Grand Prize review from Writer’s Digest!

18829-ebk-gp-1A judge just gave The Black Lens one of the best reviews I’ve seen after my debut novel won Grand Prize in the 2016 Writer’s Digest Self-Published e-Book Awards.

The Black Lens beat out more than 600 other books in this national contest, which “spotlights today’s self-published works and honors self-published authors.” My book received some of the highest rankings possible for the following categories (1 means “needs improvement” and 5 means “outstanding”):

  • Structure, Organization, and Pacing: 5
  • Spelling, Punctuation, and Grammar: 4
  • Production Quality and Cover Design: 5
  • Plot and Story Appeal: 4
  • Character Appeal and Development: 5
  • Voice and Writing Style: 4

Here’s the full review:

“Gritty, unforgiving and in some places downright shocking, THE BLACK LENS is nevertheless a stunning read, from the first page to the last.

Zoey James and her developmentally delayed sister Camille live a hardscrabble life in a trailer park. Photographer Aidan is bored with covering pet parades and illegal fireworks for the local newspaper and gets a tip that ‘something [is] going on — something big involving a lot of people — that’s going to blow up this f*** town.’ How their worlds collide combust into an explosion of sex and violence involving corruption, prostitution and human trafficking.

With an adept use of description, characterization and action and through use of simple yet powerful language, author Christopher Stollar alternates chapters from Zoey’s and Aidan’s points of view, further building suspense.

And the material is not just graphic for the sake of it. ‘There are 20.9 million victims of forced labor and human trafficking, including 5.5 million children,’ writes the author in an end note. And this book did indeed take a village: published with funds garnered from a Kickstarter campaign, the author is donating 10 percent all proceeds to organizations that battle modern slavery.

But with an eye-grabbing cover, a structure that seamlessly interweaves the overall theme of photography (and pornography), this book rivals — if not surpasses — its commercially published brethren. It may indeed raise awareness of human trafficking and exploitation of women in the same manner as UNCLE TOM’S CABIN and TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE did for slavery.”

To read more reviews of The Black Lens, please visit the Reviews page or go to Amazon.

Get a FREE copy of The Black Lens

black_lens_front_coverFor the next 5 days, you can get a FREE copy of The Black Lens through Amazon Giveaway.

The giveaway is open to anybody who has a Kindle e-book reader or the Kindle e-reader app on a smartphone, tablet or computer.

This deal only lasts 5 days, so get your copy today on Amazon. Please note that you do NOT need to have Prime membership.

While you’re on Amazon, check out the 51 reviews that people have posted — including some from survivors of sex trafficking and other readers who said they wanted to become more involved in fighting modern slavery as a result of reading The Black Lens.

The Black Lens wins national contest!

18829-ebk-gp-1My debut novel just won Grand Prize in the 2016 Writer’s Digest Self-Published e-Book Awards.

The Black Lens beat out more than 600 other books in this national contest, which “spotlights today’s self-published works and honors self-published authors.” The Grand Prize includes cash and:

This is now the second contest that The Black Lens has placed in; after people cast more than 7,000 votes for 60 different nominees, I became a top-four finalist in December for The Liberator Awards.

That award highlights Ohio’s leading abolitionists of modern slavery. A survivor of sex trafficking nominated me and The Black Lens novel for this unique honor in October under the “Ohio” and “Individual” category. The final winners will be determined on Jan. 15, so stay tuned.

Join me at Stories of Human Trafficking

sad woman sitting alone in a empty room

Join me and best-selling author Theresa Flores on Jan. 17 at the Westerville Public Library for Stories of Human Trafficking, a unique book reading and discussion. The event is free, but seating is limited, so RSVP today.

About the event

Hear stories of human sex trafficking in America from Theresa Flores, survivor and best-selling author of The Slave Across the Street, and Christopher Stollar, former reporter and author of The Black Lens. These local authors will share passages from their latest books, answer questions and sign copies.

About the authors

Theresa Flores, a survivor of trafficking and best-selling author of The Slave Across the Street, will share her personal story and how it informed her latest nonfiction book, Slavery in the Land of the Free.

