Tuesday, December 30, 2014

             Swear to Tell the Truth
A 2-week class on writing realistic legal and courtroom scenes.  Only $15!  Also covers a bit of law enforcement and crime scene writing. 
Scheduled for Jan 12th-23rd 2015. 
Ten packed lessons with writing tips and stories from real courtrooms and cases.  Yes, there’s homework, but it's mostly geared toward your own writing projects.  

All levels of writers are encouraged to attend but it will most benefit those that have courtroom, legal, or cop scenes in their WIP.

 http://www.fthrw.com then click workshops.  Instructor: Jody Lebel, author, blogger, and court reporter.
Know someone who might be interested?  Pass it on. :)

Friday, December 26, 2014

Appearing in issue #52, December 29, 2014

Title:  A difference of opinion
By Author:  Tracie Rae Griffith
Tag line:  Investigating a suspicious death, the detectives wished the deceased could speak for himself!   
Police characters:   Detective Kristine Kay, Sgt. Bill Hunt
The gist:    A call comes into the station and Det. Kay answers. A novelist, Graham Harris, was found dead by his secretary. Det. Kay turned to the sergeant and said, “Okay, Bill let’s go.”  When they arrived at the home a visibly shaken woman answered the door and pointed them to the den where the body was. She explained that she was supposed to work half a day today and came in after lunch.  She has a key.  She said she found him unresponsive, checked for a pulse and called the police.  Det. Kay told Sgt. Hill to stay with the secretary while she checked the body out.  She found Harris, a burly man, slumped across his desk, and an empty coffee cup by his right hand.  There was an empty container of prescription sleeping pills in the trash can next to the desk.
The secretary asked if it was a heart attack and was shown the RX container.  “More likely suicide,” said Det. Kay.  “I suspect sleeping pills in his coffee.”  The secretary was alarmed. She said she had picked up those pills for him yesterday and she produced a to-do list from her purse.  The list was in Harris’s looping handwriting (Det. Kay had seen his handwriting on some papers in his office) and it said “cancel dentist appointment, return reference books, take car in for oil change, pick up prescription.” When asked if Harris had been depressed, the secretary said it was just the opposite; that he was writing well, and lately had gone on a diet.  She added, “He finally decided to end things with Victoria.” Victoria turned out to be Harris’s money-hungry (according to the secretary) wife.  Just as they were speaking of Victoria, she showed up at the house.   Seeing the police she asked what was wrong. When told her husband was dead, she asked, “Was it suicide?” She claimed her husband had been depressed, that his books hadn’t been selling well, that his health wasn’t good, and their marriage had been having problems.  She added that she told him she would stay with him if he got rid of his secretary, who she claimed was causing problems in the marriage.  She said he agreed to fire the woman and was going to give her a month’s salary.
Det. Kay knew it wasn’t suicide.
Crime scene:    Author Harris’s home.
Clues:    The list of things to do.
Suspects:  The wife or the secretary.
Red herrings:    None.
Solution:  Victoria killed her husband by putting sleeping pills in his coffee.  Harris had not been depressed.  A man who is contemplating suicide does not have the oil changed in his car. By killing her husband before the divorce, the wife would get all the money. 
My two cents:    What a great clue.  I didn’t figure it out. So refreshing to have a decent clue that makes sense.  We have two suspects. We have motive, both women disliked each other and wanted Harris.  This was well written and the pacing was good.
Now here’s my gripe about the police work.  The police are a paramilitary organization, in other words organized similarly to the military.  They have a ranking system.  Sergeants do not get ordered around by mere detectives. 
 First of all, Det. Kay would never answer the phone from a citizen.  Those calls go through dispatch; dispatch sends out a unit, the patrolman would see the body and then call in the detectives.  There’s a system they follow.  Det. Kay could get the phone call from the officer at the scene, but not the reporting party.
Next, Det. Kay would never say to her superior, ‘Okay, Bill, let’s go.”  He might say that to her, as it’s his decision to take either take the call himself or hand it off to another detective.
Then Det. Kay tells the sergeant to stay with the secretary while she goes and views the body.  It would be the other way around.  The sergeant makes those calls. He might still choose to stay with the woman and continue interviewing her and send the detective in.
Det. Kay is telling a possible suspect her thoughts on the cause of death.  This is just not done.
But other than the police ‘stuff’ I thought this was a spot-on story.  The average reader won’t even pick up on the police protocol boo-boos.  This is a 5-star story, and I hope we see more from Ms. Griffith.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Merry Christmas to all my Christian friends.

