PSWA Newsletter–April 2015

PSWA Newsletter
APRIL 2015




Greetings!  Hope you are all having a successful and rewarding writing year so far and, depending on where you live, enjoying the spring weather.  Here in the Pacific Northwest, it’s been a relatively balmy winter – so much so that our annual Memorial Day Ski to Sea 90-mile relay race has had to make a few changes.  While it may be a little different for those of you in the Northeast, we are basically out of snow already, so instead of starting the race on May 22 with downhill and cross country skiing, we’re having to add another mountain bike and downhill run to augment the canoeing and kayaking legs of the race.  The good news is plenty of beautiful spring flowers – starting in February.

But enough about weather.

First, our congratulations to PSWA Board Member Michelle Perin who has agreed to become our vice president.  We are all delighted that she has agreed to assume this important role in the organization.

Now, let’s talk PSWA events.  Please mark your calendars now for two important deadlines.  The first is the deadline for entering our growing and always popular writing competition.  Competition chair Michelle Perin reports that the entries are now arriving often and the deadline for them is May 8.  For all the details about the many available categories, be sure to click on Writing Contest on this website.  Winners will, as is our custom, be announced at the annual conference.

And speaking of the conference, that’s the other deadline.  The conference will be held at the Orleans Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas July 17-19, with the opening reception on the evening of the 16th.  As we do every year, we reward early registrants with lower conference fees.  In this case, the next deadline for reservations is May 15.  After that, the rate goes up.  Conference chair Mike Black has shared with the board the exciting lineup of panels, speakers and other activities, including a very special media presentation.  Conference logistical chair Keith Bettinger has planned another great year of lunches including those extra yummy desserts.  Also, as those of you who’ve attended before, we try to involve our attendees in all of our panels.  Mike says those slots are filling fast, so if you have a panel you’d like to be a part of, get your reservation in ASAP!  Click on Conference on this website to register.

Hope to see you in Las Vegas in July and join the round of applause on Sunday when you accept your writing award.

–Marilyn Olsen


The 2015 Public Safety Writers Association conference is fast approaching.  Soon we will be at the Orleans Hotel and Casino meeting old friends and making new ones.   When making hotel reservations please use the following code to be sure you get the special hotel rate for your stay at the conference: A5PSC07.  The hotel has many fine restaurants, bowling alleys, movie theaters and a showroom.

Las Vegas has much to do and see without spending all your time in a casino chained to a slot machine.   The hotel guarantees the room rates for a week before our conference as well as a week following the conference.  There are so many wonderful things to see and do in the area.  Don’t miss out on an opportunity to see the sights and visit some of the history of the old west.

Now with that said, as your conference hotel coordinator, let me cover a few other points to make your trip more pleasurable.  First of all, if you are attending the conference you can sell your books at our book store.  It is much easier for you to ship them to me at my home.  That beats paying overweight luggage fees at the airport. I will bring them to the conference and turn them back over to you.   Do not ship your entire stock of books to me.  Three or five of each title should be sufficient.  We have many prolific authors selling books and people only have so much money to go around.  Also, please be aware, I may bring your books to the conference, but I am not mailing them back to you.  I suggest you bring a self-addressed and stamped priority mail envelope or carton with you for mailing books home. In the meantime, you can ship your books to me at:

Keith Bettinger
9669 Vista Crest Avenue
Las Vegas, NV 89148

Let me know via email when you ship the books and I will notify you when your books arrive at my home.  Please include your email address in the shipment. You can also send me any materials or items you would like to have placed in the welcome bags that we hand out at registration.

I am also in charge of setting up the food services.  If you have special dietary needs, make sure you check it off on the conference registration form.  Let us know what you need in the way of food to compliment your health or religion.  More than likely, you will be having a chicken, a pork and a beef luncheon during the three days of the conference.

This year attendees were offered a phenomenal early bird special rate for the conference.  However, the prices of our conference’s amenities have risen.  Let me tell you about conference costs and some of the breaks we receive.  The Thursday night meet and greet we PSWA has to pay for the room, food and bartender and you pay for your beverages.  If we purchase a certain dollar amount of beverages, we do not have to pay for the bartender.  The ball room we use each day for the conference is $1,000.00 per day.  If we have 50 lunches purchased each day, we get the room for half the price.  The meals you receive as part of your cost in excess of $30 and they are phenomenal.  Morning coffee has risen in price to $44 a gallon.  We go through at least five gallons of coffee and tea each day – sometimes more.

