a narrator, I can attest it is a wonderful system.

ACX allows the author to get their work matched up with a narrator they can afford and get their book placed on, the #1 retailer of downloadable audiobooks in the world, as well as on iTunes. One of the best things for authors on limited budget and for narrators trying to build their portfolio is that the book can be set up for either royalty share, which costs the author nothing out of pocket, or for a cash deal with a more experienced narrator.

Side Note re royalty share: A typical 100k-word novel comes in at about 10 hours of finished audio. Each hour of finished audio (read, edited, cleaned, mastered) takes 4-6 hours of actual labor. An experienced narrator/editor earns between $300-$400 per finished hour on a paid project ($3000–$4000 per book). That’s a lot of money to gamble for one who makes a living at this.

For royalty share, ACX does the accounting bits, so neither the author nor the narrator gets cheated. Likewise for cash deals, ACX does not release the book for sale until the narrator has verified the work has been paid for. It can be a win/win situation for all parties.

ACX also has the option for the author to narrate their own works, which I’ve done for my own books.

Warning: Creating your own audiobook is a daunting task. It requires a lot more than a ‘nice voice’ to do right. It takes patience, endurance, and strong acting chops (I was a stage actor for twenty years before writing my first novel). Not trying to scare you away, but before you invest a couple grand in a home studio, sit down and read into a recorder for four hours straight, taking only a ten minute break once per hour. Then go back and listen to what you recorded while proofing it against the text. If you think you can enjoy doing that every day for five days straight, then proceed. If not hire someone.

Sales and Earnings:  So how much money are we talking? Audible/ACX keeps 50% of the sales price of all audiobooks sold through its site. The remaining 50% is the royalty that is either shared or kept.

So how much money will that mean in your pocket? That depends on what it sells for. According to ACX, here’s a guideline of how much a book will retail for:

Under 3 hours: under $10
3–5 hours: $10 – $20
5–10 hours: $15 – $25
10–20 hours: $20 – $30
Over 20 hours: $25 – $35

Once the book is out there, marketing is the next key, and that can be a real bear, as anyone who has self-published and even most traditionally published can attest. Here are some tips from ACX:

Marketing Checklist:

1. Email your contacts to announce it.

2. Create a post on your blog—include an image and an audio sample.

3. Post a status update on Facebook, and link to your product page at online retailers.

4. Tweet about it.

5. Send influential colleagues and reviewers a synopsis or free copy of your audiobook.

6. Ask key peers and colleagues if they would help share the news by emailing or tweeting about your book.

7. Request listener reviews from your contacts. Retailers that are selling your book will allow for reviews.

8. Review related titles on Amazon and link your reviews back to your Author Page on Amazon.

9. Respond to or retweet any commentary you receive.

10. Encourage your audience to buy your book as a new AudibleListener® member on
When they do, you’ll get that extra Twenty-Five Dollar Bounty Payment. It can add up fast!

Those are the basics in a nutshell. Authors, are you interested in joining the audiobook party? Listeners, do you have a favorite audiobook or a favorite narrator?

The floor is open for general discussion - all takers are welcome!  Basil Sands profile

Basil Sands has written four thrillers, a novella, more than a dozen shorts, and is currently working on an ambitious thriller series set in Alaska. He's also an audiobook narrator with dozens of titles recorded for several best-selling authors. His full bio is at

Basil lives in Anchorage, Alaska, with his wife and sons.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Are You Getting Your Money’s Worth?

by thriller author Michael Sherer

At dinner with several authors a couple of months ago, I mentioned how disappointed I’ve been in the past few years with so-called bestselling thrillers and mysteries. These books have been filled with stories that border on outlandish and implausible inconsistencies and mistakes, with mediocre writing at best.

Lee Goldberg, one of the authors at the table, said he thought it was because so many authors are writing to a formula these days. I contend that, discounting the real crap, there are three basic types of authors getting published: 1) beautiful writers who can’t tell a story, 2) storytellers who write at an eighth-grade level, and 3) writers who tell terrific stories with beautiful prose.

John Grisham, for example, is a terrific storyteller who keeps you turning the pages, but his prose isn’t anything to write home about. Serviceable, I suppose. (Heresy, I know, but I think Stephen King is in this camp, too.) Wallace Stegner, on the other hand, paints beautiful pictures with prose, but can’t tell a story that makes sense, or at least that holds my interest.

At dinner, I rattled off some of my favorites in the third category: Gregg Hurwitz, Jeff Parker, Lisa Unger, Bob Crais, Tana French, Michael Gruber, Tim Hallinan, Jonathan Kellerman and even Michael Connelly, though his prose is more straightforward, something you’d expect from a former newspaper reporter.

