Each year, your PSWA Board of Directors gets together to discuss the past, present and future of this amazing organization. We spend three days going over each area of responsibility with a fine tooth comb. The outcome is what you, our valued members see when you enter the contest, receive renewal notices, come to the annual conference and so much more. This year, we welcomed two new board members. Our new Vice-President John Schembra learned all about his new role and is raring to go with a variety of fresh ideas on marketing and membership. Mysti joined us via SKYPE and the results will be an updated and vibrant website. Stay tuned.
Two of the biggest items that we discussed are two of our most popular membership benefits: the contest and the conference. Marilyn Olsen is receiving entries and working hard to coordinate judges. You still have time to enter and become an “award-winning” author. Fiction and non-fiction, published and non-published, poetry, screenwriting, technical manuals—all welcome. Don’t wait to enter. It’s only $10 per entry and entries must be postmarked by May 6, 2017. The second item and one you will definitely not want to miss is our annual writing conference July 13-16, 2017 in Las Vegas. This is one of the friendliest conferences you will attend. You have a chance to network with writers and public safety folks. It doesn’t get better than that. And, I haven’t even mentioned the food. Ask anyone who has attended and they will tell you that you won’t go home hungry or without a bunch of great ideas. You won’t eat for a week but that’s okay because you will be so inspired you won’t want to stop writing to eat. You still have time to sign up at a discount until March 1st. Why wait? Also, don’t forget about the pre-conference workshop. Get one-on-one advice from an industry professional for only $35.
As your new president, I’m very excited about the direction of the PSWA. There will be new opportunities for the membership to get involved. I hope each of you enters the contest and I look forward to seeing each and every one of you at the conference. It feels more like a family reunion. A family reunion that leaves me with fresh ideas, new friends and makes me a better writer. I wouldn’t miss it for the world. You won’t want to either.
Michelle J.G. Perin, MS, Firefighter/EMT
President, South Lane County Fire & Rescue Volunteer Association
President, Public Safety Writers Association (PSWA)
Fundraising Coordinator, Lane Area Ferret Shelter & Rescue
SPRING’S JUST AROUNG THE CORNER, AND SO IS THE PSWA CONFERENCE
Yeah, Old Man Winter is on the ropes, spring is just around the corner, and the next PSWA Conference is coming up. The dates are July 13th-16th at the fabulous Orleans Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada. We just finished our annual board meeting and things are moving along. We’ve lined up some impressive speakers this year. Marcia Rosen will give a presentation on book marketing and strategies for today’s ever-changing publishing world. Not only does Marcia have her own marketing business, but she’s also a celebrated author. She writes as M. Glenda Rosen in her Dying To Be Beautiful mystery series. Learn more about Marcia’s company at www.creativebookconcepts.com.
Her son, Jory Rosen has followed her into the book business, in a manner of speaking. Jory, who is president of the highly regarded Los Angeles public relations firm, J. Rosen Communications, will give you a crash course in what it takes to promote your work in today’s competitive marketplace. Jory, who’s based in Los Angeles, will talk about “The Key to Pitching Your Book in Hollywood.” Check out his website for more details: www.jrosencommunications.com.
Mar Preston will do a presentation on “Writing and Editing Your Mystery.” The author of two police procedural series and a four-volume “How-To” book on writing, Mar will share the secrets of her success in this comprehensive overview of writing and polishing your manuscript. She’ll take you through the complete writing process, from beginning, middle, and end. She will also provide a comprehensive overview and explanation of the underlying structure of the mystery novel.
And rounding out our presentations, Ron Corbin will be talking about a little known, but highly thought of practice in today’s policing: CPTED, aka Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design. Never heard of it, you say? Well, don’t feel bad, I hadn’t either, but just to whet your appetite a bit, I’ll ask you a couple of simple questions: What do the first cave dwellers, the Anasazi Indians, and your home or business all have in common? Is there really such a thing as “crime prevention,” and can it be controlled through behavior modification? Find out at Ron’s presentation.
Enough said about our presenters. Keep in mind that we’ve got an array of informative and interesting panels that will talk about public safety and writing issues. There’ll also be publishers on hand to listen to your pitches, at least one of whom who says he’s “looking for manuscripts.” Plus, there is no better place to research that new idea than rubbing elbows with public safety personnel who know how to talk to the talk because they’ve walked the walk.
