Girls On Top: Sex in Crime (Part 2)

‘Don’t you think there should be more people handcuffed to beds in thrillers?’

…says Mark Edwards (The Devil’s Work) over at CrimeThrillerGirl (aka Steph Broadribb)’s blog, where we are talking about SEX in crime fiction (you should read PART 1 first!) Part 2 continues below…

[STEPH] Many of the female crime thriller writers we spoke to agreed with Mark and enjoy putting sex into their books. Angela Clarke has a sex scene in a disabled toilet in her thriller Follow Me, and Elizabeth Haynes has her detective almost die in a queening box in Under a Silent Moon.

Alexandra Sokoloff said, ‘Most of my books have the common theme of an equal male and female protagonist (or in my Huntress series, an equal and combative male protagonist and female villain) joining forces to solve some horrific crime. And erotic tension is just part of the mix, and when those two people finally come together (yes, I meant that) it has to be explosive and character revealing.’

Marnie Riches writes a lot of sex scenes in her ‘The Girl Who…’ series, she said of women writing sex scenes, ‘Maybe we have the vocabulary for desire more naturally and are less embarrassed.’

[SUSI] I think Marnie makes a good point here. I don’t think there are many female writers out there who didn’t read some of their mum’s books with the naughty bits in, as teens – you know, stuff like Jilly Cooper and Jackie Collins – girls, I think, are more inclined to explore these images of desire, and thus as adults are possibly more inclined to write about them? Mark Edwards aside (who makes a good job of it, so to speak), I think females might have the upper-hand when it comes to making sex scenes sexy and not cringey! My biggest problem with sex scenes is when people use what I consider to be THE WRONG WORDS, especially too many of the wrong words… Doing research for this article I searched several novels for certain words and found that ‘penis’ came out as a very over-used word (especially by male authors) – please… come on. It’s cock, surely?

[STEPH] I totally get that, there’s nothing more likely to put you off your stroke than a badly used sex word. ‘Her sex’ is particularly cringe-worthy to me, as are ‘lady-parts’; she’s a woman, therefore all of her is a lady part – be specific! My only exception to this is that I think it’s important the choice of word fits the character – so if the character is very repressed maybe they would call it ‘her sex’ (shudders) but if they’re a tough talking, kick-ass woman that’d be the totally wrong fit.

While we were writing this the only area of disagreement Susi and me had was over ‘panties’. I have the word panties in DEEP DOWN DEAD at least once – during flashback to when my lead character was working as a stripper. It works for the scene and it works in the American voice, but I know the panties set Susi’s teeth on edge!

Even if you decide you’re going to include it, writing good sex is a tricky business. Too little information and its just confusing, too much and it reads like a sex manual – neither are much fun, and neither are sexy – so how to get the perfect balance? If the nominees in the annual Bad Sex Award are anything to go by, the more metaphors and similes used when describing sex increase your risk tenfold. Critically acclaimed writers can fall foul of this too. And, if you’ve not already had the chance, I recommend listening to the hilarious Bad Sex Award special podcast by the brilliant Two Crime Writers and a Microphone.  Listening to Steve Cavanagh and Luca Veste reading out each nominated scene makes the pitfalls of writing a sex scene abundantly clear!

[SUSI] Exactly. Just as in the art of seduction itself, writing a good sex scene involves giving it just the right amount, and no more. The words used are important, and you need to make sure it’s just the right length (ahem!) – any more and you’re venturing into erotica territory, and that’s not what we’re talking about here (btw, for brilliantly written erotica/crime – try something by Ava Marsh… for grubby but nonetheless entertaining erotica/crime… try L.S Hilton‘s Maestra) As author Mel SherrattWatching over You – says, go for the ‘hot and horny, but quick scenes.’ This is spot on. Don’t get too graphic, but don’t be too scared to give us a decent flavour. My top tip for writing a sex scene – if it turns you on when you are writing it and reading it back, it will most likely have the same effect on the reader.