Christopher Stollar, a former reporter with a master’s degree in journalism, will talk about the three years he spent researching trafficking for his debut novel, The Black Lens. This dark literary thriller exposes the underbelly of trafficking in rural America. While The Black Lens is fiction, Stollar interviewed survivors, socials workers and police officers to ground the book in reality.

For more information or to RSVP, click here.

Finalist in The Liberator Awards!

14589875_10155342206108275_4375528061611630419_oAfter people cast more than 7,000 votes for 60 different nominees, I just became a top-four finalist in The Liberator Awards.

This unique honor highlights Ohio’s leading abolitionists of modern slavery. A survivor of sex trafficking nominated me and The Black Lens novel for the award in October under the “Ohio” and “Individual” category.

The final winners will be determined on Jan. 15, but check out the top finalists below.

Individual

Michelle Hannan: CORRC, Salvation Army
Lynn Greenfeder Stevens: We are Cherished
Christopher Stollar: author of The Black Lens
Tabitha Woodruff: volunteer for CORRC

Elected Official/Law Enforcement

Judge Marilyn Cassidy: Cleveland Municipal Court Trafficking Docket
Christina Conrad: Victims Advocate
Brent Currence: Missing Persons Ohio AG
Greg Dalga: Special Agent

Organization/Church/Civic Club

Gracehaven
Holy Angels Catholic Church Cleveland
She Has a Name
The Roosevelt Coffeehouse

Student/Student Organization

Abolitionist Plunge
Case Western Reserve University Law School Human Trafficking Clinic
Chole Carpenter: Ohio University Dance Group
Dawn Heideman: Walnut Ridge High School Be the One program

Volunteer

Krista Case
Sally Tobias Popa
Sister Sally Burk
Sarah Brown

Survivor

Gina Godwin-Burris
Jennifer Kempton
Nicole Lange
Harold D’Souza

Learn more about each individual and group or get a ticket to the Jan. 15 awards ceremony at http://www.liberatorawards.com/.

 

 

Great review from Writer’s Digest!

12561-selfpub-iconA Writer’s Digest judge just gave The Black Lens an excellent review in its 24th Annual Self-Published Book Awards contest.

While The Black Lens did not win the contest, the book received some of the highest rankings possible for the following categories (1 means “needs improvement” and 5 means “outstanding”):

  • Structure, Organization, and Pacing: 5
  • Spelling, Punctuation, and Grammar: 5
  • Production Quality and Cover Design: 4
  • Plot and Story Appeal: 4
  • Character Appeal and Development: 5
  • Voice and Writing Style: 5

Here’s the review: “The Black Lens is a small-town thriller, following Zoey, a young woman trapped in an abusive home, who is coerced into a sex ring after she and her mentally disabled sister are slipped date rape drugs into their drinks at a party and photographed in sexually explicit positions. Determined to protect her sister and expose the men at the heart of the ring, she teams up with a photojournalist, Aidan, in an effort to free herself and her sister from the nightmare that she’s encountered.

The book gets off to a strong start, with an anxious and skin-crawling account of the party that Zoey attends with her sister, and only gets more tense from there. This reader finds this kind of tension uncomfortable, especially as it deals with the sexual exploitation of teenage girls, one of whom is mentally disabled, but the book does a very good job laying out how this kind of crime can happen in modern days with modern technology. Zoey is a likable and compelling character, and her pluck and determination in the face of the horrors she is dealt are admirable.”

To read more reviews of The Black Lens, please visit the Reviews page or go to Amazon.

4th Ohio newspaper covers The Black Lens

the-black-lens-min-1A fourth Ohio newspaper just published a great story about The Black Lens novel and sex trafficking.

The Akron Beacon Journal did an excellent job summarizing the plot, describing the rural setting and also focusing on the two main characters:

“Ohio author’s ‘Black Lens’ focuses on sex trafficking. Columbus author Christopher Stollar’s novel The Black Lens is a bleak picture of sex trafficking, child molestation and other shocking themes. Set in tiny La Pine, Ore., the story follows teenage Zoey James and her sister Camille, who live in a trailer with only a single space heater. Their mother has again thrown their father out, but he’ll be back.

