Writer’s Police Academy Part 2: Death Scene Investigation by Sarah Madison

Last month, I wrote a general introductory post to Writer’s Police Academy and my experience there. For this month’s post, I’d like to go into more detail. As I mentioned in the previous post, attending WPA is a lot like going to any big continuing education meeting. A variety of seminars are listed simultaneously, and you must pick and choose which to attend. Also like a CE meeting, there were loosely defined tracks: several classes on arson, for example, or legal issues.

Because I already have somewhat of a medical background, I initially decided to forego the more medical seminars and attend courses where I thought my education was lacking. It didn’t take me long to change my mind, however.  In part because my background didn’t always lend itself to a direct translation into police/crime-based information, but also because this is where my interests obviously lie. To deny them would cut out an important–and authentic–voice in my writing.

This became apparent to me early on in the weekend because some of the very popular classes were limited as to the number of participants. As such, the organizers of WPA held a lottery for the courses and attendees were chosen at random. Some courses had to be limited for logistical reasons, such as the emergency driving course, or the live fire handgun class. I was lucky enough to get a ticket for both Death Scene Investigation and Ballistics.

Death Scene Investigation proved to be the first course of the day for me.

We were taken into a classroom and shown graphic images of actual death scenes, and then given the opportunity to say what we thought had occurred based on the blood spatter and evidence visible in the photographs. Before each set of photographs, the instructor gave us as attendees the option to leave the room before the next set of images were posted. Some people took the opportunity to do this. I confess, even though I have a pretty strong stomach, at times I felt a little queasy knowing I was viewing the scene of someone’s murder. That didn’t stop me from feeling a little spurt of pride, however, when after being shown photos of a brutal attack of a mother vacationing in a cabin with her two children, the instructor asked for speculation as to who the murderer was and I correctly guessed it was the estranged husband.

Now granted, the odds are high that a murdered woman is usually a victim of a domestic situation.  But when the instructor asked why I believed this was the case,  I pointed out that the woman was on vacation alone with her children, that the murderer had waited until the children had gone swimming, that the attack was brutally centered on her breasts and genitals, possibly signifying a strong personal hatred or previous sexual relationship, and that her left hand had been severed–the ‘ring’ hand.

The instructor was so pleased with my reasoning, he gave me a T-shirt!

After the initial instruction about basic procedures (more on that below), we then entered a room that had been staged with a fake death scene. We were given time to observe the evidence and then determine what took place. This was a little tricky since the room was small and there were a lot of us in it. Most of us could only clearly see a small portion of the scene. However, I won another T-shirt when asked for speculation as to what had happened and I said there had to be at least one shooter from outside, as the glass on the inside of the room indicated a bullet had been fired into the room. But I missed the bloody footprint, as well as the driver’s license (conveniently) abandoned in the trash basket.

My notes from the course are barely legible, as I wrote at top speed trying to keep up, but here are the highlights:

  1. Blood spatter goes in all directions–look for cast-off. In our arranged death scene, blood spatter had been placed on the ceiling and many of us neglected to look up. When a blade goes into a body, suction is formed around it, so if it is pulled out, the blade comes out with force and cast-off ends up behind the perpetrator.
  2. Passive blood drops don’t change size past four feet in height, therefore you can measure the size of the drop that falls from a height of under four feet to determine the height at which it fell (think of blood dripping off the tip of a knife point). There is a mathamatical formula for working this out, but don’t ask me to explain it! If a tear-shaped droplet forms as a result of cast-off, the fat end of the droplet will be closest to the source and the tip points in the direction of flow.
  3. Don’t assume all the blood is the victim’s. You may only get one chance to get a sample if it came from the murderer, so identification and preservation are critical. Knives become slippery with blood and it is easy for the perpetrator to get cut under those circumstances.
  4. A scene with a lot of evidence is frequently divided into grids (much like an archeological dig)
  5. Every death is treated as a homicide until proven otherwise.
  6. A void pattern can be as important as a spatter pattern (ie, what was in the way of the spray and where is it now?).

You can’t assume the perpetrator has left the scene–so you must complete a search/clear building first. Victims can only be assessed–not declared dead (coroner must declare death). A first responder can only say “pulse/no pulse.” The coroner is often an elected official with no real medical background. Larger counties will have both a coroner and a medical examiner, but it depends on the state.

The first responders will use codes when calling for backup because people listen to police scanners. An officer cannot assess/help/call for backup until the home is cleared.

