Saturday, November 22, 2014

New York Times, you're no Washington Post

And the media wonders why their glory days are behind them. Check out this description of Sharyl Attkisson's current bestseller Stonewalled:

Nope, no agenda here. Move along, nothing to see.

Because who in their right mind would complain about being harassed and intimidated by the White House while they're just trying to do their job? Only a right wing nutjob, amirite? I'm just surprised they didn't use "whines" instead of "complains". I mean, if you're going to be a jerk about it, might as well go all out.

So childishly petty, New York Times. You used to be better than that.

On the other hand, they have no problem being completely serious about a relationship book by a celebrity who has been married and divorced three times:

So Jennifer Lopez describes, but investigative reporter Sharyl Attkisson complains. Got it.

Obviously, the days of anyone in the mainstream media wanting to emulate Woodward and Bernstein are over.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Bouchercon 2014 - Day 1 Recap

The 45th Annual Bouchercon, a mystery/thriller convention, was held in Long Beach last weekend. I'd never attended Bouchercon, but had heard great things about it at other conferences, and it didn't disappoint. These were the panels I attended on Day 1 (Thursday).

Crime in Tinseltown (Hollywood as the Setting for Murder)
Lee Goldberg (Moderator), retired LAPD Captain turned novelist Connie Dial, Diana Gould, Melodie Johnson Howe, Nathan Walpow, Sheila York.

The always entertaining Lee Goldberg led the discussion of authors discussing their showbiz-based novels. My favorite parts of the panel were via Goldberg, at one point ranting about how an inept lead actor on one of his shows lead him to write his novel My Gun Has Bullets (which is now on my Kindle waiting to be read). The best story was when he was working on Diagnosis Murder and bringing his then eight year old daughter to the set to meet Dick Van Dyke because she was enamored of Bert the Chimney Sweep in Mary Poppins. She didn't recognize the white-haired man as Bert, so Van Dyke began performing a song from the movie. The panel also recommended the following as some of the best books about Hollywood: City of Nets, The Day of the Locust, The Dame in the Kimono and The Last Tycoon.

Mixing Murder with Food (Why We Love Cozies with Recipes)
Kate Carlisle (Moderator), Connie Archer, Leslie Budewitz, Daryl Wood Gerber (aka Avery Aames), Karen MacInerney, Ovidia Yu

Some tidbits about cozies with recipes from this entertaining panel: If you mention a recipe and don't include it in the book, you will hear from fans wanting it. Archer had included a made-up soup in one of her books and had fans requesting the non-existent recipe. Yu referred to the combination of cozy mysteries and food as "comfort reading. One of the things I love about cozies is the titles. Titles from this panel include Crime Rib, A Spoon Full of Murder, As Gouda as Dead, Days of Wine and Roquefort, and Dead and Berried.

Short But Mighty (The Power and Freedom of the Short Story)
Travis Richardson (Moderator), Craig Faustus Buck, Barb Goffman, Robert Lopresti, Paul D. Marks, Art Taylor

Panelists have had their work published in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, and various anthologies (Buck contributed to Murder at the Beach, this year's Bouchercon anthology). Richardson, Buck and Taylor were all nominees in the short story category for Bouchercon's Anthony Award (John Connelly won). Buck said he writes short stories to procrastinate when working on novels. Buck recommended buying newspapers for story ideas. Goffman suggested News of the Weird.

On my to-read list.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Murder at The Beach: Bouchercon - a quick look

Long Beach welcomes Bouchercon!!!
Welcome to Downtown Long Beach. The view from my room.
The Bookseller's Room. Overwhelming.
Apparently, there's lit for everyone.
Panel for "Mixing Murder with Food: Why We Love Cozies with Recipes".
Just outside the gorgeous host hotel, The Hyatt.
Ominous skies over Downtown Long Beach on Friday.
Weather held up, there was no rain. Southern California style :)

My view this morning. You so pretty, Downtown Long Beach.

Off in the distance, a cruise ship.

The view.

Pine Street, Long Beach. Mystery Convention, straight ahead.

This morning's awesome and hilarious panel, "A Fine Palate for Death". 
Ovidia Yu (far right) was Moderator Extraodinaire.

