PSWA Newsletter–March 2016

PSWA Newsletter
March 2016




molsen-200As most of you know, the Public Safety Writers Association is governed by a volunteer board of directors currently consisting of Marilyn Olsen, president, Michelle Perin, vice president, Tim Dees, secretary, Nancy Farrar, treasurer and members Mike Black and Marilyn Meredith (see our bios on the About Us page on the website).

Our annual calendar for planning purposes is the calendar year and 2016 promises to be a great year.  As you can see by scrolling through the website, we’ve made a lot of changes.  If you see we’ve overlooked something or there is something you members of PSWA would like to see changed or added, please be sure to let us know.   While there are, of course, many things we could add, our goal is always to keep the costs of our activities as affordable as possible, so, sorry, no PSWA video games to play online, no matter how exciting we know those would be.

As you can see from the home page, we’ve already announced our featured speakers for the July 14-17 conference in Las Vegas. Another goal is to provide our attendees with a wide variety of topics covering both writing style and subject content so in addition to our featured speakers, we also offer a number of panels consisting of registered conference attendees.  If you’d like to be considered as a panelist, the deadline for your request is March 15.  The panels fill quickly, so be sure to register early.

Another highlight of the conference for many is to see their book cover up on our big screen.  If you’d like to see your book cover there, the deadline is June 1.  Information about panels and book covers is found on the conference page of this website.

Also, we’re pleased to announce that the annual writing competition is now accepting entries.  We accept fiction and non-fiction, published and non-published work.  See the writing competition page for specific details.

For those of you who choose to send your books to our bookstore for sale, please note that there has been a change this year.  Books must now be sent to the Orleans instead of to Keith Bettinger.  (See conference page for details).

Another change has been made to the manuscript review process. Whereas in the past you were invited to send an entire manuscript for review, we are now switching to the format most publishers use, which we think gives our new authors a better sense of what any publisher, large or small, would expect.  Again, check the website for specific details.

In fact, since we’ve made a lot of great changes to the website, why not take a few minutes to peruse the entire site?

If you are already a member, we hope to see you in Las Vegas in July and participating in our other options as well.  If you’re not a member, hey, what are you waiting for?

Marilyn Olsen

MikeBlack200x200Please look now… The registration form for the 2016 PSWA Conference is now available on the PSWA website, thanks to a lot of hard work by our techno wizard, Tim Dees, who never gets enough credit for all his hard work on the website. The conference is still the most reasonable conference around, and the hotel rates in Las Vegas are nothing short of phenomenal.

I’m not exaggerating when I say that this year’s conference will be the most ambitious we’ve ever tried. It begins on July 14th and runs through the 17th.

This year we’re offering a new program: the amazing, pre-conference Writer’s Workshop. In years past we had comments on the evaluations of not enough presentations and panels dealing with improving one’s writing. Well, this program is specifically designed to give you some personal feedback on your writing, as well as provide some interesting new techniques. All of the instructors (Mysti Berry, Michael A. Black, and Marilyn Meredith) are professionally published and have also taught writing classes. The pre-conference workshop starts on Thursday, July 14TH, at 9:00 AM. There is an additional fee for the workshop of $35.00 for PSWA members and $40.00 for non-members, which is necessary to cover the cost of the additional conference room.

This workshop will offer a chance to get one-on-one feedback and instruction on various writing techniques. Those signing up for the workshop will have the opportunity to send in advance up to 25 pages of a manuscript, and will receive a personal, one-on-one critique of their work. (Opportunities like this usually run between $50.00 and $100.00 at other conferences.) So once again, keep in mind, this is not your usual writer’s class, and the workshop is not just for beginners. It’s a chance to learn new things and hone your skills. Although it’s primarily geared for fiction writing, all of the instructors have extensive writing experience in both fiction and nonfiction. Don’t miss this opportunity to gain a new perspective on the craft of producing the written word. The Workshop runs from 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM on Thursday. If you want to sign up for this great opportunity to expand and enhance your writing abilities and bring your writing to the next level, sign up for this special, pre-conference class now.

Immediately following the Writer’s Workshop, the conference check-in begins. It starts at 3:00 PM. Stop by the hallway on the second floor in the conference center and get acquainted with some of the other members and attendees. You’ll also get your PSWA conference packet, as well as your special invitation to the evening get together, which immediately follows the check-in. The evening get-together features snacks, refreshments, and a cash bar. It’s a great way to introduce yourself, if you’re a first-time attendee, or to catch up with old friends, if you’ve attended before. It runs until 9:00 PM.

After that, you’re on your own until the next morning when things begin in earnest the next morning (Friday, July 15th).

The conference starts promptly at 9:00 AM and runs until around 5:30 PM, you’ll be entertained the entire day. Lunch is included all three days, and the food is fabulous. The panels will explore topics of interest in both the field of public safety and writing. Additionally, both Friday and Saturday have special presentations given by engaging, professionals speaking on topics of interest. In the past, these presentations have dealt with such things as crime scene processing, terrorist attacks, undercover police operations, and various aspects of writing. We’ve got a whole new crop of topics for this year. The PSWA bookstore is also open during this time, displaying the books of the attendees and presenters. The friendly, courteous staff does the selling, and yes, they do take credit cards… One slight change this year is that it’s up to you to bring a supply of books, or have them shipped to the hotel. If you’re a published author, and wish to bring some of your books to sell, decide on an appropriate number.

Topping things off on Saturday is our special end-of-day event. Last year the PSWA Players performed an old, radio mystery play. The year before we had our version of CSI Jeopardy, based on the TV game show. This year we have we have something equally engaging planned.

Sunday morning opens with more panels and concludes with our PSWA Writing Contest Awards Ceremony, which announces the winners of the annual writing contest. It’s your chance to become an award winning author, and there are numerous categories to enter. Information on the writing contest is already posted on the website under Writing Contest. Check it out. There are multiple categories for both published and yet-to-be published authors.

Lunches are included on each day, and the food is usually fabulous.

The program will be posted after the Board meeting in February, but rest assured, the PSWA Conference is always a great time and a lot of fun.

I guarantee that this will be the best and the friendliest writer’s conference you’ll ever attend.

Michael A. Black
Program Chair


Diane-Kratz-200As an author, published or unpublished, I’m sure you’ve considered what social media you will get involved in. There are two you should already have: Facebook author page and Twitter. But you might also consider starting a blog. A blog can showcase your book even before you publish it and bring in readers who will buy your book.

If you’re thinking of starting a blog, consider this: According to, there were 152 million blogs on the Internet in 2013 with over 1.13 million blogs posts every day. Wow! That’s a lot of blogs and blog posts.  So how can you start a blog that will pull readers in? There are a few of things you can do to help steer people to your blog and keep them coming back.

  1. Decide on what kind of blog you want to create. There are a couple of ways you can write a blog about your books. If you write historical romance, write a blog about historical events that tie into your books. All that research you did while writing your book can be put into a blog. It will draw in history buffs as well as other historical romance writers and readers. I write crime fiction so I blog about crime, serial killers, mental health, criminal profiling and the FBI. All of these topics are in my books.  There are different types of blogs out there. Find your niche and blog about it. If you’re still undecided, think about the types of blogs you visit and ask yourself why you visit them.
  2. Use pictures and numbers! Do a half paragraph and include a picture. It helps break up the words on your blog. Without pictures readers only see the vast amounts of text and will check out. Blog readers are busy and don’t have hours to read. But with pictures, all that text helps the eye move down to read more. It’s the same for using numbers. 3 is easier on the eye to read than three.
  3. Be there to respond to your readers when you post.  There’s nothing more frustrating than leaving a comment or asking a question and getting no response.
  4. Create a killer title for your blog post. Think of a tag line that will capture attention and entice people to want to click on the link to your blog.
  5. Advertise, advertise, and advertise!  Most blog servicers provide links (widgets) to your social media that it will post to them when you post your blog. Use them and make sure they are linked to your blog in your settings. Also consider posting a link to all your writing groups and any other group you belong to. The more you advertise the better your chances that people will visit your blog.
  6. Pay it forward. If you visit other people’s blogs and leave a comment, chances are they will do the same for you.
  7. Post your blog on a weekday and NOT on the weekends. Most people spend the weekends with their families and don’t get on their computers like they do during the week. You’ll find you’ll get a lot more traffic during the week.
  8. I know lots of writers like to blog about writing, conferences they’ve attended and other authors interviews. I’ve found I don’t get very much traffic when I do a blog on those topics. The exception is if you combine anyone of those topics with some kind of new information that the reader would be interested in knowing. Think about whom you advertise to and who visits your blog. What might their interest be? Try to include that information. You’d be surprised at the results.
  9. Blog from your heart. Some of my most successful blogs have been when I blogged about issues that are personal to me.  My son’s suicide and how to cope with grief were my most visited and re-blogged, blog. Even a year later, it still gets re-blogged.
  10. Have guest bloggers when you run out of topics. I wanted to do a blog on PTSD.  Although I’ve treated people with PTSD, it wasn’t my typical client.  I asked a psychologist who clients were cops and counselor from the UK who worked with vets and abused children. That blog has been my most visited blog I posted.
  11. Get an editor to check your grammar. Nothing turns an audience off than misspellings and poor grammar.

Blogs are a way of letting your readers get to know you. It’s a wonderful way to start your writing career.

Diane Kratz

Germ DisPURSEal

(Tests Show How Filthy a Woman’s Handbag Can Be)

ron_corbin_200My grandmother called it her pocketbook, but more typically today it’s referred to as a purse, handbag, or evening accessory. In any case, and whatever you call it, most women are rarely seen without one. Starting as little girls playing “Mommy, Dress-up,” women quickly learn that a purse is going to become s natural a part of the human anatomy as the bent arm upon which they carry it.

As a former cop, I was always amazed at some of the things I would find when searching through a lady’s purse. Some of these things made contraband seem minor in importance. And it seemed that the older the woman who was carrying the purse, the more unusual the objects. Such as the death certificate of a late husband, the first tooth that her toy poodle Fifi lost as a puppy, a partial dental plate that wasn’t hers, a toilet paper roll with one sheet remaining (your guess is as good as mine on this one). You name it, I’ve seen it.

Most times that I had to touch a woman’s purse, I was somewhat reluctant and fearful as to what germs I might get on my hands. But during my time working patrol, before HIV and AIDS, it was unusual to see a cop wear gloves for protection. It was just something that wasn’t typically considered important. However, it’s not the inside or contents of a woman’s purse that I want to discuss here; it’s the outside.

Recent studies have shown that most women’s purses are crawling with “creepy crawlers” of the dangerous kind. University of Arizona Professor Charles Gerba says, “This is one of the most germy (sic) objects we’ve actually ever tested before…the bottom of a purse.”

After conducting lab tests on samples of purses, microbiologists have found pseudomonas, staphylococcus aureus, E.coli family, salmonella, and hepatitis. Even more disgusting to the thought, fecal matter from human and animal waste was found in some cases. Obviously all of these nasties can make you very sick with cold and flu-like symptoms, as well as causing eye and serious skin infections, and a host of other physical ailments. Apparently “Louis Vuitton,” “Gucci,” and “Dooney & Burke” are carrying more than just a woman’s personal items; they are becoming disease carriers.

Transference of Germs

Think of all the different places that your purse might touch, and how bacteria can be transferred from one place to another:

  • Kitchen counters
  • Public transportation (taxi, bus, tram, subway, streetcar)
  • Baby car seats (where the wet or dirty diaper sat)
  • Public restrooms (stall floor; lavatory counters, diaper changing stations)
  • TSA airport X-ray security scanning belts and plastic tub containers (* more about this later)
  • Movie theater floors and adjoining seats
  • Restaurant floors and booths
  • Hotel rooms
  • Escalator handrails
  • Office desktops and drawers
  • Medical office reception counters
  • Shopping carts

If you think that you are taking precautions with where you put your purse, even at home, let’s consider this scenario:

Do you have cats or dogs as pets? If so, where do you set your purse? On a fireplace hearth? A coffee table? When you do, you’re probably not thinking about where the cat or dog has walked, right? Cats do climb on furniture and jump on table tops and counters. Dogs jump on sofas and beds. And we all know where their feet has been … in litter boxes and dog runs.

Unless you sanitize your pets’ feet every time they come into your house, fecal matter and urine residue is being carried into the home and could be getting transferred indirectly onto the bottom of your purse from where you set it down. The purse then becomes a carrier for the bacteria into your car, onto your workplace desk, and possibly onto the table where you spend your lunch or break time.

Shocking Facts

Now that you’re aware of all the places your purse comes into contact with, here are some startling facts that should open your eyes even more to this health issue. Studies by GoJo Industries have shown that some purses have been found to be 100 times dirtier than the average toilet seat (toilet seat averaged 49 germs per square inch).

Shocking? Then how about this? Another recent study showed the average toilet seat is much cleaner than your workstation desk. There are over ten million germs on the average office workplace desktop. Why? Think about it. Your housekeeping staff cleans toilets regularly, but personal work areas like desktops are rarely ever cleaned.

  • Telephone averages 25,127 germs per square inch
  • Desktop averages 20,961 germs per square inch
  • Keyboard averages 3,295 germs per square inch

If you’re still not convinced, then remember this the next time you go to the store and place your purse on the fold-down child’s seat of shopping carts (where the diapered bottoms of little ones have likely been placed by a cart’s previous user). Gerba says one of the dirtiest things you can touch is a supermarket shopping cart. His tests found more than fifty were contaminated with, among other things, bodily fluids. (Thank goodness, most shopping areas are now providing sanitary wipes for shoppers to use on carts.)

Protective Measures

Leather or vinyl purses tend to be cleaner than cloth purses, and lifestyles seems to play a role. People with children tend to have dirtier purses. Still, your purse won’t kill you, but you might want to be a little more mindful of where you place it. Experts said that if you plop it on the kitchen counter or kitchen table, that’s not very sanitary. That would be like rubbing your hands on the soles of your shoes before eating a sandwich, because the bottom of purses usually end up touching the same places that your shoes do. Keep your purse cleaner by hanging it on hooks at home. It also doesn’t hurt to clean the bottom of your purse every so often with a disinfectant wipe of some type to cleanse away the bacteria.

Please understand that I am not attacking ladies because they carry purses, because these thoughts also apply to backpacks, “battle bags,” fanny packs, and brief cases …used by both men and women. Nor am I saying that your homes are unclean. My wife has a “million” purses (and shoes), and she is just clean enough to make our house a home … the way I like it. And as far as I know, none of our family members have ever gotten really sick from germs being found in our home.

I am not a “germaphobe,” but hopefully this information will provide a little “food for thought.” In fact, having been in combat, I’ve eaten out of containers that haven’t been washed in days. I have raised kids and grandkids, and because of this experience, I am a firm believer in the “3-second rule” when pacifiers and food items have been dropped on the floor.

For my final discourse on this, here is something that I know you will think about when you come to Las Vegas for the conference in July, or the next time you fly anywhere. Did you notice the asterisks I placed above in the list of places that transfer germs to purses? This is my all-time favorite place to make people gasp!

Do you ever wonder how many shoes are placed in those gray, plastic tubs that TSA runs through the security scanner over and over, without any evidence of cleaning them? The same tubs that you place your purse, cell phone, and laptop are the same tubs where thousands of shoes from men, women, and kids have been placed, and from those people who likely have walked into an airport restroom before entering the security lines. And ladies, here’s a little secret. Beneath the urinals in any public “Mens’ Restroom” is …well, should I say, not completely dry.

Until the next time…Stay Alert and Stay Safe!
Ron Corbin
{Statistical data from and}


Marcia-Rosen-200There are numerous options for authors today to get their books in print, but many people have a room full of good-looking printed books and wonder, “What do I do now?”

From Traditional Publishing, Self-Publishing, Independent Publishing, University Presses and Print on Demand to E-books it’s important to know that your publisher will pay attention to your requests and needs, that they offer the expertise and experience to help you publish your book the way you want.

However, it is essential for you as an author to know publishing is only the beginning.

No matter who the publisher of your book they will ALL tell you, you need to go out and market your book. YOU need to promote it, tell your story and create a buzz about it.

I know you’re a writer. You’re a creative person. Can’t believe you have to bother yourself with the promotion of your book. Well you do. Yes, writers do have to promote their books.  Believe me when I tell you, no matter how wonderful, interesting, compelling your book might be you still have to let the reading world know it exists. Ask any publisher, or literary agent, they will agree with me that unless you market your book chances are it will “fall through the cracks of literary chaos.”

Don’t like to do it? Don’t have the time? Don’t want to do it yourself?

Find someone you trust to help you!

Some Basic Book Marketing Tips and Websites

  • Pre-Book Launch
    • Create website
    • Develop email lists (contacts, bookstores, organizations, etc.)
    • Use site and lists for ongoing marketing
    • Do a book giveaway on Goodreads
  • Book Launch
    • Schedule book launch event, time/place and details
    • Plan and coordinate media and public relations for the event
    • Send out invitations, distribute flyers when possible, ask place your having launch to put up flyers and large poster, and promote in their own newsletter
  • Traditional Public Relations Actions
    • Distribute releases to media, announce on website, and to personal contacts.
    • Develop “Pitch” letters for articles, book signings and speaking opportunities.
    • Develop press release regarding your signings and speaking and distribute for calendar listings
  • Social Media and Online Actions
    • Announce book launch through website and social media
    • Keep providing marketing content and posts
    • Be relentless in your outreach and output
    • Set up your own blog and/or be a guest on others blogs


And…don’t be too proud to ask for help!!!

M.Glenda Rosen (Marcia G.Rosen)
Author, New Mystery Series, “Dying To Be Beautiful”


I’ve always been fascinated by etymology, or the study of language, and how our native tongue is in a virtual state of flux. Language is constantly undergoing subtle changes, brought about by necessity, since our society is constantly evolving as well. While some etymologists may cringe at some of the more recent evolutions, such as texting, or Facebooking, I take a more avuncular view. As I said, our language has never been a static thing. Subtle changes in meaning have always been with us, and such enhancements tend to enrich our speech, for the most part. After all, is not communication the primary purpose of language?

Anyone who doubts this need only to take a look at the Oxford English Dictionary, which was a massive undertaking initiated in 1857 to document the changes in word meaning and usage in the English language through the ages. It took a legion of scholars until 1884 to complete the first version, which was composed of 27 volumes. Obviously, the OED was not meant to be your quick-reference dictionary.

Over half of the words in the English language are products of affixation, or the process of adding prefixes or suffices to root words: The sailors disembarked from their port; The flight attendant will tell you when to deplane; or, He is semi-retired. Reversing the process of affixation is known as back-formation. This term was originated by the principal editor of the OED from 1879 to 1915, Scottish lexicographer, James Murray. This process refers to the invention of new words by removing parts of words that appear to be prefixes or suffixes, and coming up with root words that never existed. Thus, removing the lance from the noun, surveillance, gives us the back-formation, surveil. Stripping off the iasm from enthusiasm gives us enthuse. This process works with adjectives as well as nouns. An example would be peeve, which is taken from peevish. The process of back-formation has also provided us with such shining jewels as diagnose from diagnosis and burgle from burglar. Many adjectives are also created by adding suffixes to preexisting nouns or verbs, such as milky, greenish, and useless.

Colloquial usage often influences back-formations, to the degree that the presumable affixes that are removed are, in some cases, not really affixes at all. The or removed from orator to form orate, is not a suffix, but rather a part of the root or the word. The same goes for lecher becoming lech and peddler becoming peddle, editor to edit, and sculptor to sculpt. These new words further clarify our need to communicate in a better fashion in that they fill a void brought about by inevitable societal evolution. After all, think of what we would be missing if our culture had not spawned such innovations as televise from television, revise from revision, afflict from affliction, and donate from donation.

We can also be thankful that our language, English, is the only European language that doesn’t assign gender to nouns. Otherwise, we would be in the same boat as the poor French, Italians, and Spanish with their maddening clutter of varying, gender-specific definite and indefinite articles, such as el libre, una mesa, or la ciudad. As I previously stated, clearer communication is the goal, which is often furthered by the shortening of words, or “clipping.” Thus a zoological garden is clipped into zoo, web log becomes blog, and influenza becomes the flu. Compounding, on the other hand, combines two non-related words into one to create an entirely new meaning; backseat driver and tramp stamp are two examples. New words are also formed by the process of conversion, which entails a functional shift, such as turning a noun into a verb (Let’s party) or vice-versa (They were doing the do.) During the latter, the subjects were obviously being surveilled. Prefixes may also be added in the process of neologism, or the creation of new words: She was being disrespected because of her gender. Once again, colloquialism plays a big role in this process.

Thus, as surely as nouns generally precede verbs in English, one thing is certain: language is constantly changing, and as native speakers, we should revel in this enrichment of our native tongue, and reflect this etymological evolution on our writing. Just make sure you make the effort to get it right on the page.

On another, unrelated matter, I seem to be under a modicum of pressure to reveal my true identity prior to the next conference, but I haven’t decided if I will do this as of yet. Thus, until next time, I will continue to bask in my anonymity.

Write well.
Professor X


john_wills-200It’s February and those of you whose New Year’s resolution was to lose weight and get in shape should be assessing your progress. This popular perennial topic reminded me of an idea I’ve heard tossed around for discussion on a regular basis, “Is it possible to be fit and fat?”

I’ve spoken with a few individuals that swear even though they’re overweight it doesn’t matter because they’re in shape. That notion seems plausible, and I’m of the opinion that being fit is important, particularly if you’re in law enforcement. But being overweight, or worse, being obese, must surely have a negative effect on one’s well-being. After a bit of recent research on this subject, it turns out that being fat but fit is a myth. Moreover, if you’re overweight, lots of exercise will not prevent an early death. And here’s a surprising conclusion from researchers in the field—it’s far more important to be slim, even if you are unfit.

