They Wrote the Dam Story!

A drive down a dirt road overgrown with tall weeds, honeysuckle, and goldenrod revealed an old water and rust-stained dam, a deserted factory engulfed in vines, and a secret fishing spot. In all the quiet it was easy to imagine smoke billowing from the stacks, water rushing over the dam, and a line of workers standing in line to punch a time clock. Nevermore.

Nowadays, in addition to being the spot for catfishing, the off-the-beaten-path location is a breeding ground for fictional murder, macabre hiding spots for imaginary dead bodies, and an idea prompt for a popular 200-word short story contest.



2013 Writers’ Police Academy Golden Donut Short Story Contest



The rules were simple—write a story featuring the image we provided. The catch—the story must be told in exactly 200 words.

As always, we received a mountain of entries. And, each story we received was a nicely-told tale. But there could be only one winner.

So, without further ado, let’s bring Joe Bonsall of the Oak Ridge Boys to center stage to announce the winner of the 2013 Golden Donut Short Story Contest.

The Echo

by Nancy Sweetland

I told my psychiatrist I was coming back here to banish my demons, stop the bad dreams.

He said he’d come along.

I wondered why he cared.

Mama’s long dead, an unsolved homicide. But if I remember anything to identify her killer even after all these years, I know I’ll end my misery.

Inside the rusted, screechy gate, my psychiatrist says, “There’s nothing here to help you remember.”

But he’s wrong! I catch my breath. In this dingy, unkempt area behind the abandoned building the haunting memory of a deep, coaxing voice echoes off the stark cement walls.

I shiver.

“Look under the stairs,” I say. Someone huddles there, shaking, tears rivering down his face.


Six years old.

Hiding from the man that hit my mama, bloodied her face, twisted her arm, made her scream. I hear the echo of his voice, wheedling, “Come on out, Kid. I won’t hurt you.”

I know that voice, so familiar to me now. Fury boiling up from years of lies, I step toward my psychiatrist.

I know now why he cares about my memories.

Know who he is.

Know how I can banish my demons, make the bad dreams stop.

Nancy Sweetland

*     *     *

The 2016 Golden Donut Short Story Contest is OPEN! For details click the link below.

Golden Donut

Read more
WPA Instructors Give Back: SWAT Officers Run for Kids with Cancer

Screen Shot 2015-10-24 at 11.14.10 AM

Many of the officers who taught workshops at the 2015 Writers’ Police Academy recently participated in the 50-mile Snowdrop Run, a charity fundraiser for pediatric cancer research and care. SWAT team members/WPA instructors ran in full SWAT gear. This, my friends, is exactly what the WPA is all about. We exist solely to help others—writers, student scholarships, etc.—, and thanks to you and our generous instructors, sponsors, and academy, we’re able to do just that. This further validates our decision to move the WPA to Appleton and FVTC.

Screen Shot 2015-10-24 at 11.22.00 AM

To date we’ve donated well over $70,000.00 to our host colleges/academies. The funds go toward student scholarships (both degreed and certificate programs), and to help with funding for police, fire, EMS, and forensics education and training. So, when you sign up to attend the WPA, your dollars and donated raffle and auction items are used to help enrich and better the lives of others, and we thank you for your continued support.


Read more about the Snowdrop Run here.


Read more
TBT: 7 Years of Writers’ Police Academy Memories


The annual Writers’ Police Academy is now in its seventh year, and the memories we’ve created together are nothing short of wonderful.

Each year we strive to top the last, which is an extremely difficult challenge, but we always come through. The 2015 event is absolutely over-the-moon exciting! Believe me, we’ve pulled out all the stops.

The 2015 WPA is THE most action-packed, thrilling event we’ve ever produced, and due to a couple of recent cancellations we now have a few openings. So please hurry and sign up before those are gone. You do NOT want to miss this one of a kind event. There is nothing else like the WPA on the planet! Not even close.

But today, on Throwback Thursday, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on a few moments we’ve shared over the years. You know, those quiet and lazy times when the crickets are chirping, gentle breezes caress, and soft and soothing…gun blasts, police sirens, and laughter, lots of laughter are heard just outside your window.