[STEPH] That’s a great tip! Another thing I’d say is that although books (and films) like Bond have always included a lot of sex scenes, and they’re always told from the male point of view. Personally I always give a little cheer when I’m reading a book and the female character takes the POV for a sex scene. Maybe that’s one of the subconscious reasons I wanted to write a sex scene from Lori Anderson’s point of view. Maybe I just like to see girls on top!

[SUSI] I agree. I definitely think women writing it from the female POV works best. You know, all the way through this, all I’ve been able to think about is the reverse cowgirl squat, which would be quite apt for Lori, don’t you think?

[STEPH] Oh hell yeah!!

So, we’ve had our say, what do you think – do you like a sprinkling of sex with your crime? And, if you do, what’s the most memorable sex scene in a crime thriller for you? Tweet us at @crimethrillgirl and @sjiholliday using #GirlsOnTop to let us know.

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Steph Broadribb is an alumni of the MA Creative Writing at City University London and trained as a bounty hunter in California. Her debut novel DEEP DOWN DEAD is out now – here’s the blurb: Lori Anderson is as tough as they come keeping her career as a Florida bounty hunter separate from her role as single mother to nine-year-old Dakota, who suffers from leukaemia. But when the hospital bills rack up, she has no choice but to take a job that will make her a fast buck. And that’s when things go wrong. The fugitive she’s chasing is JT, Lori former mentor – the man who taught her all she knows … the man who also knows the secrets of her murky past. Find out more at www.crimethrillergirl.com.

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This article was first Published on Barry Forshaw’s blog: CRIMETIME

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You can buy my books here: SJI Holliday’s Amazon Page (and in all good book shops)

Join my mailing list HERE to be entered into competitions and receive my occasional newsletter.

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My first author events

I’ve been pretty busy since my last post, despite being on ‘holiday’ from work (i.e. waiting for a new project). As well as working on book 2 (of which I have made some progress, and shifted to a more sensible deadline of the end of June), I’ve had my first two author events. Exciting!

The first one was online – where I took part in THE Book Club‘s first ever Book of the Month event. Black Wood was chosen by the readers, who first selected the genre (psychological), then the book – I was up against Mel Sherratt and Megan Abbott, and in the end it was a very close thing!

Where I won by a mere 6 votes!

Where I won by a mere 6 votes!

A Q&A was held on 30th April (after a month, where the members of the club had to download and read my book) and then the fun began. I say fun, it was 5h of hard work, as hundreds of readers left comments, feedback and questions and I had to keep up with it all, discussing the book not only with those who enjoyed it, but those who didn’t. I did three competitions – one to win a signed book, one for a tote bag and the third for a character name in my next novel. Overall, it was great fun but not for the faint hearted – but what it taught me (apart from the fact that most of these readers were used to reading far gorier books than mine) is that people who might not like my book might still like me, so I think I managed to convert some detractors who are now looking forward to the next book. From the feedback received, i think the readers really enjoyed it too.

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Then came my first real life event – a panel at Newcastle Noir over the bank holiday weekend.

This was held at the historic Lit and Phil building in Newcastle, which has the most beautiful library I’ve ever seen. This is me outside 🙂 I didn’t take any photos inside, but there are some on their website here.

Me on the programme!

Me on the programme!

I arrived on Saturday afternoon, and after meeting up with some of the other authors, attended an event that is always worth seeing – Mark Billingham and Martyn Waites in Conversation. I’ve seen these two before, and I love the way they use their skills as actors and comedians to talk about their lives and their books in the most hilarious of ways. That evening, it was a night out with the other authors (again!). Yes, it was a late one.

Music, beer and conversation in a classic venue

Music, beer and conversation in a classic venue

The next day, we had a quiet morning, before having Sunday lunch and on to the next event – Steve Cavanagh, Clare Donoghue and Peter Murphy. This was a fantastic panel about the legal profession and how these authors have used it in their books. Steve, in particular, was hilarious – especially as he told us he only became a lawyer as he joined the wrong queue at university!

