Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Why I’ll be Attending (And SO SHOULD YOU) the 2016 Writers Police Academy

Where unruly passengers are dealt with.

I only need one word to describe the Writers Police Academy held this past weekend in Appleton, Wisconsin, and that is AWESOME. Take roughly 300 people, put them together for four days of seminars and demonstrations about law enforcement, criminal behavior, things that blow up, a couple of amazing German Shepherd dogs, a jet (yes, as in “airplane”), and hands-on workshops about guns, blood, fire and EMT practices, and forensic psychology, and you get AWESOME.  

Karen Slaughter does stand-up
Add in generous sponsorship by the Sisters in Crime, guest speakers from the ATF, FBI, police forces (Ohio, California, Wisconsin, New York to name a few), the Secret Service, forensic specialists, firemen, and one (I heard) hunky SWAT team – plus the bonus of hearing from down-to-earth and funny Alison Brennan and hysterical, riffing-on-my-dysfunctional-Southern-roots Karen Slaughter – and about 300 raffle baskets, and you’ve got the kind of exhaustion that comes from a full mind and shared laughter.  And there’s no way I’m leaving out one kickass female officer who thrilled us with her fierce respect for the law and her responsibility and drive to uphold it. Also because she rocked the uniform, drove like an ace, and made us all want to be her.

Colleen Belangea, Lee Lofland, Joe LaFevre
Lee Lofland, who originated the Academy and is a former sheriff, is warm and organized and funny, and there’s a camaraderie among the instructors revealed by their mutual teasing. One of former Secret Service Agent Mike Roche’s classes is Romance Behind the Badge and he’s known affectionately as The Love Doctor, John Gilstrap gleefully taught us how to “blow sh*t up”, and Marco Connelli, former NYPD detective, took us through his days undercover and explained “defenestration” (look it up!). Joe LaFevre, our man at the brand new Fox Valley Technical College and Public Safety Training Center, made sure every one of us had our questions answered and was a terrific host. Dr. Katherine Ramsland explained psychopathy in both children and adults, and Instructor Colleen Belangea (our hero!) talked about what it was like to be one of the few females on the force when she started in the mid 1980s.

There were so many possibilities for research that I’m sorry if I leave any out. There were jail tours, police ride-alongs, simulated and real firearms training, crime scene photography, forensic procedures and portraiture, and methods of handling everything from handcuffs to light sources to martial arts moves to intercepting a fleeing vehicle.

Every day I met someone new, from every corner of the country. Some of the attendees had been coming for years (WPA is in its seventh year), but many of us were newbies – it didn’t matter how many times you had been to the Academy before; everyone was excited. Although the conference was centered around getting your story – thriller, mystery, procedural, romantic suspense, spy novel, noir – right, many of the writers crossed genres. I met many writers who were part of Sisters in Crime, but many as well who were RWA, or completely unaffiliated.

Some of us occasionally pointed out where it would be a good place to hide a body (but only theoretically, since Appleton's actually a very nice town -- check out FatGirlzBakin for amazing cupcakes or the Appleton Brewery for great brews and snacks), or asked how you could (again, just theoretically, we promise) blow up a cottage from a mile away, or how relationships worked between members of different branches of law enforcement. We learned about biological dangers and what the term “badge bunny” meant, how luminol reacted when bleach was used to clean up a crime, and how witnesses could be coaxed to recall the criminal’s features or suspects to confess. If you wrote about good guys versus bad guys, this was the place to be.

Lee told us near the end that the planning for next year’s event would be starting shortly after he got home from this one. 
If you’re interested in finding out more, look for the Writers Police Academy online and join their mailing list. Or try #2015WPA or www.The GraveyardShift.com, which is Lee Lofland’s blog. 
I’ll be watching and waiting to return, when I’m not writing more realistic sleuthing…

"The pool closes at eleven"

Monday, August 17, 2015

Are you a one percenter?

My name is Jenna and I proudly support the one percent.

