Greetings PSWA Members. Our 16th annual conference was held July 22-25 at the Orleans Hotel, Las Vegas.
On Thursday, Mike Black, Marilyn Meredith, and Kelli Peacock conducted a 6-hour pre-conference workshop, offering great information and tips on improving writing skills. The three facilitators also provided a free personal critique of the participant’s previously submitted manuscripts.
After a year off, due to the Covid pandemic, restrictions were lifted so that we weren’t required to wear masks, or social distance, and the conference started off with a bang. Understandably, attendance was bit lower—normally we host 50 to 55 members—this year we ended up with approximately 35.
That evening was our meet-and-greet social, where members could renew contacts with friends, and make new friends. Finger foods were provided, and there was a no-host bar.
Starting on Friday, the actual first day of the conference, our first Featured Speaker was former LAPD homicide investigator Mike Brandt, speaking on the art of interviewing. Mike did a masterful job talking about the lost art of interviewing, and how to make your writing of those scenes more realistic, the focus being to better understand how to approach the interview as a writer. Thanks, Mike, for sharing your expertise!
Following Mike were two panels, staffed by our members, then off to lunch. The provided lunches were excellent- not your typical rubber chicken hotel meals! The Orleans food service throughout the conference was exceptional!
After lunch, our next Featured Speaker, Rannah Grey, spoke on how her award-winning true crime book, Familiar Evil, was made into a prime-time TV documentary. The documentary was so successful here in the States that it has gone international.
Three more panels followed to wind up the day.
Saturday started off with our next Featured Speakers, Larry and Lorna Collins, the successful husband and wife writing and publishing team, talking about how to write the perfect pitch letter to agents/editors/publishers, something every writer should know how to do.
More member staffed panels followed, with lunch after that.
The afternoon, and last, Featured Speaker was Terry L. Kerns, a former FBI Agent and Field Division Evidence Team Leader during her time with them. She currently is the Opiate Coordinator with the Nevada Attorney General’s office. She gave a fascinating, and alarming, talk on the extent of the opioid addiction crisis in the US.
Again, more panels followed.
On Sunday, we finished off the panel presentations, then went to the last luncheon, during which the writing competition awards were presented. You can find all the winners at the PSWA website.
On a personal note – I was proud and pleased to receive the 1st Place aware in the fiction book non-published category, for my latest Vince Torelli thriller, The List. It is now published and available through my publisher www.writers-exchange.com and Amazon.com in kindle and paperback.
I had the pleasure of presenting a plaque to Marilyn Meredith, a founding member of the PSWA, for her years of service to the organization, serving as a board member, and working so hard to insure the PSWA, and the conference was successful. We really appreciate all she has done, and the PSWA wouldn’t be where it was without her help. A sincere thank you, Marilyn, on behalf of the PSWA, and from me personally.
Plaques were also presented to Geno Munari, one of our publisher members, and Ron Corbin, both who gave so much, unselfishly, to the PSWA for the betterment of the association. Thank you on behalf of the PSWA, and me personally.
Planning for next year’s conference is in progress, and more info on the dates will be posted soon at the website; www.polidewriter.com and sent out via our member group email.
This year’s conference, though smaller, is among the best we’ve had. A huge thank you goes to Mike Black for organizing the panels, the panel members, and the featured speakers.
Lastly- thanks to all the board members, and the attendees, who made the 2021 conference one of the all-time best. I’ve always said we have an amazing organization, filled with amazing members!
I’m looking forward to seeing you all at next year’s conference.
FROM THE WRITING COMPETITION CHAIR
Hello everyone. What a wonderful time I had at our conference in Las Vegas. It was such fun to see everyone. As usual I learned much. I’ve never been to our conference without learning something. I also went away with being fired up to write again. The past year hadn’t been a productive one for me, in the writing sense. Didn’t have the heart for it. Things are looking up now though. My in-person writers’ group has started again. I can’t believe how much difference it makes to have those weekly meetings. My fingers are crossed that this new surge of Covid doesn’t bring them to a halt.
This is my second year as chairperson for the writing competition, but my first year to be able to give the awards in person. It was such a blast. A big shout-out to my judges. Our fantastic writers didn’t make it easy for them, but they did a terrific job.
Also, a big thank you to the PSWA board for giving me the freedom to make a few changes in the judging process. In case you didn’t know, all the judging, except for the published books is done blind. All the entries are given a number. The judges don’t know the names of the winners, until I announce them.
With published books, all four of the judges were authors from outside PSWA. It was the best way to keep things fair. I know from talking with the judges that many times the award for first place and the award for honorable mention were only ten points apart.