So how does one determine a healthy body weight, and what does it mean to be slim? The conventional standard of measure used to be the old height and weight chart. That archaic method has been replaced by the body mass index (BMI). Go to this site to calculate your BMI quickly. This tool is used for both males and females, and is a ratio of height to weight that helps assess body fat, if one is overweight, and any associated health risks. The BMI method is accurate for most people. However, for some individuals who are muscular, elderly, or of short stature, the BMI measurement may not be as accurate. A good example of this is a male, 5 feet 10 inches tall, weighing 220 pounds, and having 12% body fat. This person is not obese with a 12% body fat, even though the BMI chart would place him in the obese category.

Being obese is fraught with hidden dangers such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease. That’s why a person’s waist measurement is also factored into their risk assessment. Those with BMIs of 25-29.9 (the overweight category) and 30-34.9 (a level 1 obese category) should have waist sizes no more than 35 inches for women and 40 inches for men. People with BMIs over 35 don’t need to consider waist circumference.

One surprising finding in a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association was there is no increased risk of death for people in the overweight category (BMIs of 25-29.9), those who carry a few extra pounds around, but who lead an otherwise healthy lifestyle. However, this is true only if other factors are in order: regular physical activity, non-smoker, waist circumference, healthy diet, and no significant medical problems or family history for chronic diseases.

A Swedish study conducted by Professor Peter Nordstrom, Umea University, of more than 1.3 million men indicates heavier adults who thought carrying a few extra pounds didn’t matter as long as they exercised regularly were wrong. His study found that fit men were generally far less likely to die than if they were inactive. However, being fit and overweight changed the result. Men who were slim and inactive were 30% less likely to die than those were fat but fit. Nordstrom’s findings also pointed out, “Unfit normal-weight individuals had a 30% lower risk of death from any cause than fit obese individuals.” His findings contradict the belief that obese individuals can fully compensate mortality risk by being physically fit. Additionally, having a low BMI was more crucial in preventing early death than keeping fit. His study suggests that low BMI early in life is more important than a high degree of physical fitness.

At the University of South Carolina, a study was conducted on 43,000 men and women. The study found the risk of developing heart disease and cancer was the same for fit fat adults and slim adults who did no exercise. Some experts argue that excess fat tissue triggers cancer, heart disease, and diabetes, regardless of whether one exercises or not. Others suggest inactivity is as harmful as smoking and contributes to 1 in 6 of all deaths. Needless to say, experts are divided as to whether being a healthy weight is more important than being fit.

Exercise recommendations for adults range from 30-90 minutes each day. Everyone should exercise daily for 30 minutes; 60 minutes is recommended for people to prevent weight gain; 90 minutes of exercise for those trying to lose weight. My old standard for weight management has always been simply this: calories in, calories out. The problem, however, is everyone is different insofar as their genetics and how they burn calories and exercise. The important thing to remember is healthy eating and regular exercise will always benefit you in terms of your blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar.

“It’s clear that both fitness and fatness are important,” said Walter Willett, an expert on nutrition and health at the Harvard School of Public Health. “It’s definitely good to be as fit as possible no matter what your body weight. But it’s also clear that it is optimum to be both lean and fit. It shouldn’t be a question of one or the other.”

Keep exercising my friends.



National Heart Lung and Blood Institute

Harvard School of Public Health

–John M.Wills


I recently heard democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton state, “There is systemic racism in law enforcement all across this country.” Really? I guess I’m just suffering from a bit of naiveté and complete misunderstanding. After having served for 38 years in municipal law enforcement in three states and most of those years as a Chief of Police in five different agencies, it seems my officers and employees in all of those localities spent most of their time serving those very same people whom the politicians and the media now say we have mistreated and “systematically” discriminated against based on their race. I reject any notion that law enforcement  as a whole in this nation has ever endorsed, knowingly practiced, focused on, or accepted racist behavior or acts on the part of its’ officers.

A blanket and damning statement by Ms. Clinton, the media, and other political grandstanders who view and demonize the work of the men and women in law enforcement in this country as patently racist is just plain wrong and insulting on its face, to the very people who are taking the real risks every day.

There is no denying that events have occurred in recent years and throughout the history of American law enforcement that clearly impinge on the rights and freedom of Black, Hispanic and Asian citizens as well as police actions that negatively impact many other segments of our society. Yes, at various times in history, specific local law enforcement agencies that lacked proper leadership and focus have generated repetitive practices that targeted minorities and or people on the edge of societal norms.   Yes, cops do make serious mistakes. The world in which they work allows very little room for error.  Sometimes their actions are not mistakes, and are intentional, unethical behaviors that result in the death of someone. When their actions reach a level of misconduct, gross negligence or are criminal in nature, they of course should be held accountable. When charged with crimes, they should be prosecuted and tried as appropriate. All well-led police departments and the officers who work for those agencies understand that. Those that don’t get it should be excised from the profession.

A reality check. After 50 years of failures to effectively address long standing sociological conditions that contribute to crime and create large sections of cities across the nation that suffer from blight and deprivation, the results fall to the street. Informal structures develop to fill the gaps in those places. Those realities by default go to the police. To the cop in the street. These cops generally respond to people who are under stress, emotionally at their highest levels of agitation, angry, despondent, under the influence of drugs or alcohol or just plain old criminals and dangerous thugs who have committed crimes and desire only to get away, regardless of what they have to do to resist law enforcement intervention.

At the same time an officer is entering a situation that in most instances is an unknown or at the very best he or she has been provided with limited or erroneous information. Fraught with tension, stress and regardless of the amount of training or personal resolve, the situation in some instances becomes a life or death scenario. With the thousands of encounters between law enforcement and citizens every day across this country, it’s amazing that more deadly force tragedies don’t occur. For those uninitiated or unfamiliar with the work of a street cop, the real facts are that the level of restraint that is practiced by officers sometimes under highly stressful conditions, as a standard, is nothing short of heroic. They don’t use excessive force or deadly force because the great majority of cops use their training, innate judgment, good sense and  desire to simply end the conflict without serious injury to themselves or the perpetrator.  They do it every day across this country.

Yet a critical issue remains for those who are charged with dealing with the most volatile and or dangerous people and circumstances in their respective communities.  It is absolutely essential that a police officer or deputy sheriff not be put in a position of asking the question every time they engage in a high threat situation:  If I must use deadly force or some level of force to make this legal and justified arrest, am I willing to accept the ancillary effects of my actions and have confidence that I will be treated fairly in the context of what is really happening in the street? When I act in defense of my own life, or in a fashion in keeping with my training, my understanding of the legal requirements in place and  a mandate that I use a decision making process that is consistent with what my department and the courts’ rulings, can I expect a comprehensive review of the facts that reflect the real life circumstances I found myself facing? Are those reviewing those facts acutely aware that I made my decision in seconds, not the hours, days and months allowed the reviewers in the comfort of their podium, offices or TV studios? Frankly, in real life, that kind of second guessing by the individual officer in a highly charged violent situation can have catastrophic results.

The great majority of the cops I had the honor of working with over my career respected the community, the diversity of that community and the epic responsibility that comes with the badge they wear upon their chest. To paint law enforcement as a group in the negative and divisive fashion that has become popular in current times is more than sad. It is shameful.

John M. Wolford, Chief of Police (Ret.)


Vicki-Wisefeld-200Point of view is one of those tricky concepts for writers that is easier to talk about than to accomplish. I’ve recently spent a lot of time in POV purgatory in my own writing and seen a heavenly example, as well.

It is, of course, possible to write with an omniscient POV —with the narrator “the voice of god” that sees all, knows all, and can delve into anyone’s and everyone’s thoughts at will. I’m very comfortable writing in the omniscient POV, moving my characters around like chess pieces. Unfortunately, the omniscient POV is out of style these days, and the closer in to a single character the writer is (though that character may change from scene to scene), the happier readers are thought to be.

I see the scenes in my novel unfold in front of me like a movie. And like in a movie, I “know” what each of my characters is thinking and why they say and do what they say and do next, and I have a bad habit of writing that down. Fortunately (for me), my talented editor is a bear on POV and dings me for all sort of infractions I would have thought, “Hey, that’s OK.” And fortunately, I cannot peer into her mind when she’s had to flag a POV problem for the umpteenth time. I can only guess what she’s thinking—and it ain’t pretty.

Here are a couple of examples, from obvious to more subtle. For all of them, imagine you’re writing a scene in which the POV character is a chef named Tony:

  • Tony sat across the table from his best customer. Mr. Fatwallet studied the menu, trying to decide between the grilled halibut and the sweetbreads. (DING—Tony doesn’t know what Mr. Fatwallet is trying to decide between, unless Fatwallet says so. Solution: the writer could put that as a piece of dialog. “Tony, help me out here. I’m trying to decide between . . .”)
  • Tony sat across the table from his best customer. Mr. Fatwallet hesitated, then said, “I can’t decide . . .” (DING—Tony doesn’t know Mr. Fatwallet is hesitating—which comes out of his internal uncertainty—until he speaks. The delay could have occurred because his attention drifted to the dishy new server. Solution: Don’t describe it as a hesitation, but as a pause: After a minute, Mr. F. said . . . Or, put the problem in Tony’s head: Tony could have chopped three onions while waiting for Mr. Fatwallet to speak.)
  • Tony was in the kitchen, chopping onions. He ran cold water on a clean towel and brought it to his reddened eyes. (DING—I can hear my editor saying, “He can’t know his eyes are red unless he’s looking in a mirror!” Solutions: a] new text – Chopping onions always turned Tony’s eyes the color of a slab of ham; b] someone else notices – Mr. Fatwallet stuck his head into the kitchen. “Tony, have you been bawling?” c] take the easy way out –  He ran cold water on a clean towel and brought it to his streaming eyes.)

I’m sure my editor was tearing her hair out at the merry way I delved into the thoughts of everyone in scenes, at least in these more subtle ways, and here I thought I was POV-savvy! But that’s called head-hopping and roundly frowned upon.

The other reason I’ve been thinking about POV is writing the review of David Gilbert’s & Sons yesterday, I was reminded how the author used POV shifts to make his first-person narrator invisible. Philip Topping is the “I” on the opening page of the novel: “I myself remember watching friends . . .” We’re definitely in Philips head as the funeral of his father gets under way. “All this happened in mid-March, twelve years ago. I recall it being the first warm day . . .” And then, seamlessly, we are in the head of Andrew Dyer, the famous author, reduced to trolling the internet to crib a suitable eulogy.

In the first chapter, when I realized I was in Andrew’s thoughts, I had a “what just happened?” moment, so I turned back and noted how deliberately and subtly Gilbert had made the transition, erasing Philip from the scene. Repeatedly in this novel, Philip is there, then events occur that he cannot have been witness to. Where did he go? Is the fly on the wall, the ear at the door? When the author returns to Philip’s voice, the reader is as startled to encounter him again as the Dyers, father and sons, are, when they run into him in the hallway of the apartment, at the breakfast table, on the stairs.

Near the end, Philip says “ . . . I see Andy Dyer in the distance . . . I lift my head to be seen, but he doesn’t see me, like all those goddamn Dyers. He doesn’t even see me when I wave.” The effect is heartbreaking and so are the consequences of Philip’s invisibility. By Gilbert’s manipulation of point of view, he’s made the character like Philip truly work. (David Gilbert responded to this post saying, “The POV was a real struggle and a bit of a risk, but it seemed important to me exactly for the reasons you cited”)

–Vicki Weisfeld
This article appeared originally on Vicki Weisfeld’s regularly updated website,


Guarding-Shakespeare-200x300On Friday, February 5, 2016, James DeVita and PSWA Member Quintin Peterson were in conversation about their Shakespeare-inspired novels A Winsome Murder and Guiding Shakespeare at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington DC.

Murder and Guarding Shakespeare:

In Guarding Shakespeare, Special Police Officer Lt. Norman Blalock has been guarding the Folger Shakespeare Library’s priceless collection for 25 years. Nobody alive knows the library better. That’s why he is the perfect candidate to pull off an inside job and heist from the library’s underground bank vault a priceless artifact that can rock the foundation of English Literature. –Quintin Peterson

Author Noir

Marilyn Meredith, writing as F. M. Meredith, announces the publication of her latest Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery, A Crushing Death, published by Oak Tree Press and soon available on Amazon. Blurb:  A pile of rocks is found on a dead body beneath the condemned pier, a teacher is accused of molesting a student, the new police chief is threatened by someone she once arrested for violent attacks on women, and Detective Milligan’s teenage daughter has problem.

Without a Head in the “Dying to be Beautiful” mystery series was published, February 1, of this year. Fashion Queen will be published on June 1, 2016. M. Glenda Rosen (Marcia G. Rosen) is the author.

When terrorists apparently strike one of Boston’s MBTA transit stations during the famed St. Patrick’s Day parade, the onslaught of federal and state officials turn the city into a chaotic police state. Only a veteran transit cop, jaded by his memories of growing up in the shadows of Boston’s forced busing and desegregation, knows the truth: The enemy is not some international terrorist cell but the politics and hubris that continually pit the haves and have­-nots against each other in one of the country’s oldest and most ­congested cities. Code Black delves into the many contradictions that shape Boston: wealth and poverty, liberal and conservative, academia and working-class, and even black and white. Recipient of third place in the 2015 Public Safety Writer’s Association contest, Code Black is an historical fiction thriller that will keep you guessing until the very end.”

Code-Black-200x300Code Black, by PSWA member, Bill Fleming is now available at: – Code Black   and – Code Black

2016 Conference Program

Improving Your Dialog
Mysti Berry

WritMystiBerry-200ing effective dialogue is crucial in the art of fiction, and most writers can improve their dialog no matter how far along they are on their writing journey. Join award winning author, Mysti Berry, as she shows you special techniques to enhance your writing. These techniques, which have been devised from a combination of applied linguistics and screenwriting, can be used on any dialog problem. From the basic to the advanced, no matter where you are along the creative writing spectrum, these tips will improve your ability to write effective, natural sounding dialogue while advancing the plot. Bring pen and paper or a short (half page) scene with dialog you’d like to improve, and be prepared for an interactive writing session.

  Mysti Berry is an award-winning writer of screenplays, short stories, and novels. She earned a BA in Linguistics from UC Santa Cruz, and an MFA from University of San Francisco. She lives in San Francisco’s storied, forgotten neighborhood, OMI. Her latest short story, ”The Johnny Depp Kickline of Doom,” will appear in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine in 2016.

Investigating the 2001 Anthrax Attacks – An Evolution of Forensics
Scott Decker

ScottDecker200On October 4, 2001, a bio-terrorist attack reared its ugly head and struck our nation, which was still reeling from September 11th. FBI Agent Scott Decker was assigned to this new terrorism investigation and spent several years tracking the deadly microbe, anthrax, which was used in the attack. Knowing this silent and deadly weapon was capable of causing immense suffering in the wrong hands, the dedicated investigators were determined to leave no stone unturned, but traditional forensic methods were leading nowhere. Learn the real, inside story of what happened and what really was discovered inside the FBI’s Anthrax Investigation–An Evolution of Forensics.

Scott Decker joined the FBI as a Special Agent in 1990 and was first assigned to the Boston Division’s Bank Robbery Task Force. In 1997, he became the fourth member of the FBI’s new Hazardous Materials Response Unit and took the lead in developing the Bureau’s protocols for detecting, collecting and preserving evidence contaminated with biological threat agents. On September 12, 2001, he led a team of FBI Hazmat Officers to Ground Zero where they established a command post at the edge of the destruction. He returned from New York to head up a squad of agents—each with an advanced degree in science—at the Washington Field Office and coordinated the evolving forensics of the 2001 anthrax attack investigation. Decker retired from the FBI in 2011, holds a PhD in genetics, and is writing a book: ATTRIBUTION—A Living Weapon, Terrorism, and the Evolution of Forensics.

Writing for the Web—What it Takes to Get Published on the Web
Doug Wyllie

DougWyllie-200Getting published in the nonfiction market is a great way to establish yourself as a writer and build an impressive resume, but it’s no secret that it’s both problematic and difficult. One of the top editors and columnists from a leading media company gives you his unique insider’s perspective on what it takes to break into this competitive market. In this special presentation, Doug Wyllie, award-winning columnist and chief editor, will share his insights from both an editor’s and a columnist’s point of view, providing invaluable tips and detailing what it takes to get published in today’s tough and competitive nonfiction market.

Doug Wyllie, the editor-in-chief of PoliceOne, the leading digital media company for Public Safety & Local Government, is responsible for setting the editorial direction of the website as well as managing the planned editorial features by the roster of expert writers. Also an award-winning columnist, Doug has authored more than 900 feature articles and tactical tips on a wide range of topics and trends that affect the law enforcement community. He is a past winner of the prestigious “Maggie Award” for the Best Regularly Featured Digital Edition Column, among his many other accolades.

Schedule of events

Thursday, July 14, 2016
3:00 PM-6:00 PM Registration—check in, get your conference bags and reception wristband
6:00 PM-9:00 PM No-host opening reception (wristband required for entry)
Friday, July 15, 2016
8:30 AM-9:00 AM Registration and check-in
9:00 AM-9:30 AM Opening reflections on the PSWA by our President/Queen, Marilyn Olsen
9:30 AM-10:15 AM Featured speaker: Mysti Berry

Writing Effective Dialogue

10:15 AM-10:30 AM Break
10:30 AM-11:15 AM Panel: Anatomy of a Murder

Moderator: Michael A. Black

Panelists: Mike Brandt, Dave Cropp, Robert Calkins, Steve Scarborough, Robert Haig, Gloria Casale

11:15 AM-11:30 AM Break
11:30 AM-12:15 PM Panel: The Writing Craft

Moderator: Mysti Berry

Panelists: John Schembra, JL Greger, Elena Hartwell, Barbara Hodges, Rick Ollerman

12:15 PM-1:15 PM Lunch (furnished)
1:15 PM-2:00 PM Featured speaker: Scott Decker

Investigating the 2001 Anthrax Attacks – An Evolution of Forensics

2:00 PM-2:15 PM Break
2:15 PM-3:00 PM Panel: Promotion

Moderator: Marilyn Olsen

Panelists: Marcia Rosen, Thonie Hevron, Rabbi Ilene Schneider, Barbara Hodges, Ellie Oberth

3:00 PM-3:15 PM Break
3:15 PM-4:00 PM Panel: Writing True Crime

Moderator: Marilyn Olsen

Panelists: Rannah Gray, Scott Decker, Pat McCarthy, Robert Haig, Gloria Casale

4:00 PM-4:15 PM Break
4:15 PM-4:45 PM An examination of point of view

Michael A. Black, Mysti Berry, Marilyn Meredith

4:45 PM-5:00 PM Book signings and one-on-ones
5:00 PM Closed rehearsal for actors in the radio play. Everyone else: dinner on your own
Saturday, July 16, 2016
9:00 AM-9:15 AM Welcome and housekeeping items
9:15 AM-10:00 AM Panel: Real-Life Stories of SWAT, Firearms, Less Lethal Weapons and Tactics Along the Use of Force Continuum

Moderator: Michael A. Black

Panelists: Dave Freedland, R J Beam, John Wills, John Howsden, Pat McCarthy

10:00 AM-10:15 AM Break
10:15 AM-11:00 AM Current Trends in Publishing

Moderator: Michelle Perin

Panelists: Austin Camacho, Billie Johnson, Geno Munari, Marcia Rosen, Marilyn Meredith, Michael A. Black

11:00 AM-11:45 AM Meet and greet the publishers and authors
11:45 AM-1:00 PM Lunch (furnished)
1:00 PM-1:45 PM Featured speaker: Doug Wyllie

How to write for the web

1:45 PM-2:00 PM Break
2:00 PM-2:45 PM Panel: The art of writing short stories

Moderator: Michael A. Black

Panelists: Mysti Berry, Bob Doerr, Joseph B. Haggerty Sr, Austin Camacho, Larry Collins, Rick Ollerman

2:45 PM-3:00 PM Break
3:00 PM-3:45 PM Panel: editing your work

Moderator: Michelle Perin

Panelists: Elena Hartwell, Marcia Rosen, Molly Knop, Rick Ollerman, Lorna Collins

3:45 PM-4:00 PM Break
4:00 PM-4:45 PM Panel: Jurisdictionally speaking

Moderator: Marilyn Olsen

Panelists: Jack Miller, Scott Decker, Rannah Gray, John Wills, Joseph B. Haggerty Sr, Bob Doerr

4:45 PM-5:15 PM Break
5:00 PM-5:45 PM Old Time Radio Show: The Adventures of Ellery Queen

The Players: : Steve Scarborough, Joe Haggerty, Sr., Thonie Hevron, Barbara Hodges, John Wills, Bob Haig, Bob Doerr, Illene Schneider, Elena Hartwell

The Jury: Ellen Kirshman, Marilyn Meredith, Janet Greger, Marilyn Olsen, Barbara Lloyd

Special Effects: Tim Dees

5:45 PM Book signings, dinner on your own
Sunday, July 17, 2016
9:00 AM-9:15 AM Welcome and housekeeping items

Marilyn Olsen

9:15 AM-10:00 AM Panel: Reflections on writing

Moderator: Mysti Berry

Panelists: : Lynne Hesse, Mar Preston, John Schembra, Elena Hartwell, Rabbi Ilene Schneider

10:00 AM-10:15 AM Break
10:15 AM-11:00 AM Panel: Writing what you know and what you don’t

Moderator: Marilyn Meredith

Panelists: Ellie Oberth, R J Beam, Rabbi Ilene Schneider, Mike Brandt, Mar Preston, Elena Hartwell

11:00 AM-11:15 AM Break
11:15 AM-12:00 PM Writing the perfect pitch

Larry and Lorna Collins

12:00 PM-12:15 PM Final book sale

Books must be picked up immediately following lunch

12:15 PM- Awards luncheon


2015 Conference Photos

PSWA Newsletter–December 2015

PSWA Newsletter
December 2015




molsen-200For many of us December seems to be the busiest time of the year with holiday events, finishing up end-of-the-year work-related business or, for some of you, digging the car out of the earlier than expected snow. Although the operators of the ski area about an hour or so from where I live in the Pacific Northwest were delighted by the several feet of snow they got a few days ago, maybe not so much for those of you, like Mike Black who lives in Chicago.

