In this hectic digital age where editors don’t have time to wait for confirmation lest another outlet beats them to the finish line of a glowing tablet screen, reporters can no longer buy the neighborhood flatfoot a cup of coffee to get the inside scoop on whether Mrs. McGillicuddy offed her old man or whether the lush really did ‘accidentally’ fall out of his bedroom window.
Now, a reporter has to hustle to keep up with the bloggers and the 24 hour cable shows, do anything he or she can to win the few moments of a customer’s attention from an overwhelming amount of other options … and nothing gets attention more than fear. Your kid’s school bus may have bad brakes, your diet soda may be poisoning you, terrorist cells are operating in nice neighborhoods just like yours, and somebody shot somebody else two blocks from where you work. So while the cops are trying to assure the locals they’re responsible for that things are fine, nothing to see so let’s move it along, the news media is trying to convince every single hard-working, tax-paying, mouse-clicking viewer that the exact opposite is true.
But it didn’t used to be that way. Back in the first half of the last century, reporters and cops had much more interactive working habits. From roughly the 1930’s to the 1950’s were the golden years of newspapers and bosses like Hearst and Pulitzer had deeper pockets than the local constabulary. Reporters were not tasked with rules of evidence and could mislead, con and flat-out impersonate in order to get witnesses to talk. They could then trade this information with the cops to get other information; thus the cops received tips they might not have otherwise. Reporters wanted a scoop and cops, especially the higher-ups, liked to strike an Elliott Ness pose in the papers.
Reporters had many advantages over the cops—they didn’t punch a time clock and could work irregular hours for a boss who wasn’t above paying a witness for their story. Afterwards they’d be happy to turn the information over to the cops, and even hold back part of it if the investigation required it—provided they eventually got to scoop their rivals. A city became a trading floor of information, with each side working the other to their advantage. There would be toes trod on and feelings of annoyance, but the next day the bell would ring and it would all begin again.
When did this change? Hard to say. Rules in all lines of work have tightened, so perhaps cops are no longer so comfortable with spilling a tip over a cup of joe. Certainly the deep pockets have disappeared. Revenues from newspapers and other media plummeted over the same decades in which owners and shareholders came to expect higher profits. And as one of my reporter characters tells us, “You know what is first to get the ax? Investigative reporting.
It’s the least cost-effective type of content in any newspaper—any news outlet, period. Editors and producers can pump months of salary, overtime and expenses into a topic and then it doesn’t pan out. They never get a usable story—wasted money, in their eyes. Corporations hate to waste money that could be going into shareholder dividends instead.” The period of mutual cooperation has given way to a leaner, meaner, more desperate milieu.
And in that cauldron of pressure forensic scientist Maggie and homicide detective Jack have to solve a series of murders for which, this time, Jack is not responsible.
Lisa Black has spent over 20 years in forensic science, first at the coroner’s office in Cleveland Ohio and now as a certified latent print examiner and CSI at a Florida police dept. Her books have been translated into 6 languages, one reached the NYT Bestseller’s List and one has been optioned for film and a possible TV series.
It’s almost here! That’s right, registration for the 2017 Writers’ Police Academy is scheduled to open at NOON EST on February 19, 2017.
You can expect BIG things this year. Over the moon excitement, thrills, and action. Lots of BOOMS, BANGS, sirens, and flashing lights. New workshops include a ton of … well, surprises, as you’ll soon see!
2017 is our 9th annual event and, as always, we’ve outdone ourselves with another stellar lineup, starting with Craig Johnson, Mr. Longmire himself, as Guest of Honor!
Next up is Paul Bishop, a thirty-five year veteran of the Los Angeles Police Department. Not only is Paul a renowned interrogator and teacher of all things interview and interrogation, he starred in his own ABC TV series called Take the Money and Run.
Paul has fifteen published novels, including five in his LAPD, Detective Fey Croaker series. He has also written numerous scripts for episodic television and feature films. He is the co-creator and editor of the popular Fight Card series of hardboiled boxing novels and the Pulse Fiction anthologies. His latest novel, Lie Catchers, is the first in a new series featuring top LAPD interrogators Ray Pagan and Calamity Jane Randall.