All the judges were given score sheets, and the awards based on those scores. In some categories, there were no first-place awards, and in some there were no awards given at all. The Public Safety Writers Association writing competition is tough. When you receive an award, you deserve it, and should be proud.
This coming year I expect to see even more great writing. I’d like to encourage our authors who write in other genres to enter their work. It can be science fiction, fantasy, western, romance, as long as there is a public safety tie in. That goes for writing young adult, middle grade fiction, even children’s picture books. I’d love to see some fiction written for children.
How about it?
I will start accepting entries for 2022 on January first and will continue to accept them until April 15th. Entry fee is still only $10.00 per entry, which is a great deal. If you win, you’ll receive a classy award and the right to call yourself, an award-winning author.
I’m looking forward to seeing your work and presenting you your award at the 2022 PSWA writing conference.
—Barbara M Hodges
PSWA Writing Competition Chairperson
THE BEST PSWA CONFERENCE EVER
“This was the best conference ever.”
So many people came up to me saying that, and I have to admit, I agree. We started things off with the most well attended pre-conference workshop we’ve ever had. Although the event was somewhat tarnished by the tragic passing of Susan Tuttle, who was to be one of the instructors, Marilyn Meredith, Kelli Peacock, and I stepped up and filled the void. Marilyn covered techniques for doing research, I covered plotting, and Kelli covered the usage of subplots. The people attending were all experienced writers and the discussion was first rate. I learned a lot.
As the workshop ended, the conference check-in began. Despite the escalator being temporarily stopped, we still had a steady flow of people coming to check in, receive their conference bags, and get their name tags. Some even ran up the lengthy staircase to get there next to the stopped escalator. Luckily, the ever-capable staff of the Orleans got the escalator working again, and things got back to normal.
The Thursday night get-together was terrific. We were moved to the new wing in the conference center of the hotel this year and the rooms were plush. Although the attendance was a bit diminished, due to a variety of reasons, there was still plenty of engaging conversation. In fact, the reduced numbers seemed to encourage a more intimate interaction. It was very pleasant and a good time was had by all.
Things began in earnest Friday morning and proceeded right on schedule. During our opening welcome PSWA President John Schembra greeted everyone and Master of Ceremonies, Scott Decker (PSWA Vice-President) laid out the schedule of events and panels to come. On this first day we had a moment of silence for the officers who have fallen in the line of duty this year, and Joe Haggerty gave a moving oral reading of his poem, “Why Wasn’t I There?” We also honored long-time PSWA founder and member, Marilyn Meredith, with a special appreciation award and a vase of flowers.
Former LAPD homicide detective, Mike Brandt, then started things off with his presentation on the Art of Interviewing. He gave a witty and thorough summary of what a skilled detective does and explained the art of drawing out a confession from a reluctant suspect. Mike also answered a bunch of questions about police work and investigations.
After a quick break the first panel, Keeping Things Real, got underway with yours truly moderating. The job was made easy due to the experienced panel members, Dave Freedland, John Schembra, Darlene Records, and Al van de Steege, all retired officers, talking about their experiences on the job and what they liked and disliked about the portrayal of cops in TV and movies. Once again, there were a lot of questions from the audience.
John Schembra then took his turn at moderating and had his panelists, Jim Guiligi, Thonie Hevron, Frank Hickey, and Bill Rapp, discuss Research: the Art of Mining Yourself and Your Experiences for Writing Fiction. Once again, the interplay between the panelists and the questions from the audience proved fascinating.
Another high point of the day occurred when veteran PSWA member, Ron Corbin stopped by. He was presented with an official PSWA Appreciation Award for his years of dedicated service to the organization. Ron was on his way to a medical appointment and couldn’t stay, but his appearance to accept the award was heartwarming.
After a delicious lunch, our second solo presenter, Rannah Gray, talked about her experience writing her fabulous true crime book, Familiar Evil, which dealt with the long process of bringing a heinous murderer to justice. Rannah’s book was also made into a prime-time television documentary, and she shared her experiences about that. She also graciously gave away some copies of her book to those in attendance.
John Schembra then put his moderator’s hat on once again for our third panel, Steps in Conducting an Investigation. Panelists Mike Brandt, Dave Cropp, Scott Decker, and Bob Doerr gave us the low down on how an investigation is built from the ground up. Proper procedures and legal considerations were also discussed.
Marilyn Meredith took over as moderator for the next panel, Fiction Typecasting-Writing Novels, Short Stories, Flash Fiction, and Poetry. The diverse group of writers, Joe Haggerty, Dave Cropp, Barbara Lloyd, and Darlene Records, all talked about these different genres and the techniques they use.