Our Pre-conference Workshop costs an extra $35 or so, but it begins on Thursday morning at nine and runs for six hours, during which time you’ll not only get exposed to some great writing techniques, but also have the opportunity to have you manuscript personally critiqued by a professional writer. It’s followed at three PM by the check-in procedure where you get your name tags and get to choose your gag banner. Then there’s the Thursday night “Get Acquainted Party” just down the hall from five-forty-five to nine PM. Lots of snacks and an open bar.
And last, but certainly not least, our annual Writing Contest is underway and there’s still time to enter you work and have the opportunity to become an “award-winning author.” There are multiple categories, and it’s open to both published and not yet published authors.
What more can I say? The hotel is wonderful and the rates are so low they would be illegal anyplace except Vegas. All the meals are of the quality of a fine restaurant, and the coffee is provided during the conference.
Don’t delay. Sign up today. The discounted rates are still in effect, and, as my uncle Rube used to say, “Time’s a wastin’!”
–Michael A. Black
FINDING YOUR STORY
Whether you think of yourself as a plot-driven author, a character-driven writer, or one who relies on creating a compelling situation, stuff has to happen on your pages or readers will stop turning them. Stuff that truly tests your characters.
In an excellent recent online essay about plot, writer and former literary agent Barbara Rogan cites Mark Twain’s advice: “The writer’s job is to chase characters up a tree and throw rocks at them.” Think Huck Finn and Jim on the raft. In other words, keep the problems coming. Readers want to see characters succeed, fail, change, and grow, but, she says, “Characters cannot rise to a challenge that never comes.” I would append this thought “and overcoming a wildly unrealistic challenge doesn’t work, either.” It’s the author’s victory, not the character’s.” Some thrillers cross that line.
Maybe an author starts with an exciting, possibly (fingers crossed) film-worthy opening scene. That and its aftermath are dealt with, then there’s a slog to the skating-on-the-edge-of-disaster conclusion. What happened in the middle? Not enough, very likely. A saggy middle is the bane of new authors and people over 40 alike. Says Donald Maass, another widely respected literary agent and author, “For virtually all novelists, the challenge is to push farther, go deeper, and get mean and nasty.” Plot-driven novelists do it with incident, character-driven ones by ramping up internal conflict. Stephen King doesn’t rely on plot at all. He starts with a situation, a predicament, and then watches his character “try to work themselves free.”
Tellingly, King says, “my job isn’t to try to help them” free themselves, but to observe them and write it down. That’s such an important point. You can’t go easy on your characters; however attached you are to them. Rogan says when authors “smooth the way for their protagonists”—making clues come too easily or difficulties to easily overcome, giving them a midtown Manhattan parking place just when they need it (!), authors are behaving like “benevolent gods”—a trap my own writing sometimes falls into. I like my characters, even some of the baddies; but I cannot be their mum. What characters learn, they must learn at a cost in physical or emotional pain—preferably both. That makes readers care about them.
In Jonathan Safran Foer’s 2005 novel, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close the protagonist, precocious nine-year-old Oskar Schell, has a mysterious key belonging to his dead father, and he want to find the lock it will open. He believes someone named Black knows what lock that is. Lots of people in the New York City phone book are named Black, and Oskar visits them all. If the key had belonged to Aaron Black, this would have been a short story.
As in real life, Oskar and other successful fictional characters have to work hard to find their answers. As do the writers who create them.
Read my short story “A Slaying Song Tonight” in the Jan/Feb 2017 issue of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine!
MARKETING YOUR BOOK(S)
Book marketing strategies are an ever-changing challenge for authors with traditional options available such as book signings to an endless array of social media opportunities. What’s right for you? How to reach your best target markets? So much depends on who you are, your energies, financials, even your comfort level. As authors we are inundated with online promotions to promote and sell our books. Many are not worth the time or money. Sometimes it feels like we’re being asked to sell our souls in order to sell our books. Not a good idea.
This presentation at the July, 2017 Public Safety Writer’s Association Conference in Las Vegas, will provide you with your own Marketing Workbook to use as a guide and resource.
There will be a section for you to develop your own plan. Ample time will be allotted for Q&A and input on ideas you’ve found worked for you.
— Marcia Rosen
M. Glenda Rosen “Dying To Be Beautiful” Mystery Series
WHEN BACKING IN A CAR IS SAFER
Safe Driving Habits (part 3)
This is the third article in a series of safe driving tips. In the last quarter, I talked about the “bubble of safety,” the “SMOG” technique when changing lanes, and safe stopping distances in traffic. In this issue, I’ll discuss things as proper hand position on the steering wheel, and the safest way to park in a parking lot.
