More than 4,710,000 pageviews from 160 countries


Saturday, January 31, 2015

Criminal Justice Quote: Drunk, Wrong-Way Driver Kills Woman in Phoenix

     The Phoenix, Arizona man arrested in the wrong-way freeway accident in which a fire department dispatcher was fatally injured had a blood-alcohol level nearly four times the legal limit…Stephen B. Martin, 39, after the January 27, 2015 accident, told officers that he knew he was drunk and shouldn't have been driving…

     Martin told police and hospital personnel that he was on the road because he had to rescue his girlfriend from being sexually assaulted…

     Megan Lange, a 26-year-old married mother of two who'd recently returned to work after coming off maternity leave, was killed when her small SUV collided head-on with Martin's larger vehicle. Lange was driving home after finishing her shift when the accident occurred at one in the morning on Interstate 17. Another motorist whose vehicle was sideswiped by Martin's SUV suffered minor injuries…

     A woman who was a passenger in Martin's SUV said she told Martin they were going the wrong way on the interstate but they couldn't find a place to turn around. Martin had a blood-alcohol level of .313. The legal limit for driving in Arizona is .08…Martin was jailed on the charge of second-degree murder in lieu of $700,000 bond.

"Man Arrested in Fatal Wrong-Way Accident," chron.com, January 28, 2015  

Friday, January 30, 2015

Criminal Justice Quote: Arby's Customer Thwarts Robbery

     A Vernal, Utah man who just wanted to order food at an Arby's restaurant ended up thwarting a robbery attempt by a knife-wielding woman with a criminal history…The customer was placing his order in the drive-thru on Sunday January 25, 2015 when he realized the cashier was not responding to him. He pulled out of the drive-thru, parked his truck, and walked inside to place his order. In the store, one of the cashiers mouthed to him the words "We're being robbed."

     Stephanie Lee Lente, 37, was threatening cashiers with a knife and demanding money.

     "I went back out to my truck and got my gun," the man, a concealed carry permit holder, told a reporter…After retrieving his firearm, he returned to the restaurant and showed Lente that he had a gun and ordered her not to move. She didn't listen. "She came at me," the man said. "That's when I pointed my gun at her." After wrestling the knife from Lente he held her at gunpoint until the police arrived…

     Lente is being held in Uintah County of charges of aggravated robbery and possession of a controlled substance…Her criminal record includes charges of abuse of psycho-toxic chemical solvents, theft, assault, criminal mischief, violation of a protective order, and wrongful appropriation.

"Armed Arby's Customer Stops Knife-Wielding Robber," The Daily Caller, January 25, 2015 

The Genre Called New Autobiography

This is what the New Autobiography genre is: the discovery of the unique story or stories your life makes. It is the application of story structure to your life experiences to give them meaning. It's reading your life as if it were a dream, asking, "What hidden significance do these characters and these events have for me?" It's shaping these elements into what is compelling to read as a contemporary novel. The New Autobiography asks that you perceive your life as a writer would, not simplistically, but with the mystery and complexity of literature.

Tristine Rainer, Your Life as Story, 1998 

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Crimson Stain: "Murder in Amish County" was Re-Broadcast on the Discovery ID Channel January 28, 2015

     On Wednesday January 28, 2015, the Discovery ID channel re-broadcast "Murder in Amish County," the one-hour docudrama based on my book, Crimson Stain. The show, featuring dramatic re-enactments of the 1993 murder of an old-order Amish woman by her husband, Edward Gingerich, premiered in June 2013 as the first episode of the network's new series, "Deadly Devotions."

     The brutal murder, committed in front of two of the Amish parents' children, took place in the couple's northwestern Pennsylvania farmhouse. Found guilty of criminal homicide but mentally ill, Ed Gingerich went to prison for four years. In January 2011, seventeen years after he stomped his wife Katie to death, Ed Gingerich hanged himself in a barn.

     At the time of his death, the shunned Amish man was depressed, isolated from his family, and off his anti-psychotic medication. He was a man without a future. In a message scratched in dust near the suicide site, Ed asked for forgiveness. No one knows what he was asking forgiveness for--killing himself, or killing his wife, or maybe both.   

Criminal Justice Quote: Man Killed in Shootout With Police Outside City Council Meeting

     A volley of gunfire erupted outside the New Hope, Minnesota city council meeting Monday night January 26, 2015 when a man shot at a group of police officers, injuring two of them. Officers returned fire, killing the man…

     The bizarre and shocking event began shortly after the two new officers…were sworn in during the city council meeting that started at 7 PM. The officers along with others who attended the ceremony walked out of the chambers fifteen minutes later. A man with a "long gun" shot at the officers…The wounded police officers are expected to survive….

"Gunman Injures Two New Hope Police Officers, Then is Fatally Shot," startribune.com, January 27, 2015 

Criminal Justice Quote: Top Secret Service Personnel Reassigned

     Four upper management officials at the Secret Service were asked to resign and did so on January 14, 2015. A fifth agent also decided to resign voluntarily. Secret Service Acting Director Joseph Clancy obtained resignations from the agency's top four assistant directors in order to enact "change" at the agency. "Change is necessary to gain a fresh perspective on how we conduct business," Clancy said in a statement to The Washington Post. "I am certain any of our senior executives will be productive and valued assets either in other positions at the Secret Service or the department." [In other words, they weren't fired, just reassigned. In government, competence is not a job requirement.]

     Secret Service director and former professional Disney World costume character Julia Pierson resigned in October 2014 after a man managed to jump the White House fence, get in through an unlocked front door, and run into the White House residence. Pierson previously told colleagues that the Secret Service needed to be "more like Disney World." [Like what? A Mickey Mouse operation?]…

Patrick Howley, "Top-Ranking Secret Service Agents Forced Out," The Daily Caller, Jaunuary 14, 2015


Writing Quote: The Villain in Crime Fiction

Often I start working out a story in terms of its villain. Sometimes he's more interesting than anyone else. I'm curious about what makes a murderer who he is. Was he born missing some human quality? Did his early environment shape him? Or was it a combination of both?

Sandra Scoppettone in Writing Mysteries, edited by Sue Grafton, 2002 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Criminal Justice Quote: NYC Home Depot Employee Murders Manager in The Store Before Killing Himself At The Scene

     Shoppers crowded into a Manhattan Home Depot store to prepare for an anticipated snowstorm streamed into the streets Sunday afternoon January 25, 2015 after an employee shot a store manager and then himself…The 38-year-old manager, who was shot in a aisle of the store, was transported to Bellevue Hospital where he was later pronounced dead…

     The shooting happened in the store at 40 West 23rd Street in the Flatiron section of Manhattan…The shooter, a 31-year-old male worker at the store, was not scheduled to work when he came in. The shooter was pronounced dead at the scene from a self-inflicted gunshot wound…Police recovered a .38-caliber revolver at the murder scene….

"Shoppers in Crowded Home Depot Store Forced to Flee Murder-Suicde," CNN, January 25, 2015 

Criminal Justice Quote: Amazon.Com Investigated in Japan For Child Porn Sales

     Amazon.com's Japan unit has said it is cooperating with the local authorities in an investigation into whether child pornography has been sold on its website…On Friday January 23, 2015, the Japanese police raided Amazon's Tokyo headquarters, a distribution center and the offices of an affiliate…The police were searching for evidence that the site was selling child pornography such as books with photos of nude girls under the age of 18…

     The allegations of child pornography sales have drawn anger from some consumers and nonprofit groups. Amazon said in a statement that, "We are committed to enforcing our policies and the law for items listed on our site."

"Amazon Investigated in Japan Over Child Pornography," The New York Times, January 27, 2015 

Writing Quote: Most Critics of Romance Novels Have Never Read One

Most people who hate romance novels will admit--if pressed and if they're honest--they haven't actually read one since the 1970s when the so-called bodice ripper novels represented the genre.

Linda Lael Miller in Novel and Short Story Writer's Market, edited by Anne Bowling and Vanessa Lyman, 2002 

Writing Quote: The Ups and Downs of the Traditional Regency Romance Novel

Publishers (like television executives) have this "thing." They find something that sells, and they do it and do it and do it until they have killed it. If you're around long enough you'll see Regency romance novels come in, be beaten to death, go out, then come back seven to ten years later. I was dropped by Avon in the mid-eighties because traditional Regencies weren't selling and they weren't going to do them anymore. Ten months later, they called and asked me for three more. Now traditional Regencies are dying again. I have my own theory on that--the publishers tried putting graphic sex in them, that was a mistake. Traditional Regencies were perfect little gems, never with a large following, but always there, always to be counted on by older readers and for young women just getting into reading romance. Traditional Regencies introduced several generations of readers to romance.

Kasey Michaels, likesbooks.com, 2005 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Fraternity and Sorority Kids Trash Hotel

     Several fraternities and sororities at the University of Michigan stand accused of wreaking havoc by destroying hallways and hotel rooms at two ski resorts. The total in damages is estimated to be at least $50,000 in two northern Michigan resorts.

     The Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity and Sigma Delta Tau sorority did significant damage in the Treetops Inn in Gaylord, Michigan…Four other Greek houses were implicated in ruining furniture and fixtures and trashing 12 condo units at the Boyne Highlands resort in Harbor Springs, resulting in thousands of dollars of damage…The university said the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity and the Chi Psi and Delta Gamma sororities had caused that damage.

     About 120 men and women were staying in 45 rooms at the Treetops resort. They damaged ceiling tiles in the hallway, ripped lights out of fixtures, broke furniture and windows, and generally left the place filthy….