Here’s how we roll…

2013-09-06_20-29-46_142 (2)

New Picture (1)




New Picture (4)




*Images by a variety of photographers, including Patti Phillips, Julie Goyette, Quay Williams, and Molly Weston. I apologize if I’ve neglected to mention anyone. Thanks to you all!

Read more
Cops As Romance Cover Models: You Asked For It!

New Picture (3)

What do you get when these guys, Rick McMahan and Mike Roche, are on the same program? Easy answer. Nothing but trouble! Well, trouble and over the top practical joking.

Last year at the Writers’ Police Academy, ATF Special Agent Rick McMahan (above left) decided to pull all the stops and go for the gold. With a little help from bestselling author Lori Foster, Rick “uncovered” the secret lives of a few WPA instructors/cops.

New Picture (8)

Yes, during the Saturday night banquet, in front of everyone, Rick had the nerve to “bare” his friends’ hidden “treasures.”

Who knew…

Former Secret Service Special Agent Mike Roche was named The Love Doctor.

New Picture (6)

Since Mike’s WPA appearance, his modeling skills have been in high demand.

New Picture (4)

New Picture (5)

But Rick didn’t stop with Mike Roche. Oh, nooooo….

Next was the always-hot Captain “Honeybuns” Shepherd.

New Picture (1)

Not to be outdone, Rick decided to display his own six pack to the banquet crowd.

New Picture

Of course, my friend Rick didn’t forget me, The Big Kahuna, in his twisted plan.

New Picture (3)

Rick, I do hope you realize that someday, somehow, the “big one” is headed in your direction…


Read more
Writers’ Police Academy: My Mother Would Call It A Ministry


Cops are a unique breed. They dress differently. They speak differently. And they’re in a class all to themselves, a “Members Only” sort of group where those on the outside looking in simply don’t understand what it is that officers do and why they do it.

Unfortunately, law enforcement is a business that sometimes, to best protect us from harm, must do things out of public view. And that lack of understanding and wondering “what they’re up to” often leads to mistrust.

Some members of society reject any form of authority. Others distrust police officers because they’ve heard friends or family members say they don’t like cops. In some corners of cities, counties, and states, young children, even before they’re taught to read and write, are taught to hate the police. Then there are the bad apples of law enforcement who commit acts that go against the very meaning of their badge and oath.

Of course, compounding the trouble is the necessary evil called secrecy, an act that drives an even larger wedge between the general population and the police. Therefore, over time, police officers metaphorically circled their protective wagons in order to survive in a world populated by people who simply don’t like them, for whatever reason(s). And, unfortunately, the circling of those wagons transformed the wedge into a nearly impenetrable wall between citizens and the officers who’ve taken an oath to protect and serve them.

The wall is there. No doubt about it. But what many people, including police, don’t understand about the “wall” is that one of its cornerstones is fear—fear of abuse, fear of beatings, fear of racism, and even the fear of death. Yes, some people live their entire lives being deathly afraid of the police. And, believe it or not, the same fear of the same things is also experienced by many police officers. It’s a two-way street. Are those feelings justified? Sadly, in some cases—many cases—the answer is yes.

As a detective in charge of certain operations, I devoted much of my time attempting to tear down the invisible wall. I wanted people to know that police officers are human, and that we do good, and that we were there FOR them, not AGAINST them. And I still try to convey that message through this blog and through my writings. I also had the same goal in mind when starting the Writers’ Police Academy several years ago.

Well, I knew the instructors at the WPA were the best in the business at what they do, but when I received the letter below back in 2013 I also knew the event had achieved far more than merely helping writers “get it right.”

Finally, after all these years, there was a crack in the wall. And I want to say THANK YOU to everyone involved in the WPA for merely being you. It is because you’re who you are that someone took the time to let me know the WPA had a huge and emotional impact on their life.

Here’s the letter (I’ve omitted names and locations to protect the writer’s identity).

Dear Mr. Lofland:

It’s been almost a year since I attended the Writer’s Police Academy in September of 2012 and I am writing to share my experience during that weekend.