One cold night, the girls go out to a party. Zoey has only a few sips of a drink, but blacks out and awakens naked in a dark room with sexual slurs written in marker on her body; Camille is by her side in the same condition. As they make their way home, Zoey receives text threats that if she tells anyone, the sender will beat Camille, who has a developmental disability. Included are photos of the exposed girls.

The girls think they can forget all about the horrible party, but Zoey receives more texts, with additional explicit photos and the message “Want me 2 delete these pics? Ull have 2 earn them.” She doesn’t feel that she has anywhere to turn, so she follows instructions. Two young men offer support, but she doesn’t know if they can help or whom she can trust.

The other major character is Aidan, a news photographer who spends most of his time covering the Pet Parade and getting front-page shots of setting suns. At a political meeting, Aidan learns of a shootout at a motel, and puts some pieces together to realize part of what’s happening. But it’s Zoey who must help herself and Camille.”

Click here for the full story. You can read additional news articles about The Black Lens on the Media page or order a copy on Amazon.

Sex, Slavery and Literature

Christopher StollarI just became an official member of the Ohio Humanities Speakers Bureau!

That means I’m joining dozens of scholars in the fields of history, literature, philosophy, law and archaeology who have been traveling the state for 20 years speaking at libraries, historical societies, civic organizations and museums.

While each talk is unique, every speaker helps encourage all Ohioans to “explore the human story.” Here’s the summary of my own presentation through the Speakers Bureau that’s titled “Sex, Slavery and Literature:”

The International Labour Organization estimates that there are 20.9 million victims of forced labor and human trafficking. That’s almost double the number of Africans who were shipped to the New World between 1525 and 1866, according to the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database. While the face of slavery has changed over the centuries, the same law of supply and demand has remained constant — resulting in more than $100 billion in illegal profits per year. In addition, some of the stories published in news outlets today about sex trafficking echo themes in classic works of slavery literature, such as Uncle Tom’s Cabin, David Copperfield and Oliver Twist. Learn how slavery has evolved over the centuries — including right here in Ohio — and what you can do to help end it today.

To learn more about the Speakers Bureau, or to book me for a presentation on this topic, please visit my speakers page.

The Book Loft on The Black Lens: “Everyone should read this book”

imgn3xmnhbookloftOne of the nation’s largest independent bookstores just published a great review of The Black LensThe Book Loft featured a review from Miriam Kahn, a librarian, historian and writer for The Columbus Dispatch newspaper:

“It could happen in your neighborhood, to your neighbor or child, to a friend or someone down on their luck. Sex trafficking or human trafficking, formerly called prostitution, is one of the rampant crimes and addictions in America and across the globe. This is a crime that pulls in the unsuspecting and traps them in a never ending cycle of degradation, abuse, crime, drugs, and addiction. There’s nothing pretty or sexy about this crime.

After many years of research and interviewing, Stollar peels back the curtain on prostitution in America. Although The Black Lens is fiction, it’s pretty close to the truth and it’s a gut wrenching book to read.

Stollar writes about sex trafficking in small town Oregon. The main characters are a journalist, who follows a lead, two sisters, Zoey and Camille James who are unwittingly forced into prostitution. The head pimp addicts the women he enslaves to meth. Poor, mentally deficient, hopeless, and/or without good role models, the women are forced into sex working. Descriptions are graphic and corruption and coercion is found at all levels of the community, where you’d least expect it. Classmates, supervisors, police, and authority figures identify Zoey, Camille, and others. Blackmail and drugs make it impossible for the girls to break out of the cycle of sexual abuse and addiction without serious help from the outside.

Stollar paints a sad picture of society that screams for a solution and an end to human trafficking. Read it and weep for the poor women trapped in a terrible situation. Everyone should read this book.”

You can now get a copy of The Black Lens at The Book Loft. Located in the heart of historic German Village, The Book Loft boasts 32 rooms of bargain books in pre-Civil War era buildings that were once home to general stores, a saloon and even a nickelodeon cinema.

To read more reviews of The Black Lens or order a copy, please go to Amazon.