"Several Michigan Fraternities, Sororities Accused of Trashing Two Resorts," huffingtonpost.com, January 22, 2015 

Criminal Justice Quote: Video Shows Cop Abusing Man in Wheelchair

     The San Francisco Police Department announced Wednesday January 21, 2015 that it is launching an internal investigation after videos emerged showing an officer pushing a man in a wheelchair into the street and trying to dump him there…The incident occurred at four in the afternoon on Sunday, January 19, 2015…

   According to bystanders' videos posted to YouTube, the incident began when Bo Frierson--who is in a wheelchair due to a spinal cord injury--approached officers who were questioning his friends. The officers didn't appreciate the intervention and angry words were exchanged. One of the officers pushed Frierson over the curb into the street…"He tried to dump me out, you can see, a couple times," Frierson told a local TV reporter. "Lucky for the seat belt. What if I were to just fall on my face? I mean, I could have died."…

"Police Launch Investigation After Video Shows Cop Shoving Man in Wheelchair Into Street," huffingtonpost.com, January 22, 2015 

Writing Quote: Literary Critics Don't Like Storytellers

I think I function in the direct tradition of the early American novel, as a storyteller rather than a philosopher or a teacher; so I'm resented by the school of criticism that rejects storytelling as superficial and looks on the novel as basically as examination of the interior life. The critics don't choose to examine how well you tell a story, and that's what I'm interested in.

Howard Fast in Writing For Your Life, edited by Sybil Steinberg, 1992 

Writing Quote: Test Your Children's Book On An Adult

My child would enjoy the phone book if I sat her on my lap and read it to her. Test your children's manuscript on discerning adults and ask, "Does it engage you?"

Stephen Roxburgh, Byline, January 2000

Monday, January 26, 2015

Criminal Justice Quote: Murder-Suicde in Queens, New York

     The man who shot and killed three of his relatives in Queens, New York early Saturday January 23, 2015 is dead. Investigators said Jonathon Walker, 34, shot his mother-in-law, common law wife and their two daughters. He had previously lived in Buffalo and attended Daeman College [a liberal arts school in Amherst, New York].

     Viola Warren, 62, Shantai Hale, 31, and Kayla Walker, 7 were found dead inside a Queens home shortly after 5:30 PM on Saturday. Authorities said Jonathon Walker also shot his daughter Kristina Walker, 12 in the head--but she was able to call the police. She was taken to the Long Island Jewish Hospital where she underwent surgery and is in critical but stable condition….

"Former Buffalo Man Shoots Self Dead After Killing Three Relatives in Queens," twcnews.com, January 24, 2015  

Writing Quote: The "Saved By The Love Of A Good Woman" Theme in Romance Fiction

The theme of the man who is "saved by the love of a good woman" is common in both life and romance. In reality, savior complexes are dangerous because they encourage women to stay with abusive mates, but that is another story, one that belongs in "woman's fiction" rather than "romance." What matters in a romance context is that healing the wounded hero is a fantasy of incredible potency.

Mary Jo Putney in Dangerous Men and Adventurous Women, edited by Jayne Ann Krenz, 1992 

Writing Quote: The Children's Book Reviewer

In essence, a children's book reviewer reads and writes with two audiences in mind: (1) adults who read reviews to help them select books for children and (2) the children themselves. It is important to remember that most books for children are created with the best intentions in mind. No one sets out to produce a crummy book that kids will hate. If this is your initial assessment of a book you're reviewing, it would be unfair and unwise to let it stand as your final assessment without a great deal of further consideration.

Kathleen T. Horning, From Cover to Cover, 1997 

L. Frank Baum On Literary Fame

When I was young I longed to write a great novel that would win me fame. My first book, Mother Goose in Prose (1914) was written to amuse children. For, aside from my evident inability to do anything "great," I have learned to regard fame as the will-o-the-wisp which, when caught, is not worth the possession. But to please a child is a sweet and lovely thing that warms one's heart and brings it own reward.

L. Frank Baum in L. Frank Baum by Katharine M. Rogers, 2002 

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Writing Quote: Real Life Versus Literary Dialogue

If you need proof that dialogue and spoken words are not the same, go to a supermarket. Eavesdrop. Much of what you'll hear in the aisles sounds like idiot talk. People won't buy your novel to hear idiot talk. They get that free from relatives, friends, and at the supermarket.

Sol Stein, Stein on Writing, 1995

Writing Quote: The Biographic Hatchet Job

Almost every eminent person leaves behind an abundance of personal data which, skillfully manipulated, can prove him to have been a fool or a knave. Innocuous personal details and casual episodes, if sufficiently emphasized, described with archness and placed in misleading context, can be as damaging in their effect as plain evidence of dim intellect or villainy.

Richard D. Aftick, Lives and Letters, 1965 

Writing Quote: The Short Story Rejection Slip

Virtually all magazines have printed rejection slips. Some make their points succinctly with little attempts to soften the blow. The basic message is straightforward: "We've decided not to publish your story." Some rejection forms make a half-hearted effort to explain the obvious: "We're not reading fiction for the time being" or "another editor may think differently" (i.e., the problem may be ours and not yours). A few try diplomacy: "We're grateful for the chance to read your work." And others are mildly apologetic: "We're sorry that the quantity of manuscripts we consider makes it impossible to reply to each one personally." At bottom, however, the message is no more and likely no less than, simply, "No."

C. Michael Curtis in On Writing Short Stories, edited by Tom Bailey, 2000

Theme in Children's Literature

If an editor says your children's story is "slight," this may mean you have no significant theme. Don't blurt out your theme. Let it emerge from the story. If you must come out and say it, do it in dialogue, not narration. Avoid preaching. Children's stories should be explorations of life--not Sunday school lessons. Keep your theme positive. If writing about a special problem, offer constructive ways for your reader to deal with it.

Aaron Shepard, The Business of Writing For Children, 2000

Writing Quote: Romance Novels Written in The First Person

Many romance readers won't try a novel written in first-person, single person point of view. As romances go, it can be a challenge to reveal enough about the main character's love interest to make the romance seem convincing. In other words, to understand what that other person sees in the main character. What do you do to reveal these emotions to the reader?

Holly Cook, likesbooks.com, 2013 

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Criminal Justice Quote: Drug Drones

     On January 21, 2015, police in Tijuana, Mexico said that a drone overloaded with methamphetamine crashed into a supermarket parking lot. The authorities were alerted after the drone fell the night before near the San Ysidro crossing at Mexico's border with California.

     Six packets of the drug, weighing more than six pounds, were taped to the six-propeller remote controlled aircraft…Authorities are investigating where the flight originated and who was controlling it.  This was not the first time drug enforcement officers had encountered drones used for smuggling contraband across the border. Other efforts include catapults, ultra-light aircraft and tunnels….

"Drone Overloaded With Meth Crashes in Mexico Border City," Associated Press, January 22, 2015


89-Year-Old Murder Suspect Dies

     An 89-year-old man charged with fatally beating his 86-year-old roommate at a Buffalo area assisted living facility has died. Chester Rusek's attorney said he died Wednesday January 21, 2015 in the lockup at Erie County Medical Center where he was being treated for medical problems.

     The authorities had charged Rusek with manslaughter in the November 2012 killing of Salvatore Trusello. Rusek had used a 2-pound magnet to pummel Trusello as he lay in his bed at a senior living community in the town of Tonawanda. The victim died a month after the assault…Investigators believe Rusek attacked Mr. Trusello because he thought his roommate was stealing from him.

"89-Year-Old Man Charged With Killing 86-Year-Old Roommate Dies," Associated Press, January 23, 2015 

Writing Quote: Setting in Crime Fiction

The backdrop of a mystery, the world in which the action takes place--the scenery so to speak--has the potential to be as important as character or plot. Indeed, if painted vividly enough it can become a character itself; or it can determine plot. It can set a mood, create an atmosphere. It can add richness and color.

Julie Smith in Writing Mysteries, edited by Sue Grafton, 2002 

Writing Quote: Books For Middle-Grade Children

Middle-grade fiction (ages 9-13) is perhaps the most satisfying category for a writer. Children are still children, but their curiosity if unbounded and the writer who can enthrall them will be cherished. Statistics have shown that this age is also known for having the most readers as a group. To satisfy these voracious and varied readers, think about writing thrillers, literary novels, fantasy and science fiction, gripping historical fiction, humor, and books about contemporary problems.

Olga Litowinsky, Writing and Publishing Books For Children, 1992 

Friday, January 23, 2015

Writing Quote: Fantasy as Escapist Literature

I still see fantasy as escapist literature. Whether the storytelling itself or by the ideas behind the story, readers want to be transported beyond their mundane existence by the genre.

Betsy Mitchell, Writer's Digest, 1999

Biographers Who Dislike Their Subjects

Picasso was an awful man. I don't think you have to love your subject--initially you shouldn't--but writing a biography is like picking a roommate. After all you're going to be with that person every day, maybe for years, and why subject yourself to someone you have no respect for, or outright don't like?

David McCullough, The Paris Review, Fall 1999

Writing Quote: The Ideal Children's "Chapter Book"

Most chapter books (ages 7-10) are 1,500 to 10,000 words long or forty to eighty pages. These books, divided into eight to ten short chapters, are written for kids who can read and who can handle reasonably complicated plots and simple subplots. Written with a lot of dialogue, the vocabulary in chapter books is challenging, and words can often be understood in the context of the sentence. Most chapters are self-contained with a beginning, middle and end. But some chapters move the plot forward by means of cliffhanger endings.

Nancy Lamb, Writer's Guide to Crafting Stories For Children, 2001 

Writing Quote: The Element of Justice in Romance and Mystery Novels

The romance novel is based on the idea of an innate emotional justice in the universe, that the way the world works is that good people are rewarded and bad people are punished. The mystery genre is based on the same assumption, only there is a moral justice, a sense of fair play in human and legal interaction: because the good guys take risks and struggle, the murderers get punished and good triumphs in a safe world. So in romance, the lovers who take risks and struggle for each other and their relationships are rewarded with emotional justice, unconditional love in a emotionally safe world.

Jennifer Crusie, Romance Writer's Report, March 2000

Don't Put Too Much Small Talk Into a Novel

Exciting dialogue is spoken by smart characters saying important things. Beware of small talk, especially greetings, partings, and politesse. Avoid banter unless it has a clear and significant purpose in the story and suits the mood of what is happening between the speaking characters.