I learned about your Academy from a book on getting one’s book published (I don’t remember the title of the book) that I was skimming through in a Barnes and Noble store in early September of last year. Since I have no law enforcement background, I was looking for a way to verify that the information in the novel that I’ve been working on for some time is correct; that’s when I saw the piece on your Academy. I couldn’t believe it; especially since the Academy was being held in a few weeks. I quickly signed up and prepared to go along with my wife, my little daughter, and my mother-in-law.

The Writer’s Police Academy was a life-changing experience; but not in the way I imagined.

You see, I’ve never had a good relationship or opinion of the Police and I’ll explain why.

I was about 8 years old and it was a summer night in the mid 1970’s when suddenly I had a terrible cough just before going to bed. My mother is a praying woman and she taught us that when we’re sick God can heal us; so that night I asked her to pray for me. Quickly, the cough was gone and just before I dozed off into sleep I remember seeing the reflection of Police car lights on my bedroom wall.

The next day I awoke to find that my 16 year-old brother was missing. As my mother finished praying for me and I fell asleep, my mother saw the Police lights on the wall, too, and quickly ran to the window. Two policemen were surrounding my brother. What happened was that a car was stolen in my neighborhood and my brother was accused of being the person who stole the car.

My mother quickly ran downstairs and stood between my brother and the Police; the two men smelled of alcohol and their eyes were bloodshot. One Police officer pulled his weapon on my mother.

The owner of the car ran up to the officers and told them that his car was found by other officers and that my brother was innocent. One of the officers refused to let my brother go and wanted to take him in. My brother panicked and ran.

You see, we lived in the **** area of the **** and this was in the mid 70’s. Police abuse was rampant and crime and fires in the area were out of control. There was little trust in the Police from the community.

They shot at my brother as he ran down the park stairs and he was captured by other officers from three squad cars that suddenly appeared. They took him to the ******** and beat him to a pulp. My parents went to the precinct and were told he wasn’t there and had been released; it was a lie. Later on, the officers took him to an industrial area called *****, beat him some more and left him there in the middle of the night. My brother showed up at my house at 12 in the afternoon the next day.

Investigating officers reported that no such incident occurred and that one of the officers whom allegedly was present that night, whom my brother remembered his name and badge number, didn’t exist. An officer told my mother that she better get my brother out of the area or he would be killed by the police. She obliged.

Since then, my experiences with the Police haven’t been positive. There have been incidents in which I was treated well so I don’t want to over generalize but the bad has far outweighed the good. During the **** years, it was hell! I am of **** **** descent and although I am fair skinned, college educated and have worked all my life; I felt that I had a target on my back as I walked the streets or drove in the City. ….police brutality cases have only made me less trustful of the police. I have often wondered why I am even writing a novel related to the Police.

So, last year, when I went to your Academy, I was very uneasy. I was entering an actual Police Academy and was going to be surrounded by Police. I was nervous, apprehensive, and at times, felt like a hypocrite for even being there. But then the Academy started.

Friday morning began with a presentation on the Jaws of Life. The dedication and care for the public from the presenting officer just oozed out of him and impressed me. I then attended “Making a Lasting Impression” with Robert Skiff and David Pauly: I was blown away. The commitment from those two gentlemen to find the truth in order to protect the public blew me away. I slowly began to see that the Police weren’t necessarily out to get me but to protect me.

I then went to “Fingerprinting” and it was awesome. Next, I attended “Cold Cases and the Realities of Investigations” by David Pauly and Dr. Ramsland; this is where things really started to change. The openness of the presenters in sharing their knowledge was incredible. I could feel their passion and dedication to getting the truth and solving murders. More importantly, I could see and feel their humanity.

Friday evening after the Night Owl Presentation, I had to go to the Bar and gather myself. My head was spinning. Not only from the information I received in the classes but my emotions were everywhere. Then McMahan sat next to me in the bar and began to talk to me; my heart was racing and my palms were sweating. A law enforcement officer was sitting next to me and talking to me man-to-man. He is truly a gentleman. I found out he’s a dedicated dad and husband and I was humbled by his humility and integrity.