♫  On the twelfth day of Christmas my Publisher sent to me: ♫
 12 Free book downloads
11 Edit nightmares
10 Website glitches
9 Angry e-mails
8 Bookstore signings
7 Computer crashes
6 Facebook likers
5 Missed deadlines
4 Interviews...
3 Twitter fans
2 Blogging tours
And some contract negotiations.  ♫♫♫

Friday, December 19, 2014

Appearing in issue #51, December 22, 2014

Title:  Mrs. Wentworth’s whereabouts

By Author:  Michael D’Angona


Tag line:     The detective thought it would be easy to lose your way in the sprawling mansion…

Police characters:   Detective Sabrina Jenkins

The gist:    Ella Wentworth, the wife of millionaire Gregory Wentworth, had been taken from her bedroom in broad daylight by three intruders.  Detective Jenkins wondered about where the staff was when this happened, and what kind of security system Mr. W had.  From the limited information she had before she reached the mansion, to her it looked like an inside job.

 The chef had called in the crime.  Det. Jenkins spoke to the butler who told her the chef had informed him at around 1:00 PM that he’d called the police and that Mrs. W was in danger.  The butler said he headed towards her bedroom with the chef in tow.  They found the sliding glass doors smashed.  From the window they could see Mrs. W being thrown in the back of a van and then the van sped off.   The mansion was huge with twelve bedrooms and dozens of other various rooms. The butler coughed as he was speaking to the detective and then continue to say he had been on duty since breakfast but he was available to Mrs. W around the clock.  He said the chef was working in the kitchen and the gardener was outside.  When questioned about how he knew Mrs. W was in her bedroom, he explained that he had seen her walk that way right before the chef raised the alarm. 

Det. Jenkins thought it odd that the kidnappers knew where Mrs. W was. 

Next she spoke to the chef who said he had been preparing lunch and was just about to bring it to Mrs. W.  He said as the house is so large he usually used the intercom to see where Mrs. W was located, but today as he pressed the button to speak to her he heard screaming and banging noises and the sound of glass breaking.  He said he called for the butler and they rushed to her room. He said the van she was thrown into looked similar to the one the gardener used.

The gardener told the detective he was behind the house fixing the sprinkler system.  He said he didn’t see or hear anything.  He said his van was parked by the shed where it always was.

Det. Jenkins knew who to arrest.

Crime scene:    The Wentworth mansion.

Clues:    The sequence of events heard on the intercom.  The kidnappers knew where she was.

Suspects:   The butler, the chef, and the gardener.  Or three other thugs. 

Red herrings:    The coughing butler?

Solution:  The chef did call Mrs. W a short time before lunch to see where she was; then he told the kidnappers where to go.  An intercom only allows a one-way communication.  He couldn’t have heard all that he claimed to hear.

My two cents:    I so wanted to say the butler did it. 

You don’t waste words when you’ve only got 700, yet the author has the butler coughing for no reason.  That is just curious to me.  I was waiting to hear that he was allergic to something.  Maybe the carpet in the van or something.

The intercom thing was good.  If the chef hadn’t said he heard the glass breaking I might have read right by that clue.

 Det. Jenkins was right though, what about the security cameras?  Did they capture the van’s plate?  That was never mentioned again. And where is Crime Scene?  No ransom note?  Where’s her husband?  Supposedly a woman was just brutally grabbed from her home a few hours ago and forced into a van and we’ve got one little ole detective doing interviews.  I’m not sure why she thought it was an inside job before she got the details.  I would have cut that.

Also missing… what’s the motive?   Okay, her husband is rich.  But who needs/wants the money and why?

This story lacked emotion, it lacked depth.  It read like a page out of a phone book.  It was listless, it had no energy, but it did have lots of missing details that would have enriched the tale.

((cough))  Excuse me.  I must be allergic to dull.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Appearing in issue #50, December 15, 2014

Title: Accidents Happen

By Author: Rosemary Hayes


Tag line:   It looked like Tony Anderson had loved his wine collection to death!

Police characters:  Detective Tanya Tate, Officer Pete Neller

The gist:   Tony lived alone in a tidy house on Elm Street.  When he didn’t show up to drive his elderly neighbor to the doctor and didn’t answer his door or phone, she called the police. Tony was found at the bottom of his cellar stairs with a broken neck. Time of death was estimated to be between 8:30 and 9:00 yesterday.  Another neighbor told police that he had heard arguing the day before around nine in the morning.   Det. Tate noticed the trap door to the cellar was located near the sofa and there was a rolled up rug pushed to the side.  Officer Neller told the detective that during the first sweep of the house when they were looking for Tony, they hadn’t found him and had missed the trap door to the cellar because the rug was covering it. Upon finding the cellar opening and going down, the officer noted that the third step was wobbly.  The cellar was well lit and had an impressive wine collection.