One thing that came up again and again during the weekend is how often murderers confess to their crimes. It’s almost as if committing such a horrific act weighs on their conscience to the point they can’t help but confess given the slightest opportunity. Spontaneous utterance (confession) can be accepted, but an officer must Mirandize immediately afterward.

Officers on the scene can question anyone present to get background statements but there is a fine line between a witness and a suspect. When in doubt, read Miranda rights, but that may shut a witness/suspect down.

If a witness/suspect asks if he should get a lawyer, the correct response is to say, “It’s up to you. I’m not in a position to tell you your rights.”

If a suspect doesn’t call 9-1-1 immediately after a situation that ends in death, then self-defense credibility drops rapidly.

Once you’re assigned to a crime scene, it’s yours until the investigation is complete to avoid cross-contamination of a scene. If a crime scene occurs in a private home, the entire street will be closed off until secure.

That’s pretty much what I got out of the course–that and the realization I had halfway decent observation skills! I enjoyed the class so much I revised my planned schedule so that I could take more courses that were similar. I also learned there is too much to learn in a single course! I took notes, but quickly realized I’m going to have to invest in some more reading material if I want to be truly accurate describing crime scenes. I have a book on blood spatter on my Amazon wish list now. 🙂

And of course, I want to go back to WPA again!

Tune in next time when I will talk about K9 units and ballistics.

The Art of Blogging – An Art Form I Have Yet to Master as I Try and Get My Life Together

I must admit I have struggled this month to find a theme, and it hasn’t helped that I haven’t posted for a couple of months thanks to the general shenanigans of real life. Nothing is more telling than the state of my blog/website where my last post is from November 2016 which basically said, ‘I’m lost, please bear with me’.

But with a new year, I am starting to get my groove back starting with this post… little steps! I’m writing again and am in the process of revamping the aforementioned unloved blog/website. Now this brings me to where my ramblings are headed. Blogs, more specifically authors’ blogs. As I work with someone to update my website, I find myself bombarded with page after page of advice about what should be in a blog, how often you should post, how to drive traffic your way and various other topics that have me running to hide under my duvet. Working with my new designer, I basically only had one real thing I didn’t want and that was white writing on a dark background (my eyes just can’t take it), but the rest I’m happy to negotiate. New banner, layout menus will all be on the agenda, along with gentle hand holding about web hosting and figuring out if I want .org or a .com.

I often hear about an author’s brand. I use my ‘R’ across all platforms, it’s pretty simple and identifiable but this is just a part of a brand. As I’ve been contemplating what to do with my website I thought what can I do about this branding malarkey. I tend to write across many genres but at the same time most people probably know me from my historical series, so I’ve plans to set up regular posting about fun historical facts. Below is the sort of thing I have in mind. I recently received rights back for ‘Captain Merric’ my first published story so I have a legitimate excuse for researching pirates. Here’s an interesting titbit about the sort of agreement pirates had between themselves, this between Captain George Lowther and his company.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But another specific thing about me, and so maybe also useful for this branding stuff, is I’m an ex-pat Brit living in Switzerland. So as well as the historical stuff I thought I could post regularly on life overseas in Basel, the challenges and highs of living away from your home country. Like learning a new language and being equally entertained and annoyed by day-to-day life. For instance,if someone had told me when we left London that I would willing get up at 3 am to watch a load of people march around playing drums and piccolos in the dark, I’d have laughed in their face. Nor would I have believed I would be willing stand on a pavement waiting for giant clown creatures (known as Waggis) to throw confetti over me. But you can see from the photo below, that’s just what I did for Basel’s spring carnival, known as Fasnacht.

 

 

 

 

 

 

All in all, I guess I’m starting to get my act together. And hopefully my regular blogging here and at my new website (once it is finally resurrected) will put me back on track. Watch this this space, I’m definitely going to try to be better…

 

REBECCA COHEN is a Brit abroad. Having swapped the Thames for the Rhine, she has left London behind and now lives with her husband and young son in Basel, Switzerland. She can often be found with a pen in one hand and a cup of Darjeeling in the other.

Contacts:

Blog: http://rebeccacohenwrites.wordpress.com/

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/rebecca.cohen.710

Twitter: http://twitter.com/R_Cohen_writes

A Lou Sylvre post: The ideal reader-author relationship? A round dozen author replies

Lou Sylvre Gay Romance Happy Endings Hello readers and fellow writers. I’ve switched my monthly date here at Authors Speak to the first. This month I’m going to do something a little different, but first a word as to why. Lately, I’ve been all about the politics, and I feel that’s as it should be. The most inclusive definition of the word “politics” is well-stated in Merriam Websters free online dictionary as the last (5th) meaning:

the total complex of relations between people living in society

So, it’s not about votes and executive orders and petitions and protests. It’s about people. Persons. Individuals in relation to the world of individuals. What does this have to do with my blog post? Hang on, I’m getting there.

