Sunday, June 26, 2011

Maybe a Killer Lurks Around the Corner

Killers lurk around someone's corner, they have to--could it be yours?

Do mystery writers spend time looking at the people around them wondering if someone is a potential murderer?

Is the guy behind you in the check-out line at the movies planning how he might do away with his wife? Or is he just wondering how he let her talking him into bringing 5 little boys to see CARS?

What about the strange kid lurking around the parking lot of the 99 cent store seeming to have an unhealthy interest in the parked cars? Maybe he's been paid to take someone out and he's wandering around trying to boost his courage. Or maybe he's just trying to find an unlocked car with interesting items inside to steal.

The fellow who always has a way of staring lecherously at any woman who comes near him? Is he a rapist just looking for a ripe opportunity? Or is he just a sex deprived male hoping to get this thrills anyway he can?

The grumpy old man who growls at the kids if they come near his house, could he have a horrible secret buried in his basement?

All a mystery writers has to do is look around to find potential killers to write about. What about you? Is there a killer lurking around your corner?


Thursday, June 23, 2011

Guest Post from Nancy Farrell

Help me welcome Nancy to Criminal Minds at Work. She is offering some interesting facts about the connection between....

...Real-Life Killers and the Fictional Characters They Inspired

Novelists take inspiration from many different places. Some look to their own lives, some look to art, and some look to history. Inspiration can be one of the most difficult things to find when seeking to create something. While many may find it disturbing or odd that serial killers inspire art, it is actually quite logical. Inspiration comes from things that are unusual and unknown. Curiosity is the greatest muse. We are intrigued by murderers because their mindset is so unfamiliar to us. Part of great story telling is creating a character that makes the reader question their own beliefs and the beliefs of that character. These real life murderers inspired some of the most fascinating and well known fictional characters in history.

Jeffery Dahmer and Zombie
Hugely famous American author, Joyce Carol Oates is known for her gruesome portrayal of difficult subjects throughout her literature. Often approaching the issues of violence, murder, and rape, Oates' writing style and subject matter have been received positively by literary critics throughout her active career. Oates' 1995 novel Zombie is based on the life of prolific serial killer Jeffery Dahmer. The novel was received well by critics, but is often described as too graphic and haunting to sit through by readers. The novel follows the life of a man in his 30's who seeks to make a "zombie" of an unsuspecting male companion. The real-life Dahmer was an American serial kill and sex offender between the years 1978 and 1991. Dahmer brutally murdered 17 men and boys during this time period. Finally caught and sentenced to imprisonment in 1994, Dahmer was beaten to death by an inmate before he could serve his full sentence.

Ed Gein and Psycho
The 1959 novel Psycho has born one of the most recognized fictional villains of all time. Norman Bates, the middle-aged man completely controlled by his mean mother, is the main character of the novel and has in many ways outshined (if you can put it that way) than the real-life man that inspired him. Norman Bates' character was based off of real-life serial killer Ed Gein. Born in 1906, Gein was a prolific American murderer and graver robber. Gein only murdered two individuals, not qualifying him as a serial killer. However, his case gained widespread media attention because he stole bodies from local graveyards and fashioned trophies from the remains to be displayed around his home. While Gein's actual crimes are not as gruesome or note worthy as many others throughout history, his influence on popular culture and media is unquestionable. Other than Norman Bates, both Leatherface from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Buffalo Bill for The Silence of the Lambs are based on Ed Gein and his crimes.

Ted Bundy and The Silence of the Lambs
First introducing the world to Dr. Hannibal Lecter in 1981 when he published Red Dragon, author Thomas Harris created one the most prolific fictional villains in history. Though the film series became wildly more popular, Silence of the Lambs originated as a novel. While Lector's character is far better known, the primary antagonist of the novel is Jame Gumb, also known as Buffalo Bill. Jame Gumb is believed to be based on four different real-life serial killers: Ed Gein, Ted Bundy, Gary M. Heidnik, and Edmund Kemper. Ted Bundy killed dozens of women in the 1970s by feigning injury to lure them into his vehicle. Gary M. Heidnik would hold women captive in a deep hole in his basement. Edmund Kemper's first victims, like Gumb, where his grandparents.