With those prices in mind, I am asking you for your help and support.  Every year I come to the membership with hat in hand and ask the members to contact their publishers, printers, editors, home town writers clubs and fraternal groups to sponsor something each day.  $200.00 would buy coffee for a day.  $175.00 would sponsor the bartender.  $300.00 would sponsor the Thursday night meet and greet room.  The food for the meet and greet could also be sponsored.   We have been successful in the past with help from sponsors, but, I cannot keep going back to the same ones over and over again.  For your publishers, editors and printers, it is a great way for them to break the ice and get their business names out to our writers/attendees.  If you can, bring your spouse or traveling companion to lunch each day, that’s another meal towards to reduction in cost of the conference room.  Whenever a business or group sponsors something for us we announce it the attendees and make sure a notice thanking them is posted for the entire day.

Let me thank you in advance for your time and help.  I look forward to hearing what you can do to help, and look forward to seeing you in July.

–Keith Bettinger, Secretary


Our Annual PSWA Board Meeting is rapidly approaching as I write this. In fact, by the time you read this newsletter, chances are that the meeting will already be over. I attended my first board meeting last year and was amazed at how much work it was. Basically, the forthcoming PSWA conference is discussed in depth and planned at this meeting. The evaluations that were collected last year are scrupulously reviewed, and we all put our heads together to make the next one better. I am reminded of the old comparison of how smoothly the swan looks as it sails across the pond, but what is not visible is the frenetic paddling of the bird’s webbed feet under the surface of the water. Our board is second to none in its dedication.

Once again, I have the awesome responsibility of writing the program, so that’s why I’ve recently been asking for suggestions on presentations and panel topics on the listserve. I’ve also been looking for volunteers for such things as timekeepers, bookstore assistance, registration help, etc.

I’ve been to a lot of conferences over the years, and I can honestly say that the PSWA conference is the best. We not only work to make it better each year, but we also change it so no two conferences are exactly alike. Last year we had the CSI Jeopardy show, starring Alex Suspect and our fabulous contestants, Diane, Joe, Thone, and Pete. Who can forget their hilarious ad lib answer, “Sacco and Vanzetti,” for any question that they didn’t know? This year I’ve got a few more surprises up my sleeve including a chance for a few of you to do some real acting in an old-time radio play. Like I said, I’m looking for volunteers to be actors, actresses, and members of an audience jury who try to solve the mystery before it’s revealed. Who knows, maybe a new career in Hollywood is on the horizon for one of you. Additionally, we’ve got some great presentations lined up as well as a great assortment of panels covering aspects of police work, firefighting, forensics, and writing both fiction and nonfiction. You can you rub elbows with experts in all these fields, as well as some great writers, and make some great contacts.

And don’t forget about the fabulous room rates. (Where else can you stay at a five star hotel and only pay thirty-five to fifty bucks?) The meals are excellent as well, and don’t forget you can help keep our rates low by inviting your spouses to join you at the lunches. The only stipulation is that we need to know who all is coming to eat when you register, because the meals need to be ordered in advance.

Like I said, I’m in the process of writing the program, and I’ve received a lot of suggestions for panels thus far. We want to make this conference the best it can be, so don’t hesitate to contact me at if you have any more ideas about what you’d like to see at the conference. Like Dean Martin used to say, “Keep those cards and letter coming, ‘cause I read every one.”

I’m looking forward to seeing all of you next July in Vegas.

–Michael A. Black


By Michelle Perin, Vice-President and Contest Chair

Time is running out to enter the PSWA 2015 Writing Contest. Entries must be postmarked by May 8, 2015 (1 Month 1 Week 1 Day according to the contest count-down on our website). Lots of you have already submitted work in the variety of categories we offer, including Novels, Short Stories, Creative-Non-Technical and Poetry. All categories include both published and non-published options so there is truly a category for everyone. Check out the categories and guidelines at

The entries are judged by a panel of experts in that category and most are accompanied by a short critique which can help you craft your writing. The Awards Ceremony (which is my favorite part) occurs after lunch on the last day of the PSWA Writer’s Conference in Las Vegas. This Sunday event allows us to recognize the year’s winners and is incredibly exciting. I encourage you to enter the contest, come to the conference and join your fellow writers for this informative and fun event. Maybe you will walk away at the end of the day with a certificate stating you are an “Award-Winning Author”. Don’t wait too long to enter as that ticker keeps counting down. Good luck and see you in July.

–Michelle Perin, Vice-President and Contest Chair


If you are not familiar with this acronym, then at first thought you might likely guess it to be some rare disease or health condition, a medical procedure, or even a chemical or biological threat. But don’t be embarrassed if you are unaware of this term. Because even though the concept is thousands of years old, the term itself has only been around for the past twenty to thirty years, and basically something only recognized by crime prevention practitioners and, more recently, architects. So what exactly is this SEP-ted?