Not quite five years ago I had one of my big ideas. Ruh-roh, right? This particular idea was for a project on my author blog, sylvre.com. I decided to have a whole passel of M/M romance authors answer the same set of questions. One of my favorites was specifically about politics—in other words, human relations—from a writer’s perspective. Here’s the question followed by a dozen of the answers from authors. I’d absolutely welcome comments answering the same question from a reader’s viewpoint, or anything from the same authors if their thoughts on the subject has changed, or anything else you’ve got to say—anyone.

Describe the ideal relationship between author and readers.

Andrea Speed: “Friendly, cordial. But not so friendly restraining orders are involved.”

Ellen Holiday: “I don’t know that I can speak to an ideal, but I can certainly say that I’m so delighted when readers take the time to leave a review or a rating or drop me a line or a tweet (@ellen_holiday!). I’m always so glad to hear from folks and have had some wonderful conversations with readers. There was a gentleman from England who emailed me, saying he wished he could vote for a politician like Davis Hudson (the protagonist of “Inside the Beltway”) – that was a great compliment! So readers, if you like what an author has to say, don’t hesitate to drop them a line. They may not all respond — they might be too busy writing the next book you’ll love — but it will give them great validation and motivation to keep writing.”

Anne Barwell: “An open relationship, where the author is free to be true to what she/he wants to write, and where readers feel free to give honest constructive reviews. Emphasis on constructive. It saddens me that as writers, if a reader reviews a story (which often sounds nothing like what we’ve actually written) an author often doesn’t feel as though she/he can reply to it. Tactful honesty should be a two-way street. As a reader I love to be able to chat to authors about what they’ve written, and the same is true in reverse.”

Vastine Bondurant: “Oh, wow. What a cool question. I suppose the ideal is for the readers to feel as if they know the author. For them to be comfortable, to feel free to do as the question above stated—to feel free to suggest what they’d like to see in my stories. But, above all—respect, both ways.”

Chris T. Kat: “It should be based on mutual respect. I like to connect with the people who read my stories, to know what they liked and what not. As a reader I’m mostly shy but if I found an author whose books I like I’m very loyal.”

Cornelia Grey: “I never really stopped to think about this! I guess an ideal relationship would be one where I behave and write all the requested sequels instead of chasing after the latest sparkly toy that strikes my fancy. Then obviously the readers would unconditionally love every word I ever penned, including grocery lists, drunken texts and the like, monarchs and presidents would offer conspicuous sums of money and private kingdoms for me to write their biographies, and my notebook from first grade with my early short stories would be framed and exhibited at the National Library with the Magna Charta. Well… you did say ideal ;)!”

Elizabeth Noble: “One of my favorite things to do has become the chats where I can interact in some way with readers. Some people seem to be intimidated and hesitant to email or participate in a chat and I wish they wouldn’t be. I may always be a writer, but I wouldn’t be an author without readers. I love the sorts of sites that allow and encourage interchanges between the authors and readers.”

Lisa Marie Davis: “Writing (for me, at least) is a very emotional experience and I tend to become quite attached to my characters. They are real for me. I want to write them, share their story, in a way that makes them real for the reader as well. I want the reader to care about each character as much as I do, to feel for them, root for them, maybe even miss them when the story comes to an end.
Jacob Flores:“The ideal relationship would be that the readers loved everything the author wrote. LOL! But I know that’s not going to be the case. You can’t please everyone, but I hope that the readers would be invested enough in my book to understand the choices the characters made. On the same token, authors wouldn’t be successful without our wonderful readers. The relationship needs to be symbiotic, a successful joining of creative minds traveling together on a wonderful journey.”

Jamie Fessenden: “Ideally, readers will provide useful feedback for an author about what does and does not work for them, and the author will be responsive to that, taking into account things that pushed a lot of readers’ buttons, for instance, and learning to work with that. I’ve also had readers nudge me to get back to work on my cyberpunk story and I think that’s great! I love knowing that there are people out their interested in knowing how the story will work out.”

J. L. O’Faolain: “An ideal relationship between an author and said readers is probably best compared to a dysfunctional family unit, except the screaming takes place over the internet rather than via phone calls and Thanksgiving dinners.”