We were joined by David Pauly and Dr. Ramsland; they talked to me like I was a human being. You see, Mr. Lofland, in dealing with the Police in my past, I often felt less than human. David Pauly bought me a beer (please tell him I owe him one) and the four of us talked for a while. It was great. They are great people and their knowledge and dedication just blows me away.

Not long after that, Detective Conelli joined us and we had a brief talk; he was exhausted from his trip and needed rest. I couldn’t wait for his presentation on the following morning “Anatomy of an Undercover Cop”.

Saturday came and I was seated on the floor in Detective Conelli’s classroom (the room was full to capacity). He started out by showing a picture of “His Office” which was a building in the Grand Concourse in the Bronx. My heart stopped, I went cold, and I was almost brought to tears. I had been in many buildings like the one in the picture! He then showed us a picture of him while undercover. He had no weapons and was taking a huge risk in going into those buildings. It was during the Crack epidemic and I witnessed, firsthand, how it devastated neighborhoods.

Hearing Mr. Conelli talk transformed me. I began to see the other side of what it is to be a Police Officer. I began to see them as being on my side, for me, and not against me.

On Sunday, during the debriefing panel, I was struck by the Chief’s words and his assistant. I’m sorry but I don’t remember their names. They urged the writers present to write positively about the Police profession. They said it was very easy to portray cops in a negative light but we were witnesses that weekend to the goodness found among law enforcement professionals. I take that advice to heart.

On the plane on my way home I thought about my experience. I have a coworker whose brother is a **** Captain. I decided I would reach out to him in order to not only get information for my novel but most importantly, bury some painful experiences I had been carrying for many years. I realized that the experience with my brother had colored my view of Cops and I needed to change that.

Captain **** **** so happens to be the Captain of *** homicide. When we texted each other in order to set up a meeting, he told me he worked out of the ****! The same one in which my brother was abused. But the *** **** had since moved so I thought nothing of it. It turns out that the **** has indeed moved but the original building (in which my brother was abused) is used to house Captain **** and other administrative offices.

So, on a cold December night around 11pm I went to meet Captain ****. It was surreal walking into that building. I confessed my feelings about the Police to Captain **** and told him that if he felt uncomfortable with me that it was okay if he didn’t want to share and continue our meeting. He was very gracious and understanding. He confessed that the **** doesn’t have clean hands and didn’t have clean hands during those days in the 70’s in ***** but he shared his side of things.

I made peace with a lot of things that night, Mr. Lofland. It all started with your Academy and your gracious speakers. You have a very special thing going there. My mother would call it a ministry; something God-given.

My wish is that your Academy could be duplicated throughout the country and be used as a tool not only for writers but to bridge the gap between the Police and the communities in which they serve. I would like to see young people attend your Academies and receive healing just as I did.

I would also like to see you guys do a documentary on the Police. My vision is to have several Police recruits from several Police Academies from different parts of the country be followed from just before they enter the Police Academy to about five or more years into their careers. The documentary would show their everyday lives and their struggles and maturing process. I think the public would love it and gain a lot from such a program.

As for me, I don’t know if I will ever finish my novel or have it published. I am currently working on getting a Master’s of Social Work (MSW) so that I could work in the **** Schools helping kids in the inner city; kids much like me when I was younger. I can’t attend this year’s Academy because we can’t afford it and because of my studies.

However, I will forever be grateful to you and to Mr. McMahan, Mr. Skiff, Mr. Pauly, Det. Conelli, Dr. Ramsland, and all the others who were there last fall. I’m a better man for attending and am at peace now.

I am eternally grateful to you and to your partners. May you guys have the best Writers’ Police Academy yet and may God richly bless you and yours.

Thank you,

Name withheld

*Space is available for the 2015 Writers’ Police Academy! Sign up today to reserve your spot at this fantastic and exciting one-of-a-kind event!

Read more
2015 Golden Donut Short Story Contest is OPEN!


The Writers’ Police Academy is pleased to continue the Golden Donut short story contest in 2015. The rules are simple—write a story about the photograph above using exactly 200 words, including the title (each story must include an original title). The image in the photograph MUST be the main subject of the story. We will not provide clues as to the subject matter of the image, or where the shot was taken. That is for you and your imagination to decide. Remember, though, what you see in the image absolutely MUST be the MAIN subject of your tale.