Nancy Farrell is a freelance writer and blogger. She regularly contributes to the Criminal Justice Degrees, which discusses issues about child abuse, human rights, divorce, and crime related articles. Questions or comments can be sent to:

Posted by Maryann Miller, who really needs to be more conscientious about contributing on a regular basis.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Why Your Book Could be The Next Bestseller

Why Your Book Could be The Next Bestseller
By Jeff Bennington

Every writer has his or her own way of carving out their masterpiece. Some sit up in a proper position with their fingers curled just so, like a pianist, in order to keep from getting a crippling case of carpal tunnel syndrome. Some authors snuggle under their covers, or sit on the porch and let the breeze blow across their face while they create. I like to recline, feet up, head back, with a cup of coffee nearby. I frequently act out my scenes, bringing myself to tears as I feel my characters emotions. And yet with all of these preferences, I’ve wondered what makes my words come out different than the next prolifically fascinating author. 

So how is it exactly that my “voice” is unique?

After thinking about this, I’ve come up with a list of reasons why every author has a distinct voice and therefore has a shot at becoming the next best thing because of their uniqueness. As we all know, literature is extremely subjective and trends come and go. If you’re not a vampombie loving artist, you could be writing the next trend at this very moment. Here are a few reasons why you could be the next literary lottery winner.

·      You Have a Unique History! No one has ever lived your life. Your childhood and adolescence and college years have twisted together a very distinct experiential DNA. You cannot avoid the fact that you’ve traveled a road that no one else has dared to explore. It is this voyage that will carry over into your writing, making you different, and fresher than the same old authors that the world reads over and over. Use your story to your advantage. Throw in your memories, your embarrassing moments and your failures into your characters lives and bring the literary world something new.

·      People Bore Easily. As much as I love Lemony Snicket and J.K. Rowling, there will come a time when I get bored with a series and maybe the author as well. When that time comes, I’ll move on to someone new. I might start reading another well-known author or maybe a not so well known literary artist, and your work could be there waiting for me to stumble upon. It’s a great feeling to know that someone picks up your book by accident and falls in love with your writing. After all, accidents do happen!

·      Literature is Subjective. Like I said earlier, one man’s trash is another man’s favorite book. With all the “I’m sorry to inform you” agent form letters I’ve received, you’d think no one would get past the first line of my work, but that’s not the case. My latest book, REUNION, is receiving high marks by a slew of book reviewers at book blogs, Amazon and Goodreads. How is that possible when so many agents passed on my supernatural thriller? Easy. Literature is subjective. Sometimes agents and publishers miss the next trend, or simply enjoy other genres. And sometimes, the publishing world loses touch with what readers want.

·      Being Different is Good. Do you remember the kid in school with the weird haircut? You know, the one who everyone teased but deep inside you wished you could grow a pair as big as his! Then at your ten-year reunion you discovered he’s driving a Mercedes and living on the beach in Sarasota, Florida because he invented a new design to a widget that hadn’t changed in fifty years. Originality pays. Being different is good! Unfortunately, we live in a world that breeds sameness. Our schools and social systems line us up and pin on the qualities that appeal to their needs. They want citizens that stand at attention, say yes to their policies and shut up about it. In my opinion, the best thing any writer can do is break free from unoriginality, forge a new trail and blaze a new path.

The truth is, one hit wonders come and go. Many great books have risen to the top and then sank to the bottom of the literary ocean, rusting and watching the crabs walk over their pages. If you create something new, that will not be the end of your story. You have to continue writing, creating a list of books for readers to choose from, diversifying your portfolio with as much savvy as a Wallstreet wiz kid. Then as soon as you have a captive audience, remake yourself. Of course, if you’re the next J.K. Rowling, don’t stop after The Sorcerer’s Stone! Learn to recognize a good thing. Just know that after you make your millions from your upcoming series, we, as in the readers of the world, will start to yawn and begin looking for the next good book that’ll scratch our story-loving itch.