Kim Fielding: “Ideally, what I love to write is what readers will love to read. Also ideally, my stories can entertain, can stir emotions, and can maybe make people think about things in new ways. If my stories inspire people, even better. And of course readers are really important to me, because otherwise I’m just writing for my own amusement.”

KZ Snow: “Interactive, in a way marked by mutual respect and appreciation. A sense of humor doesn’t hurt, either.”
Zahra Owens: “Very selfishly I’d like a reader to love or trust me enough to buy anything I bring out, even if, at first glance, it isn’t their cup of tea. As a reader, I have a few authors like that (not naming names, because these people know me!). Also, I’d like to get some feedback from them. Just honest, tactful, right off the cuff feedback.”

If perchance you’d like to see one or all of the complete interviews (which are all accompanied by bios, blurbs, covers, and excerpts), you can find them on sylvre.com by checking the list of archived months in the righthand side bar, and looking in October through December 2012. If one of the authors I’ve mentioned is new to you and you’d like to know more, as far as I’m aware they are all still in the M/M writing game and a Google search should yield results.

A tiny update about my current writerly antics: I’ve asked for the rights to A Shot of J&B in order to keep the series it truly belongs to together. They’re mine again as of April 10th. I admit to sadness, especially because I will no longer be able to use the absolutely beautiful cover by Reese Dante, pictured here. If you’d like a copy of the book with that cover now is the time, available at Dreamspinner, Amazon, Barnes and Noble and all the usual places until that date. On a brighter note, I’m currently enjoying the rare chance to go back and make a story I loved writing, and which got some strong reviews, even better with a re-edit—a little new material, along with some refinement on the old. As an author, these two main characters are a joy to spend time with. Not quite as sassy, say, as a Luki Vasquez, but responsive, surprising, and pushy enough to keep me on my toes. Make it fun!

Finally, look for another Authors speak big giveaway coming up very soon! (Stay tuned. Really.)

Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you around—the sooner the better!

Grace Duncan: Romance, Erotica and Everything in Between

Over the years since I started writing romance, I have found myself in the distinctly uncomfortable situation of answering the “what do you write?” question inevitably asked in response to the “I’m an author” line.

A huge chunk of my discomfort comes from the fact that the two protagonists in my stories are the same gender (so far, all male). The LGBT community—including (especially) the arts portion of it—still has a long way to go as far as acceptance is concerned.

But today, what I want to talk about is the other part of my response: the romance part.

I recently submitted a request for a vendor table at a local anime convention for myself and a couple of other authors. Now, I am lucky to a point because as a volunteer manager for the con, I have some options general vendors don’t. When I did not get the response I wanted (instead, they gave me something vague about variety of merchandise), I requested more information. When I didn’t get a response to my request for clarification, unlike general vendors, I could go higher. Which I did.

The answer I finally got back shocked and angered me. Okay, “anger” is probably a bit mild. Furious? Livid? That’s closer.

The shock ended up a good thing because it kept me from replying immediately with some not-so-polite phrasing, including where they could put their IT department (the department I manage). Their response was fairly short, explaining that since they checked into it “finding only erotica,” it didn’t fit their “family friendly event.”

I don’t know how they came to the conclusion that the books in question are “only erotica.” Not knowing how that came about, I can only speculate one of two things. One, the books are all about gay men and, thus, automatically considered erotica because of that. Or two, they are romance and simply by virtue of the fact that some romance contains sex scenes, it is thus considered “erotica.” I have seen both of these from the non-romance (and non-LGBT) reading groups. As I was not sure if it was the LGBT aspect—since I wasn’t sure how I could reasonably focus on that—I focused instead on discussing the difference between romance and erotica.

I’d read tons on this in different places, but I thought the best pace to start was my own primary publisher. Since I knew Dreamspinner Press does not publish pure erotica, I went straight to their website. From their submission guidelines:

“Dreamspinner Press seeks gay male romance stories in all genres. While works do not need to be graphic, they must contain a primary or strong secondary romance plotline and focus on the interaction between two or more male characters.” (https://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/submissions)

Now, I am well aware there are plenty of LGBT and romance publishers that do publish erotica, so I thought I’d dig a bit further. One of the unfortunate problems with trying to define this is that there seem to be no set publishing industry definitions of “romance” and “erotica.” The best I could find was some background on the differences, per a couple of other romance authors and other industry members.