With all that’s going on, it’s always a temptation to put off working on that book, article, poetry or other writing you’ve been, well maybe, putting off since September. Hopefully, however, for most of you this is the time you’ll be the most inspired. Because, January 1, 2016 marks the day PSWA Writing Competition chair Michelle Perin will begin receiving entries. Details about the categories and deadlines will appear on the website soon. As always there will be a wide variety of categories, so no matter what you like to write, there is sure to be something there for you. As we’ve stressed each year, the competition also gives you the opportunity to stretch yourself a bit by entering work that is new for you. If you’ve only written fiction, try some non-fiction this year. If you’ve only written books, try a few short stories or some poetry. Or even some flash fiction. There is no limit to how many entries you submit.

At the end of February, also check the website for all the details about the up-coming July conference. Want to be a speaker? Want to suggest a speaker? Want to serve on a panel? Want to make suggestions for topics to be covered? Better yet, want to help out at the conference? Again, check the website for information on how to do this.

Meanwhile, take that nice cup of holiday eggnog over to the keyboard and settle in for a long winter’s night of writing. Come competition entry deadline time you’ll be glad you did!

–Marilyn Olsen, PSWA President


MikeBlack200x200It’s never too early to start submitting those ideas for next summer’s PSWA Conference. Our tentative dates are July 14-18, 2016. Once again, the gala affair will be held at the fabulous Orleans Hotel and Casino in beautiful Las Vegas, Nevada. For those of you who don’t know, I do the programming for the conference, so I’m always interested in hearing the topics you’d like to see on the agenda. Remember, it’s all about you. The board members and I strive to keep the conference both an informative and a friendly event. I guarantee that it’ll be one of the most enjoyable conferences you’ll ever attend. We keep things devoid of pretension, and it’s made up of some of the nicest people you’ll meet. Although many of our PSWA members have backgrounds in public service, it’s certainly not a requirement. We’ve got a diverse membership, which helps us make the conference better each year.

As I said, the conference is all about the attendees. It takes an enormous amount of planning and work, but believe me, you won’t be disappointed. For those of you who haven’t attended before, you’ll be in for a special treat. As always, we’ll have some great speakers lined up, and the numerous panels are a mixture of sessions on writing and public safety topics. In addition, we also offer our annual writing contest and awards ceremony. The contest offers opportunities to submit both your published and unpublished work in a variety of categories and possibly become an award-winning author. You’ll also have the chance to rub elbows with professionals in the fields of both public safety and writing. It’s a great chance to learn more about topical subjects and research that book you’ve been planning. The networking opportunities are fabulous, and the atmosphere is always cordial and friendly.

We also have publishers with whom you can talk, and they’re usually happy to give you advice on any elevator pitches. We’re also mulling over the possibility of including a pre-conference Writer’s Boot Camp, taught by experienced published professional writers. It not only will include personal instruction on writing techniques, but will also offer you a chance to receive individual feedback on your writing. Last, but not least, you’ll also get some great meals, have a chance to stay in a luxurious hotel for very reasonable rates, and have plenty of time to explore one of the most fascinating and energizing cities in the world: Las Vegas, Nevada. There’s a lot to see and do there, including many unique sights such as Hoover Dam and the Mob Museum (which contains an actual wall from the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre). Many PSWA Conference attendees tack on a couple extra days to explore the town and take in a show.

Every year we plan something unique spin for the conference. In years past we’ve had an interactive crime scene, a game show (CSI Jeopardy), and last year we did an old-time radio show. I’m still in the process of assembling the suggestions and topics, so if you have something you’d like to see addressed, send it to me at I hope to see you there. I promise, if you attend, you won’t be disappointed. So if you haven’t done so yet, I urge you to register for the conference as soon as the registration form is posted. There are early bird rates coming up, so keep checking the PSWA website. As I’ve said before, the PSWA Conference may not be the biggest one of the year, but it’ll certainly be the best.

I look forward to seeing you at the Orleans in July.

–Mike Black, PSWA Program Chair


Michelle-Perin-fire-200x200Hello fellow PSWA members. I’ve seen some wonderful discussions on the listserv. Members are also using their Facebook pages to share their successes. It’s great to see new members welcomed heartily and for long-term members to continue assisting each other with their writing goals. Books are being written and published. Marketing is happening. Money is being made and fame being had. After all, that’s why we’re in this business, right? Even if we’re not becoming legends with the general public, we can be legends with each other. So, what’s on the horizon for the PSWA? In my realm, several things are coming up and I’m seeking assistance from the membership.

First, the PSWA Writing Competition will begin on January 1st, 2016. Rules and entry forms will be posted on the PSWA website prior to that time. Remember there are categories for almost every genre and for published and non-published. Keep in mind that the writing has to somehow apply to publish safety. Have an ambulance drive by in one of your scenes? It’s related. I will be seeking qualified judges to help me out again.

Second, since I’ve taken over the reins of Vice President I have been remiss in continuing the great marketing work A.J. did before me. I would like to make that right and start putting together a plan. I will need people to help me in this endeavor as well. If you are interested in helping with either judging or marketing let me know. Either would be a great way to get involved in the organization. After all, it is YOUR organization. Hope to hear from many of you soon. Until then, keep up the great work.

–Michelle J.G. Perin, MS, Firefighter/EMT
Vice-President, Contest Chair, Public Safety Writers Association (PSWA)
Fundraising Coordinator, Lane Area Ferret Shelter & Rescue
Visit me at


ron_corbin_200It’s late at night, and while driving home you suspect that you’re being followed. After a couple left and right turns, you see that the vehicle behind is still following. You slow down, they slow down. You speed up, they speed up. Naturally, to compound matters, you take out your cell phone and see that the battery is low or is not receiving any signal … of course, “Murphy’s Law”. A slight panic begins to take over, causing your heart to race as you stare more at the rear view mirror than the road ahead. What should you do?

With the advent of setting our clocks back to standard time in the autumn of each year, it is not uncommon to find ourselves driving home during the hours of darkness. And this scenario can occur for many of us when coming home from work or shopping, or even from one of the seasonal holiday parties.

For most women travelling alone late at night, this can be a frightening situation and create a sense of anxiety or minor panic. Suspecting that someone may be following you will initially cause a range of conflicting thoughts and emotions; flipping back-and-forth between being overly suspicious to overly cautious…fighting a case of denial, and trying to assure yourself that it’s all in your imagination.

Unlike most women’s fears, however, when this type of incident happens to men they will often put on their “cloak of bravado” and do something stupid…like stop and get out of their car to confront their perceived followers, or even play some road rage games. But men are “stupid,” right ladies?

So what is the best course of action if you find yourself in this situation? First, keep calm. Take some slow, deep breaths. Slowing your breathing down and getting more oxygen into your system makes a person think more clearly and able to make better decisions.

Ensure your car doors are locked and windows up. If you have to stop at a red traffic light signal, watch your side and rear view mirrors to observe if the suspicious person behind you exits his car. Be ready to run the red light if necessary, but by all means, do not cause an accident. Otherwise, honk your horn; flash your bright lights, and activate your four-way emergency flashers. In other words, create a scene of “Notice Me”!

A primary rule is … “Do Not Drive Home.” If someone is following, you do not want to let them know where you live. And don’t think you can possibly park and get into your house before someone can approach you. If you already happen to be on your residential street when all this occurs, continue driving past your house and go back onto a major roadway. And whatever you do, don’t get yourself boxed-in to a cul-de-sac or dead-end street.

So what are some other best options? Continue driving to a place that will provide some degree of increased public attention without the need for you exiting your vehicle.

How about driving to the nearest police station? Sounds good, but even that might not be the best idea, and here’s why. Many police stations are not open to the public except during normal daytime business hours. Believe it or not, even in a “24-hour” large city like Las Vegas, (due to budgeting) the local police stations are only open weekdays during business hours.

Okay then, what about a fire station? Again, not really a good thought since the firefighters and EMTs may be out on a call… another Murphy’s Law. And when you’re in a concerned or anxious state-of-mind like under these circumstances, can you even remember where the nearest police or fire station is located?

The best place to drive to in this incident is the nearest location open 24-hours where there is a lot of activity; where you can achieve immediate attention by honking your horn … places like 7-11s or other convenience stores, gas stations, or a major hotel. Some of the best places here in Las Vegas are hotel/casinos because they have valet parking. Another place for increased safety and immediate attention is the emergency room entrance at a hospital. Frequently these will have an armed security guard posted.

Although it’s illegal in most states to use a “hands-on” cell phone while driving, and dangerous for increasing the risk of a traffic accident, you can consider this a valid emergency. Call the police. Tell the dispatcher what you feel is happening and advise of your “roving” location. Stay on the line and, through the dispatcher, the police will rendezvous with you to check-out your concern.

Some other things to think about to help in this situation. Always keep your vehicle’s fuel tank at least 1/4 filled, and the engine and tires in good condition.

Finally, if you do get to your house before noticing a suspicious person following you and you have an automatic garage door, pull into the garage. Stay in your car with your doors locked until the garage door has been completely closed. Watch your mirrors to ensure nobody attempts to sneak in under the garage door. Most garage doors have a sensor that will cause the door to raise if someone tries to slip underneath. And remember, if you have the right car alarm system, you can use your key fob and activate the car alarm to attract attention from your neighbors.

Until the next time…Stay Alert and Stay Safe!
Ron Corbin


I read a book that says writers can—and even should—write just about anywhere and everywhere. We should write in cafes, restaurants, and coffee shops; on buses, boats, trains, and planes; and where beauty surrounds us in museums, art galleries, parks and of course libraries.

What a lovely idea to be able to write anywhere! One can even compose comfortably in a public place in full view and with full view of passersby. We can watch people moving at their own pace giving us impressions and insights for stories and for characters whose voices and personas we want to create.

We can write from the coffee shop down the street or from a café somewhere across the world. Sometimes we just move from idea to idea. Sometimes, in a precious moment, we find a concept that takes hold of us and we cannot let go of it until we have explored it and given it breath of life. Then we must determine whether we should support its development or let it die so we can move on unhampered to the next moment.

When I began to think about this, and then to write about such thoughts, I wondered, “Does it really matter where I write? There might be something special about a person or place that could become the focus of where I might begin, or even end, a story. However, the most important thing was not where I write, but that no matter where, I keep writing.

“I’m a writer,” I repeat aloud to myself when no one is near to wonder whether I might be crazy. I introduce myself as a writer to people I’ve never before met. I need them to believe this. I need to have others believe it so I will also be convinced of its truth. Call it what you may: ego, desire, or wishful thinking.

However, one day, on a vacation, I realized I needed a pen. For some reason, I could not find any of the several pens I had brought with me. So, I went into the office like a pilot on a mission and helped myself to one of their free pens. With it already in my hand, I said to the desk clerk, “I’m taking one of your pens. Writers shouldn’t be without a pen.” She smiled in apathetic agreement.

I had noticed the pens when I walked into the lobby earlier that morning. There they were: Vermont green pens with white stenciling on them that promoted the Inn’s name and phone number. Its web address was clearly imprinted on it as well. It’s a new world.

Yes, I could have used my computer and ultimately I do. But it’s just not the same for me. It’s not the same to someone who feels about pen and paper the way I do. I write on lined pads of beautifully colored paper. I have them in purple and blue and pink. I love the way it feels when my pen touches the paper. I know that when the words appear they are from my voice. Sometimes the words and phrases seem to spread across the colored paper as if by magic!

It was right then and there in the Vermont Inn that I decide to begin “A Collection of Pens.” It would be both a story and a real collection. I would collect pens from everywhere and anywhere that I wrote. Then, I would write about my collection of pens. “After all, I’m a writer.”

I decided I would also buy a “special pen” in each city I visited. My collection of pens would remind me of the dreams of my youth and the belief of that dream becoming reality in my older age. The pens would be my brush as if I was an artist.

Together, we are in this pursuit of words and sentences and paragraphs and pages and chapters that become a book filled with human dignities, and at times, even indignities. In books, we can find ourselves or lose ourselves. We pretend and envision that we could lead that life and occupy a special place in the book.

When people at my book signings tell me about themselves and their dreams, I feel a connection. I understand their hunger. It was my hunger as well to have a dream fulfilled. Too often we writers do not have people who encourage us. Sometimes we have one or two, but it is not always enough. There are those people in our lives who have told us we are foolish or unrealistic. We often give them too much power.

People who should have supported me said: “Who do you think you are?” Although I long ago I shook that voice, beat it, drowned it and buried it beneath layers of hopefulness. I answered by reminding myself of my accomplishments: “I’m a writer. I not only have my collection of pens, I also have books I’ve written and ones I’m writing now to prove it.”

So do many of you!!!

–Marcia G. Rosen
Author, New Mystery Series, “Dying To Be Beautiful”
“Eliminate The MindBlocks A COLLECTION OF PENS©
By M. Glenda and RoadBlocks to Success”
“My Memoir Workbook”
“Living An Illuminated Life”


CroppDave200x200FBI Director James Comey recently painted the police across America as anxious (fearful) in doing their job. He suggested the “Ferguson effect” as the culprit in influencing this anxiety. The result: cops not doing their jobs—rising murder rates and violent crime in cities including Chicago, Milwaukee, and Baltimore.

As veteran public safety professionals who now make up the literary society known as the Public Safety Writers Association (PSWA), we have seen plenty of anxiety-producing events. And yet, somehow we always find ways to do our jobs. We know the risks; maybe we’re attracted to the excitement of the job, or we value the risks of helping others above the risk of personal harm. Many have paid dearly. We mourn our losses.

However; these incidents influence stories and novels, articles and books. We store away memories and emotional tangents like anyone else, and when the time is right, we bring them up from the darkness like a phoenix, and they take form and flight in our prose.

Officers always weigh the pros and cons of any situation—this is what we’re trained to do. The advent of smart phones and instant social media simply provide us with new challenges. I don’t think that “fear” is the right word. Perhaps it’s caution or a new level of assessment. Or perhaps it’s just another challenge in the face of a constantly evolving social climate. So be it.

One bittersweet way to cope with this sociopolitical challenge is to write about it. Writing helps us understand things more effectively; it allows us to vent and create a higher level of cognitive reasoning in the face of difficult situations. Writing has long been recognized as an effective intervention in managing grief and loss.

Personally, I look forward to reading more about this so-called “Ferguson effect.” I’d like to encourage young officers to write about what they see and hear … and feel. Put it down on paper, write about it and explain it—and tell us what to think about it. They listen to veterans, like us with the PSWA, lament the good-old-days, maybe it’s time we listen to what they’re going through.

–David Cropp

David Cropp is a 36-year law enforcement veteran—34 of those years spent with the Sacramento Police Department (SPD); retiring as a detective sergeant in 2008 – David continues today as a retired reserve for the Citrus Heights, CA Police Department. David has a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and a master’s in behavioral science, and is a CA POST Master Instructor.

David’s articles have appeared in various publications including the CA Narcotics Officer, the International Journal of Police Science and Management, and Police One:

David’s first novel, Valley Heat is due out in June 2016. Visit David at:, or at Amazon,


Hilary-Romig-200x200When it comes to policing, fire-fighting, EMS work, or any other type of first responder work, there comes safety in numbers. Public safety employees are supposed to implement their knowledge and training into their daily lives to ensure safety for their respective communities. However, we must ask ourselves are our first responders safe? Their safety is equally important since they are the ones who keep us safe.

Lately, the news has been filled with stories of attacks on our police officers. These stories while sad, should give us insight into how people in many communities perceive our officers. It also gives us great insight into how departments can increase the security and safety for their own. One precaution is to ensure that no officer is left alone at a scene. This may seem a bit extreme in some cases, but two is always better than one. If this is an imposition, for some departments, perhaps other first responders can rely on each other. For example, if a lone officer is called to a domestic disturbance scene, perhaps a fireman can be dispatched as well. This would not only ensure safety for the responders, but it would allow a health aid to be on the scene as well if the citizen should need help in that regard.

Officers are always trained on how to handle a variety of situations. This tactical training should be updated and refreshed often so that if faced with such a situation, the officers will know how to handle it.

With all of the negativity that has been surrounding police departments across the nation, it is important to regain strength in numbers within the community. The more a community is educated on the positive side of policing, the more potential of keeping the officers safe as well. Many cities have civilian training programs offered at their police departments. While these give civilians education regarding law enforcement from the source, it also gives law enforcement the chance to partner with the people of their community.

Just as it is important to keep our streets safe, it is equally important to keep law enforcement safe. If everyone does their part, we can make it happen.

–Hilary Romig


john_wills_200When writing fiction, be it a short story, mystery, suspense, horror, or thriller, you will want to include scary stuff.

How do you figure out what might scare people? How about focusing on the things that scared you?

All of us have had things that frightened us when we were children, things like insects (spiders for me), darkness, imaginary creatures in closets or under beds. How about getting lost in a bad area and not being able to find your way home? Or perhaps the fear of heights or of flying? All of these fears can be the basis for a great Halloween story, since many of our childhood fears follow us into adulthood.

Can you recall a time when you were scared? Maybe when you were out and a stray dog snarled and almost attacked you? How did it make you feel? Frightened, nervous—were you sick to your stomach, pulse increase, did you begin to sweat? All of these responses are the perfect way to involve the reader in your story and have them feel the same way.

Have you ever had a confrontation with someone who wanted to harm you? Perhaps you experienced the “fight or flight syndrome.” You may have been scared to death, but your fear helped you overcome the situation. An instance such as this can be the basis for an excitingly frightful tale.

If you involve a likeable character, one the reader can accept, and then involve him or her in a tension-filled situation that evolves slowly, you will have a killer story for Halloween. Make sure you leave some room for imagination. Sometimes things left unsaid are the scariest, for it leaves the reader to imagine the worst.

Good luck!

John M. Wills
Member: National Book Critics Circle
Latest novel: HEALER


I debated titling this article “The Cadence of the Written Word and the War on Adverbs.” The versatile modifier has been under fire the past few years due to an onslaught by currently preferred styles, made virtually sacrosanct by certain self-proclaimed experts, who unfortunately are the current heavyweights in the field of writing. Perhaps the most fatuous example was provided by bestselling author, Stephen King, who made the officious pronouncement that “The road to hell is paved with adverbs.” While I believe that Mr. King was intentionally being a bit hyperbolic in that statement, it’s certainly true that the hapless adverb has fallen out of favor with current writing stylistic preferences. This is due, in part, to how the written words sound. Nothing can ruin the cadence of a sentence faster than a misplaced or superfluous modifier. This brings us to the topic of this piece.

A lot of beginning writers overlook the fact that the written word is actually “heard” as well as seen. What I’m referring to is the cadence of your prose. How does it sound to your “writer’s ear?” Certainly, a good writer should consider this in his writing. (You’ll notice I used the masculine pronoun, his, as my standard default; I simply deplore the current trend of political correctness that is corrupting the standard reference by claiming “sexism,” and deferring to the dreaded third person plural, their. That, however, a subject for another time, but while I’m in this parenthetical break, I’d also like to point out how much those occasional adverbs in the preceding passages actually enhanced the cadence.)

I know you’re probably thinking, I wish he would get back to the primary topic, and I shall. Perhaps an illustration of the subject matter would be in order here. Let’s take a look at one of the most enduring quotes from master essayist, Henry David Thoreau.

The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.

Now Thoreau was, among his many attributes, a skilled observer of the cadence of the written word. The aforementioned sentence is a perfect example. He could have easily written it as The majority of men lead lives of quiet desperation, or Most men lead lives of … These two substandard variations illustrate perfectly the importance of choosing the right word. (You’ll note, once again, the enhancement of the previous sentence by the inclusion of still yet another adverb, Mr. King.) By using the monosyllabic mass instead of a multisyllabic word such as majority, Thoreau demonstrated his keen knowledge of the “writer’s ear.” While the two, aforementioned, substandard substitutions, majority and most, still offer the same meaning as well as the alliterative impact of mass, neither has the sibilant smoothness that allows the gliding cadence of the words as they couple with the subsequent, assonant S sounds of lives and desperation. Try reading the original sentence along with the two ersatz variants and you’ll see what I mean.

The late, great Truman Capote was another master of creating sentences that flowed with the easy cadence that was so pleasing to the writer’s ear. Take a look at these examples from his magnificent memoir, “A Christmas Memory.”
Long after the town has gone to sleep and the house is silent except for the chimings of a clock and the sputter of fading fires, she is weeping …

The onomatopoetic chimings of the clock and the sputter of the fading fire enhance the sentence by letting the reader “hear” the imagery, even though chimings is a bit of a backformation, changing the intransitive verb into a noun for the sake of the imagery. He repeats this tendency in the following example, as well, with shrillings, but what’s a backformation here and there when it’s done for the sake of preserving the eloquent cadence?

Here, there, a flash, a flutter, an ecstasy of shrillings remind us that not all the birds have flown south.