Hand Positioning on the Steering Wheel
The “Old School” teaching for your hands on the steering wheel was to place them at the 10- and 2-o’clock position. It is my thought that this is not as safe when having to make a rapid turn (as when avoiding a collision) as it would be to place your hands at the 9- and 3-o’clock location. And here’s why. The closer your hands are together, the more apt they are to having your arms cross over when turning the steering wheel. This provides less muscle control in your arms and less range of motion for additional turning. Don’t believe me, then try this.
While stopped with engine idling, place your hands at the 11- and 1-o’clock position. Then without releasing your grip, turn the wheel either left or right and see if you feel stress in your forearms and limited turning motion. Then move your hands down to the 9- and 3-o’clock position and repeat. Feel the difference?
The best way to steer and turn is to keep your left hand on the left half of the steering wheel (between 6- and 12-o’clock), and your right hand on the right half of the wheel (between 12- and 6-o’clock). Try not to cross your hands. Practice when driving slowly around the streets of your neighborhood. And no “Karate Kid” type steering… “Wax On, Wax Off.”
Backing and Parking
After many years of harping, I’ve finally gotten my wife to always try to park in a parking lot by pulling forward through one lane into a free space in the next lane. This positions her car so that she can drive straight out when time to leave. Parking forward into a parking lot space is fine, until it comes time to back out. That’s when you have the most dangerous time, because backing out into a drive lane presents the most opportunity for hitting people walking behind you, not seeing children, or backing into other moving traffic.
Driving forward is always safer than backing. Personally, I have no trouble using my mirrors to back into a parking space, however, as my first choice I will try to find a spot with the “straight ahead pull through” option is available. The reason for backing into a space is that I know I don’t normally have to worry about oncoming traffic from my left and right, and usually don’t have to worry about shoppers and kids in that particular space. And when ready to leave, I can pull forward with better visibility and safety than having to turn and swivel my “old neck” hoping that I haven’t missed seeing a safety issue.
One more thing about backing into a parking space… it’s a lot easier locating your car after shopping and trying to remember where you parked when you can see the front bumper and hood of your car down the aisle.
Here’s some lagniappe about locating your parked vehicle. Did you know that when using your key fob to locate your parked car by pushing the lock-unlock buttons to flash the lights or beep the horn, the signal transmitting distance can be increased by several feet? How? Simply place the fob against your head and push the lock button to honk your horn. No, I’m not kidding. It works based on the fluid inside your head. Don’t ask me for any more technical information than this. [Side note: I have some in-laws who are “rock and air heads,” so placing the key fob next to a bottle of water will work for them as well.]
A video of this demonstration can be seen on my personal website link: Vehicle Safety & Security, Car Key Alarm, May 2013
Next quarter, I will discuss the topics:
- Getting Stopped by the Police
- 65 mph vs. 80 mph: What’s Really Accomplished
Until the next time, have a good “New Year” and Stay Safe!
COPS SLEEPING ON THE JOB
Most of us who’ve worked the graveyard shift have done it at one time or another—pulled off into the woods or behind a factory to catch a quick nap. On those nights when nothing is happening and you find yourself falling asleep at the wheel, it seems like the prudent thing to do. However, is it right?—no, department policy forbids it, and if you get caught, disciplinary action is sure to follow. Worse yet, given all the ambushes on cops, being asleep on the street can have tragic consequences.
So what’s the answer? Well, we know the human body has what’s known as a circadian rhythm (CR), which is how the body responds to light and darkness. CR is our internal clock; working nights negatively impacts the internal clock in a huge way. The night shift disrupts our sleep pattern and interferes with the production of melatonin, the hormone that makes us sleepy.
Being sleepy while working the street is downright dangerous. According to the National Institute of Justice , “Sleep deprivation is comparable to excessive drinking.” One study discovered that not sleeping for 17 hours negatively affected motor skills similar to someone who had been drinking and had a 0.05 percent toxicity level. Don’t sleep for 24 hours, and that level rises to 0.10 percent, and impairs speech, balance, coordination, and mental judgment.