Sylvia Day said, “Erotica: stories written about the sexual journey of the characters and how this impacts them as individuals. Emotion and character growth are important facets of a true erotic story. However, erotica is NOT designed to show the development of a romantic relationship…”

Versus romance:

“Sexy Romance: stories written about the development of a romantic relationship that just happen to have more explicit sex. The sex is not an inherent part of the story, character growth, or relationship development, and could easily be removed or “toned down” without damaging the storyline.” (http://www.sylviaday.com/extras/erotic-romance/)

I further found an article on RT Book reviews (and referencing Publisher’s Weekly) that distilled it even more and said erotica is: “when sex is the basis of the conflict.” (https://www.rtbookreviews.com/rt-daily-blog/what-exactly-difference-between-steamy-romance-and-erotica)

(Please note: I firmly believe that any sex included in a book should be there because it does something for the story, either character development or plot movement. That said, in romance, the story still should not fall apart completely if you don’t show the couple’s whole sexual progression. There are levels, including erotic romance—like my Golden Collar series—where this doesn’t apply in the same way, but it still passes the litmus test I found.)

What I came to, in the end, was that the single distinctive difference was a simple question:

“What drives the story?”

In my research, I found in a number of places where erotica isn’t expected to have an HEA. The Romance Writers of America says for a story to be considered a romance, it should have “a central love story and an emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending.” They go on to define that optimistic end as having “emotional justice and unconditional love.” (https://www.rwa.org/Romance)

Beyond the happy ending—or lack thereof—many types of erotica may not even include a primary relationship, and instead is more about one person’s sexual journey. One prime example of this is the Beauty series by Anne Rice (under the pseudonym A.N. Roquelaure). While there is a happy ending at the end of the series, the story is about Beauty—and her sexual journey—not a specific relationship she is in.

I have been a firm believer that there is a wide variety of heat in romance novels. Everyone has their taste. Some want to read the sex, others want to skim. I’ve been in the mood for lighter stories (with less sex) and some that are essentially one sex scene after another. Both have their place. I don’t believe a romance requires sex, but what I found in my research also says that having it certainly doesn’t automatically make it erotica, either.

In the end, it still comes down to what drives the story. Is it the sex? Or is it the relationship?

If it’s the latter, then it’s romance.

Giving Back

 

Many years ago, when my children were little and my youngest son was in the fourth grade or so his class did a project for Thanksgiving about what they were grateful for. One of the things on his list was that we always had a phone and our utilities were never shut off.

That was a real WOW moment for me.

There was a time that broke was a step up in the world. However, there was never a time we didn’t have a home, or heat or food. Sometimes the home was a tiny apartment that we squeezed into and the food was hot dogs and peanut butter and jelly.

Things are a bit different now. My kids are a dog and cat. More months than not I rob Peter to pay Paul and something is always paid late. But, it all gets paid.

I still have a home–one I own now. I have a car, something I couldn’t always afford. The neighborhood I live in is much better, and I can buy groceries.

These changes are a result, in part, of the fact I now publish books. People pay for those books, which has added to my income. I’m extremely grateful for that extra income and it makes a huge difference in my life.

Along the way from published to royalty check there are a number of people who help authors out free of charge. They give their time and energy to creating blogs where books can be showcased, increasing exposure. They offer reviews, post interviews and run contests.

These blog owners and their reviewers help my career as an author a lot. So, when one of them asks for help raising money for a worthwhile charity there is no way I’d refuse.

See, there are an awful lot of people who, through no fault of their own, don’t have a home, or enough to eat. They might face bullying because they’re part of the LGBTQ+ population. Maybe there are health issues they face and don’t know where to go for treatment.

The point is for many young people times are bleak and they may feel suicide is their only option.

Which it’s not.

I have always liked to give back, be it with my time, my money or something else. I don’t have a lot to offer in the way of financial support, but I do have books to contribute.

When one of the blog owners I work with regularly put out a call for a fundraising project I jumped at the chance.

Kim from Kimmer’s Erotic Book Blog came up with the idea to sell bundles of books at a discount and donate the proceeds to the Trevor Project, which supports LGBTQ+ youth in the United States.

I’m willing to bet everyone reading this post buys books. Here’s a great way to help someone less fortunate, get your book fix, and maybe try a new author. (ppsssttt…my book is the first one in the picture, Gone Away.)

It’s important to give back, even when you don’t feel very fortunate yourself. There is always someone worse off.

Oodles and goodles of book bundles be HERE!

Until next month,

Happy Reading!

Elizabeth

 

 

Tools of the Trade: What I Learned at Writer’s Police Academy Part 1 by Sarah Madison

Something I’m often asked is how much research I do for my stories.