Lee contends that guys like Gregg and Jeff, and Connelly until recently, haven’t broken out to as wide an audience as many “bestselling” writers for precisely that reason—because they don’t write to the formula, because their prose is too pretty. I happen to think all the writers listed above are pretty successful, but I get his point.

But my real question is whether readers are settling for less than their money entitles them to. With Kindle’s 99-cent and freebie specials, there’s a lot of very inexpensive entertainment out there. And self-publishing has opened the floodgates to content of every stripe. But there are still a lot of thrillers that will cost you $34.95 in hardcover and $12.99 in e-book format out of the gate before publishers start seriously promoting them. That’s a lot of money. At $3.99, an e-book is cheap compared to a movie or dinner out, but hardcover prices are real money.

I ran across this quote from Patrick Anderson’s book The Triumph of the Thriller on Facebook the other day. "James Patterson is possibly the best-selling writer of fiction in America today. He is also, in my view, the absolute pits, the lowest common denominator of cynical, scuzzy, assembly-line writing. If, on a bullshit scale, people like Pelecanos and Leonard rate a perfect 0, Patterson is the other extreme, a bloated, odoriferous 10. So why is he popular? Well, he keeps things not just simple but simple-minded. He writes short sentences and short chapters and deals in stereotypes. He teases his readers with soft-core sex. He telegraphs who are the good guys and who are the bad guys—a man with a scar on his face is a bad man, a girl who doesn’t wear makeup is a good girl. He panders to ignorance, laziness, and prurience."

I couldn’t agree more. But for me, Anderson’s explanation of why Patterson is so popular raises more questions than it answers. Are readers that dumb, that afflicted with attention deficit disorder they only can digest short sentences, stereotypes, and semaphore signals designating who’s who? Are readers truly ignorant, lazy and lecherous?

I’m a sensible eater, but I’ll admit to occasional junk food binges. I prefer a rich and varied diet of thriller authors like Charlie Huston, Tom Piccirrilli, J. Carson Black, Tyler Dilts, Greg Rucka, Sean Doolittle, Gillian Flynn, Marcus Sakey, Taylor Stevens, Alison Gaylin, Sean Chercover, and Laurie King in addition to those I listed above. But that doesn’t mean I don’t indulge in the candy afforded by Lee Child and Jeff Abbott. They definitely give me my money’s worth.

And, yes, my cup of tea may be your glass of hemlock. Reading is, after all, a subjective pursuit. But there’s a ton of true garbage hitting the bestseller lists these days. Is that really what readers want? Pablum written to the lowest common denominator? Are we really getting what we pay for?

Is Anderson right? Who do you read and why?

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 BLINDwas 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. Please visit him at or you can follow him on Facebook at and on Twitter @MysteryNovelist.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

An early BOO.

By Gayle Carline
Mystery Author and Big Scaredy Cat

Know what's next Thursday? Huh? Huh? Do you?

Yep. Halloween.

I don't read horror, and I don't watch horror, yet I love this holiday. At heart, I suppose I'm a big wimp and love the faux-scariness of Halloween. Carving pumpkins, wearing costumes, re-runs of It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.

And let's not forget the chocolate. Mmm...

When I do watch horror movies, I watch the old horror movies. My favorite is Cat People, from 1942. I love it because it's all about denial and dread. Everyone denies that there could be a panther on the loose, a panther who is really a young woman whose sexual desire manifests itself as a murderous beast. But we never see the beast. We only witness the dread of the people being stalked by it.

Here's just one of those scenes:

How many of us (especially us gals) have walked somewhere, alone, in the dark, and tried to keep the hair from prickling at the back of our neck?

I'd love to throw down a little challenge to the writers out there. This scene is a frightening visual... could any of you write it well enough to make me lock the doors and turn on the lights after I've read it?

Less than two minutes' film. One paragraph. Ready-set-go.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Identity theft is big business

Guest post by Terry Ambrose, author of the McKenna mystery series
Posted by Jenny Hilborne
Author of Mysteries and Psychological Thrillers

Victims of identity theft take note, I am one of you. I never expected to have someone steal my identity. I wondered why more couldn’t be done to find the perpetrators. And I wanted justice. So begins the dedication of the second McKenna Mystery, “Kauai Temptations.” 

It’s a story that uses identity theft as a launching pad for the more typical murder-mystery plot. But this post is about identity theft, not murder. This post is timely in a sense because the holiday season is drawing near. That means celebration, good cheer, and a target on your identity.