Alice Orr, No More Rejections, 2004 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Criminal Justice Quote: University Decides Not to Arm College Cops With Assault Rifles

     Administrators at Idaho State University, on January 11, 2015, canceled an order for eleven AR-15 rifles for its campus security detail. The school ordered the weapons in August 2014 to have them on hand in case of a campus shooting. "On second consideration," said the school's vice president, "we determined it was in everybody's best interest if we let the local SWAT team deal with that sort of issue, and that our officers on campus would deal with containing the situation."

     The gun cancellation followed concerns among local law enforcement agencies that the school's campus public safety officers had overstepped their authority on several occasions…In September 2014, city officials in Pocatello said campus security officers delayed calling the police after an assistant chemistry professor shot himself in the foot during a lecture when a gun in his pocket went off. By the time city police arrived, the scene had been cleaned up.

     In late December 2014, the director of the Idaho State Police rescinded permission for university security vehicles to use red emergency lights after campus officers used the lights to stop motorists on and near the campus and issue traffic citations. The authorized use of the red lights were only to alert motorists, not to stop them…

     On other occasions, campus security administered an alcohol breath test on a driver before calling police and seized marijuana from a dorm room without notifying the authorites for days. Unlike some other large universities that have their own police departments, safety officers at ISU don't have broad authority. Campus officers can make citizen arrests and detain suspects for police questioning….

"Idaho State University Cancels Order for AR-15 Rifles," Associated Press, January 12, 2015 

Writing Quote: Types of Literary Dialogue

Naturalistic or "kitchen sink" dialogue involves people expressing themselves informally. The hell with grammar, if the characters knew it to begin with. Realistic dialogue, while appearing deceptively natural, is more organized. The vast bulk of modern plays and fiction employ this style combined with naturalistic. Pitfalls in realistic lines are the lack of accurate ear and the old bugaboo of educational freeze-up. One can be so organized, correct and formal that the lines go flat and lose the sound of people talking to each other.

Parke Goodwin in The Portable Writers' Conference, edited by Stephen Blake Mettee, 1997 

Writing Quote: The Romance Novel Leading Man

Traditionally, the romance novel hero is the Byronic type--dark and brooding, writhing inside with all the residual anguish of his shadowed past. He's world-weary, cynical, quick-tempered and prone to fits of guilt and depression. He is strong, virile, powerful, and lost. Adept at many things that carry with them the respect and admiration of the world (particularly the world of other males), he is not fully competent in the arena where women excel--the arena of his emotions, which are violently out of control.

Linda Barlow in Dangerous Men and Adventurous Women edited by Jayne Ann Krentz, 1992 

Writing Quote: Robert A. Caro on Biography

I was never interested in writing biographies merely to tell the lives of famous men. [Caro is the author of a three volume biography of Lyndon B. Johnson.] I never had the slightest interest in doing that. From the first time I thought of becoming a biographer, I conceived of biography as a means of illuminating the times and the great forces that shape the times--particular political power. A biography will only do that, of course, if the biography is of the right man.

Robert A. Caro in Extraordinary Lives, edited by William Zinsser, 1986 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Criminal Justice Quote: Pizza Gal Takes Down Robber

     Papa John's Pizza is standing by a pizza delivery woman who opened fire on an armed robber on January 11, 2015…The employee will not be fired from the company. She was making a delivery in Decatur, Georgia when a man approached her vehicle and forced her onto the ground at gunpoint…The woman, who had a gun in her pocket, was able to fire at the man while she lay on the ground, striking the assailant--Donquaz Stevenson--in the face.

     Stevenson was found later in a neighbor's yard…A second robbery suspect stole the delivery woman's silver 2000 Honda Accord... Stevenson was charged with armed robbery and treated for his gunshot wound at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta…

     While Papa John's prohibits employees--including delivery drivers--from carrying firearms on the job, a pizza company spokesperson said the woman would remain on the job. She will be reassigned to another position. [Perhaps they should put her in charge of corporate security.]…

"Papa John's Pizza Stands By Employee Who Shot Armed Robber," Fox News, January 15, 2015

     

Criminal Justice Quote: Clerk Confronts Liquor Store Robbers

     A Tulsa, Oklahoma liquor store clerk took on four masked men during an attempted robbery…shooting and killing two and bringing an end to a serial robbery ring. The four men entered Ryan's Liquor store at ten-thirty Tuesday night January 13, 2015…One of the robbers, 27-year-old Brian Powell, pulled a handgun and fired it while demanding money. But the clerk didn't comply. Instead, he pulled out a semi-automatic handgun and fired, hitting and killing Powell and 16-year-old Kevin Dobbs.

     The other two robbers, 20-year-old Lakeit Thompson and 17-year-old George Williamson, fled the scene but were later arrested and charged with armed robbery and felony murder. Both suspects had been involved in previous hold-ups…Powell was on probation for a larceny conviction…

Chuck Ross, "Store Clerk Takes on Four Armed Robbers," The Daily Caller, January 16, 2015 

Breaking Into the Science Fiction Genre

Short story writing is the best place to start in the science fiction field. Many writers who start with short stories go on to acquire novel contracts. I'd say there are almost no science fiction novelist who were not published first in magazines.

Kim Mohan in Novel & Short Story Writer's Market, edited by Robin Gee, 1994

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Whackademia Quote: California Teachers Arrested for Student Beach Sex

   A pair of high school teachers in Orange County, California were arrested on January 17, 2015 on suspicion of having sex with students during an alcohol-fueled party at a beach. Melody Lippert, 38 and Michelle Ghirelli, 30 were taken into custody after rumors of the party circulated among students and staff at South Hills High School…

     South Hills teacher Melody Lippert allegedly met a group of male students in November 2014 at the beach where she gave them alcohol and engaged in sex with one of them….A few weeks later, Lippert allegedly set up an overnight camping trip to the same beach with students. She was accompanied by Ghirelli. The two teachers are suspected of having sex with the students during that outing…

     Lippert has been charged with conspiracy and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Ghirelli has been charged with oral copulation and unlawful sex with a minor. Both suspects were booked into the Orange County Jail…

"California Teachers Accused of Having Sex With Students on a Beach," huffingtonpost.com, January 19, 2015 

Criminal Justice Quote: Say Goodbye to Charles Warner

     Oklahoma's first execution in nine months was carried out at 7:28 Thursday night January 15, 2015. The state of Oklahoma pronounced Charles Warner dead from lethal injection. Warner, who was sentenced to death for the 1997 rape and murder of an 11-month-old girl, had his last minute appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court denied. Less than 90 minutes later he was dead…

     Warner offered a full statement before the execution in which he said that he apologized for the pain he caused by his crime. He said he was not a monster.

     This was the first execution in the state since the execution of Clayton Lockett which did not go as planned. Lockett's execution in April 2014 went wrong when one of his veins failed. The lethal drug was not injected directly into his blood and his death was drawn out. Executions in the state were suspended until authorities conducted an investigation into the process. Changes were implemented…

     After Warner's microphone was turned off, he said loud enough to be heard: "No one should have to go through this. I'm not afraid to die. We are all going to die."

"Convicted Child Killer Charles Warner Executed," Fox News, January 15, 2015 

Novelist Truman Capote's Workday

I'm always quite nervous at the beginning of my workday. It takes me a great deal of time to get started. Once I get started, it gradually calms down a bit, but I'll do anything to keep postponing…Anyway, one way or another, I manage to write about four hours a day.

Truman Capote in Conversations With Capote, edited by Lawrence Grobel, 1985 

Writing Quote: Should Writers Ignore Bad Reviews?

People who aren't novelists might think that authors would be well advised to study their negative reviews with care, rather than letting a protective skin form. After all, isn't there something to be learned from the thoughtful analysis of intelligent and knowledgeable critics? Well, maybe, but most of the writers I know don't take them seriously, and neither do I. It's not that I don't respect reviewers. It's that reviewers don't write their columns for writers. They write them with readers in mind, and that's a different thing.

Aaron Elkins, Mystery Writers Annual, 2004 

The "Mannered" Style of Writing

If a novelist cares more for his language than for other elements of fiction, if he continually calls our attention away from the story to himself, we call him "mannered" and eventually we tire of him.

John Gardner, On Becoming a Novelist, 1983 

Monday, January 19, 2015

The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven: Kids Shouldn't Write Memoirs

     Writing and publishing a memoir that features a child's recollection of events is not only ridiculous, it's an abuse of the youngster, the genre, and the people who pay good money to read what they think is a nonfiction book.

     In 2010, Tyndale House, a leading publisher of so-called Christian books, came out with a memoir called, The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven: A Remarkable Account of Miracles, Angels and Life Beyond the World. The subject of the book, Alex Malarkey, is listed as the author of the memoir along with his father, Kevin. (In the memoir genre the concept of authorship has been rendered almost meaningless. So has the fiction/nonfiction distinction.)

     The spiritual, uplifting story begins with a 2004 automobile accident that put Alex Malarkey into a coma that took him to Heaven where he saw angels and spoke to Jesus. The publicity savvy father and son writing team took advantage of the feel-good appeal this journey into the afterlife held for fluff morning television and other media outlets. The book became a bestseller. By 2014, the publisher had sold 120,000 copies of the memoir.

     In 2014, shortly after Tyndale House brought out a new edition of the memoir that featured the cover blurb: "A true story," Alex Malarkey, in an open letter to the reading public, admitted that the book was a lie, a fraud driven by his desire for attention. (The fraudulent memoir has become so common it could be designated a literary sub-genre.)

    According to the boy, "I did not die. I did not go to Heaven. When I made those claims I had never read the Bible. People have profited from my lies and continue to. They should read the Bible, which is enough."

     The publisher, in early January 2015, pulled the book off the market. The discrediting of this memoir had been foreshadowed by the young author's mother, an early critic of the book. In April 2014 she wrote on her blog that her son had been exploited and that she found the book's success "both puzzling and painful to watch." 

Writing Quote: The Regency Period Heroine

A Regency period heroine may find herself in dire straits and approach crisis in many ways, but never at the expense of dignity and self-respect. Otherwise, she becomes too tawdry to qualify as a heroine for the romance genre.

Alice Orr, No More Rejections, 2004

Writing Quote: Why Writers Keep Journals

Writers keep journals because they like to write between projects, or they have other subjects to get off their minds besides the one they are writing about. They sometimes keep a journal because they want to write about their subjects in an unstructured way. They write journals because they like to keep writing.