Then it was my turn in the barrel again as I moderated the final panel of the day, Dealing with Censorship. In what was our first “R-rated panel,” we discussed the aspects of censorship and how writers have been dealing with restrictions in writing for a long time. Clark Gable and Dashiell Hammett both made an appearance, and a lot of interesting discussion occurred.
After that, we finished off the book sales for the first day and retired for the evening.
Things got off to a moving start on Saturday morning with another moment of silence commemorating the PSWA members and their spouses who have passed this past year. Joe Haggerty gave another inspiring oral rendition of a poem, this time reading “Judiciary Square,” by Keith Bettinger. After that, Larry and Lorna Collins led off with their presentation of The Perfect Pitch. It gave the audience pointers of how to perfect the best way to write a dynamite pitch to generate interest in your book. It was an interactive presentation, and many of the audience members took part
We then started our panels for the day, beginning with Non-Fiction Do’s and Don’ts’s. Scott Decker moderated this panel, which consisted of Rannah Gray, Bruce Adams, Mike Brandt, and Geno Munari. They discussed the specific aspects of writing non-fiction and how to make it interesting. At the conclusion of the panel, Scott Decker surprised long time PSWA supporter, Geno Munari, with a special PSWA Appreciation Award. Geno accepted it with his customary humility and grace.
The next panel dealt with Stepping into Publication. Moderator Thonie Hevron led panelists Larry and Lorna Collins, Jo Wilkins (of Mystic Press), Barbara Hodges, and Marilyn Meredith through the process of working with various entities from pixel to print. Aspects of independent publishing were also discussed.
After another filling lunch, we resumed as former FBI Agent Terry Kerns gave a very impressive presentation on Examining the Opioid Crisis. Former Agent Kerns quickly explained that her experiences make her more accurately refer to the problem as The Drug Crisis. The excellently choreographed presentation detailed the horrific toll that drug usage has wrought on our nation. The audience was left virtually speechless at its conclusion.
Marilyn Meredith moderated our next panel, We’ve Got You Covered, which went into the best techniques used to make an eye-catching cover for your book. Panelists Barbara Hodges, Larry and Lorna Collins, Thonie Hevron, and Dave Knop all talked about their experiences in creating covers that catch the eye of book shoppers.
Next up was Fuzz—What’s Your Jurisdiction? I moderated this one asking panelists Bob Doerr, Scott Decker, Joe Haggerty, and Darlene Record to explain the differences between their disparate law enforcement careers, which ranged from municipal to federal to military.
Our last panel of the day dealt with Writing Action Scenes and John Schembra drew out a lot of information and experiences from his panelists, Bill Rapp, Dave Freedland, Jim Gugili, and Rich Wickliffe. The audience was held spellbound by this one after listening to some of these hair-raising tales and how they were translated into fictional renditions.
Sunday morning brought another round of interesting panels, starting with the fascinating Animals, Aliens, and other Things that Go Bump in the Night. Dave Cropp did the moderating this time asking Barbara Hodges, Bob Haig, Sr., Dave Knop, and Marilyn Meredith about their use of animals, spirits, and ghosts, among other things, in their writing.
Marilyn then remained on stage to moderate the penultimate panel of the conference, Building and Maintaining Suspense in Your Fiction. She asked panelists Thonie Hevron, Barbara Hodges, Bob Doerr, and Kelli Peacock about generating and maintaining suspense. The differences between a mystery and a thriller were also discussed. To say it kept the audience on the edge of their seats is an understatement.
Finally, the panels were brought to a close as Thonie Hevron covered the aspects of Polishing Your Manuscript with panelists Jo Wilkins, John Schembra, Larry and Lorna Collins, and George Cramer. A lot of good techniques, including the use of beta readers and specific things to look for, were discussed and it concluded with the audience feeling enlightened.
Everyone proceeded to the luncheon, where another great meal was served, after which Barbara Hodges announced the winners of the PSWA Writing Contest. Although this was her second time as the Writing Contest Chairperson, it was her first time doing the presentation at the conference. She did an admirable job, and many of the winners were present to accept the awards. Our conference photographer, Kelli Peacock, was on hand to commemorate the presentations, as well as taking pictures throughout the conference. The results of the writing contest were subsequently posted on the website. It was also somewhat bittersweet for Barbara in that she mentioned that Susan Tuttle’s book had won the award for Best Published Novel this year. It had always been Susan’s goal to win this award, and this year she finally achieved that goal, but never knew it due to her unexpected passing. Barbara, who was a close friend of Susan, wished she could have known this, but expressed the belief that she was looking down from heaven with pride.
With that, we officially closed the 2021 PSWA Conference, which everyone agreed had been one of the best ever. If you missed it, don’t despair. We’re already planning on doing another great one next year.