Observe how the sentence, which is also from “A Christmas Memory,” mimics the frenetic activity of some startled birds as the narrator and his companion walk in the woods. One can almost ”hear” the frenzied flapping of wings

Thus, in summation, an astute writer should remember that we read not only with our eyes, but with our “ears,” as well. Additionally, please keep in mind that an occasional sprinkling of adverbs, while currently frowned upon by stylists, should be done with appropriate circumspection. After all, even a master chef knows when to toss in a little salt to flavor the soup.

Until next time, I remain basking in my anonymity.

Write well.

–Professor X


Lynn-Hesse-200x200I joined a creative process group thinking that I didn’t need to dwell on the writing process as much I needed to do it. Yes, of course, I wrote, but I found that documenting the process allowed me to see the amount of time I spent on research, editing, and pondering the next milestone in the plot or character development. I was writing in my head most days, all day long, no matter what activity engaged my body.

I write fiction filtering reality and that tests my patience. It is a useless exercise to wish I could outline and write a scene each day. Basically, I write a paragraph, and then if I am lucky, another paragraph. I make myself sit for an hour, but sometimes in fifteen-minute intervals. I rewrite, check the facts, ponder the right word for the meaning I want, rewrite, try to write the next scene, read it out loud, yuk, horrible, rewrite, let it sit, rewrite, ask myself why, scream, take a walk, an idea bubbles, write some, dream about the work, write a new scene, feel gleeful, get stuck, realize that plot line can’t happen in that year and so on.

On most days I would compare writing a book to childbirth with the gestation periods marked in chapters. Most of the growing goes on inside me without my intervention and seems miraculous or alien–depending on the day. The good days are when my characters speak to me. I lose track of time. I write four hours without looking up at the clock. The protagonist insists on going her own way in the plot, and I gladly follow, because I am lost in fierce wonder. I am at the bottom of the ocean watching the seaweed bend in the current toward the shore and holding my breath while trying to have faith, give in, and float back to dry land.

–Lynn Tharp-Hesse


In most cases you probably asked to be a guest. They may have guidelines for you and if so be sure to follow them. In my case, I always ask the guest to put all the information into one WORD file: The title of the post, a brief blurb about the book they are promoting, a short bio, and all links. It can be sent as an attachment, and a .jpg of the cover and a photo of the writers should also come as attachments.

I like the post to be in New Times Roman, 12 point, but some hosts may prefer something else. I also want the post to be set up like this—no indents for paragraphs, single spaced, and a space between paragraphs.

The post should be sent as soon as possible, never wait until the last minute.

On the day the post comes out, make sure it’s there. Leave a comment thanking the host for inviting you. Copy the address and promote the blog on Facebook, Facebook groups, Twitter and all the listserves you belong to.

It is up to you to promote you guest post, not the host—though he or she will probably promote some too.

I love having guests on my blog, all you have to do is email me and I’ll set something up:

–Marilyn Meredith, Newsletter Editor
My Blog:


Extreme-Medical-Services-20Jamie Davis is a new member this year, and with a new book, Extreme Medical Services









Elena-Hartwell-200x200Another new member is Elena Hartwell. She has a new book out, One Dead, Two to Go, published by

Blurb: Private Investigator Edwina “Eddie Shoes” Schultz’s most recent job has her parked outside a seedy hotel, photographing her quarry as he kisses his mistress goodbye.

The last anyone will see of the woman … alive.



Eddie’s client, Kendra Hallings, disappears soon after. Eddie hates to be stiffed for her fee, but she has to wonder if Kendra could be in trouble too … or is she the killer?

One Dead, Two To
Go is smart, page-turning fun, with the most feisty and likable P.I. since Kinsey Millhone. Looking for your next favorite detective series? Look no further.” —Deb Caletti, National Book Award finalist and author of He’s Gone




Michael Brandt (Ret. LAPD) took first place short story winner for “Tomo Dachi” from the U.S. Section of the International Police Association.

“Tomo Dachi” is a short story about a World War II Marine that must emotionally come to terms over a Japanese War Memorial Shrine on Corregidor Island; honoring the enemy while he suffered physically and mentally at the hands of his captors.

Diana-Sprain-200x200What is your Emergency? The History of Public Safety Dispatching in America by Diana Sprain is now available. I trace the history of dispatchers from the beginnings of radio to today’s specialists (Tactical, Incident Management Teams, and Emergency Medical Dispatchers). I review some major incidents, dispatchers in the media (television and films) and go over hiring & training.









PSWA Newsletter–September 2015

PSWA Newsletter
September 2015


  •  “HE’S GOT A GUN!”


molsen-200Fellow PSWA members,

No matter who we are or how old we may be, around this time of year, we can’t help but start thinking about the upcoming fall months the way we always did when we were kids and began looking forward to the new start the school year would bring.  Here in the Pacific Northwest we’ve had an unseasonable amount of summer, starting with warmer winter temperatures and a disappointing snow pack in the mountains that took the “ski” out of our annual “ski to sea” relay race in June.  The hot and dry weather that usually begins for us in July even came as early as mid-May.  So I’m extra ready for cool nights and yes, rain.

Whatever the weather is like where you live, however, it’s time to get serious about that writing project you’ve been putting off all summer.  So, no more excuses.   Those of you who now have bright gold award winning author stickers on your books as a visible recognition of placing in the PSWA Writing Competition should now begin looking forward to another winning entry.  Will it be a sequel to a book you just completed?  The start of a new book with a new plot and characters?  Will this be the year you decide to try writing in a different genre?  Poetry?  Flash Fiction? Non-fiction?  More and more PSWA authors are beginning to take on this challenge and have enjoyed the experience.

Or maybe this is the year that you really WILL finish that manuscript that has been languishing in a folder on your computer, patiently awaiting your resolve to get on with it!  Or maybe this is the year that you actually start that novel or biography or magazine article you’ve so far just been thinking about.

If the upcoming fall isn’t enough of an incentive for you, consider joining other PSWA members who find inspiration by becoming active on the list serve.  Or, if you attended the 2015 conference, getting in touch with the people you enjoyed meeting there.  One of the major goals of the conference is providing a networking opportunity for members, building relationships that continue on long after we eat that last yummy piece of chocolate cake at the awards ceremony.

Whatever you decide to do, or whatever inspires you, make this the time of year you get out those proverbial new crayons and create something new and wonderful for yourself and the readers out there eagerly awaiting your work of art.

We all look forward to reading it!

–Marilyn Olsen, President


Well, the 10th Anniversary PSWA Conference is now in the history books and I must say, I’m breathing a bit easier these days. To say that producing a conference of this size and quality was a daunting task is an understatement, but it was also a labor of love.

First of all, I‘d like to thank all of you who came and participated. By all indications, the conference was a big success, and everyone in attendance seemed to have had a good time.

I know I did. Second, I’d like to give a special thanks to my fellow board members, our Queen, Marilyn Olsen, alpha geek, Tim Dees, Newsletter Editor, Marilyn Meredith, Writing Contest Coordinator, Michelle Perin, Treasurer and book store manager, Nancy Farrar, and our man on the ground, PSWA Secretary, Keith Bettinger.

Thanks, too, to Madeline Gornell who worked so hard on the PSWA welcoming committee, only to have an unexpected health issue conflict with her attendance. Steve Scarborough also gave me a hand in organizing the radio play (mustache and all), and I’d like to express my appreciation to all of the PSWA Players who participated.

Believe me, a lot of work went on behind the scenes to keep things on track and running smoothly. We also had a fabulous line-up of speakers and panelists this time around. Kudos to all of them as well.

We did a preliminary examination of the conference evaluations, and once again, they were overwhelmingly favorable. While we strive to make it an outstanding conference and try to make everyone happy, it’s virtually an impossible task. Nevertheless, we’re always out to improve ourselves and do listen to all those comments, both positive and negative. So thanks for your feedback.

Along those lines, I’ve already started to make plans for next year and have received some ideas and proposals. I’d like to encourage everyone to send me your suggestions at I’ve been toying around with a few new ideas for the conference including the possibility of doing a special writer’s workshop session next year.

Immediately following the PSWA Conference I had to travel to Gunnison, Colorado to the Writing in the Rockies conference. It was hosted by Western Colorado University, and I was the keynote speaker. Between the thin air and exhausting schedule, I was practically a basket case by the time July was finishing up. Plus, I have a September 1st deadline for my latest Executioner novel (working title, Cold Wars) and I’ve been working non-stop on that since I returned. I even managed to write in the various airports and hotel rooms. (That’s the definition of real desperation.)

Anyway, thanks again to everyone for making our 10th anniversary conference so memorable. Next year will be “lucky eleven,” which fits our Las Vegas location. In the meantime, like old Dean Martin used to say, “Keep those cards and letters coming, cause I read every one.”

Mike Black, Conference Chair


CroppDave200x200We used to be a “club.”  Now we’re an “association.”  But if you ask me, the Public Safety Writers Association feels more like a literary society.  The diversity of its members, their individual passions and publications expand one’s literary horizons.  When you see the extent of experience represented therein you cannot help to feel inspired, and without a doubt, come away from the annual conferences with a renewed sense of what it means to be a writer.

There is no need to feel anxious, or threatened.  True; many PSWA members are successfully published authors with a gift for prose that is on one hand inspiring and on the other, intimidating; however you can relax; you’re among friends—socialize—discuss contemporary concepts of public safety, or learn about developing dialog from the many presenters. You won’t be bombarded with monolithic egos and you won’t be dismissed at the expense of self-serving promoters. You’ll be among friends.  You’ll be supported and valued.

Come on out—be inspired.  Be a part of the 2016 PSWA conference and learn what took me twelve years to discover—be a part of the PSWA literary society, you won’t regret it.

–David Cropp, an award winning writer and contributor to several law enforcement anthologies, and to Police One News

David’s first novel Valley Heat—will be coming out in summer of,

Visit David at, or at Amazon:


Victoria-Westfield-200The late Elmore Leonard advised budding crime-writers, “when your story starts to drag, have someone pull out a gun.” Maybe too many of us have been following that advice, because several recent books aim to inject more accuracy into the portrayal of guns (and other weaponry). Errors make some readers swear off a writer and, as the introduction to Benjamin Sobieck’s The Writer’s Guide to Weapons explains, “no wrath is greater than that of firearms enthusiasts.”

According to a recent post in Jane Friedman’s excellent “Resources for Writers” blog, written by Sobieck, here are key points about guns that writers should keep in mind to avoid those credibility-shattering results:

  1. Clip and magazine are not the same. A clip holds cartridges that go into a magazine. Most modern firearms don’t require a clip. But it sounds good, no? Clip: Manly. Magazine: Better Homes & Gardens
  2. Bullet is not the same as shell, round, or cartridge. You never find empty bullets on the ground after a shooting. Casings, yes.
  3. The whole pumping of a shotgun or cocking the hammer of a handgun is a sound cue from the movies, intended for intimidation, but, as Sobieck says, “less to do with looking tough and more to do with being stupid.” These extra and in most cases unnecessary pumps/cocks just “dump unfired ammunition onto the ground.” Why would anyone intimidate another person with a firearm, if it weren’t ready to fire? Good question. Ask your author.
  4. While this would seem to be an “it goes without saying” kind of thing, a character should never look down the barrel of a gun to see whether it’s loaded. Who’d be that stupid? I had a clip showing a TV character actually doing this, but it has disappeared. Sorry!
  5. And, perhaps the most pervasive of all gun errors in both news and entertainment media currently, the term “assault weapon.” This actually is meaningless. ANY weapon can be used for assault. The industry doesn’t use it. Sobieck says “tactical rifle (or shotgun), machine gun, submachine gun, fully automatic rifle,” or even “gun” are more meaningful than “assault weapon.”
  6. The term “automatic weapon” is often elided to mean either a semi-automatic weapon (which shoots one time with each trigger pull) or a “fully automatic weapon” which fires many times with a single pull. The idea of “automatic” weapons needs to be well defined. Fully automatic weapons are not very accurate after the first few shots because of recoil, so long, Rambo-inspired bursts of fire are actually useless if the goal is to hit anything.

Finally, in his book, Sobieck includes “Ten Golden Tips for Writing about Weapons,” which includes this advice: “If it’s in a movie or on television, it’s probably inaccurate.”

Vicki Weisfeld

PSWA member Vicki Weisfeld writes mysteries and thrillers and has an active website with writing tips, book & movie reviews, and other good stuff. Visit her at


Joe-Haggerty-200We seem to live in a society that is more interested in celebrity than principles.  Demonstrating your opinion is easier when you’re deciding who the winner is on “American Idol” or “Dancing with the Stars”. I understand that these shows are an escape from reality and don’t require much thought in decision making, but if these are the only incidences in which a person votes or expresses an opinion then our country is doomed. It doesn’t matter if you are a Democrat or a Republican or if you choose to be neither. Having a general knowledge of what is happening with your Government directly affects your future and the future of your family.

Different shows have had on the street interviews with various people. The questions asked of these people were related either to history, current events or in recognizing various political figures or celebrities. The answers these people gave were sadly incredible and demonstrated a total lack of knowledge or concern for the actions of their Government. I think most people take the position that there is really nothing they can do to alter or prevent the actions of the Government, so they would rather put their efforts in enjoying themselves with entertainment or as spectators to sporting events. Too many of our teenagers and young adults are completely addicted to video games. Spending most of their time in front of computers or their phones, searching for fun. In my day television was our outlet from the rest of the world. Technology has always provided ways for us humans to escape.

Today technology provides us with news in real time, but too many times that news has done more to depress us or wishing that we lived in a better world. Again, we feel helpless. What can we do about what’s happening? How can we make the world a better place? Those questions are rarely answered. Instead, we go about our lives and think this won’t happen to me or my family.

For a country to be strong, its citizens must be educated and support its Government. Whose responsibility is it for us to be educated? The Government, whether it be State or Federal?  How do we support our Government? Paying taxes or voting for our representatives to run the Government? Education should be easy, we have required schooling from first to twelve grade. We have many colleges and universities to further that education strictly on a volunteer basis, if you have the money or the time. But, education is not just about academics, its learning how to survive. Getting a job, supporting yourself or a family, having a place of your own. Shouldn’t learning to survive also include educating yourself about your Government? After all, who makes the laws, who decides what taxes we pay and doesn’t our Government also supply the means by which it protects the citizens? Are these things important towards our survival?

Our Government representatives make the laws, determine our taxes and maintain the armies and law enforcement that protect us. These Government representatives are elected to their positions by the citizens. How do the citizens know which person to vote for? Unfortunately it is usually based on celebrity rather than the character or achievements of the candidate. Sometimes it is based on what particular political party the candidate represents, again, disregarding their character or achievements. In Maryland, signs were posted at polling stations and along highways that said vote democrat. No candidate’s name was mentioned, it just said vote democrat. I thought that was an insult to voters. Don’t concern yourself with integrity or achievement, just vote for the person because he or she is a democrat.

I believe everyone should vote, but they should vote based on their knowledge of the person running for office. Whether that person is white, black, Latino or Asian, male or female, democrat or republican should not be the reason you vote. What are the issues in your county, state or country? Determine their positions from various sources; newspapers, television, or the internet. Talk to other voters or citizens. There are always biases. Learn the facts. If they previously held an elected office, how did they vote on issues you have an interest. During the presidential election in 2008 a black reporter went to Harlem and interviewed several black citizens about the upcoming election. He purposely lead people to believe that Barrack Obama was supporting certain policies or changes to policies. Every person he interviewed agreed that these policies were good or that the changes Obama wanted to make were sound. All of these policies and changes to policies were espoused by Sarah Palin not Barrack Obama. This is not meant to belittle President Obama or his campaign, but rather to demonstrate that the people this reporter interviewed were basing their opinion on celebrity not substance.

The information put out about a candidate may be true or it may be false. If it is something you find offensive, dig deeper, attempt to find out the truth. Everyone has heard something about a candidate, if they listen, but was it based on prejudice or propaganda.  There is saying that opinions are like assholes everyone has one, but what is that opinion based on? I believe everyone should have an opinion, but that opinion should be based on information they gathered however it obtained. To be apathetic or to have no opinion is worse than having the wrong opinion.

Obviously, this is my opinion, but will respect and appreciate yours.

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


Not having enough to do with trying to finish my third book (which I’m been trying to finish for four years now), I decided a few months ago to put my writing skills to the test by entering my first film contest.

For full disclosure, I’ve been writing screenplays for about as long as I’ve been a published author. In fact, in 2008, when the publication of my first novel, Gumbo Justice, was put on hold while I recovered from a head-on collision with a drunk driver, I decided to try my hand at screenwriting.  I was immobile for months with a broken left femur, a broken right tibia and fibula, and a shattered left elbow. The one thing I could do was peck at my laptop from my bed.

So I wrote my first screenplay, a big budget science fiction named Angel Trap that did relatively well in the contest circuit and prompted me to keep writing screenplays. This past year, however, I decided to go a step further and write and produce a short film for a local film festival, Timecode Nola.  My husband Julio has previously acted for other producers in the festival, but this would be the first time we would be completely in charge of a production.

Timecode Nola is unique in that the films must be five minutes or shorter, and the top fifteen films are selected to be a part of a feature film that Timecode Nola submits to different film festivals around the world. They have a different requirement each year; this year, it was time of day. We drew three o’clock a.m., so we had to create a five minute film showing something that could happen in New Orleans at three in the morning, and we had two weeks to get it done.

First, we began assembling our team. I was amazed at the number of talented people who will work for free just to be involved in a production.  We were also lucky that Julio has made friends with a cameraman/editor for one of the local news channels who is nothing short of genius.

We next found a location, a bar owned by one of our friends, and worked out the details.  In the meantime, I wrote the script, edited, and sent it out via email to our cast and crew.

When it was time to shoot, we had a few issues, such as the bar was still packed with last night’s drunk crowd at 6:00 a.m.  We ultimately had to kick them out because the owner had to close the bar so my daughters, who are both underage and were involved in the production, could legally go inside. We ended up getting signed waivers and writing three or four of them into the script because they wouldn’t leave.  We shot from 7:00 a.m. until around 4:00 p.m.  Our bar scene included a big shoot out with prop guns, which was really loud and smoky. The New Orleans Police Department never showed up to check it out. Kind of scary, but not totally unexpected in the neighborhood we were in.

Our camera guy started editing that night. The following Saturday night we shot all of the exterior scenes and night scenes.  By the following day, the film was edited, had the sound cleaned up and a soundtrack added to it–Julio’s brother is a local music producer– and we turned The Shylock’s Daughter in on time. The following week it was screened and seeing that short, five minute movie was amazing. At the end, we learned that ours was chosen to be one of the fifteen, so it will premiere in other festivals this year as well, which is really exciting.

We’ve since produced another short film, titled Famiglia, this one for the New Orleans 48-Hour Film Project last month. For that one, each team had to draw a genre at the Kick Off event, and had to write, film, edit, sound design, and turn in the film in 48 hours.  There was also an assigned prop, character, and line of dialogue that had to be included in the film. Unfortunately, we were twelve minutes late turning our film in. This meant that we were not eligible to compete in the individual prize categories, but our film was still screened in the Solomon Victory Theater at the World War II museum, which was a big deal.

Seeing a film you’ve written and directed on the big screen is a lot like seeing your book published for the first time, except with a film, there are a lot more people involved and a lot more people counting on you to be successful. Fortunately, I think our team has been happy with what we’ve created with them, and all of them have said they will work with us again when we do something else.

And while we were working on these films, I learned that a TV. pilot I wrote and another pilot I wrote with Julio, both made the quarter finals of the Page International Screenwriting Awards, and a feature I wrote, Proclivity, won first place at the PSWA writer’s conference. It definitely took a little of the sting out of not having our film judged because of being late.

Now we are thinking of starting our own contest, where people would submit short screenplays and we would choose a winner, with the prize being we produce the short and give the writer the reel so he or she would have a produced film.

But first I have to finish writing my third book.

Holli Castillo


Victoria-Westfield-200CSI’s wise-cracking investigators, expensive cars, and sexy co-workers with great hair? High on the drama scale, low on reality. Crime and mystery writers striving for drama and accuracy have to get past such exaggerated expectations. Deborah Cole, a forensic scientist with the New Jersey State Police, spoke to a recent meeting of the Liberty States Fiction Writers Group about forensic science myths.

The first is how television has primed people to believe that forensic science is infallible. The reality is that it cannot always provide definitive answers. Nor is it true that scientists never make mistakes or mess up the chain of custody. Sometimes “a good defense attorney can find holes,” she said. (Interestingly, criminals have become aware of the power of forensics and have learned from TV how to cover their tracks more effectively.)

Response is not as fast as people expect. Some states have only one crime laboratory, and crime labs are often small and outfitted with, well, not-the-latest equipment. As a result, they may have a backlog of testing to do, which adds to the time needed to complete tests (or whether they are ever completed at all, with unexamined rape test kits a prime example). Some tests themselves take a long time to produce results. Tests for different toxic substances must be conducted individually, and all this may take a month or more to complete.

Forensic scientists do not interrogate suspects and witnesses, regardless of what TV suggests. Not their skill set. And they certainly don’t make arrests. They may be called to a high-profile crime scene, but they aren’t there first (unlike in the UK’s Midsomer Murders TV series where the ME and crime scene team is always working away—with findings!—by the time the investigating detectives arrive). When they do visit a scene, they collect evidence to bring to the lab for analysis by someone else.

One scientist cannot handle an entire case. Forensic scientists are specialized (in the lab, their focus may be toxicology, chemical analysis, ballistics, and so on), which means that the evidence from a single case may be tested by a number of different scientists. The New Jersey State Police lab employs 130 scientists in different disciplines, and they are involved in some 35,000 cases a year.