Shelia Bender in The Writer's Journal, edited by Shelia Bender, 1997 

Writing Quote: Autobiographies of Writers

More than celebrated figures in other professions, the writers of imaginative literature have proved almost incapable of separating autobiographical fancy from fact. Mark Twain had a genius for embroidering, to say nothing of inventing the events of his life.

Richard D. Aftick, Loves and Letters, 1965 

Writing Quote: Science Fiction is Not For the General Reader

Science fiction is often accused (by those who don't like it) of being unnecessarily esoteric. You can't understand the stuff, we are told, unless you've already read a fat pile of it. Science Fiction writers use devices not readily comprehensible to an outside reader. Take faster-than-light travel, hyperspace, fourth and fifth dimensions…The truth is that anything worth knowing demands effort, and the science fiction understandable only to science fiction readers is almost invariably the very best kind written.

Gordon Eklund in Epoch, edited by Roger Elwood and Rober Silverberg, 1975 

Writing Quote: Novelist Joseph Heller's Work Ethic

I work almost constantly. For a novelist without hobbies, weekends don't make much difference. Most people don't enjoy weekends anyway; they don't know what to do with Sundays.

Joseph Heller in Fiction Writer's Market, edited by Jean M. Fredette, 1985 

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Writing Quote: Not Everyone is a Fan of the Whodunit

The tradition of the mystery or crime novel is an old and honored one, but it's quality has been debased. And possibly nothing has done more harm to the nature of mystery fiction than the notion that it should concern itself more with "whodunit" than why the deed was done. Chief among those responsible for this decline in Agatha Christie.

Thomas H. Cook, themysteryguild.com, 2003 

Criminal Justice Quote: Prep School Headmaster Convicted of Child Porn Dealing

     A judge has convicted a former headmaster of an elite Delaware prep school on 25 counts of dealing in child pornography. Christopher Wheeler was arrested after police, prompted by child sex abuse allegations involving two Pennsylvania brothers, searched his home and office at the Tower Hill school for evidence of witness tampering or intimidation and instead found child pornography.

     The conviction on all counts on December 22, 2014 came after a bench [no jury] trial for the 54-year-old ex-headmaster of the school founded by members of the DuPont family. The school's graduates include DuPont company CEO Ellen Kullman and U.S. Senator Chris Coons…

     Each of the 25 counts carries a minimum two-year prison term.

"Ex-Delaware Headmaster Guilty in Child Porn Case," Fox News, December 22, 2014 

Criminal Justice Quote: FBI to Offer Active Shooter Training Drills

     The FBI will hold active shooter training drills at sports stadiums as part of a program to prepare for what the agency says is a growing concern for law enforcement. FBI agents will take part in the training sessions designed to help local officers deal with active-shooter situations at businesses, schools and public places…The FBI began developing the project after the 2012 mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut…Two-hundred agents will help conduct the two-day training sessions that will be held around the U.S. and in Puerto Rico…

     Sports stadiums will be one focus of the program. Authorities worry that these sites could be the venues for future shootings by gunmen bent on achieving mass casualties…

     Though the shooting at Newtown--where 26 children and teachers were killed at the Sandy Hook elementary school--served as the catalyst for the program, the FBI found additional evidence to support the new training effort.

     Reviewing shooting incidents from between 2000 and 2013, the agency found that mass shooting incidents went from 6.4 per year in the first half of the review to 16.4 in the second half. Though two-thirds of the 160 incidents included in the FBI study came to an end before law enforcement arrived at the scene--either because the shooter committed suicide, fled, or was stopped by a citizen--the FBI believes the training will save at least some lives….

Chuck Ross, "FBI to Train 30,000 Officers for Active Shooting Situations," The Daily Caller, December 22, 2014 

Judge Let Man Out On Bail Who Threatened To Kill Cops

     A Brooklyn judge cut loose a gang member who had posted online threats to gun down cops in the hours after two NYPD officers were executed in their patrol car--ignoring prosecutors' pleas to keep him behind bars…

     Criminal Court Judge Laura Johnson let Devon Coley, 18, waltz free without bail despite the fact that he faces seven years behind bars on charges he made a terroristic threat--complete with an image of a killer shooting cops in their car--and was awaiting trial in two unrelated cases involving assault and gun possession.

     Johnson's stunning no-bail decision came just two days after the December 20, 2014 broad daylight slayings of officers Rafael Ramos and Wenijan Liu by a gunman bent on avenging the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown at the hands of the police.

     "The judge should resign from the bench," said Dennis Quirk, head of the state court officers union. "She's not fit to be a judge."

"Judge Turns Loose Thug Who Posted Gun Threat Against Cops," New York Post, December 24, 2014 

Writing Quote: Background in Science Fiction

In each and every science fiction story, the entire background must be supplied to the reader. The writer cannot say, "You know what I mean," when he mentions a laser handgun, even though he could simply use the word pistol in a detective story and the reader would instantly know what he meant. This is one reason why science fiction short stories are so difficult to do well. More often, the writer will start out to produce a short story and end up with a novelette--about twenty thousand words instead of five to seven thousand.

Ben Bova, Notes to a Science Fiction Writer, 1975 

Writing Quote: Novelist Flaubert's Work Habits

I have just spend a good week, alone like a hermit. I abandoned myself to a frenzy of literature; I got up at midday, I went to bed at four in the morning. I smoked fifteen pipes in a day; I have written eight pages.

Gustave Flaubert in Writer's On Writing, edited by Walter Allen, 1948 

Writing Quote: The Elements of Style

Style is an author's choice of words (diction), arrangement of words in each sentence (syntax), and the handling of sentences and paragraphs to achieve a specific effect.

David Madden, Revising Fiction, 1988

Saturday, January 17, 2015

The Case of House Speaker John Boehner's Ex-Bartender

     Michael P. Hoyt, known as "Bartender Mike" at the Wetherington Golf and Country Club in West Chester, Ohio, lived in Deer Park, a suburban community in Butler County not far from Cincinnati. For the past five years the 44-year-old bartender had served wine to Ohio Republican and Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, John Boehner. The congressman is a member of the club.

     Suffering from mental illness for which he had been prescribed anti-psychotic medication that he did not always take, Mr. Hoyt had trouble at work. On October 22, 2014 his boss at the country club fired him.

     In his psychotic state, Mr. Hoyt blamed John Boehner for many things, including his dismissal from the country club. In an October 28, 2014 email to the speaker's wife Debbie, Hoyt wrote: "If I had any intention of hurting Mr. Boehner, I could have poisoned his wine at Wertherington many, many times."

     The next day, Hoyt called the Deer Park Police Department and asked to speak with an officer. Questioned at his home, the former bartender said he had been fired because John Boehner had complained about his job performance. He said voices in his head had informed him that Mr. Boehner was an evil man who was responsible for the Ebola outbreak. Claiming to be Jesus Christ (this gave him a lot in common with many politicians), Hoyt said his supervisor had fired him before he had the opportunity to poison Mr. Boehner's wine. He also informed the officers that he owned a loaded .380 Beretta pistol, a weapon he could have used to kill the Speaker.

     Police officers took Mr. Hoyt into custody on suspicion of making death threats against the Ohio Congressman. A judge ordered a 45-day mental evaluation of Mr. Hoyt at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center.

     Officers searching Mr. Hoyt's home on October 31, 2014 found boxes of ammunition but no guns. (Hoyt's mother, aware of her son's deteriorating mental health, had taken his SKS assault rifle to her home in Hebron, Kentucky.) In the dwelling, officers found a notebook containing Hoyt's psychotic ramblings on John Boehner.

     As assistant United States Attorney in Cincinnati, on November 6, 2014, presented Mr. Hoyt's case to a federal grand jury that promptly indicted him for making terroristic threats against a public official. If convicted as charged he faced up to thirty years in prison.

     It wasn't until January 14, 2015 that a federal spokesperson announced Hoyt's indictment. The spokesperson did not explain why the government had waited so long to make this information public.

     

Criminal Justice Quote: Two Albuquerque Cops Charged in Police Involved Shooting

     A New Mexico prosecutor on January 12, 2015 filed murder charges against two Albuquerque police officers who fatally shot a homeless man in March 2014. The shooting set off violent protests across the city…Former detective Keith Sandy and SWAT officer Dominique Perez were each charged with one murder count in the death of James Boyd. An open murder charge allows the prosecutor to decide later whether a first-degree or second-degree charge will be brought. [It's also a plea bargaining tool.]…

     Perez and Sandy were accused of fatally shooting the 38-year-old man after a four-hour standoff. Video from an officer's helmet camera showed Boyd, armed with two knives, appearing to surrender before he was shot…Boyd suffered from schizophrenia and other mental disorders…Police Chief Gordon Eden ignited controversy for saying the shooting appeared justified…

     Luis Robies, an attorney for Perez, said he was "confident the facts will vindicate Perez's actions in the case."

"Albuquerque Officers Charged in Fatal Shooting," Associated Press, January 12, 2015  

Criminal Justice Quote: Oklahoma City Police Officer Accused of Rape Fired

     Oklahoma City's police chief fired an officer accused of sexually assaulting 13 women while on duty…Daniel Holtzclaw was fired on January 8, 2015. He pleaded not guilty to 26 charges of sexual assault that include first-degree rape, sexual battery, forcible oral sodomy and indecent exposure...

     Police began investigating Holtzclaw in June 2014 after a woman filed a complaint. Chief William Citty called the charges against the former officer "the greatest abuse of police authority" in his 37 years on the force. Holtzclaw is free on $609,000 bail….