—Michael A. Black
PSWA Program Chair
FROM THE TECH GURU
The 2021 PSWA conference went off with only a few technical glitches. This was my first year taking over the technology duties from Tim Dees. So as the event was about to get started, I had some fears of everything breaking down. Fortunately, the hiccups that took place were all quick and easy to overcome. It also provided some good learning opportunities so I will be better prepared next summer.
While I have been a member of the PSWA for a number of years, I have only been to a couple of conferences. Personal and professional obligations had made it so I was unable to attend for the last few years. I should not be amazed, but I was, at how warm a welcome back I received. Reconnecting with people and meeting some new friends made me realize how happy I was that Mike Black asked me to become the technology geek for the organization.
I would like to take a second to thank our featured speakers and everyone who was on a panel. More than a few people had special photos or videos they wanted to share during their time on stage. Each of them made sure that I had the item well in advance. This helped allow me to get them queued up and, on the screen, and avoided a bunch of rigamarole.
Moving forward I will have the information on the 2022 conference up on the web page as soon as we finalize it. Still hoping to update and overhaul the PSWA webpage. If you have photos of your old squad cars, fire apparatus, and shoulder patches please send them my way. I have an idea to add a little more visual flair to the page but need some images from the membership to make it happen.
PSWA Tech Guru
DEFINITELY A WONDERFUL CONFERENCE!
Yes, I may be a bit prejudiced since I was honored with a beautiful plaque and a bouquet of flowers for my previous service to PSWA.
Though most appreciative of the honor, I must tell you all that over the years I’ve received so much from being a part of this great organization. The friendships I’ve made are so dear to my heart. Coming to this and other years’ conferences is like attending a family reunion.
Like the previous conferences, this year I learned so much. The speakers were informative, as were all the panels. Plus, I enjoyed many wonderful conversations with other attendees.
Of course, I’m hoping to attend next year’s conference, because even though it never seems possible, they keep getting better and better. My thanks to all of you who worked so hard to make this year’s event such a great success—and especially Michael Black who planned the program and so much more.
Author of the Deputy Tempe Crabtree and the Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery series.
Are you aware of the multitude of scams being perpetrated against us on a daily basis? Just the other day I had to check with cable network to see if a request for my account information had to be forwarded due to upcoming changes in the system. I called the cable company and was advised the company did not send the request – it was a scam.
A very popular one is the “Grandma” scam. The senior citizen receives a phone call from her grandson saying that his was beaten up in a fight and arrested by the police. He now needs bail – negotiable by the way, sometimes payable in gift cards. Who would believe such an idiotic scheme? Plenty have fallen for it and the money is gone. A ninety-five- year-old woman here in town bailed her “grandson” out to the tune of $5,000.
Someone has hacked our churches membership file. They then sent out a request, supposedly from the pastor, for gift cards sent to an address for charitable programs. The pastor has made frequent explanations that he has never requested gift cards and never will, but in the meantime, people have once again been separated from the money.
Bank of America is warning customers if you are pressured to send money or threatened with arrest for criminal acts or suspension or ask for your social security or Medicare information hang up the phone or delete the email from your computer.
Scams and computer fraud are a growing industry affecting our way of life. If your grandchild was injured in a car accident you would do anything to help them, but don’t fall victim. Telephone communications have changed over the years. Many telemarketer calls begin at first light and are generated from a foreign country. A phone call today is nothing more than the equivalent of an email. No more does this involve long distance and international call charges.
There are even scams aimed at the author in each of us. Solicitations arrive via email, phone, and US Postal Service. They have heard what a great book I have to publish and being as kind and benevolent as the publishing company is – they are going to help me publish that book. Guess again, it’s a scam to separate me from my money.
Protect yourself and your family financially. Don’t give to charities that pressure you for a donation. When I receive a phone call for donations to police and fire organizations I do not part with my money. Instead, I ask them what the split is. (Usually the split is 90/10% with the 10% going to the police organization.) Asking that question usually results in a hang up by the solicitor working from a “boiler room” facility.
Share your scam information with friends and coworkers. Don’t fall victim to internet and telephone frauds. Don’t make donations without checking the bona fides of the organization requesting your money. If you don’t the old words of wisdom will come true – “a fool and his money are soon parted”.
ODE TO THE BARD—A WESTERN WITH SHAKESPEARE?