It’s a good question. I adore research. I’ve been known to dive into the rabbit hole and not come up for air for months. I spent weeks researching The Battle Of Britain to write a simple dream sequence for The Boys of Summer, and what I learned made me determined to share some of the essence of what those young pilots experienced in defence of their country–far beyond the intended scene.

I used my own experiences as an event rider when writing Fool’s Gold, a story set in Olympic level sport horse competition. I once wrote a story about a main character who suffers a spinal cord injury, and immersed myself in both medical texts and the writings of survivors of such injuries.

When I decided to write a series of stories with FBI agents as characters, I knew I needed more than my love of shows such as Bones, NCIS, or The X-Files to give me a feel for how crimes are investigated (even if there is a paranormal element). Among other books, I read A Very Special Agent: Gay and Inside the FBI by Frank Buttino. I also read books on forensics, profiling, and true crime accounts of hunting serial killers. My wish list on Amazon has everything from bloodspatter analysis to books on training cadaver dogs.

So you can bet when I first heard fellow author Eden Winters speaking of her experiences at Writer’s Police Academy, I was all ears. Then I found out Jamie Lynn Miller had been going for years and had fantastic things to say about it. So when Shira Anthony asked if I’d like to share a room with her, I jumped at the chance.

I had a terrific time and I learned a lot. I would definitely go again, given the chance. Because the first thing you need to know about Writer’s Police Academy is that you simply can’t fit it all in on one trip. There are too many courses, there’s too much information and too little time. It was a jam-packed weekend, but that’s a good thing. Think of it like a continuing education seminar in which four different courses are offered at the same time and you have to choose which to attend. It means you have to come back!

The second takeaway lesson I got from WPA is that there’s a reason you’re drawn to certain things. Given I have more of a medical background than the average person, I decided to avoid much of the crime scene courses and concentrate instead in areas where I had little experience, such as ballistics or arson. But shortly into the first day, I realized that I had a natural affinity for some things, and that by avoiding them, I was actually turning my back on the kinds of things I was not only interested in, but most likely to include in a story. I rapidly reassessed my schedule and changed it accordingly. I also changed it when I heard a particular class was good or fun. The great thing about WPA is most courses were offered more than once, with a couple of exceptions. That meant you could pick up something the next day that conflicted with a different lecture before.

So while I took copious notes at the speed of light (just like being in school again), what I really got out of the lectures was a better sense of what I wanted to know more about (and where to find out more about these subjects) and potential contacts for questions among the speakers, many of whom were happy to give out their emails to answer any questions that might arise about procedure, etc.

WPA is held in Greenbay, WI. The venue was pretty amazing. The hotel was a stone’s throw from the airport, and the amenities pleasant. WPA works in conjunction with Northeast Wisconsin Technical College to put on the Academy every year, drawing on the lecturers from the college and volunteers to put on a great program. They also get some pretty amazing authors as keynote speakers for the big dinner at the end of the weekend. Tami Hoag and Lee Goldberg were the 2016 speakers. Ms. Hoag in particular was delightful, but I regret to say I could barely keep my eyes open by the time Saturday night rolled around. The buses rolled out at 7 am, which meant you had to have grabbed breakfast and be ready to roll. Classes were scheduled tightly, and sometimes the logistics of choosing to attend two different lectures on opposites sides of campus left you running in August heat for a bus to take you to the next class–or just running, period.

Snacks, sunscreen, sunglasses, bottled water, and a jacket for when you’re in air conditioning were all essential, as were sensible shoes. And don’t forget your camera! For those who arrived early on Thursday afternoon, there was a prison tour, as well as a special ops demonstration of equipment and police dogs in the parking lot coinciding with registration. I confess, I found the heat debilitating after my long flight, so I probably didn’t take full advantage of the demonstrations.

Our first day started out with a bang–as we rolled into the campus parking lot, we were greeted with a major accident. Two cars were involved. There was at least one obvious fatality and several serious injuries. Some people were still trapped in one of the vehicles, and the driver of the van appeared to be under the influence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As we watched, police and rescue vehicles came roaring in and took over the scene.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We got to see the ‘jaws of life’ in action, as well as watch as the police put the impaired driver through sobriety tests and then arrest her when she failed. The procedures were narrated throughout so we could hear as well as see what was going on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then to our amazement, a helicopter arrived to airlift out the victims!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And that was all in the first hour! You can see why it will take me several posts to go through my experiences at WPA. I want to give as much detail as I can, as it will help solidify the information learned for me as well.

In the meantime, the newly expanded version of Unspeakable Words (Sixth Sense Series Book One) was released on March 1o, 2017! You can check out the series and see while I thought Writer’s Police Academy was such a great idea.

