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Blog2019-06-25T14:22:33+00:00
110, 2019

Editor: “One of the best unpublished manuscripts I have ever read”

October 1st, 2019|

 

I just received some of the most positive feedback yet on my new novel from a professional developmental editor with Writer’s Digest 2nd Draft critique service.

The editor assessed my full manuscript for Real Girl, a science fiction thriller about a lifelike robot who tries to escape from an augmented reality competition where people can hunt and kill her for sport. He described it as “Ex Machina/Blade Runner atmospheric science fiction with a Pygmalion twist.”

“This is one of the best unpublished manuscripts I have ever read,” the editor wrote. “This is a science-fiction novel with a lot of heart in addition to the action. It has a strong female character and a man who becomes a better person as a result of his relationship with her—even though she isn’t a ‘real girl.’ This should appeal to everyone who enjoyed Ready Player One plus those who enjoy a coherent future world populated with empathetic and realistic characters.”

The editor analyzed all 229 pages, providing feedback on everything from the plot and pacing to concept and characters. He also thought it had strong film potential:

“Science fiction continues to remain extremely popular, and this project could easily fit into any publisher’s SF line,” the editor wrote. “It also has strong movie/tv potential and should be pitched to movie agents as well as book agents. The strong vision of a coherent future world that is interesting and unique, coupled with enormous heart and emotional impact, could make this an attractive media project.”

My next step is to incorporate the editor’s specific recommendations while I wait to hear back from the literary agents I pitched Real Girl to during the Writer’s Digest Annual Conference in New York City.

 

 

409, 2019

5 agents request materials for my new novel

September 4th, 2019|

NEW YORK Five out of five literary agents I pitched my new novel to at the Writer’s Digest Conference Pitch Slam requested more materials.

The Pitch Slam featured more than 50 agents and editors, who were all on the hunt for new stories. I got 90 seconds per agent to pitch my concept live, and each agent had 90 seconds to ask questions, make comments and ultimately decide whether they wanted to learn more.

This was, by far, the most nervous I have ever been as an author. But in the end all five agents requested at least the first five pages—and two even asked for my full manuscript. One agent said my pitch was perfect, another said this was exactly what he’s looking for, and a third said she’s never heard of this concept before. Here’s a brief summary of my pitch:

I’m seeking representation for Real Girl, a cyberpunk science fiction thriller about a lifelike robot who tries to escape from an augmented reality competition where people can hunt and kill her for sport. It’s Westworld meets Ready Player One in a near future, dystopian Midwest city that has a dark and destructive bent to its gaming technologies. But here’s what makes my novel unique:

Evaline yearns, as only the most lifelike robots can, for freedom from The Games. Yet there’s no freedom for Evaline as Chief Game Officer Ray Jackson keeps sending new human players to battle her kind in gladiator-style combats as thousands of fans watch live from The Arena.

Each level becomes more violent as sponsors bet millions on the top players and a secret gang of cyberterrorists tries to hack Evaline’s mind so they can turn her body into a weapon of war in The Arena. The Games reach a breaking point in Level 4, where she is forced to make the ultimate decision in self-consciousness: free herself—or save others.

As a former reporter with a master’s degree in journalism, I conducted more than a year of original research for Real Girl. That includes interviews with cybersecurity experts, virtual reality coders, and even manufacturers of artificially intelligent robots. I am also an award-winning author of The Black Lens, a crime thriller that won Grand Prize in the 2016 Writer’s Digest Self-Published e-Book Awards. It also became a Finalist in the Indie Book Awards and a Semifinalist in the Book Pipeline movie competition.

Now comes the hard part—waiting for a response from each agent.

 

 

2607, 2019

Speaking at the Writer’s Digest Conference in NYC

July 26th, 2019|

For the third year in a row, Writer’s Digest has invited me to speak at their Annual Conference in New York City.

This year, I’ll be talking about my experience promoting The Black Lens to the media and pitching my new novel to literary agents during their live Pitch Slam event. Here’s a brief summary of my presentation:

How to Craft the Perfect Media Pitch

Reporters are a lot like agents—they love a good story. But convincing them to cover your book requires a strategic and newsworthy hook that must go beyond writing a simple press release. This article will teach you how to craft the perfect media pitch for a wide variety of target audiences, including local reporters, feature editors and book bloggers. 

Writer’s Digest also asked me to author a related article for their October publication, which reaches about 70,000 subscribers across the country. The article will appear in their regular indieLAB column that follows trends in the self-publishing business.

Learn more here.

 

1804, 2019

Publishing an article in Writer’s Digest magazine!

April 18th, 2019|

I’m thrilled to announce that Writer’s Digest magazine has asked me to author my first article for their October publication, which reaches about 70,000 subscribers across the country.