"Oklahoma City Policeman Facing Sexual Assault Charges," Associated Press, January 9, 2015 

Writing Quote: News Bloggers

     Blogs are online journals consisting of brief entries displayed in chronological order on a page. They are usually written in a conversational voice and usually peppered with links and references to other sites…Blogging is confronting journalism with the rise of current-events blogs that deconstruct news coverage, spew opinion and even scoop the big media from time to time. The best news bloggers are articulate, independent thinkers. In some ways, they are the antithesis of traditional journalists, unedited, unabashedly opinionated, sporadic and personal…

     A growing number of journalists are blogging on their own time…Many are freelancers and columnists who want a showcase for their collected works and an overflow bin for commentary that couldn't fit into their allotted inches or minutes…Even journalists who have no interest in running a blog can glean story tips and ideas from them…Blogs can be a rich resource, an easy publishing tool and a repository for notebook overflow. Bloggers will not usurp online newspapers, but newsrooms could borrow a few tricks from bloggers to make their own journalism better.

Barb Palser, "Journalistic Blogging," ajrarchive.org, July/August 2002 

Writing Quote: What It Takes to Create Fiction

Fiction, first of all, involves the invention of a world. Here the writer needs, not only the gift of writing, but the ability to create scenes, particulars and persons--to make imaginary lives and objects.

William H. Gass in Afterwords, edited by Thomas McCormack, 1988 

Writing Quote: Hard Science Fiction

Arthur C. Clarke was a scientist, and his work sits squarely in the tradition of "hard SF"--a largely detestable term, but we're stuck with it--which is to say, science fiction with one eye on strict scientific plausibility. Much hard science fiction is stylistically dry, with little concern for character or what one might consider the finer literary virtues. There was rather more to Clarke than mere nuts and bolts descriptions, though. On a good day, he could rise to the genuinely poetic.

Alstair Reynolds, "The City and the Stars by Arthur C. Clarke," theguardian.com, May 14, 2011 

Friday, January 16, 2015

Female Police Officer Fatally Shoots Belligerent Man Believed Armed With Knife

     On Saturday January 3, 2015, 23-year-old John Paul Quintero and his father were visiting the home of a 21-year-old women in Wichita, Kansas. An argument broke out between Quintero and the homeowner that turned violent when Quintero grabbed the victim and placed a knife at her throat. The knife-wielding man's father, who had also been threatened by him, left the house, climbed into his SUV and called 911.

     Two police officers rolled up to the scene a few minutes before seven that evening. The officers parked the patrol car down the block and walked toward the dwelling. When they arrived at the house they found the father and his son sitting in the SUV parked in the residence's driveway.

     The officers ordered the two men out of the vehicle and told them to keep their hands where they could see them. The father complied immediately, but his son, when he exited the passenger's side, became belligerent and threatening. As the uncooperative suspect moved toward one of the officers, he was again ordered to show his hands. Instead, the younger Quintero threatened the police officer who attempted to subdue him with a Taser. The device had no effect on the advancing suspect.

     When Quintero reached for his waistband, the threatened female officer shot him twice.

     EMS personnel rendered first aid at the scene then placed Quintero into an ambulance. After undergoing emergency surgery at Wichita's Wesley Medical Center, Quintero died from his bullet wounds.

     At the time he was shot, Quintero was not in possession of the knife. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation, along with the Sedgwick County Sheriff's Office, took charge of the investigation. The officer who shot the unarmed man was placed on administrative leave pending the results of the police  inquiry into the shooting.

     Since the police officer had reasonable grounds to believe this belligerent and threatening suspect was armed with a knife and was willing to use it, she will be cleared of wrongdoing in what appears to be a justifiable use of deadly force. The fact Mr. Quintero was unarmed at the time of his death does not, by itself, make this shooting unjustified.  

69-Year-Old's Teen Girlfriend Orchestrated His Kidnapping

     "I thought this was going to be my last car ride," said a 69-year-old man. "My own personal car was going to be my hearse." The Southgate, Michigan man was the victim of a plan involving robbery and kidnapping set up by his 17-year-old girlfriend and two men in their 30s.

     On the night of January 2, 2015, the victim's girlfriend, Destiny Marie Gerwatowski, came up with the plan with suspects Alphonso Straughter Jr., 31 and Tajak Lewis Jackson, 36. "After they got my wallet they were ticked off because their was only $90 in it. That's when the crime became serious," said the unidentified victim. "They threw me in the trunk of my car and started backing out of the driveway."

     The man imprisoned in his own trunk used a lighter to find the emergency trunk release…"When I felt the car creep forward I bailed out."…He ran across the highway to a liquor store where he called 911…

     Gerwatowski, Straughter and Jackson were locked up on charges of carjacking, armed robbery, home invasion and unlawful imprisonment. The local prosecutor, despite the fact Gerwatowski was 17, charged her as an adult…All three could be sentenced up to life in prison….

"Southgate Man, 69, Escaped Kidnap," myfoxdetroit.com, January 7, 2015

      

Criminal Justice Quote: Female Cop Goes Nuts in New Jersey

     An Irvington, New Jersey police captain was arrested early Tuesday morning January 6, 2015 after allegedly trying to run over a city councilman with her car…Monique Smith, 43, was taken into custody on charges including aggravated assault, stalking, harassment, criminal mischief and multiple weapons charges related to the incident involving South Ward Councilman John Sharpe James…

     James was close to his home…when he was confronted by Captain Smith around 11 PM January 5, 2015. As she yelled at him, James got into his car and drove off. Smith climbed into her personal vehicle and followed the councilman, allegedly striking his vehicle several times. James proceeded to his parents' home where his father, former longtime Newark Mayor Sharpe James, intervened on his behalf…

     Police were called to the scene, but were unable to locate Captain Smith until early the next morning…The confrontation came just hours after Smith was promoted to captain during a ceremony at Irvington Town Hall….

"Irvington Police Captain Arrested," blognj.com, January 6, 2015 

Criminal Justice Quote: Problems in Florida's Prison System

     After a spate of questionable inmate deaths in Florida prisons and a steady increase in the use of force by guards, a legislative committee has begun discussions on what it described as substantial reforms to the system…The Senate Criminal Justice Committee heard from a former psychotherapist at Dade Correctional Institution who condemned the system as "riddled" by a minority of guards who are "sadistic, amoral sociopaths." The interim commissioner of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement explained to the committe why his department needs to hire 66 more staffers and spend $8.4 million to investigate inmate deaths.

     Committee members heard the recommendation from a prison reform task force that suggested the only way to change the system is to impose a new oversight board that will "change the culture." According to the task force, the work environment for corrections employees has to be improved. Corrections personnel have not received a raise in seven years. [Perhaps people who tortured prisoners and those who allowed it didn't deserve raises.]...

"Seeking Florida Prison Fix," thecrimereport.org, January 6, 2015 

Writing Quote: A True Crime Writer's Work Habits

When I'm in a writing mode (eight months of the year), I am at my computer at least six days a week from ten in the morning to about 7:30 in the evening. I require ten pages a day--my personal commitment.

Ann Rule, writersreview.com, 2002 

Writing Quote: Investigative Journalism is a Team Effort

It has become a cliche of our business/profession/craft that journalists are supposed to build themselves as individual "brands." But journalism--especially the hardest stuff, like investigative journalism--benefits immensely from institutional support, including a technical staff that knows how to make the most of a database, editors and fact-checkers who fortify the stories, graphic designers who help make complicated subjects comprehensible and, not least, lawyers who are steeped in freedom-of-information and First Amendment law.

Bill Kerr, The New York Times, October 27, 2013 

Writing Quote: Novels of Suspense

Suspense novels are deservedly popular, but very hard to define. They are not murder mysteries. They are not just straight novels, because something nasty and frightening is bound to happen. That is the promise to the reader. They are not spy stories, and they are certainly not police procedurals. In a suspense novel, the element of character matters very much indeed. The hero/heroine is pitted, not against organized crime or international terrorism, but against a personal enemy, a personal problem; the conflict is on an individual, adversarial level.

Joan Aiken in The Writer's Handbook, edited by Sylvia K. Burack, 2004 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Criminal Justice Quote: Driver Drunk On Vanilla Arrested

     Did you know vanilla extract contains 41 percent alcohol? A woman in New York likely did, which is why she drank enough of it to get wasted. Police officers pulled her over in a Walmart parking lot for driving erratically.

     Seneca Falls resident Carolyn Kesel was charged with felony DWI when her blood-alcohol content registered at 2.6 percent, three times the legal limit. The 46-year-old admitted possessing and consuming at least two bottles of the baking ingredient….

"Woman Pulled Over For Driving Erratically on Vanilla Extract," crimefeed.com, January 12, 2015 

Criminal Justice Quote: Three Wrongful Convictions cost NYC $17 Million

New York City will pay $17 million to settle three wrongful criminal convictions…The settlements involve cases handled by retired homicide detective Louis Scarcella. Scarcella's tactics have come under scrutiny and are being reviewed by the Brooklyn District Attorney's Office. He has denied any wrongdoing. The cases involved three half brothers; one died in prison. Robert Hill, Alvena Jennette and Darryl Austin spent a combined 60 years in prison before their convictions were vacated by a judge in May 2014.

"NYC Is Paying $17 M to Settle 3 Wrongful Cases," Associated Press, January 12, 2015 

Writing Quote: First Novelists as Unknown Writers

New novels fare poorly for one simple reason. Nobody knows them. With few exceptions, big fiction sales only come about through recognition of an author's previous work. Thus, most authors must crank out several novels before they become trusted by a large enough universe of book buyers to generate respectable word-of-mouth sales.

Marc McCutcheon, Damn! Why Didn't I Write That? 2001 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Criminal Justice Quote: America's Most Corrupt States

     A study from researchers at the University of Hong Kong and Indiana University estimates that corruption on the state level is costing citizens in the ten most corrupt states an average of $1,308 per year, or 5.2 percent of those states' average expenditures per year.

     The researchers studied more than 25,000 convictions of public officials for violation of federal corruption laws between 1976 and 2008 as well as patterns in state spending to develop a corruption index that estimates the most and least corrupt states in the country. Based on this method, the most corrupt states were:

1. Mississippi
2. Louisiana
3. Tennessee
4. Illinois
5. Pennsylvania
6. Alabama
7. Alaska
8. South Dakota
9. Kentucky
10. Florida

"The 10 Most Corrupt States in the U.S.," fortune.com, June 10, 2014 

Criminal Justice Quote: Don't Mess With Joquasha

     Angered that a fellow pupil passed gas in her general direction, a New York City high school student allegedly clobbered the male victim in the head with a metal stool and repeatedly punched him in the face…Police arrested Joquasha Rosado, 17, on January 7, 2015 on charges of felony assault, weapons possession and harassment. The attack took place at the South Richmond High School on Staten Island.