CPTED (pronounced: SEP-ted) is the common vernacular for Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design. This is a crime prevention philosophy based on the theory that the “proper design and effective use of the built environment can lead to a reduction in the incidence and fear of crime, thus an improvement in the quality of life.”

CPTED is actually a full semester course of study, so just the basics will be discussed in this newsletter. First, I want to take a moment and comment on the significance of the underlined word “and” in this definition. Something can be properly designed to reduce the incidence or fear of crime, but unless it is used effectively then the probability for crime will increase.

Here’s an example … If you are a home owner with a side yard protected by a gate to control access, the effective use comes when the gate functions properly and is closed. Or even more effective use is applied when a padlock is secured on the gate. Having a gate on the side of your house to control access to your backyard meets the “proper design” requirement of CPTED’s definition. But with no closed gate and/or no padlock, then the second part of the definition is not fulfilled, i.e., no “effective use” to deter unauthorized users.

Starting back in the 1960s, several leading criminologists in the latter half of the 20th Century were responsible for developing the theories of CPTED; such notable names as C. Ray Jeffrey, Oscar Newman, and Jane Jacobs. But much of their theories went unnoticed or rejected. It wasn’t until the 1990s that Timothy Crowe brought prominence to the concept and recognition for past authorities in the field of study. It was then that architects and municipal designers began realizing the value of CPTED and employing those design models into their urban planning. (I had the privilege of taking the basic and advance CPTED courses under Timothy Crowe.)

CPTED’s three foundational tenets are

  • Access Control
  • Natural Surveillance
  • Territoriality

[Note: Two sub-components are Maintenance and Activity Support, and are sometimes included as major components of CPTED.]

I mentioned earlier that CPTED concepts have been around for hundreds of years, but only the term is a more recent view for urban planners. As an example for access control, let’s go back to the medieval times of Europe. Castles were typically surrounded by a moat with a draw bridge controlling who was allowed entry into the inner walls. The high walls, the moat, the draw bridge, and the guards manning the bridge were all forms of access control. Today’s comparable locales would be the “gated community.” Or the modern office building with a receptionist/guard desk and keypads or proximity readers on doors for internal access operated by authorized employee ID badges.

An example for natural surveillance can be found in the practices of the Anasazi; an ancient Native American culture that lived in cliff dwellings in the Four Corner region of the United States. By making their habitats on the side of mesa cliffs, they could see their “friend or foe” approaching for many miles. They also practiced access control by having their homes on different levels and accessed by ladders that could be pulled up to prevent use by unwanted visitors.

Since the beginning of time, most all cultures have distinguished their property rights in some manner of territoriality. Some geographical feature like a river or mountain range, a forest, or a valley defined borders of different people and marked the line for intruders or strangers. Such was the case for the Hatfields and McCoys. If not a geographical division, then man-made elements were established, such as fence lines and signage. This was evident by the use of barbed-wire and its role during the Range Wars of the 1800s. In modern day practice, we reinforce our property rights, our territoriality per se, with landscaping, walls, and lighting … which also coincide with natural surveillance and access control.

Implementing CPTED principles into your home does not have to be expensive. Applications of CPTED can involve nothing more than taking away or reducing the opportunity of a nuisance or criminal activity by understanding behavior patterns of criminals. The best way to secure your house is to pretend you are the intruder, the thief, or other type of “bad guy.” Take a walk around the block and plan-out how you would break into one of your neighbors’ homes. What makes their house an inviting target? Is it poor lighting? Are windows blocked by overgrown bushes and shrubs preventing visibility from the street? Is the side gate left open, or unlocked?

No, CPTED is not a disease or a worrisome health concern, but let’s hope that it’s contagious to us all. In the meantime…Stay Safe!

Ron Corbin


So often when trying to figure out what to do writing-wise, I rely upon what I like to read—what pulls me into a novel and what keeps me reading. Character and Setting are always my first thoughts. Of course, story is important. However, I might have in my hand the most intriguing story every written, but if I don’t like the protagonist, or at a minimum, care about what happens to him or her—I won’t read the book. Equally, if I’m not mentally or emotionally “taken away”—once again, the book won’t get read. Which leads me to “setting,” sometimes referred to as “location.” (I lean toward the word “setting”—seems, a broader concept.)

By my way of thinking, setting done well is a key ingredient—I go as far to say, an essential ingredient—for an enjoyable novel. A novel a reader wants to read. A novel a reader is pulled into.

