I often get requests through my contact page from people wanting to guest post, and I don’t often accept them.
But this one, from Louis Sharman, intrigued me – and when I read it, I knew I had to have him on my blog.
I love non-fiction crime books. They are the skeletons in closets, the dark secrets in the shadows. My first was Helter Skelter, dealing with the Charles Manson murder spree. Not exactly light reading for a 12 year old – yes, I was precocious.
But it was fascinating, and horrific, and riveting. I was hooked.
So, let me turn it over to Louis.
There is something about non-fiction crime books that just works – the stories, the personalities and the realisation that this stuff actually happened is a heady mix.
In the publishing world there are a plethora of genres and sub-genres for people to dip into, but for some readers there is nothing more fascinating than finding out about an often nasty character and the terrible things they did. The more grisly the situation, the greater the interest it can inspire.
Rather than being a sign that the reader in question is completely barmy or bloodthirsty, it is simply a long-term phenomenon: people enjoy reading these tales.
Of course, not all true crime stories are going to be focused on a glamorous or notorious serial murderer – white-collar crimes can be just as devious if not as bloody – but all share the ability to take you into a world that is essentially your own, but is populated by the sort of people you fear.
Truth is stranger than fiction
Life has a habit of being utterly bizarre, which is part of what makes non-fiction so fascinating, since you know that everything that you are reading actually happened at some point – it has not just been dreamt up by some creative young novelist. This adds weight to every word of the book and makes it much more thrilling when the story takes twists and turns.
It is one thing for someone to tell you an exciting story, but quite another to say that it happened to someone they knew. In this way, you almost feel implicated in the tale, particularly if it is something that happened during your lifetime. You wonder how the criminal got away with it and how you would have reacted if you had encountered them.
To a certain extent these are ideas that a fictional story will inspire too, but the knowledge that the book is real makes it all the more poignant.
Another part of the attraction for some people is the way you can dig a little deeper when you come across a story that fascinates you. Whether you decide to check the National Archives (or an equivalent organisation) for official records of the criminal in question, or simply find another book about them, you are able to develop your knowledge and come across new perspectives.
In contrast, a fiction book is often a little limited in this way, since you are restricted to the material published by the author – unless you indulge in fan fiction you find online. There will always be critical discussions of the best books – both fiction and non-fiction – but true stories offer greater scope for research.
These investigations need not be limited to just the person at the centre of the crimes; you can read around the society they inhabited, the state of the nation during their lifetime or simply the quality of police intelligence they would have come up against. All of these factors can help you appreciate what that criminal did and what this can teach us about humanity.
Author Bio: Louis Sharman is an avid blogger and writes for a plethora of subjects ranging from book reviews to suggesting the importance of ebooks in modern culture. He lives in London, UK and enjoys reviewing the most recent true stories about crime. He is also an amateur photographer and has a great collection of photography books.
Thank you, Louis, for sharing this wonderful post.
Now for the rest of you – do you read these books? What was your first? Your favorite?
I hope you enjoyed delving into this topic as much as I did.
Until next time – read on. With the lights burning.
I am thrilled to have author J.E. Taylor here today, making a stop on her blog tour for Don’t Fear The Reaper.
I devoured the book, and thoroughly enjoyed it. My review will be coming on Friday. Until then, please welcome J.E., and her post on lessons learned.
Hi all! My name is Jane E. Taylor, JET for short, and I’ve been in the business for a couple years now, both as an author and as a publisher. I thought it might be beneficial to other authors starting out if I talked about my experiences leading up to this point.
One of the most important lessons I learned is first impressions are everything.
A good query letter can make all the difference in the world in whether the agent or publisher will actually read your submission, so make sure you understand what a query letter entails BEFORE you start shopping your manuscript around.
I hate writing query letters and book blurbs. Most writers do. It requires us to boil the story we’ve spent the last who knows how long sweating out onto the page into a few short snappy sentences created to get an agent or publisher to raise an eyebrow and read the rest of our submission.
I’ve found that most times, a well crafted blurb means a well crafted book – especially when the book.
I know I’m not alone in this opinion, so how do you get from a 70,000 word novel to a paragraph or two summary that’s compelling and captures the essence of the book?
Well it’s time to go back to school and the notion of a book report. What’s the main theme? I’m sure you could write a ten thousand word dissertation on your theme but that’s not going to catch a reader’s attention.
Because I don’t have his actual query letter, let’s take a look at the original cover copy for my favorite all time book – The Stand:
“This is the way the world ends: with a nanosecond of computer error in a Defense Department laboratory and a million casual contacts that form the links in a chain letter of death.