Obviously having sleep-deprived officers on the street is major and demands a solution. In that regard, a unique program is being tested just outside of Las Vegas by the Henderson Police Department. Known as “Restorative Rest,” it involves sanctioned naps during the night. The department provides secure rooms where tired cops can grab a nap, on duty, to maintain or restore their mental acuity. Capt. Wade Seekatz promoted the pilot program. He’s a certified Force Science Analyst who said, “We truly believe this is going to save the lives of officers, lead to better decision-making and performance on the street, reduce liability for the department, and stand the test of public scrutiny.”
How does the program work? The city provided four municipal buildings scattered across the three patrol sectors. A tired or stressed officer or supervisor in need of rejuvenation can ask to be “dispatched” to one of these locations for his normal lunch hour, and, with approval, remain there for any portion of the allotted 60 minutes. Each room is equipped with a restroom, kitchen, phone, desktop computer, and two lounge chairs. Only one occupant is permitted in a room at a time, and only one supervisor from each sector may make the request.
Capt. Seekatz said, Research shows that even a 20-minute nap can generate two to three hours of heightened alertness.” Henderson PD Chief Patrick Moers added, “ … while no scientific study of Henderson’s program has yet been conducted, authorities consider it a success anecdotally. We haven’t had any more fatigue-related accidents, and we haven’t had anyone written up for sleeping on duty in unauthorized places.”
Could this new concept be the answer to the problem known as graveyard fatigue? The jury is still out, and it has yet to be announced to the public, however, the program looks and sounds promising.
There’s also been positive feedback from cops on the street. One officer, Brett Anderson, said, “It’s been a huge help to me. I have three kids at home and getting good sleep, especially during the daytime hours, can be extremely difficult. A nap can get you back refreshed to where you’re not worried about being a danger on the road.”
Kudos to Henderson PD for an innovative solution to a vexing problem.
Stay Safe, Brothers and Sisters!
John M. Wills
Award-winning Author / Freelance Writer
Member: National Book Critics Circle
Book reviewer: New York Journal of Books
Latest release: THE STORM
BY THE END OF 2017, I’M GOING TO …
I like setting goals to get things done, so this year I set a couple of writing goals. Better to keep it simple and not too ambitious, I thought. I’m supposed to be retired! Here’s what I came up with.
- Do a second edition of my book, Second Careers for Street Cops.
- Write a short story.
Now that doesn’t seem too overwhelming. With some good research and focused writing time I can add value to my book and bring some new resources to police officers looking ahead to a second career.
Writing the short story is another matter. If you’re a novelist and turn out a couple of books a year, you’re probably rolling your eyes at this point and thinking: “One short story in a year? Only about 7000 words, not an 80,000-word novel? No big deal.” But what if you’ve never written fiction before? It’s a new writing challenge for someone who has only produced nonfiction.
Before writing the story, I’m doing some research into how to compose a short story. Right from the start I wanted it to be about three retired cops solving a crime. Bad idea. Too many characters for a short story, my research tells me. Keep it to one protagonist. My retired coffee pals just became minor characters.
So, start at the beginning with a problem (a crime takes place), build the tension, throw in an obstacle or two, create a surprise, hit the climax (crime solved), then de-escalate. And keep it short. Sounds straightforward. Hmmm, not really. I’ve got the crime described, and the surprise is great (biased), but how to tie it all together is the bigger problem.
This might take a while. I’m glad I gave myself a year to do it.
IAN RANKIN’S 3Oth YEAR OF REBUS
In Daneet Steffens’s recent interview for LitHub with Scotland’s crime fiction star Ian Rankin, he says, “All crime fiction boils down to ‘Why do we keep doing these terrible things?” Go back to Shakespeare, to Euripides, and the combination of natural proclivity and circumstances has produced people who destroy not just their enemies, but also the people they love.
Rankin says his early books were more typical whodunits, “but as I got more confident about the form and about what the crime novel could do, I thought, ‘Well there’s nothing it can’t do.’” Writers who want to talk about politics can do that, like author David Ignatius. Those who want to talk about race relations can emulate Bill Beverly. The environment, Paolo Bacigalupi. And, those who want to explore domestic tensions can stake out territory alongside Gillian Flynn or Megan Abbott. In that way, choosing to write about crime is not a limiting factor for authors, but one that gives their story about politics, race relations, the environment, domestic life—whatever—an extra urgency.
You may have read Rankin’s short stories, or be familiar with his best-known work, the award-winning Detective Rebus series (21 books!) set in Edinburgh, or seen one of the several television series made from them. The most recent series title, out earlier this month, is Rather Be the Devil, in which the retired detective takes on a cold murder case, and finds it tied up with a complex money laundering scheme and an aging rock star.