Back by extremely popular demand is Dr. Katherine Ramsland, director of the Master of Arts in Criminal Justice Program at DeSales University. Dr. Ramsland also teaches courses on extreme offenders and forensic psychology. A regular WPA instructor, she has published over 1,000 articles, stories, and reviews, and 59 books, including The Mind of a Murderer, The Forensic Science of CSI, Inside the Minds of Serial Killers, The Ivy League Killer, and The Murder Game. Her book, Psychopath, was a #1 bestseller on the Wall Street Journal’s list.
Her latest book, Confessions of a Serial Killer, was written with Dennis “BTK” Rader, and her new novel, The Ripper Letter, relies on Ripper lore.
Les Edgerton, an award-winning author and writing teaching, is an ex-con, matriculating at Pendleton Reformatory in the sixties for burglary (plea-bargained down from multiple counts of burglary, armed robbery, strong-armed robbery and possession with intent). He was an outlaw for many years and was involved in shootouts, knifings, robberies, high-speed car chases, dealt and used drugs, was a pimp, worked for an escort service, starred in porn movies, was a gambler, served four years in the Navy, and had other misadventures. He’s since taken a vow of poverty (became a writer) with 19 books in print. Three of his novels have been sold to German publisher, Pulpmaster for the German language rights. His memoir, Adrenaline Junkie is currently being marketed. He currently teaches a private novel-writing class online.
The Writers’ Police Academy takes place at the public safety academy on the sprawling campus of Northeast Wisconsin Technical College (NWTC). The majority of the event, including our fabulous hotel, is situated on the Oneida Indian Reservation. Believe me, this place is super nice. As you can see in the image below of one of our lecture halls, our facilities are quite nice, modern, and extremely well-equipped.
Keep in mind, though, the WPA is hands-on event with very little lecture-based sessions. Those of you who attended last year will remember exactly what took place mere moments after this photo was taken. Without revealing details, let’s just say that what happened next was HEART-POUNDING realism at it’s finest!
Our event hotel, Radisson Hotel and Conference Center, Green Bay
We believe in pampering you guys from the moment your plane touches down in Green Bay until the moment you head back to the airport on the last day. Your accommodations are stunning, the food is great (this is also the official hotel of the Green Bay Packers; therefore, the chef is used to preparing gourmet meals to people who are used to the finer things). And the academy experience cannot be matched.
More from the hotel.
Yes, there’s a reason why thousands of writers from all over the world have attended the WPA, and it’s because we put you and your needs, wants, safety, and comfort first. Our workshops and presenters are based on your questions and ideas. You requested it and we delivered.
And, as always, our team of academy instructors are the best at what they do, hands-down. They’re top law enforcement professionals from local, state, and federal agencies, investigators, experts, medical professionals, firefighting pros, and more. And, for the first time ever, we’re introducing workshops taught from the other side of the badge!!
Workshops this year are beyond exciting and we’re anxious for you to see the schedule, which is currently being uploaded into the system. You can follow the progress by visiting the Writers’ Police Academy website. We’re currently in maintenance mode but should be out from under that status by the end of the day (Sunday February 5th).
For now, though, let’s talk about the exciting giveaways worth over $1,500!
First, author Kendra Elliott, a longtime WPA sponsor, has generously offered to give a package deal—free registration AND $500 in cash to use toward travel, hotel, or whatever you’d like. Details of how you could win this prize package to be announced very soon. You’ll also find those details on the registration form (on February 19th when registration goes live).
Next is a FREE registration. This opportunity is available to EVERYONE who registers on the FIRST day (February 19th at noon). The winner is to be selected by random drawing. To be perfectly clear, this opportunity is available to EVERYONE who signs on the FIRST day registration opens—February 19, 2017 (registration opens at noon EST).
This is the ONLY time this opportunity will be available—the first day of registration, only.
This should be no problem at all since everyone signs up the first hour, right? Remember, space is limited to the first 300 people. So be ready at NOON EST on February 19, 2017. These valuable opportunities could be yours!
*Writers’ Police Academy T-shirts, banquet meals, hats, and other swag may be included in the prize packages.
See you soon!
August 10-13, 2017
Northeast Wisconsin Technical College
International Public Safety
Green Bay, Wisconsin
Sisters in Crime, a major sponsor of the Writers’ Police Academy, offers a generous discount to their members attending the WPA for the first time. Not a member? No problem. Simply join SinC today to receive your discount.