Here’s a quickie list of some thoughts on Setting:

  • Fully developed, setting adds the underlying layer for your story—the glue so to speak that holds everything together. (Maybe not the best metaphor, but similar to the background in a photo.) It establishes your protagonist and reader firmly on the time-space-continuum, and in a particular place in the universe.
  • Where your protagonist “is,” determines in a multitude of ways, what and how your characters face and deal with the dilemmas you throw their way. And what physical items and constraints are available, not only in daily life, but at hand to maybe save a life? Or solve a crime?
  • The comparison between a protagonist’s current setting versus ones from the past can add an emotional level—e.g., guilt from deeds in a past setting, hope for the future from where they are now, even being part of their understanding of the present.
  • Enables the reader to experience through your words and your character’s eyes, the tastes, smells, sounds, sights, and feel of your protagonist’s world. Emotional and visual pictures readers can’t forget. (I have several such pictures from books I’ve read that I will never forget.)
  • Setting is a key way to show personalities—how they deal with their environment. If your character can see, feel, love or hate a desert, a lake, a city, or???—that response to the landscape can be a key to the reader then loving or hating your character. And not just your hero, but your villain too!

On a personal level, setting has been my story inspiration. Whether walking through a lush green evergreen forest in the pacific northwest, or mesmerized by the sight of long abandoned structures, silhouetted against lower Sierra foothills by a brilliant sunset, or mentally captivated by a rundown mini-mart, neglected and lonely in the Mojave desert, or standing in awe, taking in the expansive view from a Michigan Avenue high-rise apartment of Lake Shore Drive and the lake beyond. Add a few more setting items like abandoned A-frames, Quonset huts, mining caves—the list goes on; all with tales to tell, stories fanciful or real. Setting is the key to that inspiration.

Which takes me back to what I like to read. The authors I consistently read with anticipation and joy are the ones that have memorable characters that take me to a place—setting—I don’t want to leave. A place where I’m sorry I have to leave at book’s end. Developing “setting” as best we can, I think is well worth the time and effort. Challenging, I think. But aiming for a strong sense of place, I also think, is a key ingredient to the “art and craft” of storytelling.

–Madeline Gornell

john_wills_200IS CURSIVE CURSED?

A recent ABC News report suggested that cursive handwriting is becoming increasingly irrelevant. Students rarely use or practice this once standard form of communication. In fact, one high school principal suggested that cursive may become a skill students must learn outside of the classroom because schools are focused on “real-world” job related skills involving technology.,

Even signatures, as important as they are, may not necessarily have to be in the form of cursive. A sales manager at a credit union opined that the lack of a cursive signature isn’t necessarily a deal breaker. The individual’s mark may simply be a dot or an X, and it can be captured electronically.

However, not everyone is willing to abandon this basic building block of education.Lawmakers in Concord, N.H. passed a bill requiring public schools to continue teaching cursive. The bill’s sponsor advised teaching cursive will allow students the ability to read historical documents, such as those created by our founding fathers.

“It’s the last form of personalized communication,” said Neal S. Frank, owner of Santa Fe Pens in New Mexico. With passion and self-interest, Frank is teaming up with local calligraphy and cursive teacher Sherry Bishop to revive the art of good penmanship.

“It is self-expression,” agrees Bishop, who teaches at one of the few local schools that still requires learning cursive, the Santa Fe Waldorf School. “We can’t get much closer to the heart than true handwriting.”

For Frank and Bishop, cursive is about more than good penmanship. “There’s been a couple of studies that show learning cursive triggers the brain on how to learn,” says Frank, adding that “there may be a correlation between not learning cursive and the fact that we [the US] are falling behind the rest of the world.”

Bishop adds that practicing cursive and handwriting improves fine motor skills and head-heart-hands coordination. “It’s this beautiful mediation, and there’s this rhythm that gets the body in sync,” she says. “It’s just me and the person I’m sending the letter to–it’s just this beautiful, private conversation.”

I don’t know about you, but when something wonderful, or perhaps sad, occurs in my life, and someone sends me a handwritten note, there’s no better feeling. It’s much better than a commercially produced card with some stranger’s sentiments printed inside. The personalization and concern conveyed by a handwritten card is something to be treasured for a lifetime.

I encourage my family to communicate using cursive whenever they can. It’s a beautiful form of expression that should not be pushed aside for the sake of technology.