 Det. Tate looked through Tony’s cell phone and saw that he had intended to go to a wine auction with Jim Mills yesterday morning.  When Jim was questioned he said that Tony did not go to the wine auction claiming he wasn’t feeling well.   He said he arrived at Tony’s house a little before nine.  When asked about the arguments, he said they were not arguing, but they often traded mock insults and Jim liked to tease Tony about his procrastinating ways.  Tony liked to tease Jim about his compulsive tendencies.  Det. Tate speculated out loud that perhaps Jim wanted to stop Tony from buying some wine.  He claimed that Tony was alive when he left.  As he was speaking to the detective he straightened out a picture frame that was a little off kilter.  Jim knew about the wobbly step as he had been in the wine cellar many times.  He said Tony would go down into the cellar and close the trap door so he could have peace and quiet down there and speculated that because Tony wasn’t feeling well, he must have hit that wobbly stair wrong and fell.

Detective Tate knew that it was not an accident and she knew Jim killed Tony.

Crime scene:   Tony’s wine cellar.

Clues:   Jim was compulsive.  The rug was covering the trap door.

Suspects:  Jim.

Red herrings:  None.

Solution:  Jim didn’t want Tony to go to the auction.  He pushed him down the stairs, closed the trap door, and because he was a neat freak he put the rug back in place.

My two cents:    Well…this one was quite easy to solve.  We didn’t even have any other suspects.  Tony either fell or he was pushed.  The rug over the trap door was pretty obvious.  I guess Det. Tate’s speculation about the ‘why’ of the murder will have to do as a motive, although it was never confirmed.

This story was just okay.  Nothing to write home about.  It was a bit of a tedious read, and it got bogged down in places with dull, cumbersome writing.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

                                  101 Things
                    An Author Needs to Know
                 About the Police and the Law

                   Can a person represent
                   themselves in court? 

When you are accused of a crime, you have rights. One of those rights is having a lawyer with you during the process -- from questioning through the end of the trial -- if you want one. If you don't want a lawyer, you also have the right to represent yourself.

Called appearing "pro se" or "pro per," representing yourself means that you must take the time to learn the law and do whatever a lawyer would do to protect your rights. Before making this decision, consider what it might mean.

Why People Represent Themselves

People choose to represent themselves for a variety of reasons. Some think they will be more successful than someone who doesn't know the facts of their case as well. Others represent themselves because they think they won't qualify for a no-cost, court-appointed attorney, but don't want to hire one at their own expense. Still others simply don't like or trust lawyers.

Representing Yourself Has Disadvantages

Criminal law can be difficult to understand. If you represent yourself, you'll have to learn the law related to your type of case. You'll also need to learn about procedures used in the courtroom,  including picking a jury, questioning witnesses, preparing documents, and submitting evidence.

The prosecutor, representing the government whose laws you're alleged to have broken, is likely to be experienced and knowledgeable about the law and criminal procedures. Faced with such an opponent, an unprepared pro se defendant can be at a distinct disadvantage.

Standby Legal Counsel

The judge will not give you legal advice, extra help or give you extra time simply because you chose to represent yourself. To give you access to legal advice while representing yourself, the judge may appoint a lawyer as advisory counsel or co-counsel. The lawyer acting as advisory counsel may write up documents, talk with the judge on your behalf, and be available in the courtroom to answer your questions.

Co-counsel may also work with you as a team in the courtroom. A judge who decides that you are not able to represent yourself competently may tell the lawyer to take over your defense.
Thank you to lawyers.com.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Appearing in issue #49, December 8, 2014