It was great to see my books on display at the shop run by Helen from Forum Books

Then it was off to prepare for the last panel of the weekend… The Girls! Me, Eva Dolan, Susan Wilkins and Kati Hiekkapelto, chaired by Sarah Ward.

I wasn’t really nervous at all, until I sat down and looked at the audience while Jacky, the organiser, sorted out the microphones etc. Once I started though, it was easy to be led along by the excellent questions from Sarah and the responses from the other panelists. We all got on well and seemed to cover a variety of issues, keeping things entertaining by quips from Eva Dolan – who was asked at the end if she’d ever considered switching from crime to comedy! The weekend was topped off with a trip to another bar, and a late night sausage roll from Greggs… only in Newcastle!

I loved the whole event and it was great meeting up with authors, reviews and readers – only sorry I missed the other panels, I will definitely go back next year. My first two events were a great success – and I can’t wait for the next one – Crimefest in Bristol, next weekend!

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger – Mel Sherratt #FollowTheLeader

ftl

Mel Sherratt‘s latest novel – the much anticipated follow up to Taunting the Dead – is a corker. Not just a perfectly executed, entertaining read for crime fans, it covers a topic that many people will relate to, but not many have the courage to talk about.

Bullying.

I’d like to hope that some people never experience bullying of any kind, whether it be at school, in the workplace, online, or even from family and friends. If you’re one of those people, you’re one of the lucky ones.

So here’s a very brave and personal post; Mel’s story, told in typical Mel fashion. From the heart.

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger

by Mel Sherratt

I’m often known for wearing my heart on my sleeve. And sadly I’ll never have a poker-face as my emotions are written all over it. But one thing I do have is courage. Writing a book about a serial killer who is one step ahead of the police while he seeks payback for his bullies – was it my therapy because I was bullied? In a way yes because it gave me an outlet to show how bullying can affect individuals. But mostly no – it just gave me a licence to twist and say ‘what if’ a lot more than possible reality. Well, hopefully!

We all know a bully, and we all know of someone who has been bullied. Let me share with you my experience. It started several years ago when I became ill almost overnight. I was then ill for years, with major surgery once a year for three years, eight emergency admissions to hospital via an ambulance, tests, scans, more tests, scans. If I could walk at all without passing out in pain (still not sure what that was all about), I walked with a limp. I couldn’t sit at my desk for long periods, and if I did I would often get up and pass out. My life became one long haul of dragging myself through a week of full-time work without passing out, getting home and that was it. I couldn’t even walk around the supermarket to do the weekly shop. It was during these times that my writing became my sanctuary.

It turns out that a fall in my early twenties resulted in the bottom disc of my spine being crushed beyond repair, damaging lots of nerves with it. Now, degenerating with age, my spine is curving to the right and putting pressure on my hip and I have permanent nerve damage – plus it seems I had three lots of surgery that I didn’t necessarily need. Since then, I’ve learned to live with the pain. Sadly I’ve had to forgo my love of killer high heels, but it’s a small price to pay.

During this time, when I was at my lowest, one person in particular mistook my condition for weakness. I was working at senior officer level, and in a nutshell, one of the manager’s made my life hell. I would work on a project for weeks on end and then be told it wasn’t necessary, nor was it good enough. I would be ‘spoken to’ in the manager’s office for hours (I’m talking three or four hours at a time) and told over and over that I needed to buck up my ideas. I would be sent to meetings with all the wrong paperwork, or not be given the relevant information I would need to complete a report, and then be told I was incapable of doing research. I was warned in front of other staff, criticised in front of other staff and was made to look totally incompetent continually. I was tripped up on every occasion possible. Why? I think it was because a project I had worked on had been a success and I’m not sure it went down too well.