John M. Wills
Award-winning Author / Freelance Writer
Member: National Book Critics Circle
Latest novel: HEALER


Ah, those pesky little verbs, to lay and to lie … They keep cropping up here and there in our writing to cause bumps in our prose like pot holes in the roadway after a spring thaw. Let’s take a look at the difference between the two of them, and figure out how to avoid those grammatical ruts.

First, we need to provide a bit of background. English has verbs called transitive and intransitive. A transitive verb, for lack of a better word, is an action verb. By its very nature, the described action is transferred to something. Thus, a transitive verb requires an object, a direct object, onto which this action is conveyed. Let’s look at an example.

Tom hit the ball. In this instance, the subject, Tom, is performing an action, hitting, on the object, the ball.

If a transitive verb transfers the action to a direct object, it stands to reason that an intransitive verb does not, right?

An intransitive verb expresses action that has no object, such as, Jack smiled, or, The river ran through the valley.

I know what you’re thinking: does a verb have to be one or the other? Actually, some verbs are always transitive (destroy, send, forbid), and some are always intransitive (tremble, chuckle, happen); however, most verbs can function as either transitive or intransitive as in, The teacher explained the lesson, which is transitive, and The teacher never explained, which is intransitive.

Are you following me? Or are you way ahead of me?

Or are have you quit reading out of boredom?

Okay, let’s bring in our two problem verbs, to lay and to lie.

Basically, the difference is simple: to lie means to recline in a recumbent position or remain in lying position. Its principal parts are lie, lay, (have) lain, (is) lying. To lay means to put or to place something. Its principal parts are lay, laid, (have) laid, (is) laying.

Since lay is a transitive, or action, verb, it requires that this action be transferred to a direct object. Lie, being intransitive, expresses an action in itself, thus, it does not require a direct object. When each verb is conjugated, some confusion sometimes results. Jack was laying (transitive) bricks in the patio, while Jill was lying (intransitive) on the lawn chair. After Jack had laid the bricks, Jill realized she’d lain there for over an hour.

So, we can lay bricks, blame, or our cards on the table, while the birds laid eggs yesterday. Things get a tad trickier with lie, in that we might feel compelled to lie down now, although we lay down yesterday, and have lain down in the past week.

It should be mentioned that before the intervention of grammarians, this distinction was practically nonexistent until the early part of the Nineteenth Century. We may be moving toward using the two verbs interchangeably again, but for the moment, the distinction remains in place, often with hilarious results.

Even our past presidents have not been immune. Harry S. Truman once said, “I don’t want anyone to lay down on the job.” At an address at Arlington National Cemetery, Bill Clinton remarked “Remember why many of these people are laying in these graves.” And George W. Bush once told an audience that the power of this country “lays in in the hearts and souls of Americans.” But we shouldn’t be too critical of our chief executives. After all, they were our Commanders-in-Chiefs, not our Conjugators-in-Chiefs.

–Professor X (Identity to be revealed at the conference unless you can guess before that.)

 Joe-Haggerty200x200OCEAN THERAPY

Recently my wife and I bought a house in Florida. It’s a five minute walk to the ocean. I’ve always wanted to live near the ocean. I guess as a kid some of my happiest moments were the visits to my parents’ friends at Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina. Although I always sunburned badly, I can always remember body surfing in the ocean waves. I was stung by a sea nettle on one occasion and had numerous mosquito bites on another, but I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the beach. I think part of it was that I was an only child and my parents’ friends, who I referred to as Uncle Pete and Aunt Donna, had two children around my age, Rusty and Donna Joyce. I was never alone. I had my first experience fishing, which was exhilarating. Rusty and I caught a slew of croakers fishing off a bridge close to their house and that night Uncle Pete cooked some for our dinner. The ocean looked different to me then. It was fun, exciting and powerful. It could push me down, turn me around or give me a ride in a rush of salty water that always tasted sweet.

Today as I walk toward the beach, I can hear the waves rolling up to the shores. It’s a familiar sound. A sound that gives me a chill and warmth at the same time.  As the vastness of its never ending horizon come into view, I begin to feel small, not as a person, but as an entity compared to how the oceans cover the earth. I walk down to the sand, take off my shoes and socks and start a slow stroll along the waters’ ever changing edge. It amazes me how each wave creates a different design on the sand, sometimes leaving a salty foam like the foam on top of a mug of beer. I walk at a distance where the water doesn’t reach me, but eventually I walk closer. I feel like if I let the water touch me I’ll be drawn in to want to feel more.