No, I am not referring to the Occupy Wall Street faction, or the same-named 2009 documentary, 1%, proposing that 1% of Americans control 25% of the country's wealth. Neither have I earned induction into one of the notorious, outlaw One Percent motorcycle gangs where killing someone is the sole "Raison d'ĂȘtre." And, although I am a mild version of a tree hugger, I haven't recently applied to the nonprofit, "One Percent for the Planet" for membership.  

You didn't know "one percenter" covered so much ground, did you? (And I didn't even mention coach Pat Ryan's 1% system to bring his losing 1986 LA Lakers team to back-to-back championship wins.) Oops yes I did. Just now. But that's a topic suitable for a future blog post. 

Anyway, I refer instead to a pretty astounding, extremely surprising, "1%" result in a poll I read about -- a statistic you can't misinterpret or fudge. 

The poll and article related to "digital natives." I am a "digital immigrant," it seems, while those post-millennials who grew up immersed in digital technologies, are "born digital" --  and are most comfortable in a life surrounded in technology. Hence the name, digital native.

If I were to ask, "is reading print books dead, especially among digital natives?, would you think, as I did, "Yes, definitely?"

A recent Wall Street Journal article by Michael Rosenwald, "Why digital natives prefer reading in print. Yes, you read that right," changed my answer. WSJ Full Article Here

Of interest in the article:
  • Textbook makers, bookstore owners and college student surveys all say millennials still strongly prefer print for pleasure and learning
  • Pew studies show the highest print readership rates are among those ages 18 to 29, and the same age group is still using public libraries in large numbers.

Naomi S. Baron, author of  Words Onscreen: The Fate of Reading in a Digital World, is quoted by Rosenwald as well. She discovered that far from finding disinterest by millennials; for fuller comprehension, the feel of the book in their hands, and increased concentration, print was not only NOT dead, it was preferred.

The article states, "The lives of millennials are increasingly lived on screens. In her surveys, Baron writes that she found “jaw-dropping” results to the question of whether students were more likely to multitask in hard copy (1 percent) vs. reading on-screen (90 percent)."

So 90 percent of millennials multi-task (e.g. surf Pinterest or  logon to Facebook, check email) or "skim" while reading on-screen.

Only 1% do this while reading a hard copy of book. Holy reading comprehension, Batman.Isn't that amazing? So when the rubber meets the road, e.g. in reading when it matters, they revert to printed books.

Maybe the future of print publishing isn't so dire as we've been led to believe.

Guess I've been doing it right all these years.  I'm a happy one percenter (even if I am a digital immigrant.).

Monday, August 3, 2015

Location, Location, Location

So many stories I've read over the years have had settings that made me want to live in their locales --  the author paints such a vivid picture of where the characters live that I find myself fantasizing about what it might be like to live under the Montana sky, or in Tuscany, or even making a brief (brrrr!) stay in the Antarctic.

Of course, there's plenty to be said for living here on Long Island with its beaches and historical sites and its proximity to New York City. Don't get me wrong; kayaking in the marsh or the local bay nearby is one of my favorite things to do, and on the other end of the spectrum I've been known to say to my daughter, "Hey, let's just go to the city for the day, okay? Pick something or some part of it and we'll go explore."

But I love to travel. Right now my husband and I are
trying to agree upon where to go for our upcoming 25th anniversary but the bucket list of places we'd like to visit is long and there's a budget to consider. We are considering:

  • Paris (because no, it doesn't count as a visit if you only transfer on the airport tarmac to another flight, I keep telling him)
  • Ireland (to visit where Grace O'Malley, lady pirate, sailed)
  • San Francisco (with a side trip to Yosemite)
  • Newfoundland (although that would have to be next May, when it's most possible to see a Sperm Whale migration -- this perhaps because I have had to proofread Moby Dick more times than I can count)

among other places.

I also wouldn't hesitate to return to Tuscany, and not just because Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes was one of the first books to make me really feel like I was right there. For the same reason Sue Ellen Wellfonder's Scottish tales make me perfectly willing to trek the hills and dales of Scotland.

Are there any books that have put you right into a place, or made you long to see them for yourself?

Anybody care to vote for where we should plan our silver anniversary adventure?