Another reason one person can’t do it all relates to the Locard exchange principle: “whenever two objects come in contact with each other, there is always an exchange of material.” The practical application of this principle is that material from the clothing, floor, furniture, car, or other environs of the crime, which is gathered from the scene, from the victim, and from the suspected perpetrator (if there is one) must all be processed in different rooms and even by different people, in order to avoid cross-contamination.

Finally, Cole said (and she laughed when she said this), tv gives the impression that every day is exciting!

Further Information:

Victoria D. Weisfeld

My writing website:


I was all set to reveal my identity at the tenth PSWA Conference this past July, but at the last minutes I decided against it. For one thing, there was so much going on that the opportunity never seemed to present itself. I came away feeling that perhaps this was indeed a stroke of luck. In one of my more ribald moments, I once composed an aphorism that the definition of a gratifying experience was to be able to fart in a crowded bus or elevator and remain anonymous. Not that I am comparing the writing of my various commentaries to the act of passing gas, but there are certain similarities.

Let us dispense without further ado to this edition’s grammatical reflections. By examining the title, it seems apropos to an examination of the use of the possessive apostrophe. Basically stated, the possessive apostrophe is used to form the possessive case for nouns and indefinite pronouns. Thus, a pen belonging to John, is John’s pen. Possessive pronouns also are used in various degrees of designation. John’s pen is in his pocket. Mary’s keys are in her purse. When gender is non-specific of unspecified, an indefinite pronoun is used: This must be someone’s pen. Really? It could be anyone’s pen as well.

Forming the possessive of singular nouns ending in s is formed by adding ‘s. Thus, that looks like the boss’s pen. Elvis’s home was called Graceland. Now sometimes, the sound of a pronunciation is taken into account, and the s following the apostrophe is omitted: The men listened to James’ speech.

Another bit of confusion can result in forming the possessive for plural words. Add only the apostrophe after the s: The girls’ soccer team is in first place.

Don’t use the possessive apostrophe with possessive pronouns (his, hers, its, ours, yours, theirs, and whose). The bird is in its nest. Many people confuse the contraction, it’s with the possessive pronoun, thereby erroneously writing, The bird is in it’s nest. No, no, no… This is totally incorrect. And never write, Who’s responsibility is it? By this time, it should be clear whose responsibility it is.

In way of review, a contraction is the combination of two words; in the aforementioned case these two words are pronoun and verb, “it” and “is.” This turns up on the list of bugaboos for many writers, and since they’re actually words, and not grammatical aberrations (such as “irregardless”), they often slip by the computer’s spell check process.

Use the ‘s to form the plural of letters and words used as words in the context of the sentence.

Jim got all A’s and B’s on his report card.

A polished speaker will not use words or phrases like you know’s, huh’s, and well’s. (Note the proper use of italics.)

All right, I’m feeling refreshed and ready to keep doing columns for another year, and next time, I promise to reveal my identity at the eleventh anniversary of the PSWA Conference. Until we meet again…

Professor X


RonCorbin200x200In this year’s April newsletter, I discussed some basic tenets of CPTED (Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design).  One vital element of this crime prevention concept and philosophy was “natural surveillance.” So now I’d like to continue with a little more discussion on this aspect.

One of the common threads about crime is that “no criminal, vandal, or mischievous person likes to be seen committing their illegal act or dirty deed.” There are a lot of security measures designed to reduce crime; CCTV systems, audible alarms, locks, fencing, lighting, just to name a few general categories. Yet the lucrativeness of the target for theft or ego bypasses the risk element, and the “bad guys” will still take a chance of not getting caught. That’s why there really is no such thing as “crime prevention techniques,” only crime reduction methods.

Convenience stores are robbed, even though typically there are video recording devices installed within the stores. Sophisticated alarms, cameras, and vaults help prevent bank robberies, but the underlying need for secreting identities is why bank robbers wear disguises; so facial recognition is difficult for federal investigators. It’s why residential burglars break-and-enter when nobody is home; to eliminate a witness’ identification. And it’s why graffiti taggers opt to vandalize someone else’s property in the wee-morning hours and darkness of night … to prevent being seen.

Here in Las Vegas, it’s common for casino gamblers wanting to get lucky and see those “Three 7s” roll-up and stop center-line on their slot machines. Three 7s usually means some large winning for the gambler. So when it comes to CPTED and a natural surveillance technique for your home, I want to introduce you to what I refer to as my “THREE-7 RULE”.

Based on the obvious understanding that a burglar doesn’t want to be seen by neighbors when he breaks into your house, what should you do to help deter this criminal act? Look at the front of your house. Can the front door and all windows be seen while standing across the street? Does any of your front yard landscaping or tree foliage block the view? What about the sides of your house? Are there bushes or shrubs overgrown to the point that they block windows?

A clear zone of surveillance should be visible to all entry points into your house; from side and rear neighbors, as well as from across the street or those people driving in front of your house. To ensure this, implement my Three-7 Rule. Cut all low-hanging limbs and branches from trees so that they are 7-feet or higher. Trim bushes and shrubs so that they are three feet or lower, especially around windows. This creates a visible space of three to seven feet for your house and eliminates any hiding space for burglars trying to gain entry via windows or doors. Could they still break-in? Certainly, but this Three-7 practice becomes a deterrent.

So the next time you come to Las Vegas, I hope your houses will be safe and secure by the Three-7 Rule, and that you have “Slots of Fun” winning Three-7s.

For comment on this subject or viewing more crime prevention tips, go to my Website at

and meanwhile… Stay Safe!

Ron Corbin

(Six-time PSWA Award Winning Author)


The Right Wrong Thing will be launched on October 6 and is available for pre-order now.
Oceanview has bought the rights to Burying Ben. It’s being re-issued soon.
Ellen Kirschman, Ph.D.

Not as it Seems
The latest Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery, Not as it Seems, is now available in all the usual places and formats. Blurb: Tempe and Hutch travel to Morro Bay for son Blair’s wedding, but when the maid-of-honor disappears, Tempe tries to find her. The search is complicated by ghosts and Native spirits.

The blog tour for Not as it Seems begins on September when I visit Madeline Gornell and answer how do real people figure into my books?

Marilyn Meredith



From Diana Sprain:
On-the-Trail-of-Yesterday's-Rose-200On the Trail to Yesterday’s RoseGreycliff’s Chronicles, book one
Not all dreams lead to a happily-ever-after.
21rst century Gaelynn Blackwood dreams of being a knight. As long as her family could remember, Gaelynn has been obsessed with the medieval period. She claims she was born in the wrong time. Martial arts, archery, and survival skills are her focus as she grows to adulthood. When Gaelynn casts a traveling spell, she is sent to Thaelia’s World where she comes across a band of knights. Seeking answers to her purpose, Gaelynn must set aside her beliefs and earn the knight’s trust but enemies lurk in the darkness and secrets threaten to destroy her. Will Gaelynn make the ultimate sacrifice for the man she loves?

Sir Braeden du Faucione yearns to leave the desert Firelands of Livanya and return to his home in Greycliff. His brother, Gregory, will do all he can to stop Braeden from riding through the gates of Faucione and taking his place as heir. Braeden expects intrigues, assassins, and the rigors of the journey to stand in his way. What he didn’t expect was to fall in love with Gaelynn.

Despite the odds, can Gaelynn and Braeden survive to make a life together?

In the King’s Shadow: Greycliff’s Chronicles, book two
Four years have gone by since Gaelynn Blackwood was sent from Vallejo, California to Livanya in Thaelia’s World.  She can’t catch a break. Fitting in as a medieval wife was never in her plans, neither was having a bastard daughter sired by Greycliff’s King Arken. Her husband Braeden is not the man she fell in love with. He has multiple lovers and wants to keep his wife in a gilded cage. He is quick to enforce his will with his fists. Unhappy, Gaelynn desperately searches for happiness. She finds her soul mate in Braeden’s best friend & second-in-command, Sir Ranulf de Corbeau. The two lovers struggle to keep their affair a secret.

Meanwhile, King Arken can’t get Gaelynn out of his mind. Arken wants to possess the woman who showed up at his castle dressed as a squire. Before the King can have Gaelynn, there is the matter of her husband. How can the King of Greycliff get the woman he is obsessed with?

Can Gaelynn find hope and true love in a world full of deceit, intrigues, and violence?


On September 22nd, Dave Freedland will be one of several featured presenters at the California Association of Tactical Officers (CATO) annual conference in Anaheim, CA.  He will be de-briefing a barricade / hostage / homicide event that occurred in Irvine, CA in 2009, which is set for trial this coming November.  He will also be giving away copies of his book, Lincoln 9 , for promotion.



Mike Black was the keynote speaker at the Writing in the Rockies Conference in Colorado July 24-26. He also did two panels and a reading.

He did a CSI presentation at the Schaumburg, Illinois Library on August 12 with his buddy, Dave Case (CPD).

He also taught two classes at the Police Writers Academy in Appleton, WI. (August 20-23).

His new Executioner novel, Uncut Terror is due out in October. His previous novel, Desert Falcons, debuted in June and was featured at the PSWA Conference.

Next month he’s headed to the C3 Conference in Maryland and hope to do some sight seeing,

CAFFEINE_CAN_KILL-200Bob Doerr recently announced the release of the sixth book in his award winning Jim West mystery series, titled Caffeine Can Kill

This Jim West mystery/thriller 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.

(Inside the Investigation and Greatest Manhunt in the West)

May, 1998 – Three heavily-armed, survivalist, para-military men steal a commercial water truck and ambush Cortez, Colorado Police Officer Dale Claxton.  This is the complete inside story of that cold-blooded murder, decade-long investigation and search as only a few can tell it.  And until now, no one involved in the case has.

Pete Klismet was one of the original FBI Special Agents to arrive in the hours after the death of Officer Claxton, which was followed by a wild, bullet-riddled chase through Cortez, rivaling anything seen in an action movie.  Three officers were seriously wounded, seven police cars were put out of commission, and an entire community and region of the west was terrorized.

Award-winning author Klismet captivated readers with his books FBI DIARY: PROFILES OF EVIL and FBI ANIMAL HOUSE.  He has done it again with his latest release by Global Publishing Group.  Readers will step into the shoes of an FBI Agent as he works with many others to put together the pieces and uncover the clues the killers have left behind.  FBI DIARY:  HOME GROWN TERROR is spine-tingling suspense that heightens the senses and creates awareness of what really happened behind the scenes.  It is a meticulously-researched book, with every chapter ending in a cliff-hanger that drives the reader on to the next.

Information on Available in print and Ebook from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Smashwords. the Author and his latest release can be found at:

Contact the author via eMail at to schedule an interview about this riveting book.

From Thonie Hevron:

Unpublished With Malice Aforethought has been selected as the third place winner in the East Texas Writers Guild First Chapter Book Awards, Category II, for 2015.

Here is the link to the official announcement on Venture Galleries.

Director Caleb Pirtle said, “We were honored that you entered the contest with such fine writing.”

2015 Writing Competition Results

Fiction Book, Published
First Place J.L. Greger Malignancy
First Place Lonni Lees The Corpse in the Cactus
Second Place J.K. Royce PILZ
Third Place John M. Wills Healer
Fiction Book, Non-Published
First Place Ellen Kirschman The Right Wrong Thing
Second Place Ed Traylor The Crossing
Third Place William Fleming Code Black
Honorable Mention Albert vande Steeg The Black Band
Non-Fiction Book, Published
First Place Kate Flora Death Dealer: How Cops and Cadaver Dogs Brought a Killer to Justice
Second Place Adam Plantiga 400 Things Cops Know
Third Place Karen Solomon Hearts Beneath the Badge
Honorable Mention Pete Klismet FBI Animal House
Non-Fiction Book, Non-Published
First Place Pete Klismet FBI Diary: Home Grown Terror
Short Story, Published
First Place Gavin Keenan The Letters of Patrick Bushell
Second Place Quintin Petersen Damaged Goods
Short Story, Non-Published
First Place David Cropp Sushi with Jack the Ripper
Second Place Joseph Haggerty, Jr. A Father’s Honor
Third Place George Cramer Why Me?
Honorable Mention David Cropp Vegas, Interrupted
Non-Fiction Creative Non-Technical, Non-Published
First Place Jackie Taylor Zortman The Beginning and the End
Second Place Joseph Haggerty, Sr. Justice Undone
Third Place Ron Corbin Go FISH
Honorable Mention Jackie Taylor Zortman The Ride to Hell’s Fire River
Non-Fiction Creative Technical, Published
First Place David Cropp Domestic Violence Prevention & Investigation
Second Place John Bellah LASD Vehicle tests
Third Place John Weinstein 8 Trends that Will Shape Policing in the Next 50 Years
Non-Fiction Creative Technical, Non-Published
First Place Ron Corbin It’s Just a Matter of Time
Flash Fiction, Non-Published
First Place John M. Wills Monica’s Surprise
Poetry, Non-Published
First Place Ron Corbin Tell My Wife I Love Her
Second Place John M. Wills Goodbye
Third Place Joseph Haggerty, Sr. Working the Street 24-7-365
Honorable Mention John M. Wills First Responders
Poetry, Published
First Place Joseph Haggerty, Sr. To Live and Die in DC
Screenplay, Non-Published
First Place Holli Herrle-Castillo Proclivity


PSWA Newsletter–June 2015


PSWA Newsletter
June 2015




MikeBlack200x200Those of you who will be attending the PSWA Conference, July 16th through the 19th, are in for a special treat. Not only do we have a fabulous line up of speakers and awesome panels, but it’s the 10th anniversary of the conference, so expect some special surprises.

Once again, the conference will be held at the Orleans Hotel and Casino in beautiful Las Vegas, Nevada. We’ve got a lot of new things planned for this one. I have it on good authority that there have been some great submissions to our annual writing contest, so we can all look forward to the awards ceremony.

Gorgeous Michelle Perin will be on hand as the presenter at the Awards Ceremony, and our tech guru, Tim Dees, has a special multi-part presentation unlike anything you’ve ever seen called “Keeping it Real.”

And, in case you haven’t figured it out already, the secret identity of our resident grammarian, Professor X, will also be revealed… Or will it?

Those in attendance who are seeking to learn more about writing and public safety subjects will have the opportunity to meet and mingle with experts in every field. As I’ve said before, the atmosphere is always friendly, and it’s a great place to network. The PSWA Conference is unique and certainly the best of its kind.

Our featured key note speakers this year are Marilyn Meredith, who will be giving us the benefit of her years of experience as a professional writer, Joseph Haggerty, who will be doing one of his polished performances on combating child pornography, Ron Corbin, who will be giving everyone pointers on how to be a good presenter, and Dr. Gloria Casale, who will be talking about aspects of bio terrorism. Additionally, we have a wide variety of panels set up covering topics ranging from writing techniques to various aspects of public safety service.

Every year the PSWA Board comers up with something unique for the conference. This time we’ll be doing an old time radio play. All the parts have not been cast, so if you’re interested, now’s the time to volunteer. I’m the director, and I still need people to be part of the production, especially for the audience jury, which will try to guess the mystery before it’s revealed in the final act. There’s a whole lot more planned. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed. It may not be the biggest conference of the year, but it’ll certainly be the best.

I look forward to seeing you at the Orleans in July.

–Mike Black



michelle_perinExcitement is in the air! The deadline for the 2015 PSWA Writing Contest has passed and all the entries are in. Our judges are working hard: reading, scoring and determining who will be this year’s Award-Winning authors in the variety of categories this diverse contest offers to our membership. Whether you write poetry or short stories, non-fiction books and articles or novels, even screenplays and flash, there was a category for you. Are you published or not-yet published? There was one for you too. As we count down the days to the Annual Writers Conference in Las Vegas, July 16-19th, we anxiously await the final day-Sunday. Why? Because this is when this year’s winners will be revealed! I hope to see all our contest entrants during the conference and definitely at the Award’s Banquet. Good luck to everyone and see you in Vegas!


–Michelle Perin


I’m the author of three non-fiction books.  A few years ago I decided to try writing fiction. As an avid reader and mystery fan, I have often felt that novelists come closer to the truth of human experience than do many psychologists. And, to be frank, I was tired of doing research. I actually thought it would be easier to make stuff up. Ask me today, I’ll tell you I was delusional.

The challenge of writing non-fiction is to get the facts right and present them in an understandable, readable package.  Fiction requires the writer to capture the reader’s imagination. Get her to care so much about the story and the characters that she’ll bare her teeth at anyone or anything that interrupts her before she finishes the book. Non-fiction readers can and do pick up a book and put it down again at will.

My goal is to write mysteries that both capture the imagination and reveal something I know to be true about psychology and about police work.  For example, my first mystery, Burying Ben, looks at police suicide. Most people don’t know that cops are two to three times as likely to kill themselves as they are to be killed in the line of duty. I’ve always wondered how I would feel if one of my clients took his own life. Or how much worse it would be if, as it happens to Dot, the officer left a note blaming me.

My second book, The Right Wrong Thing, (publication date, October 2015) drills down into the contemporary debate over police community relations. A young officer shoots and kills an unarmed, pregnant teenager. The officer, who suffers from PTSD, is determined to apologize to the dead girl’s family, despite everyone’s efforts to stop her. The results are catastrophic. Dot, ignoring orders from the police chief to back off, enlists some unlikely allies and unconventional undercover work to expose the tangled path of her client’s disastrous journey.

Readers ask me if my books are inspired by actual events. The answer is yes and no. There is truth in both my mysteries, real things that happened to real people. But the stories are embellished, disguised, and blended so that they are unrecognizable to the people who lived them. For years I’ve been keeping a file folder of the funny, off-the-wall things cops say. Officer Eddie Rimbauer, Dot’s occasional, and troubled ally, is a composite of many people I know. He sounds so real that there was an on-line pool of cops competing to guess his true identity.


If you’re writing fiction and want to get the details right, you don’t have to have a Ph.D or spend thirty years counseling cops. You could attend a citizens’ police academy at your local PD or the Writers Police Academy ( Both will give you hands-on experience. Go on a ride-along. After all these years I still learn something new every time I do. Learn about guns. Practice on the range. Try your hand at a firearms training simulator (FATS). If you’re qualified and have the time to invest, think about becoming a reserve officer. Whatever you do, don’t watch cop shows on television. Most are so over the top, real cops can only laugh at them.

Join the Public Safety Writers Association ( You’ll meet a lot of active and retired public safety professionals who are also writers. Read widely. My books I Love a Cop, I Love a Fire Fighter and Counseling Cops all contain real-life scenarios that can enhance your stories and deepen your characters as does Sergeant Adam Plantinga’s highly readable book 400 Things Cops Know: Street-Smart Lessons from a Veteran Patrolman. 

–Ellen Kirchman, Ph.D.


My crime novel Guarding Shakespeare is in the Folger Shakespeare Memorial Library’s Special Collection, consisting of works of fiction depicting scene(s) inside of the Folger Library or that merely make mention of the library. However, Guarding Shakespeare is the only work of fiction that is actually about the Folger Library.

On Thursday, April 23, 2015, I autographed 30 copies of Guarding Shakespeare for the Folger Shakespeare Memorial Library’s Board of Governors, and inscribed each book: “All the world’s a stage…”

Coincidentally, April 23rd is Shakespeare’s birthday, but it is also the day I retired from the Metropolitan Police Department 5 years ago, after more than 28 years of public service. It was a great day.

–Quintin Peterson
Author Noir


RonCorbin200x200My wife and I recently returned from a trip to Europe, with visits in Ireland, France, Belgium, and England. In each of these countries, I felt a little uneasy about being in large crowds or popular places, like Piccadilly Circus. Probably due to my security background, my stress level was high and prevented me from truly enjoying some of the sites and activities. While riding the Undergound “Tube” (subway system) in London, I was cautiously concerned about acts of terrorism and constantly scanned areas for unattended packages and suspicious looking persons. Although similar acts of terrorism can and have occurred in the U.S., I’m glad to be home.

Whether it’s the threat of a chemical agent such as sarin, an IED (improvised explosive device), or some bio-terror agent such as smallpox, anthrax, or botulism (to name a few), renewed fears of a terrorist strike are being raised with the public because of recent incidents. If something terrible happens, like a dirty bomb or other radiological incident, many citizens would likely be on their own. First responders could just as likely have their own personal safety and family issues to deal with, and not be available to assist.

Would you know what to do in a major terror attack? Here is a special quiz designed to let you check your own preparedness. Take it yourself, then share it with your family and loved ones. See where they stand on their own knowledge. The answers are at the end of the quiz. []

If Terror Strikes, Are You Ready?

True or False? You’re near an explosion. You should cover your nose and mouth with a cotton T-shirt or handkerchief right away. Why?

Which best describes a “dirty bomb”?

  1. An explosive device that is a miniature nuclear device.
  2. An explosive device that releases chemicals.
  3. An explosive device that releases a biological agent.
  4. An explosive device that spreads radioactive materials over a specific area.

True or False? A “dirty bomb” will kill everyone within five miles and make buildings uninhabitable for years.

If there is an explosion that may be a dirty bomb, or if authorities warn of a radiological release incident nearby, where is the best shelter?

  1. High up on a building’s rooftop.
  2. Low down in a basement or cellar.
  3. Enclosed in an elevator on the top floor.
  4. It doesn’t matter when radiological incidents occur.

The warning signs of a chemical attack include people suddenly becoming violently ill, choking, or passing out. If you see this, what’s the first thing to do?

  1. Leave the area as fast as possible.
  2. Cover your mouth and nose with a fabric, then run away.
  3. Head for a basement and seal all doors and windows.
  4. Cover your mouth and nose and wait for emergency people to arrive to be decontaminated.

In the event of a biological attack, which is NOT true?