Days of Not Wine, and Roses

As February draws to a close here in New Zealand we finally have summer. Frankly I preferred it when we had what usually passes for the season. Temperatures in the late 20Cs accompanied by high humidity are nasty especially when trying to sleep at night without air conditioning. Working in a building where we’re having issues with the windows not opening doesn’t help either.

Roll on autumn.

One thing that is nice about this time of year though is being able to dry washing outside, although it is weird looking outside today and not seeing much wind. Wellington without wind is just… wrong.

Originally I had decided to write a post about my love of stationery and notebooks in particular, but looking back I’ve already written one about that here last year as part of my blog tour for the 2nd edition of Shadowboxing, so I had to change direction.

So, what prompted my thoughts of stationery joy?

Aren’t they cool? These Typo notebooks arrived this week in my mail box from a friend who knows me well. I’m looking forward to using them to plan out more stories.

I’ve taken a few days annual leave this week. Hoping to get some writing done, although I’m half expecting edits to show up just because. I swear my publisher checks my diary and then sends edits. But *shrugs* I figure that’s what annual leave is for.

Apart from that, my garden is screaming for attention. I did manage to do a little bit of weeding in the shade last weekend, but it was still far too hot.

Nevertheless I’ve ordered more bark mulch from Zoodoo, and hopefully the weather will cooperate and give me couple of cooler evenings. I figured out a while ago that if I look at the big picture of what I don’t get done, it’s depressing as hell and harder to get started in the first place. So now I just aim for a bit here and there and do what I can, and hope it’s enough.

And try to fit in some down time or I’m doing is working and that’s a sure fire way to get sick and end up achieving nothing at all.

It’s difficult working a day job, and writing—and everything else to do with it—along with family and other commitments. I never get everything done I want to when I’m home, but only chip away at my long to do list bit by bit. Often I swear as I cross one thing off the list two more turn up to take its place.

Meantime one blog post down, a review to write, orchestra rehearsal tonight, and more fun with Marcus and Joel, my guys from The Eros Note.

I’d love to know how others manage life, the universe, and everything.

The Harm in Staying Silent

Back in July, I wrote an article here on the value of giving your opinion. I talked about how it can impact (often negatively) sales and readership when an author insists on pushing their own political views. Back then, I was thinking about candidates and parties, about the basic differences of opinions.

Now? Well, Now I have to go back on that, to a point.

Sure, if it’s just promotion for a particular candidate, it’s probably best to keep it to yourself. Issues not involving human rights are probably best left alone. And fiscal issues, even among folks who are generally of the same end of the political spectrum, can have wildly varying views.

But the things we’ve seen since the election (and inauguration) have boggled the mind and beg us to not be silent.

I still have trouble accepting the fact that a man who made fun of a disabled reporter on camera (but now denies it), made it into the White House. But he did. This same man has all but declared the free press as enemies of the state, calling most non-conservative, mainstream news outlets “fake” and even barring several from White House press briefings.

He’s appointed the most unqualified people to head the departments of state. He’s signed executive orders that are both illegal and immoral (at best). He rescinded protection for transgender youth. He banned an inordinate amount of US citizens because of (and let’s face it, that’s what this comes down to) their skin color and/or religion, in order to “protect us from terrorists.” Yet the largest number of terrorists involved in the September 11 attacks came from three of the countries exempted—Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates—“coincidentally” three countries Trump does business in.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. There are other things that he’s signed through executive order (that I admit I don’t understand entirely) but that I do know are a nightmare for most US citizens. And even things he hasn’t signed through an EO, he’s “suggested” via memo or other communication that have started (I live in a state where they want to do the immigration raids). While he hasn’t (yet) targeted the LGBT community, I am dead positive we’re on the chopping block somewhere.

And I don’t believe for one minute we’re seeing everything that’s going on.

This is all aside from the entirely horrid international relationship he’s got with our allies—and enemies—and the fallout from those.

With everything going on, I have to go back on what I said back in July. This is when we, as authors, have to speak out. We have a (somewhat limited, yes) platform which we should use when something so wrong is happening. We have a duty to our readers, to the people we write about, to the rest of the country—and the world—to make our voices heard.

Share on Facebook. Blog about it. While we may, to a point, be preaching to the choir, it’s entirely possible that someone might pick up on a new argument that they might be able to use to convince someone else to listen. Maybe it’ll just be enough to show others they aren’t alone. That your neighbor knows you’ve got their back when immigration comes through or that your friend who’s stuck outside the country knows they can call you.

