Nonfiction Writing Advice

Writing a Non-Fiction Book: Keeping It Real

writing a book
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I want to write a book” or “I have a book idea.”

When people find out that I’m an author, that’s often what they say to me – and, I reply, “That’s great! The world needs more wonderful books.” (And, it’s true. There can never be enough wonderful books!)

A follow up question that I sometimes get asked is, “Do you think I have the talent to write a book?”


Author Interview: Peg Cochran

book from author interviewee

From the Archives

Note: This author interview was originally published in 2013 on another site that is no longer live.

The combination of talent and persistence can’t be beat. To witness the personification of these two personality traits, you need look no further than Peg Cochran, author of the Gourmet De-Lite mystery series, featuring Gigi Fitzgerald, as well as the author of other cozy mysteries (more about those throughout the interview!).

When Peg was seven, she discovered a series that has delighted young readers for generations, featuring the daring sleuth Nancy Drew. From that point on, Peg knew that, when she grew up, she would write mysteries.


Author Interview: Joanna Campbell Slan

Author interview

From the Archives

Note: This author interview was originally published in 2013 on another site that is no longer live.

When you read a book by Joanna Campbell Slan, this award-winning, best-selling author sure makes it all look easy. The author of the Kiki Lowenstein mystery series and the Jane Eyre Chronicles, though, sure didn’t have it easy as a child, teenager or young adult.

“I grew up,” Joanna explains, “in a chaotic home with alcoholic parents. For a while, we were on welfare.” And, when her father drank, he didn’t become gregarious and friendly. Instead, according to Joanna, he turned mean and would wake her up at night just to tell her that she’d never amount to anything.

encyclopedia entry

Football Player: Orenthal James “O.J.” Simpson (1947-)

football player
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Encyclopedia Entry

Note: I had written this for an encyclopedia and then the project itself got cancelled. So, I decided to upload it to my site.

Orenthal James “O.J.” Simpson initially rose to fame because of his collegiate football performance at the University of Southern California (USC) where he set records for rushing yards gained, was named All-American (1967-68), won the 1968 Heisman Trophy, and played in two Rose Bowl games. He then gained more fame as an outstanding professional running back, known for his speed and dexterity, and then as a sportscaster and for his performances on television and in film. In 1995, he was charged with the murder of his wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and Ronald Goldman, with the television proceedings one of the most attention-garnering trials in United States history.

Film Review

Film Review: Glory

Civil War Film

Encyclopedia Entry

Note: I had written this film review for an encyclopedia and then the project itself got cancelled. So, I decided to upload it to my site.

Glory is a 1989 Civil War film that shares the story of the 54th Massachusetts Voluntary Infantry regiment, one of the first units comprised of African American soldiers. Directed by Edward Zwick, the screenplay was written by Kevin Jarre, and the film merges historical people and events with fictional characters and subplots. Its ensemble cast shares the story of this unit from its formation to its most prominent place in history: the courageous yet futile attempt to take Fort Wagner in South Carolina from the Confederates. Although the 54th Massachusetts suffered enormous casualties in this historic event, it was the impetus to numerous other African American units forming in the Union army, with nearly 200,000 black soldiers ultimately fighting in the war. Plus, their mettle under fire convinced many people that black men could fight bravely and well.


Eight Weeks in Washington, 1861: Abraham Lincoln and the Hazards of Transition

Book Review

Book Review

Eight Weeks in Washington, 1861: Abraham Lincoln and the Hazards of Transition is intriguing look by Richard J Tofel at the challenges faced by Lincoln at the beginning of his presidency — including what to do about the handful of US forts located in southern states that had not yet been taken over by the seceded states. The most important one, perhaps, was Fort Sumter, located in Charleston, South Carolina.

Options included abandoning the fort to the budding Confederacy or traveling into enemy territory to resupply the men under the command of Major Robert Anderson. To complicate matters, members of Lincoln’s new cabinet did not agree which solution was best and communications with the navy were rudimentary, at best.

Book Review

My Thoughts Be Bloody: The Bitter Rivalry Between Edwin and John Wilkes Booth That Led to an American Tragedy

My Thoughts Be Bloody

Book Review

I’ve seen the words “magnificent” and “riveting” being used to describe My Thoughts Be Bloody: The Bitter Rivalry Between Edwin and John Wilkes Booth That Led to an American Tragedy by Nora Titone — and I wholeheartedly agree with both descriptions.

This book is far more than a recounting of the Abraham Lincoln assassination. Titone first captivates us with the love story between Junius Booth, a well loved Shakespearean actor, and the young and lovely Mary Ann, with whom he has eight children. (Lest this sounds like the stuff of fairy tales, know that when his wife finds out, she isn’t too happy.)

Book Review

The Republic of Suffering

Book Review

Book Review

The Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War by Drew Gilpin Faust is an extraordinary book that provides a look back in time to see how 19th-century Americans viewed death – and how the Civil War fueled the growth of the funeral industry and the creation of national cemeteries, and caused the military to expand its functions dramatically. This book also shows the sheer gruesomeness of the war in ways that books focusing on the battles never could.

In modern times, we try to fight off death, to slow down death, to focus on living and life. In the Civil War era, a more Victorian philosophy still existed – that it was important to die a “good death.” That meant that you were at peace with yourself, with others and with God. When a soldier died, fellow soldiers and officers tried to comfort the family by assuring them that their loved one had died such a death. Some soldiers carried with them letters to send to family members in case of their demise, and these letters tried to provide the same reassurance.

Historical writing, Nonfiction Writing Advice

How to Write a Book Proposal: Non-Fiction Example

how to write a book proposal
Photo by Corinne Kutz on Unsplash

I recently came across a book proposal that I’d written in 2013, one that was ultimately rejected because the publisher felt there were too many books on the subject already. So, I thought it might be helpful to share it with you, a guide to how to write a book proposal. Note that I’m not suggesting that ALL book proposals should look this way. The publisher I was querying had specific requirements and I followed them. Having said that, this book proposal is fairly typical of what a publisher might want, although shorter than many others I’ve written.

A Few More Resources

Writing a Nonfiction Book: Keeping it Real

Nonfiction Writing Advice: Toss Out a Great Opener

writing advice

Essence of the Writer’s Journey

writer's journey
Photo by Matt Howard on Unsplash

Recently, my husband and I attended a funeral. After the service ended, we needed to travel to the cemetery. With the funeral procession flag firmly attached to the roof of our car, we turned on our bright lights, as requested, and methodically twisted and turned our way to the cemetery.

After a brief and solemn committal ceremony, the funeral director thanked us for being part of the dedicated group who had just walked the “final mile” with the family of the deceased.