And here is the bleak new world of the day after: a world stripped of its institutions and emptied of 99 percent of its people. A world in which a handful of panicky survivors choose sides — or are chosen. A world in which good rides on the frail shoulders of the 108-year-old Mother Abigail — and the worst nightmares of evil are embodied in a man with a lethal smile and unspeakable powers: Randall Flagg, the dark man.”
Now Mr. King could have chosen any number of key characters but he focused on the central theme of good and evil. He goes a step further by leaving us hanging; tickling our interest without hinting at the battle we know is inevitable when people take sides.
Read the blurb aloud. I dare you.
Now tell me that didn’t give you goosebumps. Even if you’ve never read The Stand – this is enough to get you to read the first few pages of that mammoth manuscript.
As an editor, if this blurb passed over my desk, I would be compelled to stop and re-read it, relish the unspoken poetry of it and of course, I’d ask for the full manuscript. Not because this is Stephen King, but because he gave me just enough to tickle that spot. That spot that demands attention, demands to be scratched. Just enough for me to have to know what happens next.
Incredible power and that’s exactly what you should strive for in writing your query letter, but don’t stop there, the book has to deliver the promise you make in the blurb, so make sure your prose are just as sharp and satisfying.
Thanks for hanging with me for a bit.
In the meantime, check out Don’t Fear the Reaper, the first book in The Death Chronicles series that I wrote with my twelve-year-old son!
buy at Amazon
The day Nick Ramsay’s eighth-grade teacher drops dead in his classroom, Nick sees his first reaper. When another cloaked figure appears at his grandmother’s bedside, Nick issues an order for the vile creature to leave her alone.
This simple act of defiance creates a domino effect that brings Fate and Death to Nick’s door and reveals his true lineage, throwing his world into chaos. To make matters worse, a group of rogue reapers declares war on humanity and Nick is the only one who can stop them.
Thank you, J.E.! I will be interested to see the comments on this post. You can find out more about J.E. at her website.
Come back on Friday for my review of Don’t Fear The Reaper.
Until next time – read on.
Good morning! I am thrilled to have Suzanne Anderson as my guest blogger today. She is the author of God Loves You. – Chester Blue, a book that is now at the top of my TBR list.
She has a wonderful post on the evolution of publishing. So come join us, and share your own thoughts.
Take it away, Suzanne!
What are Your Thoughts on Tradition? The Evolution of Publishing
By Suzanne Anderson
When I think of tradition, I think of the comfort of the tried and true. Traditional is comfortable because the way has already been taken by those who came before, so you know what to expect.
Non-traditional is riskier. And there are likely to be fewer gatekeepers, which means that anyone can enter onto the gates of the country club.
Which is exactly why I think this is the best time in history to be an author. Yes, indie-publishing has created a crowded field where anyone can publish a book and there are no gatekeepers to pronounce who is worthy of presenting themselves to readers. But for authors it means that you now have more options. You can pursue the traditional route of agent and publisher, or you can do it all yourself. Which is a wonderfully entrepreneurial freedom in an industry which was for so many years dominated by a few huge mega-corporations.
For readers, the blasting open of the publishing world means that they not only get introduced new authors, they’ve enjoyed enormous price reductions in the cost of paper books, and in the case of e-books, a daily download opportunity of free books. When you, as a reader, look back at the books you’ve read in the past year, how many of them were by new authors you would never have considered if not for a free book offering? How many indie-authors have you tried in the past year? How have these changes in publishing changed your reading habits or the books you’ll consider reading?
As with any evolution in business that makes quantum leaps in a few years, due to technological advancements (e-readers), there will be bumps and bruises for both sides. But in the end, I believe the revolution that we are now living through will ultimately be viewed as blood transfusion that saved a dying industry.
Thank you, Suzanne – a great post, with some thought-prooking questions for both writers and readers.
And here is a bit more about Suzanne and her book.
What if when you most needed help, a blue bear appeared with a note from God?
One night, Miss Millie of Blossom, Ohio turns her face to the stars and asks God for help. The next day, a package arrives on her doorstep containing a blue teddy bear and a very special note.
Over the course of a year, this remarkable blue bear travels across the country, showing up just when he’s needed most. During his journey, Chester Blue helps a young girl trying to impress her big sisters; saves a sailor caught in a terrible storm; reunites two constantly fighting brothers; helps a cowboy become a rodeo clown; and aids a father and daughter in bonding after divorce.