  1. A biological attack may not immediately be obvious.
  2. During a biological attack, germs or other substances that can make you sick are released.
  3. You can become sick by inhaling, eating, or touching a biological agent.
  4. All biological agents create contagious diseases.

Unlike an explosion, a biological attack may not be immediately obvious. If you see signs of unusual illness, or if a biological attack is reported on the radio or TV, where is the safest place to seek shelter?

  1. High up in a building.
  2. Low down in a basement or cellar.
  3. Enclosed in an elevator on the bottom floor.
  4. It doesn’t matter when radiological incidents occur.

In the event of an explosion (or a natural disaster such as a tornado or hurricane), you may become trapped under debris. Which of the following steps is the WORST one you can take to alert rescuers?

  1. Tap on a pipe or a wall.
  2. Use a flashlight.
  3. Shout.

Which statement is false about sheltering during an emergency?

  1. You may need to create your own shelter in your home or workplace.
  2. Public emergency shelters must accept pets.
  3. When evacuating to a community shelter, bring a disaster supply kit.
  4. You may be instructed to shelter where you are during a chemical attack, even if you are in the area of the chemical release.

How can you find or create safe drinking water?

  1. Boil water for 3-5 minutes.
  2. Add 16 drops of bleach per gallon.
  3. Use water from a vehicle’s radiator.
  4. Use water from the hot water heater, if undamaged.


True. Covering your mouth and nose can help avoid exposure to toxic particles or radioactive dust.

4. A dirty bomb spreads radioactive materials.

False. As with any bomb, people will likely killed by the initial blast and some will develop radiation sickness. But how dangerous the bomb is and whether buildings are contaminated depends on how much radioactive material was used.

2. Being shelters by a thick wall and being below ground offers more protection. Your best option is a windowless room you can seal-off with enough air to last for several hours.

1. Unlike in an explosion with debris, dusk masks or cotton T-shirts won’t protect you in a chemical attack.

4. Some of the scariest biological agents, such as anthrax, are not contagious.

1. Biological agents will settle on the ground … so the higher up you can get, the better.

3. You should shout only as a last resort. You can inhale dangerous dust. Instead, you should try to keep your nose and mouth covered.

2. Pets are not permitted in emergency shelters for health reasons (“seeing eye” and service dogs may be an exception). A hotel or motel that accepts pets may be an alternative. Be prepared to have your pet’s shot records, leash or carrier, ID tags, and enough dog food for three days.

1,2 & 4. Radiators are NEVER a safe source of drinking water. Boiling is the safest method. Adding 1/8 teaspoon of unscented bleach can treat a gallon of water, but it won’t kill parasites.

How did you do on the quiz? If you’re like most people, you probably have some work to do. My purpose is not to heighten your fear level of a pending terrorist attack. It’s simply to show that we must all continue to educate ourselves on methods that terrorists may resort to using. It’s to help sharpen your senses and keep you alert to suspicious incidents that could lead to a terrorist attack.

If you haven’t thought about these things, you need to. Develop a good disaster plan and discuss it with you family, especially if you have children. Let them know that their schools have plans for specific incidents, and to follow the instructions of their teachers. Inform them that you may not be able to be with them immediately, but assuredly you will be there for them as soon as possible.

Local phone lines and cell phone systems will likely be overwhelmed in a major incident. It might help to have an out-of-town person you can call to check-in with and relay messages. If communications go down, and with children in different schools, decide who will be responsible for locating which children. Establish two family meeting areas, a primary and a back-up.

Be Prepared, Be Safe! It’s only a matter of time.

–Ron Corbin


Hello again. This time I want to touch on a few more of those little grammatical mistakes that tend to bedevil us writers. While a good copy editor will hopefully catch these pesky errors, the goal of every professional writer should be to make his manuscript as perfect as possible. You’ll notice that I used the singular male possessive pronoun in the aforementioned sentence, rather than bowing to the corrupting and pervasive pressure of today’s political correctness, which would have most likely changed the phrase to the incorrect “their manuscript.” Another possibility would be to use both the masculine and feminine forms, thus changing the reference to the clumsy and bloated “his or her manuscript.” While satisfying the feminists in the audience, the additional words give the sentence a bloated feel, does it not? And lest we forget, the same principle of the singular, masculine possessive applies to those indefinite pronouns, everyone and everybody. Thus our current tendency to say, “Everybody has their own opinion,” should be “his own.” Where this unfortunate and current mutilation of the English language will end is anybody’s guess.

Let’s take a look at a few more that often get confused.

It’s and Its.

It’s is the contraction of “it is.” The apostrophe is used to indicate the omitted letter. An example would be: It’s almost high noon.

Its is the possessive form of the generic third person pronoun. An example of this would be: The cat scratched its back against my leg.

Egads! I suppose I should have checked to see if we were dealing with a male or female kitty in this instance.

But, let’s proceed.

Three words that often get mixed up in the haste of writing are there, their, and they’re.

(Parenthetically, you’ll also note that I used a third comma in the series, even though grammarians erroneously declared this third comma to be unnecessary years ago A case for keeping that third comma is best illustrated by reading the following sentence: Come to the family picnic where we’ll have plenty of food, beer and candy for the children. Beer and candy for the children? Doesn’t sound too family friendly to me.)

But, let’s get back to those three homonyms, there, their, and they’re.

There can be a variety of things, ranging from an indefinite noun when it’s followed by a form of the verb to be (There is the palace.), an adverb if it’s modifying a verb (She is there.), an interjection (There, there, little one.), or even a colloquialism meaning not in full possession of one’s faculties (He’s not all there.). In any case, let’s think of it as designating a place in this instance: There is the palace. Moran feared the helicopters wouldn’t get there in time.

Their is one our personal, possessive pronouns meaning something that belongs to someone.

Take a look at the following example: The crew ate their meal in silence.

And, finally, they’re is a contraction of the two words, “they are.”

“Zoom out,” Bass said. “They’re not onscreen.”

Hut, two, three, four, as they used to say in the army.

Let’s take a look at to, too, and two.

To is a preposition, which means it shows relationships between other words in a sentence.

We planned to get there on time. (I’ll bet you’ve heard that one before.)

Let’s not forget: To whom am I speaking?

Is this getting too complicated? Ha! I knew you’d catch that one.

Too is the equivalent of “also, or more than enough.”

Let’s look at a couple of examples: “I finished the cookies, and the carrots, too.”

“I ate too much, I ate too fast.”

“I was overloaded with too many assignments.”

Lastly, we have the number, two, meaning just that: a number.

Two redheads meant twice the trouble.

(Now, that could be interesting.)

(See the last PSWA Newsletter if you have any questions on lie vs. lay.)

Let’s round this column out by talking about subject/verb agreement. It’s pretty simple, really. Just make sure the subject agrees with the verb.

A singular subject needs a singular verb. A plural subject needs a plural verb.

Examples: Sebastian reads mystery stories, but Sebastian and William read mystery stories.

(An old rule of thumb is that a singular verb usually has an “S” as its last letter.

Don’t be confused by a long prepositional phrase inserted after a singular subject.

Example: Jim, as well as twenty members of his football team, is coming to the party. (Your basic sentence is Jim is coming to the party.) Don’t forget that our aforementioned buddies, everyone, everybody, as well as their kissing cousins, somebody and someone, take singular verbs. Example: Everyone has his own opinion. (Oh, wait, I mentioned that before, didn’t I? Ah well, some things bear repeating, from time to time.)

Well, I’ve tried to touch upon some of the most common grammatical mistakes writers make, but there’s no way to hit them all. A word of caution: don’t become overly reliant on your computer’s spelling/grammatical checker. Often times it is not able to ascertain the proper context, and may give you the wrong suggestion. If you’re weak on grammar, get yourself a good grammar rules book and study it. Then keep it in a handy place for reference. I’ll see you at the PSWA Conference in July where my true identity will be revealed … If you haven’t guessed it already.

–Professor X


john_wills_200Kevin Davis has authored an impressive manual for citizen gun owners. Citizen’s Guide To Armed Defense has a plethora of information that, quite frankly, even cops will want to read. With a surge in gun ownership the past couple of years, there’s a need for quality instruction together with associated reading for people to maintain as a reference.

Inasmuch as no national or state standards exist for permitting concealed or open carry, books like Kevin’s are necessary to educate and inform those wanting to arm themselves. Some states require both classroom and range, while others only have applicants attend instruction in a classroom or online. Regardless, one day of instruction is hardly adequate to train someone to properly carry and discharge a firearm. Moreover, not requiring range time as part of the permit process is questionable at best.

Citizen’s Guide enumerates responsibilities armed citizens have, vis-a-vis the 2nd Amendment. Most importantly, the author emphasizes that citizens must know the law, be slow to anger, and conservative in their willingness to display or threaten with firearms, be prepared for police response, be educated about legal rights and the criminal justice process—particularly, liabilities, financially, politically, and more.

The author discusses, “The Reasonable Person Doctrine,” which essentially asks the question, “Would a reasonable person under the same circumstances, knowing what you knew at the time, likely have used deadly force in self defense?” And of course the bottom line is convincing each member of the jury that they each would have taken the same action. Davis reinforces his teaching points with case studies and law, as well as quotes from eminent trainers such as Mas Ayoob.

Chapter Four is an invaluable section dealing with the most common situations armed citizens find themselves confronting, e.g., a stranger firing at you, a family member, or someone else; a stranger attacking you with a knife or edged weapon; and incidents such as burglary. Kevin explains each scenario and defines courses of action within the law. This section also looks at stand your ground laws, which are recognized by 33 states.

Another chapter in this valuable book is dedicated to tactics. The author discusses things such as ambushes, particularly, clerks working alone in late night convenience stores. Davis references Gavin DeBecker’s book, The Gift of Fear, which reminds us to pay attention to “gut feelings.” Of course tactics mean nothing without the proper firearm, and Davis devotes time to this important topic the average citizen is most often confused about. He discusses semi-autos vs. revolvers, caliber and ammunition, and some myths about stopping power of certain rounds.

Cover and concealment are terms often misunderstood by the public. That said, the author gives a detailed explanation of both, and provides photos demonstrating each position. He also delves into shooting from and into vehicles, and the efficacy of handgun and rifle rounds—something cops should probably read.

Perhaps the most important part of Chapter Five: Tactics, is the dynamic of movement and how it affects shooting accuracy. Most CCW classes that include range time cover familiarization only. There is a static firing line (understandably) as well as static targets. However, as cops know, the real world is far from static. Bad guys are moving and so are we. Therefore, that perfect stance, grip, breathing, sight alignment and sight picture, and trigger squeeze are hardly perfect when the sh** hits the fan. Citizens need to know how to best operate their weapon when movement is involved. Kevin does a good job of explaining and providing case studies as examples.

Another important chapter in Citizen’s Guide is, “The Armed Citizen’s Response To The Active Killer.” This section lists a number of active shooter tragedies from past years, and perhaps how the outcomes may have differed if an armed citizen had intervened. The author points out that, “. . . when pressed by an armed response the killer often took his own life, thus ending his continued killing.” He then provides case studies proving the assertion and fact.

Cited in the book is a 2013 study by Texas State University which researched active shooter incidents from 2000-20013. Some of their findings:

  • There were 84 active shooter events
  • Business locations (37%), followed by schools (34%) were favored targets
  • Pistols were used in 60% of cases, followed by rifles, 27%
  • Attackers carried multiple weapons in 41% of attacks
  • Attacks ended before police arrived 49% of the time

Davis points out that the armed citizen is not expected to hunt down active shooters, however, being armed and trained puts them at a distinct advantage over those unarmed. He advises some tactics when confronted by an active killer:

  • Understand the killer wants nothing but a high body count
  • The killer wants to go out in a blaze of gory
  • They don’t want a fight
  • The killer(s) are counting on their victims being compliant
  • You must act aggressively and decisively
  • Be aware of the possibility of multiple suspects

The above are but a few of the points Davis offers, and I might add that police officers should be aware of these points as well.

Citizens Guide To Armed Defense is a well thought out, well researched, and expertly written book for those willing to shoulder the responsibility of exercising their 2nd Amendment right. It’s a great reference book that should be on any armed individual’s bookshelf. Violence in our society is becoming ubiquitous and commonplace. The police, more often than not, will not arrive in time to prevent someone from robbing or assaulting you—it’s up to you to defend yourself.

If you don’t believe you can make a difference by arming yourself, consider what Detroit Police Chief James Craig said about armed citizens in his city: “Criminals are getting the message that good Detroiters are armed and will use that weapon. I don’t want to take from the good work our investigators are doing but . . . criminals are thinking twice that citizens could be armed.” Case in point—robberies, break-ins, and carjacking all declined in Detroit as a result of an armed citizenry.


Amazon book page:

Massad Ayoob Group:

The Gift of Fear:

–John Wills (This review previously printed in


kurt_kamm_200 Here is a brief excerpt from my latest novel in progress—The Tale of the Lizard. One of the characters, DeAndra, is a drone pilot suffering from PTSD. I just read yesterday that a movie with Ethan Hawke has just been released, in which he plays a troubled drone pilot. Guess they got a copy of my manuscript.

–Kurt Kamm

Becoming an RPA operator—a remotely piloted aircraft, as the Air Force called them—had seemed like the perfect move in DeAndra’s career. Some said that piloting a drone was a dead end in the military, but DeAndra didn’t care. Someone mentioned the long hours of boredom punctuated by minutes of high stress, but all that mattered to her was that the pay was good and that she wouldn’t have to face another foreign deployment. Becoming a drone pilot meant she could stay in the Air Force as a single mother and raise her troubled son in the suburban confines of Creech Air Force Base, outside Las Vegas. She didn’t even need real flight experience; in fact, they told her the people who grew up playing video games made the best drone pilots. After several months of training, DeAndra qualified to pilot a $15 million Reaper armed with Hellfire air to ground missiles and the larger, laser guided bombs.

Each morning, after she finished her coffee and donut, and sent her son off to school, she took the ten-minute drive to one of the air-conditioned trailers that housed the drone flight consoles. In a matter of minutes, she was 7,500 miles away in Afghanistan, providing “overwatch,” and tracking Taliban combatants across the sand and scrubby hills. For the next 10 hours, the distractions of her daily life and the concerns about her son were pushed aside as she piloted the drone and the sensor operator who worked next to her controlled the cameras, radar and targeting systems. They sat together in the semi-dark, in front of an array of computer screens and a communications console. Ninety-five percent of their time was devoted to surveillance and reconnaissance, directed by mission intelligence officers located in other places—men they spoke to but never saw. When a call came in from an attack controller on the battleground, instructing them to drop bombs or fire missiles at a target, the adrenaline kicked in. Sometimes the orders were specific—“Drop a guided bomb on that exact spot.” Sometimes DeAndra and her sensor operator had wide latitude—“I want you to kill those guys right there.”

In the beginning, she felt a spike of excitement when they confirmed a target and launched a precision strike, knowing they were making a kill to protect American troops. But before the authorization to fire came, they sometimes loitered in the sky and followed their prey for hours or even days at a time, studying the daily routines and waiting for their targets to separate from the other men, women and children around them. Eventually the personalized nature of the killing began to bother DeAndra. Even though she was sitting thousands of miles away, she had begun to feel an eerie familiarity with the people she was targeting, and watching them live and then die was beginning to trouble her. The “squirters,” the targets who squirted or ran away from the incoming missile, were the worst.

“You have to anticipate the sonic boom time,” her instructor had warned her. “Depending on the angle of your shot, it can be as much as eight seconds between the boom and the impact. When that happens, your target will run. Everyone in Afghanistan knows that when they hear a boom, they should run, because we’re overhead. Some of these guys can run fast. There aren’t any fat Afghans.”

More than once, DeAndra had sat transfixed, seeing a victim react to the sonic boom and look up seconds before the “splash,” or impact of the missile. Afterward, when the smoke cleared, the image of the human being had disappeared, and all she saw was a crater in the ground. After routinely raining down missiles and laser-guided bombs from the sky, DeAndra found it harder and harder to return to daily life at the end of her shift.

During that afternoon, on her last day of active duty, she and the sensor operator had been tasked with striking a high-level Taliban fighter standing in a compound. In the final countdown, following procedure, the sensor had clarified their aim point and kept the laser spot on the target, while she had called, “Three, two, one, rifle,” then pressed the red button on the joystick, and fired the missile. In the few seconds before the impact, DeAndra watched in disbelief as someone or something unexpected ran around the corner of the building. She was certain it was small and two-legged. It was a human being.

“Was that a kid? Did we just kill a kid?” DeAndra asked her sensor.

“I don’t know,” he replied. “Jesus, was it a kid?”

“Yes,” she said. “I think it was a boy,”

“No it was not,” an intelligence officer interrupted. “It was an animal. That was a goat or a dog.”

The image had appeared quickly, and it was indistinct because it was dark and they were using infrared. But there was no doubt in DeAndra’s mind—it was a small person, about the same size as her 12-year-old son. She decided it was a boy, and after she watched the detonation of the missile warhead on the monitor, a cold sensation had crept into her body. She had killed a child.

Two years passed, and neither therapy at Veteran’s Affairs hospitals nor any of several different anti-depressants had helped DeAndra. At night, her dreams were haunted. During the day, she lost her concentration, suffered through dark moods and often cried. She left the Air Force and found a less demanding job with Customs and Border Protection. They chose to overlook her psychological issues because they needed experienced drone pilots. She moved from one Air Force base in Nevada to another in Southern California, where her new job was to fly a Guardian, the maritime version of the Predator drone. She felt much better about flying a drone without the bombs and missiles, and was thankful not to have to lase a human target and watch the splash of a deadly explosion. On her good days, when she scanned the waters off the west coast of Mexico and Southern California for the movement of illegals and drugs, she was alright, and she felt like a normal person. The problem was the bad days, when the image of the boy haunted her, and she was exhausted from lack of sleep. Those were the days when she struggled to just hang on.


mmeredith-200Offering a free book on Kindle was truly an adventure that began as a misadventure.

You may want to know why anyone would want to do this? Read on to the end, and you’ll understand why.

For the first five days of May, my publisher (at my request) offered Final Respects–the first book in the Rocky Bluff P.D. series, free on Kindle.

The misadventure part:

First I thought it would be good if Final Respects was free period, not for a limited time. There was a place who would advertise it for free if it was always free. My publisher and her assistant tried to make it that way and Amazon nixed it.

So, I told them put it up free for 5 days, May 1-5 and I merrily went about setting up the promotion on every free and some paid sites I could find.

While I was busy doing that, the Kindle version disappeared from Amazon.

Well not at first, but in order to have the 5 free days, it had to be taken off then reinstating. When this happened, it got a new AISN–which meant the information I’d sent off to all the promo sites was now wrong.


And do you think I kept a list of all these promo sites? No. I did know which ones I’d paid money too though–so then I began the task of informing each website about the new AISN #. Some places I had to redo everything, others fixed it for me. And I did find most of the free promo sites which I fixed. This process took all day and I may have missed some.

Now the adventure part:

May 1 came and I got busy promoting on my own, Facebook, Twitter, my Facebook groups, the listserves I’m on including the one for PSWA.

The end of that first day there had been 1400 plus downloads. And the book was #70 in the free Kindle mysteries and #2 in mystery/police procedurals. And I also received one new review, a good one.

On the fourth day there were 4937 downloads, but the book had moved up to #100 in the free Kindle mysteries and #3 in mystery/police procedurals.  (In case you didn’t know, low numbers are better than high.)

My publisher reported that there had also been 10 sales of other books in the series. (Which is the whole reason authors do the free book promotion, to interest people in their series.)

On the fifth day, there were 5,970 downloads and 25 sales of other Kindle books in the series.

So at this point, I was happy.

–Marilyn aka F. M. Meredith


Have you thought you’d like to try Indie publishing but didn’t know where to start?

I was in the same place, wondering how to publish my book without handing it over to a traditional publisher. Nothing against traditional publishers. I just wanted to stay in control of my book project and not end up on someone else’s schedule.

So … I talked to a couple of vanity press publishers, asked some author friends about their experience, and posted a question on the PSWA listserv. I found many self-publishing options. Then I discovered CreateSpace, a self-publishing company affiliated with Amazon.

CreateSpace isn’t the only Indie publisher around, but it’s the one I’ve heard the most about. Other PSWA authors have published on CreateSpace and report that it worked well for them. There’s no cost to publishing on CreateSpace. There are optional services available for purchase but it isn’t necessary to use them.

CreateSpace uses a print-on-demand concept that works like this:

Someone buys a book online.

The book gets printed and shipped to the buyer.

I liked the print-on-demand idea because my nonfiction book was written for a niche market that can buy it online. It isn’t going to be sold to the general public in book stores. Once I let potential readers know where they can buy the book, the rest is easy. No searching for it in book stores.

How did my manuscript go from a Word document to becoming a book for sale on Amazon? It was simple.

Taking the advice of other authors, I hired a professional book editor. This was after dire warnings of: “Don’t try to edit your own writing.” A couple of librarians told me that a nonfiction book should have an index if it’s going to be placed in a library. The editor did the index for my book too. Thank goodness. Have you ever tried to build an index for a book you’ve written? It’s painful!

Once the book had been edited and the index was in place, I was ready to hire a formatter. A small but important point: the page numbers in the index couldn’t be included until the formatter had done his work and all the page numbers were in place. It’s easy to see why. Page numbers can’t change once they’re noted in the index. Not a big problem. The editor and formatter sorted it out by email

Now my book was ready to go. It had been edited, formatted, and had a cover designed. Time to upload to CreateSpace.

This turned out to be the easiest part. I uploaded two files. One was the manuscript and the other was the cover. The CreateSpace software joined them to make a book. First though, the files went through two check points to confirm they met the requirements for production as a print book. The first check point was automated. The software checked the files and sent them on to the second check point, a person. Twenty-four hours later I received an email that my book was good to go.