Identity theft is a $50 billion per year business. By any measurement, that’s big business. But identity theft is really an industry made up of many “small businessmen.” True, we who are victims don’t regard them as businessmen, we have a more graphic description.
The thieves—no, that’s not the graphic description, it’s far worse—have so many methods to trip us up it can make your head spin. The good news is that for writers, the following list can be a terrific starting point for a murder mystery.
         Unsolicited emails with links for triggers to download a virus or malware have become commonplace. And sadly, the emails, the viruses and the malware grow more sophisticated each day.
         Fake web sites that are exact duplicates of the real thing are set up and hosted under domains similar to the legitimate site. These fakes typically offer deals that legitimate retailers can’t match. The difference is that the fake site will steal your financial information and never fulfill your order or send you substandard goods.
         Telemarketers offer free medical alert systems, home repairs, and other great deals. What they really want is a “yes” and your information.
         Fake charities collect “donations” and never distribute to their cause. This has become a common occurrence and, unfortunately, these sites now crop up and are live and ready to go within hours of a natural or manmade disaster.
         The FBI estimates that 90% of the work-at-home opportunities are scams. If you’re thinking of working at home and have dreams of making that advertised $10k a month, rethink the dream. You’ll be lucky if you don’t get taken for that much.
         Financial planners and investment advisors can take you for your life savings. Think Bernie Madoff. Or better yet, think about my friends who decided to invest with their next-door neighbor—someone they’d known for a few years and was an investment advisor. They lost their retirement money and their neighbor because they didn’t check the guy out.
         The next time you receive a travel clubs offer, read the fine print. Many offer deals you can never use or have ways to disqualify you for any one of a dozen reasons.
         That $5 iPad you saw on the penny auction site? Don’t be downloading your new apps quite yet. Chances are you won’t get it and neither will most of the other bidders. Of course, the dirtbags—that’s getting closer to the right description, but is still too mild—those behind the site will have your information and how will you stop them from selling it? You can’t, no matter how many little checkboxes you check.

As I said above, this list might provide writers with ideas for a scam to incorporate into a mystery. For “Kauai Temptations” I used the theft of checks to get the identification of my protagonist, but it could just have easily been the $5 iPad. All of these scams wind up in the same place, with you struggling to recover while some guy the police can’t find starts on his next victim.

What does all this have to do with the holiday season? 

Quite a bit, actually, because this is the time of year when the scammers start working overtime. Between now and Christmas, you’ll probably receive more spam emails, see more unbeatable deals, and maybe even receive telemarketing calls. We can’t stop it, but we can all be vigilant and avoid becoming a victim. In that vein, here are three tips to enhance your financial security.
         Check out businesses and charities with the Better Business Bureau at
         Online scammers create great fakes websites and emails. Don’t be fooled by good artwork or perfect logos or a slick website. The good scammers can perfectly duplicate a website or email.
         Never succumb to pressure. Pressure is the con man’s friend. Whether it’s in an email, on a website offering you a “last-minute deal,” or with a real person, remember that if someone demands something, they may be using pressure to dull your responses. Walk away at the first sign.

Bio: Terry Ambrose ( writes mysteries and thrillers. His latest funny Hawaiian mystery, “Kauai Temptations,” was called “More delicious than a Coconut Mocha Frap” by New York Times Bestselling author Jenn McKinlay (

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Minor Characters...A Major Issue?

Tom Schreck, the Duffy Dombrowski Mysteries

Interesting minor characters can give a book a well rounded feel.

Just like life, people can make the difference in terms of color, humor and diversity.

But don't make the mistake of making your minor characters too interesting.

The minor characters should be interesting in proportion to their prominence in the book. If they're made too interesting the reader will be disappointed when they don't figure in the ending, when they don't get more face time or when they don't develop.

Think about it. If the character is that cool why wasn't he or she featured more? It doesn't make sense to give these characters fascinating backgrounds and then not write enough about them.

Whether you want to believe it or not, readers cry out for structure in fiction. Part of that structure is having things make sense. A minor character should be minorly interesting.

It's why some minor characters can be cliched. A cliched minor character barely registers in the mind of the reader. The gruff cab driver, the nervous drug addict or the barely verbal Mafia muscle guy work because you don't have to think about them.

Make them bigger and the cliche becomes annoying.

Agree? Disagree? I'd love to hear your ideas on the topic.

Monday, October 21, 2013

'Tis the season...

A few weeks ago, I shared some books I'm looking forward to this fall.  Here's the first book on my list, being released tomorrow.

Duck the Halls (Meg Lanslow #16) by Donna Andrews (Minotaur hardcover, 22 October 2013).

reviewed by Marlyn Beebe.

As usual, Meg and her husband Michael have a lot on their plates.  Not only do they now have twin four-year-old boys, Michael has signed up to be a volunteer fireman, and it's almost Christmas.
A few days before the holiday, they are awakened in the middle of the night by an emergency call summoning Michael to the New Life Baptist Church.