I made a complaint through my union rep, other staff did too but sadly nothing happened. During the last three months before I left, I was sat in a tiny office on my own across from this manager. Up until that point I’d always shared an office. The atmosphere was so bad that none of the other staff that I worked with would dare come in to me as the manager would appear and ask what they wanted. It was awful. They were the lowest three months of my entire working life. Being constantly told that nothing I did was good enough, nor gaining any help when I asked for it was soul-destroying. Finally, I was made redundant as part of that manager’s ‘restructure.’ Honestly, I have never been so glad to be finished in my life – I would never have given that person the satisfaction of leaving.

On my last day, I didn’t feel that I could go in. Why should I? To sit in that room again for eight hours, all alone, with no one daring to speak to me for fear of repercussions? I’m not sure how I got in that day, pride I guess – I wasn’t going to lower myself to their standards by not showing up. But what I will never forget is as everyone was saying goodbye to me, my manager took my id card and went into a room closing the door in my face until I had left the building.

Looking back on the situation, I think I must have been one hell of a strong person to stick at it for four years, plus go in to work every day of those last three months. It made me into the person I am now. Yes, I am emotional but that’s me and I won’t apologise for it. I am a strong woman, kindof an underdog if you think about it. But actually, I’d like to thank my bully for making me into a stronger person. Yes, I have my down days but ultimately I know I can always get back up again. I have a fantastic set of friends, and I work for myself – no office politics for me.

So maybe that’s why my serial killer Patrick’s story seems so raw. Two wrongs most certainly don’t make a right, and of course this is fiction, but I wanted to show how someone damaged by bullies could be affected. Yes I write about a serial killer – which is a rarity in real life, thank goodness. But also, in Patrick, as well as understanding what he was doing, I wanted readers to understand his rationale for his justification – he thinks what he is doing is right.

And maybe it will make people think just how our actions might affect another person’s life and mental state.

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Thank you for sharing, Mel. That was a brave post.

Now, at the risk of sounding like a Jeremy Kyle researcher: Have you ever been bullied? Do you want to confront your tormentor? Perhaps you’ve been a bully, and you’re ashamed and want to apologise, but you’re scared. You can tell us in the comments, no need to mention any names. Get it off your chest. And if you need help, clicking here might be a good start.

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Mel Sherratt has been a self-described “meddler of words” ever since she can remember. Since successfully publishing Taunting the Dead and seeing it soar to the rank of #1 bestselling police procedural in the Amazon Kindmelle store in 2012, Mel has gone on to write three more books in the critically acclaimed The Estate Series and Watching over You, a dark psychological thriller.

She lives in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, with her husband and her terrier, Dexter (named after the TV serial killer, with some help from her Twitter fans), and makes liberal use of her hometown as a backdrop for her writing.

Three Book Launches

One of the big things that many authors (especially debut authors) get excited about is book launches. It’s certainly something that I daydream about while waiting to hear the fate of my book with publishers. Often self-published and small-press authors have to arrange and pay for the launch themselves. Some publishers may not see a huge benefit in doing anything at all – after all, it might not translate into sales… but I think the birth of your book-baby is something to be celebrated, no matter on what scale.

I’ve been to three launches recently (two of them this week!), and they were all very good and very different.

Sarah Pinborough launched THE LANGUAGE OF DYING at Foyles, Charing Cross Road in December. There was a lot of book browsing, an author Q&A with Will Carver, wine & cookies, and afterwards everyone went to the pub across the road. It was perfect, simple, and I met loads of interesting people, including Uber-Reviewer, Liz Wilkins.