So, allow me to apologize and retract my earlier statement. Speak. Do. And make your voice heard.

We all need it.

 

**Please note the views expressed in this post belong only to Grace and does not necessarily reflect the rest of the authors here at Authors Speak.**

Ch-ch-chaaanges!

Well, hello there again and thank you for stopping by my little corner of Authors Speak at Rainbow Gate!

Writing professionally requires certain things and not all of them pertain to the technicalities of putting words together to form a story. Sometimes writers have to make choices about what to write. There is the hard reality that we have to make a living as well as writing what we love.

There is absolutely no reason one can’t do both.

That choices can be difficult if one isn’t willing to expand horizons and change a bit. However, there are a lot of choices and with a bit of thought it’s easy to discover there are other stories that need writing.

I’ve always said I’m a serial offender. I write in series. Series have much to offer in the way of extended plots and character development. It’s my writing as well as reading preference.

However stand alone books have a great deal to offer as well. Some stories don’t need four or six books to complete. There are readers who’d prefer a story be told with the covers of one book.

I decided it’s time to switch gears and write more stand alone stories. Some discussion with Lynn West, Dreamspinner Press editor in chief, helped me decide on a good direction to pursue.

Romantic suspense will still be part of my line-up, though I think the Circles series has come to an end. The next mystery will be a full length novel with more development and probably a more complicated plot. However, my mysteries will be in the same high action/adventure (sometimes in the wilderness) style as the Circles mysteries. I’ll still be working on The Vampire Guard, however it’ll be my ‘written for me’ side pet project stories. Sentries has been completed, though I may offer free stories on my website from time to time.

This isn’t the first time in my life I’ve taken a new path. I’ve always tried to live by the adage “I’m nothing if not adaptable”. Honestly, every change of direction for me has always been a good one. I’m excited over this change.

Coming soon, awaiting contract decision and in the works are two Dreamspun Desires books, a BDSM featuring an ice dancer and a hockey player. Of course there is a murder mystery planned, it will take place in Wrigleyville. There may also be a scifi romance in the future.

I hope you’ll join me in my new writing adventure!

I’m always excited and happy to take requests from readers, so if anyone has a plot bunny bouncing around you’d like to share please let me know!

Elizabeth

PS…you can find all my books on my website, click on the banner below.

There is also a great new repository site for finding Quiltbag/LGBTQ+ books. Check out Queeromance Inc.

Relaunching a Series by Sarah Madison: Why do it?

Sorry, I’m a bit late getting here today. I’ve been working a number of things, not the least of which is trying to put some blog posts in the bag so I can get ahead of my commitments for a change. Among other things, I’m putting together a series of posts about my experiences at Writer’s Police Academy last summer, which I plan to share here. As soon as I can decipher my notes, that is!

In the meantime, I’m delighted to share with you the brand new look for the Sixth Sense series!

You might be asking yourself why anyone would relaunch an old series wit a new look? I’m glad you did! On the surface of it, it probably doesn’t seem to make much sense. A little backstory is necessary.

Unspeakable Words was the very first major story I submitted for publication back in 2010. I did it on a whim, really. I had no expectations of it being accepted by Dreamspinner Press or winding up on their bestseller list for over a month! I’ll be honest, when I got the acceptance email I was flabbergasted–and came very close to snatching the story back from them. I was afraid if I did, however, I would blow my one chance to be a published author. I’ve always wished I’d trusted my instincts and held out for the opportunity to flesh the story out the way I saw it in my mind.

There was an unfortunate delay between Unspeakable Words and the next installment, Walk a Mile. Some of it was inexperience on my part,  some of it was as a result of life getting in the way. When I submitted Walk a Mile, I don’t think anyone realized that I’d jumped from a long novella into novel format. I didn’t think anything of it myself–not until I began running into people who didn’t want to buy the paperbacks because the first in the series was only available as an ebook. Truth and Consequences rolled on in the same novel format–it was only Unspeakable Words that didn’t fit the lineup.

So I went to Dreamspinner and asked if it would be possible to expand Unspeakable Words into the story I’d always meant for it to be. They said yes–and then suggested revamping the series look for the revised version. I’m delighted to announce that not only has L.C. Chase done a bang-up job of capturing the essence of these stories–which I was far more capable of conveying due to developing the skills I needed as an author–but you can now pre-order the expanded, revised version of Unspeakable Words! Release date March 10, 2017.

I hope you’ll enjoy revisiting these guys as much as I have–I’m working on the fourth (and final) installment now, tentatively titled Deal with the Devil.