It all worked out. My book is available on Amazon, right up there with the big kids. Now, as with a book published by a traditional publisher, it’s up to me to let readers know it’s available.

My next challenge is to make the book available on Kindle. It looks like a simple process but no doubt will be another interesting piece of my Indie, self-publishing journey.

–John Eldridge


My second book, winner of the First Place Award in last year’s PSWA Writing Competition in the Fiction Non-Published category will be released on June. I only have the ARC cover to display at this time and don’t know if it will remain the actual cover or not.

Footprints in the Frost introduces homicide detective, Max Richards, and involves his life, both on the job and away from it. When he is hand-picked by the chief of police to work a long and complicated serial rape case involving five beautiful victims with whom he must spend much time, his life with girlfriend and bookstore owner, Sami Murphy, becomes extremely complicated.

Escaping from the city hustle and bustle to his beautiful and remote Colorado mountain cabin, the two of them attempt to relax and try to untangle the knots in their relationship. What will happen to this couple who are tremendously bonded, but have to decide if their jobs and lives can meld permanently or if it would be better to go their separate ways?

A few reviews:

Love Trumps Evil In Colorado

By John M. Wills (Fredericksburg, VA USA)

A hard-nosed detective meets his match in a beautiful bookstore owner.  Max Richards is busy trying to stop a serial rapist terrorizing the women in a Colorado town.  Despite the long hours the investigation requires, Max still finds time to carry on a relationship with Sami Murphy.  Although both have been married before, each secretly contemplates a future together.  However, they wonder if the stress and time spent by Max investigating cases might be a deal breaker.

Jackie Taylor Zortman expertly captures the flavor of scenic picturesque Colorado, as she describes the couple’s romantic escape to a mountain cabin.  Her prose is beautiful, and the story has enough zip to prod the reader to turn the next page.  It’s a quick, satisfying read most people will enjoy.

By M. M. Gornell – Published author with six books – latest “Rhodes the Mojave Stone”

Jackie pulls the reader right into Footprints in the Frost from page one, then continues to reveal the ups and down of a unique relationship between a very likable couple you can’t help but root for—while simultaneously enticing the reader’s sense of justice with “on the mark” and dedicated police work details.  Didn’t want to stop reading until the satisfying end.  And then there’s the added bonus of Lotus…

By Nancy LiPetri – Author of “The Wooded Path”

Jackie Taylor Zortman knows what real cops go through, both on the streets and behind the scenes.  In “Footprints in the Frost,” she keeps you flipping pages to sort out a string of disturbing crimes, to see if Detective Max Richards will get his man…and also to see if his steamy relationship with lovely girlfriend Sami keeps its sizzle despite the challenges of a cop’s life.  I was honored to receive an advance reader edition.

By Marilyn Meredith – Published Author – latest book “Violent Departures”

Though listed as a mystery, I’d classify this charming tale more as a romance with a touch of police procedure.

Bookstore owner Sami, loves Max who is a police detective, but not sure if she’s ready for marriage.  Max loves Sami, but is too busy with investigating a serial rapist to spend the time with her he’d like.  They share many common interests, but they have many obstacles to overcome before they can make a decision about their future life as a married couple.  One of the big pluses of this story is the wonderful Colorado settings.  I needed to keep reading not only to find out if Max caught his man, but also if how the relationship between Sami and Max would turn out.

Editor’s Note: All the reviews happen to be by members of PSWA.

— Jackie Taylor Zortman

Bio: Jackie Taylor Zortman is an award winning published writer/author. Her book “We Are Different Now” tells of her journey with grief after the accidental death of her 21-year-old grandson when he fell 100 feet off a mountain ledge in the pitch black of night on July 5, 2010.

She has written numerous articles and short stores for various publications via the Public Safety Writers Association since 1994 and has won five writing awards. She is a contributing author to the anthologies “Felons, Flames & Ambulance Rides”, “American Blue” and “The Centennial Book of the National Society of Daughters of the Union”. She has poetry published in “Echoes From the Silence” and “Dusting Off Dreams”. She also contributed to Lyn Ragan’s book “Signs From The Afterlife” released in January 2015. In addition, she also writes genealogy and history.

In July 2013, she won two awards in the Public Safety Writers Association’s Writing Contest for her articles “Amache” and “The Siege at Cortez”. In July 2014 she won three awards, including First Place for”Footprints in the Frost” and articles “Just Routine” and “In God We Trust”.

She lives in a bustling quaint tourist town in the beautiful mountains of Colorado with her husband, and both are retired.


M. (Madeline) Gornell has a new book out, Rhodes, The Mojave Stone.

For sure, there are many events and stories hidden underneath shifting desert sands, and quite possibly many of these tales are doomed to ride ad infinitum on relentless desert winds—ghosts trapped on a plane-of-existence they can never escape. The town of Shiné (Shy-knee) is a fictional concatenation of several of these magical places, fanciful thoughts, and hidden dramas. A place where provocative and unanswered questions actually escape the entrapment of Mojave winds—and take center stage.

Hopefully, the small fact Shiné does not exist will not dissuade you from visiting…

My book, Harry: A Study of Teenage Mass Murderers was released last December in time for the holidays. It is published by M&B Global, a small publishing company dealing not only with true crime, as is my book, but topics of general interest. This publishing duo pulled me out of the morass of my first publisher, and relit the fire under me. The story of getting published is an interesting side story.

In 1963, in Green Bay, Wisconsin, 17 year old, Harry Hebard murdered his entire family of five, father, step-mother, step-brother and twin step-sisters. This could very well be the first documented progeny mass murder in the state’s history. Media from across the nation covered the story. Harry was arrested the day following the massacre, and has been institutionalized since; first in the county jail, then a state forensic hospital until he could aid in his defense, then the state prison system. Incidentally, my father was the lead investigator on the case.

Although Harry is the masthead case, he is not the only story. The book addresses the six types of homicide, school shooters, a timeline of mass killings in Wisconsin following Harry, a profile of the youthful killer by an FBI profiler (ret.), as well as a look into Harry’s psyche.

I am now in the very early stages of research into my next true crime book addressing a serial killer in our prison system.

Buy link:

–Steve Daniels

John Addiego has a new book too.

In The Jaguar Tree, tropical storm winds topple a tree in Nicaragua, unearthing the bones of three men killed 20 years ago. Frank Alvarado, an American cop who has come to Central America on a personal mission to retrieve a little boy, is urged by a priest to help in the murder investigation. Traveling down the San Juan River in search of the boy, Alvarado get entangled with drugrunners in a web of deceit leading to the boy’s whereabouts: the hidden compound of El Tigrillo (the Jaguar), a sadistic mercenary commander. Here, in the heart of the jungle, Alvarado finds the source of old crimes and new as he discovers the identity of the triple murderer.

Second Careers for Street Cops by John Eldridge

John Eldridge was a member of the Vancouver Police Department for twenty-six years. He followed that with an eleven-year second career. He wrote this book as a guide for law enforcement officers looking for a second career. Through his job search and transition into a career after policing, John realized the lack of second career information available specifically for police officers. Second Careers for Street Cops is his down-to-earth, practical advice for street cops who want to move on to a new work life after their law enforcement careers.

Learn how to draw on the best parts of your police experience.

Know your strengths and weaknesses.

Find the right resources.


Mysti Berry’s connections to Las Vegas are old and deep—she was a sixth grader here during the first year of the Sixth Grade Center Plan. Her mother’s death in an airplane accident a few years later sent the family to back to California, but Mysti’s affection for the desert and the people of the region has never waned.

Though she became a technical writer, working for companies as diverse as 20th Century Fox and Salesforce, Mysti has an obsession with financial fraud investigation. If she’d known there were such things as forensic accountants when she was young, she’d have chosen that field instead of software technical writing.

Understanding story structure and the intertwined relationship of character, theme, premise, and plot are Mysti’s favorite hobbies, followed by travel and arguing with her graphic novelist husband Dale Berry about the definition of “noir.” She is immune to Valley Fever and the siren call of gambling, no doubt due to early childhood exposure.

Mysti Berry has an MFA from the University of San Francisco, and a Professional Certificate from the UCLA Screenwriting Program, and has served on the board for Sisters in Crime Northern California. She’s spent the last twenty-five years as a technical writer for companies as diverse as 20th Century Fox and Salesforce, her current employer. Her first novella, The Last Vacation, is due out from Stark Raving Press. She has short stories published in anthologies, including the PSWA’s Felons, Flames, and Ambulance Rides. She’s currently working on the first in a series about a fraud investigator who stumbles across missing casino millions and murder. You can read more about her at, or read her blog posts every other Wednesday on

Vicki Weisfeld writes crime and mystery stories, has six published short stories, two of which have appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, and has written a pair of novels near completion. She reviews books, movies, and a lot of et cetera on her website: and reviews crime novels and thrillers for Crime Fiction Lover.

Karen Solomon introduces herself this way:

I didn’t choose to become a writer, writing chose me. I’d been blogging about sick kids and underdogs for a year when the media brought Darren Wilson and Michal Brown to my house, my husband and my children. Frankly, none of us were happy about it. There came a point when I simply couldn’t take it any more and realized that I could do for policing what I had been doing for Mitochondrial Disease, Larsen’s Syndrome and more. I could tell the stories that no one hears, I could let people know that they simply need to listen and they will hear that there are things we don’t see in the news, things we don’t sensationalize.

Armed with a mission to let people know that police have more good stories than bad, I interview officers around the country and told short stories about them. Since they aren’t my stories, the proceeds of the book Hearts Beneath the Badge, are going to law enforcement charities.

In hearing those stories, I heard more – PTSI, Depression, lack of benefits, abandonment by their departments and death. So much sadness. That sadness is being compiled into a book The Price They Pay which will be released later this year; the proceeds will also go to LE charities.

I’m married to a police officer, have 2 young boys and belong to an online police wife support group. Having moderated the boards and getting to know the families, I wanted to do something simple for them, I wanted to thank them, thank my husband and reassure my children that everything would okay. That’s why I began writing. Now I can’t stop. Which is unfortunate because I work full time, who doesn’t want to quit their job and write full time?

As for me, I’m a Massachusetts native who’s traveled the world, attended college in Florida and lived in Georgia, Boston and Nantucket. Now I happily reside in my hometown on 2 acres of land with vegetable gardens, fruit trees and more snow than I’ll ever have use for in the winters.

I’ve had articles published on PoliceOne, UniformStories, Grieving Behind the Badge, Safe Call Now, PoliceMag, To Write Love on Her Arms and many other blogging platforms. My viral post (100K hits in 3 days) 10 Reasons You Should Not Care About Police opened the door and the gained the trust of law enforcement around the world.

I don’t know where writing will lead me but I am happy to have found it and to have found such a lovely group of people who are willing to support each other.

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.


PSWA Newsletter–December 2014

PSWA Newsletter




molsen-200All of us have certainly been saddened by the recent death of our wonderful friend and colleague, AJ Farrar.

I first met AJ in the late 1990’s through our predecessor organization, the Police Writers Club founded by Roger Fulton. As many of you know, the organization has gone through several changes over the years and in 2005, with membership declining, a small group of us (including the late Armand Mulder) got together around AJ and Nancy’s dining room table and, building on all of Roger’s good ideas, reinvigorated the group as the Police Writers Association. Although we were still legally a club (partially because it’s the only way we could open a bank account), we wrote new bylaws and formed a board of directors including AJ, Nancy Farrar, Marilyn Meredith, Keith Bettinger, Tim Dees and me.

After a couple of years, we also renamed the organization Public Safety Writers Association to attract new and encourage a growing number of members who were firefighters, EMTs, military law enforcement, dispatchers and others who serve in public safety roles.

Somewhere along the line, I became the president, someone began calling me the queen and we, facetiously, of course, declared our organizational structure to be a monarchy.

AJ became vice president and membership chair, Nancy Farrar, treasurer, and Keith Bettinger, secretary. Tim became our Alpha Geek and created the Listserve.

We made plans to once again begin holding an annual conference and Marilyn Meredith agreed to take on the task of organizing it. We had 16 attendees.

Since that time, Michelle Perin has joined the board and now chairs our writing competition. Recently Mike Black has also become a board member and, for the second year, is organizing the conference. Marilyn Meredith is editor of our quarterly newsletter.

Our conference attendance has grown significantly, there is continuous lively conversation on the listserve and the contest continues to attract entries in a variety of categories.

We are now in the final bureaucratic process of becoming a 501 (c) 3 non-profit.

Through it all, AJ functioned as a mentor, cheerleader and all around fun person to be with. We will greatly miss him.

Marilyn Olsen, President and Queen

‘Tis the Season (To Be Victimized)

ron_corbin_200Oh yes, it is the time of the season for rejoicing, but it is also one of the greatest times for you to become a crime victim.

Black Friday signals the beginning of the heaviest shopping time for everyone, and that includes the “bad guys.” One of the biggest venues for theft of holiday gifts is in the parking lots around shopping malls and retail strip centers. Thieves are out in force at this time of the season to take what you have bought. This is when they look for an easy target and can rejoice, too, with the “spoils of their efforts.”

Thieves know that besides the merchandise being carried in shopping bags, this is when shoppers carry more cash and credit cards. Women’s purses are as much a target as are shopping bags. While you spend your good, hard-earned money to buy presents and gifts, the criminals don’t have to. Their “shopping places” are not inside Targets, Walmarts, and other retail stores; their locations are the parking lots. And the abundance of shopper-victims makes for easy “pickings” and convenient escape through the crowds.

Also, contributing to this increased opportunity for holiday crime is that our clocks are set-back from Daylight Savings Time, and darkness comes early. Many shoppers thus have to do their gift shopping after work, and will find themselves walking through dark parking lots. Try to park near a light pole. Don’t park next to a van. Visibility is paramount to deterrence.

So what else can make you a potential “crime target.” Typically, a common thing that thieves look for is a shopper with their arms loaded-down with bags and not having car keys in hand. I hate to sound sexist, but ladies you are the worst offenders of this. Digging through your purse and fumbling to find your car keys while standing next to your car door makes you a prime target of opportunity. The instant you are distracted, “Mr. Bad Guy” is sneaking up to grab your stuff…sometimes using force that will also cause personal injury.

To reduce the chance of this happening, plan ahead. Have your keys out of your purse and in hand before leaving the safety of the store. Interlace all those keys between your fingers. I’m not advocating that you resist if attacked, however, should someone attempt to steal your items or assault you, the keys can be a “sharp and painful” deterrent if you swipe at the suspect’s face. [Fighting back is discussion for another time.]

Be aware of your surroundings as you walk through the parking lot. Walk with a sense of purpose and keep your head on a “swivel.” If it appears that someone seems to be following you, alter the route to your car from the driving lanes and walk between parked vehicles to see if the person(s) follows you. If so, immediately head back toward the mall, or hail-down one of the mall’s roving security patrols. If you see another person nearby in the lot, call-out to them. Use a fake name and make it sound like you found a friend. At least you can attract the attention of this other person and hopefully deter any suspicious person that may be stalking you.

Once you have your car door or trunk opened, quickly place all your bags inside while being alert to your surroundings. If someone suspicious starts to approach you and makes you feel uncomfortable, depress the alarm button on your key fob and set-off your car alarm. Get in the car and lock the doors, then you can de-activate the alarm. The alarm will attract attention, which the bad guy doesn’t want.

And here’s another tip for deterring theft or burglary from vehicle. Let’s suppose you have a lot of shopping bags that you want to place in your car and then return to do more shopping at another mall store. Should you find yourself in this position, consider doing this. Place your bags of merchandise in your car’s trunk or, if you have no trunk, on the rear floorboard out of sight. Get in your vehicle and drive away. Then go park in another part of the mall’s lot. The reason for this is that some thieves simply sit in their vehicle for hours and watch shoppers place bags in their personal cars and then go back inside. So, if someone is watching your vehicle, this will cause them to think that you are leaving and their attention will be diverted elsewhere. I know that you will think this is a hassle and big inconvenience or waste of time. But believe me, it does deter and prevent your vehicle from being broken into.

Oh, one final “holiday” tip. When you have finished celebrating your holidays and opened all the presents, take precaution to disguise all those gift boxes when you place them on the curb for trash day and garbage pick-up. Break them down and place inside trash bags. Displaying those cardboard boxes for video games, TVs, laptop computers, and printers just advertises to all the “neighborhood burglars” what is waiting for them inside your house. Remember, it gets dark at 5:00 p.m. when mom and dad are still at work. But the “young burglars” are out of school for holiday vacation, with no parental supervision and nothing to do but “shop at your house.”

Happy Holidays!

Be Aware and Stay Safe!

–Ron Corbin, PhD


MikeBlack200x200Writing hard is kind of difficult topic to visualize. What exactly does it mean?

I sort of get the impression of someone slaving over a keyboard, desperately trying to beat a deadline. Maybe it’s because I was in that position last month when I was struggling to make a July 30th deadline for a new novel. I made it, but not with much time to spare. I’m now in the process of writing the second (of four) books on my current contract, and facing another deadline, but this one is not breathing down my throat. So this time I’m determined not to fall into the same set of circumstances as the last one. Hopefully, I’ll be able to pace myself better and avoid falling behind. Then I won’t put myself in the position of having to be writing hard.

As I said, the way to do this is to pace yourself. Start writing early, and keep at it, even if you don’t really feel like writing. The sage advice is to write every day, even if you’re not in the mood. If you wait until you are in the mood to write, you’ll probably do a good job putting words on paper. Inspiration will no doubt do that. But if you wait until you’re inspired each time, you’ll probably end up with an unfinished manuscript. The process I use is a simple one. I can’t claim credit for it, but it works. I sit down with a certain time allotment and the goal to write two pages and then I crank them out. At the end of those two pages I’ll briefly pause and assess what I’ve done. There are times when I can write myself into the mood of writing, and if I have, I’ll keep going. If, on the other hand, I look at those two pages and decide they’re substandard, and I just don’t have it in me to keep going, I’ll stop and do something else. But at least I’ll be two pages closer to my goal of finishing.

A lot of times, when I do go back later and look at those substandard two pages, I’ll get an idea on how to tweak them to make them better. Sometimes putting them aside and taking on a new project can allow your subconscious to work on the problem, and when you return for the rematch, you know just what to do.

Writing hard might also describe instances when you are inspired and don’t want to stop. I’ve been there, too. I once wrote for an entire day (approximately 12 hours or more) finishing up a novel I’d been working on. It wasn’t that I had a deadline, but rather I was on a roll. It was New Year’s Day, and cold and snowy outside. I don’t think I left the house all day, and took breaks only to grab a bite to eat, make coffee, or go to the bathroom. I managed to finish the novel, producing 25 pages, in one long, extended session. My usual page limit is about 10 or 12 before I’m too exhausted to go on. That particular day remains my personal best, but like I said, I was inspired.

Not that I’d recommend marathon writing sessions. I’ve usually found that writing too long is almost as bad as not writing long enough. I can usually tell when it’s time to stop because I find myself taking quantum leaps in the scene. I’m subconsciously anxious to finish, and start to leapfrog over certain details to get to a stopping point. If you find yourself doing that, it’s probably time to stop writing.

Once again, the key is pacing. If you’ve got a long race to run, you don’t want to tire yourself out in the first part. Leave something in your tank for the last leg. On the other hand, you don’t want to get so far behind that you find yourself in a bind with an approaching deadline. It’s just like voting in a Chicago election: start early, do it often. (Election days in Chi-town are incredibly busy.)

So be mindful of the two Ps. Preparation and pacing are the best ways to avoid placing yourself in a position where you’ll find yourself writing hard.

Michael A. Black


mmeredith-200First, there is a difference between a writing conference and a convention. Two big conventions in the mystery writing world are Bouchercon and Left Coast Crime. These are attended by writers and fans—and are geared toward the fans. Of course there are lots of other kinds of conventions.

A writing conference is for writers—a place to go for writers to learn more about the craft of writing, publishing and promotion.

Not all writing conferences are the same. I’ve been to many both as a participant and an instructor. Some are better than others.

I have to admit that my favorite is ours, the Public Safety Writers Association’s Conference.

This conference is for anyone who writes fiction or non-fiction about any aspect of public safety.

The information may come about in the form of a presentation or a panel of writers or experts depending upon the topic.

Because our conference is small, people have an opportunity to interact, spend time with one another, and make contacts that can be helpful long after the conference is over. Many friendships have begun at our conference.

Mystery writers get to learn and ask questions of experts in the many crime solving fields. Those wanting to learn how to write novels will learn much about the different aspects of the writing craft. We have many participants who write non-fiction who willingly share their expertise.

If you’re like me, you’ll take notes and learn a lot that you can use in your writing or to jump start your promotion.

Another big plus about this particular conference is that it cost far less than any of the others=-and especially if you sign up before the early bird registration fee has ended. (See the registration form here on the website.) The hotel is a bargain too, and just as nice as or nicer than most hotels where conferences are held. And a big plus, your conference fee includes the Thursday night get-together and three delicious lunches.

Because our conference is held in Las Vegas, for those inclined, there is plenty to do at the end of the day.

I can almost guarantee that you will learn lots, meet some terrific people, make new friends, and have a great time. And once the conference is over, you’ll be all fired up about your writing.

Marilyn Meredith
Author of the Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series and writing as F. M. Meredith, the Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery series.


kurt_kamm_200The unbearable heat waves throughout the United States greatly extended fire season. With this in mind, I thought it might be interesting to take a behind the scenes look at wildfire arsonists.

What kind of person sets wildfires? What motivates a person to torch the landscape?

