Archive for March, 2012

GUEST POST: Life In Death by Harlow Coban

March 30, 2012 8 comments



Harlow Coban, Author of Life in Death

My story isn’t a warm and fuzzy one.

My father was murdered when I was 12 years of age.

A few years ago, at my uncle’s urging, I looked into what happened to him.  The police had suspects, but no one was ever arrested and the case remains unsolved.

I learned a lot about police procedure when I looked into my father’s murder.  It was then that I decided to write a novel.

While my murder mystery novella, Life in Death, is not entirely based on what happened to my father, it draws from real life experiences I had with him.

Writing the novel was a cathartic experience for me.  What I liked most, and found particularly cleansing, about the experience was my power to spin the story as I saw fit.

We all love, hate, laugh, cry, and everything in between, so we’re never at a loss for stories to tell.

Here’s how you get started writing a novel based on a true story:

  • Determine what kind of story you want to write.  Talk to family and friends.  Look at newspaper articles.  I don’t want to be morose, but look at obituaries, too.  Take notes.  There are stories there.
  • Determine the story’s theme:  Good/evil, love/hate, birth/death, peace/war, etc.  Again, take notes.  This may be where the title of your book comes from or maybe not.  The title of my book came to me in a dream.
  • Construct a compelling plot.  I suggest creating a plot outline to start with.  I used the “what if” technique to determine what would happen in my chapters.  Basically, you ask yourself “what if” this or that happened to your character and expand from there.
  • Create dynamic scenes.  My advice is something has to happen in “every” chapter or scene.
  • Create multi-dimensional characters.  Many writers, including yours truly, base their characters on real people and then add nuances to create more complexity and depth.   This is one way to go.
  • Read, read, read.  The more you read, the better writer you’ll become.
  • Lastly, start writing.  “Begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end; then stop.” ― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland.

Truth can be stranger than fiction, but maybe not as entertaining.  The key to writing a novel based on a true story is in how you spin the story to make it enjoyable for readers.



Life in Death

by Harlow Coban


 Blurb:  When a girl that social worker Kari Marchant places in foster care is brutally murdered, she’s compelled to learn why. Her quest for the truth pits her against friends and coworkers. As Kari works to solve the horrific plot, more people die. She’s been targeted for death and she doesn’t even know it. How far should she go to learn the truth—even if it threatens her life?

When homicide detective Rance Nicolet meets Kari, his attraction to her is powerful—and the feeling is mutual. But things between them go terribly wrong when Kari’s old lover is found murdered with a letter from her in his pocket. The evidence against Kari is damning. Rance’s personal and professional lives collide. Does he blindly believe the woman he’s falling in love with or follow the evidence no matter where it leads?


“Frost. Call on line one.” The voice boomed overhead and interrupted Scott Frost mid-climb. He jumped off his truck, pushed up the sleeves on his dingy green work shirt and walked to the phone mounted on the wall, his face a scowl of irritation

He grabbed the receiver. “Hello.”

“They found Patience,” his wife, Andrea, whispered.

Mammoth garbage trucks rumbled and shook the walls as they rolled out into the street for the day’s work, their giant bellies hungry for trash. Scott strained to hear his wife over the noise.

“I told you never to call me here.”

“Do you know what they did to her?” Her voice rose an octave.

“Hold it together.” He clenched his fist and resisted the impulse to smash it through the wall. “She’s the one who ran off.”

“She didn’t deserve that. Nobody deserves that.”

The phone slipped a bit in his sweaty hand. Tolerance had never been one of Scott’s virtues, and what little he did have waned with each whiny word his wife uttered. “It’ll all be over soon, you know that.”

 “They won’t let us out

He gnashed his teeth together until the noise in his head drowned out the roar of garbage trucks. The pumping of his heart escalated and Scott imagined he could feel his blood pressure rising.

“Damn it, Andrea, take a valium. These people are dangerous. They’ll kill us if we flake out.”

Categories: Twitter, Uncategorized

Autographing ebooks

March 29, 2012 Leave a comment

With the rise in popularity of ebooks comes the need for electronic autographs. Kindlegraph’s been around for a bit, but only now do I see enough people using it. For a primer on Kindlegraph, click here.

Do You Promospam?

March 23, 2012 Leave a comment

If you are a writer, and spend lots of time online, no points for guessing what promospam is. So do you? Check out an interesting post by blogger India Drummond. Click here for the post.

Andrew Stanton (Writer of Toy Story): The clues to a great story

March 16, 2012 Leave a comment

Checkout this awesome video from TED. If you tell stories, this video is for you.

Tell A Thousand Lies: Unleashed!

March 14, 2012 4 comments

My book, Tell A Thousand Lies, is officially out in the world! Print book to follow in a month or less. One line description: A politician bribes an oracle to declare the teen he’s targeted is a Goddess descended from the heavens to endorse him in the elections.

Since I refused a mainstream publishing offer, this is a huge step for me.

For indie authors, word of mouth, as well as reviews on Amazon etc, are absolutely crucial to survival. Should you wish to help, check out the Spread The Word tab above.

Click on the book cover (on your left) to buy the book.