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On Tuesday, Mel Sherratt launched WATCHING OVER YOU upstairs at The Fellow, Kings Cross. As this was a private room in a pub, this basically involved lots of drinking and mingling with authors, readers, and Mel’s friends and family. Mel’s agent, Maddie Milburn, gave an impassioned speech, followed by the lady herself thanking everyone who had helped her along the way. It was a lovely night (with a few amusing drunken antics and loads of photos, of which I took none) and felt like the perfect celebration for Mel reaching the pinnacle of her long journey to becoming a successful author. Note that I said pinnacle of her journey, her already successful career is now surely set to rocket 🙂

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Finally, my agency-mate Luca Veste launched DEAD GONE at Belgravia Books, nr Victoria on Thursday. This was a shop I had never been to before, and I instantly fell in love with the table of books, covered with so many unusual titles that I could easily have spent a fortune. Luca’s editor, Sammia (Avon), gave a lovely speech, followed by a humble and hilarious one from the man himself. Again, this event was centered around wine, nibbles and nattering… and afterwards, a trip to a nearby curry house (I didn’t go… wish I had…)

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I hear that Luca and Mel are carrying on the celebrations in their home towns of Liverpool and Stoke next week… I’m looking forward to seeing photos and hearing all about those!

Thanks to Sarah, Luca and Mel for inviting me to their launches: three perfect venues, three great authors, three must-read books.

Now it’s back to daydreaming about my own… 🙂

It's all about the chemistry…

Mel Sherratt

‘Tis the Eve of St Valentine… and some of you will be anxiously anticipating the delivery of a sackload of heart-spattered cards. The rest of you… well, the rest of you will already be on the gin, preparing for another morning of sobbing into your cornflakes, wailing “Why does no one love me?” 

So what better reason for a post about some easy-on-the-eye, smouldering hot couples from the small screen? Mel Sherratt, author of ‘sexy crime’ and lover of killer heels gives us a peek at the partners-in-crime who get her hot under the collar…

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One of the emails I received about my crime thriller, Taunting the Dead, talked about ‘that kiss’ and the sexual tension that came off the pages. Now, as much as I’d like to take the credit for that, I can’t – because maybe that was read between the lines and each reader takes away something different. Some readers have embraced it, some have said ‘well, did she or didn’t she?’ Others have said it was too unrealistic. Me, I’m a romantic at heart but I’m not going to tell you what I think…

With Valentine’s Day approaching, I thought I’d chat about some crime duos that either had me shouting at the television just kiss! – or going gooey eyed when they were together.

David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson (Mulder & Scully)

THE X FILES

Okay, technically not crime but there was lots of mystery… Through their love of the weird and wonderful and Mulder’s belief in aliens and the paranormal, and Scully there to scientifically prove him wrong, they developed a friendship that became a romance by the end of the final series. The program started in September 1993 and ran until May 2002, spanning nine seasons and 202 episodes. Don’t know about you but I think that’s a mighty long time to fall in love!

John Simm and Liz White (Tyler & Cartwright)

LIFE ON MARS

Now I had a love-hate relationship with this series at first because I couldn’t stand Gene Hunt and his put downs – sexist? Not at all! And then as everyone started to rave about it, I decided to give it a go, realised it for what it was, the 1970’s, and well, now it’s true love for me. Isn’t that what great writing is all about? Me and Gene – who would have thought!

But Sam Tyler, played by the gorgeous John Simm, stole my heart just that little bit more than DCI Hunt (humour me, this is a post about love and John Simm is gorgeous.) Sadly, he only had eyes for PC Annie Cartwright (played by Liz White). I ‘heart’ those two, just knew they were destined to get together. I mean how could anyone not love the flowery dresses that Annie wore… I know, I know – I must have worn something similar in my day!

Bruce Willis and Cybil Shepherd (David & Maddie)

MOONLIGHTING

Ah, David and Maddie; it brings back such fond memories just typing out their names. The series revolved around a bankrupt model and a failing detective agency – Maddie is coerced by David to go into partnership with him and the agency is renamed Blue Moon Investigations. The show oozed sexual tension with a mystery to solve amongst the double entrendre, and kept viewers entertained for years with the ‘will they, won’t they’ debate. I can feel my heart melting already – anyone for a BRING BACK DAVID AND MADDIE! Campaign?