Monday, July 27, 2015

Foodie Romance

I used to watch the Food Network Channel all the time. Cupcake Wars, Rachel Ray’s 30 Minute Meals, Barefoot Contessa, Bobby Flay, The Next Food Network Star. And I loved Iron Chef. So I was really excited when I recently met one of my favorite chefs, Michael Symon. (He bought a home in my neck of the woods this year. Super nice guy!)

On top of that, this week was Grill Hampton, a local event that pits NY City chefs against Hampton chefs in a Summer BBQ contest.

Suddenly food is everywhere on my mind.

But, if you know me, Romance is never far behind. I started to remember all the great romances that I’ve read that revolved around food, the deliciously playful to the truly bizarre. Here is a list from Goodreads

I'm intrigued by Fifty Shades of Chicken by Fowler. I never read that one. 

I would love to hear your favorite foodie romances of all time. 

Happy Writing!


Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Big City Conference

Akin to the swallows returning to Capistrano, RWA has returned to New York City as it does every four years.

 Dianna Love, Sherrilyn Kenyon, and me at the 2011 RWA conference

I had attended the last one in 2011. It was my second conference.  The excitement and anticipation of going to such a big event can be mind blowing.  Expectations run high.  Did I have a good time. Yep! Would I do it again?  Not sure.  It was a bit overwhelming for me. 

I know some members of our group had made contacts with agents and published authors but I'm a bit shy and networking is definitely not a strong point of mine. Also, for some reason, I didn't know where the bar was, which was where some of those contacts were made.  I remember how some people gushed over talks they attended. I went to a few good talks and learned new things. Even pitched my story.  

 But conferences are not for everyone.  One of our members returned kind of depressed, feeling inadequate in her ability, doubting her craft and worth.

With these things in my mind, some questions surfaced that I'd like to ask you.

Have you ever been to a conference?  
How was your experience?  Did you return rejuvenated or thwarted?  Why?
Was it more or less than what you expected?
How can one get more out of a conference experience?

I hope you'll comment, your answers might just help someone out.  Thanks.

Monday, July 13, 2015

A little knowledge

Alexander Pope (1688-1744) is said to have coined the phrase, "A little knowledge is a dangerous thing." I venture to add, in my case, a *lot* of knowledge can be both paralyzing and inhibiting.

Photo credit: Me! [just the tip of the iceberg in my den, of all the materials from 
writing classes I've taken over the years.]

I am very blessed to live in a part of the USA where local writing resources and conferences abound, with innumerable workshops taught by the best fiction writers in the business. 

My local RWA Chapter, Long Island Romance Writers, has a strong reputation for moving unpublished authors to published status, with several RITA and Golden Heart nominations in the mix.

Online classes occur nearly 24/7 and 365 days a year and hardly a few months go by where I don't sign up for yet another synopsis class or a course in writing compelling characters. I've downloaded and paid for Scrivener, The Snowflake Method, the Marshall Plan, not to mention the expensive version of Dragon, to dictate my words into Word when illness prevented me from typing.

I've traveled to frigid Minnesota in winter to participate in a small group writing weekend teaching the "My Book Therapy" method of writing.

Nobody has a love for the written word like I do; and I believe in my talent.

I've moved from being a pantser to a semi-plotter, with several versions of multiple manuscripts of multiple stories, all unfinished.

Yes - you read correctly. All unfinished.

I've had articles published, including a confession magazine story...and won press association awards. I've placed in several writing competitions...but when it comes to sending in a full manuscript I freeze.

To be honest, I'm buried under an avelanche of methods and processes and writing STUFF, and I don't know how to get out from uderneath and move forward. 

I am paralyzed.

This is a brazen request for help!

I'd love for you to give some suggestions in comments below, on how to have me finally type "the end."

How did you do it?

Monday, July 6, 2015

Writing Challenge

Writer's Digest has a writing prompt feature call Your Story. I always look forward to reading it so  I thought I'd borrow the idea for this post.

Here's what I'd like to put out before you. Using one of the pictures, or you could try to do all three, write an opening sentence to a story based on that picture.  Please put the number of that picture at the beginning of your comment so we know which one you chose.

Hope you enjoy this.  I'm excited to see what you come up with.




All pictures were taken from Pixabay.com  https://pixabay.com which supplies public domain images.

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