     The assault of the 15-year-old boy left him with a gash that required eight staples…After hitting the victim with the stool, Rosado punched him ten to fifteen times with her fists.

"Female High School Student Beats Male For Passing Gas," truecrimetoday.blogspot.com, January 13, 2015 

Writing Quote: Narrative Nonfiction: The Power of Facts and the Techniques of Fiction

I think narrative nonfiction is essentially a hybrid form, a marriage of the art of storytelling and the art of journalism--an attempt to make drama out of the observable world of real people, real places, and real events. It's a sophisticated form of nonfiction writing, possibly the highest form, that harnesses the power of facts to the techniques of fiction. It constructs a central narrative, setting scenes, depicting multidimensional characters and, most important, telling the story in a compelling voice that the reader will want to hear.

Robert Vare in Telling The Story by Peter Rubie, 2003 

Writing Quote: Fictional Characters Should Look Like Real People

In fiction, let your characters look like real people. Let them have bad tastes in their mouths and big moles on their arms and cellulite and dark circles under their eyes and real, beating hearts. Let them be beautiful, if the story calls for it, but let their beauty be unique, not carbon copy beauty. Writing is more vivid when it includes the rough patches of skin, not just satin fantasy flesh.

Gayle Brandeis, Fruitfish, 2002 

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Police Officers Kill Thousands Of Dogs A Year: How Many Of These Shooting Are Justified?

     In June 2013, heavily armed drug cops in Buffalo, New York in search of crack cocaine, raided the wrong apartment. They broke down Iraq war veteran Adam Arroyo's door and shot Cindy, his 50-pound, 2-year-old pit bull. Cindy died on the spot. Local news organizations, aware of the public's outrage over the unnecessary shooting of a man's pet by cops raiding the wrong place, asked the Buffalo Police Department to provide statistics on how many dogs their officers shoot every year. To no one's surprise, the police department refused to cooperate with the news media.

     This typical act of law enforcement secrecy led to the filing of a Freedom of Information Act request for this data by local television station WGRZ. When reporters got their hands on the requested information it became apparent why the police department had been so cozy.

     From January 1, 2011 to September 2014, Buffalo Police Department officers shot 92 dogs, 73 of them fatally. And even more shocking, one officer in the department had been responsible for 30 percent of the dog shootings. In less than three years this officer had shot 26 dogs, killing all but one. He was, in essence, a one-man canine death squad. (The police department refused to release his name.)

     The federal government does not maintain a national databank pertaining to the number of pets killed every year by America's law enforcement officers. But according to animal abuse and animal rights organizations that keep track of such events, the police kill a family pet--almost always a dog--every 98 minutes. That's about 15 dogs a day, 5,375 a year.

     A cursory review of recent dog shootings reported in the media would lead a reasonable person to conclude that a significant percentage of dog shootings by police involve excessive force. The indiscriminate shooting of family pets has become a major point of contention between the police and the citizens they are paid to serve. People love their dogs and treat them like family. Having a beloved pet killed unnecessarily by a police officer immediately creates a law enforcement enemy. And when the authorities lie and cover-up to protect the officer involved, that police hatred becomes intense. When others learn of this form of law enforcement cruelty the anger spreads throughout the community. Police officers need to stop the unjustified killing of pets.

     What follows are a few examples of police animal abuse:

Newton, Iowa

     At ten in the morning of September 7, 2012, a police officer responded to a complaint regarding a dog running loose in the Emerson Hough section of the town. According to the complaining witness, Jeri Fahrenkrug's pit bull named Griz had snarled and growled at a man walking by her house.

     Neighbors watching from their front porches watched as the police officer shot Griz to death from a range of 30 feet. These witnesses later disagreed with the officer's statement that the pit bull had charged him. The dog, known in the neighborhood to be friendly, died near his owner's yard.

Filer, Idaho

     On February 8, 2014, officer Tarek Hassani with the Filer Police Department, pulled up to Rick Clubb's house in response to a complaint that his two dogs were not leashed. Mr. Clubb, confined to a wheelchair as a result of Parkinson's Disease, used one of the black labradors, 7-year-old Hooch, as a service dog.

     When the friendly labs rushed to greet the police officer, he kicked Hooch in the face, pulled his gun and killed the dog on the spot. Several people witnessed the shooting and were shocked by the unprovoked nature of this deadly force.

     After killing Hooch, officer Hassani berated Mr. Clubb for not keeping his dogs leashed. "You don't have to yell at me," said the distraught dog owner. Officer Hassani responded by demanding identification that if not immediately produced would involved a trip to the local jail.

     In April 2014, local citizens held a protest in front of city hall. A petition to recall the mayor who backed officer Hassani was being circulated in the community. An investigation by a neighboring police agency eventually cleared the officer of wrongdoing. This added to the public anger over the shooting. The mayor was not recalled and the officer remained on the force.

Salt Lake City, Utah

     In June 2014, officer Brett Olsen with the Salt Lake City Police Department, while searching for a missing boy, hopped over a backyard fence where he encountered Geist, the home owner's 110-pouind, 2-year-old weymaraner. The officer shot Geist to death in the dog owner's yard. (The missing boy was found sleeping at home.)

     Angry protestors gathered in front of the Salt Lake City Police Department. Notwithstanding public outrage and the facts of the case, the department cleared this officer of wrongdoing.

Sulphur, Louisiana

     In 2013, when hiring former Louisiana State Police officer Brian Thierbach for the Sulphur Police Department, the chief knew he did not have a clean law enforcement record. In 2006, Thierbach had been suspended without pay following a traffic accident in which he had been at fault. Thierbach, in 2010, while making an arrest in a Walmart parking lot, accidentally fired his service weapon. He resigned from the state police in April 2013 after being cited for conduct unbecoming a police officer.

     Brandon Carpenter, a 28-year-old musician from Portland, Maine, had been traveling the country by freight train and hitch-hiking with a 21-year-old friend. In April 2014, Carpenter, his companion, and Carpenter's 14-month-old labrador-newfoundland-golden retriever mix Arzy, arrived in Sulphur, Louisiana.

     The two men and the dog, on that rainy day, took refuge in a box truck sitting in the parking lot of a newspaper office. A person who saw them climb into the back of the truck called the police.

     Officer Thierbach arrived at the scene to find the men asleep in the vehicle. Arzy was also in the truck attached to a four-foot leash. Officer Thierbach ordered the two men out of the truck. With the suspects lying face-down on the ground, he handcuffed them behind their backs and climbed into the box truck to retrieve their belongings. Seeing Arzy, the officer asked, "Will he attack me?"

     Brandon Carpenter assured the officer that Arzy was gentle, sweet, and harmless. The handcuffed men saw the officer pet Arzy who wagged his tail. Then suddenly, for no reason, officer Thierbach shot the dog to death.

     When the details of Arzy's shooting became public, citizens of this small Calasieu Parish town were outraged. The police chief, under criticism for hiring this officer in the first place, accepted Thierbach's resignation on May 7, 2014. A month later, a local grand jury indicted him on the charge of aggravated animal cruelty. The ex-officer pleaded not guilty to the charge and posted his $20,000 bail.

Baltimore, Maryland

     On July 14, 2014, two officers with the Baltimore Police Department responded to a complaint that a small dog had bitten a woman. The cops became frustrated and agitated when they couldn't catch the 7-year-old Shar-Pei named Nala with a stick and a length of rope. One of the officers was heard saying, "I'm going to get that thing!"

     When the officers did manage to corral Nala, one of the cops held the dog down while his partner slit the dog's throat with an eight-inch knife. Caught on video, the slaughter of this pet caused public outrage so intense a local prosecutor charged both officers with animal cruelty.

Topeka, Kansas

     On May 7, 2014, a police officer in Topeka, in response to a barking dog complaint, knocked on the pet owner's front door. When no one responded, the officer walked across the street and spoke to a neighbor who informed him that the dog in question, a German shepherd and border collie mix named Dallas, was friendly and often played with neighborhood children.

     The officer returned to the dog owner's home, and with the neighbor looking on, shot Dallas dead when the dog galloped playfully to greet him. Dallas' owner came home to find her dead pet and the officer who had killed him arguing with a group of angry neighbors. The officer, who obviously didn't like his authority being challenged, told the angry neighbors to mind their own business. This officer was later cleared by the police department of wrongdoing.

Mason County, West Virginia

     On the afternoon of June 24, 2014, 32-year-old Ginger Sweat, while putting one of her two young children down for a nap in her mobile home in a rural community not far from Charleston, saw a police officer with a dog on a leash walking out of the woods behind her dwelling. The officer, accompanied by seven other cops, was searching for a missing neighborhood boy.

     When Ginger Sweat saw Willy Pete, her 6-year-old beagle-basset hound mix with arthritis approach the group of officers, she ran out of her house to assure the officers that Willy Pete was friendly and harmless. As she pleaded with the officers to allow her to gather up her pet and take him inside, Sergeant S. T. Harper with the West Virginia State Police, an officer with 14 years on the force, fired several shots at Willy Pete, hitting him three times. The dog lay dead in his owner's yard in a pool of blood.

     This senseless shooting of a harmless family pet on the dog owner's property enraged the community. A spokesperson for the state police, in an effort to diffuse public anger, issued a statement apologizing for Willy Pete's shooting. However, in that statement, the state police added fuel to the scandal by offering a phony version of the incident by accusing the dog of growling and baring his teeth at the sergeant who killed him.

     

Writing Quote: Creating Fictitious Characters

Where do all the characters in a novel come from? They come from inside the novelist's head. The novelist is a role-player, an actor, and he's got all these different characters he wants to invent…It's not about putting on someone else's clothes, it's putting on someone else's skin, their mind and their body.

