Using the Web to Make a Difference

Someone sent this to me in a message. I remember the case well.


Fast forward to now: they are having a parole hearing in December to release this woman Vanessa Coleman – who wrote how much she loved torturing her victims before killing them – BECAUSE THE PRISON SYSTEM IS OVERCROWDED.


Something’s wrong with that.

So someone set up a petition (link below) to sway the parole board.

Anyway, I found this site fascinating at how the web could be used for positive change.

(There are some kooky things on the site, too, but there is also much of substance.)

Find a cause, get others to rally, and – who knows – change might come.

And this cause may be one of yours, as well.

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Blending Humor and Tension in a Traditional Mystery / Author Nancy J. Cohen

Killer Nashville Blog

There’s nothing funny about murder. Or is there? Mystery, romance, and how-to author Nancy J. Cohen navigates the delicate balance between bloodshed and laughter in her guest blog, “Blending Humor and Tension in a Traditional Mystery.” Here’s a great way to laugh your way into the perfect crime. And for even more great tips from Nancy, check out her book Writing the Cozy Mystery . Happy Reading! (And Happy Writing – using Nancy’s excellent advice). Clay Stafford Founder of Killer Nashville

Nancy J Cohen (Photo by Lasky) Nancy J Cohen (Photo by Lasky)

How do you maintain tension in a humorous mystery? First, look at the source of humor. If it’s the sleuth’s wry attitude toward life, humor is inherent to how she’ll view things. It’s in her nature, and no matter the circumstances, her attitude will prevail. Or perhaps the humor is situational. This can be momentary, or it can relate to a subplot that…

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Taking One For The Team

LeadByExampleI had a great conversation with a friend of mine yesterday. He is leaving a job for a promotion within the same company. An incredible lady is taking his place. The entire division is in wonderful shape for the future.

But there are some things that could be improved.

My friend has two months left in his current position before he is off to bigger things. He is incredibly well-liked and respected. He is leaving at the top of his game. But what he said to me yesterday really caught my attention: “There are some things that need improvement and that’s what I’m going to be working on before I leave.”

He stated a few things. Some of these things are not pleasant. Some he has in mind might even be troublesome. One or two that he implied may even be war-worthy. And I wondered why this man, who is liked and respected beyond belief by clients and co-workers would choose to end his position after seven-plus years of stellar approval on such a potentially rotten note. And then it hit me when he said the phrase, “Taking it for the team.”

The changes needed to be made. My friend – either through his own genius or through some observation he had made from another mentor of his – realized that the stress-free world that he had built over the past seven years needed to continue in a forward motion after he was gone. Who better to make the changes than him and take any negativity with him thus maintaining the culture of the organization? If the changes – some drastic – were made after he left by the new lady taking his position, then from the very start of her tenure in management she would be tainted with the fallout of the overhaul. Because of what he is planning, she is starting her job fresh, clean slate, ready to build within a positive environment. No baggage. What an incredible act! He is taking on all the sins for change and overhaul, if you will, and taking them with him when he goes.

I can’t express the amount of respect I had for this man prior to this conversation. I’ve always been incredibly proud to call him my friend, as well as an inspiration. My lunch get-togethers with him are always a thing I look forward to for days. But after I left our laughter-filled chat yesterday, I realized how admirable his demeanor and vision are more than ever. There is no ego in what he plans to do in the next two months. The only thing he cares about is leaving his position in a better place and making sure the next generation of management has the tools – and the fresh and clean reputation – to carry forth untarnished to even greater things. That really is “taking one for the team.” From exiting business people, to clergy, to educators, to politicians, to sports coaches, what a great example this man sets. Just when we thought he could not top himself, he is using his last two months to do just that. Knowing him and what I’ve known of him these past five years, I have no doubt that, when he looks back, he will say that within these last two months, he may have done his greatest work to date. Not caring about his own reputation or legacy, he selflessly and fearlessly built for the future and the betterment of those left behind. He did the right thing. Doing the right thing really is “taking one for the team.”

What an example to us all, no matter what life chapter we are currently writing.

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Killer Nashville’s Featured Books / Thursday, February 27, 2014 / Reviewed by Clay Stafford

Killer Nashville Blog

DEATH CANYON by David Riley Bertsch
KILLER’S ISLAND by Anna Jansson

Killer Nashville Featured Books

Dear Murderous Reader –

This week my reading was all over the place. I went from a mystery-western, to a Swedish version of a deranged killer on Martha’s Vineyard, to a whacked-out mental trip inside the head of a man falling apart in New York City. For my ADD brain, nothing could have made me happier, especially knowing two of these authors are debut.

Death Canyon by David Riley BertschDEATH CANYON by David Riley Bertsch

Debut author. Great new mystery/thriller. This book is the start of a series; but this story is so good, I’m not sure how Bertsch is going to top it using this scenario and these characters following this much fictional destruction.

The beginning gets my attention: earthquakes in Wyoming, men getting rid of the body of a friend of theirs in…

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Killer Nashville’s Featured Books / Friday, February 14, 2014 / Reviewed by Clay Stafford

Killer Nashville Blog

wine-and-roses-1013tm-pic-1695DEATH NELL by Mary Grace Murphy
FRAME-UP by Jill Elizabeth Nelson
LOVE IS MURDER by Sandra Brown
MEGAN’S MARK by Lora Leigh
SCORCHED by Laura Griffin
THE SEARCH by Nora Roberts
SILENCE by Debra Webb
TELL ME by Lisa Jackson

Dear Murderous Reader –

Valentine’s Day is here. What better way to celebrate love than with murder and suspense? Here’s my pick of 10 books that should send your suspense juices flowing. I’ve listed them in alphabetical order along with my quip cuff notes.

If you don’t have someone beside you this Valentine’s Day, why not curl up with a few great books. And – if you do have someone beside you, be sure he or she is who you think they really are.

DEATH NELL by Mary Grace Murphy
Can food bring two people together? Sure, over…

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Killer Nashville’s Featured Books / Monday, February 10, 2014 / Reviewed by Clay Stafford

Killer Nashville Blog

Beewitched by Hannah Reed
Books, Cooks, and Crooks by Lucy Arlington
Days of Wine and Roquefort by Avery Aames

Killer Nashville Featured BooksThree must reads from Berkley Prime Crime’s lineup. Part 1 of 3.

Dear Murderous Reader –

It doesn’t get any better than Berkley Prime Crime.  I follow their serials like the Victorians followed Dickens.  Berkley’s February list is out and I made my own list of what had to be my “must reads.”  The ones I picked didn’t disappoint.  Here are my three of my nine Toppers in my Part 1 of 3 coverage.  You’ve got a whole month of February. And remember, if you buy your books through the links on Killer Nashville, you’ll still get the great Amazon discount prices, but – better yet – a portion of the proceeds goes towards the educational events sponsored by the good volunteers at Killer Nashville.  So support Killer Nashville while…

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The American Novelist: A Killer Nashville Series / Author Charles Brockden Brown

Killer Nashville’s Featured Books of the Day serves several purposes.  Entertainment and love of reading, of course, is high on the list.  I do my best to avoid the boring.  There is also education, which should share an equal podium.  But even then, the work still has to be a page-turner.

Charles Brockden Brown

Charles Brockden Brown

I’ve tried to look at older books over the past twenty months that I’ve been doing this (it’s hard to believe I’ve been doing this for almost two years) and now have decided to take a look – as part of my suggested reading to you – at influential American writers specifically.  I think it important that we, as writers, be familiar with our noble heritage and, for those of us here in the U.S. that means taking a look at those who have influenced the American novel, even though the writers themselves may have fallen into obscurity over the centuries.  I’ll examine those American writers in this series.

I was inspired to take on this series by reading a short story (“Somnambulism”) by gothic writer Charles Brockden Brown (1771-1810).  Early in my life, I was familiar with Brown, but he had fallen from my memory.

Brown was not our first American novelist, but he was certainly on the forefront.  He was, however, the first American novelist to be published in foreign languages and authors as prominent as Edgar Allan Poe have credited him as a major influence in their own writings.

Brown was a prolific writer and editor.  Like many parents of eventual writers, his parents expected him to get an enviable job; in this case, they wanted him to be a lawyer.  One of the things I think many writers can identify with is that many of his early works were never finished, but the process was essential for him to learn how to write.  (One of the main reasons his writings are considered so influential is probably because he didn’t publish the first things he wrote.)  When he did start publishing, however, he was ready.  No less than Mary Shelley studied him and his style when writing her classic “Frankenstein.”

Upon his death, Brown had left behind seven completed novels along with many nonfiction works.  His novels should be of particular emphasis to historical writers because of his technique of putting ordinary individuals into situations of what he called “historic stress,” meaning tough times in actual history.  He sought to educate, as well as, entertain and – in objective – reminds me much of contemporary English writer Anne Perry, one of the best and most entertaining historical authors of our time.  For writers in general, he is one of the best examples of how to use fiction to change social mores within complex and fairly portrayed plotlines and, like Walter Cronkite from my own childhood, no one completely knew – and, unlike Cronkite, we still don’t know  – Brown’s political leanings because he was so focused on presenting a balanced narrative within the context of historical happenings.  What a refreshing thought for a writer:  to be fair and true rather than an arm of some particular agenda (be that only ignorance).  Writers today could learn much from that alone.

"Charles Brockden Brown: Three Gothic Novels: Wieland, Arthur Mervyn, Edgar Huntley"

“Charles Brockden Brown: Three Gothic Novels: Wieland, Arthur Mervyn, Edgar Huntley”

“Charles Brockden Brown: Three Gothic Novels: Wieland, Arthur Mervyn, Edgar Huntly” highlights his best works and also is the most affordable if you’re looking for a collection.  You can find it new and used on Amazon or used only on Alibris.

This should give you something to read for the next few days.  Until next time, read like someone is burning the books!

– Clay Stafford is an author / filmmaker (, business CEO (, and founder of Killer Nashville ( with over 1.5 million copies of his own books in print in over 14 languages.  Stafford’s latest projects are the feature documentary “One of the Miracles” ( and the music CD “XO” ( Publishers Weekly has identified Stafford as playing “an essential role in defining which books become bestsellers” not only in middle-Tennessee, but also extending “beyond the city limits and into the nation’s book culture.”  (PW 6/10/13)

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