-Jeff Bennington
Author of REUNION and other thrillers.
Jeff is also the author of The Writing Bomb, featuring thriller authors all summer long!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

What Makes an FBI Agent?

Travelling through southwest Utah a few months ago we came upon a glorious junk store. Tucked into a bottom corner of a toppling shelf were a stack of 'Cornonet' magazines. Now I had never heard of these before but they are a researcher's treasure. I tried not to be greedy and only bought seven about the twenty or so magazines that were there. Have been kicking myself ever since. They actually is a place for greed or whatever it's called when it's not neurotic.

In any case, inside the June 1955 issue I discovered an article titled 'What Makes an FBI Agent' by J. Edgar Hoover. It's listed in the contents between two other tantalizing entries: 'Don't Laugh at Women's Clubs!' and 'Brain Rays: Russia's Secrect Weapon'.

Here's an excerpt from Hoover's piece. Although not very exciting by today's standards, I'm guessing it was racy for the time. Or maybe it was all the 'reading public' was allowed to know.

"No agent can know when the most routine action may suddenly command all his reserves of strength and courage.

Witness what began as an ordinary procedure - two agents spotting and following a fugitive's vehicle on a six-lane West Coast highway. When the fugitive halted at an obstruction, one agent stepped from the car, identified himself and told the man he was under arrest. The fugitive put his car in gear and shot away. Simultaneoulsy, the agent lunged half-way through the window in an attempt to seize the ignition keys.

The car was now traveling at high speed and the cursing fugitive, ignoring orders to halt, swerved it in an effort to rake the agent against roadside poles. The curb saved the agent from being crushed and as the fugitive savagely kicked him in the face the car hurtled the curb and crashed into an office."

Monday, June 13, 2011

Did I Tell You About My New Book?

Writers are worse than grandparents sometimes at extolling the virtues of their newest addition. I am often surprised at how many authors NEED to tell me the plot of their book, from page one to the end. Um, why should I buy the book when you just told me the WHOLE THING???? Anyway.

I have a new suspense novel out this month called SHAKESPEARE'S BLOOD. Here's what you need to know about it:

While touring Britain, Mercedes Maxwell finds a handwritten notebook that claims William Shakespeare had a brother named John who was an agent for James I of England. Captured by outlaws, John died rather than reveal the location of a trove of Spanish gold. When someone is willing to kill for the notebook, Mercedes realizes that the story might be true.
In a reign of terror, those who know about the notebook are murdered and left posed as characters from Shakespearean tragedy. Solving the book’s clues is the only way to stop the killing, but although Mercedes can call on several people for help, she fears that none of them can be trusted where treasure is concerned.
The unraveling of the clues becomes even more critical as the killer turns his sights on Mercedes. The message from the man who called himself John Shakespeare leads her across Britain in a terrifying race to find the treasure, to stay alive, and to learn the secrets of Shakespeare’s blood.
You can buy it for Kindle now. Nook, although slower, is working on it.
Intrigued? Oh, I hope so. Here's the buy link to Kindle:

Saturday, June 11, 2011

There's a New Kid in Town

You're not going to believe this, but as soon as I typed the title to this post, my ipod began playing The New Kid in Town by the Eagles. Seriously!  That just about made my hair stand up. So you'll have to excuse my Kramer-like entrance. Can't help it. I'm here, I'm stoked and I'm excited to be the latest contributor to this way cool blog. With that said, I hope you don't mind if I lay my goods before you and introduce myself.