My new A.W. Hart western, Gunslinger: Killer’s Requiem, is coming out on September 1st from Wolfpack. I’ve done five books in the series and wrote the last two, Gunslinger: Killer’s Gamble and Gunslinger: Killer’s Requiem, provide a completion of the original story arc. Basically, the books are set in the 1880’s in the American West and follow the exploits of a pair of fraternal twins, Connor Mack and his sister, Abby. They’re under the tutelage of gunslinger River Hicks. The enigmatic Hicks rescued the twins form their bleak existence at the Mack family farm back in Nacogdoches, Texas in the first book in the series. (I didn’t write that one, nor did I come up with the ongoing and complex story arc that has been running through the eight books of the series. The original premise was rather complex with the expectation that the series be a “gothic western.” Suffice it to say, the family secrets involved in the arc are as convoluted as a Texas diamondback. Both the twins and Hicks are being stalked throughout the books by a sinister adversary who has recruited a bevy of hired killers, including Pinkerton Detectives, to track them down and kill them all. Why, you may ask?
Like I said, it’s complicated. You’ll have to read the books. <Grin.>
I’ve done numerous westerns, both as A.W. Hart and under my own name as well. To say I like writing in the genre is an understatement. While I do an extensive amount of research for each one to avoid any anachronisms, I also like to pay homage to the mythology of the American western. In Gunslinger: Killer’s Gamble I use some actual historical figures (Boxer John L. Sullivan, poet Joaquin Miller) as well as some characters based on some of the popular characters in the TV westerns of the 1950’s and 60’s. I also incorporated some of the television and movie mythology that has made that period so special. The quick draw, for example, was pretty much a myth that originated in the movies and TV shows of a bygone era. However, my intention in writing the books is to entertain. I mean, how entertaining would it be to read something that has total historical accuracy regarding a harsh, cruel era before toothpaste, toothbrushes, mouthwash, deodorants, personal hygiene practices, etc.? Thus, my cowboys break the historical mold and take bath when they can.
I’ve had a lot of fun doing the series. My books, Gunslinger: Killer’s Chance, has Connor, Abby, and Hicks rescuing a Chinese man named Lee, who’s tracking the whereabouts of his fiancée, which leads to the massive number of Chinese building the railroad. There’s also a professional gunman who has a business card with the symbol of a rook printed on it. Gunslinger: Killer’s Brand has a powerful man who, along with his sons, runs roughshod over the entire territory adjacent to his large ranch called The Dominion. Added to that one are ex-buffalo soldier who’s charged with murder, a group of mysterious masked riders, and a courtroom scene reminiscent of To Kill a Mockingbird. Gunslinger: Killer’s Ghost is my version of a monster story as an enormous mysterious creature stalks a mining encampment.
Last January I was contacted and told they wanted me to finish off the series by tying up the ongoing story arc that had been running since the first book. I jumped at the chance and quickly penned Gunslinger: Killer’s Gamble, which has the trio traveling through a California town and becoming involved in a big poker tournament as well as a boxing match. There’s way more to it that, including Abby deciding to leave Hicks and her brother to be with a beautiful female gambler. This one sets up the final confrontation between our heroes and the mysterious man who’s been their nemesis from the beginning in Gunslinger: Killer’s Requiem. All the questions about who Connor and Abby really are, and the secret that River Hicks has been hiding, are answered in a slam-bang finish. Let’s see, besides the revelation of the major villain and the plot revelations, there’s a bounty hunter with a sawed-off rifle, a maniacal fanatic known at The Dark Deacon who leads a band of mercenaries, a masterful gunman, the Pinkerton’s best detective, and a host of other surprises. I even had the Bard himself, William Shakespeare, make an appearance in this one. <Grin #2>
Please consider checking out these last two books in the series, as well as some of the other ones, as well. If you do, I hope you’ll have as much fun reading them as I did writing them.
–Michael A. Black
I automatically suggested subplots when I was asked to instruct on a topic at our preworkshop conference this past July. I was working on a subplot for my work in progress, and it made sense. Ever wondered what the name of the types of subplots are. When researching the topic, I came across these seven types.
The Isolated Chunk
If you’ve got a subplot that can similarly work as a side trip for your main character, there’s no reason you can’t employ a similar technique. Forget transitions and start a new section or chapter. Tell your story-within-a-story, and then return to your main narrative.
If your narrative is solely the first person, you’ll find this technique especially useful, as your main character can experience only one thing at a time.
The Parallel Line
Start your story with your main plot and get going with your principal cast of characters, especially your hero. Then insert the beginning of your second plot. Switch back and forth between the stories as evenly as possible, emphasizing their symmetrical/diametric natures. You can also write a subplot that never touches the main plot or begins separately before converging with the plot.
You can make your parallel plot any size and significance that suits you. Like many thrillers, mysteries, and young adult tales, this is especially useful for a protagonist-antagonist story. If your parallel plot is a minor subplot, give it less real estate than your main plot.
