Lauren and Gnarly
Lauren Carr is the best-selling author of the Mac Faraday Mysteries, which takes place in Deep Creek Lake, Maryland. Each installment of Lauren’s hit mystery series, starting with It’s Murder, My Son which was released in June 2010, has made the best-seller’s list on Amazon. Twelve to Murder is the seventh Mac Faraday mystery.
Also receiving rave reviews, Dead on Ice, released September 2012, introduced a new series entitled Lovers in Crime, which features prosecutor Joshua Thornton with homicide detective Cameron Gates. The second book in this series, Real Murder, will be released April 2014.
Mac Faraday’s plan to spend a quiet weekend home alone with his lady love, Archie Monday, is shattered by murder.
A middle aged couple are brutally murdered in their summer place on Deep Creek Lake. To any other detective, the case would be considered open and shut when it appears as if one of the victims has written her killer’s name in her blood—not so for Mac Faraday, who believes there is more to this case than meets the eye.
ISBN-13: 978-0989180467 * ISBN-10: 0989180468 • ASIN: TBD
Pub. Date: February 14, 2014 • Trade Paperback/Kindle • $12.99 (Print)/$0.99 (EBook)
Where’s your flinch threshold?
You know what I’m talking about. That invisible line that a writer crosses in her book that makes you cringe. It can be a sex scene that names body parts, a fight scene in which you can actually “hear” the bones breaking even while reading it, or the single instance of a character uttering the f-word.
If you’re like most readers, the threshold is not one that you can express. You just know it when you read it—when the writer drags you across the line, you flinch and consider tossing the book into the fireplace. (Careful. Don’t forget that you’re reading that book on an e-reader when you make that toss into the flames.)
Some readers set their threshold so low, that they can have difficulty in finding “clean” books. By clean, that means books that don’t have explicit sex, gory violence, and vulgar language. You can read the “look inside” feature on Amazon, but that only lets you check out the first few pages. Suppose the hot and steamy love scene that will make your hair curl is on page 142?
Well, I’ve got a website for you. It’s called Clean Indie Reads, a blog dedicated to featuring books that are flinch-free of excessive sex, violence, or vulgar language. They have books from every genre (except erotica).
According to Clean Indie Reads’ standards, as written by founder Lia London, books endorsed by Clean Indie Reads must meet these standards:
They contain no erotica or sexually explicit scenes. There should be nothing that gives a play-by-play description of a sexual encounter or describes nudity in detail. Mild innuendo, reference to sensual or sexual activity that is “off screen” and not graphically portrayed may be used in some books written for adults, but that will show up in the interview with the author on the book’s page (on the Clean Indie Readers website.)
They contain no graphic violence or gore. There should be nothing that paints a very specific and horrific image in the reader’s mind. Scenes generally described as appropriate for war stories, crime stories, etc. may be present, but that will show up in the interview with the author on the book’s page.
The authors have curtailed offensive language. There should be no use of the “F-word”. Other words commonly considered as swearing and/or racially offensive terms should be used very sparingly, if at all. If such words are present in an effort to mimic speech in times of great duress for a character (and not just peppered in gratuitously), this will be noted in the interview with the author on the book’s page.
I was very proud when my Mac Faraday Mysteries, and Dead on Ice, the first in the Lovers in Crime Mysteries, were endorsed by Clean Indie Reads for being cringe-free. (Real Murder, the second installment in the Lovers in Crime, will be released in May and, like the rest of my books, most likely will have the same endorsement.)
Believe it or not, flinch thresholds vary from reader to reader, which can make it difficult for writers, especially writers of crime fiction. Even with this endorsement from Clean Indie Reads, there are some readers whose flinch threshold are so low, my clean murder mysteries are still capable of making them balk.
This week, a reader posted a review for A Small Case of Murder, my very first book, complaining that she was offended by the explicit sex scene that named body parts. Here’s the funny part: There are no sex scenes in that book! None whatsoever!
After much scratching of my head, I concluded that she had to be talking about a scene in which the medical examiner described, based on the evidence in the case, how the murder happened during a sexual encounter. Yes, he named body parts, with the same detachment that a doctor will say, “breast” when talking about a mammogram.
Here’s the kicker: Within hours of this reader posting that review stating that she didn’t like the explicit scene naming body parts, a potential reader posted a comment thanking her because she was just about to buy the book, but certainly will not purchase a book that “cheapens sex.”
Excuse me, there is no sex scene in that book, cheap or otherwise.