First, let’s eliminate the motives for the kinds of fires we’re not talking about: Revenge – a guy’s girlfriend breaks up with him. He gets angry and sets her apartment on fire. That’s his way of paying her back; Fraud – someone torches his car because he can’t make the payments, or maybe he burns down an entire building to collect the insurance on a failing business; Hate Crime – someone sets fire to a church or Synagogue. In these cases, the reason for the fire is relatively easy to understand. The use of fire is the means to an end.

Now consider the more complex case where the fire itself is the objective–we’re talking about someone who deliberately sets out to start one or more fires during the worst weather conditions, when the fire is sure to spread and wreak havoc. Most likely, we’re talking about a repeat offender, a serial arsonist, what the investigators refer to as a “fire setter.” For these arsonists, the forecast of fire weather conditions, or even the report of a massive conflagration, will be an emotional trigger, bringing them out to start their own fires, often several at a time.

Who is the fire setter, and why does he do it? I use the word “he,” because arson is predominately a male activity. There aren’t many female arsonists. The majority of fire setters are white men between the age of 17 and 25. They are preoccupied with fire and get an emotional release from starting fires. There may be sexual overtones–some researchers claim fire setters are sexually repressed males who masturbate at the fires they set.

The reasons a person becomes a fire setter are complex. Many arsonists are social outcasts who are incapable of stable interpersonal relationships, especially with women. They come from troubled and fragile backgrounds. A dysfunctional or violent family environment is often a contributing factor and the typical fire setter had one or both parents missing from home during his childhood. If his family was intact, he lived in an unstable–often abusive and violent–emotional atmosphere and had a distant and hostile or aggressive relationship with his father. He may suffer from depression, borderline personality disorder, or even suicidal tendencies. Not surprisingly, a large percentage of arsonists indulge in alcohol and drug abuse.

Most investigators will tell you that the fire setter does not think ahead to the possible widespread destruction his arson fire will cause. He’s satisfying an immediate need–he’s starting fires for the excitement he cannot find elsewhere. Further, it gives him a sense of control over something in his life. For many, firesetting satisfies a desire to be recognized and establishes a sense of self-esteem. For others, setting fires is an act of aggression, which allows them to express anger and frustration. Many arsonists have repressed rage for authority figures. Some get the satisfaction of “getting away with a crime.”

Often the preoccupation with fire starts in childhood. A child who is “curious” about fire can grow into an antisocial and aggressive adolescent. Delinquent fire setters are often bored, and starting fires provides them with excitement and stimulation. For many, arson is the beginning of a wide range of activities leading to criminal conduct.

While teen-age arsonists often engage in fire activity with peer groups, by adulthood, most arsonists set fires alone. Psychologists distinguish between two types of adult arsonists: EMOTIONALLY DISORDERED – these are individuals who are emotionally unbalanced and find setting a fire has a calming influence; THOUGHT DISORDERED – these are individuals afflicted with a range of illnesses from learning disabilities to full blown schizophrenic behavior.

This excerpt from a published interview with a serial arsonist—in this case, a person of above average intelligence—is a wonderful description of an emotionally disordered fire setter

I set fires at random, using material I have just bought or asked for at a gas station—matches, cigarettes, or small amounts of gasoline. I set fires only in places that are secluded, such as roadsides, back canyons, cul-de-sacs. I may set several small fires or one big fire, depending on my desires and needs at the time. At the time of lighting the fire, I experience an intense emotional response like tension release, excitement, or even panic.

Watching the fire from a perfect vantage point is important to me. I want to see the chaos as well as the destruction…Talking to authorities on the phone or in person while the action is going on can be part of the thrill. I enjoy hearing about the fire on the radio or watching it on television, learning about all the possible motives and theories that officials have about why and how the fire started. Overall, it seems that the fire has created a temporary solution… I feel sadness and anguish, and a desire to set another fire.

There are not many old arsonists. For unexplained reasons, after the age of 25, most arsonists cease fire setting, but some move on to activities that are more ominous. While doing research for my serial arson mystery novel, I had the opportunity to talk to an arson profiler at the ATF. He told me that serial arsonists often have a history of torturing or killing animals as children, and that some serial killers are serial arsonists when they are younger.

One subset of arsonists bears special mention. “Firefighter-arsonists” sounds like an oxymoron, but they exist. Most are one-time fire setters who are bored at work and want to go out and “fight the fire devil.” Then there is John Orr, the infamous California fire captain who is now serving a life sentence for numerous arson fires in which four people died. Law enforcement officials say he was the most prolific arsonist of the 20th Century, possibly responsible for as many as 2,000 fires between 1984 – 1991.

Orr wanted to be a police officer, but was rejected based on his psychological profile. He eventually became a fire captain and arson investigator for the Glendale Fire Department in Southern California. During the ’80s and early ’90s, there was a series of unsolved arson fires around the Los Angeles area. Orr was often the first on scene and took control of the investigation.

–Kurt Kamm
My new novel TUNNEL VISIONS is on Amazon. Terrorists threaten the SoCal water supply.
PSWA Writers- Serial arsonists are a neglected group. Add one to your next novel and put some fire in your writing! – Kurt Kamm


What is a Public Safety Telecommunicator? In essence, the Public Safety Telecommunicator (also referred to as Public Safety Dispatchers) is a critical component of the Public Safety system. Dispatchers take information from callers, relay that data to field personnel via radios and handle a plethora of other duties (which are agency-specific). Dispatchers may perform their tasks using old-fashioned hand-written logs or utilize a Computer-Aided-Dispatch (CAD) system.

Dispatchers are the unsung heroes of Public Safety. It is said that a field personnel’s most important piece of equipment is his/her radio. When the chips are down and help is needed, it is the Public Safety telecommunicator who takes care of business. Sadly, the dispatcher may be the last voice an officer hears.

There was a time when dispatchers were secretarial staff or sworn personnel. This changed when more skills and knowledge were required. The position became specialized. No longer were dispatchers hired by simple interviews. Most agencies (law & fire) now require potential dispatchers participate in a similar pre-hiring process to the sworn field personnel.

The first skill a Public Safety Telecommunicators learns is how to answer a phone. Calls can reach the dispatch center via 911, direct lines, and special dedicated lines (crime tips, direct-to-other agencies, or in-house extensions. The National Emergency Number Association (NENA) estimates over 240 million calls are made to 9-1-1 Public Safety Answering Points (or PSAPs) every year. The call volume is tripled when non-emergency and direct-line connection calls are added to the mix. Call-takers must know Department policies & procedures, radio codes, criminal codes, geography, the call-taking process, CAD, and basic inquires to local, state, and national criminal data bases.

The next phase might be either fire dispatching (for combined PSAPs) or ‘telecommunications’. Telecommunications focuses on the data bases for wanted persons, missing persons, vehicles, boats, property, criminal history, and the other files available. Some agencies are ‘inquiry-only’ which means they don’t enter, update, or clear out information. Others can be partial entry (perhaps they only enter towed vehicles) or full-access (perform all associated tasks in the data bases. Dispatching field personnel takes experience, good training, and a calm demeanor. Dispatchers may set-up block covers, organize back-up in in-progress incidents, give out ‘Be On the Look-Out’ information, and ensure that calls requiring immediate response are taken care appropriately.

Dispatchers may specialize. Fire agencies may have communications personnel trained to work major incidents or wildfires (Incident Management Team). Law enforcement dispatchers can be trained to handle SWAT incidents (Tactical Dispatcher). IMT and Tactical dispatchers man field command posts. In some cases, Tactical dispatchers can be part of the Hostage/Barricaded suspect Negotiation team.

Training varies from agency to agency. Currently there are no mandatory national standards although some states have legislated dispatcher standards for training and certification. Depending on the size of an agency, communications personnel can have initial training in the department academy or via an informal process. The length of time the training takes also varies according to the expected duties. A person with no prior experience may take up to a year before he/she is cleared to work without guidance. Those with prior job experience are called ‘laterals’ and still require extensive training which can last from three-to-six months.

Two of the most famous dispatchers are Shaaron Claridge, the voice of ‘Adam-12’ and Sam Lanier of ‘Emergency!’ fame. Shaaron also played the dispatcher role on episodes of ‘Colombo’. Sam was often shown on “Emergency!” working the radio console. Both Sam and Shaaron were working dispatchers, Sam for the Los Angeles County Fire department and Shaaron for the Los Angeles Police Department.

A study once noted that only 5% of the population had the multi-tasking abilities required to be a dispatcher. Modern technology has cut the number of long-term communications personnel due to the hazards of repetitive injuries. It is a happy day when a telecommunicator makes retirement.

It is a great job. No two shifts are every alike. With a push by NENA and the Associated Public Safety Communications Officials, Inc. (APCO) national training standards may someday become mandatory for every man or woman that answers a phone or directs traffic over a radio.

–Diana Sprain
Diana Sprain works as a Public Safety Dispatcher for the law enforcement division at the Nevada Department of Wildlife. She is a POST-certified Dispatcher, Tactical Dispatcher, Trainer, and Supervisor with over 25 years experience. Prior to taking over the radio, she worked as an Emergency Medical technician. She is the author of “On the Trail of Yesterday’s Rose” and “In the King’s Shadow”. She is in final editing phases of the non-Public Safety Dispatching in America”. Diana is a member of APCO and NENA. You can read more on her blog:


mperin-200It’s almost that time again. PSWA Writing Contest time! The contest opens on January 1, 2015 and you can start sending your entries in a myriad of categories, including novels, short stories, poetry and all forms of non-fiction both published and non. This is your chance to be an award winning author. Entry is only $10 and all you have to be is a member in good standing. The work does need to be related somehow to public safety. The contest closes May 8, 2015 and winners are announced at the Writer’s Conference in July. You do not need to be present to win but it is so much more fun that way. Plus you get great award-winner pictures to post on your website or wherever you do your self-promotion. Additional information and entry forms available on the PSWA website. Enter now! I look forward to your entries!

–Michelle Perin


FBI_animal_house_240x350Retired FBI Special Agent Peter M. Klismet, Jr. has taken a bold step with the release of his new book,FBI ANIMAL HOUSE . Described as a true story, it’s a critical account of his training while attending new agent class at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia. He pulls no punches in telling his story, which covers the 1980s and 1990s. Klismet contends the training the FBI gave its new agents during that period was subpar, particularly when compared to police departments across the nation.

The author is well-educated (two masters degrees), and is a former Ventura PD sergeant. He left the department after nine years to join the FBI, and served as a profiler during his final years in the Bureau.

Although he acknowledges the training new agents now receive is much better than when he accepted the appointment, he pulls no punches in describing the lackluster training he and his classmates endured. Not only does he say the instruction was lacking, but he also disparages some of the instructors as well.

Subjects such as photography, first aid, and fingerprinting consumed almost two weeks of the 16-week training cycle. He says the classes were a waste of time for the new agents, particularly since the test given for the first aid block didn’t even count as one required to graduate. The fingerprinting block focused more on reading loops, whirls, and arches, rather than taking a person’s fingerprints, lifting prints at crime scenes, and instruction on how to take major case prints. The fingerprint class seemed geared more toward fingerprint examiners than field agents.

The author constantly stressed the Bureau’s attempt to imbue in them a sense of FBI honor and the importance of always exhibiting an exemplary image. A constant theme heard each week was, “Don’t do anything to embarrass the Bureau.” During J. Edgar Hoover’s reign, an innocent indiscretion such as being overweight was grounds for dismissal. Image was everything, and to a large extent, Klismet points out the FBI has survived for years by virtue of the mystique Hoover created about the agency. People are enamored of the FBI image, which Klismet says is largely mythical.

Hoover, although gone by the time Klismet joined the FBI, led by fear and intimidation. The Director kept secret dossiers on many powerful and prominent Americans. Thus, he was a man who could do just about anything with impunity. He had no fear of reprisal, for any accuser could never be sure that Hoover hadn’t dug up some dirt on him that he wouldn’t hesitate to expose to the public.

Judge William Webster became one of a series of FBI Directors after Hoover’s passing. The judge served during some of Klismet’s time on the job. The consensus was that Webster was an empty suit, someone who nothing about fighting crime. The street agents did not trust him. In fact, many of the agents working violent crimes disdained the lawyers and accountants who traditionally filled the ranks during the Hoover era and beyond. Director Webster fostered a climate of distrust. Agents feared their every move was monitored, and by the time a request could be approved at headquarters it had to pass through so many administrative levels of oversight that any sense of urgency was completely disregarded.

Firearms training proved to be another disappointment for the author and his new agent classmates. Although new agents fired thousands of rounds during their training, it only served to make them excellent marksmen. It did little to prepare them for a gunfight on the street. The old Hogans’ Alley, a ramshackle wannabe movie set featuring cardboard targets popping up at windows and doorways, served as a shoot-don’t-shoot drill. It was so easy to distinguish between the two choices that Klismet contends it was a total waste of time.

Once Special Agent Klismet graduated from Quantico, he and his classmates shared the feeling they were ill prepared to hit the street. They had too little knowledge to work a case from start to finish, and had to rely on empathetic colleagues to help guide them along the way. Surprisingly, there was no field-training program in place. New agents (called baby agents or newbies) had to learn by trial and error. Their only recourse was to waste hours in the office reading manuals detailing how and when to perform certain tasks.

Support employees, most often, squad secretaries, were helpful in advising the newbies about which forms to complete for each investigation. In the author’s opinion, based on their training, it took a minimum of two years for a new agent to be comfortable enough to investigate a case.

FBI ANIMAL HOUSE  is an interesting, eye-opening read. It will shock many, anger some, and disappoint others. Remembering the period covered, the 80s and 90s, the book is quintessentially politically incorrect. The language used would not be tolerated today. Nor would the amount of time new agents spent in the Boardroom, the local bar within the academy complex. It wasn’t unusual for Klismet and other trainees to also drink in their dorm rooms, a clear violation of policy. And as much as the Bureau heralds its motto: Fidelity, Bravery, and Integrity, the class had no problem with accepting copies of tests from previous classes that had already taken them. Another ethics violation.

Thankfully, FBI training has evolved since the time Klismet went through Quantico. The Academy has adjusted to the times, and training is more contemporary and pragmatic. Now, Hogan’s Alley is a self-contained city with a hotel, drug store, bank, and private residences where new agents can actually work a case, plan an arrest, and execute it. Rather than instructors or other trainees functioning as role players, the academy hires professionals to fill that role. All very realistic.

Additionally, firearms training now includes combat shooting, force on force training, and judgmental simulation scenarios. Emergency Vehicle Operation Training (EVOC) exposes the agents to high speed driving and felony vehicle stops. Training on terrorism and the importance of working informants (Human Intelligence) is a big portion of the program.

FBI ANIMAL HOUSE  is a first person account of one new agent’s experience. It describes his journey through FBI new agent training. The author believes many FBI agents performed their job admirably despite the poor training given at Quantico. The problem, said Klismet, “. . . was a systemic one; the bureau had no interest in changing . . .” FBI ANIMAL HOUSE  is a startling story. (Reprinted from

–John Wills


Greycliff’s Chronicles, Book 2
By Diana Sprain

Gaelynn Blackwood and her husband Sir Braeden du Faucione are in a world of hurt. Bastards, affairs, abuse, and a King that just won’t go away have dug a chasm between them. King Arken of Greycliff desires Gaelynn and the most powerful man in the Kingdom will stop at nothing to get what he wants. Sequel to “On the Trail of Yesterday’s Rose”.

Sequel to, “On the Trail of Yesterday’s Rose”, begins five years after the end of the first book. Gaelynn Blackwood and her husband, Sir Braeden du Faucione, have settled at Faucione Keep. Braeden is busy handling the affairs of the family holdings on behalf of his ailing father, Baron Phillip while Gaelynn has done her best to become a medieval noblewoman. It’s not been easy for a modern girl: she’s lost her independence, privacy, and sense of self. Her sole job seems to be supplying her husband with an heir…a task she has failed. All Gaelynn has to show for their five years of marriage is a bastard daughter sired by King Arken from an afternoon spent in his bed the day before Braeden and she were married.

The relationship between Gaelynn and Braeden is rocky. Braeden’s closet of secrets has broken free. He enjoys sex games and begins an affair with his squire. Braeden discovers he has a half-brother, Sir Kevin of Faucione. Kevin has been in hiding at another holding since he was a child. Now, Braeden is expected to accept Kevin and his relationship with Sir Aumery, Faucione Keep’s Seneschal and one of Braeden’s trusted knights.

Gaelynn has no allusions about her husband. She knows he sleeps with other female servants. When Gaelynn finds her husband enjoying the comforts of his squire, however the shock sends her right to the arms of Braeden’s best friend and Second-in-Command, Sir Ranulf de Corbeau. Gaelynn and Ranulf soon realize their love is true. Braeden suspects his wife of being unfaithful but he can’t catch her or Ranulf.

While Braeden struggles to get his home in order, King Arken of Greycliff makes a visit at Faucione. He can’t get the vision of Gaelynn out of his mind. He dreams of having Gaelynn for his own. The King makes Braeden and Gaelynn Court ‘favorites’. Braeden becomes a trusted knight and war counselor to Arken. After a victory against the Phaelyng, Braeden knows his fate is sealed and he’ll be called again to fight alongside the King.

Gaelynn is torn between three men: Braeden, Ranulf, and Arken. She is faced with a difficult decision of which man to pick. Braeden’s abusive outbursts have increased. Gaelynn comes to understand her feelings towards Braeden were never love but only lust. She loves Ranulf. Regrettably, children tie her to Braeden and Gaelynn knows she can never leave her son, Phillip, behind to start a life with Ranulf. Braeden knows the moment he lets Gaelynn go Arken will take possession of her.

Braeden faces tough choices of his own. He must try to determine who is sending personal information to the King which could compromise the safety of his family, his people, and his life. He also knows that Arken will stop at nothing to take Gaelynn away from him, but how do you protect yourself and your family from the most powerful man in the Kingdom? When Braeden is ordered to accompany Arken to Glodveau as a member of his personal guard, Braeden shares his fear of never returning home with his half-brother Sir Kevin. He doesn’t know that the moment he left Greycliff, the castle was attacked. It is up to the man who has betrayed Braeden’s trust, Sir Ranulf, to save Braeden’s family and home.

Who will live and who will die? Will true love win in the end?

Available formats: epub mobi pdf rtf lrf pdb txt html

Diana Sprain


10_code_240x35010-CODE is the first-ever anthology of stories written by 10 real-life cops honoring officers killed in the line of duty. Proceeds from the sale of 10-CODE will benefit the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund in Washington, DC.

Sworn Officers Kathy Bennett, Michael A. Black, Robin Burcell, Marco Conelli, Suzie Ivy, Rick McMahan, David Putnam, Mike Roche, Scott Silverii and David Swords graciously donated their talents to remember the Fallen.

Best-selling author John Gilstrap’s heart-felt Foreword pays tribute the service and sacrifices of our nation’s Finest.

Please support their legacy of service by ordering your copy today.


Mike Black




A.J. Farrar, 1945-2014

Arthur James “A.J.” Farrar
July 27, 1945 ~ November 13, 2014

It is with great sadness that we report the passing of AJ Farrar on November 13. A member of PSWA since 1997, AJ served as vice president and membership chair of PSWA for nearly 10 years. Many of you knew AJ as the indefatigable emcee of PSWA conferences, with always a ready smile, often a corny joke and never ending encouragement to all of us to work together to help each other achieve our writing goals.

A Ventura, CA native, AJ served in the U.S. Air Force, earned multiple college degrees, retired as a lieutenant in the Ventura P.D. in 1993 and went on to teach law enforcement, retiring as a professor emeritus from Monterey Peninsula College.

AJ is survived by his wife, Nancy, PSWA treasurer, daughter Stephanie (AJ) Huber, son, Matt (Nicole) Farrar, grandson Nathan Huber and 16 nieces, nephews and their families.

AJ was a mentor to many and a friend to all. We will miss him.

Following is AJ’s “official” obituary, as was published to local Ventura newspapers:

Arthur James “A.J.” Farrar, 69, of Ventura, CA, passed away on Thursday, November 13, 2014, in Ventura, California.

A.J. Farrar was born in Ventura, CA, to Jewell and Wilfred Farrar on July 27, 1945. He graduated from Ventura High in 1963. A.J. served in the U.S. Air Force following graduation from Ventura College and went on to earn multiple degrees from Cal State Long Beach; Cal Lutheran, Thousand Oaks; and Cal Poly, Pomona.
He worked as a police officer for the Cal State University, Long Beach Police Department and the Ventura Police Department retiring as a lieutenant in 1993. A.J. later taught law enforcement at Ventura, American River and Monterey Peninsula Colleges where he retired as a Professor Emeritus.He was the Vice President of the Public Safety Writers Association.

AJ is survived by his wife, Nancy; daughter, Stephanie (AJ) Hubner; son, Matt (Nicole) Farrar; brother, Gerald Farrar; grandson, Nathan Hubner; and sixteen nieces and nephews and their families. He is preceded in death by his father, Wilfred Farrar, mother, Jewell Farrar, brothers, Leland Stiles and Truman Stiles, sisters, Daphne McKinney, Jymmye Hitch, and Maxine Sedlacek.

A “Celebration” memorial service will be held on Saturday, November 22, 2014, 11:00 A.M., at Ventura Missionary Church, 500 High Point Drive, Ventura, CA 93003, with The Reverend Dr. Leonard Dewitt officiating.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that you make donations payable to “Monterey Peninsula College, A.J. Farrar Scholarship Account”, 980 Fremont St., Monterey, CA 93940, Attn: Fiscal Services; or your favorite charity.

Arrangements are under the direction of the Ted Mayr Funeral Home, Ventura. Condolences may be left at