Try launching two parallel plots, then weaving them together firmly at a certain point when you want to create suspense that pays off big.
The difference between parallel construction and swallowtail is that the two paths of the swallowtail always converge and interact with each other for a relatively lengthy part of the story. Parallel plots may never connect; it is usually briefly at the story’s end if they do.
Swallowtail stories start with one main plot and then launch into a completely different tale after it’s off and running. The reader naturally wonders what, if anything, this guy, and his situation will have to do with that guy and his, which introduces suspense, just like that. For a while, it seems as if the two lines of action are entirely separate, but eventually, they move closer to each other, which heightens the reader’s anticipation. Then they mesh, producing extra reader satisfaction, and both plots gain complexity as we advance.
Here, in stripped-down form, is an example of a swallowtail plot:
Plot 1: It’s the big day of the nursery school picnic. The kids arrive at the park, and the teacher and moms unpack the coolers.
Plot 2: A man angrily drives to a bar for a drink.
Plot 1: The kids play tag while the hot dogs cook.
Plot 2: The man downs five whiskeys in a row.
Plot 1: The moms run after a kid who’s strayed into the street.
Plot 2: The man gets into his pickup truck.
Plot 1: The kids start in on the potato chips and hot dogs.
Plot 2: The man decides to take a shortcut on the park’s service road.
Is your pulse quickening just a little? As we advance, we know that the drunk driver and the picnic will soon converge. When it happens, that man and one of the children, let’s say (or parent or teacher or all three), will be bonded in some way forever, and a more fully integrated Plot 3 begins as the story becomes the story of their relationships. Alternating between two or more parallel plots (though more than three risks confusing the reader) makes your separate characters and their stories converge on a common point, that is, a piece of business they have in common.
In the previous example, a joint point is a place. But you could also choose a person as a common point, or a family, or an event, such as a political rally or a natural disaster—you get the idea.
Let your subplots shuttle in and out as needed. For example, you can bring a mentor into the first or second chapter, have him dispense some advice, then send him off on a journey that may have nothing to do with your story. He comes back in the seventh chapter and is once again available for consultation with your hero. He might have encountered trouble while away, even risk he brings back with him (in the form, say, of a sketchy sidekick).
If you’re using a first-person narrator and want to show a subplot out of his range, so to speak, you can drop in chapters written in the third person, then return to your first-person narrator. Many contemporary writers do this.
Readers love recursion. They’ve almost forgotten about that wealthy drama queen who beat her maid with her tennis racket. Still, now here she is, set upon by the maid’s two aunts from Colombia, both lawyers, who engineer a hostile takeover of the queen’s retail cosmetics empire. Ahh, sweet payback! If you introduce a subplot early, then leave it more or less alone until you resolve it near the end, readers will be delighted.
Saving a subplot to wrap up last (after the main plot) gives readers a place to collect themselves after the emotional high of the climax and savor the fact that order has been restored. Then they get an extra, unexpected treat. This one’s easy, really a variation of the Isolated Chunk (No. 1): Write and insert two chunks, separated by most of the book.
Please give a bit of foreshadowing somewhere in the middle. In the above example, I might insert a scene where there’s a welcome party for the maid who’s gone home to Colombia, and she and her aunts sit apart for a few minutes, discussing—oh, mergers and acquisitions.
The Bridge Character
Bridge characters are beneficial for weaving any subplot into your fiction. Example: You have a respected doctor who’s in debt to her bookie, and you have a hydrocodone addict who doctor-shops for his drugs. This character becomes a bridge between the tidy world of the troubled doctor and the dangerous world of the streets. Invent a character who is as different from your current crop as possible—someone who occupies a separate world. Or start with the two worlds you want to bridge and think up a character who can do it. Doctors, lawyers, counselors, and clergy, in particular, all have great potential as bridge characters. Why? Because people end up telling them their secrets.
For writers of mystery, suspense, or thrillers, weaving in clues is a major—and particularly strategic—subplot challenge. Clues propel the unraveling of a puzzle, and they serve to entertain your audience. They’re optional inclusions in most genres, but if you’re writing crime, you have to have them. Plant clues early and often, noting an important distinction: A clue for your fictional detective is a different thing than a clue for your reader. Some of the most intriguing clues have sprung from the minds of authors who had an excellent idea for a clue but not the slightest notion how it would work out—but put it in any way, hoping for the best. Go ahead and let your imagination loose.