If you ever needed a message from God, it’s here…
Find out more about Suzanne here.
Buy her book at Amazon.
And connect with her here:
Thank you for stopping by, Suzanne – it was a pleasure having you here today, and you are more than welcome to come hang out anytime.
Until next time – read on.
Good morning! I am thrilled to have Deidre here today, with her fascinating book Saving Mary.
Here’s a little intro:
If you’re a fan of supernatural fiction then you will be captivated by this true story about a spiritually sensitive girl and the path that led to her possession. Part one of a two-part series, Saving Mary is the story of a modern-day Mary Magdalene—the woman from whom Jesus cast out seven demons.
What is Your View on Authority?
By Deidre Havrelock
I have a saying, “There’s nothing that terrifies women more than religion or marriage—everyone wants authority over us.” So those are my two events, marriage and religion. My first view of authority came from my nightmare where Satan forcibly married me. As I grew older, I felt the “marriage” was there to make me feel “bound by his authority.” I belonged to him. And, therefore, I would have to obey him. And since marriage to a little Catholic girl is “forever” … well, you can imagine how I felt.
But my view of authority changed because of the women in my life. My mom had full authority in our house mostly because my dad was an alcoholic and was unhealthy and unavailable to help out. My grandmother was just as authoritative, if not more. She fought for women’s rights in Canada and eventually changed a law—for the better. I saw her as a woman who wasn’t scared to stand against something that was wrong, even though most people accepted it. She was a great role model for me in terms of guts and courage.
But God also played a huge part in my life. God to me was never mean or a dictator. I believed he was working to get me out of my life’s circumstances and eventually he did (even though it took a long time). When I became a Christian, the Holy Spirit revealed her feminine nature to me and I was awestruck. God was male (Jesus) and also female (Spirit). One was not “over” the other—they just belonged together as one person. But when I began attending church religion kicked in, and that’s when things got weird. I was told my husband had authority over me (he was the “head” and I was more like a “neck”) and that a good wife submits to her husband’s leading. This all felt terribly wrong to us (after all, the Holy Spirit kept wanting to lead us both). I was also told (not by everyone mind you) that feminists were angry man haters who were bucking the natural order of submission. They were “rebellious.” I was never sure who these “rebellious feminists” were, but I didn’t want to get branded with the same title. So I stayed silent about my feelings, for a long while.
My husband and I, however, wanted to be a team and not a hierarchy. We wanted to share authority. Most churches we attended often seemed so confused over men/women relations (women could do this but not this). My husband and I just stayed close to the Holy Spirit, and God got us through the confusion of church. All and all, I would say I grew up with an extremely healthy view of authority. Evil always seeks authority, but submit yourself to the unity of God and you’ll be okay. I’m a Bible teacher now and I love to teach on the biblical view of authority: men and women standing side-by-side, sharing in Christ and the Spirit’s authority—as though they were all one person. Yes, that’s actually in the Bible. Who knew!
It is common for one’s view of authority to develop in their adolescent years. What is your view of authority, and what event most affected it?
Thank you, Deidre, for that insightful post - and for sharing so much of yourself with my readers. I look forward to the comments on this post!
Want to find out more about Deidre, or connect with her? You can find her here:
Thanks for stopping by, and thank you again, Deidre, for sharing your experiences. I look forward to reading your book.
Until next time – read on.
Good morning! What a month it’s been – and today is a highlight for me. I get to hang out with some of my favorite authors over at the Beach Book Blast. Free and 99 cent books for every taste! And, if all the great books weren’t enough, you can enter to win a Kindle Fire.
Is it any wonder my head is spinning?
See you all there – and read on!
Good morning! I would like to welcome my guest blogger, Chris Karlsen, who has just released Golden Chariot, and is touring the blog circuit.
She is also doing a giveaway – just leave a comment on this blog to enter for a chance to win a free ebook copy of Golden Chariot.
Here is a sneak peek:
GOLDEN CHARIOT By Chris Karlsen
Genre: romantic thriller
Myth, murder, and money clash in this gripping undersea adventure.
The rare discovery of a ship sunk during the time of the Trojan War has been found off the coast of Turkey, near Troy. Charlotte Dashiell is an American nautical archaeologist and thrilled to be part of the recovery team. The wreck may contain proof of her highly controversial theory about the Trojan War.
Charlotte is present when the Turkish government agent assigned to guard the site is murdered. Her possible involvement and a questionable connection to a private collector of black market relics bring her under suspicion. Atakan Vadim is the Turkish agent sent to investigate her. Unknown to either of them, the smuggler behind the murder plans to steal a valuable artifact and frame Charlotte for the theft…after they murder her.