My name's Jeff Bennington, the author of Reunion, a supernatural thriller, Killing the Giants and The Rumblin'. I love suspense-thrillers and they love me. Currently, I'm wrapping up my next book coming in late 2011 called Act of Vengeance, a supernatural crime thriller. More importantly, my wife and I have been married for 19 years and we have 4 great kids. I also write at my blog, The Writing Bomb, a sight where readers can meet their favorite thriller authors and writers can hang out and talk shop.

Now that I'm here, I should probably make myself useful and give you a taste of what I write.  I'm going to post the first page of Reunion and hopefully wet your appetite for the rest. In a sentence, Reunion is a story about a group of kids who survive a school shooting and then decide to reunite twenty years later only to discover that the school is haunted! Here's a short excerpt...


avid Ray stood in front of his mirror, dressed to kill. I look good, he thought, like the real deal, like a real killer. He narrowed his eyes, grit his teeth and unfolded his checklist. Sharp blades of black hair dangled in front of his face, covering the brownish rings that encircled his eyes. He peered at his scribbled writing and read the list as he felt his insides tense with hatred.
This is it, he thought. No room for mistakes. 
David had learned over time that life needed to be carefully navigated to avoid pain. He had come to the conclusion that the only way to control his life was by controlling the lives around him. The list helped him stay on track. He paced back and forth, quietly going over the details of his plans as his adrenalin increased.
He slouched down at his desk, clenched his hair as it draped over his eyes and pondered how the neglect and abuse he’d suffered had snuffed the music from his soul. David longed for old, familiar melodies to bring him comfort and laughter, but found only the clamoring sound of an off-tempo dirge. Although he tried to arrange the chords and time signatures in a way that was intelligible to his ear, he stepped out of time, his notes were flat, and those around him cringed and laughed. He was humiliated and he hated them for it.
He glanced at a picture on the desk of his mother holding his hand as a young child. It stood in a bright red clay frame; a misshapen art project from the fourth grade. Neither of them looked happy, and a lot had happened over the past eight years. Smiles were a rare commodity in their household. He turned the picture face down and stood up...

Reunion is available in Print at most online retailers and is only .99¢ digitally at Amazon & B&N
Reunion is currently ranked #34 in "Goodreads Best Books of 2011" and is getting rave reviews. Show some killer love and check it out. 

You can find out more about me at Thanks for stopping by. Come back and feel free to comment and ask me anything you want. If you're nice, I'll bring in an excerpt from Act of Vengeance next time! Later.

A Special Criminal Welcome to Author Jeff Bennington

Today, Criminal Minds at Work welcomes another slightly twisted mind into our crime lab (aka blog) -- Jeff Bennington, author of REUNION. I've seen Jeff around on various blogs and social networks, and was recently asked if I'd like to be featured on his blog -- The Writing Bomb. Of course I said yes (yeah, my middle name is "shameless" after all), so you'll soon see me featured there.

When I checked out Jeff's site, I realized this was the same author who had asked for book cover input a while ago, and I believe I had a couple of suggestions for his new novel cover, which I have to admit is very striking and well done.

Here's the description for REUNION:

David Ray killed eight students and then turned the gun on himself. He thought the shooting and suicide would fix his world. It didn't. The massacre threw Tanner Khan and the other survivors into chaos.

Twenty years later, Tanner and his fellow classmates reluctantly agree to hold a reunion to lay the past to rest. Although they suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, they come back to their hometown and reunite in the defunct school building. Old flames are rekindled, fears are ignited, and their lives are about to explode in a whirlwind of memories, haunted by the spirit of David Ray.

Once they're inside the school, they discover that a dark entity has joined them. It has come to collect a debt, long overdue, and someone has to pay. Will Tanner and his classmates overcome their fears, putting the pieces of their lives back together, or will they be consumed by their worst nightmare?

You can check out REUNION on Amazon and other retailers.