On the other hand, if you want to plant a clue for your readers to sink their suspicious little teeth into, start by considering your ending. Let’s say you’ve got a dead body in the beginning and Percy Perpetrator begging for mercy at the end. Suppose he did it with the lead pipe in the library. In that case, you might permit a minor character, early on, to remark that Percy is writing his dissertation on cellulose-destroying organisms. And an astute reader might realize that most paper is made of wood fibers composed of cellulose. Hmm. Where’s a lot of paper? The library!
You might later insert the lord of the manor apologizing for a bit of remodeling affecting the plumbing in the old north wing. And a discerning reader might remember what plumbing in old houses was made of. This is what makes mystery writing fun.
Remember, subplots cannot and should not be able to stand on their own. The idea here is that subplots complement the main plot of your story – they shouldn’t compete with or steal the spotlight. Just remember that subplots should enhance your main story – not detract or distract from it. But playing with these methods will give you another level to your writing.
WHAT WAS IT LIKE WHEN…
I enjoy studying history. I watch the history channel, read the tomes of Stephen Ambrose, and love to read historical novels. I am a baby boomer, a member of the generation that came to be when our heroes returned from World War II.
When I read about the attack on Pearl Harbor, I wonder what went through the minds of the American public as they heard the news that the American military had been attacked. I wondered what it was like to be suddenly pulled into a war. My parents can still tell me stories about rationing food and gas coupons, and friends going off to war. Every community has a memorial to those friends and heroes who did not return.
The war of my generation was a long and protracted one. It too has many heroes that are now growing gray. It was not like World War II. It had been around for years, and slowly swallowed up the youth of the United States. Our veterans were not treated with the respect they deserved. The Viet Nam war did not answer for our generation the question what was it like when Pearl Harbor was attacked.
Now we have our answer. On September 11, 2001, terrorists stole our aging innocence. On that day, America was plunged into a new war; probably different than any other it has ever fought. This time our military was not the only target. Symbols of American pride were destroyed. Along with the twin towers went thousands of civilians working in many different occupations, while they tried to secure the American dream. Stolen from us along with all those civilians are the heroes of the New York City Fire Department, the New York City Police Department, and the Port Authority Police Department, who went into the burning buildings to rescue people while others were fleeing for their lives.
In the history of law enforcement and firefighting, losses of these staggering proportions have never been seen before. The losses from this horrific event took more lives than those lost during the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Baby boomers, who wanted to know what it was like when Pearl Harbor was attacked and America was plunged into war, now have their answer. The “other” generation can tell you where they were on December 7, 1941. Many generations can tell you where they were when they received the news that President Kennedy was killed, and now we all will remember where we were on September 11, 2001. We now know what it was like when the United States was attacked and plunged into a war. It has happened to us. May God Bless America!
In 9/11/Remembered: Twenty Years Later, award-winning author, Bob Martin shares remembrances of first responders on that horrific day. The book begins with two of his own short stories based on his years in public service, followed by three first-person recollections. The book is a moving tribute to all those who served.
All profits going to the NYPD/USMC Sgt. Mike Curtin 3256 Foundation
Here’s a “snap shot” of those stories-
9/11Remembered-Twenty Years Later features the stories of a number of NYPD 9/11 heroes, some who made “the ultimate sacrifice” and three, who against all odds, managed to survive. Their stories are unbelievable.
Detective Pete Moog, blown off his feet, across West Street, trapped under the Chambers Street pedestrian walkway when the South Tower falls. The debris is piling up, it’s pitch black, he can’t breathe. He thinks he’s about to die. “God, if I have to go, please make it quick and tell my dad (who had died months before) I’ll see him soon.” He and the other trapped cops are pounding on the World Financial Center’s glass wall behind them, to no avail. One of the cops draws his 9mm, puts three rounds into the glass, creates a hole big enough for them all to escape. Pete goes right back out, starts digging in an attempt to rescue a buried firefighter, when the North Tower comes down. He suffered a broken hip when propelled across West Street into a parked car but spent the next four days digging for trapped people and the next six months at “The Pile,” before undergoing a hip replacement. He’s been diagnosed with 9/11 related cancer and had half of one kidney removed.
Then NYPD Lieutenant, now Chief Terri Tobin. (still on the job-twenty years later) Her story is the most amazing. At the suggestion of then First Deputy Commissioner Joe Dunne, she dons an ESU, heavy duty, Kevlar helmet. Minutes later, she is standing at the base of the South Tower when it comes down. She’s blown out of her shoes, across West Street, trapped up to her waist in debris, when she is struck in the head by a piece of concrete. The helmet, which is bullet resistant, cracks in half. She feels blood running down her neck. She reaches up to discover she has a four-inch piece of concrete, embedded in her skull. There is no doubt, without the helmet, she is beheaded. She eventually extricates herself and helps dig out a firefighter trapped under an ambulance. The North Tower falls, she runs, gets hit in the back with something. She gets up and starts organizing the evacuation of tenants in a Battery Park City apartment building. She runs into Moog, who she knows. “We’ve got to get these people down to the Hudson River.” Pete says, “Terri, we’ve got to get you down there. I’ll carry you.” Terri says, “No, I’m alright.”