Shouts of “fire” came from all sides of the camp. The west wind blew sparks in the direction of the lab. They could lose the entire camp, but not the lab, not the artifacts.
Charlotte grabbed an empty barrel from the fire line. She ran with it and started climbing the stairs to the shower stall’s water tank. A man’s large hand covered her mouth. His other hand brandished a gun. With the cold barrel to her ear, he walked her backwards down the few steps to the ground.
“Don’t scream.” Little-by-little his palm came away from her mouth.
Now, I’ll turn you over to Chris.
By Chris Karlsen
I read and enjoy both plot driven and character driven books. I prefer to write character driven stories. After attending numerous workshops and seminars, I’ve learned that like plotting, how characterization is handled is individual to the author.
I find the variance among my favorite authors intriguing. With some thrillers I read, the protagonist’s appearance is vague. This seems especially true when the running character in a series is male. In others, the hero is easy to picture, his appearance is well detailed. But in both styles, the reader is given much more of the hero as a person, which is what is truly important. I like knowing how he dresses, what music he listens to, and what he does to relax. The part that pulls me in, engages me is when I learn what he’ll forgive. I want to see how he goes about analyzing a problem and what he has to do to solve it. What is he willing to do?
In romance, which is what I write, the hero and heroine’s appearance has a more dominant role in the story. By personal choice, I don’t make either the handsomest or prettiest person in the room. I’ve made them handsome and pretty, yes, but in the cases where I’ve done that, I worked to build in many aspects of their personalities. The hero and heroine’s attraction for each other is more than physical. In my latest book, Golden Chariot, I deliberately played down the physical. Is the hero, Atakan Vadim, a nice looking man? Yes. Is the heroine, Charlotte Dashiell, a nice looking woman? Yes. Their relationship and how it grows is based on respect, shared humor, and trust. They didn’t have to be the handsomest or prettiest in the room. What mattered was how they saw each other.
I chose to focus more on their goals, what they wanted for themselves and what path they took to overcome adversity. As I wrote them, I strived to uncover what they were willing to sacrifice.
In Golden Chariot, Atakan is an agent of the government. He prides himself on his professionalism. There is a point in the story that he must make a choice regarding Charlotte that jeopardizes his position. Charlotte, a nautical archaeologist, is driven to prove a controversial theory. She has one opportunity, which is the shipwreck project in the story, to find evidence for her theory or forfeit all she’s worked toward for years. That ambition drives her decisions even though it puts her life at risk.
While attending a Don Maass seminar I received a great piece of advice when developing characterization. I’m paraphrasing, but Don suggested having the characters do the unexpected. Your hero or heroine says or does something that he or she can’t take back. It doesn’t have to be a game changer but it has to have dramatic effect. This can also apply to the antagonist. He or she does a random act of kindness or shows an unexpected sense of humor. This doesn’t have to be a game changer either or have the same dramatic effect as the unexpected deed of the protagonist. But it does help to flesh out the antagonist as a character. It adds interest, he or she is not a one-dimensional villain.
I had finished the rough draft of Golden Chariot when I attended the seminar. When I did the second draft I applied Don’s suggestion. I had Charlotte make an unethical choice, foolish and knowingly wrong. Her choice had a dramatic negative effect on her relationship with Atakan. It ramped up the tension and gave her a new stressor. She had to regain his trust or lose everything.
The antagonist is a contract killer, cold blooded and without mercy. He was once with an elite Russian military unit that fought in Chechnya. I gave him a moment with a blind veteran of that war. It didn’t change him as an evil character but I feel it added an interesting side to his personality.
I think the most important part of characterization is your willingness as an author to dig deep. Don’t shy away from having the hero and heroine react in a way that makes the reader sit up and go, “Oh, no.” Or “Oh, yes.”
About the Author:
Chris Karlsen is a retired police detective who spent twenty-five years in law enforcement with two different agencies. Her father was a history professor and her mother an avid reader. She grew up with a love of history and books.
She has always loved traveling and has traveled extensively throughout Europe, the Near East (especially Turkey and the Greek Islands), the Caribbean, and North Africa.
Born and raised in Chicago, Chris has also lived in Paris, Los Angeles, and currently resides in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and four rescue dogs.
Thank you, Chris, for sharing your process on characterization.
Remember to leave a comment, so you can be entered in the giveaway for a copy of Golden Chariot.
Until next time – read on.