Fiction Contest in Multiple Genres

March 13, 2012 Leave a comment

Novelty fiction is running a short story (500-1,500 words) contest in multiple genres:

  • Action
  • Humor/comedy
  • Romance
  • Thriller/suspense
  • Realistic drama
  • Horror
  • Science fiction.

Click here for details.

Call for Entries – 2012 Independent Publishers

March 12, 2012 Leave a comment

This from the website: The Independent Publisher Book Awards (the “IPPYs”) are intended to bring increased recognition to the thousands of exemplary independent, university, and self-published titles published each year.

Deadline:arch 15, 2012

Click here for details.

My New Book Trailer

March 8, 2012 4 comments

I believe book trailers have to be short in order to be effective. Mine clocks in at 1:08 minutes.

Guest Post: The Philip Dolly Affair

March 4, 2012 5 comments

College Leadership Crisis: The Philip Dolly Affair

By Jann M. Contento & Jeffrey Ross (Rogue Phoenix Press, 2011)

“On the Joys of Co-Authoring and Collaboration”

Jeff:  Jann and I have written several op-eds and quasi-academic articles together over the years. We have been kindred spirits, I suppose, in many respects. I think early on I asked him to help me do some research for an article I was working on about community college purpose. That experience proved successful, and I continued to rely on him for help. Pretty soon, we worked together more collaboratively on a piece—I think it was “Hudson Heroes, Potomac Pundits, and Leadership in America “(Academic Leader, 209)—that more or less cemented our working relationship as writers.

Concerning our current novel, The Philip Dolly Affair—Jann had the original idea to develop the text. I had written a short story, “Call Me Phil”, which was published on back in 2008—about a recently “fired” community college president. Jann thought we could take that original story, add characters and plot, and provide an in depth analysis of community college culture – in a satiric manner. We decided we could cover legions of community college issues using fiction as our medium—and give our story an ethnographic or case study-like quality even while providing a comic read.

We share a belief that satire is instructional—and we are united in our belief that it is very difficult to affect change in community college policy and culture within the culture itself. [Change, we sense, is resisted. But this can be said for most of corporate America now—most of us have become good corporate citizens on one level or another]

I suppose I could lay claim to many of the character “sketches” in the book—and Jann did most of the research and work on the Argentina-focused middle section—but the truth is, we were both involved in nearly every page and machination. I looked “in” my computer the other day and found hundreds and hundreds and hundred of novel-related sketches, rewrites, alternate endings— Thank goodness for computers and word processing.

Certainly we are both comfortable with drafting, editing, and revising. [Thanks to some very good advice from our publisher/editor, Christine Young, we were able to re-mix the conclusion and bring a nicely satisfactory closure to a few of the romantic relationships and plot lines]. We are both interested in non-traditional fiction—and like the idea of mixing narrative, poetry, song lyrics, and theatre-like dialogue in the same text.

I think a significant “collaborative” concept we developed together involves the Argentine politically-charged Shadow World which constitutes the middle of The Phil Dolly Affair. During many early morning discussions, we worked out the idea of using a different culture, a different education system, yes even a different historical period, to provide a “foil” for many of the situational events flourishing at 21st century American community colleges. Once this section was orchestrated successfully, we could easily move in the comic denouement of the third section—an absurd Marxist interpretation of Dr. Dolly’s rapid decline.

While community colleges are currently receiving heightened attention, this novel provides a behind-the-scenes analysis of many whispered truths, those simmering but unspoken workplace behaviors, issues, and machinations every worker (Everyman!) will recognize. A humorous and biting read with a clever mix of satire, political intrigue, failed romances, and tragic-comedy, this novel will open your eyes to the truth about community colleges …



The authors will be giving away a novel-companion e-form [PDF] “chapbook” of poetry “voiced” by one of the novel’s characters, Spanish Professor Jack Frost, to one randomly drawn commenter, as well as to the host with the most comments.) and encourage your readers to follow the tour and comment; the more they comment, the better their chances of winning. The tour dates can be found here:



Jann M. Contento has a broad range of experiences in higher education including student affairs administration, athletics, and institutional research. He is currently working in a community college setting and has co-authored several articles on leadership and college culture.

Jeffrey Ross, who resides in Gilbert, Arizona with his wife and son, is a writer, rockabilly musician, and former full-time community college teacher. He has had four “Views” pieces published on since 2007, has authored and co-authored several op-ed articles on community college identity, purpose, and culture, and has recently had several pieces published on the Cronk News  higher education satire website.

Online Presence and Social Media Links

Face book Info Page

Getting to Know Phil Dolly Blog

Twitter Account @SalinasChick!/salinaschick

Jeffrey Ross Creative Efforts  Home Page on Web Eden (Music and More)

Jeffrey Ross Open Salon Blog—other poetry and essays

Categories: Guest Blogs

Unpublished Writers: Now’s Your Chance

Literary Agent, Janet Reid, announces the Liz Norris Pay It Forward Writing Contest. If you’re not represented by an agent, and if you’re not self-published, here’s your chance to snag a literary agent. The prize offered is Registration for the Backspace Writing Conference in NYC (May 24-26), travel stipend of $300, and a three night hotel stay

Click here for details.