When the water first rushes over my toes I again feel a chill because it is so cold. I step back out of reach of the next wave. Now the sand is clinging to my wet feet and I feel the urge to step toward the next rush of cold water. The water is still cold, but the shock of its coldness is less severe. The water seems to massage my feet first as it covers my foot in between my toes and then as it pulls the sand from under my foot as the water recedes. The higher up the water gets the more I feel a part of its power and strength.  Before my walk is through, my pants legs will be rolled up and wet as I’ve walked deeper into the waves. I’ve even felt like I’ve wanted to take all of my clothes off and let the water cover my whole body, but I am not a nudist and modesty and good sense tells me to control myself. I’m always reluctant to leave my ocean and return to the real world of bills and responsibility. I know it is necessary, but the ocean will always draw me back whenever I’m near.

Whenever there is a bright moon, I’ll go down to the shore and just gaze at the darkness of the ocean. Of course there will be a streak of white light stretching across the moving waters from the moon and it is easier to see as you are walking, but I also look for signs of life on the water. The lights of a ship or smaller boat anchored or moving across the horizon always gets my imagination churning. A cruise ship will have more lights than a freighter or tanker, but either way I wonder who is on that ship, where has it been, what secrets does it carry. Their lights are like beacons in the night bringing notions of sailors and pirates and surly sea captains. Mr. Christian and Captain Bly, Humphrey Bogart and Gregory Peck, Russell Crowe and Tom Hanks, John Wayne and Gary Cooper were all men of the sea. The Perfect Storm and Captain’s Courageous come to mind. Men of the sea and, of course, their women, are great stories. The ocean also holds great tragedies, the Titanic, tsunamis, slave ships and the thousands of lives buried at sea during wars and harsh weather. One can get lost in the stories of the sea, but I prefer the simple enjoyment of its caress on my feet and the soothing sounds of its rolling waves.

Now I could get very philosophical about the ocean, the connection between continents, its underwater treasures and horrors and its ever expanding waters, but I chose to be self- centered. My relationship with the ocean is purely therapeutic. It engulfs me with its vastness and the constant roar of the rolling waves on the beach. The waters are sometimes cold, sometimes warm, but always there, always pushing wider whether at high tide or low tide. I could stare at its consistency and think about my life’s inconsistencies, but instead I think about God. I think about how thankful I am to be able to stand and walk along these beaches, to feel the water on my toes, to taste the salt on my lips.

For some reason, as I have mentioned before, I feel small, but I feel whole, I feel strong. The world revolves around me not the other way around, and yet, I am just another grain of sand on that beach. The ocean will always be mysterious, exciting, romantic and therapeutic to me and I will always be drawn to its beauty.

–Joseph B. Haggerty Sr.
Author of the novels: Shame: The Story of a Pimp and An Ocean in the Desert
Contributor to the PSWA anthology: Felons, Flames and Ambulance Rides
Award winning poet and lecturer on the sexual exploitation of women and children in prostitution and pornography


Many people wonder about the make-up of local fire departments. Actually, no they don’t. Most people, based on what type of department they have locally, just believe that all fire departments are like theirs. For example, if you live in New York City, you probably believe that all fire departments are staffed by people hired, trained and paid by the City of New York. On the flip side, if you live in Custer, Kentucky, you probably think that everywhere else has the same fully-volunteer fire staff. Ok, maybe not so much the volunteer areas since we are inundated with television shows detailing the ins and outs of the larger city career departments like Chicago Fire and Rescue Me. So you can get your facts right when you write, here’s a brief look at the possible make-up of your local fire department.

Career Departments
Career departments are made up of fire fighters who have been hired and are paid by the jurisdiction they work in. They are unionized and belong to the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF). Their work conditions are guided by Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) and they get paid a regular salary, work regular shifts at the station (mostly two 24-hour shifts followed by 5 days off) and have benefits, such as paid-time-off, medical insurance and retirement. Career departments cover most major metropolitan cities from coast to coast. According to the March 2015 U.S. Fire Administration Census (which includes local, state and federal departments) 8% of fire departments are fully career.

Volunteer Departments
The majority of the fire departments in the United States fall into this category. These departments are completely staffed by volunteers from the Fire Chief down to the entry-level fire fighter. The fire fighters are made up of community members and are on-call 24-7. When an emergency occurs, they rush down to the station, jump in the apparatus (fire truck, ambulance, etc) and rush to the scene. Some are allowed to respond in their personal vehicles (POV) but many have moved away from this due to liability. Although some departments offer a stipend per call, these people are mostly un-paid and do not have benefits.  Many members belong to the National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC). 71% of departments fall into the volunteer category.