Title:  Stretching the truth
By Author:  Emma Courtice
Tag line:    The sergeant wondered what would cause a good kind to make big mistakes!
Police characters:   Sgt. Norman Bain
The gist:    A teenage boy was in the police station accused of stealing a car and joy riding, and crashing it in front of the police department.  The sounds of a crash brought the cops outside only to see three kids running away.  One boy, Joey, wasn’t as fast as the others and Officer Esposito grabbed him.   When asked why he did it, the teen said his team had won the big game tonight and it put them all in a good mood that got out of hand.   When asked who the other boys were, Joey stubbornly shook his head and said, “Look, it was my fault.  It was my idea.  I crashed the car.”  Joey’s father was called and was on his way into the station.  While they were waiting for his dad to come the cops started talking about the game and the school.  They noted that although Joey was tall, 6’5”, he didn’t play ball very well, not like some of the other boys who were in line to receive basketball scholarships.  It was mentioned that Officer Esposito’s son was on the team also.  They went outside to examine the car.  It was an older sedan.  The front end had been crumpled pretty badly.  All four doors were standing open.  The ignition had obviously been tampered with.  While looking in the front with their flashlights, Sgt. Bain saw something shiny under the driver’s seat.  He eased back the seat and found a crumpled beer can.  Joey’s dad arrived and said he was really surprised that his son did it because he was a good boy.
Sgt. Bain went back inside and asked Joey who was really driving the car.
How did he know Joey didn’t do it?
Crime scene:    In front of the police station.
Clues:    The beer can scene.
Suspects:   Joey. 
Red herrings:    Esposito’s son being on the team.  It made you wonder if he was the driver.
Solution:  Sgt. Bain knew that Joey was too tall to fit into the driver’s seat the way it was found pushed forward. He was also suspicious of Officer Esposito running down Joey, as Esposito was the least fit officer in the department, yet he managed to run down a fit teenager who played ball. It turns out that one of Joey’s teammates, a best friend of Esposito’s son, had begged Joey to take the blame to protect the real driver’s scholarship.
My two cents:    Well, I was quite excited with this story.  At first.  
But I’ve got questions.
 We knew Joey was lying to protect someone’s scholarship.  And we knew the seat wasn’t pushed back far enough for a 6’5” boy to drive.  Okay, so far so good. I’m still happy.
 But where in the world did all this Esposito info come from?  A best friend of a cop’s son?   What’s that got to do with the price of bananas?  And what does that have to do with Esposito being the least fit officer in the department?  And how would we know that?  It wasn’t in the story.  And is the author trying to tell us that Esposito never really ran anyone down, that the boys negotiated with him in the street as to who he should say he caught? And if that were true, shouldn’t Officer Esposito be in big trouble?   And if there were four car doors open, why are there only three boys running away? 
It’s quite unfair to leave out details in the story and then spring them on us in the solution. I think this story suffered from Red Pen Madness.
This story was heading for five stars… until it fell apart in the solution.  The writing part of this story was superb.  It read very well, and was an interesting little story.  It would have been better if the driver had been Esposito’s son.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

                                    101 Things
                    An Author Needs to Know
                 About the Police and the Law

             What is the difference between 
                a sting and entrapment? 

A sting operation uses deception to catch a criminal in the act. Usually relying on undercover law enforcement officers to act as accomplices or victims, a sting operates with the goal of gathering enough evidence to bring about criminal charges. Though often glorified in movies and television, there is often great controversy over whether a sting operation constitutes entrapment, which is illegal in many regions. More controversial still is a journalistic sting operation, in which reporters attempt to gather and expose criminal information by going undercover.
Not all crimes leave easy trails of evidence behind. Prostitution, for instance, is nearly impossible to prove without direct evidence of money being exchanged for sexual services. A sting operation works by sending credible observers, such as police officers, into a situation where crime is thought to occur. The sting officer must walk a fine line between legitimately setting up a sting and entrapment, which involves coercing or pressuring people who would not ordinarily commit a crime into doing so.

The line between a sting and entrapment is very fuzzy; some countries do not even permit sting operations because of this ethical battlefield. According to the United States Department of Justice, a sting may naturally include situations where undercover agents offer enticements to potential criminals, in effect creating the opportunity for a crime to occur. Whether offering a bribe to a politician constitute a legitimate sting or entrapment may depend entirely on the judge or jury's opinion in any given case. For this reason, stings can sometimes be prohibitively expensive if there is a strong possibility of an entrapment defense.
There are a few basic elements to any sting operation, though a sting may last for minutes or years depending on the situation. Usually, a deception is set up by using undercover agents or other deceptive items, such as a rigged computer sold to a person suspected of illegal hacking. Often, stings focus on a targeted individual or group, such as a mayor suspected of taking bribes or men visiting a particular brothel. Successful stings also tend to end with an arrest or crackdown, where evidence recorded by the operation is enough to warrant an arrest, or the target actually engages in a crime.
Thank you to wiseGEEK.com.  Visit their website for lots of good 'stuff'.