Pete says, “Terri, you got a pane of glass sticking out of your back and a chunk of concrete in your skull.”
Eventually, they get Terri on an NYPD launch to Ellis Island, where she’s transported to a Jersey Hospital. Doctors sew up her head and back wounds (80+ Stitches) and inform her that she also has a severe concussion and a broken ankle, which they can’t cast, it’s cut-up and swollen. She GOES BACK to WTC. She probably made over one hundred quick decisions after the first tower fell. NOT ONE OF THEM was, “How can I help myself?”
There’s also a great story about Captain Steve McAllister, the C.O. of the Technical Assistance Response Unit.
On day four of the dig, reality has set in, there are no survivors to be saved. Just the uncovering of bodies and body parts. Dangerous, dirty, depressing work. Steve sees that his troops are beaten, dejected, losing the stamina and will to continue. He writes a letter. Tells them that the huge Redwood trees, which people assume must have very deep root systems, actually have very shallow roots. But all of the tree’s roots interconnect with the other Redwoods, so in storms or high winds, they support each other. He tells his troops that they must do the same. “Count on your partner, your boss, your friend to get through this,” he urges.
I use The Redwoods letter to end the book stating that, “Its call for cops to support each other in troubled times is as relevant now, as it was twenty years ago.”
“In 9/11 Remembered, I am reminded of a favorite quotation: ‘There are no great men, only ordinary men who in response to extraordinary challenges do great things.’ On 9/11 and the days that followed, thousands of men and women, heroes all, did great things.”
~Bill Bratton, former NYPD Police Commissioner
“As the 20th anniversary of 9/11 approaches, we need to be reminded about the people involved and their heartfelt stories. No book does that better and with more compassion than 9/11 Remembered: Twenty Years Later. These tales must be told―again and again.”
~Tom Clavin, New York Times Best Selling author of Dodge City and Blood and Treasure
“When you read 9/11 Remembered, you will never for- get it. The actions of those courageous men and women, some who survived, others who did not, will stay in your memory forever. A truly inspiring book.”
~New York Times Best Selling Author Vincent Lardo (Archie McNally Series)
“This is the real stuff, seen through the eyes of those who were there. Graphic and remarkable recollections of the horrors of our worst national nightmare. Witness the courage, valor, and humanity of those first responders, some who lost their lives that day, and others who became indelibly marked with a cruel death sentence.”
~John Mackie, retired NYPD. Author of Manhattan South
“In 9/11 Remembered: Twenty Years Later, Bob Martin has crafted a brilliant remembrance of one of our nation’s darkest hours, the heroes who fell that day, and the ones who endured―at least temporarily. His book serves as a testament to heroism and a lament for the heroes who are con- fronted with an ungrateful society that has either forgotten them or worse, vilifies them. This book is a must-read–for every American.”
~Detective first-grade Michael O’Keefe, NYPD retired, and the author of Shot to Pieces, a novel.
Scott Decker has two articles coming out in the September 2021 issue of Knife Magazine. One is titled, “Barlow’s: Quintessential Americana,” and the second, “Knifemaker Carl Colson: Precision in Craftmanship”. A sneak preview is available at https://www.knifemagazine.com/sneak-peek-knife-magazine-september-2021-issue/
Sneak Peek: KNIFE Magazine September 2021 Issue
Hey Everyone, Fall is upon us, and the kids are heading back to school. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is on my daughter’s reading list. This month’s cover features the book because Barlow knives are mentioned within its pages. Steve Crowley’s article documents the colorful history of this piece of the American experience. Mark and I visited […]
# 20 IN THE DEPUTY TEMPE CRABTREE MYSTERY SERIES
Though Marilyn Meredith thought she was done writing the Deputy Tempe Crabtree series when she finished End of the Trail, a new idea popped up, and The Trash Harem became a reality.
Blurb: Deputy Tempe Crabtree has retired from her job in Bear Creek when friends, who once lived in Bear Creek and attended Pastor Hutch’s church, ask her to visit them in Temecula. The husband, Jonathan, is a suspect in what might be a murder case. The retirement community includes many interesting characters, any of whom might have had a better motive than Jonathan. There is also a connection to Earle Stanley Gardner as well as the Pechanga Old Oak. What is a trash harem? You’ll have to read the book to find out.