*You must be a SinC member at the time of WPA registration to receive the discount. Click here to join SinC today!
The WPA is actively seeking sponsors and items for the raffle and silent auction. Thanks to you, to date we’ve given our host academies/colleges over $100,000, and the figure only grows higher. It is because of your generosity that we’re able to do what we do!
Please contact me at email@example.com if you’d like to join our family of sponsors. We need you, and a sponsorship is a great means to advertise you and your work to a worldwide audience!
We are also seeking volunteers to help out at the event. Raffle and silent auction experience not necessary, but big smiles and the ability to sell tickets like your life depends on it are, well, a big plus. :)
February 2, 2017 – Sergeant Steven Floyd was killed during a 20-hour riot and hostage situation at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center.
Officer Eric Mumaw, 44
Metro Nashville Tennessee Police Department
February 2, 2017 Officer Eric Mumaw drowned in swift water while attempting to rescue a suicidal woman. Other officers attempted to save him but the freezing water temperature and strong current prevented them from reaching him.
Deputy Chief James T. Molloy, 55
New York City Police Department
January 30, 2017 – Deputy Chief James Molloy died of brain cancer he contracted as a direct result of inhaling toxic materials during the rescue and recovery attempts at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2011.
Seventy-two officers died on 9-11 while trying to save the lives of others.
Chief Molloy is survived by his wife and daughters.
It’s almost here … Super Bowl LI. Patriots and the Falcons. Tom Brady and crew vs. Matt Ryan and company.
And lots of food and lots of ALCOHOL.
I know I shouldn’t have to say this, but please don’t drive drunk. Designate someone sober to drive. By the way, a designated driver should not ever be the guy who consumed the least number of vodka shots. A designated does NOT drink alcoholic beverages. Not even one.
Unfortunately, drunks still get behind the wheel and drunk drivers are still killing people.
Frito-Lay to the rescue!
Frito-Lay devised a unique means to help keep drunk drivers off the road this Super Bowl Sunday …
… a combination Tostitos/Breathalyzer bag that helps users know if they’ve consumed alcohol and, if so, they should find a designated driver to take them to their desired destinations (hopefully, home to a warm bed).
The concept is simple. Consumers blow into the bag (empty) and, if the logo turns from green to red (above), they should find a ride home. And, as a bonus, Frito-Lay is also offering a $10 Uber credit with the purchase of the “breathalyzer chips” to help offset the cost of the safe ride home.
Consumers blow into an empty Tostitos bag
Now, for reality. If you’ve reached the point where you find yourself blowing deeply into a bag of chips to determine whether or not you’ve consumed alcohol … well, you’re probably at the point where you have absolutely no business driving a car.
This is simple. Really, it is.
If you drink ANY amount of alcohol, DO NOT drive. Period.
I’ve responded to far too many crash scenes in my day, where human bodies were ripped, mangled, and torn apart, burned beyond recognition, decapitated, eviscerated, and/or crushed. And those were the dead bodies of small children. Of course, death is not shy. Adults are equally mangled in violent car crashes. So please, I urge you to please think about this before drinking and driving. Please. PLEASE.
Believe me, there’s nothing worse than having to inform someone that their spouse and child were killed.
This is a bit selfish, I suppose, but it’s my wish that no officer ever need to witness another crash scene. It’s horrible to process and to have stored in your memory. And it would break my heart to hear that one of you … well, you know.
So the next time your pull into a DUI checkpoint, you’ll have no worries, right?
By the way, good intentions, Frito-Lay, but consumers, please do NOT rely on a bag of chips to save your life or the life of another. Just do the right thing and don’t drive drunk!!
Things you may or may not know about me. Yes, someone challenged me to compose a list of twenty-five.
Here’s twenty-two. One statement is a lie. Three are top secret. Can you spot the false statement?
1. I do not edit this blog. What you see is each day is usually a first pass, and the errors found on the site are sometimes pretty funny.
2. Things not discussed on this blog—politics, gun control, religion, sex. Why not? Just take a peek at the bloodbath known as Facebook and you’ll see why I choose to not wade into a battle that no one could possibly win.