Monday, September 29, 2014


Downside: Indulging internet trolls. Upside: THE LAUNDRY ROOM IS MINE!!!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Words of wisdom on writing

Whenever you write, whatever you write, never make the mistake of assuming the audience is any less intelligent than you are. (Rod Serling)

Serling spent a few years teaching writing at Antioch College and Ithaca College.  Can you imagine having to turn your stories in to a six time Emmy winner and creator of The Twilight Zone for critique and grading? 

The road to hell is paved with works-in-progress.  (Philip Roth) Agreed. If I had a Native American name, it would be Works-In-Progress. 

I think the greatest teacher of writing is reading. (Michael Connelly)

The difference between fiction and non-fiction is that fiction must be absolutely believable. (Mark Twain) It's funny because it's true.

Talent is helpful in writing, but guts are absolutely essential. (Jessamyn West)

The great thing about revision is that it's your opportunity to fake being brilliant. (Will Shetterly) One of the first things writers are taught: Writing is rewriting.

Artists don't talk about art. Artists talk about work. (Paddy Chayefsky) 

I'm not a very good writer, but I'm an excellent rewriter. (James Michener)

My favorite words to hear in a writer’s room: What if…” (Shawn Ryan)

Images snicked from the internets.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Women and crime

This shouldn't really be all that surprising. I'd guess 95-98% of the attendees at WPA were women. Yeah, I know it's Salon, but it's also a goldmine of women authors to add to your Goodreads and Amazon wish list: Why today's most exciting crime novelists are women.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Writers' Police Academy - Wrap up

Some stuff that's been keeping me from blogging much lately seems to have worked out, so here (finally) is my final installment of my experience at this year's Writers' Police Academy.

Best-selling author Michael Connelly was this year's Guest of Honor and was interviewed after dinner at the Saturday night banquet. He attributed his discipline as a writer to his previous career as a journalist and the deadlines that were part of that job (you don't get to claim "writer's block" in that line of work) and briefly discussed the upcoming Amazon show Bosch, based on his famous LAPD detective who first appeared in the 1992 novel The Black Echo and next in the upcoming The Burning Room.

That's Connelly on the right.

I didn't make it to the Sunday morning debriefing because I was so damn tired (a combination of the schedule and my annoying insomnia). I did sleep in and felt great. The flights home were pretty uneventful, except for the part where my luggage didn't make it onto the same flight from Dallas to LAX that I was on. It showed up shortly on the next flight in from DFW and thanks to a combination of quick service on the part of Super Shuttle and being the first one dropped off, I was home a little after midnight.

It was tough to leave North Carolina. Every time I go there - and keep in mind I'm only seeing a very small part of it, Greensboro and Jamestown - it gets harder and harder to come back. Everything is so green, so lush and so sparsely built up and the people are so normal and genuinely down to earth. I was taking pictures all weekend trying to capture the beauty of the place, but none of the pictures did the place justice.

Finally, a big shoutout to everyone at Guilford Technical Community College, whose police, fire and EMT programs host the Friday and Saturday sessions. It's a gorgeous campus and the students and staff are a big part of making WPA a fun and unique experience. There's talk of moving the event to another city next year and if that happens, good luck to whoever has to fill in for GTCC.

My online photo album for WPA 2014 is here (right now it's incomplete and will be updated).

Friday, September 19, 2014

Serial killer Lassie

If Lassie used her talents for evil...

H/T to Donna Blanchard McNicol on FB.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Writers' Police Academy - Saturday

Some real life obligations have kept me from blogging much, so here - rather belatedly - is the next installment of my experience at this year's Writers' Police Academy, which took place September 4-7.

Demo: Explosive Breaches (Instructor: Captain Randy Shepherd, Guilford County Sheriff's Office)
Prior to heading off to classes, we were treated to a demo of explosive breaches, which basically involves attaching explosives to doors in order to enter a building. The first explosion fizzled, prompting Captain Shepherd to quip that we had the privilege of witnessing a rare "fail breach". But the second one...the second one went BOOM!!!