*Again, the photo above absolutely MUST be the main focus of the story, not just a mere mention within the text.

All stories are to be polished and complete, meaning they must have a beginning, middle, and a twisted surprise ending. Again, all stories must be exactly 200 words. Not 201 or 199! So read the word count rules carefully. Over the years, we’ve seen some excellent tales disqualified due to an incorrect word count.

The Golden Donut contest is judged blindly, meaning each entry is assigned a number prior to sending it to the judges. Therefore, judges do not see the writers’ names.

All entries will be screened by a panel of readers who will select their twelve favorite stories and then forward their picks to the contest judge (To Be Announced). All decisions are final and may not be contested or appealed. After reviewing each of the entries, the judge will notify the Writers’ Police Academy of the winner’s name and story. While the winner will be announced at the WPA banquet, the winner need not be present to win. The contest is open to everyone, not just WPA attendees.

The contest winner receives the prestigious Golden Donut Award.

Submission Guidelines:

Please read carefully!

All submissions MUST be submitted electronically via email to Write Golden Donut 2015 in the subject line.

Click the link below to complete the entry registration form and follow the posted instructions. Entry fee details are there as well.

Golden Donut Short Story Contest

Please include your story within the body of the email. Attachments will not be opened.

 Additionally, a twenty-five dollar ($25) entry fee must be submitted via Paypal BEFORE the entry is emailed.

Contest opens on Wednesday March 18, 2015 (Please do not send any entries before this date).

Submission Deadline: Midnight June 30, 2015 (the precise point in time between 11:59 pm 6-30 and 12:01 am 7-1).

– Any entry not meeting the exact 200 word requirement will be disqualified. You will not receive notice of disqualification. Please be sure your word count is accurate and that all words are counted.

– Hyphenated words, for the purpose of this contest, will be counted as two words, or three, etc., depending upon how many words make up the hyphenated phrase/word. Contractions will be counted as two words (it’s, don’t, etc.).

– Every single word will be counted as a word. This includes: “a,” “and,” and “the.” To be very clear…if it’s a word, count it. If it’s part of dialog and you think it may be a word, count it. If it’s a stand-alone letter or group of letters, count it as a word. If it’s a number, count it as a word. If the number would include a hyphen if written out as a word, then count it as a hyphenated word.

– Entries submitted after the June 30 deadline will NOT be judged.

– Any entry not meeting the exact 200 word requirement will be disqualified.

No refunds for any reason!

Again, all entry fees and stories must be received on or prior to June 30, 2015. No exceptions. There is normally a mountain of entries, therefore, it is a time-consuming process for the judges. We need time to process the entries and to have the award properly engraved and shipped to the WPA.

– Be sure to include your name, address, email address, telephone number(s), and title of your story in an opening paragraph above your story. Then, please include your story, headed by the title.

– There is a $25 entry fee, payable via Paypal. Entries received without the appropriate entry fee will be excluded from the contest. No refunds.

– Each author may submit up to three entries. Each entry must be accompanied by the corresponding entry fee ($25 per story).

– Each author can enter up to three stories. But each individual entry must be accompanied by its own $25 entry fee. (One entry = $25. Three entries = $75, etc.) You must indicate how many stories you plan to submit when you register.

– By submitting an entry to this contest authors agree to allow The Graveyard Shift/Lee Lofland, the Writers’ Police Academy, Sisters in Crime, and affiliates to publish/reprint the story as a part of The Graveyard Shift blog and/or as advertisement for the Writers’ Police Academy or Sisters in Crime, or in other publications and media, including, but not limited to, Writers’ Police Academy books, magazines, newspaper, blogs, ebooks, online outlets, etc. *Sisters in Crime is not a part of the Writers’ Police Academy.

*All rights to all work/short story shall remain the property of the author. The Writers’ Police Academy reserves the right to exclude or delete any entry without cause, reason, or explanation.

– ABSOLUTELY NO profanity or erotica.

Please send questions to Lee Lofland at lofland32@msn(dot)com

So there you have it. Now get busy and take us on a journey that’d scare the pants off Poe himself.

Good luck!

Read more