I choose to stick to reporting facts. No choosing sides. Just plain old fact.
By the way, thanks to all the insane gnashing of teeth and bickering and name-calling and fake news, I’ve stopped reading Facebook posts. Nada. Nothing. I surrender. The hatred won. So I’m sorry if I’m missing your good news, but I prefer to remember my friends as, well, my friends. I still post news to social media, but to subject myself to seeing friends at each other’s throats, calling one another ever vile name in the book … no thanks.
So no more reading things on social media for me. Not for a while.
3. I started this blog in January, nine years ago, and I’ve missed only a couple of days of offering new articles. I even wrote and posted a morphine-induced article mere minutes after waking up from major neck surgery. However, I missed yesterday. My excuse—tons of 2017 Writers’ Police Academy details to work out.
4. I enjoy music quite a bit, and I play, or have played several instruments, including guitar, bass guitar, drums, trumpet, tuba, french horn, and clarinet. Well, the clarinet thing was a passing fancy, but the others I’ve played with some degree of success. I’ve played guitar, bass, drums, and/or trumpet in numerous bands over the years. I sat first chair, first trumpet (soloist) in our concert band and with the marching and jazz bands.
I learned to play the trumpet in an odd way.
I played tuba in the junior high band (some of us younger folks also performed with our award-winning high school marching band). As odd luck would have it, we were scheduled to play for a homecoming parade and halftime show at a well-known university when the lead trumpet player became ill and couldn’t perform.
I’d never played the trumpet in public and really didn’t know how. Couldn’t even read the music since tuba sheet music is in written bass clef and trumpet is in treble, meaning the notes on the staff have differing values (a note on the staff for a trumpet, while located in the same spot, is different than a note in the same position when played on a tuba).
A tiny bit of music theory here, to help you better understand how complex this situation was for me:
The five lines (above) are called a “staff.”
Those lines and the spaces between represent different pitches.
With a blank staff we can’t tell what notes to play, right? So composers use Clefs to mark which notes correspond to individual lines and/or spaces. The TrebleClef (pictured above, is also known as the G Clef) and the Bass Clef (also pictured above) is the F Clef. By the way, I drew both clefs on the same staff. This was merely to illustrate how they appear on sheet music. In the real world, the two clefs would not appear together on the same staff.
The Treble Clef spirals around the second line from the bottom. This spiral tells us that notes on this line are G.
The Bass Clef has two dots, above and below the second line from the top. The dots indicate that this line is F.
Clear as mud, right? But, is it merely fuel to assist in a convincing lie? :)
Anyway, the band director came to me, extremely distraught, and asked if I thought I could play the trumpet parts if he wrote the valve positions (which valve to press for each note) beneath the notes.
We had two trumpet-heavy songs to perform, both by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass—A Taste of Honey and Tijuana Taxi. So there I went, marching with the band (left, right, left, right, and so on, lifting my knees parallel to the ground and toes pointed down) with a piece of sheet music attached to the lyre hooked to my borrowed horn.
Trumpet with lyre attached, holding sheet music.
Before handing me the sheet music, the band director used a pencil to mark the valve positions for each note on the page. Otherwise, I had no clue which note was which.
This is similar to what I had to go by, tiny sheets of music marked with crude drawings of valve positions and note names. And I had to decipher this in real time while marching!
Anyway, I got through it and, remarkably, we won the first place award for best marching band in the parade. The halftime show was also a success, in spite of having to change the routine a bit since I was then in a new position.
With knees knocking and fear plucking every nerve, I played a trumpet solo, right there on the 50 yard line at a major U.S. university. Remember, this was my first time in public playing a trumpet, and I did not know how! But I’ve always been ready for challenge. However, I’m sort of done with challenges these days. Now, I opt for quiet, calm, and peace. Except, of course, during the Writers’ Police Academy! By the way, my switch to trumpet became a permanent move, from that day forward.
5. Denene and I once owned a really nice gym, a remodeling company, a music store, and a computer business. We’ve also owned rental property.
6. I enjoy small woodworking projects, when I have the time. I have also been known to do larger jobs, such as room additions and roofing. I made these a while back.
7. I was once in a nice restaurant, enjoying a delicious bowl of clam chowder, when one of the Oak Ridge Boys, who was also at our table, started singing to my wife, Denene.