Policing Back in the Day (Instructor: Lt. David Swords, ret.)
Most of the differences between modern and not so modern police work pertains to technology and equipment, although Lt. Swords did put up a rather amusing slide showing pre-1970's policewoman uniforms. The skirts and hats made them look like WACs from World War II.
  • If your story takes place prior to the mid-late 1980's, do not include DNA evidence. The first DNA conviction was in England in 1986. The first case that used DNA to get a conviction in the U.S. was a rape case in Florida in 1988.
  • One of the most changed pieces of equipment is the gun belt. The old belt carried a gun, holster, ammo pouch and handcuff case. Modern gun belts will carry a gun, holster, ammo pouch, handcuff case, pepper spray, mic, flashlight, baton, walkie and latex case.
  • Pretty much the only piece of equipment that hasn't changed over the years are handcuffs.
  • Prior to computerization, existing warrants were stored on a rolodex. An officer would call in to dispatch and ask them to "check the wheel" or "spin the wheel on (name of suspect)".
  • Before women in law enforcement started to mainstream (around mid-1970's) they would carry their firearms in a purse that was part of their uniform.

K-9 Demo (Instructor: Corporal Moser, Guildford County Sheriff's K-9 Unit)
How stupid am I? I didn't get the first name of the officer/instructor, but I've got the dog's name, no problem. It's Miki (pronounced Mikey).  I think Corporal Moser was a last minute addition, because he's not in the official program. 
  • Breeds most commonly used are Belgian Malinois, German Shepherds, Czech Shepherds, Dutch Shepherds (described by Moser as "crazy"), Labrador Retrievers (good for arson and explosives), Bloodhounds and Plott Hounds. Miki is a four year old Czech Shepherd.
  • The dogs stay with their handlers 24/7 and are usually adopted by the handlers when they reach retirement. The dogs also have a pension of sorts: All of their food and care is paid for by the department both during their active careers and after they retire.
  • There is no mandatory retirement age for the dogs. They are retired when their handlers feel they are no longer up to the work, or if they are injured or become ill. I found out during this class that Reno, the bomb-sniffing dog from last year's demo, retired recently due to some sort of muscle problem. It made me sad - he was so into his work.
  • Police dogs are not usually sent in the water after a suspect, because they can be held down underwater and drowned.
  • The dogs are not taught to attack, but to "bite and hold".
  • In building searches, one dog can do the work of ten officers.
Here's Miki!

Cold Case Protocols (Instructors: Dr. Katherine Ramsland & David Pauly)
  • Probably the number one way a cold case is solved: A now-ex decides to talk and reveal info they had previously withheld. Others include new info from witnesses and new witnesses.
  • Some methods used in trying to solve cold cases include exhumation and requestioning witnesses.
  • Dr. Ramsland recommended the book The Skeleton Crew: How Amateurs Are Solving America's Coldest Cases.

Cool Stuff I Learned As a Prosecutor That You Can Use in Your Books (Instructor: Alafair Burke)
Burke is a former prosecutor and current Professor of Law and author. Some of the topics she covered included:
  • Myths surrounding courthouse culture. A couple of examples: Myth 1: Trials. About 90% of criminal cases are resolved by plea. Pleas can included reduced charge (murder to manslaughter) and bargaining over length of sentence. Myth 2: Police and prosecutors are one big happy family. She used Wile E. Coyote and the Roadrunner, and Charlie Brown and Lucy as a couple of examples of the reality of the relationship between the two.
  • A large part of the presentation dealt with the Fourth Amendment and when cops do and do not need warrants (tip: not always) and ways to get around the need for a warrant, should your fictional detective or PI not be able to get one. 
  • She also discussed various types of search and seizures, especially in regard to idea of a person having a reasonable expectation of privacy. Example: If something is in plain view, finders keepers.
  • Refusal to speak to law enforcement or submit to a search cannot legally be considered an admission of guilt. And if you do consent, you can withdraw it at any time.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Employment Opportunity: Latent Print Examiner

These jobs actually exist outside television. We did it last year at Writers' Police Academy and it was a blast. But in this case, this is someone's real life.

For some reason I'm blown away by that. Maybe because I wasted so many years at boring office jobs. Who knew these jobs existing in real life before CSI?