Rebus also has aged and represents some values and a black-and-white view of the world that Rankin says he doesn’t share. It’s Rebus’s partners—the books secondary characters—whose job involves “trying to change his mind on things.” After 30 years of writing the same character and his consistent opponent, Big Ger Cafferty, an old-fashioned gangster up against an old-fashioned detective, the world has changed around them, but the series has “no signs of wearing out,” says a CrimeFictionLover.com review.
You can hear Rankin for yourself at a three-day Rebus festival in Edinburgh, June 30 to July 2. Or in New York at The Center for Fiction, 17 E 47th St., which will host Rankin for a Crime Fiction Master Class on Tuesday February 7th at 7 pm. He’ll be interviewed about his career and the Rebus series by author Jonathan Santlofer. Free and open to the public.
Website: Website: www.vweisfeld.com
A SNAPSHOT OF MEMBER QUINTIN PETERSON
Profession: Security guard, author
Hometown and current home: Washington, D.C.
Known for: After nearly 30 years with the D.C. police (before which he was an NEA grant-winning playwright), he’s now a special officer for the Folger Shakespeare Library, where he’s known as the Folger Theatre Guard, a.k.a. “The Bard Guard.” His crime fiction includes the novel Guarding Shakespeare, which takes place at the Folger.
What’s next: He’ll man the doors for the Folger’s As You Like It (Jan. 24-March 5), and his sequel to Guarding Shakespeare, titled The Voynich Gambit, is slated for a spring release.
What makes him special: “The world comes to Quintin’s door there at the Folger, and with his writer’s eye he’s checking all of us out,” says the Reduced Shakespeare Company’s Austin Tichenor, who came to know Peterson during the RSC’s 2016 run of William Shakespeare’s Long Lost First Play (abridged). “He greets everybody by name and is a welcoming presence, whether you’re an actor, scholar, visitor, or audience member.” Tichenor adds, “Q has hidden depths and deserves to be more well-known. I’m thrilled he’s become a friend.”
Being the Bard Guard: “The position is an ideal retirement gig,” Peterson says, “because it is a perfect way to get to meet people from around the world. They visit the Folger daily. Interaction with people feeds my imagination and informs my writing.” He especially relishes the casts and crews of Folger Theatre productions. “Being around those theatre folk,” he says, “reminds me of the good old days” as the Motion Picture and Television Liaison Officer for the Metropolitan Police Department of Washington, D.C., in which capacity he acted as technical advisor and script consultant for various films and series.
John M. Wills’s upcoming appearances:
- I’ll be signing my books at the Bethel Baptist Church Spring Craft Show, Saturday, March 25th, 9am – 3pm.
- On April 22, 2017, I’ll be at the Hanover Book Festival, signing my books, from 10am – 2pm, in Mechanicsville, VA.
- Also signing at the Fredericksburg Independent Book Festival this summer.
Bob Doerr is happy to announce his seventh Jim West mystery, Greed Can Kill, will be released in early March 2017.
This book finds Jim traveling to Fabens, TX, in an effort to locate Stu Brown, an old acquaintance, who had written Jim a cryptic letter asking for his help in finding a briefcase. The letter postmarked in Fabens provides no obvious hint to where the briefcase might be or how Jim can contact Brown. In Fabens, he discovers that someone has murdered his friend. Jim provides a copy of the letter to the local police explaining that he has no idea where the briefcase is or how to decipher the sets of numbers provided in the letter. Figuring there is nothing more he can do, Jim starts his trek back home.
On his way home, he plans to spend a night or two relaxing at the Lodge in Cloudcroft, NM, only to find that he is being followed. An ominous, unidentified phone caller gives Jim an ultimatum – find the briefcase and turn it over to him within a week.
If he doesn’t, Jim will face dire consequences. Jim tries to beg off saying that he doesn’t know where the briefcase is, but his plea is ignored. A violent confrontation in Cloudcroft verifies Jim’s worst suspicion – a Mexican drug cartel wants the briefcase. The confrontation brings the FBI into the picture. Like the cartel, the FBI wants Jim to continue his search. The search takes him to the New Mexican ghost town of Chloride where the final confrontation takes place, and Jim finds out who’s really on his side.
Marilyn Meredith will be presenting with Cora Ramos at the San Joaquin Chapter of Sisters in Crime on April 1, in Fresno. And on April 15th, she’ll be speaking at 3 p.m. in the Hanford Library.