8. I, unlike you guys, knew prior to showing the video at the WPA, that Michael Cudlitz (star of The Walking Dead, Southland, and the Band of Brothers), was not wearing pants when he shot the recording announcing the winner of the Writers’ Police Academy Golden Donut Short Story Contest. He’d forgotten to do the video for us, but remembered it after he’d gone to bed. So he got up, slipped on a shirt, and … well, I’ll bet you view the video differently now!
9. I once taught self-defense and rape prevention to college students. The program was part of the schools’ orientation for new students.
10. I taught business math at a Virginia High School. Deciding it would be safer and less stressful to work as a police officer, I made the change.
11. I was a Boy Scout camp counselor for a few years. My jobs during that time included teaching archery and rifle and shotgun, and overseeing some of the daily operation of the camp dining hall. I also served as camp bugler.
12. I haven’t fired a gun in over 15 years.
13. I have a tattoo of Mickey Mouse.
14. I, my brother, and a friend won a karaoke contest. Our song? “Stop, in the Name of Love” by The Supremes.
15. My brother, the same friend, and I were fishing in a narrow but deep river. I tossed out my line, hoping to catch a nice large-mouth bass. When I made the cast, the lure went up and over a tree branch before coming to a stop four feet above the surface of water. Unsure how I was going to retrieve the lure, we began to paddle closer to it to try. Suddenly, a huge bass leapt from the water and swallowed the lure, leaving the large fish dangling from the line, like a yo-yo at the bottom of a long string. Just as I was about to grab the fish (the largest of the day, by the way) the bass let go and fell into the water, never to be seen again.
16. I was a high-jumper and sprinter on my high school track team.
17. For extra money, I once worked a part-time job where I repaired damaged (new, and empty) wooden caskets.
18. A doctor once told me I was at the end of my life and I should get my affairs in order, immediately. However, I lived.
19. I have worked as a laborer, pulling tobacco and picking cotton from sunup to sundown. My pay was $3 per day plus meals, one Pepsi, and a package of snack crackers. I worked on this farm for an entire summer, vowing each day to never, ever do it again.
20. I can write forward with my right hand and backward (mirror image) with my right … at the same time.
Hey, DaVinci could do it too. If it’s good enough for him … Or, are we both lying about this unusual ability?
21. I was called to assist with catching a guy who’d overpowered a wiry jail officer to escape his cell. When I went in the back (thats what we called going inside the high security area) the prisoner was standing next to a supply room throwing rolls of toilet tissue at the skinny and distraught jailer who was trying to catch him. The prisoner was 6′-5″ and the jailer was 5′-6″ and weighed 120 lbs. on a heavy day. Hilarious sight.
So that’s it for me. Were you able to use your highly-honed detective skills to spot the false “fact?”
What about you? What’s one thing we don’t know about you? Remember, no politics, gun control, religion, or sex. Hmm … omitting those topics might leave some people with nothing to say … :)
We recently took a short trip where I ran into a fellow who considers himself an expert on writing fiction. He’s also a retired police detective. The wise old gentleman wouldn’t tell me his name, asking that I refer to him as “The Professor.”
He did, however, share some of his writing tips with me, and here’s what The Professor had to say about the correlation between police officers and fictional character development.
The Professor: Police officers have unknowingly cornered the market on developing believable fictional characters. It’s something they do on a daily basis while interviewing witnesses to crimes. Their job is to help those witnesses reach deep into the corners of their minds, where they’ve stored details that help round out descriptions of suspects—scars, tattoos, a limp, a missing finger, an odd accent, a habit of throat clearing or twirling a lock of hair, a mole on the cheek, a distinct cologne, etc. The perfect end result is, of course, a wonderfully detailed picture of a unique person who’d stand out in a crowd of dozens.
Writers have the same job—develop characters with unique qualities and physical appearance. Story creators must go a few steps further, though, showing readers a character’s personalities, their strengths and flaws, and how they live their lives.
It’s best when writers introduce character traits through means other than like listing a string of grocery items—he was a tall, thin, bald, sad, and nervous man. Instead, how about …
Andre stopped by, asking if I’d join him on a trip to visit a sick friend. I didn’t want to, despising anything having to do with germs, but I owed him a favor so I grabbed my hat and coat and followed him to his car.
His friend’s house was a freaking mansion. My place could fit inside ten times, or more. An elderly housekeeper showed us to a room at the rear of the house.
Andre ducked as he entered the bedroom, which, as with most pro basketball players, was something he was used to doing, in every single house he’d ever visited. Thankfully, the ceiling inside this particular room was vaulted. His slick scalp reflected the light from the overhead fixture.
Andre flashed a lopsided smile at his dying friend, exposing a set of teeth as bright as the keys on a new Steinway piano. He couldn’t see to find the right words to say to the man he’d known since childhood, so he stood at the side of his friend’s deathbed, staring down at his own feet while jingling the change in his pocket. He watched a tiny spider fall from the bed railing to floor, where it scurried away to the shadows beneath a well-worn and tattered wingback chair. I wished he could join the insect, to avoid the strained silence that hung heavy in the room.
Sure, it was overwritten and poorly written, but to make the point that showing something is far more interesting than typing a long laundry list of encyclopedic details (info dump).
Anyway, writers sometimes experience a bit of difficulty bringing life to characters, so here’s a simple Professor-tested method that might help out.
Interview Your Fictional Character
Pretend you’re sitting across the breakfast table from, say … this guy.
You want to know what makes this fellow tick. So you might want to start out the interview by asking:
1. Are you angry because you recently filed your teeth to sharp points and you’re now in excruciating pain? Have you ever worked in any factory as the person who perforates stuff, like those holes in crackers?
2. What are your favorite foods? Do you have trouble eating corn on the cob?
3. Where do you live? Is your castle equipped with electricity, or do you use an open fire to boil water for children-cooking?
4. Have you killed anyone else besides your mother and the ladies of the Afternoon Tea Club?
5. Do have any hobbies? Well, other than chopping people into tiny bits?
6. What is your deepest, darkest secret? I know you mentioned wanting to learn ballet, but I mean something you’re holding really deep down.
7. What’s your favorite color, other than blood red, that is?
8. Are you religious? Do you regularly sacrifice animals, or small women and large children?
9. What’s your favorite time of day? You know, when you’re most active doing whatever it is you do?
10. What is your most valued possession? No, I don’t mean the girl in the basement.
11. Is your dentist sight-challenged?
12. Do you prefer your human flesh to be rare or well-done?
Once you’ve completed the interview, try asking your soon-to-be character if it’s okay if you have a quick look around the inside of his house (you may have to promise that you won’t call the police, or his probation officer). During the quick tour of his charming abode, make note of the things you see. A character’s possessions will tell you a great deal about him.
1. Clothing – you see nothing but tattered and well-worn overalls and grungy work shirts. Now you know he’s probably a man who works with his hands. This could indicate someone who frequents honky-tonk bars and has friends who drive rusted and dented pickup trucks with assorted meat hooks scattered about the bed. A matchbook collection from various bars would also be a clue. So would a scrapbook containing locks of assorted hair colors and types, labeled “Girls from bars I go to to find girls I want to kill and then take their hair as trophies.”
Suits and ties = a man who works in an office setting, therefore he most likely pals around with other business people before killing and dismembering them and roasting their remains in the assortment of Easy-Bake Ovens he keeps in his basement playroom.
2. Your guy from the above photo might possess a backpack filled with human heads, and that could be a great clue about his hobbies and interests.
3. There may be a secret door in “Pointy-Teeth’s” bedroom that leads to a torture chamber. Now you know where he spends his weekends.
4. Are his knives and chainsaws new, old, broken, or meticulously cared for?
5. If he were to take a trip to Transylvania, what would he pack to be certain all his needs are met?
6. The very last question of your life might be, “Why do you keep your best cutlery locked in that bloodstained footlocker?
Then, when you’re all done and your character comes to life right there in your office, it’s time for you to make an appointment with your shrink to find out why your mind works like it does. Why are you so weird? Why do all your thoughts drift back to the murder on page 666? Why do you write about death and poisons and autopsy? Why? Why? Why?
Perhaps it is indeed time to check yourself into a nervous hospital. At the very least you should up the dosage of your nervous medicine. Before you do, though … we want to know what happens to Pointy-Teeth. So get busy and write, write, WRITE!!