~Cheryl Kaye Tardif

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Authors Meeting Authors

I'm attending Printers' Row this weekend under the auspices of Mystery Writers of America's Midwest Chapter. Despite ninety-plus degree weather, slow sales, and a nasty thunderstorm to end the day on Saturday, it's been a good experience, and here's why: authors need to talk to other authors.

We often write in a vacuum, alone in our offices, and these days, much of our promotion is on-line as well. Even many of our shoes-wearing public appearances are with booksellers, librarians, and readers. Now, these are all wonderful people, but I'll tell you a secret. I love to talk to others who struggle with plot and protagonist, method and motive. Other writers.

So while thousands of people wandered by yesterday and looked casually at our offerings, we talked. We learned, or more likely relearned, that we are alike, no matter what our subgenre or who our publisher is. We commiserated on the irritations of publishing and exchanged information on tactics that might sell more books.

It could be depressing: the sheer number of people trying to get noticed in this industry, the lack of understanding of the reading public between a book that's been through a process and a book some clueless innocent throws at the Internet without any process at all. But when a group of (dare I say REAL?) writers get together, it's not depressing. It's a celebration of what we do, what we cannot stop doing.

I drove from northern Michigan to Chicago for this, temporarily exchanging my peaceful home life for traffic and crowds to meet with Julie Hyzy, Tony Perona, Barb D'Amato, and a dozen other writers I've seen only on the Net or in passing at conferences. If I don't sell one book, it will be a success for me to know that they all write books one page at a time, just like I do.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

There's none more powerful

THE TRAZ - Eileen Schuh
If you don't believe my fictional account of the power of biker gangs as related in The Traz, the first novel in my BackTracker series, here's a headline to convince you:
Thirty-one alleged members of the Hells Angels motorcycle gang and associates facing drug charges have had their cases thrown out of a Quebec court because of unreasonable delays.
The 31 defendants were among 156 people charged after a 17-year long police investigation into biker gang-related murders and drug dealing.

Although the headline says they were released because of unreasonable delays, Quebec Superior Court Judge James Brunton actually said "anticipated" delays would have prevented the men from having fair trials.

The judge criticized the provincial justice minister and the director of criminal prosecutions for simply assuming the justice system could handle such a large and complex case.

If this all seems a bit bizarre to you, welcome to the club and where do I get my immunity bikers' patch?

To educate yourself about the workings of criminal gangs, try out THE TRAZ, a novel as daring, raw, and spirited as the young heroine.  It’s exhilarating entertainment but it also contains a vital message for those on the cusp of maturity and for the adults who guide them.

To sample/buy The Traz:


Waaaaay back in 2007, we were driving in the hills of West Virginia, two innocent tourists, when my phone rang. "Your book, SHAKESPEARE'S BLOOD, has been chosen as a finalist in Amazon's Breakout Novel Contest," someone informed me. Well, that changed the tenor of conversation in that car, as you can well imagine.
But nothing happened. The book did not ultimately win Amazon's contest. The agency that took it on was not successful in selling it, although editors who looked at it said nice things. And in the meantime, my historical series took off. I was too busy to deal with Mr. Shakespeare and his blood.
It happens. Authors have stuff that could be published--should be published, but finite limits of time and energy just don't allow them to do everything they would like to do. But opportunity knocked last fall, and suddenly SHAKESPEARE'S BLOOD was on the front burner again. (I have to admit, I've got more front burners now than I once had!) June first, 2011 was the target date for e-book publication, and darned if it hasn't come about. Softcover? Maybe soon. It's a matter of all those burners staying operational.
The book is classified as mystery/suspense, and it concerns a tourist in the UK caught up in a search for gold and the truth about an English spy and his connection to William Shakespeare. I had a lot of fun with the whole "Did Shakespeare write Shakespeare?" idea, and it's pretty clear at the end that I believe he did. What I aimed for was an exciting chase story with lots of clever clues and intriguing details for those who like Shakespeare.
SHAKESPEARE'S BLOOD is available from Amazon, B&N, and other e-reader sites:
You can read more about it on my website: