Filed under: True crime writing

Grand Pause: A Letter to Readers of The True Crime Weblog

Dear True Crime Weblog Readers,

In classical music, a “Grand Pause” is a particular type of pause within a musical selection. The length of a “G. P.” is left to the discretion of the performer or conductor. The music will continue, but depending on the musician’s sense of timing, you may think for a moment that everything has stopped.

This blog is going into “Grand Pause” mode. It will remain here, as is, and comments will be monitored and moderated. After this post, though, there will only be one other entry made — an announcement, of sorts — and then there will be no new posts in The True Crime Weblog for quite some time to come.

The guys at CrimeRant.com, authors Gregg Olsen and M. William Phelps, recently retired from blogging. Not writing, just blogging. I’m not doing that. Not at all. I wish I could tell you what’s up, but I’m saving that for the “one other” entry referenced above. Suffice it to say, I may just be doing the opposite of Gregg and Matt. I just won’t be doing it here.

Only two of my own blogs will be updated regularly, even daily, after The True Crime Weblog is on long-term hiatus:

http://randomlunaticnews.com: My personal weblog. Nothing will change there. If you’re one of the few people who read my writing even when it isn’t crime-related, you can go there to see what’s up. Don’t look for any true crime-related posts, most of the time.

http://anomalyreport.com/: I only edit this site. It’s based on user-submitted true stories of the supernatural and paranormal. Most of the time, it’s very easy to run. Depending on the number of user submissions, it is updated daily or every other day.

I am sorry to be so cryptic, but that’s the way it is, at the moment. The long and short of it is this: I’m not done with this true crime thing yet, not by a long shot. When it’s time to talk about what I’m doing, you will be the first to know.

Stick with me. Hopefully, the best is yet to come.

Steve

p. s. — I’ll still be hanging around Michael Ian Black’s blog and helping him with it whenever he needs. Seriously, if you need a break from true crime and just want a laugh, you need to go there.

EDITED TO ADD…

I don’t know what I was thinking. In a sense, this blog won’t go completely silent after all. I have a number of people lined up for guest posts. All of those will be published here once they’ve been received and edited. If you’re one of those guest bloggers, don’t worry — you’re still a go.

Wanna Blog About Crime?

(NOTE, 4/11/08: I’m going to keep this post at the top of the blog’s main page for a few days. Scroll down to see any new entries.)

For a lot of reasons, most of them positive, I would like to have some co-bloggers on this site.

There are already a few other folks listed as authors for The True Crime Weblog, but they are friends who have access if they need it, and they all have their own fish to fry elsewhere. I’ve never expected any blogging from them in this space, and have rarely asked them to do anything here.

So I’m putting out a call for contributors to this blog, but this call for new writers is very different from any I’ve made before.

Here’s much of what I’m seeking in bullet list format:

  • First and foremost, you must write well. Excellent spelling, subject-verb agreement, good grammar in general — they matter. So do pacing, voice, and cadence.
  • That said, you will need to set your ego aside to some degree and understand that I always reserve the right to edit submissions to this blog. I don’t care if you’ve got 5 books on the market, I still may tweak what you give me. Part of me hates to be this way, but when I had contributors to my blog in the past I didn’t make this explicit and regretted that.
  • You need to understand that this isn’t a paying gig. Most blogging isn’t, unless it’s supported by a media company or publisher.
  • I really want a contributor who understands that sometimes the mainstream media gets basic facts about a case wrong. Be ready to fact-check your mainstream sources.
  • Know how to dig deeper. Be able to fact-check yourself. Sometimes that’s as simple as using basic logic and strong web research techniques.
  • About web research techniques — if you think Google is the only search engine and the AP is the only wire service out there, don’t bother looking into becoming a contributor here.
  • If you trust everything you find via Google, don’t bother.
  • If you have no idea what Google Groups or the Usenet are, don’t bother seeking a spot as a contributor to this blog.
  • If your interest in true crime has more to do with the horror and gore aspect of the subject, we probably won’t get along.
  • I shouldn’t have to put this here, but I’ve learned that people can have surprising holes in their knowledge — so, please have some basic knowledge of html. Know how to link other sites.
  • If your interest in true crime is somehow bound up with a political agenda, I don’t want to hear from you. I don’t mind if you vote Democrat or Republican — I’ve voted both since I turned 18. I do mind if you constantly seek out stories that slant towards one set of beliefs or another and want to post them here. A true crime blog is a terrible place to try and create a bully pulpit, so don’t even bother. If you think you know my politics from reading this blog, consider the following — a little judicious searching of the blogosphere will reveal right wing blogs who have labeled me a loony liberal for something I posted here and at least one left-wing feminist blog that was convinced I was some sort of pocket Hitler. I’m proud of the fact that no one really knows my politics.
  • I really don’t mind if you have a blog of your own and think contributing to this one may be a good way to promote that blog. That’s fine. But please be on the up-and-up.
  • Pursuant to the preceding bullet point: YOU MUST BE WILLING TO USE YOUR OWN NAME OR A PSEUDONYM THAT SOUNDS LIKE A REAL NAME. I won’t post any entries here from ‘happypuppy69’ or ‘ferretwarrior5000.’ I really prefer real names, but completely understand the need for some anonymity, on occasion.
  • But — and this is a big one — you must be willing to let me know your real name. It’s a trust issue, and I won’t budge on it.
  • To contribute to this blog, you must be willing to post 3-5 entries a week. Think about that — it’s more work than you may realize.
  • You must be willing to interact with the people who leave comments on this site. I used to hesitate to leave comments on my own posts, but now I just dive right in. I’d like contributors to be okay with doing the same.
  • Another imperative — I admit this is a pet peeve, but I think it’s a logical one — KNOW THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ACTUAL BLOGGING AND LEAVING COMMENTS ON A BLOG. I’m not going to take up space listing the differences here, but they are many. Leaving a comment on a post is not blogging. I like all the ‘usual suspects’ who make comments on various posts here, but they aren’t contributors. They can write 10,000 word screeds on anything they like in a comments section — they’re still not writing a blog entry.

Just so we’re totally clear, here’s a list of some of the things I would find unacceptable from a contributor to this blog:

  • Plagiarism — PLEASE understand what this is. This is a good overview. The blogosphere is full of it. It’s sometimes done by accident, but not often.
  • This is related to plagiarism — I find quoting entire news articles from traditional media sources thoroughly unacceptable. I used to be much more loose about this, but I think doing work as a paid journalist has changed how I feel about it. It isn’t precisely plagiarism because bloggers who will quote entire articles from newspapers may often link to the source. But it may well be copyright infringement. It’s pointless, to me. Either quote a paragraph and give a link or summarize and add in your own research.
  • Excessive Snark — Some crime stories invite sarcasm and dark humor. To me, those are usually as plain as the nose on my face. Most crime stories are a million miles from funny, though. If you want to post here, I need to be sure you know when it’s appropriate to snicker at what you’re discussing, and when it’s not. A big flaw I’ve found in some other parts of the blogosphere is how some people don’t seem to get that it just isn’t right to take a humorous stance towards certain stories. To see an example of a blog that’s nailed incorporating humor into a true-crime discussion, just check out CrimeRant.com. If you can’t do it like Gregg and Matt do it, then don’t even try.

The bullet lists above could go on quite a bit, but in the interest of brevity I’m stopping here.

I fear I’ve set the bar pretty high, but I’m searching for someone who will be committed to the blog and be able to bring in original, interesting content. I don’t think I need to be casual about that.

If you are interested, if you have further questions, please contact me via this page.

To be considered, you need only send me a link your own blog or send me a sample post via e-mail. Please don’t try to send the sample through my contact form — there is a character limit in the text box. Wait till you’ve heard back from me and send the sample post via e-mail.

I’ve disabled comments for this entry only to encourage communication via the contact form.

True Crime Sites of Interest

In spite of the abiding interest in the subject matter, new true crime-related sites don’t pop up all that often — at least in my experience. And believe me, I look for them.

Generally, the ones I hear about come through my e-mail or a random link from another site. Here’s a few for you to peruse at your leisure.

CRIMEBLOG.IT

The site’s name would be pretty clever in English, but fair warning — CrimeBlog.it is not a clever use of a foreign domain extension like Trench Reynolds’s CrimeNe.ws — it’s an Italian language true crime blog. The focus is on crime in Italy, but the blogger also covers unusual and bizarre crimes from the US and elsewhere. Entries are short and punchy and the subject matter is a little more varied than you’d find here.

I can read Italian but I do have to use online translation sites at times. Based on the knowledge I do have of the language, Google’s may be the most accurate, but you can also try Babelfish, the venerable online translator run by Altavista.

I decided to point you to this site in part because I know this blog has Italian readers and readers who speak the language, and also because some hair-rising true crime tales come from the land that also gave us opera and yummy, yummy pasta. Don’t believe me? Just look up the Monster of Florence.

CRIMEJUNKIES.COM

I’m not going to say a whole lot about CrimeJunkies.com here, because I’ve asked the site owner to do a guest blog post. I don’t think I’m giving anything away when I say the site looks like it will live up to its name. It’s brand new, but CrimeJunkies.com has (or will have) just about everything the most hard-core true crime fan wants from a website focusing on their addiction.

WOMENINCRIMEINK.BLOGSPOT.COM

Before I wrote about crime I was a fan of the genre. And as a fan, I always knew I was in the minority, for it seems that women are the most active consumers of true crime related literature (and the best-selling author in the genre is a woman). It was, after all, my mother’s interest in the subject that got me started. If you saw a copy of Helter Skelter laying around our house, or even True Detective magazines, they were my mom’s. My alpha male military Dad was apparently a little skeeved out by the whole thing.

Plenty of men write about crime, of course, but the number of female readers of this blog and other sites I’m familiar with has recently had me wondering why someone didn’t think up a blog like WomeninCrimeInk a long time ago. The high-powered roster of blog authors includes award-winning true crime authors, broadcasters, attorneys, journalists, even a homicide detective.

The result so far is a well-written and engaging blog that never veers into the tabloid or lurid — hopefully a nice complement to the one you’re reading now (though I fully admit that some ready-for-the-tabloids stories can’t help but make it onto my site, from time to time). A recommended read, for sure.

ADDED LATER: 320SYCAMORE.COM

320Sycamore.com seeks to be a “destination for Crime Interested Individuals! Explore and engage in activities, research, and talk that matters to you.”

The site is structured like an online town. Knowing the way a little community can develop over a single subject here at The True Crime Weblog, this is a model that makes a lot of sense to me. The best way to approach 320Sycamore.com is simply to do as you might in any new place and take a little ramble around. The site is laid out fairly well and seems much more amenable to community discussion than many straight-up just plain weblogs.

If you have any suggestions for new sites similar to the ones listed above, put them in the comments.

A note of warning, though — don’t come here and just spam me with a blurb for your site in a comment. I will delete it as quickly as possible, and I may ban your IP as well. Let me be specific about this — I never mind links to other sites — ever. But I do mind it if you have some sort of cut & paste boilerplate you’re simply posting willy-nilly all over the Web on any site with, let’s say, “crime” in the URL. I’ve only ever received a handful of those comments, but they never fail to make me angry. To me, that’s the height of real rudeness on the Web. If you want to promote your own site by posting it in a comment, it better be relevant and acknowledge the subject at hand. Otherwise, you might as well be a spam link for Viagra.

Radar Magazine!!

This feels like a killer birthday present (no pun intended, seeing as how this is a crime blog).

It looks like I’ll be writing for Radar Magazine.

Not only that, I recently discovered that fellow Crime Library alum Seamus McGraw is writing for Radar, and there may even be opportunities for Seamus and I to tag-team some stories that will be of interest to any reader of this blog. Seamus occasionally gave me great advice about this kind of writing when we both were publishing for CL, so it will be awesome to share either online or print space with him again — because not only does Radar have an excellent website, you can find it on the shelves at your local bookstore, too. I will be submitting both web exclusives to the mag as well as print pieces.

I’m serious about the birthday feeling.

This blog isn’t going anywhere, of course, in case that question popped into your head. The sorts of stories Radar might like and what makes it to print here are not always the same, so there will be no overlapping of content, though I will certainly point you towards anything I publish online for Radar.

I’ve had two professional goals since I realized what I was doing with this whole crime writing thing. One is writing a book. Hopefully more than one. The other goal is writing for a publication like Radar.

More later, I’m off to float around a bit.

True Crime Genre News: MyCase.com

On November 7, 2007 at 10:30 p.m. ET, Court TV will air a fascinating new true crime special :

MyCase.com (link: MyCaseDotCom.com).

I will be your guide for some portions of the show. We’ll explore how the clues to a crime can sometimes be found on the Web. We’ll follow a digital pathway littered with broken relationships, obsessions, lies, and alibis. We will follow a cyber-trail of evidence that led to a tragic conclusion: murder.

Check out this link: “Upcoming Series on Court TV.

At the bottom of that page is the following:

MyCase.com – NEW!

Premieres Wednesday, November 7 at 10:30pm E/P

The internet provides a startling new look into the mind of a criminal. Profiles are posted on personal web sites, motives revealed in online blogs, and premeditated plans detailed on email. There’s a new type of investigator following the trail: the Cyber-sleuth. They will show us that, online, we are closer than we realize to clues and insight into criminal minds. TV-14

Optomen’s blurb for the show (working title: Crime.com) says it well: “The clues to crimes of passion are embedded in a vast digital matrix.” (Emphasis added.)

I can’t be cool about this anymore.

I’m as excited as I’ve been about anything I’ve done since I began crime-blogging! (Yes, that’s an exclamation point, and I meant it. Here’s another –>!)

I first chatted with folks from Optomen’s home office in the United Kingdom back in 2005, but only learned of the concept for this show in 2006. I’ve been sitting on it and everything to do with it ever since. Funny enough, when it was finally cool for me tell everyone, I was initially stuck as to what to say.

The best thing to say is watch it. I turn 40 just 4 days before the special airs, so if you watch it and get the word out, you can consider that your “Lordy, lordy, Steve is 40” b-day present.

I don’t want to give too much away, but these links might give you a few hints about the story explored in the premiere of MyCase.com: link 1, link 2.

And yes, I will be posting reminders, and perhaps more links, in days to come.

*****

One of Optomen’s recent true-crime-related productions was Most Evil.

Most Evil is one of the most original, visually stunning documentary-style productions I’ve ever seen. It explores Dr. Michael Stone’s “Scale of Evil,” and killers Stone felt ranked near the top of his scale.

When I realized I was working with the same company and some of the same people responsible for a series as brilliant as Most Evil, it became harder than ever to keep quiet about MyCase.com. But for a blabbermouth like me, I did OK. Close friends and family knew, but that was about it.

*****

While I’m at it, I have to refer you to some awesome news for a fellow crime blogger, Laura James of CLEWS, The Historic True Crime Blog.

Sarah Weinman mentions Laura’s news here at her own site, Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind. Laura has been too modest to say much about it outside of telling fellow bloggers and authors. Just go read.

It was early 2005 when this lawyer-lady from Michigan e-mailed me wondering if we were the only two people on the Web calling ourselves crime bloggers, and I wrote back saying I didn’t know, but she was the first person to write me with a clue as to what “crime-blogging” was. The Trenchcoat was actually doing it well ahead of the rest of us, but he wasn’t calling it a “crime blog.”

Since then, Laura’s blog has become a favorite for anyone with a deep and intellectual interest in the history of crime. It remains one of the classiest destinations on the Web for true crime aficionados. Congratulations, Laura.

*****

I’m now a contributor (along with Jules Hammer and Michelle Gray) at The True Crime Blogroll. If you want regular updates about events involving true crime authors who also blog, like Gregg Olsen, Ron Franscell, and Corey Mitchell, owner of In Cold Blog (where some of your favorite crime bloggers are contributors along with some the brightest stars in the genre as a whole), then you need to check out The True Crime Blogroll every chance you get.

*****

I’m recording a segment today that will be aired Sunday night, October 27, 2007 at 10:00 p.m. ET on The Lineup on Fox News, hosted by Kimberly Guilfoyle. We’ll be talking about signal true crime cases from the past, like the Manson Family murders. Also on the panel will be Dr. William July. Be sure to check it out.

*****

One more time, with gusto:

  • WHAT: MyCase.com
  • WHEN: 10:30 p.m. Eastern Time, November 7, 2007
  • WHERE: Court TV
  • WHO: produced by Optomen TV (USA)

Thank you in advance for watching, setting your DVRs, sending a link to this entry out to friends. Thanks also for reading this entry even if you already received a MySpace bulletin about this or got an e-mail I sent out to a number of people.

And seriously — thanks for reading my various blog incarnations over the last 2+ years and sticking around even when blog A went kerflooey and blog B didn’t get an update for months. I’m never able to adequately express my gratitude to people who read my writing, especially the many screen names that pop up in comments over and over with their own insights, ideas, tips, and tricks. I’ve been this close to not doing this anymore many times, and you all have always kept me at it. Your patience with your peripatetic host is greatly appreciated.

Carnival of the True Crime Blogs #97

Let’s begin the 97th edition of the Carnival of the True Crime Blogs with the pros, and a fascinating post made October 8 at In Cold Blog, by author Ron Franscell. Ron asks a question in his post that surely has occurred to a good number of true crime writers, from beginning crime bloggers to pros with books on the bestsellers lists: “Natural or Nurtured? Are Sociopaths Born?

Next up are the guys at Crime Rant, commenting on the tragic mass-murder in tiny Crandon, WI: “Tyler Peterson: Wasted (Lives) in Wisconsin.

Here at the True Crime Weblog, I’ve done a follow-up on the shocking case of Missouri pedophile Michael Devlin and the young people he abused: “According to Michael Devlin, Michael Devlin is Guilty.

Crime, Interrupted has an unsettling story about an alleged female pedophile who sometimes calls herself “Pixiedust” (ew!): “Four Corners Creep of the Week: Michelle Tufts.

At CLEWS, The Historic True Crime Blog, leading true crime historian Laura James interviews a British true crime author who has written a book about one of the most fascinating serial killers of the 20th Century, Austrian-born Jack Unterweger: “CLEWS Interviews True Crime Author John Leake.

Finally, the ever-eclectic and interesting 1947 Project tells us about “Those Monkeys in City Hall” and the hapless owner of a simian who partied in the palm trees one day in downtown L.A. in 1927.

That’s it for this week’s Carnival of the True Crime Blogs — click away, and follow links from the other weblogs. You’ll find that True Crime online can become a scarily addictive pursuit, and the links above are just gateway “drugs.”