The article will appear in their regular indieLAB column that follows trends in the self-publishing business. It will focus in part on my experience with publishing and promoting The Black Lens novel, especially when it comes to public relations. Here’s a brief summary of the article:

How to Craft the Perfect Media Pitch

Reporters are a lot like agents—they love a good story. But convincing them to cover your book requires a strategic and newsworthy hook that must go beyond writing a simple press release. This article will teach you how to craft the perfect media pitch for a wide variety of target audiences, including local reporters, feature editors and book bloggers. 

Since Boyle & Dalton published my debut novel in 2016, I successfully pitched to more than a dozen news media outlets that published articles aboutThe Black Lens. Below are just a few excerpts, but you can see a full list here:

“The grim reality of modern-day slavery in America.”

— Kirkus Reviews Magazine

“The Black Lens is clearly the work of a journalist. It exists to inform and disrupt, and it succeeds.” 

— Columbus Underground

“A work of fiction. A world of truths.”

— WBNS-10TV

“Will go a long way in giving a voice to victims and helping raise awareness of sex trafficking in rural America.”

— The Columbus Dispatch

“Christopher Stollar, a former Oregon journalist, won the grand prize in the 2016 Writer’s Digest Self-Published e-Book Awards, beating out more than 600 other entries, for his debut novel, ‘The Black Lens,’ about a teenage girl and her sister fighting sex trafficking in Oregon.” 

— The Oregonian

“Stollar is a former reporter who conducted more than three years of research including interviewing survivors, social workers and police officers to write the book.”

— The Mercury News

“A fictional horror told through a ‘Black Lens.’ Christopher Stollar weaves a despairing tale of sex trafficking.”

— The Register-Guard

“A work of fiction … based on the disturbing reality that human trafficking is one of the fastest-growing crimes worldwide.”

— The Bulletin

“The Black Lens reminds us that human trafficking, sex slavery and exploitation are real. For many young people in Central Oregon, the world of sex trafficking is non-fiction.”

— The Source Weekly

In 2017, Writer’s Digest also ran a story about The Black Lens novel in its May/June print edition. The detailed article came after my debut novel won Grand Prize in the 2016 Writer’s Digest Self-Published e-Book AwardsThe 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.”

“Gritty, unforgiving and in some places downright shocking, The Black Lens is nevertheless a stunning read, from the first page to the last,” wrote the Judge in the 4th Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published e-Book Awards. “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.”

Read the full article here. You can also read more reviews of The Black Lens and order a copy on Amazon.

 

2003, 2019

Speaking at the Statehouse

March 20th, 2019|

I just received the rare honor of speaking on a panel at the Ohio Statehouse during the 10th annual Human Trafficking Awareness Day.

Hosted by Ohio State Sen. Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo) and state Rep. Tavia Galonski (D-Akron), the event featured over 40 panelists, including survivors of sex trafficking and abolitionists from organizations across the state.

“This is a historic year for Human Trafficking Awareness Day,” Fedor said. “A decade of advocacy and action has helped us address human trafficking in Ohio and set an example for the rest of the country. But there’s still work to be done. This event gives us a moment to come together, discuss challenges and develop solutions so we can finally end human trafficking once and for all.”

As a board member of She Has A Name, my panel presentation focused on our collaborative work to help reduce the demand for human trafficking by reaching the men who solicit sex through education, counseling and also increased penalties. After speaking, I received an official letter of commendation from the General Assembly of the State of Ohio:

“On behalf of the members of the Ohio Senate and the Ohio House of Representatives of the 133rd General Assembly, we extend congratulations and deepest gratitude to Christopher Stollar for your work in fighting human trafficking and your participation on the Collaboration and Empowerment Panel at the Tenth Annual Human Trafficking Awareness Day.

You are a remarkable person, combining civic concern and dedication with selfless initiative to become a dynamic leader in the fight against human trafficking. The work you do as a Board Member with She Has A Name is truly inspiring. Your commitment to building a world in which everyone is free is a powerful testament to your strength and respect for all people.

Willingly giving your time, energy, and abilities, you continue striving to better the world around you. Through your generous contributions, you have earned the respect and esteem of the entire community. We are certain that in years to come, you will continue demonstrating the same unwavering commitment to excellence for which you have become known. You are truly deserving of high praise.

Thus, with sincere pleasure, we commend you on your exemplary record of community service. We salute you as one of Ohio’s finest citizens, and we thank you for your dedication to eradicating human trafficking.”

As both an author and board member, I couldn’t ask for anything more.

2502, 2019

The Value of Latent Christian Literature

February 25th, 2019|

The following essay was published in the Winter 2019 Edition of Colloquy, a magazine by Gutenberg College, my alma mater. 

One of my favorite quotes about literature comes from British author C.S. Lewis, who once wrote that “What we want is not more little books about Christianity, but more little books by Christians on other subjects—with their Christianity latent.”

The word latent comes from latēre, which in Latin means “to lie hidden,” as when something is “present but not visible, apparent, or actualized.” The word reminds me of Søren Kierkegaard’s philosophical concept of indirect communication, which “was designed to sever the reliance of the reader on the authority of the author,” according to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. “The point of indirect communication is to position the reader to relate to the truth with appropriate passion, rather than to communicate the truth as such.”