Combination Departments
The last type of department is a combination of career and volunteer. There are some paid positions on staff. On the smaller departments this can be the Fire Chief with the rest of the members volunteers or it can be 50% career supplemented by 50% volunteer. The career fire fighters have all the benefits of larger, fully-career departments and often the volunteers have some added benefits, such as a longevity stipend that goes into a retirement account. The Census shows 5% of combination departments are mostly career and 16% are mostly volunteer.

You can find out more about the census and some other great statistics by going to One last fun fact, Nebraska has the most volunteer departments at 92.7% and Hawaii has the most career at 72.7%.
–Michelle Perin, FF-1/EMT


CAFFEINE_CAN_KILL--200x311b PSWA Member Bob Doerr announced the April 1 release of the sixth book in his award winning Jim West mystery series, titled Caffeine Can Kill.  This Jim West mystery/thriller, the sixth in the series, finds Jim traveling to the Texas Hill Country to attend the grand opening of a friend’s winery and vineyard. Upon arriving in Fredericksburg, Jim witnesses a brutal kidnapping at a local coffee shop. The next morning while driving down an unpaved country road to the grand opening, he comes across an active crime scene barely a quarter mile from his friend’s winery. A Fredericksburg policeman, who talked to Jim the day before at the kidnapping scene, recognizes Jim and asks him to identify the body of a dead young woman as the woman who was kidnapped.  Jim does, and as a result of this unwelcome relationship with the police is asked the next morning to identify the body of another murdered person as the man who had kidnapped the young woman.  A third murder throws Jim’s vacation into complete disarray and draws Jim and a female friend into the sights of one of the killers.
Violent-Departures-200x298The latest in the Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery series, Violent Departures, by Marilyn Meredith, writing under the name F. M. Meredith, is now available in trade paperback and on Kindle.

Violent Departures Blurb: College student, Veronica Randall, disappears from her car in her own driveway, everyone in the Rocky Bluff P.D. is looking for her. Detective Milligan and family move into a house that may be haunted. Officer Butler is assigned to train a new hire and faces several major challenges.




fbi-animal-house-200x309“FBI Animal House” is Pete Klismet’s second published book, released in late 2014.  It is the true story of a raucous, party-minded class of New Agents at the FBI academy.  There is plenty of humor and wild antics, but there is also a serious theme.

The author seriously questions whether the basic training for FBI agents changed much between the 1930’s and 1990’s, other than moving to a gleaming facility.  What the public believes is that FBI agents come out of the basic academy as “highly-trained” Special Agents, while nothing could be further from the truth in the author’s view.  The book will not be popular with the FBI, but the author believes the issue is safety and competence of agents in the field, rather than getting by on the myth and mystique of the FBI.  (Available through, and



dragon_key-200x316Mike Black’s latest Executioner novel is Dragon Key, published under the house name of Don Pendleton.









Ron Corbin:

RonCorbin200x200Military pilot, Los Angeles cop, police pilot, school teacher and principal, private investigator, corporate security director, body guard for Arabic royalty, counter-terrorism auditor and trainer for DOE security forces, crime prevention specialist, law enforcement training magazine editor, police academy training manager, author, and cruise ship special-interest speaker.

Trying to complete my resume` in one to two pages is like attempting to squeeze my stomach into one of my old Army flight suits … it can’t be done. Well actually on a dare, I did recently show my wife that I could still do that, but zipping it up became a hazard because one can only hold their breath for so long. Also, I was afraid the zipper was going to break and there would be flying shrapnel across the room. When I did finally unzip, it sounded like opening a pressure-sealed can of coffee.

My story began in 1946 in LeRoy, Kansas (pop. 500). Raised in a small farming community on the Neosho River, fishing for catfish, hunting squirrels and rabbits, idolizing western cowboy heroes, I had a typical Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer style childhood. I attended a small, four-room grade school for eight years. I was 10-years-old when my dad died. As the oldest of three boys, I had to work many part-time jobs to help support my mom and brothers. A few years later my mom remarried and we packed-up the car and moved to New Orleans, where I went to high school for three years. It was there that I met Kathy, my high school sweetheart.

Immediately after graduation in 1964, my mom’s new marriage wasn’t working out, so we moved to California. The day I left, and at the age of seventeen, Kathy proposed to me. I don’t remember saying “yes,” but I didn’t say “no” either. So she “jumped” on my shock of silence reaction and took that as an affirmative response. We were engaged, but lived 2,000 miles apart for the next couple years. I entered the Army’s helicopter flight program in 1965. While in flight school, Kathy and I got married in 1966. Four months later, I went to Vietnam as a Huey helicopter pilot. I served two combat tours in the late 1960s, leaving the service after four years with a couple thousand flight hours.