Emily Deschanel and David Boreanaz (Brennan & Booth)

BONES

Dr. Temperance ‘Bones’ Brennan – witty one, she is, and brings a bit of humour to the show. As a forensic anthropologist, she helps alongside FBI Special Agent Seeley Booth (A.K.A The Yum Factor.)  He gave her the nickname (Argh, I was going to write The Lovely Bones, but that’s a whole new book and film entirely) Bones, which she hates at first but comes to accept. You see, love-hate? Bless. And low and behold, finally they start getting it on near to the end of season six, and in season seven, they live together with their daughter. True love – a happy ending.

Now, being a crime writer, I ‘love’ an added twist. Wikipedia informs me ‘Created by Hart Hanson, the series is very loosely based on the life and writings of novelist and forensic anthropologist Kathy Reichs, who also produces the show. Its title character, Temperance Brennan, is named after the protagonist of Reichs’ crime novel series. Conversely, Dr. Brennan writes successful mystery novels based around a fictional (in the Bones universe) forensic anthropologist named Kathy Reichs.’

I’m sure there are lots more, but that’s enough love from me 🙂

What do you think?

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Thanks Mel – a great post and a perfect excuse for me to add some hot pics!

I’ve got one more of my own to add. One that I’m sure Mel will agree with…

Idris Elba and Ruth Wilson (Luther & Alice)

LUTHER

The delicious DCI John Luther and the enigmatic psychopath, Alice Morgan… these two are smokin’ hot. Can’t wait for the next series!

Who are your favourite sexy crime couples? Feel free to let us know in the comments below…

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About Mel

Born and raised in Stoke on Trent, Staffordshire, Mel used her beloved city as a backdrop for her first novel, Taunting the Dead, and it went on to be a Kindle #1 best seller in three different categories and #3 in the overall charts. It is also in the top 100 kindle best selling books of 2012. Mel’s new series of psychological suspense, The Estate, is set in the fictional place of Stockleigh because she believes that the Mitchell Estate can be found a few miles from anywhere in any town or city…

Mel is represented by Madeleine Milburn Literary Agency. You can find out more at melsherratt.co.uk on twitter as @writermels and on Facebook.

 

Off The Record 2 – At The Movies #OTR2

I haven’t posted anything here for a while, but that’s not because I’m a slacker… it’s actually because I’ve been doing a lot of writing – which was my main aim after Harrogate (it was also to get the first draft of my novel finished, but that’s another post, coming soon…)

So I’d like to tell you about one of the things I’ve been up to.

You might have heard of a pretty cool short story anthology called Off The Record, where all the stories were based on song titles and all the proceeds went to charity… if not, you can download it for kindle here.

After the success of the original, editor Luca Veste has gone and created another one (this time with the help of Paul D. Brazill). It features stories from the likes of Helen Fitzgerald, Clare McGowan and Steve Mosby to name just three (the full list is here)

Again, the proceeds will be donated to literary charities (National Literacy Trust – UK and Children’s Literacy Initiative – US), but this time, instead of songs, the stories are all based around a diverse range of movie titles such as ‘Dead Man Walking’, ‘The Graduate’ and ‘Gregory’s Girl’… and also, ‘Pretty Woman’ – which was written by me. I can’t tell you how thrilled I was to be invited by Luca to submit a story… and I’m delighted to be included in this collection with so many fantastic writers. I don’t really want to tell you much about ‘Pretty Woman’ as I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who decides to read it, but all I will say is that it’s of the crime genre, and it ain’t pretty!

It’s out on 26th September on Amazon – and I really hope you’ll take a look. A short story collection with a great cover, filled with great authors and great stories and all for a great cause – what more could you want?!

(note to self: buy new thesaurus)

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Some of the other contributors have also blogged about the collection – please go and take a look (I’ll update when I have more)

  • James Etherington blogs about OTR2 here
  • RJ Barker blogs about OTR2 here
  • Erik Arneson blogs about OTR2 here
  • Mel Sherratt blogs about OTR2 here