As both an author and Gutenberg graduate, I couldn’t agree more with that concept in today’s media-saturated, results-driven, unreflective world. Just look at the explosion of “Christian” literature both online and in traditional bookstores that touts everything from Adulting 101: #Wisdom4Life (Josh Burnette) to Next Level Thinking: 10 Powerful Thoughts for a Successful and Abundant Life (Joel Osteen).

While these types of self-help books can have their place, as direct forms of communication they often lack the depth and reflection that C.S. Lewis was calling Christians to when they set pen to paper. Too many Christian authors today focus so much on surface-level facets of the Christian life that they fail to address those deeper and more pressing subjects facing the world today.

That’s why I decided to research, write, and publish a novel about one of those subjects: human trafficking. The Black Lens is a dark literary thriller that exposes the underbelly of sex trafficking in rural America. While my book is fiction, I strove to write deeply about the real world in an indirect, latent, and authentic way that wasn’t explicitly “Christian.” In fact, one of the most common questions I get from readers is why I as a believer decided to write about such a dark topic in the first place. It’s a great question and one I’ve reflected on ever since I started researching the subject more than five years ago. So, below are my three main reasons for writing The Black Lens.

To raise trafficking awareness

I have always wanted to use my story to raise awareness about sex trafficking. While this topic has received more press in the last few years, some people still don’t think trafficking happens often in the United States. But nothing could be farther from the truth.

The National Human Trafficking Hotline has documented at least 45,308 trafficking cases since 2007. It’s a harsh fact, but that’s why raising awareness is so key. And it’s why I decided to conduct more than three years of research on this subject. As a former reporter with a master’s degree in journalism, I personally interviewed more than a dozen survivors, social workers, and police officers.

That research paid off. During the past few years, several readers have told me they wanted to become more involved in fighting trafficking as a result of reading my debut novel. But the best feedback came from one recent Amazon reviewer—who is also a Gutenberg graduate. She said reading The Black Lens opened her eyes to this underground world and actually helped her prevent a potential trafficking situation:

“Since reading this, I have become more aware of the issues and the prevalence of human sex trafficking and have recently witnessed an (incident) at Disneyland Shopping District of someone preying on a young teen sitting alone waiting for her parents to finish shopping. I stepped in and made sure she was not alone and not targeted by the man asking her inappropriate questions and inviting her to help him with his bags to his car.”

The reviewer continues:

“I enjoyed the story line and the characters, but what I appreciated the most was the movement to bring the sinister world of sex trafficking into our awareness so that more can be done to protect our youth and change our own story line as a culture (that) does not allow the opportunity for these crimes to become a reality for future at risk youth.”

As an author, I couldn’t ask for anything more.

To take sin seriously

When you consider recent Christian literature—whether fiction or nonfiction—much of it doesn’t take sin seriously. These books focus so much on the truth of grace that they hide from the truth of evil. And yet if you spend any time reading the Old Testament, you discover that it’s filled with descriptions of evil. There is rape, incest, even torture. None of the authors glorified those crimes or described them in graphic detail, but they also didn’t shy away from them either. Why? Because they were trying to contrast the depth of man’s evil with the depth of God’s grace.

One of my favorite Christian authors from Gutenberg’s curriculum is Flannery O’Connor, who became famous for her dark, brutal, and violent short stories. She once wrote, “The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it.” That’s great advice for every Christian writer. We need to contrast good and evil if we want to have any chance at engaging the world with our words—especially with such dark topics like sex trafficking.

To engage the arts

As created beings, Christians have so much to contribute to the arts—especially in the area of writing. For centuries, believers were at the forefront of art and culture. The Catholic Church sponsored some of the most famous artists of all times, such as Michelangelo. But for decades, Christians have retreated from the arts. I don’t know all the reasons, but author Francis Schaeffer (another one of my favorites from Gutenberg) once wrote, “I am afraid that as evangelicals, we think that a work of art only has value if we reduce it to a tract.”

Nothing could be farther from the truth. In The Four Loves, C.S. Lewis compares friendship with art, philosophy, and the universe, all of which are “unnecessary” and have “no survival value,” but each of which “is one of those things which give value to survival.” Literature is a form of art, so it too has no inherent survival value. But literature can give value to survival in unique and powerful ways. Think of the impact behind literature like Uncle Tom’s Cabin or To Kill a Mockingbird. Those latent novels affected so many people’s views of race and slavery in ways that direct communication never could.

One of my favorite books in the Bible is Esther because it reads like a work of modern fiction. It features a strong female heroine, romantic suspense, and even a murder plot. But most interestingly, the book doesn’t mention God once. Yet for those who have eyes to see, every sentence in the story points to God and gives value to the idea of surviving suffering.

My goal for The Black Lens was the same. I wrote it in an indirect and latent way for those who have eyes to see.

Get your copy of The Black Lens today on Amazon. If you’ve already read the book, please consider writing a short and honest review.