It’s like my son Tristan when it comes to Buffalo wings. Once, we went to a restaurant that offered Dragon Wings. Tristan ordered a whole plate for himself. While the server and restaurant manager watched in dismay, he ate the whole plate. He declared them okay, but not at all as hot as he would have liked for them being called “dragon wings”. He could have eaten them hotter.
Yet, my husband, who has a low pain threshold, can’t stand even the smell of mild Buffalo wings.
It is because everyone’s threshold is different that Lia London makes the final call when an author submits their book to Clean Indie Reads. Granted, so many authors submit their books to Clean Reads, she can’t read each one. She pretty much has to take the author’s word for it that their books meet the site’s standards. “I think, for the most part, the folks who want to be featured on CIR are not trying to market to explicit audiences anyway. It makes no sense to put yourself in a venue where readers won’t want your material.”
Like Jack’s and Tristan’s varying opinion when it comes to chicken wings–
Everyone has a different threshold for sex (some people are offended by characters having sex, even if it is off-stage), foul–language (Yep, another reader objected with my use of the word “damn” during a heated exchange between Joshua Thornton and a drunk character), or violence. One reader declared that The Lady Who Cried Murder was too gory, even though the murders happened off stage and are never described. Readers are simply told that the victims were dismembered. Yep, this book is endorsed by Clean Indie Reads, but still, it was not clean enough for this reader who obviously has a very low flinch-threshold.
Recently, another author whose thriller had been endorsed as a clean read by Clean Indie Reads posted his concern that his book would be yanked after a reader declared on Amazon that his book too violent. In response, Lia London responded by explaining how some readers are much more sensitive than others and sometimes reviews posted by readers can be misleading. She went on to recall a recent review that had been posted for my first Lovers in Crime Mystery, Dead on Ice.
The review posted on Amazon said “stay away from the sex scenes, imagination is much better.” This comment had me scratching my head. There was not one sex scene in that book, either. The Lovers in Crime, Joshua Thornton and Cameron Gates do kiss. What is this reader talking about? I was still wracking my brain when I got an email from Lia to ask about the sex scene that this reviewer was referring to.
The only scene that I could think of was one in which Cameron comes in after Joshua has taken a hot steamy shower and kisses him. He’s wearing pajamas and a bathrobe. She is fully dressed, including a winter coat and gloves and boots. They are standing upright, all feet on the floor, in the kitchen. Maybe this reader thought it was too steamy because Joshua has just come out of a hot shower.
So, I sent that chapter to Lia. All she could do was laugh.
Writing clean murder mysteries is basically a tightrope walk. By the nature of the genre, we do have bad guys who most likely swear and have sex and commit acts of violence (otherwise, where does the murder come from?).
As a writer, it took me several years to learn and accept the fact that each reader is different, and each reader has a different threshold. If, as an author, I try to keep my writing from crossing every reader’s flinch threshold, then my mysteries will end up with all of the victims neatly poisoned by nice polite people, none of whom are sexually active or use four-letter words, no matter how insanely homicidal they may be.
So, I go by my flinch-threshold when writing my murder mysteries, which happens to be the same threshold as Clean Indie Reads.
This reminds me of a conversation I once had with a friend when I first started writing mysteries. She complained that I have a lot of dysfunctional characters in my books. She wasn’t referring to the protagonists.
I replied, “Duh, my books are murder mysteries. Generally, functional people do not commit murder. If I only had functional people in my books, then I wouldn’t have any murder, which means there would be no mystery, which means my protagonist wouldn’t have a case to solve, which means my readers would be reading pages and pages about nice happy functional people with nothing to do. What kind of murder mystery is that?”
“Whatever,” she said with a roll of her eyes.
No, she’s not a fan. As a matter of fact, she may soon be a victim in one of my books.
My message to readers in this guest blog post:
Determine where your flinch threshold is. When posting a review on Amazon or Goodreads, take your threshold for cringe into account when it comes to sex, violence, or foul language. If your flinch-threshold is set much lower than the average person, keep that in mind before declaring a book gory, or sexually explicit, or filled with foul-language. As a reader, your reader-review, based on an over-sensitivity, may unfairly dissuade someone whose threshold is more normal from buying a book that they would enjoy.
Now is your chance to win an e-book version of Twelve to Murder, the latest Mac Faraday Mystery. Post a comment below stating where your flinch-threshold is. What makes you flinch when reading a book?
The F-Word. Both in books and in real life. When a character uses this word, no matter what the circumstances, I immediately lose respect for that character or person.
You might win a copy of Twelve to Murder by
Lauren Carr! Tell us about your flinch threshold
to enter the drawing for an ebook—there will be
three lucky winners. The winning names will be
pulled on Monday evening, March 10th.