Luckily, there's no fire.  However, the choir loft has a cage full of angry skunks in it, who have done what angry skunks do.  As a result, even after the skunks have been removed, it will be impossible to use the church for any Christmas events.  Trinity Episcopal, which Meg's mother attends, offers to let the Baptists use their sanctuary for their Christmas concert.  Meg is conscripted to create a schedule for the other events planned at the Baptist church, but there are complications.

At the concert itself, a boa constrictor slithers out of the Christmas tree, and the next morning, the parishioners of the Catholic church arrive to find it filled with hundreds of ducks.  Meg's task is becoming more complex by the minute. 

So far, the pranks have been harmless, but then there is a fire at Trinity Episcopal, and an elderly vestryman is killed.  Obviously, this is not the work of the original pranksters, but Meg doesn't know how to prove it.

This story is vintage Andrews.  Meg's family and the  residents of Caerphilly are, as usual, just eccentric enough to be believable.  This is bound to become a classic Christmas mystery.

FTC Full Disclosure:  Many thanks to the publisher and Edelweiss for the e-galley.
Duck the Halls (Meg Lanslow #16) by Donna Andrews (Minotaur hardcover, 22 October 2013).
- See more at:
Duck the Halls (Meg Lanslow #16) by Donna Andrews (Minotaur hardcover, 22 October 2013).
- See more at:
Duck the Halls (Meg Lanslow #16) by Donna Andrews (Minotaur hardcover, 22 October 2013).
- See more at:
Duck the Halls (Meg Lanslow #16) by Donna Andrews (Minotaur hardcover, 22 October 2013).
- See more at:
Duck the Halls (Meg Lanslow #16) by Donna Andrews (Minotaur hardcover, 22 October 2013).
- See more at:
Duck the Halls (Meg Lanslow #16) by Donna Andrews (Minotaur hardcover, 22 October 2013).
- See more at:
Duck the Halls (Meg Lanslow #16) by Donna Andrews (Minotaur hardcover, 22 October 2013).
- See more at:
Duck the Halls (Meg Lanslow #16) by Donna Andrews (Minotaur hardcover, 22 October 2013).
- See more at:
Duck the Halls (Meg Lanslow #16) by Donna Andrews (Minotaur hardcover, 22 October 2013).
- See more at:

Friday, October 18, 2013

Freakin' Fear

By Peg Brantley
Evocative Characters. Intriguing Crime. Compelling Stories.

This is the time of year when fear can be fun.

The other day I was with two women on our way to a luncheon to  benefit the CU Depression Center. They were talking about how they loved to decorate for Halloween and design fanciful costumes to wear. When I mentioned that I would like to see A Cabin in the Woods because I hear it turns the whole horror movie genre upside down, they both insisted they didn't like scary movies and then went on to talk about scary movies they had enjoyed. They laughed when they figured out the truth.

Sometimes scary is satisfying, in a weird and unusual and creepy kind of way.

When it's not fun is when there's a forever-reality piece to the scary thing. Whether it's true crime, as we read in posts here earlier from L.J. Sellers and Sheila Lowe, or a life and death situation.

Independence, Colorado is over 10,900 feet in elevation. 
Last week my husband and I were in Aspen and went to a couple of ghost towns. The second one was near the top of Independence Pass (the Continental Divide). The town of Independence, Colorado got its name because gold was discovered there on July 4th. In its heyday there were about fifteen hundred people
living there, then the mine began to produce less and less gold. At the end there was a fraction still trying to eke out a living when the worst winter the area had seen in years left them with dwindling food supplies and no way for horses to pack anything into their remote location. The townspeople ended up taking apart their log homes and making seventy-eight pairs of skis to hike out. I have no idea how many people made it back to Aspen. Real life life and death. Not a good scare.

Another way scary doesn't work real well for me is when I must research something about which I need to know, and yet I don't want to become immersed in the muck of the research.

For example, there are a lot of religions in the world, and some of them are threatening. For The Sacrifice I needed to research Santeria and Santa Muerte to determine which would work best for my plot. I chose Santeria because it routinely involves animal sacrifice, and within the Mexican drug cartels, it has involved human sacrifice. A really good way to up the stakes, wouldn't you say?

I had to research Santeria, get a feel for it, even buy a book about it, to get my story right. I confess to skimming for detail while ignoring the instructional elements. I simply couldn't get comfortable and didn't want this part of my life (my writing part) to shadow the rest of my life because of new information, even if it was true. The scariest thing for me was that websites for cults look just like websites for the local chambers of commerce or colleges. Normal. Routine. Ready for someone who is searching for answers.

I had the opportunity in The Sacrifice to use the words in a prayer/chant. It was short. It would have worked. I couldn't do it.

The Sacrifice will be released next Tuesday, October 22nd, and part of its dedication is to the University of Colorado Depression Center. I hope you pick up a copy and receive a few hours of enjoyment… and a just a little fear.