Ian Rankin, "On Writing: Writers Reveal the Secrets of Their Craft," theguardian.com, March 25, 2011 

Writing Quote: Biographers As Messengers

I like to think that biographers can sometimes be messengers between past people and the present. What are all these letters and journals there for? Is it possible that when we're dead we have different priorities, that we no longer wish to be silent as it were? I believe there is a case to be made for bringing the dead to life, for a bit, in a way. To be a messenger going backwards and forwards is worthwhile.

Michael Holroyd, "On Writing: Authors Reveal the Secrets of Their Craft," theguardian.com, March 25, 2011

Writing Quote: Born To Be a Novelist

I cannot remember a time when I didn't want to be a writer, and specifically a novelist; I can't remember ever wanting to do anything else. I never wanted to be a sportsman, I never wanted to be a musician. I never had the slightest bit of interest in music. When other boys had pictures of footballers [soccer players] on their walls or they had pictures of musicians on their walls, I had pictures of Jane Austen and Ben Johnson. I only wanted to be a writer and I only ever valued writers. And it hasn't changed; I only value writers.

Howard Jacobson, "On Writing: Authors Reveal the Secrets of Their Craft," theguardian.com, March 25, 2011 

Writing Quote: The First Novel's Inspiration

Your first novel will grow like a lotus out of something you know and love: a person, a place, an event, a time in your life, an activity, or a book you'd like to emulate.

Robert J. Ray and Jack Remick, The Weekend Novelist Writes a Mystery, 1998

Writing Quote: Fiction Woven Into a Piece of New Journalism

On the one hand, the New Journalists preach a doctrine of truth shaped like fiction; on the other, they frequently seem to acknowledge that the truth is being mixed, from time to time, with fiction.

Robert Fulford, The Triumph of Narrative, 2000

Monday, January 12, 2015

Rape Underreported in Detroit

     Detroit police on Tuesday January 6, 2015 reported there had been 322 sexual assaults in the city last year, but the actual number was more than five times that: 1,845 reports according to the
Detroit News. Behind the vastly different numbers are two factors: Detroit police, like most departments, release statistics to the public using the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting method that doesn't count all sexual assaults. Also, the city uses old CRISNET reporting software which doesn't automatically update changes in investigations.

     "There's nothing nefarious going on," Police Chief James Craig said. "Nobody's scrubbing anything; this is just the way crimes are reported industrywide." The reporting method gives people a false impression about the scope of sexual assaults, said Jennifer Jones, director of the Sexual Assault Advocacy Center in Colorado, who added that rapes already are underreported. "Even if a victim does call the police, they're sometimes talked out of making a report," Jones said. "Between that and the way sexual assaults are reported, a lot of statistics get left out."

"Detroit Reports 322 Sexual Assaults Last Year; Actual Number 5 Times Higher," thecrimereport.org, January 8, 2015 

Writing Quote: Novels Are Distinguished by Their Characters

If you can't create characters that are vivid in the reader's imagination, you can't create a good novel. Characters are to a novelist what lumber is to a carpenter and what bricks are to a bricklayer. Characters are the stuff out of which a novel is constructed.

James N. Frey, How to Write a Damn Good Novel, II, 1994 

Writing Quote: Readers Either Like Detective Stories or They Don't

It is never very sensible to act as an evangelist for the detective story: if someone says, "I've never been able to acquire a taste for crime fiction--who do you recommend I try?" The sensible answer probably is: "Don't bother. If you have tried and you haven't responded, then probably the response isn't in you." It is a pity to have become so sophisticated in one's reading as to have lost the elementary response to fiction as a story.

Robert Barnard, A Talent to Deceive, 1990

Writing Quote: Science Fiction's Stranded on an Alien Planet Theme

Daniel Defoe's immortal Robinson Crusoe is a metaphor for a man stranded on an alien planet. Crusoe is an exile, and exile has proved a perennial theme within the genre of science fiction.

Brian Aldiss, "The Stars of SF Pick the Best Science Fiction," theguardian.com, May 14, 2011 

Writing Quote: Benjamin Franklin on Autobiography

If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead and rotten, either write things worth reading, or do things worth the writing.

Benjamin Franklin, The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, 1791 

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Criminal Justice Quote: A Rare Mass Murder in Edmonton, Canada

     On Monday night December 29, 2014, a man in Edmonton, Canada shot and killed six adults and two children then took his own life. The gunman, who had a criminal record dating back to 1987, used a stolen 9mm pistol…The six adults, between the ages 25 and 50, and two children under the age of ten were found in two separate residences that Monday night…The man linked to the shootings killed himself in a restaurant in the nearby city of Fort Saskatchewan the next morning…

     Officers had gone to one of the homes twice: once in November 2012 and again in 2014 when a man residing there was accused of domestic violence and sexual assaults...

     There hasn't been a mass killing of this scale in Edmonton, a city of 878,000 in the western part of the country, since 1956…

"Edmonton Murders Linked to Domestic Violence," CBC News,  December 31, 2014

Criminal Justice Report: Bonnie Without Clyde in Sacramento, California

     A woman wanted in a North Sacramento, California robbery was taken into custody after she led officers on a chase through the center of the city…Police identified the woman as Laroia Davis, 38. The pursuit started Wednesday evening January 7, 2015 when officers responded to a call of robbery at a Rite-Aid pharmacy…Davis and another woman, stealing merchandise in the store, assaulted a security officer. As police officers were investigating they spotted the Ford Explorer sought in connect with the robbery and tried to pull over Davis who refused to stop…

     Davis led officers from North Sacramento to the downtown section... At some point during the chase, officers put down spike strips which blew out the tires of the her vehicle. She continued driving on the SUV's rims, crashing into three patrol cars…

     When approached by police officers, Davis refused to get out of her vehicle. Finally, after twenty minutes, she climbed out of the Ford and was taken into custody…The other suspect had fled on foot before the police chase.

"Woman Arrested After Sacramento Police Chase," kcra.com, January 8, 2015 

Writing Quote: Payback For a Bad Review

A lady who was once married to Salman Rushdie had one of her novels published just as the famous fatwa was handed down on him. I gave the book a bad review. I was surprised that her pretty awful novel got a solemn, respectful review in The New York Times and everywhere else I looked. I was probably the only literate person in America who hadn't heard about the fatwa, and when I found out, I was sorry for what I had written. The poor woman had enough to worry about. A few years later, she got hold of one of my novels to review for the Washington Post and she killed me! She said I wrote "embarrassing surfer prose." Oh, the agony!

Carolyn See, Making a Literary Life, 2002 

Writing Quote: Truman Capote on Style

Essentially I think of myself as a stylist, and stylists can become notoriously obsessed with the placing of a comma, the weight of a semicolon. Obsession of this sort, and the time it takes, irritates me beyond endurance.

Truman Capote in Truman Capote, edited by George Plimpton, 1997 

Writing Quote: The Inarticulate Interviewee

When confronted with an interview subject who might not have exactly scintillating things to say, a good nonfiction writer, rather than making up better stuff, will work hard to discover other aspects of the subject that are interesting, like by talking to other people about the character in question or simply work on getting the subject to talk more and reveal himself, rather than resorting to fiction.

Lee Gutkind in Writing Creative Nonfiction, edited by Carolyn Forche and Philip Gerard, 2001 

Writing Quote: The Amateur Sleuth in Crime Fiction

The most important apparent disadvantage you'll face with an amateur sleuth has to do with the suspension of belief--why is this amateur detective attempting to solve this murder? Why not let the cops do it? Why does this amateur keep tripping over dead bodies? And why doesn't she mind her own business?

Nancy Pickard in Writing Mysteries, edited by Sue Grafton, 1992 

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Criminal Justice Quote: False Rape Claim Leads To Murder

     On January 5, 2015, a man was beaten to death by the boyfriend of a woman who falsely claimed he raped her in a Fairbanks, Alaska motel room…The woman, 31-year-old Dominique Vasquez, reportedly did not want to admit to her boyfriend, 39-year-old Abraham Stine, that she had cheated on him so she lied about the rape…She also knew that Stine had a history of violence when she told him that 37-year-old Wesley Lord--who was Stine's cousin--raped her at the Extended Stay Motel…

     Stine showed up at the motel, peeked in the window and came to the conclusion that Vasquez was cheating on him…He entered the motel room through a window and began punching and beating Mr. Lord…The Alaska Bureau of Investigation determined that the victim had died from blunt-force trauma to the head…

     Both Stine and Vasquez face second-degree murder charges…

"False Rape Claim Leads to Alaska Man's Beating Death," The Daily Caller, January 8, 2015 

Writing Quote: Characters Drawn From Real People

I should say that the practice of drawing characters from actual models is not only universal but necessary. I do not see why any novelist should be ashamed to acknowledge it. [Perhaps one who is afraid of being sued.]

W. Somerset Maugham in Writers on Writing, edited by Walter Allen, 1948 

Writing Quote: The Danger of Over-Dramatization

The one-sentence paragraph is a great device. You can italicize with it, vary your pace with it, lighten your voice with it, signpost your argument with it. But it's potentially dangerous. Don't overdo your dramatics. And be sure your sentence is strong enough to withstand the extra attention it's bound to receive when set off by itself. Houseplants wilt in direct sun. Many sentences do as well.

John R. Trimble, Writing With Style, 2000

Writing Quote: H. L. Mencken on Literary Reviews

I am never much interested in the effects of what I write. I seldom read with any attention the reviews of my books. Two times out of three I know something about the reviewer, and in very few cases have I any respect for his judgments. Thus his praise, if he praises me, leaves me unmoved. I can't recall any review that has even influenced me in the slightest. I live in sort of a vacuum, and I suspect that most other writers do, too. It is hard to imagine one of the great ones paying any serious attention to contemporary opinion.

H. L. Mencken in Diary of H. L. Mencken, edited by Charles A. Fecher, 1989 

Writing Quote: Literary Pretentiousness

Great Writing was done in a language that had nothing to do with the way one spoke. The words were similar, but arranged more cleverly, less directly. A good literary sentence was like a floor with a hole hidden in it. You got to the end and thought: "Why'd he say it that way? He must really be a great writer." Plain English language was a degraded thing, good only for getting around your dopey miniature world, cashing checks and finding restaurants and talking about television and so on.