After the Army, I became an LA policeman (just like Reed on “Adam-12”). Eventually becoming a police instructor pilot for their air unit in 1976, I had a training accident that killed my student pilot. Receiving seventy percent burns, I was pensioned-off. A couple years ago, I wrote my first major book about my memoirs of this accident. It’s titled, “Beyond Recognition.”

My college didn’t begin until after I got out of the military. As a 23-year-old freshman in 1970, being a Vietnam vet on a college campus was not ideal. Anyway, I continued working my way through college for the next eighteen calendar years to achieve my undergrad and graduate degrees, and all the while of being a full-time provider husband and father. In other words, I went to college for a long time, not a fun time.

Almost fifty years later, Kathy and I have three children; two natural sons and an adopted Korean daughter. We are definitely a multi-cultural family. My great-grandmother was Cherokee Indian. Our kids have blessed us with six grand-children, one being adopted from Russia, and with other mixtures of Mexican-Caucasian, Korean-Mexican, and Filipino-Korean.

So, in the “Reader’s Digest version” of my life, this brings me back to my opening paragraph and all the various careers I’ve had. With everything that I’ve done, and some highly classified, Kathy once asked me if I was working as a spy for the CIA.

My reply was, “Well Sweetheart, I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you.”

Thonie Hevron:

After 35 years in California law enforcement, Thonie Hevron uses her experience to write suspense novels based on the lives behind the badge. She is retired and lives with her husband in the bucolic Northern California town of Petaluma. Thonie blogs stories from law enforcement veterans to portray the police character accurately and giving authors and the public insight into why cops do what they do. Her two police procedural thrillers, By Force or Fear and Intent to Hold won awards in the Public Safety Writers Association Writers Contest in 2012 and 2014. The third book, called With Malice Aforethought is in progress.
Author of By Force or Fear Intent to Hold, award winners in 2012 and 2014

Website: Thonie Hevron
Blog: Thonie Hevron, Just the Facts, Ma’am

John-Schembra-200x200John Schembra

John Schembra spent a year with the 557th MP Company at Long Binh, South Vietnam in 1970.  His time as a combat M.P. provided the basis of his first book, M.P., A Novel of Vietnam, a work of fiction based in part on his personal experiences.  Upon completing his military service, John joined the Pleasant Hill Police Department, where he retired in 2001 as a Sergeant, after 30 years of service.  He then became the lead Emergency Vehicle Operations Course (EVOC) instructor for the Contra Costa Sheriff’s Office and has certified by the State of California as a subject matter expert in Emergency Vehicle Operations.  He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Administration of Justice through California State University, Sacramento, and a Master’s Degree in Public Administration through California State University, Hayward.

In addition to M.P.,  John has had several articles published in law enforcement periodicals, including, Law and Order, Police Officer’s Quarterly, and The Backup.  He is also a contributing author in True Blue – Police Stories by Those Who Have Lived Them, a collection of short stories released by St. Martin’s Press.  His second novel Retribution, a fictional story of the hunt for a serial killer in San Francisco, was published in the spring of 2007, and his third novel Diplomatic Immunity was published in 2012. His fourth novel Sin Eater should be released shortly. John lives in Concord, CA with Charlene, his wife of 42 years.  They have two children, Alexandria, 38, and Scott, 34, who both reside in the Sacramento area.

Barbara Hodges

Jeff and I have lived on the central coast of California for 23 years.  He came here for a three month temporary assignment and never left.  About the same time we fell in love with basset hounds. Heidi is our fifth one.   Along with writing, I am a big NASCAR fan.  There’s nothing like seeing a race in person.  I also design and make jewelry.  I teach a water exercise class at my mom’s mobile home park three times a week. I started doing so after Mom had knee surgery, fourteen years ago.  Now we have eight other ladies that join us regularly.

Before I moved to the central coast and began writing, I was employed in retail management. I’d always dreamed of writing, but didn’t have the time. Now I have nine books out and am working on the tenth.  No Limits, my show on Blog Talk Radio is in its third year and going strong. I also do interviews for Mysterical-E, an online mystery magazine.

Along with PSWA, which I love, I am a member of Sisters-In-Crime and SLO Nightwriters. A local chapter of California Writers Club is ion the process of forming and I plan to be one of its members.

My local writers group, The Word Wizards, is celebrating twenty years of being together.  I am the last active founding member.


  • Writing tips of all sorts.
  • All kinds of promotion ideas.
  • You’ll hear from the experts about fire-fighting and many phases of law-enforcement.
  • And perhaps, most important of all, you’ll be part of a community of writers.


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