George Saunders, amazon.com, 2004 

Friday, January 9, 2015

Father Throws His 5-Year-Old Daughter Off Bridge

      A 5-year-old girl died after being thrown from a bridge into Tampa Bay. Her father, 25-year-old John Jonchuck from St. Petersburg, Florida, is in custody. The crime took place just after midnight on January 8, 2015 on the Dick Misener Bridge.

     A St. Petersburg police officer was heading home toward the bridge when a Chrysler PT Cruiser passed him going 100 miles per hour. The driver stopped his car at the top of the bridge, got out with the girl and threw her over the rail into the water 62 feet below. Jonchuck got back into his vehicle and drove south thirty miles before Manatee County deputies stopped him…

     Jonchuck, who did not cooperate with the police, had been arrested in 2013 on battery domestic violence charges in Hillsborough County. Following his conviction the judge placed him on probation. [Jonchuck was in a custody battle with his wife over the girl who lived with him.]

"Father in Custody After 5-Year-Old Girl Thrown to Death From Bridge," Fox News, January 8, 2015

Criminal Justice Quote: Woman Strangles Her Cousin Then Falsely Reports His Abduction

     A 19-year-old woman strangled her 5-year-old cousin who had been in her parents' care, then discarded his body along a road before calling in a false report that two masked intruders took the boy from their Albany, New York area home…Tiffany VanAlstyne's bogus 911 call on Thursday afternoon December 18, 2014 set off a search for Kenneth White that lasted into the night…A search dog picked up a scent at 9:00 PM and Kenneth's body was found in a culvert covered with snow…

     VanAlstyne was charged with second-degree murder and said nothing at her arraignment…

     VanAlstyne's parents have been the legal guardians of Kenneth White, his twin sister Cheyenne, and 4-year-old sister Christine since September 2014. The children had lived in the VanAlstyne home for more than a year…

     VanAlstyne strangled the boy and tossed his body over a guard rail along a rural two-lane road about 40 yards from her parents' trailer home in the town of Berne sometime before making the 911 call…The child had also suffered a blow to the head. The 911 call touched off a search that included an Amber Alert describing the kidnappers as two men, clad in black and driving a black pickup truck.

"Woman Falsely Reported Abduction," Associated Press, December 20, 2014 

Writing Quote: The First Novel as a Book of Discovery

Usually the first novel of a young writer is a book of discovery. From his meager experience, accentuated by his youth, comes a knowledge so new and startling and so wonderful that its pain is almost beyond bearing. Mellow, many-faceted understanding is not for now; understanding is the hard reward of decades of summers. Youth's knowledge, youth's discoveries, are as sure as an April dawn. [This man was a great writer but a bit of a mental case.]

Thomas Wolfe in Wolfe by Richard Walser, 1961 

Writing Quote: The Trustworthy Journalist

In fiction, the writer's voice matters; in reporting, the writer's authority matters. The writer of fiction must invent; the journalist must not invent. We read fiction to fortify our psyches and in the pleasure that fortification may give us…We need journalism to learn about the external world in which our psychics have to struggle along, and the quality we most need in the reporter is some measure of trustworthiness. Good journalists care about what words mean.

John Hersey, The Writer's Craft, 1973 

Writing Quote: Why Writers Write

What kind of an emotion is the desire to write? It is not a core emotion like joy or fear. Nor is it a biological drive in the sense that hunger or sexual desire is. But there are secondary emotions and secondary drives, made up of a mixture of core emotions or drives, often in combination with certain beliefs. Secondary emotions include complicated states such as guilt, hope, and smugness. Secondary drives might include the urge to buy a house or to gamble. It is in this secondary category that the drive to write best fits.

Alice W. Flaherty, The Midnight Disease, 2004 

Writing Quote: Children's Book Writers Draw On Their Own Pasts

To write for children involves a close affinity with one's own childhood. If you have this, it follows that you will have that same affinity for childhood in general.

Irene Hunt in Pauses, edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins, 1995

The Novelist's Big Decision: How to Tell the Story

Sol Stein, in Stein on Writing, notes that without a solid understanding of point of view--meaning the character whose eyes are observing the action, the perspective from which a story is told--the writer cannot fully exploit his talent. Stein has this advice for the beginning novelist: "Do not mix points of view within the same scene, chapter, or even the same novel. It is unsettling to the reader. If you mix points of view, the author's authority seems to dissolve. The writing seems arbitrary rather than controlled. Sticking to a point of view intensifies the experience of a story. A wavering or uncertain point of view will diminish the experience of the reader." (Sol Stein, Stein on Writing, 1995) 

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Criminal Justice Quote: "Real Housewives" Star Gets Real Time

     Teresa Guidice, a cast member of Bravo's "Real Housewives of New Jersey," reported to a federal prison in Danbury, Connecticut early Monday morning January 5, 2015 to begin serving a 15-month sentence for bankruptcy fraud…The reality star left her mansion shortly after midnight and arrived at the prison around 3 AM…

     She and her husband Giuseppe "Joe" Giudice pleaded guilty in 2014 and admitted hiding assets from bankruptcy creditors and submitting phony applications to get some $5 million in mortgage and construction loans. Joe Guidice also pleaded guilty to failing to pay taxes totaling more than $200,000.

     At the Giudices' sentencing in October 2014, the federal judge criticized the couple for not disclosing all their assets as required under their plea agreement, calling it "the same pattern of obstruction, concealment and manipulation as they showed in the bankruptcy case."

     Still, the judge sentenced Teresa Guidice to a sentence below the range sought by the U.S. Attorney's office and staggered her sentence with her husband's so they wouldn't be in prison at the same time and unable to care for their four daughters. Joe Giudice will serve his 41-month sentence after his wife's sentence is completed….

" 'Real Housewives' Star Teresa Giudice Begins Prison Sentence," Fox News, January 5, 2014

     

Criminal Justice Quote: A Boston Cop Goes Off The Deep End

     A Boston police officer has been placed on administrative leave after allegedly assaulting an Uber driver. The driver for the ride sharing company told police he drove a passenger to the area of East 2nd Street in South Boston early Saturday morning January 4, 2015. That passenger was off-duty officer Michael Doherty, 40, of South Boston. According to the driver, when he reached the destination, Doherty accused him of trying to drop him off at the wrong location. Doherty then allegedly yelled at then hit the driver.

     When the driver got out of the car, Doherty got into the front seat and drove off. Police say a passing motorist helped the Uber driver follow Doherty until he stopped the car and fled.

     Doherty, who has been on the force for 16 years, was arrested at his home Sunday January 5 and charged with assault and battery and using a motor vehicle without authority.

"Off-Duty Boston Cop Arrested For Allegedly Assaulting Uber Driver," CBS News, January 4, 2015 

Dialogue in the New Journalism Genre

With the old journalism, quoted dialogue was short, relevant but not necessarily dramatic. Eye-witness accounts gave credibility to recitation of facts, and if there was dramatic fall out, so much the better. But knew we change emphasis: We narrative nonfiction writers search for dialogue that will add drama, that will build excitement while staying glued to facts. Often, it's extended dialogue, long passages or a series of shorter, uninterrupted passages that tell a story in the character's own words. We use this dialogue, not to modify the facts but to present the facts. The character tells us the story (or a significant portion of it) in their words, and the result is building drama.

William Noble in The Portable Writers' Conference, edited by Stephen Blake Mettee, 1997 

Writing Quote: Science Fiction Writers Must Be Especially Creative

A writer of conventional fiction, unless he is extremely inventive, starts with innumerable givens. His plot must wind its way through them like a road through the contours of a mountain pass. But a science fiction writer, if he really uses his medium, need take very little for granted. He is not creating a road but an entire world--mountains, pass and all.

Tom O'Reilly in Critical Encounters, edited by Dick Riley, 1986 

Writing Quote: Autobiographies Are How The Authors Remember Their Lives, Not Necessarily How They Lived Them

Autobiographies are written as their authors remember their lives, which may or may not be the way it really was. Autobiography has a limited market with commercial publishers unless the author is already well-known or has had a most unusual and interesting life.

Doris Ricker Marston, A Guide to Writing History, 1976 

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The Matthew Hoffman Suicide-By-Cop Case: Exonerating The Officers Who Kill You

     If you threaten a police officer with a fake gun, you will get shot by a real one.

     Around noon on Sunday January 4, 2015, Matthew Hoffman approached several police officers at San Francisco's Mission District police station with questions about the kinds of firearms and ammunition they carried. The 32-year-old was friendly and unthreatening.

     At five-fifteen that evening, three sergeants came upon Mr. Hoffman standing in an employee-only area of the police station parking lot. The officers informed the intruder he didn't belong there and asked him to leave.

     Upon being told he was trespassing, Mr. Hoffman, without turning from the officers, backed away with his hands in his sweater pockets. The officers told Hoffman to show his hands. Instead of complying with the police command, Hoffman lifted his sweater revealing, above his waistband, the handle of a firearm.

    When Hoffman reached for his weapon, the officers opened fire, hitting him three times. Shortly after the shooting, the sergeants discovered that the man had been in possession of an Airsoft pellet gun that wasn't equipped with an orange-tipped muzzle.

     The seriously wounded man underwent emergency surgery at San Francisco General Hospital but died later that night. The officers who shot him were placed on paid administrative leave pending the results of an internal investigation.

     On Hoffman's cellphone, investigators discovered a message to the police that read: "Dear Officers: I provoked you. I threatened your life as well as the lives of others around me. You did nothing wrong. You ended the life of a man who was too much of a coward to do it himself. You were completely within your legal  rights to do what you did. God made a mistake with me. Please take solace in knowing that the situation was out of your control. You had no other choice."

     In the typical suicide-by-cop case, investigators have to infer the shooting victim's motive through his mental history and provocative behavior toward the officer. In this case, Matthew Hoffman left nothing to the imagination. Mr. Hoffman, on his cellphone, had described himself as "lonely" and "hopeless." Beyond that, why he no longer wanted to live will probably remain a mystery.